Solar 2 design released

This rendering, by Bjark Ingels Group (BIG), shows how the replacement building for Solar One will look, complete with a kayak launch accessible at Stuyvesant Cove Park.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Project architects have released renderings for Solar One’s new building that will be replacing the environmental organization’s original structure along the East River across from Peter Cooper Village within the next two years. The Economic Development Corporation, the city agency overseeing the project, presented the plan to Community Board 6’s land use and waterfront committee on January 22.

Although the project has been referred to as “Solar 2,” the new building will fully replace the organization’s original structure and the renderings show a “Solar One” sign on the building’s western face. According to the presentation, construction on Solar 2 is expected to be completed before the start of 2019 and construction on the additional flood protection in Stuyvesant Cove Park, which is part of the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) project, won’t begin until 2021 or 2022. The ESCR project includes a combination of berms and flood walls to protect the nearby neighborhoods from a possible flood event, and since Solar One’s building is expected to be operational before construction begins for the ESCR, that flood protection will be built around the new structure.

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ST girl recognized as Boy Scout after 11 years of Scouting

Sydney Ireland speaks at the National Organization for Women convention in 2015. (Photos courtesy of Gary Ireland)

By Sabina Mollot

Since the age of four, Sydney Ireland knew that she wanted to be a Boy Scout. It didn’t matter that she wasn’t a boy. Her older brother Bryan was a Scout — later an Eagle Scout — and she wanted to be doing the things he was doing, from earning merit badges to ice climbing in Lake Placid.

Now 15, Sydney has been active in the Boy Scouts — albeit unofficially — for over a decade, and has been along with her family, pushing for the national organization to formally accept and recognize the contributions made by female members like herself. She first reached out to the organization via an op-ed in this newspaper. She’s since done a handful of interviews on the subject and recently even got the backing of NOW.

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City admits it has no way to track storefront vacancies

Council Member Dan Garodnick chairs the hearing on retail vacancy. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

City agencies currently have no way of measuring the rate of storefront vacancies in the city, representatives have admitted.

The representatives, who were from the Department of Small Business Services, discussed the matter at a City Council hearing earlier this month led by Council Member Dan Garodnick, chair of the Economic Development Committee. At the hearing, Garodnick had been pressing the agency on its apparent lack of strategies to come up with solutions to address retail blight.

“This hearing is about the economic impact of vacant storefronts and what I heard in the testimony was mostly a variety of things SBS has done to help businesses over time, but I didn’t really hear any urgency about the problem,” Garodnick said.

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Before moving on, Garodnick reflects on 12 years fighting for tenants’ rights

For Council Member Dan Garodnick, defending tenants from harassment has been a signature issue. (Photo by William Alatriste)

By Sabina Mollot

It was in 2005 when Dan Garodnick, an attorney who worked for the firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkin, Wharton & Garrison before running for office, was elected to the City Council, replacing Eva Moskowitz.

Garodnick won with 63 percent of the vote and since then, has held onto the position easily while making tenant rights a signature issue.

At the start of the New Year, however, Garodnick will be the one term-limited out of his Council seat, to be succeeded by a neighbor he endorsed, Keith Powers.

Recently, over a cappuccino at the Starbucks in Peter Cooper Village, Garodnick, now 45, reflected on his 12 years in office, all the while giving little away about what he’ll be doing next.

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Garodnick bill for ‘potty parity’ passed by City Council

The legislation would affect new and newly renovated buildings.

By Sabina Mollot

A “potty parity” bill, pushing for new and renovated buildings to offer changing tables in bathrooms accessible to men as well as women, was passed in the City Council on December 11.

The mayor held a hearing on the bill on Monday and is expected to sign it soon, according to one of the legislation’s co-sponsors, Dan Garodnick. The other sponsor is Brooklyn Council Member Rafael Espinal, who said he got to work on the bill after witnessing a man change his daughter’s diaper on the sink of a public bathroom.

“Moms and dads should have equal access to sanitary and safe spaces when changing their baby’s diapers,” he said.

Meanwhile, Garodnick, who has two young sons, can certainly relate.

“As a dad who has changed my fair share of diapers I can say from personal experience that there are very few restrooms with diaper changing stations and it shouldn’t be that way,” he said.

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Bus service will soon be increased at Waterside Plaza

An M34A bus at Waterside Plaza (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Residents of Waterside Plaza, who for years have complained of limited access to mass transit, will soon be seeing a major increase in the number of buses coming to and leaving from the complex each day.

Normally, only M34A buses come and go directly to Waterside, but the additional service will come through the M34 Select Bus Service (SBS), starting on September 3.

On weekdays from 11 a.m.-1 a.m., the following day, there will be 22 additional trips (an increase of 44 percent). On Saturdays from 11 a.m.-1 a.m. the following day there will be 14 additional trips (an increase of 30 percent). On Sundays from noon to 1 a.m. the following day, there will also be 14 additional trips (an increase of 39 percent).

