Hoylman to push for lower MTA fares and congestion pricing

State Senator Brad Hoylman (pictured at right) spoke about the need for transit improvements at a recent meeting of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

State Senator Brad Hoylman, who’s been an outspoken critic of the bus used by many of his constituents, the M23 a.k.a. the turtle, is now setting his sights on the MTA as a whole, saying he’s sick of seeing funds intended for mass transit get steered elsewhere.

Hoylman brought up the subject on Sunday, November 19 at a public meeting held by the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association during a Q&A period.

The topic was first brought up by a woman who, during a Q&A period, said she didn’t like that a fleet of 200 diesel buses have been announced as a solution to the looming L-Pocalypse in 2019, rather than hybrid buses.

At this, Hoylman said he agreed and wanted to help “wean Albany off of Diesel,” despite the pollution-spewing option being cheaper.

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Opinion: It’s a matter of when

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

Next week will mark the fifth anniversary of the devastating Super Storm Sandy that ravaged much of New York City and the lower part of Manhattan in particular. The fury of that storm battered the low lying areas, caused the East River and Hudson River to overflow their banks and flooded miles of the coast line and interior blocks. Streets saw four feet of water. Cars parked on Avenue C and nearby streets were virtually swallowed up. Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village were swamped and suffered a loss of power and heat for a week. Residents, especially the elderly were stranded in their buildings, without elevator service. To make matters worse, that week was unusually cold with temperatures plunging into the 40s at night. It was hard to escape the chill.  I was there, we all were there… and it was harrowing and it was dangerous. Eventually the lights went back on and the steam heat was restored. But the flooding destroyed basements and the cleanup took over a year at a cost of billions of dollars in the affected metropolitan region.

This community suffered mightily that week, but we also discovered much as well. On the good side, we realized once again that New Yorkers are at their best in a crisis. Neighbor helping neighbor and reaching out to strangers to help keep them safe. We witnessed this same resilience after the September 11, 2001 attack on our city. The character of New York City residents is tough but caring. In an emergency, the famous aloofness and at time gruffness of New Yorkers gives way to acts of kindness and genuine concern.

But we also learned that our city, its topography and infrastructure is totally insufficient to ward off such devastating storms. And we know that with the changing climate, which is undeniable except perhaps by some politicians in Washington D.C., such severe storms will become more frequent in the future. The oceans are rising, the global temperatures are warming and these conditions will make hurricanes and superstorms worse and worse and regularly threaten the Atlantic coastal areas. It is not a matter of “if,” but rather a matter of when and where.

In the short run there will be no remedy or even common sense preparation coming from the federal government. The Trump Administration has pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords which would have required this country along with all other countries to do more to limit the emission of greenhouse gases and other causal actions that threaten our ecosystem and environment. For the most part our national leaders are taking an ostrich-like approach to this issue, burying its head along with any studies that substantiate climate change. So if New York wants to protect itself it will need to act alone.

We will need to build higher barriers along the low-lying areas of the East River and the Hudson River to guard against storm surge and over flow. Sadly some of the vulnerable areas in Queens, Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn that border on ocean or bays will be hard to defend. Some of those areas are just too open and vulnerable.

We also must undertake to better protect our underground subway system by installing the most efficient pumping apparatus so that our tunnels can remain operational. None of this will be cheap or fast, but it is essential. Mayoral candidates should be talking about this now.

The alternative is to just leave ourselves at the mercy of Mother Nature who seems increasingly angry with us.

Solar One replacement building breaks ground

City Council Dan Garodnick, Solar One Executive Director Chris Collins and Manhattan Borough Preident Gale Brewer hold hard hats at a ceremony for Solar 2 on Tuesday. (Brewer’s forehead bandage was due to a recent car collision, though she said it looked worse than it was.) (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

After 10 years of planning, environmental non-profit Solar One announced a timeline for the construction of the new, replacement educational center known as Solar 2 on Tuesday, ideally to be completed by the end of next year.

Dina Elkan, communications director for Solar One, said that the incentive to finish within that time frame is partially because city budget is fixed so the funding from elected officials needs to be used by then. One of the challenges will be the overlapping East Side Coastal Resiliency project but Elkan said that since it’s the same architectural firm working on both, the two projects will be coordinating throughout the process.

At a ceremonial groundbreaking on Tuesday, Solar One also acknowledged outgoing Councilmember Dan Garodnick’s commitment to the project from the beginning of his tenure at City Hall.

