Opinion: Stop stalling and save Mom & Pop

By Kirsten Theodos, co-founder, Take Back NYC

All across the city, we are seeing the character and spirit of our neighborhoods being destroyed by hyper real estate speculation pushing out longtime established small businesses. Amazon cannot be blamed for all of the closings. A year ago, 41-year-old Cornelia Street Café was forced to close because of an exorbitant rent hike.

The Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA) would have saved them by giving commercial tenants rights to renew their leases and negotiate reasonable terms. In a recent interview, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer made clear in her view the SBJSA shouldn’t apply to all commercial leases. Her argument is weak, that the “unintended consequences” of the bill would be including “white shoe law firms” and “financial institutions.”

Even if a business is a hedge fund, it should not be excluded from protection from unscrupulous landlords. Carving out specific types of businesses from the bill is discrimination and would certainly be legally challenged. After years of broken promises to save Mom & Pop, it is unclear why she is back on the small business beat and weighing in on this now.

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Drivers push back on congestion pricing

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (pictured with Council Member Carlina Rivera and State Senator Brad Hoylman) held a town hall on congestion pricing last Thursday. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Manhattan elected officials argued strongly in favor of congestion pricing at a public hearing last Thursday, but car-owning residents in attendance felt differently about the plan.

“This congestion was caused by the city allowing Uber and Lyft to put hundreds of cars on the streets that were already congested without charging any revenue for the city,” said attendee Sheila Williams. “If they had at least done that, they could have increased revenue and decreased the cars on the street, but now you want all of us to pay for this debacle and it’s already decimated the yellow cab industry.”

Manhattanites got the opportunity to offer their thoughts on the plan at a public hearing hosted by Borough President Gale Brewer at Cooper Union last Thursday evening. Many of the few hundred residents in attendance identified themselves as car-owners and suggested that residents who live in the area shouldn’t be forced to pay a fee just based on where they live.

“I do think that people living in the zone should be exempted from congestion pricing,” Stuy Town resident Lynn Janofsky said. “The only reason I have a car is to drive out of the city. I only go up or down the FDR and don’t drive in the city because I’m too worried about killing somebody, with the bikes, Ubers, pedestrians and phones. I have zero faith in the mayor to think things through before implementing something. For all of us who live in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village and our six garages, we should be exempt.”

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Residents of Kips Bay NYCHA building worried about privatization

Tenants at 344 East 28th Street say there’s been no communication from NYCHA about the agency’s plans. (Photo via Google Maps)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Residents of the New York City Housing Authority development at 344 East 28th Street are demanding transparency after the city agency announced that a new program would be implemented for tenants in the building to privatize ownership.

NYCHA hosted a meeting at Bellevue Hospital last week to give tenants information about the Permanent Affordability Commitment Together (PACT) Unfunded Units program but tenants said prior to the meeting that they weren’t given any information about the program previously or been allowed to give any input about whether or not they want to join.

The program is part of a push by NYCHA to increase revenue for repairs in developments throughout the city that have long been neglected. The plan involves shifting management of NYCHA complexes to private developers through PACT as well as the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD).

A flyer distributed to residents claims that the program will provide funding for necessary repairs, upgrades and renovations, ensure affordability and protect tenant rights.

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New Year brings spike in crime

Deputy Inspector Steven Hellman at the 13th Precinct Community Council meeting on Tuesday, January 15 (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The beginning of the year has brought a spike in crime to the 13th Precinct, with an almost 14 percent increase in the last week due to a string of burglaries and robberies.

“The good news is that I made them stop the shutdown for the L train in anticipation of the increase in crime that we’ve seen lately,” Deputy Inspector Steven Hellman joked at the precinct’s most recent community council meeting on Tuesday, January 15.

Hellman, the precinct’s commanding officer, told neighborhood residents in attendance at the council’s first monthly meeting of the year that the last week was the most high-volume for crime since he took over the precinct at the beginning of last year.

