Soapbox: Support the homeless with Safe Haven

By Keith Powers

Two weeks ago, the city revealed its plan to open a “Safe Haven” transitional housing facility on East 17th Street. The plan is causing some consternation among those that live in the neighborhood, but the community should remain open-minded while the city presents its plan.

Many communities raise concerns about the siting of homelessness facilities. In Maspeth, Queens, the community fought against the siting of a shelter and defeated the proposal. None of these efforts solve the important and necessary issue of ending homelessness in the city. Here’s what does: a small facility for the chronic homeless operated by a high-quality provider that has social services included within the facility to permanently transition people out of homelessness.

There is often an immediate reaction of asking, “how can I stop this?” rather than “what are the facts and how can I help?”

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Homeless 83-year-old charged with choking woman, stabbing 2 men

Across from 495 First Avenue (Photo via Google Maps)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police arrested an 83-year-old homeless man, Henry German, after he allegedly stabbed a man with an ice pick, causing his lung to collapse, and strangled a woman on First Avenue last Saturday around 3:20 p.m. German was additionally charged in connection with an assault in 2016 that also resulted in the victim’s lung collapsing. He was arrested at the corner of Peter Cooper Road and First Avenue but police said the incidents happened near 495 First Avenue at East 29th Street.

He allegedly first approached a woman, grabbed her throat and choked her.

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Possible upgrades for 30th St. shelter

Council Member Dan Garodnick speaks at a meeting aimed at coming up with ways to improve the men’s shelter. (Photo courtesy of Dan Garodnick)

By Sabina Mollot

The Department of Homeless Services is planning to make some upgrades to the dilapidated 30th Street men’s homeless shelter, possibly even turning an unused theater into a space for public use.

On Monday, July 17, representatives of the department met with a few representatives of Community Board 6 as well as a few elected officials to discuss ideas, including to create a co-working space where shelter residents can get job placement assistance and work on resumes. As for the theater, a possible plan would be to renovate it or even repurpose it and have it used by the shelter’s residents or the community. Outside the shelter, which is located inside the Bellevue Old Psych building on First Avenue, another idea was to create green spaces like a small park that could also be open to the public.

Following the brainstorming session, Council Member Dan Garodnick said ideas were based on what the shelter’s residents want as well as what the surrounding community wants.

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Candidate threatened with arrest while calling for reform of the city’s privately owned public spaces

Marti Speranza said she tried but was unable to get a permit to hold her press conference at the Trump Tower Atrium, which is supposed to be publicly accessible. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Marti Speranza, a Democrat running for City Council, risked but ultimately evaded arrest on Monday while calling for reform of Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS).

Ironically, the threat of arrest came because of the venue of her press conference, one of the city’s so-called POPS located in the atrium of Trump Tower.

As Speranza and supporters gathered at the space before the press conference, which was on a level below the ground floor, they were told they’d be arrested if they didn’t leave, her campaign staffers later said. However, Speranza and a couple of other speakers went on to make their arguments anyway, uninterrupted, as a few suit wearing men hovered at the room’s entrance. Afterwards, they stepped forward to ask the candidate and staffers if they’d be dispersing. Speranza’s campaign manager said the men later identified themselves as police from the NYPD’s Intelligence Unit. While no voices were raised, one of the men said he would normally turn the matter over to the legal department, but then added, “We don’t want to go that route.” He also asked if the campaign was planning any similar events in the future. When a staffer responded that doing so would be the campaign’s right, the man disagreed, but ultimately no one was kicked out.

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(UPDATED) Council candidate, booted off ballot over late filing, trying to get back on

Bessie Schachter, pictured at last month’s debate next to fellow candidate Jeff Mailman (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

UPDATE July 27 at 2:15 p.m.: Schachter contacted Town & Village on Thursday afternoon to say she was reinstated by court order.

By Sabina Mollot

On July 13, all candidates running for City Council races were required to submit petitions with a minimum of 450 signatures — or more if they expected to ward off challenges.

But one candidate, who said she actually got over 5,000 signatures, was knocked off the ballot for filing her paperwork a day late, and is now attempting to fight her way back on. That candidate, Bessie Schachter, told Town & Village she does expect to be on the ballot in the September 12 primary, though, calling the problem a “minor, technical” one.