“When he was elected 12 years ago, he came here with his campaign manager and asked how he could help,” Solar One Executive Director Chris Collins said. “His vision and willingness to examine thorny problems makes him unique to the community.”

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Haven Plaza to become more disaster-resistant

The building to be located at 13th Street and Avenue C broke ground last month. (Rendering courtesy of CTA Architects)

By Sabina Mollot

When Superstorm Sandy struck nearly five years ago, the buildings at Haven Plaza, a low and middle-income apartment complex located a block south of Stuyvesant Town, incurred massive damage. Following an explosion at the nearby Con Ed generating plant, Haven Plaza’s electrical system shorted out. Along with everyone else living in the adjacent communities, residents of Haven Plaza’s 371 apartments were trapped without elevator service, electricity or heat. Men and women of the National Guard shared field rations with residents, many of them seniors, until the power returned.

Following the disaster, the property underwent a much-needed $50 million overhaul in repairs and renovations. This included work on roofs and elevators that had to be replaced.

Then last month, another major project with a price tag of nearly $10 million began aimed at preventing future disaster-related damage on the property.

That project is a new, two-story infrastructure building designed to be disaster-resistant as well as associated resiliency upgrades at the complex, which is located on Avenue C between 10th and 13th Streets.

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14th St. SBS route planned ahead of L shutdown

The MTA and the city are working on plans to enhance bus and ferry service, including Select Bus Service for 14th Street. Meanwhile, work will soon begin on the Avenue A entrance of the First Avenue subway station just west of Avenue A. (Corner pictured here opposite Stuyvesant Town) (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The MTA has announced that preliminary street work on the new entrance for the L train at Avenue A and East 14th Street will begin this month. The new entrance is planned for the north and south sides of East 14th Street, just west of Avenue A.

Additionally, the MTA recently discussed plans for a new Select Bus Service (SBS) route along 14th Street to help make the looming L train shutdown less of a nightmare.

The plans for mitigation were discussed at the last Community Board 6 Transportation Committee meeting.

The shutdown, which is expected to begin in April 2019, will affect about 225,000 riders and cuts off train service between Brooklyn and Manhattan so the MTA can make repairs to the Canarsie Tunnel, which was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

The MTA is working on plans with the Department of Transportation for a series of buses, road improvements and ferries.

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MTA to reduce L train shutdown by three months

Straphangers waiting for the L at First Ave.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The MTA announced at the end of last week that the L train tunnel will likely be closed for 15 months instead of the originally-proposed 18 for Hurricane Sandy-related repairs and the shutdown will begin in April 2019 instead of that January.

Transportation blog Second Ave. Subway first noticed the changes to the plan in the board’s materials last Friday and MTA spokesperson Beth DeFalco confirmed via Twitter that the timeline had changed.

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Neighbors concerned over proposal for floodwalls by two playgrounds

Murphy's Brother's Playground (Photo courtesy of Parks NYC)

Murphy’s Brother’s Playground (Photo courtesy of Parks NYC)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community residents voiced their concerns about a plan to redesign two local playgrounds around a floodwall that’s part of the coastal resiliency project planned for the East Side.

They got a chance to provide input on changes for Asser Levy and Murphy’s Brothers playgrounds in a meeting last Thursday. This was the second public meeting on the subject.

Meanwhile, some residents were frustrated that the proposals from the mayor’s officer were the same as those presented at the previous meeting, held last November. Carrie Grassi, deputy director for planning at the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, explained that this meeting was primarily scheduled to give residents a second chance to provide input at a more convenient location, since some had complained the previous meeting was held too far from the actual project area. The most recent meeting was held directly adjacent to the affected area at the VA Medical Center, while the previous meeting was held at Washington Irving High School.

“We wanted to give more people the opportunity to see the presentation with fresh eyes so they were unbiased in their feedback,” she said.

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Straphangers weigh in on ways to deal with L train shutdown

Paul Steely-White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Paul Steely-White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A transit-focused nonprofit has enlisted the public to come up with ideas to help make the looming L train shutdown less painful, and the first of three workshops on the subject took place on Monday night at Town and Village Synagogue.

There didn’t seem to be any new ideas but rather people stressing options brought up previously, such as the street being shut down to car traffic and beefing up the supply of buses.

