State Senator Brad Hoylman blamed his own chamber for the camera shutoffs. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Surgeons and local elected officials gathered at Bellevue Hospital last Thursday, urging the State Senate to pass legislation that would preserve speed cameras around schools.
Speed cameras in 120 school zones lost their ability to issue speeding violations last month because the State Senate did not extend the program by the July 25th deadline. Advocates at Bellevue were pushing Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan to call a special session so Senators could vote on legislation that has already passed in the Assembly, where it was sponsored by Assemblymember Deborah Glick.
Glick’s bill in the Assembly allows for speed cameras in 50 additional school zones a year for the next three years and extends the program through 2022. Democrats had originally proposed expanding the program to 750 school zones but said they reduced the number to appease Republicans.
“We reduced the number of cameras and reduced the radius the cameras cover,” Glick said. “We added signage so people know that there are cameras. We’ve given so much deference to speeders. We could give at least a modicum of the same concern for school children.”
Work includes replacing elevators along with the entire electrical system as part of a $207 million federal relief package. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
It was over five years ago when Superstorm Sandy flooded much of Manhattan’s East Side, crippling hospitals in Bedpan Alley. But it was the VA Medical Center on East 23rd Street that fared the worst, closing for six months.
Today, thanks to $207 million in federal relief money, the veterans’ hospital, while fully operational, is still undergoing work to replace systems that need to be upgraded rather than just repaired in the event of a future catastrophe.
Martina Parauda, director of VA NY Harbor Healthcare System (which includes local facilities including the Manhattan one), spoke to veterans about some of the ongoing projects at a town hall meeting on Tuesday morning.
The massive floodwall that began construction in 2015 is mostly done, including parts that can’t be seen like underwater pumps. It was originally supposed to be completed in 2016, but the VA has previously said underground excavation proved to be more complicated than expected.
Mayor de Blasio holding a letter to the leaders of the Congress and U.S. Senate, with State Senator Adriano Espaillat, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Health Commissioner Mary Travis Bassett at the city’s public health lab (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
As the threat of the Zika virus spreads, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other elected officials called on Congress on Tuesday to authorize $1.9 billion in funding for research and prevention efforts.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who was at the announcement with the mayor at the city’s public health lab in Bedpan Alley, said the problem was that Congress, specifically Republicans, were only willing to fund $1.1 billion. In February, President Obama had asked for Congress to allocate $1.9 billion.
Additionally, Maloney said, the debate in the house over funding has led to Republicans including a rider that would ban funding to Planned Parenthood, limiting access to abortions and contraceptives to women here and abroad. Meanwhile, Zika, Maloney argued, is known to cause serious birth defects so New York City’s health department has been actively advising safe sex for people traveling to Zika-impacting areas.
“They added a poison pill,” said Maloney, who argued that the immediate health threat posed by Zika shouldn’t be turned into “ideological crusades.”
With Congress deadlocked on the issue, money to fund Zika efforts has been taken from other existing health initiatives, including $589 million in Ebola funding. “They’re stealing from Peter to pay Paul and it’s not a good way to solve a crisis,” Maloney said.
De Blasio noted how the city had launched a $21 million Zika offensive effort in April that includes the spraying of larvacide in different areas and outreach to warn people, especially those who travel to impacted regions, about the disease which has at last official count infected 530 New York State residents. Of those, 438 are city residents. The latter figure includes 49 pregnant women, with all of the cases being travel related except four that were sexually transmitted. One baby in New York City has been born with microcephaly, a severe birth defect caused by Zika that causes the baby to be born with a small head, a sloped back forehead and mental challenges due to a smaller brain.
Community residents expressed concern about sex offenders and violent felons. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The status of the 30th Street Men’s Shelter, and whether sex offenders are still staying there was one of the main topics discussed at a forum on homelessness, which was attended by over 100 people.