In addition to the arrest of Bryan Lincoln, who was collared for three alleged attempted robberies in Union Square on January 11, Hellman said that two suspects who haven’t been arrested were responsible for four burglaries within a three-block radius in the precinct that same day, breaking into businesses while they were closed and grabbing cash from the registers.

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Letters to the editor, Nov. 29

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Funding Amazon vs. NYers in need

To the Editor:

I wondered why our Democrat mayor and governor, who never agree on anything, were both thrilled to give such an enormous handout to Amazon’s owner, the richest man in the world. Despite a desperate need for funds to put towards the welfare of over 100,000 homeless NYC students and the aging homeless population, some of whom you can see every day on the corner of First Avenue and 14th Street, and the benefits of free health care and higher education for NY State residents, and even for more mundane items such as repairing the ever-increasing potholes in NYC, despite all this our, Democrat leaders have chosen to grease the palm of the wealthiest of the wealthy one percent. I found the answer to this conundrum on the pages of T&V.

“Tenant PAC spokesperson Michael McKee…believes Governor Andrew Cuomo will be working behind the scenes to fight tenant-friendly laws” (“Democratic lead too big for attempts at power grabs,” T&V, Nov. 15) and “He expects Cuomo to continue to portray himself as pro-tenant while also trying to keep his real estate donors for his long-rumored run for president.” (“What a true blue NY State Senate means for tenants,” T&V, Nov. 15)

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Costumed marchers take part in Disability Pride Parade

Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Disability advocates and agency officials gathered in Union Square to celebrate the fourth Disability Pride Parade on Sunday afternoon. The parade traversed down Broadway from Madison Square Park to Union Square Park, where a festival was held in the afternoon.

City agencies such as the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Office of Emergency Management and Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, and local hospitals such as NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation and Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Center had representatives along the route.

Nonprofits such as HeartShare Human Services and Gateway, organizations that works with children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Pathways, a school on the Upper East Side for impaired children, Achilles International, a nonprofit that provides assistance to athletes with disabilities, and others marched as well, with kids and other participants dressing up in costumes for the parade’s “creativity” theme. Representatives from the Peter Stuyvesant Little League’s Challenger Division and Stuy Town’s Good Neighbor initiative, including ST/PCV general manager Rick Hayduk, marched towards the end of the parade.

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Kips Bay dog run opens unofficially

Pooches play at an unfinished dog run at Bellevue South Park. (Photo by Aaron Humphrey)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Pooch owners in Kips Bay celebrated the opening of a temporary dog run in Bellevue South Park earlier this month after having pushed for the run for years. Neighborhood group KBK9 announced on its Facebook page on December 16 that the temporary run had been opened since the double gate was fully installed that week. The spot for the temporary run is an already fenced-in area adjacent to the basketball courts near the East 26th Street end of the park. Community advocates have been pushing for a fully ADA-compliant dog run in the space and while the temporary version is not accessible, the completed run will be once renovations are finished.

Dog owners using the park on Wednesday morning said they were grateful for the run’s opening, since they don’t want to have to take their dogs too far from home now that winter’s begun. Karen Keavey lives two blocks from Bellevue South and said that the next closest dog run is Madison Square Park, which is at least a 20-minute walk, whereas Bellevue South is a four-minute walk for her and her puggle, Louis.

“This has changed my life,” Keavey said. “It’s good for the park that this has opened up. It brings a different element in.”

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Possible upgrades for 30th St. shelter

Council Member Dan Garodnick speaks at a meeting aimed at coming up with ways to improve the men’s shelter. (Photo courtesy of Dan Garodnick)

By Sabina Mollot

The Department of Homeless Services is planning to make some upgrades to the dilapidated 30th Street men’s homeless shelter, possibly even turning an unused theater into a space for public use.

On Monday, July 17, representatives of the department met with a few representatives of Community Board 6 as well as a few elected officials to discuss ideas, including to create a co-working space where shelter residents can get job placement assistance and work on resumes. As for the theater, a possible plan would be to renovate it or even repurpose it and have it used by the shelter’s residents or the community. Outside the shelter, which is located inside the Bellevue Old Psych building on First Avenue, another idea was to create green spaces like a small park that could also be open to the public.

