Police are looking for a man who allegedly tried to rape a woman in a residential building at 620 East 13th Street between Avenues B and C.
Police said the suspect, who has since been identified as Julio Mendez, 43, approached the victim, a 46-year-old woman on Saturday at 11:15 p.m. while she was in the building’s laundry room.
While police said it’s unknown what the man’s relationship was to the woman, he has been known to frequent the building, Tanya Towers, which offers low-income housing as well as being home to an organization that offers supportive housing and other services to people who are hard of hearing and have vision impairments.
Mendez, police said, started talking to the victim and convinced her to follow him outside. He then grabbed her by the arm and neck and the victim, in her struggle to get away from him, fell to the ground. Mendez allegedly then covered her mouth and tried to pull of her clothing. The victim continued to try to fight him off as he sexually assaulted her, police said, eventually running off when the victim screamed.
The woman was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where she has since treated and released.
Mendez is described as a male Hispanic, 5’6″, 160lbs, with an average build, medium complexion, short black hair and brown eyes. Police are unsure of where he lives.
Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website at nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.
Robbery suspect, pictured at a building on Avenue B near 13th Street
By Sabina Mollot
Cops are looking for a man who violently robbed two women in their East Village apartment buildings on St. Patrick’s Day.
At about 12:30 a.m. ion Saturday, a man followed a 22-year-old woman into her building lobby at East 13th Street and Avenue B. He then threw her to the ground and punched her several times. He grabbed her bag before fleeing the scene.
At about 2 a.m. the same man followed a 31-year-old woman into her building in the vicinity of Houston and Avenue B. Claiming he had a gun, he pushed her into a corner and demanded money. When the victim refused he struck her over her left eye, leaving her with a cut. He then grabbed her bag, which contained $40 and credit cards and fled east on 2nd Street.
Both victims refused medical attention at the scene.
The suspect is described as Hispanic and about 5’10.” He was last seen wearing a black jacket, dark blue sweat pants, white sneakers and white cap.
Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers nypdcrimestoppers.com website at or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.
MAN ARRESTED FOR MURDER ON EAST 6TH STREET
Police arrested 24-year-old Terrance Pugh on Monday, a suspect in the murder of 21-year-old Michael Ayala-Rodriguez. On Friday, June 3 at around 2 a.m., police had responded to a 911 call about a man who was shot in the courtyard area of the Lillian Wald Houses at 890 East 6th Street.
When police arrived at the scene, they found Ayala-Rodriguez with gunshot wounds to his torso. He was transported to Beth Israel, where he was pronounced dead.
Pugh was also charged with two counts of criminal possession of a weapon.
MAN KILLED IN HIT-AND-RUN AT EAST 23RD AND MADISON
Twenty-one-year-old North Carolina resident Elliot Copeland was killed after being hit by a car at the intersection of Madison Avenue and East 23rd Street on Thursday, June 16 at 10:19 p.m. Police responded to the scene after getting a call about a motor vehicle accident and found Copeland lying in the roadway, unconscious and unresponsive, with severe body trauma. EMS transported Copeland to Bellevue Hospital, where he was pronounced dead the following Sunday. The investigation squad for the NYPD determined that a vehicle was driving along East 23rd Street at the Madison Avenue intersection when Copeland stepped into the road outside the marked crosswalk and was hit by the car. The investigation remains ongoing and no arrests have been made.
Public lewdness suspect
MAN WANTED FOR PUBLIC LEWDNESS ON 4 TRAIN
The NYPD is looking for a man who allegedly exposed himself on the 4 train near Union Square last week. Police said that the 55 to 65-year-old white man was on a downtown 4 train approaching the Union Square subway station on Sunday, June 12 around 7 p.m. with his private parts exposed.
Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips at nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting their tips and TIP577 to 274637 (CRIMES). All calls are strictly confidential.