The forum, held at the Epiphany Parish Hall on Tuesday evening, was hosted by City Councilmembers Dan Garodnick and Rosie Mendez. Representatives from the NYPD, the Department of Homeless Services and various non-profit agencies dedicated to assisting the homeless also showed up to discuss street outreach programs and employment resources made available to help homeless people get back on their feet.
Mayor Bill de Blasio recently appointed Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks to do a 90-day review of homeless services throughout the city and Banks was at the forum to focus on specific issues that affect the neighborhood, primarily the 30th Street Men’s Shelter.
NYU Langone Medical Center’s main campus at 550 First Avenue (Photo courtesy of NYU Langone)
By Sabina Mollot
A transformer fire broke out at NYU Langone Medical Center Thursday afternoon, leading to partial evacuation of the facility.
No one was injured, and the FDNY and Con Ed have both responded to the scene.
A spokesperson for the Fire Department said the call came in at 3:43 p.m. but he did not know what the cause of the transformer fire was. A spokesperson for the hospital, at First Avenue and 30th Street, said she didn’t know either, but issued the following statement:
“A smoke situation has occurred due to a transformer fire in a non-patient area at NYU Langone. Out of caution a non-patient facility was evacuated, and no injuries have been reported. FDNY is on site and the situation is under control – there is no danger to patients or NYU Langone faculty and staff.”
A spokesperson for Con Ed said at 5:30 p.m. that a team had just been dispatched to the hospital a half hour earlier, and that as far as he knew, there was no power disruption. He also said the utility still wasn’t sure if the incident involved any Con Ed equipment.
The 30th Street shelter at Bellevue’s “Old Psych” building (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
Neighbors of the 30th Street men’s shelter, who for years have complained about homeless men aggressively panhandling, using the corner pay phones as toilets and just generally being nuisances, may soon see some relief.
The Department of Homeless Services, which runs the shelter that’s located at Bellevue Hospital, is planning to turn it into a shelter for men who are employed or considered employable and seeking job training.
Ken Ryan, the property manager of 350 East 30th Street, a mixed rental and condo building across the street from the shelter, said he was told this at a recent private meeting he had with DHS Deputy Commissioner of Adult Services Jody Rudin.
“That’s promising,” Ryan told Town & Village. “I am all for a homeless men’s shelter where men have jobs, or are being trained for jobs and live in the shelter. I am not for bums who get a bed and food and do nothing but harass the people in the neighborhood.”
Town & Village reached out to the DHS and press secretary Nicole Cueto confirmed the plan, which the department hopes to implement by the end of the calendar year. The shift in services won’t change the amount of men the shelter currently serves — around 850 — and while the unemployable residents would be sent elsewhere, the intake center and assessment processes would remain in place.
The Brookdale site as seen from Waterside (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Tenant groups against the proposed sanitation garage at the Brookdale campus organized themselves just in time for another public scoping hearing that took place at the site of proposed facility on Wednesday.
The Brookdale Neighborhood Coalition announced their formation on Tuesday in the form of a press release. The individual tenant organizations have been fighting the construction of the garage since it was announced almost three years ago but this is the first time that the groups have officially come together to oppose the plan. The coalition consists of the tenant associations at Waterside Plaza, Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, East Midtown Plaza and the Kips Bay Neighborhood Association.
The Economic Development Corporation had invited community members to provide their input on the project through a working group, but this venture was designed to discuss plans for the bookend sites, not the garage itself.
Janet Handal, president of the Waterside Tenants Association, said that many members of the community were hopeful and then quickly discouraged by the purpose of the working group because most people primarily wanted to discuss how to prevent the garage and talking about the outer parcels was less of a priority.
“(DSNY) said the time to talk about the garage would be at public meetings so we organized after last public meeting and decided we would be more effective as one voice,” Handal said.
The coalition aims to keep higher standards for the DSNY in terms of its requirements for the projected studies that the department will be conducting and a formal response will be released on July 22. At that time, the coalition will outline its concerns on pedestrian safety, traffic, air quality and other issues.
