Nothing uncool about Geek Street Fair

Participants could participate in the construction of what would become a 10-foot-wide ball of hexagonal shapes with MoMath. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Participants could participate in the construction of what would become a 10-foot-wide ball of hexagonal shapes with MoMath. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Thursday, October 13, Google hosted its third “Geek Street Fair” at Union Square Park. The midday event, attended by students from nearby schools, included interactive booths where kids could see robots, get behind the wheel of a student-built racecar and play games with a science or tech twist.

Participating companies and organizations with booths included Flatiron’s Museum of Mathematics (MoMath), Google (which has an office in Chelsea), Facebook, Pinterest, The Cooper Union, First Robotics and Black Girls Code. At the Cooper Union booth, the racecar on display, which students raised $50,000 from sponsors to build, was a popular stop.

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Civic groups oppose city proposal for half of street fair vendors to be community-based

Carol Schachter, vice president of the 13th Precinct Community Council, pictured at right at a recent street fair that the Community Council sponsored, with a member, Pat Sallin, and its president, Frank Scala (Photo by Mary Mahoney)

Carol Schachter, vice president of the 13th Precinct Community Council, pictured at right at a recent street fair that the Community Council sponsored, with a member, Pat Sallin, and its president, Frank Scala (Photo by Mary Mahoney)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community organizers are worried that proposed new rules requiring participation from local businesses in street festivals will affect their revenue because they feel there won’t be enough participation from neighborhood vendors.

The Mayor’s Office of Citywide Events Coordination and Management (OCECM), which oversees the Street Activity Permit Office (SAPO), proposed new rules for street festivals, including a requirement that 50 percent of participating vendors have a business or local presence within the same community board as the festival, as well as a limit on how many are allowed per community board every year, decreasing the number from 18 to 10.

Carol Schachter, who’s the vice president of the 13th Precinct Community Council, said that a number of groups depend on revenue from local street fairs to fund programming for the neighborhood. Schachter attempted to provide testimony about the issue at the public hearing held last Thursday but noted that the hearing was held in a small room without enough space to accommodate all those who wanted to speak.

“Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association hosts events like tangos in the park. They rely on street fair revenue,” she said. “We don’t have money as community organizations to pay for these things otherwise. We need that money for National Night Out: the giveaways, ice cream truck, they all have to be paid for and it’s paid for by revenue from street fairs.”

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Local pols, Rick Hayduk will speak at Oct. 22 ST-PCV Tenants Association meeting

ST/PCV General Manager Rick Hayduk

ST/PCV General Manager Rick Hayduk

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association will hold an open tenants meeting on Saturday, October 22, at 1 p.m. in the auditorium of IS 104, 20th Street between First and Second Avenues.Speakers will include: President of the ST-PCV Tenants Association Susan Steinberg, City Council Member Dan Garodnick, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Rick Hayduk, CEO/General Manager of StuyTown Property Services. The general theme will be the state of the community. Each speaker will briefly address issues as they directly relate to and affect Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, from the L train shutdown to the telephone scams targeting the community, from MCIs to rent-freeze month. An open-mic question-and-answer period will follow.

“Tenants will want to hear from our own elected representatives as to what they have been doing on our behalf,” said Steinberg. “We also plan to provide a summary of TA activities during the year. This is an important meeting, and we hope to see a packed auditorium.”

Help for mom and pop lies in pending legislation

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Robert Cornegy, pictured last year while introducing a bill that a rep for Cornegy recently insisted isn’t dead (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Robert Cornegy, pictured last year while introducing a bill that a rep for Cornegy recently insisted isn’t dead (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Recently, a couple of City Council members proposed ideas on ways to combat “high rent blight” and promote retail diversity, or at least, keep the city from completely getting overtaken by chains.

This was at a hearing where the council members’ ideas, such as putting legislative restrictions on chain stores and imposing penalties on landlords who warehouse storefronts, were shot down by city planners.

According to the planners, as Town & Village previously reported, many stores that appear to be chains are actually individually owned franchises and as for lengthy retail vacancies, sometimes, the planners argued, they are not necessarily intentional on the part of property owners.

Meanwhile, a few legislators, including Council Member Robert Cornegy, the small business committee chair who’d chaired the aforementioned hearing on September 30, have come up with some legislative ideas to deal with the problem already.

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Letters to the Editor, Oct. 20

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Impeding street fairs will hurt New York

The following is an open letter to Michael Paul Carey, executive director, Office of Citywide Event Coordination & Management at the Office of the Mayor, from the president of the Tilden Democratic Club.