Suspect behind string of shades thefts
POLICE LOOKING FOR SUNGLASSES THIEF
Police are looking for a man responsible for 10 thefts throughout Manhattan from December 8 to May 19. The suspect reportedly targeted sunglasses stores and stole 57 pairs of sunglasses in total, primarily from stores in the Financial District, West Village and Midtown South.
Police suspect that in one of the incidents that took place in Flatiron, the man stole four pairs of sunglasses from the Solstice Sunglasses location at 168 Fifth Avenue between West 21st and 22nd Streets on Friday, March 25 around 8 p.m.
The suspect has a shaved head and is black, 45 to 55 years old, 5’7” and 180 lbs. Anyone with information in regards to these incidents is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS.
TEENS BUSTED FOR RESTAURANT BURGLARY
Eighteen-year-old Isaiah Douglas and another teenager were arrested for burglary inside Mexico Lindo at 459 Second Avenue and East 26th Street last Monday at 4:47 a.m. Police said that the second teenager, whose name is being withheld due to his young age, broke a window to get into the restaurant and broke into the cash register, taking a handful of cash. After police searched the area, they found that the teen was working with Douglas and the younger boy was found in possession of burglar’s tools and credit cards that didn’t have his name on them. The younger teen was also charged with grand larceny, burglar’s tools and possession of stolen property.
MAN BUSTED FOR FORGERY AT TONIC
Police arrested 28-year-old Ryann Lyde for forgery and theft of services inside Tonic at 411 Third Avenue last Thursday at 11:16 p.m. Police said that Lyde ordered drinks from the bar and allegedly attempted to use a forged credit card to pay for them. Lyde allegedly attempted to flee the location but he was arrested and when he was searched, he was allegedly in possession of two additional fraudulent credit cards.
MAN ARRESTED FOR BURGLAR’S TOOLS
Police arrested 43-year-old Santos Vazquez for burglar’s tools in front of the Human Resources Administration building at 109 East 16th Street last Saturday at 2:09 p.m.
Police said that Vazquez was seen casing the location with a screwdriver sticking out of his pants pocket. Vazquez then entered a garage and allegedly removed copper piping that police said he had hidden there earlier. Vazquez was also charged with theft of services, possession of stolen property and criminal trespass.
TEEN ARRESTED FOR ASSAULT AT ACS FACILITY
Eighteen-year-old Martinique Bumbray was arrested for assault and harassment inside the Administration for Children’s Services Facility at 492 First Avenue last Sunday at 4:38 a.m. Police said that Bumbray threw a yellow and white padlock, hitting the victim in the right cheek and causing severe pain. Police said that the victim was treated at the Bellevue emergency room.
Police are looking for a man they say committed six armed robberies (and attempted a seventh) in the past few days at businesses near Stuyvesant Town and in the East Village.
In each of the incidents, he’s either pulled a knife or simulated a gun before swiping cash from the registers, cops said.
According to the police the pattern is as follows:
At 3:25 a.m. on Thursday, April 2 at One’s Fruit and Grocery, 315 First Avenue between 18th and 19th Streets, he got away with $400.
At 10:20 p.m. on Saturday, April 4, 2015 he returned to One’s Fruit and Grocery and this time made off with $950.
At approximately 2:15 p.m. on Sunday, April 5 at I.Q. Decor, at 242 East 14th Street and Second Avenue, he got away with $366.
At 3 a.m. on Monday, April 6 at I Green Market, 271 First Avenue between 15th and 16th Streets, he took $600.
At about 5 p.m. on Monday, April 6 at a book store at 66 Avenue A and East 5th Street he took $200.
Later that evening, at around 9 p.m., he headed to 13 Avenue A, home to New Up and Up Laundry, and ran off with $250.
At 1:45 a.m. on Tuesday, he attempted to rob East Village Fruit and Vegetable at 229 Avenue B, police said, although this time he left empty-handed.
Police have described the suspect as white and in his 40s.
