Rivera talks SBJSA, homelessness, L train shutdown and 14th St. tech hub

Council Member Carlina Rivera speaks about a “21st century” version of the SBJSA as well as other issues at an event at Almond in Flatiron, hosted by the Union Square and Flatiron BIDs. (Pictured) Rivera with NY1 reporter Michael Scotto (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

New Councilmember Carlina Rivera spoke with NY1 reporter Michael Scotto in an event at Almond Restaurant in Flatiron at the end of March, focusing on small businesses, the upcoming L train shutdown, homelessness and the planned tech hub for Union Square.

The event was a community breakfast hosted by two neighborhood BIDs, the Union Square Partnership and the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership.

As she previously mentioned in a roundtable with Town & Village, Rivera said that she supports a “21st-century version” of the Small Business Jobs and Survival Act, clarifying further at the recent breakfast that she partially meant taking online shopping into consideration.

“We need to consider how we shop, but we also need to consider that the piece of legislation we introduce, as of last term, was 20 years old,” she said. “The way we’ve shopped has changed dramatically in 20 years so I think giving the small business owner the ability to negotiate is important. (The 21st-century version) is taking into consideration mixed-use buildings, and making sure that Small Business Services does a better job at marketing the resources they have available, along with the Department of Consumer Affairs.”

Rivera said that she was encouraged by plans from the Department of Transportation and the MTA about mitigation plans for the L train shutdown but also feels that there’s still room to improve.

“The Busway will be important but we have to do more,” she said, referencing the plan to ban private vehicles on 14th Street during the shutdown and have the road mainly accessible to buses. “There are all sorts of alternatives to alleviate the burden. I don’t want to use the term ‘nightmare’ but it has affected my sleep cycle.”

She also acknowledged that the shutdown will likely lead to an increase in for-hire vehicles and said that she would be looking into the possibility of a surcharge for ridesharing services.

Rivera also said that she felt aspects of available homeless services were not providing adequate protections for New Yorkers, such as LINC, a voucher system that provides rental assistance to low-income families and single adults living in homeless or domestic violence shelters, as well as NYCHA.

“I know that it’s illegal for a landlord not to take a voucher but there’s no enforcement capability there to make sure that they’re bringing homeless families into their buildings,” she said.

Rivera added that she didn’t think the issues with NYCHA were completely the fault of the now former chairwoman, Shola Olatoye, who has been under fire over lack of heat and lead paint inspections in multiple developments. “As someone who has worked in housing services, the culture is a systematic issue that has been present for decades,” Rivera said of the problems with the housing agency. “There has been a history of mismanagement of funds. Whether it’s design-build or eliminating all of middle management, something drastic does need to happen. We need to go in and take care of some of these emergency cases.”

Rivera criticized the current system of using hotels as shelters, saying that the program does not help homeless families and supportive housing would be more beneficial. She is also skeptical of the mayor’s plan to build 90 new shelters.

“If you’re going to build 90 shelters, built 90 state-of-the-art brand new shelters with space for case workers in order to support families that need holistic services,” she said. “We’re behind on the goal and substituting hotels is problematic.”

The proposed tech hub for the former PC Richards in Union Square has been a topic of debate for nearby residents because of fears about overdevelopment, prompting neighborhood organizations like the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation to push for rezoning of the area, and Rivera said that she has been speaking with GVSHP executive director Andrew Berman about “protections” for the nearby neighborhoods.

“I am working on a rezoning with the administration and that conversation has been a little difficult, but I like a good fight,” she said. “It’s absolutely a priority to take care of the adjacent neighborhoods and have responsible construction. I do think the tech hub will incentivize construction in the area but we have to make sure that the people who have lived in those buildings for many years feel like it’s going to look like their neighborhood.”

Rivera also emphasized that it’s a priority for her to make sure that people in the neighborhood will be able to access the services provided by the new development.

“What I’m hoping is that I want to see someone from Third Avenue to Avenue D using that tech hub,” she said. “I want to make sure that women and people of color are in that building. It sounds simple but it really isn’t. Avenue D is a long way from Fourth Avenue. This disparity in the district, you can see it in the school districts, and this will be an important piece of that.”

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