Tenants are concerned about the fact that DSNY says a public health analysis of the project is not warranted.
“When you start looking at the data, Gramercy has the worst health
quality and that’s from the mayor’s own portal,” Handal said. “DSNY says, ‘well, we use ultra clean diesel,’ but that does not do anything with the fine particulate matter. The filters on the trucks reduce that pollution by 90 percent, which is good, but that’s not all of it so you have a net increase of pollution. The devil is in the details, as they say.”
Other issues that the coalition is worried about involve pedestrian safety, especially because of the area’s proximity to a number of schools, in addition to the multiple residential housing complexes. Traffic is another concern: according to data from the city website for Vision Zero, there is a high density of traffic-related incidents in the area and there was a 30 percent increase in collisions from 2009 to 2014.
“When you go back and think about what Mayor de Blasio’s goals were with Vision Zero, the first responsibility of government is to protect its citizens,” Handal said. “How is that happening here?”
The group is also hoping to highlight some points that they feel the draft EIS has missed in terms of comprehensive analysis of the garage’s impact, including the identification of alternative locations and not adequately studying the health hazards.
The last public scoping hearing, which was scheduled for July 15 (after T&V’s press time), was meant to gather comments that will be incorporated into the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Residents will get a 30-day period in which to respond and then the final Environmental Impact Statement will be released. Handal said that she’s not optimistic that DSNY is open to a discussion addressing all of the community’s concerns, but she has been motivated by her investigation into the hazards to keep trying anyway.
“I sometimes get lulled into the notion of a kinder, gentler garage,” she admitted, “but when I do the research it’s so upsetting because we’re right next door.”
A spokesperson from the DSNY was not immediately available for comment on the coalition.
Police are looking for a man who’s stolen from at least eleven women throughout the Gramercy and Flatiron neighborhoods while riding a bike. Cops say the man has been riding up to women and then snatches their phones or their purses before pedaling away on either a Citi Bike or a bike with a basket.
Cops say the larceny pattern, which began in February, is as follows:
On Monday, February 2 at around 11:30 p.m., the man snatched an iPhone from a a 32-year-old woman who was walking on 6th Avenue.
On Tuesday, February 3 at around 10:30 p.m., he grabbed an iPhone from a a 34-year-old woman walking on West 19th Street near 5th Avenue.
On Saturday, February 28 at 9 p.m., the man stole a phone from a 21-year-old woman walking on East 20th Street at Second Avenue.
On Saturday, March 7 at 11:30 p.m. the man snatched a purse from a 34-year-old woman as she walked along East 27th Street, in the vicinity of Third Avenue.
On Sunday, March 15 at 2:20 a.m., the man swiped a purse from a 29-year-old woman who was in front of 100 West 21st Street.
On Sunday, March 15 at 10:40 p.m., the man grabbed a phone out of a 22-year-old woman’s hand as she was walking along East 22nd Street.
On Tuesday, March 31 at 1 a.m., he grabbed a phone from a 24-year-old woman who was walking on East 21st Street near Park Avenue South.
On Saturday, April 4 at 6 a.m. he stole a phone from a 21-year-old woman who was standing in front of 32 East 32nd Street.
On Monday, April 20 at midnight, the man took a phone from a 27-year-old woman walking on 6th Avenue, in the vicinity of West 16th Street.
On Tuesday, April 28 at 1 a.m., he stole a purse from a 23-year-old woman in front of 544 6th Avenue.
On Wednesday, April 29, 2015, at 10:30 p.m., he grabbed a purse from a 42-year-old woman who was in front of 135 East 17th Street.
There were no injuries reported in any of the incidents and police say the the serial cyclist thief is a black man with a beard.
Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS or submit tips by logging onto www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or texting tips to 274637(CRIMES) then enter TIP577.
