Texas girl battling cancer travels to New York to meet NYPD

Seven-year-old Abigail Arias, pictured with her family, Gramercy Park Block Association President Arlene Harrison and members of the 13th precinct and the NYPD (Photos courtesy of Blue Lives Matter NYC)

Last week, the Gramercy Park Block Association welcomed 7-year-old Freeport, TX Honorary Police Chief Abigail Arias (badge# 758), her father Rueben, mother Eileen, brother Ethan and Freeport Police Chief Raymond A. Garivey to Gramercy Park.

Blue Lives Matter NYC co-founders Sgt. Joseph Imperatrice, Det. Carlos Delgado and PO Chris Brinkley organized a trip to New York City for Arias, who dreams of becoming a police officer, but suffers from a incurable form of kidney cancer.

To welcome Arias to Gramercy Park, GPBA President Arlene Harrison and Kathleen Scupp organized a pizza party, and invited local NYPD, including Manhattan South Chief Salvatore Comodo, Det. Greg Welch and Emergency Service Truck 1, and 13th Precinct Neighborhood Coordinating Officers. The party was co-hosted by the Gramercy Park Hotel and Maialino Restaurant.

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City: Don’t just blame high rent

Study reveals variety of reasons for retail vacancies

The city described vacancy rates as “volatile,” varying widely from neighborhood to neighborhood. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

While too-high rents and competition from Amazon are often blamed for the state of the city’s struggling retail sector, when there’s a high vacancy rate in a particular neighborhood, it can’t necessarily be pinned down to one specific obstacle.

At least, that’s the conclusion drawn by the Department of City Planning (DCP), which has released a study of the city’s retail storefronts to determine vacancy rates and the possible reasons for them.

The report was done after assessing 10,000 storefronts in 24 retail corridors around the boroughs using data from a tech platform put out by the company Live XYZ as well as on the ground surveys. Looking at trends from late 2017 through Fall 2018, the study also used demographic, land use and real estate data, and input from local business associations. The survey defined a vacant space as vacant and available. Those not included in stats were vacant spaces with active construction or known redevelopment plans as well as empty stores with signage announcing a future tenant. Occupied stores with a “for lease” sign were also excluded from the vacancy figures.

Overall the study found, when comparing similar data from a decade ago, vacancy has increased from 7.6-9 percent over the studied neighborhoods.

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Opinion: Turning over a new leaf at Bellevue Park South

Bellevue South Park (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Assemblymember Harvey Epstein

For almost four decades, Bellevue South Park has provided Kips Bay residents a much-needed oasis for recreation and relaxation in an area otherwise starved for green space. Unfortunately, in recent years, the park has become a hotspot for illegal activity that includes drinking and drug use. These behaviors make the park unwelcome and unsafe for the families in the neighborhood. We must address these problems as a community and make the park a safe and enjoyable place for all.

Bellevue Hospital, which operates over 300 psychiatric beds, and the 850-bed 30th Street Men’s Shelter are just steps away from the park, making it a natural hang out spot for homeless individuals as well as those with mental health issues. Often these groups overlap, creating even greater challenges with providing services. Further complicating the situation is the nearby The Children’s Center, whose clients are city’s most vulnerable children waiting to be placed with a foster family. Teens in the facility face incredible emotional stress and unfortunately have a history of being involved in violent incidents around the neighborhood.

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Pedestrian killed on Sixth Avenue at West 23rd Street

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police reported that 60-year-old Michael Collopy was killed after he was reportedly knocked down by a cyclist in bike lane at the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 23rd Street on Wednesday, July 31 at 11:53 a.m. EMS transported Collopy to Bellevue Hospital and he succumbed to his injuries there on Monday, August 5.

The NYPD initially reported in a notice sent on Wednesday, August 7 that a preliminary investigation conducted by NYPD’s Highway Collision Investigation Squad found that a bicyclist was traveling north on Sixth Avenue in the bike lane when he hit Collopy, who was allegedly standing in the lane. Police said that the bicyclist did not remain on the scene.

The NYPD claimed last Wednesday that the medical examiner determined the cause of death to be the result of a pedestrian being struck by a bicyclist, but multiple news outlets reported that the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner disputed this assessment. The New York Daily News reported that the medical examiner said the “cause and manner of death in this case is pending determination.”