Chung Young, a woman who was working at I.Q. Decor when the store was held up, said the robber had pulled out a small knife.
Young, who was the only person at the shop at the time, which is owned by her mother, said the man told her, “Give me money and I won’t hurt you.” She complied, giving him all the money in the till.
Young said she was “scared a little bit” since she was alone in the store. She still hasn’t told her mother about the incident, since she didn’t want to upset her. “She’s on vacation,” Young explained.
Kevin Kim, a manager at I Green Market, also said the man had showed a knife. Though Kim wasn’t there at the time it happened, he said he also heard that the robber hid his face with a stocking.
Police are asking anyone with information to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS.
The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Website at nypdcrimestoppers.com or texting their tips to 274637(CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are kept strictly confidential.
Alphapet City has two floors including the basement. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Store owners Sam Cheung, Tony T. and Tony G. have been in the pet supply trade for about five years, but when their business started outgrowing the 200 square foot space in Chinatown, they looked to expand.
Alphapet City, the resulting store, opened on Avenue C at the beginning of March and Cheung said that the perfect space just fell into their laps.
“We could barely find a space this big anywhere in the city but this place had everything,” he said. “We didn’t have to buy a whole new (air conditioning) system. It was mostly just cosmetic work and repairs. This place wasn’t in the best shape but we just did everything ourselves and it worked out.”
The repairs Cheung is referring to were due to damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy. The store, which is two floors including a basement level, is on the same block as a number of other businesses that sustained serious basement flooding and water damage from the storm, on Avenue C between East 11th and 12th Streets. The C-Town next door was closed for months afterward and Ave. C Pharmacy on their other side lost most of its basement stock because of flooding damage.
The Diaz y Flores Community Garden on East 13th Street is one of 30 local gardens to be photographed by George Hirose.
By Sabina Mollot
Ever since the 1970s, when he moved to the East Village, photographer George Hirose found himself inspired by the scenes there that were both gritty and pretty. In particular, he was a huge fan of the community gardens that popped up then and the years that followed, since it was usually the locals’ way of thumbing – or rather greenthumbing their noses – at would-be developers of vacant lots.
Now a resident of Stuyvesant Town, Hirose has continued his love affair with the community gardens and is involved in the tending of a couple of them. He has also, since the spring of this year, been working on an ongoing exhibit of photos he’s taken of the gardens in the East Village and along the Lower East Side.
An exhibit is currently on display at the 14th Street Y, where Hirose will also be speaking about the photos on December 29 at 3 p.m. In addition, some of his photos are also on display across the street at Kati restaurant, 347 East 14th Street.
So far, he’s captured 30 of the 39 gardens in the area, and there are some he wants to go back to.
“I want to give a sense of the individuality of the places and how special they are,” said Hirose. “People are
interested in what other people are doing even if it’s out of the range of their immediate environment.”
As for his own interest in the gardens, for Hirose, they were always a way to meet likeminded people, artists, musicians and other characters, along with the nightclubs in the Lower East Side in the 70s and 80s. They were also a way to enjoy a bit of nature close to home, allowing a brief escape from the crime-ridden streets and graffiti-covered buildings.
However, even as the neighborhood gentrified over the years since then, the volunteer-run gardens still remained a special place to Hirose. A couple of them even had play areas for kids, and he would take his daughter to the gardens when she was younger.
“Some of them don’t have much in them, some have a lot in them,” he said, adding that some are obviously run better than others. Naturally, he has more appreciation for those where volunteers have been willing to let him in at night when the gardens are normally closed so he can do his photography.
The photos Hirose takes are always at night, enhanced by additional light sources he’ll bring into the gardens, since he wants to capture the bright colors of the trees and plantings. He also uses long camera exposures of up to 20 minutes and digital enhancements.
“It’s a very different way to see the gardens,” he said, explaining that the naked eye can’t see much in the way of depth and color in the dark. “So I have my camera do the things that my eyes are unable to do.”