Area residents still against proposal, DSNY shoots down CB6’s suggested alternative sites
The Brookdale campus, the city’s proposed site for the sanitation garage. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Community residents and members of Community Board 6 were packed in at an unusually well-attended Land Use and Waterfront committee meeting last Wednesday to hear a presentation from the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) and the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) on some of the new plans for the Brookdale Campus at East 25th Street and First Avenue.
The EDC first became involved in the project last year due to the protesting from the community and elected officials, demanding a more comprehensive plan for the site. EDC is now working with DSNY on the project, but DSNY is still the lead agency for the garage proposal, which encompasses the middle section of the site. EDC is the lead agency on the development of the bookend parcels of the site and will be working with the community to come up with options for the development of that property. The EDC has also formed a working group to address possibilities for the bookend property of the site, consisting of community board members, elected officials, residents and other community advocates, which will first meet on February 23 and it will be holding up to eight additional meetings through the end of April.
The most recent meeting on the garage, which itself was held inside one of the buildings at the Brookdale Campus, was mainly an opportunity for the DSNY to come before the committee and the public and discuss changes to its proposal for the garage. It is the first time since a previous meeting in June, 2013, also held in the auditorium at Brookdale, that DSNY has publicly spoken about the proposal and it is the first time the EDC has come to one of the committee meetings specifically to address the proposed sanitation garage.
This particular meeting had also been postponed a number of times due to scheduling and weather, but when the two agencies got through their respective presentations, the consensus among the residents was no different than at meetings in the past: we don’t want this garage in our community.
Kate Van Tassel, Vice President of the EDC, wasn’t able to get through much of her presentation before being interrupted by an angry resident who said that he was sick of hearing the same thing from the city about the garage proposal and was upset that the construction of the garage would mean giving up a viable housing facility. Van Tassel explained that this presentation was actually new, and did offer different options for community space on the bookend parcels such as affordable housing, which has not been discussed at previous meetings on the garage, but all of the plans were working under the assumption that the sanitation garage would still be located in the middle portion of the property.
Council Member Rosie Mendez, LaToneya Burwell, director of Community Affairs at the Department of Homeless Services, DSNY community affairs liaison Julian Sepulveda, Lieutenant Vincent Collins, Police officer John Considine and Assistant District Attorney Kaitrin Roberts (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez moderated a quality of life forum at School of the Future on East 22nd Street this past Tuesday evening and answered questions from the community with the help of representatives from various city agencies. The event was co-hosted by Gramercy Neighborhood Associates and Community Board 6 and there were representatives from the various city agencies in attendance to answer questions.
District Manager Dan Miner noted that turnout seemed low because of the ongoing thunderstorms and the middle of the forum was interrupted by a flash flood warning alarm blast from an attendee’s cell phone. The Parks Department, Department of Transportation and the Department of Health did not have representatives at the forum, making it a smaller affair than a similar quality of life forum that was held for the Kips Bay community in the spring.
Mendez noted that this forum was meant to build on the event at Kips Bay and the representatives present at the forum included Lieutenant Vincent Collins and Police officer John Considine of the 13th Precinct, LaToneya Burwell, director of Community Affairs at the Department of Homeless Services, Julian Sepulveda, the community affairs liaison at the Department of Sanitation and Kaitrin Roberts, Assistant District Attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney Crime Strategy Unit.
Alan Krevis, president of the Gramercy Neighborhood Associates (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
One of the topics discussed, albeit briefly, was the sanitation garage that is planned for the Brookdale campus. Councilwoman Mendez said that the garage was a plan that was submitted under the previous administration but the current administration has yet to announce a stance on it. Mendez and her fellow City Councilmember Dan Garodnick have been called to a meeting about the garage that will take place in the next week or so, she added, and more updated information should hopefully be forthcoming after that.