Multiple arrests for robberies last week

By Maria Rocha-Buschel  

Police arrested multiple people for alleged robberies in the neighborhood, including for a violent incident at the bus stop on First Avenue at East 14th Street last weekend.

Jason Vincente, 39, allegedly approached a woman in her 20s while she was waiting for the bus at the northeast corner of East 14th Street and First Avenue on Saturday, August 10 at 12:25 a.m.

Police said that Vincente attempted to grab the victim’s bag and when the victim refused to give it to him, he allegedly said, “Gimme your money,” and reportedly grabbed the victim by the shirt.

When she refused, police said that Vincente forced her into the wall of the bus stop enclosure, hitting her head against the glass multiple times, causing a bruise on her head and substantial pain. The victim was transported to Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital for treatment but no further information about her condition was available.

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Safety concerns about new Kips Bay bike lane

Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal expressed concern last week that the new shared bike path underneath the FDR at the heliport is too narrow for both bikes and pedestrians. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Waterside Plaza tenants rallied last Thursday to protest the newly-installed shared bike/pedestrian path for the East River Greenway that runs adjacent to the heliport at East 34th Street that the Department of Transportation installed within the last month.

Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal told Town & Village this week that there are a number of issues with the new configuration, primarily around the newly-painted lane by the heliport.

“It is a major thoroughfare for parents with children in strollers going to the United Nations International School and the British International School,” she said, noting that before the lane was painted recently it was a pedestrian path, but the new lane between 33rd and 34th Streets designates it as a shared bike and pedestrian path, making it cramped when both cyclists and pedestrians are there at once.

“It’s certainly not room for bikes going both directions and people walking,” she added.

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Busway halted—again

Select Bus Service launched on the M14A/D at the beginning of July but it is the only SBS route in the city that doesn’t have a dedicated bus lane due to the current litigation. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Within days of a judge giving the 14th Street busway the go-ahead after a lawsuit prevented it from going into effect at the beginning of July, West Village, Union Square and Flatiron residents and community groups have once again held up the pilot program through an appeal.

Gothamist reported that shortly after the Department of Transportation, the city agency implementing the busway, had previewed the changes last Friday following the temporary restraining order being lifted on Tuesday, a judge granted an appeal to the community groups and stopped the busway from going into effect this past Monday.

Tensions have been high between transit advocates and the residents working to prevent the busway, particularly Arthur Schwartz, an attorney who filed the initial lawsuit and who also lives on West 12th Street, and have only increased since the end of last week.

Transit group Transportation Alternatives announced a press conference in front of Schwartz’s own West Village apartment to pressure Schwartz into dropping the lawsuit, planned for this past Wednesday after T&V’s deadline. Schwartz condemned the move as an intimidation tactic.

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Letter to the editor, Aug. 15

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Pulling back the curtain on Blackstone

Dear editor,

I am simply sickened to learn that Stephen Schwarzman, the CEO of Blackstone, the company that bought Stuyvesant Town, is a large donor of Trump. This simply sickens me, yet there is nothing I can do about it, short of moving!

Tenants must understand that Schwarzman, by his donations, makes it possible to witness the philosophy of ugliness in having an incompetent person sit in the White House, and by association, share the same philosophy of caging children, targeting immigrants and others, and encouraging the chants of “lock her up” and “send her back.” It is the same philosophy of believing white supremacists have good people on both sides. The curtain has been pulled back allowing a clear look at who owns and runs this development.

Now, we know more today and must never forget who supports the man with the vile tongue.

Name withheld
Stuyvesant Town

Police Watch: Woman busted for selling stolen guitar, Man arrested for forgery

WOMAN BUSTED FOR SELLING STOLEN GUITAR
Police arrested a 21-year-old woman who attempted to sell a guitar stolen from a Guitar Center in Midtown to another Guitar Center location in Union Square.

According to police, Zujey Benitez entered the store at 25 West 14th Street on Friday, August 9 at 8:45 p.m. and attempted to sell a white Fender guitar that had been reported stolen from the Guitar Center location at 218 West 44th Street on Friday, August 2.

Benitez, who was charged with possession of stolen property at the time of her arrest, was later charged with two counts of grand larceny as well when a further investigation revealed that she and another person who wasn’t arrested had also allegedly stolen the white Fender guitar from the store in Midtown, as well as a green Fender guitar from the same store earlier this month.