Dear Mr. Carey,

I write to you on behalf of the Samuel J. Tilden Democratic Club and other concerned citizens of New York City concerning the proposed changes in the street fair rules. It is our view that these proposed changes will only serve to restrict New Yorkers’ access to all of the many benefits the street fairs provide.

The Samuel J. Tilden Democratic Club has taken a booth at the Third Avenue Fair for over 25 years. As a result of our participation, we raised approximately $300,000, which was donated to very worthy community groups which included senior programs, libraries, shelter programs, homeless programs, hospital clothing rooms, art and literacy programs, cancer programs, music programs and programs for the disabled youth and adults among others.

The residents of Community Board Six are direct recipients of our street fair driven donations. Over 90 percent of the licensed street vendors live in New York City. New York City residents directly benefit by being vendors and consumers at the fair.

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Man fatally struck by L train at Union Square

Feb26 L Train

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A man was hit by a train and killed at the Union Square station on Wednesday afternoon, causing the MTA to suspend service along the L line from Eighth Avenue to Bedford Avenue just before the evening rush. The FDNY received a call at 4:03 p.m. and a spokesperson for the department said that the victim was dead by the time they arrived. The man was hit by a Brooklyn-bound train but service was suspended in both directions.

The investigation is ongoing but a spokesperson for the NYPD said preliminary information shows that the victim jumped onto the tracks. As of 5 p.m., trains were still not running between Manhattan and Brooklyn but service was restored by 5:20 p.m. with residual delays. Commuters were advised to use M14A and M14D local bus service as an alternative in Manhattan and the A, C, J and M for service into Brooklyn.

This is the second time in two days that a person has been struck by a train, although the man who jumped onto the tracks at the Fulton Street A/C station yesterday morning survived.

Police Watch: Men arrested for Flatiron shooting, Man busted for ‘drugs’ in Stuy Town

Police arrested three men in connection with a shooting in Flatiron in front of 105 West 22nd Street on Sunday at 12:55 a.m. The New York Daily News reported that the incident occurred at a book signing in the Auxiliary Lounge for the self-published erotic novella, “She’s Dickmatized,” by Tania Marie.
Police said that multiple shots were fired into a crowd near the lounge and a man with a gun was seen running into a black Mercedes. Ramel Harkless, 38, allegedly got into the backseat of the vehicle, which police said left the location and ran multiple red lights before abruptly coming to a stop. Police followed the Mercedes and when they stopped the vehicle, the found that Harkless was the only person in the backseat, while 45-year-old Barry Wiles was driving and 43-year-old Joseph Saunders was in the passenger’s seat. Police said they found a gun on the floor of the back passenger’s seat where Harkless had been sitting.
The victim was shot in the abdomen, torso, groin and in the leg. The suspects were arrested in front of 41 East 19th Street. The Daily News identified the victim as Robert Lowman and reported that Harkless and Lowman are both affiliated with the street gang the Bloods.
Harkless, Wiles and Saunders were charged with weapons possession. Wiles was also charged with reckless endangerment and Harkless was additionally charged with assault.

Police arrested 34-year-old Justin Stewart for possession of a controlled substance in front of 321 Avenue C last Thursday at 9:25 a.m. Police said that Stewart was seen holding an unknown controlled substance in plain view on the sidewalk.

Police arrested 37-year-old Tashi Phuntsok for assault at the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 27th Street last Tuesday at 7:26 p.m. The victim told police that he was riding his bike when Phuntsok allegedly cut him off at the intersection. He and the victim proceeded to get into an argument. Phuntsok allegedly threw the victim to the ground and started kicking and punching him, causing an injury to his head and right hand, although he refused medical assistance at the scene.

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Opinion: The case for photoelectric smoke alarms

By Jeffrey S. Mailman*

On October 8-9, 1871, a massive fire in Chicago claimed the lives of more than 250 individuals. In order to prevent such tragedies from reoccurring, the anniversary week of this Great Chicago Fire has been designated as Fire Prevention Week and fire departments across the country make a concentrated effort to inform the public about the importance of having operable smoke alarms.

However, the message to simply have a working smoke alarm in your home is an inadequate message. You need to have the right type of alarm, namely, a photoelectric smoke alarm. Here’s why. The vast majority of civilian fire fatalities are caused by smoke inhalation, not from burns.