According to an employee at the New York City Board of Elections, Schachter was removed on July 20 for responding a day late to a noncompliance notice. The notice had indicated a problem with her petition’s cover sheet, since cover sheets must mention how many volumes are included, and each volume must have its own identification number. Schachter had to have filed it within a three-day notice period that ended on July 19, but she filed the next evening, he said.

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Letters to the editor, July 27

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Why I welcome new homeless shelter

Re: “Neighbors demand answers on planned E. 17th St. shelter,” T&V, July 27

I welcome any facility and program that helps the homeless. I welcome the day that there is a home for every person. And was also happy to learn that the topic of housing our local homeless was raised at the BRC community meeting.

We have Gene living on 14th Street and First Avenue on and off for the past two years.  And John who lives in a wheelchair on First Avenue for more years than that. Several homeless who reside on 15th Street by the Con Ed building and many more neighborhood regulars panhandling in front of our local banks and stores. Homelessness affects the person that is struggling with their life and it also affects every one of us who pass them on the street while shopping or enjoying our neighborhood. It’s sad and upsetting and lessens the daily experience of our community and our city.

Therefore I strongly encourage BRC to welcome in the homeless that inhabit this area. It makes it a win-win.

With blessings,

Susan Turchin, ST  Continue reading

Teens beat man with hockey sticks outside PCV

Mar31 Peter Cooper sign

Peter Cooper Village

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police arrested three teenagers on Monday for a robbery outside Peter Cooper Village that took place earlier this month.

A 47-year-old man told police that a group of kids with masks over their faces approached him on the sidewalk outside 531 East 20th Street on Wednesday, July 12 around 11:50 p.m. The victim said that the teens whacked him in the head and body with hockey sticks and took his cell phone before fleeing the scene.

Police said that teens were stopped and frisked shortly after the crime but the victim could not positively identify them at the time because the suspects had been wearing face masks.

According to police, the victim lives in the neighborhood but could not confirm if he is a Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village resident.

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Police Watch: Man arrested for bank robberies, Deli worker busted for untaxed cigarettes

MAN CHARGED WITH ROBBING BANKS AT GUNPOINT IN UNION SQUARE, LES
Police arrested a man suspected in three bank robberies in Union Square and Lower Manhattan last Wednesday. Police stopped 21-year-old Richard Callison in front of 125 Third Avenue at 12:58 p.m. that afternoon while he was stopped in front of a Duane Reade near East 14th Street because he matched the description of a suspect from previous bank robberies.
Police said that video surveillance captured Callison committing the robberies. Callison also allegedly admitted to committing the robberies and police said that he identified himself in the stills from the video.
According to the district attorney’s office, two of the robberies took place on the Lower East Side and one occurred on Broadway near Union Square, all happening on two days last week.
The most recent robbery occurred in the Citibank at 749 Broadway near Eighth Street on July 19 at 11:40 a.m. Police said Callison gave the teller a note that said, “Put the money in the bag. No tracers and no one has to get hurt.” The DA’s office said that Callison pointed what appeared to be a gun through a plastic bag at the teller.
A teller working at the Chase Bank at 109 Delancey Street said that Callison came in at 10:40 a.m. on July 19 and handed over a note that said, “Give me the money. No dye packs. Big bills or your life will end!!!” Callison allegedly pointed a gun at the teller in this incident as well.
A bank teller working in the Bank of America at 92 Delancey Street told police that Callison gave him a note on July 18 around 4:30 p.m. that read, “Give me all the big bills (no traces). Make the wrong move and you will get shot. Rapido rapido.”

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Sinkhole on E. 23rd turns into gurgling tub

July27 Sinkhole July25

Men work at the sinkhole on the bike lane at 23rd Street and the East River on Tuesday. (Photo by Janet Handal)

By Sabina Mollot

A sinkhole that’s been on the bike lane at 23rd Street along the East River for weeks now has grown from being a few feet across to a ten-foot-wide gurgling geyser. It has also been an active worksite manned by a plumbing crew from the Economic Development Corporation, which manages the nearby city-owned Skyport garage. It’s a broken, leaking pipe underneath the garage that has been blamed for the problem.

Town & Village first reported on the sinkhole last week, when a then two-week-old 311 complaint had yet to spur any action from the city. The relevant city agencies finally arrived at the scene last Wednesday evening (following T&V’s press time) to barricade off the area. Additionally, at that time, a spokesperson for the DEP told us the Skyport garage had been ordered to fix the pipe as well as well as the sinkhole.