For Hirose, a professor of photography at Pratt, it was only recently that he decided to start photographing the gardens. His hesitation, he said, had to do with his feeling that the art community would look down on his attempt to present the subject matter in a beautiful way. But, he said, “This was something I really loved and I just wanted to create something beautiful. I’d like for the whole city to be aware of community gardens in general.”
George Hirose’s photo of the Children’s Workshop Garden on East 12th Street and Avenue C
He’s also been concerned about the future of the gardens since one, called the Children’s Magical Garden on the corner of Norfolk and Stanton Streets, has been fighting to keep part of its space, which is slated for development of a six-story building.
“In the Lower East Side, there’s no real parks except for Tompkins Square, so it is important,” he said.
As for Stuyvesant Town, where he’s lived for the past 12 years, Hirose said he doesn’t feel compelled to photograph it much (though he’s made exceptions for the squirrel population). He also loves that it’s a natural bird sanctuary.
Though he does think the grounds look attractive, the problem, said Hirose, is that the property is “too manicured for my photography,” and therefore lacking the personality and roughness of the community gardens.
“It’s my home but I don’t feel a connection,” he admitted.
“It feels institutionally beautiful. It’s landscaped. The dynamics come from when neighbors gather to create something. I like when it’s a little grungier.”
Hirose’s photos will remain on display at the 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street between First and Second Avenues, through December 29. Hours are Monday through Friday, 6 a.m.-10 p.m., Saturday from 7 a.m. To 9 p.m. and Sunday from 7 a.m. To 9 p.m.
City Council candidate Richard del Rio Photo by Sabina Mollot
By Sabina Mollot
Lower East Side-based clergyman Richard del Rio, or, as the hog-riding, tattooed 61-year-old is better known in the neighborhood, “Pastor Rick,” will be on the ballot on Primary Day as the Democratic challenger facing Council Member Rosie Mendez.
Del Rio, who founded his nondenominational church, Abounding Grace Ministries, over 30 years ago and has since become known as a community activist as well as a spiritual leader, said he is running because he feels there’s been a neglect of the poor and the elderly in the second city district, in particular NYCHA residents.
He’s also staunchly against elected officials being able to run for a third term, a policy enacted four years ago so Mayor Bloomberg could run again. “It’s legal, but it’s still offensive,” said del Rio. “It was just a few people that overturned the will of 8.5 million people.”
Mendez, of course, is running for a third time, and, while del Rio was quick to say during a recent interview at his Avenue C campaign office that he isn’t about to “trash her,” he has referred to her as a “no-show” politician on his website.
During the interview, del Rio discussed a number of issues from crime (which he’s been on top of as an NYPD clergy liaison), NYCHA’s plan to build market rate housing on eight of its developments (which he’s opposed to) and the gentrification of the district, which includes the Lower East Side, the East Village, Alphabet City, Gramercy Park and Kips Bay. (Del Rio said he’s been extremely concerned about residents being priced out of the area and NYU’s ongoing expansion without having to build any affordable housing as part of the development deals.)
“Meanwhile they’re getting prime real estate and (they want) humungous towers that are overwhelming to the community.”
On NYCHA’s “infill” plan of leasing space on public housing parks and parking lots to outside developers, including at Campos Plaza, del Rio said he feels that the housing authority’s board has “not only neglected but dismissed the poor.” If elected, he said he promises to fight the plan, as well as fight to protect the rent-regulated housing that exists.
“The middle class and the poor are being pushed out,” he said, “the creativity of the East Village — that’s all being stifled with this new plan to create a city for the wealthy.”
Del Rio, whose parents were immigrants from Puerto Rico, has always worked directly with the poor since starting his church in “the worst area” of that time which was the Lower East Side. This place, cops, warned him, was where people sold heroin and their bodies. The idea of setting up a base there was to cut down on gang activity and crime, with del Rio saying he found the most effective way to do this was by befriending gang members and other young people who were failing school, homeless or facing other problems like incarcerated family members. Del Rio and his sons, then ages 3, 6 and 8, were often with him as he took a van around, in particular to Union Square, offering information about treatment and other drug-related programs.