Paul Steely-White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said that regardless of the overall plan, the public feedback process could be a good opportunity to improve bus transit in the city.

Meanwhile, he added that the imminent shutdown will be a serious problem if it’s not met with proactive solutions beforehand.

“We’re trying to get our heads around the thought of what happens if there’s no contingency,” he said. “I don’t think anyone thinks it’ll just be ok if we do nothing.”

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East River flood protection plan extended to 25th St.

Meeting attendees in 2015 look at a model of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village with a planned elevated park at the waterfront. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Meeting attendees in 2015 look at a model of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village with a planned elevated park at the waterfront. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The plan to provide flood protection to the community along the East River has shifted design elements from East 23rd Street to 25th Street due to complications with the intersection in the original plan. The Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency announced the changes to the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) plan in a task force meeting with Community Boards 3 and 6 on Tuesday night.

Representatives from the Office of Recovery and Resiliency as well as the urban design team working on the project have spoken at community meetings previously about the plan, the goal of which is to provide flood protection from Montgomery Street to East 23rd Street, incorporating floodwalls and an elevated park.

Carrie Grassi, Deputy Director for Planning at the Office of Recovery and Resiliency, said that the “tieback” was moved to East 25th Street because East 23rd Street is a technically difficult area.

“We’re trying to come up with an alternative that doesn’t make that intersection worse,” she said.

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VA: Flood wall now expected to be finished by end of 2016

The contractors working at the hospital site faced delays due to difficulties drilling through found materials like concrete and rocks and a tentative projected finish date for the project is the end of the year, with work on the Asser Levy Park side expected to be finished some time this summer. (Photo by Anne Greenberg)

The contractors working at the hospital site faced delays due to difficulties drilling through found materials like concrete and rocks and a tentative projected finish date for the project is the end of the year, with work on the Asser Levy Park side expected to be finished some time this summer. (Photo by Anne Greenberg)

By Sabina Mollot

Last August, Town & Village reported on how the project to build a flood wall outside the VA Medical Center was scheduled to be finished by March of this year.

However, as anyone who has walked past the construction site recently could see, the project is still ongoing and the actual wall hasn’t even been built yet.

This week, when asked the reason for the delay, a spokesperson for the VA blamed the delay on “unforeseen factors,” specifically a less than cooperative construction site.

Work on the part of the wall along Asser Levy Park is now expected to be finished this summer, according to “tentative projections,” the spokesperson, Claudie Benjamin, said. The walls and work along 23rd and 25th street is now expected to continue until the end of the calendar year. Benjamin added that once the work along Asser Levy Place is finished, the park, which is now partially blocked off, should be “like new” at some point in the summer.

As for the difficult work conditions, Benjamin said this was discovered during the excavation for the flood wall’s foundation.

“We found some unanticipated site conditions that required us to bring in archeological and architectural teams to review and opine that we were doing everything safe for the site and the local community and that we didn’t have any archeological sites of significance,” she said.

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Area residents wary of planned ferry landing

Meeting attendees look at a model of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village with a planned elevated park at the waterfront. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Meeting attendees look at a model of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village with a planned elevated park at the waterfront. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community residents got the opportunity to interact with 3D models showing possibilities for flood protection and access to the waterfront on the East Side at the most recent workshop for the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) project last Thursday evening. This meeting was the third in a round of public workshops, held at Washington Irving High School, discussing different options for the area along the East River from East 14th to 23rd Streets in terms of protecting the neighborhood from future storm surges and future Hurricane Sandys.

Since the first public workshop was held in March, the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency along with the urban design team working on the project have narrowed the design ideas down into a combination of an elevated park that integrates static floodwalls and deployable features. The break in the elevated park, known as a berm or levee, at East 20th Street is partially to accommodate a ferry landing that the Environmental Development Cooperation is considering developing there. Representatives from the city and the urban designers working on the project said they could not answer specific questions on the ferry landing itself since that project is not under the purview of the ESCR, but some residents at the meeting expressed concern about what the increased foot traffic would mean for the neighborhood.

“We want to see certain lovely things stay but newer, shinier and busier isn’t always better,” Stuyvesant Town resident Laura Koestler said. “Right now it’s small potatoes but it can become commercialized. With the possibility of a ferry over there, I just picture what the insane crowds have become at the Williamsburg Flea.”