But by Tuesday evening of this week, a spokesperson for the EDC, Shavone Williams, still couldn’t say exactly when the damaged water line would be fixed, although the expectation was sometime this week. Williams added that the EDC was planning with the Department of Environmental Preservation to shut down a main on Wednesday morning so contractors could repair the line and repave the surface later in the week. Until it’s repaired, Williams said, the crew would remain onsite and keep the area surrounding the water hole secured with cones and tape.

Meanwhile, water service was completely shut off at Waterside Plaza on Wednesday by 8:30 a.m., according to the management office. General Manager Peter Davis said he didn’t know if it was related to the sinkhole, since the property hadn’t gotten a notice from any agency. UPDATE at 10:54 a.m. Water service has been restored to Waterside, and a DEP representative said the agency was looking into why it happened and why residents were not notified.

Janet Handal, president of the Waterside Tenants Association, first reported the sinkhole to the city on July 5, fearing it would become a deathtrap for cyclists and the usual crowds of people headed to the party boats at the marina next to the garage.

However, there was no visible response from the city on the growing hole until Handal reached out to a number of city agencies and elected officials as well as Town & Village. Only then did teams from the DEP and the Department of Transportation arrive to completely barricade off the sinkhole, which had been only partially surrounded by tape.

As of this Tuesday, Handal said it didn’t appear the workers knew yet where the water main actually was. After stopping by the site, Handal said she was shocked by the force and sound of the gushing water in the hole, as thick cords from six water pumps snaked their way inside. The width of the hole, which had originally just been in the bike lane, had stretched across two traffic lanes by then. This may have been done intentionally to allow the workers access, however.

Based on her observations, though, the water pumps didn’t appear to be doing much. She said she was told by a worker that the EDC was waiting for the DEP to turn off the water and that the collapsed pipe was believed to be about 80 years old.

Ten rescued after sea plane crashes in East River

July27 seaplane rescue

Sea plane passenger rescue in action (Photo courtesy of NYC’s official website)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The NYPD rescued 10 people on the East River last Friday afternoon when a sea plane took a hard landing near East 23rd Street around 5:30 p.m. Police told CBS New York that the East Hampton-bound plane tried to take off three times but failed, and the nine passengers and the plane’s pilot were evacuated by the NYPD Harbor Unit.

FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief Michael Gala said at a press conference following the incident that struts supporting the left wing broke, which caused the aircraft to slant when it landed in the river.

Officials did not have further information on what caused the initial problems when the plane was attempting to take off, but Gala said that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are investigating the incident.

TV producer Bill Lawrence, creator of “Scrubs” and “Spin City,” was one of the nine passengers rescued, along with his daughter. He told the news outlets at the scene that the plane seemed to reach an altitude of about 20 feet after trying to take off twice before it came down hard onto the river following the third attempt. Lawrence didn’t film the crash itself but posted photos on Instagram and Twitter showing the cockeyed plane with a wing partially submerged in the water.

Fly Tailwind, the plane’s operator, did not respond to a request for comment.

 

Council votes to support low-income tenants’ right to counsel

Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Member Mark Levine at the vote on the legislation (Photo via Mark Levine’s Twitter page)

By Sabina Mollot

On Thursday, the City Council voted overwhelmingly to support the right of tenants facing eviction to access free legal representation. In support were 42 Council members with three opposed and one abstention.

The mayor has already indicated his support for the bill, which was sponsored by Council Members Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson. The legislation, introduced in 2014, has since been pushed along by the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition, which is made up of dozens of civic, tenant and legal assistance organizations.

The legislation likely took three years to get voted on due to the cost, which is estimated at $155 million a year. That figure is based on $93 million to be added to city money that’s already budgeted for similar services, around $62 million, according to Andrew Scherer, the policy director of Impact Center for Public Interest Law at New York Law School, who’s been deeply involved in the coalition’s efforts. Continue reading

An argument for seeing old favorites on the big screen

“The Taking of Pelham 123,” one of the films in Film Forum’s “Ford to City: Drop Dead” series that’s running through July 27

By Seth Shire

“Ford to City: Drop Dead—New York in the 70s” is a movie series playing at Film Forum now through July 27. The 70s, considered to be the last golden age of American cinema, is filled with some of my favorite movies, many of which were shot in New York. The titles in this series include “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Saturday Night Fever,” “The Taking of Pelham 123” and many others.