It was in the mid-90s when, del Rio said, he was able to stop a gang from retaliating at Alphabet City’s Haven Plaza for the killing of one its members by a rival gang. He did this by showing up, talking to the gang members and “letting them vent.”
“They want to know you’re going to talk to them without judging them or even preaching to them, so I became friends with them,” he said.
After asking his wife to make some sandwiches and hot chocolate — because he’d be inviting the gang over — the group talked some more and then, said del Rio, “It was my turn and I told them, ‘If you do this, this is just going to escalate.’” In the end, the retaliatory battle never happened. Del Rio said he became privy to the looming gang war from the cops, who he said he’s always enjoyed a good working relationship with. For the past 20 years, del Rio has been an NYPD police-clergy liaison.
On crime these days in the district, del Rio is concerned about the still-occasional shootings at public housing projects, and attends meetings of the 9th Precinct Community Council. He has mixed feelings about stop-and-frisk, having once been on the receiving end of such an investigation in which he thought the officer’s behavior was “rude,” but also believing that the local cops – NYPD and those working for NYCHA – have a tough job to do.
On education, del Rio is not a fan of the current system that shuts down failing schools. “Our mayor brags about being able to shut schools down; why in the world would he want to have that as his achievement?” asked del Rio.
In 1996, del Rio and his family started a program called Generation X-Cel, which was aimed at helping kids who were failing in school and had other problems. His sons, who helped run it, had asked local kids, what kind of things they wanted to see in an after school program, and found that by asking, the kids got interested. The program ran at a space rented in a building at the Jacob Riis Houses, until the group was booted when NYCHA decided to use it for storage. The organization was replaced in 2008, though, by another program called 20/20 Vision for Schools, which was implemented at 16 schools.
One of his sons is still involved with the program. Del Rio has a total of three grown sons as well as a grown daughter, now a registered nurse, who is adopted. She came from a family he knew, in which the mother was dying of AIDS. The mother had asked del Rio and his wife Arlene to care for her children, which they did, and he wound up adopting one of them.
As for his pastoral duties, del Rio has operated his church in a space he rents at MS 34, a school on East 11th Street and Avenue D. Though he’s been less active at the church since he launched his campaign earlier in the year, he’s still been involved in some activities including a couple of local street fairs organized by clergy as well as an 18-year-old church tradition of holding an annual basketball tournament.
“(People are) so dismissive of clergy, but clergy are servants you don’t have to pay and they have a relationship with the community,” he said.
Richard del, Rio, not long after Hurricane Sandy, helps distribute food and supplies. Photo courtesy of Richard del Rio
Del Rio noted that it was through relationships he’d developed with locals and law enforcement that enabled him to respond to Sandy with trucks full of supplies. He and others, including groups from as far as West Virginia, distributed hot meals as well as things like blankets and batteries on the street on Avenue D. Eventually, 20,000 people were recipients of the supplies and 12,000 hot meals were served.
On smaller issues, del Rio said he would like to do more for residents who feel that they’re living in “permanent construction zones” and be quicker about fixing things, like, for example, restoring a few Alphabet City bus stops that were recently removed. The removals were supposed to be temporary, he said, but complaints he’s gotten from local seniors have indicated that they weren’t.
If elected, del Rio said he is hoping for a Democratic mayor that is either Bill Thompson or Bill de Blasio. Both, he said, have promised to have roundtables with local clergy.
“Being a political outsider, I know there’s a lot for me to learn,” said del Rio, but, he added, “I’m a quick learner.”