Photoelectric smoke alarms are designed to detect the smoke that causes approximately 50 to 80 New Yorkers to die from smoke inhalation each year.

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Cops hunting man who robbed 3 women on same night in Stuy Town and East Village

Update: Police have released a photo of the suspect.


Robbery suspect

By Sabina Mollot

Cops are on the lookout for a man who robbed three women in one night, two in Stuyvesant Town. One of the robberies happened at 15 Stuyvesant Oval, the other on the sidewalk near 330 First Avenue, and another took place in the East Village. All the incidents happened on Monday, October 10 from 2-3 a.m.

The crimes were discussed by the commanding officer of the 13th Precinct, Deputy Inspector Brendan Timoney, on Tuesday night at a meeting of the 13th Precinct Community Council.

Timoney noted, however, that one of the Stuyvesant Town victims successfully fought the mugger off, knocking him down before he got away. This was near 330 First Avenue.

“She threw the guy around a little,” he said.

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On 50th anniversary, FDNY remembers the 23rd Street fire


By Sabina Mollot

Fifty years ago on Monday, October 17, twelve firefighters lost their lives battling a blaze in Flatiron, making the date the deadliest the department would ever know until 9/11.

The fire, which was hidden at first due to illegal building alterations, had prevented firefighters from knowing just what a dangerous situation they were in for.

On Monday, dozens of fire officials and rank and file, along with family members of the fallen firemen, gathered at the Flatiron Plaza for a remembrance ceremony and then a wreath laying at the site of the fire at the corner of 23rd Street and Broadway. Today, it’s home to a high-rise residential building with a plaque alongside it memorializing the deceased firemen.

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro spoke at the ceremony about how the 1966 fire is still a big part of training for firefighters today.

“Every probationary firefighter learns about this in the academy; 23rd Street has been the subject of countless drills,” the commissioner said. “This was the department’s darkest tragedy… and remained so until 9/11.”

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Halloween events that are local, kid-friendly

Oct15 Dog Parade 2014

A canine in costume at the Tompkins Square dog parade in 2014

By Sabina Mollot

Fans of Halloween rejoice: The holiday can be celebrated locally at events for families that are happening on October 31 as well as earlier.

Read on for a roundup of parties, parades and more:

Tompkins Square Dog Parade
If you want Fido to be part of the festivities, the 26th annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade is scheduled for Saturday, October 22 from noon-3 p.m. Costumes will be judged by TV personality Giuliana Rancic. Along with a chance to enter your dog into the competition for prizes, there will also be some goodies from event sponsors PetSmart and Beggin’ and pet adoption opportunities from local Petfinder rescue groups.
All funds raised at the event will support the Friends of First Run, the organization responsible for maintenance and upkeep of the Tompkins Square Park Dog Run. This year’s event is at a new location, the park’s multipurpose courts at Avenue A and East 10th Street.

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Gramercy author’s new thriller inspired by Son of Sam murders

Dick Belsky, who writes under the name R.G. Belsky, is releasing the fourth in a series of novels written from the perspective of an investigative reporter. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Dick Belsky, who writes under the name R.G. Belsky, is releasing the fourth in a series of novels written from the perspective of an investigative reporter. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Gramercy resident and novelist Dick Belsky, who’s written three books about an investigative reporter named Gil Malloy, has just completed the fourth in the series.

The novel, scheduled to be released (by Simon & Schuster, $16) on October 18, is called Blonde Ice.
Like the previous books, the story revolves around the disgraced but still ambitious Daily News reporter, who this time, is trying to uncover the identity of a female serial killer.

The killer, a sexy blonde, picks men up at New York City bars and clubs, and then brutally murders them.

Belsky, who up until recently, spent his career as a journalist, said his inspiration for the character came from the Son of Sam. Having lived in New York and worked in newspapers at that time, he remembered the way the strings of shootings paralyzed the city. Bars were empty and women dyed their hair blonde since the killer, David Berkowitz, targeted brunettes.

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Local sites to be explored in Open House New York

Church of the Transfiguration at 1 East 29th Street (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Church of the Transfiguration at 1 East 29th Street (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Open House New York, an annual event that encourages conversations about architecture, public spaces and urban life, will be taking place throughout the city this weekend. Buildings and parks throughout the five boroughs will be participating and a handful of local institutions are opening their doors to the public, with no entrance fees at these participating sites.