On the one hand, this is a series tailor made for me. On the other hand, since I already own many of these movies on DVD, why should I pay to see them in a movie theater? Still, as a practical matter, how often do I actually watch the movies that I have on DVD? I think it’s an existential issue. In other words, having lots of movies on DVD means that I have the possibility of watching them, even if the reality is that I rarely watch them. This is the dilemma presented to the movie aficionado in the digital age, in which almost everything is available at his, or her, fingertips. Had home video and all its variations – VHS, laser disc, DVD, Blu-Ray, streaming – not been invented, then Film Forum’s series would be a “no-brainer” for me. Of course I would go. So saying I won’t see a particular film when it plays in a theater because I have it on a DVD that I almost never watch means running the risk of not seeing the film at all!

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Bullied as a kid, Stuy Town resident writes book aimed at helping others avoid the same treatment

Charles O’Connor (Photo by Burt Miller)

By Sabina Mollot

A lifelong resident of Stuyvesant Town who suffered at the hands of bullies throughout his childhood is hoping he can turn his own miserable experiences into a way to help kids who are getting victimized by today’s new crop of emoji-wielding tormentors.

Charles O’Connor, who said he dealt with bullying in his elementary and junior high school years, is now 56 years old and is shopping around a book he wrote on the subject. The book, however, isn’t just a memoir detailing the various playground beatings he got (although that is certainly in there). Written specifically for both younger and older kids, it aims to prepare kids for what happens if they do get bullied — how to deal and, ideally, avoid it altogether.

“It’s telling kids who are being troubled by bullies, ‘I’ve been there,’” said O’Connor of the book, Charles, Is Your Head on Your Shoulders?. “It gives them my perspective as a man in his 50s and I hope it can give them some assertiveness tips.” The title was inspired by a question he would hear all too often from a teacher, who was actually one of his bullies.

Typically, when children complain of being hassled by a peer, the canned response from adults is to just ignore it. That rather basic advice occasionally does have merit, though, according to O’Connor.

“Sometimes that’s worked for me,” he said. But, he noted, “You can have 10 different responses from 10 different bullies.” So his other tactics have also included trying to talk a bully out of fighting him. “One time I reasoned with a kid and said there’s no reason for us to fight and he backed off.”

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U-turn on Silver is bad for tenants: Hoylman

State Senator Brad Hoylman

By Sabina Mollot

Following a stunning decision last Thursday by a federal judge to overturn the conviction for corruption against former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, State Senator Brad Hoylman is predicting more of the same bad behavior in Albany.

“I am concerned that the overturning of the Silver verdict might give a green light for some public officials to engage in legal graft,” said Hoylman, who’s been pushing for ethics reforms for years. Those reforms include the closure of the so-called LLC Loophole, limiting outside income for legislators, prohibiting convicted legislators from using campaign cash on their own defense and taking away convicted legislators’ pensions.

Additionally, Hoylman said he believes the court’s decision will hurt tenants in New York City.

“The Silver case props up the status quo and the status quo if left alone will result in the end of rent stabilization as we know it,” said Hoylman.

Hoylman added, “It’s up to the legislature to provide clarification (on what constitutes corruption). It’s up to the state of New York to pass laws that prevent that from happening, but given what we’ve seen, I don’t think the current Senate leadership has any desire to address this disaster, especially since their former leader may get off using the same argument that Sheldon Silver’s attorneys did.”

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Neighbors demand answers on planned E. 17th St. shelter

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Around a dozen leaders of neighborhood groups, who’d been stunned to learn late last month that the city planned to open a “Safe Haven” shelter in Stuyvesant Square, finally got to hear from the shelter’s operator, BRC, at a meeting last week.

Those attending the meeting, which was specifically held for representatives of local organizations, seemed wary but open-minded about the new 28-bed facility that is supposed to open in a former Beth Israel AIDS hospice building at 327 East 17th Street. The meeting was held at Mount Sinai Beth Israel last Wednesday evening.

Representatives from the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association and the Kips Bay Neighborhood Association were at the meeting and all wanted to know how the BRC, which runs the Safe Haven pilot program, would address safety concerns around the new shelter, especially because Safe Havens don’t have curfew requirements.

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