Council Member Rosie Mendez in front of her campaign office
By Sabina Mollot
Rosie Mendez, who’s served as City Council member for the second city district for the past eight years, is hoping voters will choose her on Primary Day, as she seeks a third term.
Mendez, who’s been tackling such issues as building neglect in public housing, disappearing affordable housing options in the district and more recently, plans for a sanitation garage on First Avenue that she opposes, said she’s running again because, “I love my job and I still have more to do. I don’t want to run for something else.”
On Monday, Mendez discussed her goals for the coming years if re-elected as well as ongoing projects at her campaign office on Avenue B and 11th Street, just down the block from where she lives.
In that area of Alphabet City, it’s hard to find a storefront that doesn’t have a campaign poster with either Mendez’s smiling face or Democratic rival Richard del Rio’s.
Del Rio has been critical of his opponent for running for a third term, but at her office, Mendez defended her position, saying that while she had been against overturning term limits for the mayor, she doesn’t feel the same way about other city legislative positions.
“My opponent and some people do not remember the whole process,” she said of the City Council’s move to overturn the term limits, which allowed Mayor Bloomberg to run for a third time.
The reason she said she feels a different policy should apply to the executive of City Hall from the rest of the elected officials, is that simply put, the mayor, with his staff, has outnumbered and outmaneuvered the Council, with theirs, at numerous turns and disagreements.
“Their staff was able to run circles around us,” she admitted. “We don’t have the staff with the experience to really get in and catch everything they’re hiding.”
At this point, Mendez is hoping the next mayor will be the Democratic candidate she’s endorsed, Speaker Christine Quinn. (Mendez also said she supports term limits for that position as well.)
However, Quinn, she believes, would be more sympathetic to tenants, and housing has for many years been the biggest challenge facing the district. This is particularly due to owners of regulated units opting out of the Mitchell-Lama and Section 8 programs and public housing being in a state of crisis with NYCHA having fallen seriously behind on repairs — around one million jobs. Additionally, at this point, the agency seems unsure where to go with a previously hatched “infill” plan to build market rate housing at existing low-income developments. As of last week, NYCHA went from asking developers from RFPs (requests for proposals) to RFIEs, requests for expressions of interest. Mendez said this week that she doesn’t want to see anything pop up that doesn’t have the support of tenants and isn’t entirely or mostly affordable housing. She also doesn’t want any new development at one of NYCHA’s proposed infill sites, Smith Houses, because of how it flooded during Hurricanes Irene and Sandy.
Council Member Rosie Mendez at Campos Plaza, where residents recently got a security camera system Photo by Sabina Mollot
Having grown up in Williamsburg Houses, the first public housing project to be built in Brooklyn, Mendez is no stranger to the problems of public housing.
Mendez said she is also not a supporter of the infill program because she doesn’t think the expected income from market rate units will cover the financial needs of the complex, but, she said, doing away with the $74 million NYCHA pays each year for police services would. The practice of paying the police, which private landlords do not, began in the Giuliani era. Mendez said she’s been pushing for the payments to end since she first came into office. While she is not enthusiastic about that happening any time soon, she has allocated $10 million in funding to NYCHA this coming fiscal year. Last year she did the same.
Mendez, who chairs the Council’s Public Housing Committee, said one thing she is considering — if constituents like the idea — is to get some affordable housing built specifically for seniors. Although well aware that it “takes funding to make,” she’s optimistic about the future under a new mayor, who, she hopes, would give owners incentives to maintain as well as build affordable housing beyond the standard 80/20 formula.
Priority one though for Mendez, if re-elected, would be to focus on a plan of action and preparation for the next Sandy-like disaster. After the superstorm hit, Mendez and her staff went to many buildings to check on the district’s most vulnerable residents, the elderly, sick and disabled. In some cases, this meant trudging up the stairs of high-rises to recharge residents’ motorized wheelchairs or bring them hot meals, medicine and buckets of water for drinking and flushing. With many residents having no water or just afraid to use what they’d saved, “It created an unhealthy and unsanitary situation,” said Mendez. By coordinating with local nonprofits such as GOLES and the Stein Senior Center, Mendez said she was able to meet the needs of those who were most in need while also not duplicating services offered by other agencies.