MAN NABBED FOR ‘FORGERY’

Police arrested 39-year-old Jason Lent for an alleged forgery on Tuesday, August 6 at 3:48 p.m. at the corner of West 16th Street and Fifth Avenue. Police were responding to a call about an individual trying to access a bank account with a fraudulent ID inside the Bank of America at 116 Fifth Avenue around 3:15 p.m. After police arrived, they found Lent nearby and when he was searched, he was allegedly in possession of a fraudulent New Jersey State ID and a fraudulent credit card. Lent was also charged with possession of a controlled substance.

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Opinion: Gunning down America

On the Monday after two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, several dozen people gathered in Union Square to both mourn the several dozen victims as well as to criticize the ease of buying guns in America. Organized by the group RefuseFascism.org, many at the rally were critical of politicians who blamed mental illness as the cause of the massacres rather than the availability of military-style guns. (Photo by Jefferson Siegel)

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Last week I wrote about gun violence and mass murder. My column was a warning entitled “It could happen anywhere.”

Two days later, it did.

This time a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas. It was one of the worst massacres in U.S. history, leaving 20 dead and dozens more seriously wounded. The weapon of choice again was an assault weapon. And then just hours later a gunman in Dayton, Ohio opened fire on innocent bystanders killing nine with an assault weapon. It took 30 seconds. That’s the killing power of assault weapons.

Thirty-one dead and scores wounded in 12 hours. They won’t be the last.

In El Paso, the assailant was fueled by hatred of Hispanics and Mexicans who largely inhabit the city of El Paso. He was said to be enraged by what he referred to as the “invasion” of Hispanic immigrants. He used the very same language that we have heard this president use over and over again. “Invasion.”

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Opinion: Lawmakers: stand up to real estate

By Sung Soo Kim
Founder, Small Business Congress

For 10 years, small business owners have been denied economic justice and fair treatment by our government. The decade-long collusion between the powerful lobby REBNY and the Speaker’s Office successfully blocked a vote on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (Jobs Act), the only real solution to stop the closing of our small businesses and to end their crisis. The Jobs Act is a bill giving rights to business owners when their leases expire, rights needed to negotiate fair lease terms.

Finally in October 2018, the Jobs Act was given a public hearing by the Small Business Committee, chaired by Councilmember Mark Gjonaj. He was hand-picked by REBNY because Gjonaj owns his own real estate company and is the most pro-landlord and anti-tenant lawmaker in the council, and on record as opposed to the Jobs Act.

Unlike the last hearing on the Jobs Act in June 2009 by then-Chairman David Yassky, Gjonaj’s hearing did not focus solely upon the root cause of businesses closings, the one-sided commercial lease renewal process, which is what the Jobs Act addresses. Instead, Gjonaj’s hearing focused upon the empty storefronts on every main street and trying to sell the same old distracting false narrative that fines and over regulations were more pressing problems.

At the conclusion of David Yassky’s 2009 hearing on the Jobs Act, he and his entire committee selected the Jobs Act as the best solution to stop the closing of small businesses and save jobs. Every member of the committee became sponsors, making 32 sponsors of the bill ready to vote it into law. There were no legal challenges to the bill and the outcome of hearing disproves the REBNY narrative that the Jobs Act has been collecting dust for 30 years and going nowhere.

On July 23, Gjonaj presented his five solutions, which were a collection of REBNY-created bills that would not save a single small business or job and kept the status quo. All avoided completely addressing the cause of business closings: the lease renewal process.

One example of the disgraceful act of lawmakers’ failure to seriously address the small business crisis with a real solution was a bill from Councilmember Carlina Rivera. Her bill called for Department of Small Business Services to assess the state of storefronts in 20 communities every three years, code for counting empty storefronts and do nothing. Rivera should be ashamed to present this useless legislation while a real solution, the Jobs Act with 29 sponsors sits in committee and would save her district’s businesses. Why in the face of a growing crisis would any lawmaker insult small businesses owners with such a scandalous worthless bill that gave them no rights and would keep the status quo making landlords rich?

There are 75 Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in New York City. It would take one hour for SBS to require each BID to count their empty storefronts and how long they were empty. Why wouldn’t every council member that is a board member on a BID also know the state of the empty stores? When long established businesses were forced to close in record numbers and storefronts remained empty for years, why didn’t they do something to stop the closings?