Other questions addressed at the forum had to do with cleanliness. Mendez noted that a number of the questions sent in had to do with dog waste. Sepulveda of the DSNY noted that issuing a summons to someone for not cleaning up after their dog is tricky because it is something that police have to witness occurring. He encouraged residents to submit complaints to 311 so the city is aware of problem areas and the DSNY has been working with Business Improvement Districts throughout the city on sanitation-related issues to make sure that areas are clean, but beyond that, it’s a difficult rule to enforce. Mendez added that a new initiative was proposed and passed in the last city budget this June which allots between $90-$100 thousand per council district for city clean-up.
Burwell, a representative for the Department of Homeless Services, addressed questions about what to do about homeless people on the street. She emphasized that it isn’t illegal to be homeless but residents can contact 311 and DHS will send their street outreach team to engage with the person.
Many of the representatives for city agencies at the previous Kips Bay forum emphasized that 311 was the perfect catch-all for complaints on just about anything and some of the attendees at this most recent forum expressed frustration about the bureaucracy that sometimes seems involved in getting problems solved after reporting them to 311.
Sepulveda acknowledged that calling 311 can seem frustrating but assured the residents that the complaints were being heard.
“Our office deals with 311 requests all day,” he said. “It’s not just a black hole. They are getting somewhere. We do have to abide by certain rules and regulations so sometimes the issue is just out of the agency’s hands.”
Lieutenant Collins of the 13th Precinct also made the distinction between when to call 911 versus 311.
“If you fear for your safety or their safety, that’s a 911 situation,” he said.
“If someone could get injured, that’s always a 911 call. Sometimes if it’s a grey area; they may redirect the call to 311, but if there’s a chance of injury, it’s always better to call 911.”
Community Board 6 will be hosting other forums in the future and Miner said that the next meeting on the radar will be a senior issues panel on September 15. More information about the panelists and topics to be discussed will be available closer to the event’s date.
14th Street between Avenues B and C during Sandy (Photographer unknown)
By Sabina Mollot
State Senator Brad Hoylman, along with other East Side elected officials, has been petitioning the state’s new storm recovery program, which has been focusing its efforts on restoring and protecting Lower Manhattan from future Sandy-like disasters, to include areas further north — in particular Stuyvesant Town, Peter Cooper Village, Waterside Plaza and the hospitals along Bedpan Alley.
Through the program, New York Rising, which was launched by Governor Cuomo, Lower Manhattan was awarded $25 million to implement community-input-driven strategies to rebuild downtown and strengthen the area against future extreme weather.
However, as Hoylman noted in testimony he gave to the Lower Manhattan Community Planning Committee on October 30, areas as far north as the mid-30s on the East Side and the high 20s on the West Side also saw serious damage as a result of the superstorm. Just a few examples include the flooding and months-long shutdowns at hospitals including NYU Langone, Bellevue and the VA Medical Center, loss of numerous services for months in 15 buildings in Peter Cooper Village and two in Stuyvesant Town, as well as the destruction of the management office there, and on the West Side, the flooding of half a dozen residential buildings that required evacuations, including one Chelsea building housing 50 people with HIV/AIDS.
In mid-October, the planning committee for NY Rising agreed to extend the borders of its catchment area from Canal Street west of Essex Street up to Delancey Street east of Essex up to all of Manhattan south of 14th Street, so Hoylman said he hoped the committee would also consider expanding the area further north to include Bedpan Alley.
The ongoing effort by NY Rising is “laudable,” said Hoylman, “but it excludes major swaths of Manhattan
The East River flows west under the FDR Drive last October 29. (Photographer unknown)
that were damaged by Sandy including Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, and especially the hospitals, which serve the whole city. I think our community above 14th Street is a natural fit for this conversation.”
Hoylman’s senatorial district includes ST/PCV, Waterside, Chelsea and Greenwich Village, areas that saw some of Manhattan’s heaviest damage last October.
Especially important in planning for the future of those areas, noted Hoylman, is the protection of the elderly population.
“The seniors in Peter Cooper and Stuy Town were essentially cut off from civilization,” he said.
Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney and Nydia Vasquez, Assembly Members Brian Kavanagh and Richard Gottfried, State Senator Liz Krueger and Council Members Dan Garodnick, Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez have also been in support of the area north of 14th Street’s inclusion in the planning and on October 22, all signed onto a letter, as did Hoylman, that was sent to Seth Diamond, the director of the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery. At this time, Hoylman said they’ve yet to receive a response.
Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal Photo by Brightsmith
By Sabina Mollot
Along with extra traffic from garbage trucks and noise from construction, residents living near 25th Street and First Avenue, the site of a planned Department of Sanitation garage, are now saying they are also concerned about safety due to the presence of thousands of gallons of diesel fuel, which are expected to be stored at the property.
Janet Handal, president of the Waterside Tenants Association, which has been opposed to the garage plan, said this week that she was concerned about the potential for explosions due to an accident or arson. Meanwhile, she said tenants at Waterside have compiled around 300 letters in opposition to the garage, based on a form letter prepared by the WTA with their own comments added. The public comment period on the project ended on Wednesday. At some point after comments are reviewed, the Department of City Planning will issue a final environmental impact statement.
Though the letters mention more than one reason for their stand on the city project, which was first announced last year, the fuel tanks, said Handal, “are a very serious concern. It poses a security risk.”
She noted how she recently strolled down to a similar facility located at 57th Street around 10:30 in the evening, also where fuel tanks are stored, “and there was no security guard and the doors were wide open. A fire could break out or an explosion from fumes, from something purposeful or someone doing something careless.”
Handal said the issue was raised at the last public scoping meeting, which took place on June 25, but she hadn’t gotten a response.
As for whether or not any fumes or odors could be a nuisance to Watersiders, Handal said it would depend on what the winds are like that day. The garage, which is now located on CUNY’s Brookdale campus, is also in front of the main entrance/exit at Waterside, the 25th Street footbridge over the FDR Drive. Traffic there, where the SBS bus stops, is also a concern to residents, said Handal, since trucks are expected to start leaving the facility each day before 6 a.m.
The Department of Sanitation has said early on the 135-foot-high facility would accommodate space for 170 DOS trucks and 145 other vehicles, including those owned by department employees over a total of 108,600 square feet.
The WTA, like the garage’s other detractors, has also attempted to argue that the garage is also just out of place for a neighborhood that’s better known to residents as Bedpan Alley due to all the hospitals and other medical facilities, including the City Office of the Medical Examiner.
Another neighbor of the Brookdale campus, the East Midtown Plaza co-op complex, has also made this argument in recently submitted written testimony.
Jerry Fox, president of the co-op board, said residents at EMP have also had concerns about future weather-related floods and outages in the area, including at the garage site. “Where are you going to put those fuel tanks?” asked Fox. “You can’t put them on street level. If it floods, you’re going to have major problems.”
In response to the residents’ concerns, DOS Public Information Chief Keith Mellis said safety was a top priority with regards to the fuel storage and there was also a plan for noise mitigation.
“All fueling operations will meet stringent local, state, and federal regulations and will be regularly inspected to ensure not only the safety of our workers but of the overall community,” said Mellis, “just as we have done over the years at all DSNY facilities citywide.”
He added that the building would be staffed “24/7, providing security at all times, and the garage will be designed to meet flood risk standards. In our continuing effort to work with the community to minimize any inconveniences, a noise mitigation plan also will be implemented during construction.”
This op-ed was written by Lou Sepersky, the community historian for the 6th Community District. He was originally appointed to that position in 1999 by then-Borough President C. Virginia Fields and has been reappointed ever since.
EMS ambulance on East 26th Street (approximately where the garage would be built)
Town & Village’s page one story (Sept. 20) on the proposed construction of a Department of Sanitation (DoS) garage on 26th Street east of First Avenue, on the Bellevue Hospital Center campus, has a very definite Town & Village root. And a lesson that needs to be learned for future public projects.