Following the brainstorming session, Council Member Dan Garodnick said ideas were based on what the shelter’s residents want as well as what the surrounding community wants.

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Brewer: Retail blight ‘worse than I thought’

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (pictured at a recent press conference on the Commercial Rent Tax reform bill) conducted a foot patrol study of vacant storefronts along Broadway. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Two Sundays ago, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, with the help of nearly three dozen volunteers, walked along the length of Broadway in Manhattan, taking note of every vacant storefront they passed. The exercise was for a study on retail blight conducted by Brewer’s office, the results of which were not pretty.

In fact, said Brewer, who strolled a strip from the 60s to the 70s, “It was worse than I thought.”

Along her way, she observed five empty storefronts in a two block radius. “I don’t know how long they’ve been empty,” she said.

She chose Broadway as the street to monitor due to it being a part of so many different neighborhoods. Additionally, from what she’s seen the problem doesn’t appear to be more prolific in some neighborhoods than others.

“In Manhattan, it’s everywhere,” she said.

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Maloney hopes Fearless Girl will save women’s rights in Washington

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is hoping that the momentum surrounding the Fearless Girl statue will encourage members of Congress to pass legislation beneficial to women. The Congresswoman shared the wish at City Hall this past Monday after announcing that the artwork will stay in its place in front of Wall Street’s Charging Bull until 2018.

“It empowers women in so many fields and now with all the energy around the Fearless Girl, hopefully we can pass my legislation,” she said. “I’m hoping this will spark a movement in Congress to pass legislation I support that focuses on women, like the National Women’s Museum and the Equal Rights Amendment. It inspires us to get out and get things done.”

Maloney said that the statue’s extension was thanks to the mayor and commissioner of the Department of Transportation because the piece was officially accepted into the DOT’s art program.

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The Soapbox: Many questions remain on East Midtown Rezoning

Town & Village is proud to present “The Soapbox,” a column featuring a different voice from the neighborhood in each one. All are welcome to submit columns on the topic of the author’s choice, preferably not longer than 650 words, to editor@townvillage.net.

By Barry Shapiro

For those not aware, East Midtown Rezoning is a city initiative to rezone roughly from 39th Street to 57th Street from Fifth Avenue to Third Avenue.
The proposed changes in the area will allow real estate developers to build higher and increase overall free space for development by about 6.5 percent. There will also be development of some public spaces and improvements to subway stations.

This along with the LIRR terminal at Grand Central planned to open in 2022 will significantly add to the area’s population density.

Major rezoning has to go through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which requires pertinent community boards to have their say. Negative votes by community board reps on the project’s Borough Council would have a somewhat damaging effect.

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Kips Bay residents ask for temporary dog run

At a Community Board 6 meeting, delays on getting the funding for the dog run for Bellevue South Park were explained. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Dog owners in Kips Bay are pushing the Parks Department to consider a temporary solution for the lack of a dog run in Bellevue South Park. Members of multiple neighborhood groups made their case at a recent Parks Committee meeting of Community Board 6, arguing that a temporary run near the basketball courts would give residents an immediate place to play with Fido instead of having to wait at least five years while the Parks Department completes additional renovations on the park.

Kips Bay Neighborhood Association member Karen Lee said at the meeting that there is an area north of the basketball courts that is already fenced in and the group has submitted an application for a grant for $280,000 from Borough President Gale Brewer’s office to make changes to the space, such as an access ramp, a nonskid surface and automatic openers for the entrance gates. Lee said that the funding is mainly necessary to make the space accessible for residents with disabilities, which she said is one of the main motivations for pushing for the dog run in the first place.

“Dog runs in the city aren’t ADA compliant,” she explained prior to the meeting. “This would be the first dog run in the city that is ADA compliant. Hospital row is right there and there’s a huge community of disabled people in this neighborhood who already use this park.”