Most of the open access sites offering tours this weekend are buildings, including historic landmarks and skyscrapers, but one unexpected offering includes the greenmarket at Union Square. The site serves as an info hub for the event all day on Saturday but is also featured as a site in itself. There will be a behind-the-scenes tour with GrowNYC, the non-profit organization that runs the greenmarket, at 10 a.m. on Saturday to meet some of the farmers who serve as regular vendors that bring fresh produce to New Yorkers.

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Mt. Sinai begins $500M rebuild


Rendering of new facility

Beth Israel president steps down

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday, Mount Sinai announced the start of the first phase of its $500 million project to rebuild a much smaller Beth Israel hospital and create the new “Mount Sinai Downtown” network. Additionally, it was announced that Suzanne Somerville, Beth Israel’s president, is leaving her position.

“For over fifteen years, my husband and I have had a home on the East End of Long Island,” Somerville said in a written statement. “My husband has retired and I will be joining him in order to pursue new opportunities out East.”

She will remain in her role at the hospital until hospital brass identifies a successor.

“We are incredibly lucky to have had her as part of our team and very sad to see her go, but we understand her desire to make this transition and wish her all the best,” said Kenneth L. Davis, MD, CEO and president of the Mount Sinai Health System.

As for the downsizing of Beth Israel and expanded services elsewhere within the hospital network, this includes Union Square’s Phillips Ambulatory Care Center seeing some improvements and being rebranded as Mount Sinai Downtown Union Square.

The center is getting a new urgent care center and a new lobby. Construction is currently underway, and the facility’s lobby will be completed in the coming weeks, complete with concierge services to help patients find their way. New services to be offered at Union Square include endoscopy, disease management programs, and a Respiratory Institute. In mid-2017, Union Square’s second floor will be home to a new, comprehensive urgent care center, including pediatric care, with weekend and evening hours.

At Mount Sinai Downtown Chelsea Center (formerly Cancer Center West), Mount Sinai will be opening a brand new Women’s Cancer Center facility with integrated breast cancer and gynecology oncology services, upgraded technology and expanded mammography services. Construction at this location is almost complete.

As Town & Village previously reported, some more complex procedures and services will no longer be offered at Beth Israel, with patients being redirected to other facilities within the Mount Sinai system.

The transformation, as Mount Sinai has been referring to the project, will consist of expanded and renovated outpatient facilities at three major sites with more than 600 doctors, stretching from the East River to the Hudson River below 34th Street. “Mount Sinai Downtown” will be anchored by the Beth Israel inpatient hospital with operating and procedure rooms, and a brand-new state-of-the-art emergency department, located two blocks from the current hospital.

The transformation will also include a major investment to expand behavioral health services at Beth Israel’s Bernstein Pavilion and the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai will also be enhanced. Beth Israel hospital will remain open until the new ED is fully operational at the new hospital.

Architectural firm Perkins Eastman is overseeing the design and construction of Mount Sinai’s new hospital. Pending approvals, demolition at the new site, adjacent to the Eye and Ear Infirmary, is expected to begin early 2017 with construction beginning early 2018. Construction is expected to be complete by late 2020.

Former Kips Bay shelter resident gets 20 years to life for raping woman in bar


Rodney Stover

The ex-con who raped a woman in the bathroom of a bar on East 27th Street last year, a crime that led the city to boot all the sex offenders from the 30th Street shelter, was sentenced to 20 years to life on Thursday.

Rodney Stover, 49, will do his time in a state prison for the April 2015 incident, after pleading guilty to three counts of predatory sexual assault. Stover had previously been convicted of rape in 1993 in Suffolk County.

Stover, who was staying at the Kips Bay men’s shelter last April, had hidden in the bathroom of the Turnmill bar, where he attacked the 23-year-old victim. As she tried to leave the bathroom, he grabbed her by the neck and forced her into a back stall while covering her mouth. Then he threatened her and raped her.

Four days later, Stover walked past the bar when an employee recognized him and called cops, who arrested him. Soon after that, the city moved all sex offenders out of the shelter, which is located at Bellevue Hospital’s Old Psych building.

“Rodney Stover lay in wait in a basement bathroom before attacking a young woman as she left the adjacent stall,” said District Attorney Cy Vance. “This brutal sex assault took place merely two months after the defendant was released from prison for a previous rape conviction. Thanks to the strength of this survivor, as well as the work of my Office’s prosecutors and the NYPD, this predator is no longer free to commit crimes against other women.”