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Construction begins on VA flood wall

Barriers section off part of Asser Levy Park. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Barriers section off part of Asser Levy Park. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Last Monday, the VA Medical Center began its long-planned work on its flood wall at Asser Levy Park.  Mark Thompson, Community Board 6’s chair of Parks, Landmarks and Cultural Affairs, noted that the project has taken over a portion of the park about seven to eight feet wide, intruding upon the fitness equipment area and the track. However, Thompson said, the turf field should remain open for the duration of this project, except for a few days if the hospital needs to make a new water connection.

When asked about the project, and how long it would take, a spokesperson for the VA said it’s expected to be completed by March 10, 2016.

The rep, Claudie Benjamin, also sent T&V a letter that had been sent to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer in advance of the project getting underway, which stated the plan of the hospital’s floodwall contractor, J. Civetta and Sons.

The letter, by Mike Bozeman, director of major projects at the VA’s Manhattan campus, stated that the project began with putting up a barrier along with length of the park, and by doing so, closing the western run of the track oval and decommissioning benches, ping pong tables and exercise equipment.

“J. Civetta and Sons recognizes that this encroachment into a public space presents a nuisance and therefore has affirmed that they are committed to complete all the necessary contractual work and to restore the park in a timely manner; not later than six months from the start – by March 10, 2016,” Bozeman said.

Bellevue Hospital to build flood wall

Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal has expressed concern about the project's construction. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal has expressed concern about the project’s construction. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Bellevue Hospital is in the beginning stages of a plan that aims to protect the facility from future Hurricane Sandys and released an environmental assessment on the project at the beginning of July. The document is the first the Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), Bellevue’s parent organization, has released concerning the project and outlines the most viable alternative, a comprehensive mitigation system, which consists of a “perimeter boundary protection system” or flood wall around the hospital center. It will include a series of connected permanent and removable walls and integrated flood gates, as well as new elevators, a secondary domestic water pumping system, relocation of the HVAC equipment to above the 500-year flood plain and other features.

Other alternatives that were discussed in the document but that were ultimately dismissed include relocation of the hospital center or just a flood wall with no other changes. Relocation is not being considered because HHC does not think it practical to abandon the infrastructure investments that have been made on the existing site. The second alternative has been dismissed because while it is expected to provide similar flood protection to the wall in the selected plan, HHC wanted to incorporate a “Multiple Lines of Defense” strategy.

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Ideas for waterfront by Stuy Cove include cafes, elevated park

Area residents listen to a discussion about potential use of the waterfront at a meeting at Washington Irving High School. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Area residents listen to a discussion about potential use of the waterfront at a meeting at Washington Irving High School. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The coastal resiliency project backed by the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency has announced new possible plans for the waterfront by Stuyvesant Cove Park, with ideas including cafes or an elevated park.

The Tuesday evening workshop held at Washington Irving High School was more interactive than the previous gathering, which was mainly a presentation from ORR director Dan Zarilli and Jeremy Siegel, a project designer with the consultant team of Big U and director of Rebuild by Design.

Rebuild by Design was launched by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and held a competition for resiliency ideas, which resulted in the Big U project to protect the coastline known as the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project.

ORR senior policy advisor Carrie Grassi said this week that there was a short gap between the end of the contest and the beginning of the design process, but the project is now gaining more momentum.

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Stein Center offering program for seniors impacted by Sandy

Flooding at 14th Street and Avenue C. (Photographer unknown.)

Cars partially submerged in floodwater during Hurricane Sandy at 14th Street and Avenue C. (Photographer unknown.)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

For many people living and working in Manhattan, the direct effects of Hurricane Sandy ended when the electricity came back and subway service was restored. But like local businesses and institutions that undertook the painstaking work of rebuilding, still an ongoing process almost two and a half years later, residents who live in areas that flooded are also still recovering. A new program from the Department for the Aging available at the Stein Senior Center on East 23rd Street is trying to help ease the emotional effects of the disaster, specifically catering to seniors.

The $1.7 million in funding for SMART-MH (Sandy Mobilization, Assessment, Referral and Treatment for Mental Health) was awarded from FEMA to the Aging in New York Fund by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office through the Superstorm Sandy Social Services Block Grant in 2013.

The Department for the Aging and the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College are working together to execute the program, which started at the Stein Center in February and is exclusively available for New Yorkers age 60 and older. Stein Center Executive Director Jane Barry said that the free program will be available as long as there are seniors who meet the criteria, and noted that a number of people have been helped already.

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