“It was multiple levels of triage to try to get to everyone so we wouldn’t have a tragedy,” she said, though she added that, “Unfortunately, we did have some tragedies.” One was a senior living at Kips Bay Court who had been carried down the stairs from her apartment on an upper floor, in her bed, as well as along with her oxygen tank, for medical help. The woman ended up not surviving although curiously, she wasn’t considered a Sandy casualty, with her death getting blamed on whatever condition she had. “It should count,” said Mendez.
Other problems were that at local emergency shelters, there weren’t enough cots for people who’d evacuated, and that those who remained behind in their homes were in many cases just unprepared for a blackout that lasted several days.
On education issues, Mendez has been opposed to many of the co-locations of schools in recent years and blasted the Panel for Education Policy as “rubber stampers” for approving the Department of Education’s co-location plans.
“I like to say I’m old school,” said Mendez. “When I went to school, a school was a building and a building was a school.”
From what Mendez has seen, the co-locations have led to principals having to put students’ issues on the back burner while trying to coordinate on who gets the library or rear yard at what time and schools not getting enough funding for arts, music and summer programs.
“I’ve been trying to supplement it with that much maligned discretionary funding,” she said. “It allows me to fund after school programs and during the day.”
Schools that have been on the receiving end of such funding include PS 110, PS 34, PS 40, PS 116, PS 188, PS 15 and MS 104, which recently used the money for a summer tennis clinic.
Other money from the discretionary funds has gone towards local nonprofits’ food pantry and hot meal programs. Mendez noted how on any given Saturday morning, at a church across the street from her campaign office, near the corner of Avenue B, the line for bags of food stretches outside almost down to Avenue A. “You’ll see anywhere from 200 to 400 people,” she said.
More recently, another issue that has been of concern to Mendez is the planned Brookdale campus sanitation garage. While located in City District 4, it would affect Mendez’s constituents living in East Midtown Plaza and Kips Bay. Mendez said she is mainly opposed to it because the garbage trucks would all be located in an area where “we’ve seen cars floating. If the trucks were to get flooded, there are pollutants and a lot of dirt and grime on them. I don’t know how the mayor justifies putting this right in the middle of hospital row, right in the middle of a flood zone. I think it’s very ill advised.”
On crime, Mendez said she believes the police force currently has too few officers due to a shrinking force, and while District 2, which covers the Lower East Side, the East Village, Alphabet City, Gramercy Park and Kips Bay, hasn’t seen the kind of crime it used to, there is still the occasional shootout, and noted Mendez, a spike in sexual assaults all around the city. She suggested that the city put “less money into consultants and more into our agencies.”
As far as quality of life issues is concerned, noise from bars has been an ongoing one though Mendez noted stipulations on hours venues can do business as well as fines issued by the State Liquor Authority against repeat offenders have helped to some degree. Another growing complaint has been evening noise from construction sites with developers applying for and getting variances to do construction from as early as 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mendez said she’s, in some specific cases, managed to get it “scaled back” though at other locations, late construction has persisted despite intervention from her office. She said she’ll continue to meet with the developers as well as the Department of Buildings.
Throughout her career in the City Council, Mendez said she considers her biggest accomplishments to be helping to save the Stein Senior Center, which has recently reopened in a new and improved location, preventing closures of daycare centers and in general, being responsive to individual concerns.
“Everything in politics is local,” she said, “so I’m proud of my track record with constituent services.”
Before her first run for office, Mendez graduated from New York University and Rutgers School of Law.
She began her career in politics as chief of staff to her predecessor in the Council, Margarita Lopez (now employed by NYCHA). Like Lopez, Mendez is openly gay and a champion for LGBT rights.