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City holds off on plan to diversify street fairs after community groups fight local vendor rule

Community organizations who rely on revenue from street fairs had opposed the proposal to make it mandatory to have 50 percent of the vendors be local. (Photo via Wikipedia)

Community organizations who rely on revenue from street fairs had opposed the proposal to make it mandatory to have 50 percent of the vendors be local. (Photo via Wikipedia)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

To the relief of a number of community organizations, the Mayor’s Office decided not to approve proposed new rules for street fairs for the upcoming year that would have required increased participation from local businesses. The proposal was aimed at sprinkling some local flavor into street fairs, which, despite where in the city they’re taking place, are often practically identical. The Street Activity Permit Office (SAPO) of the Office of Citywide Event Coordination and Management (OCECM) announced on October 28 that it would be extending the existing moratorium on street fair applications through 2017. A public hearing on the proposed rule will be held this Friday.

The city had previously proposed new rules that, among other requirements, would require 50 percent of vendors participating in street fairs to be from within the community district boundaries of where the fairs were taking place. Another proposed rule would have decreased the number of fairs allowed in each community district per year from 18 to 10.

Community organizers were worried that the new regulation requiring increased participation from local vendors would affect their revenue because not enough local businesses would want to take part.

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Neighbors concerned about hotels used as shelters

Representatives from the Department of Homeless Services, the Human Resources Administration and non-profit organizations focusing on homelessness participated in the panel, which was facilitated by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (far right). Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Representatives from the Department of Homeless Services, the Human Resources Administration and non-profit organizations focusing on homelessness participated in the panel, which was facilitated by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (far right). (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Recently, the city has begun using hotels in Flatiron and NoMad as temporary homeless shelters, and the practice has area residents outraged.

New shelter neighbors gathered at the American Sign Language School last Tuesday evening to voice their concerns about the shelters as well as the homeless population in general.

A number of residents at the meeting insisted that they were empathetic to the homeless and acknowledged that it is a small percentage of the population that is causing problems, but many who spoke said that safety was a serious concern.

“The risk doesn’t come from the 70 percent of the homeless population who are working poor, who are just trying to get by,” Third Avenue resident Thandi Gordon-Stein said. “We’re worried about the other 30 percent who are convicted criminals and sex offenders. When you add so many facilities in one neighborhood, it becomes a danger. They say we should call 311 or the police but that’s not working.”

Many at the meeting said they were worried that the neighborhood could become oversaturated with homeless facilities. Matt Borden, Assistant Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Homeless Services, argued that the decision to use hotels in Flatiron and NoMad was based on the so-called “Fair Share Criteria,” which is supposed to prevent neighborhoods from getting saturated with shelters and making sure other areas are home to some. According to the data from DHS, which examines the homeless population within community district lines, Community Board 5 is under the city average of 1,016.

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ST teen activist gets things done

Sarah Shamoon, at 17, is the youngest member of Community Board 6. She’s also interned for three women politicians and has even made use of her political muscle to help get new bathrooms for her high school. (Pictured) Shamoon gives a speech on Women’s Equality Day alongside elected officials including Public Advocate Letitia James and Assemblywoman  Linda Rosenthal. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Shamoon)

Sarah Shamoon, at 17, is the youngest member of Community Board 6. She’s also interned for three women politicians and has even made use of her political muscle to help get new bathrooms for her high school. (Pictured) Shamoon gives a speech on Women’s Equality Day alongside elected officials including Public Advocate Letitia James and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Shamoon)

By Sabina Mollot

Last year, the bathrooms at one local public high school were so worn apart from years of overuse that the toilets overflowed daily, the pipes regularly leaked and the ceilings were full of asbestos. However, they’re finally getting renovated, and a civic-minded resident of Stuyvesant Town is partially to thank for it.

That would be Sarah Shamoon, a resident of Stuyvesant Town and a 17-year-old senior at the Lab School in Chelsea, who’s basically addicted to public service.

In 2014, when New York State law was changed so that teenagers as young as 16 could serve their community boards, one of the first individuals to apply was then 15-year-old Shamoon. She’s been serving as a member of Community Board 6 for as long as she was legally allowed to as she mulls a future career in government.

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