The time for disingenuous supporting the Jobs Act while at the same time being complicit to the rigging by special interests to stop it is over. New Yorkers who demand good government and want an end to the closing of their favorite mom-and-pop businesses must demand their lawmakers address the small business crisis with a real solution that gives rights to the long established business owners when their leases expire.

If former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn had allowed democracy to work, the Jobs Act would have easily passed long ago and we would not have the crisis or empty stores today. Will Speaker Johnson allow democracy to return to City Hall? Or will the norm at City Hall be total control of economic policy by REBNY and lawmakers continue to do nothing? The delay and distractions will continue until the 2019 fully-vetted and legally-sound Jobs Act is passed.

Co-owner of The Stand killed

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police arrested 27-year-old Joseph Porter for the murder of 40-year-old David Kimowitz, co-owner of The Stand comedy club in Union Square, and his live-in au pair, 26-year-old Karen Bermudez-Rodriguez early Saturday morning on August 3.

The New York Times reported that Porter was the boyfriend of Bermudez-Rodriguez and he was charged with two counts of murder, possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and criminal restraint.

The Times reported that police responded to a 911 call to the Maplewood, NJ home around sunrise reporting that a woman was being assaulted, and when police arrived, they found Bermudez-Rodriguez lying in the street, critically injured. She was transported to Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, where she later died.

According to the criminal complaint, Bermudez-Rodriguez and Porter had communicated via text on the night of the murders and Bermudez-Rodriguez had written that she wanted to break up with Porter, who then responded that he was upset with her because she was trying to end the relationship.

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13th Precinct celebrates National Night Out

Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Rain held off for National Night Out, the annual summer barbecue that the 13th Precinct Community Council celebrates in the M.S. 104 Playground on Second Avenue, this past Tuesday evening.

Neighborhood residents and elected officials mingled with police officers and representatives from area groups for the event that brings together the NYPD and the community.

Assemblymember Harvey Epstein said that such community events are especially important now.

“In these times with mass shootings, and with the failure of the federal government to do anything, New York needs to have strong gun laws,” Epstein said. “And it’s important for us to have these nights where we celebrate safety. National Night Out is great for building community together.”

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Rivera announces tools for small businesses

Councilmember Carlina Rivera announced the new tools for small businesses in front of vacant storefronts on East 9th Street last week. (Photos courtesy of Councilmember Rivera’s office)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

City Councilmember Carlina Rivera joined neighborhood organizations outside vacant storefronts on East 9th Street on Tuesday, July 30 to announce new initiatives to help small businesses in the East Village, including an app that connects residents to local businesses in the neighborhood.

Renaissance EDC, Asian Americans for Equality, Village Alliance, Cooper Square Committee, East Village Community Coalition and the East Village Independent Merchants Association joined Rivera for the announcement that the East Village Revitalization Loan Fund will be offering East Village business owners the opportunity to borrow up to $50,000 with fixed interest rates lower than what small business owners would be able to secure through a normal loan provider. Renaissance EDC is an affiliate of Asian Americans for Equality.

The loans can be used for restocking inventory, purchasing new equipment or furniture, payroll, storefront improvements or renovations, marketing and other typical high-cost capital needs.

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Attorney running to unseat Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney

Erica Vladimer (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Attorney Erica Vladimer still has a long way to go before the Congressional Primary next June, but she’s ready to challenge longtime Congressmember Carolyn Maloney in the election for the District 12 seat after announcing her candidacy this past June. The district covers the East Side of Manhattan, including the East Village, parts of Midtown and the Upper East Side, as well as Long Island City and Astoria in Queens and Greenpoint and Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

“I never fully intended to run for office, especially at this age, but if there’s ever been a time where a new generation needs to bring a new voice to all levels of government, this is it,” Vladimer said of her campaign. “And it gutturally feels right.”

Vladimer, 32, filed her paperwork to run on June 3 but was also in the news at the beginning of last year after she accused State Senator Jeff Klein of forcibly kissing her outside a bar in Albany while she was a member of his staff. She left his office in 2015 and said that she thought she had put it behind her, but felt differently when she started hearing about the accusations against film producer Harvey Weinstein.

“I will forever carry that with me,” she said of the incident. “Other people who were harassed, I feel that I played some role in it because I didn’t speak out.”

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