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Neighbors celebrate restoration of Stuyvesant Square Park fence

A ribbon cutting ceremony was attended by Community Board 6 chair Rick Eggers, Ana Maria Moore of the Stuyvesant Square Park Neighborhood Association, CB6 Parks, Landmarks and Cultural Affairs committee member Gary Papush, City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver and Eliza Fish, eight-time granddaughter of Peter Stuyvesant. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

After waiting for decades, community residents and activists finally got to witness the completion of a newly restored fence along the eastern end of Stuyvesant Square Park.

Neighborhood residents and local elected officials had been working to fully restore the historical structure since at least the late 1980s, when the 170-year-old fence was first partially restored. Reasons for the various delays included problems finding a contractor to do the job of restoring a landmarked but badly rotted fence as well as having money that had been allocated for the $5.5 million project get steered towards other priorities of the city.

So a ribbon cutting ceremony held by a section of fence facing Nathan Perlman Place was well-attended on June 15.

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Countdown clocks coming to East Side bus stops

Council Member Dan Garodnick (right) stands by a new countdown clock at a bus stop for the M66. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

In an effort to help straphangers get a more reliable idea of when their next bus is coming, the city is installing 48 new countdown clocks at bus stops around Council District 4. The project is being funded with nearly $1 million allocated by Council Member Dan Garodnick, who admitted that there’s still plenty of work to be done in making buses more reliable.

Similar countdown displays are already in place in local routes where Select Bus Service is offered, like the M23, although other SBS routes, including the M15, will be getting new countdown clocks in stops that don’t have them already.

The announcement was made last Tuesday at a bus stop at 68th Street and Lexington, which is one of four where a new countdown clock has already been installed. The other three are in midtown and the other 44 will be installed by the end of the year.

Garodnick, who was joined by Manhattan Borough Department of Transportation Commissioner Luis Sanchez and John Raskin of the Riders Alliance, discussed how unlike other methods of mass transit, bus usage is actually on the decline.

While noting that it’s sometimes the only option for the mobility impaired or New Yorkers who don’t live close to a subway, the speed or rather lack of it at which buses travel, has made above ground mass transit too slow and unreliable for a growing number of people.

“Bus service has declined by 16 percent in the last decade,” said Raskin. “People are voting with their MetroCards. People are starting to abandon the bus.”

Garodnick gave the bus stopping on that block, the M66, as an example of why.

“It’s the 17th busiest out of 40 routes, but it moves at 4.1 miles per hour,” he said. “I can jog backwards carrying my six-year-old son faster than the M66 goes to the West Side.”

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Hoylman takes aim at ‘high rent blight’

Various empty storefronts in State Senator Brad Hoylman’s District, the subject of his recent study, “Bleaker on Bleecker” (Photo collage courtesy of Brad Hoylman)

By Sabina Mollot

State Senator Brad Hoylman, whose district includes Stuyvesant Town, Gramercy, Chelsea and Greenwich Village, recently conducted a study that found a high percentage of vacant storefronts in the district, with some retail corridors about 10 percent vacant and on Bleecker Street, a vacancy rate of 18.4 percent.

This is no breaking news to area residents of course; but the senator’s study “Bleaker on Bleecker,” which focuses on what’s been dubbed “high rent blight,” has led to his offering a few proposals to combat the problem.

In particular, the phenomenon of landlords of choosing to keep a space vacant “suggests waiting for Marc Jacobs instead of renting to Jane Jacobs,” the study quotes economist Tim Wu as saying.

The study also mentions the closure last year of the Chelsea Associated Supermarket, which had seen its $32,000 rent jump by $100,000. The now-shuttered store had the same owners as the Associated in Stuyvesant Town, the future of which is still murky.

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Peter Cooper Council candidate has 3 club endorsements, nearly $200G in war chest

Photo courtesy of Keith Powers

Keith Powers, a candidate for City Council in District 4, announced on Tuesday that he’d gotten support from three Democratic clubs on the East Side of Manhattan. The Samuel J. Tilden Democratic Club, Four Freedoms Democratic Club and Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club (where Powers is a district leader), voted to endorse Powers, a resident of Peter Cooper Village, last week.

In addition, a spokesperson for the campaign said Powers has amassed close to $200,000 in campaign cash.

The rep said Powers has maxed out on his matching funds at $100,100 and has raised $98,000 in private funds. With the two amounts combined, Powers has hit the $182,000 City Council spending cap.

“With our endorsement, we see Keith as the most qualified candidate who has what it takes to protect our party’s values with new and innovative solutions for the unique needs of our community,” said Greg Martello, president of the Samuel J. Tilden Democratic Club.

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Editorial: Small businesses need pols’ help and ours

City Council Members Dan Garodnick and Helen Rosenthal have been doggedly pushing a bill that if passed would give some relief to many of the Manhattan retailers who are forced to pay Commercial Rent Tax. The tax, they’ve argued, is discriminatory as it punishes retailers and restaurants for the crime of doing business below 96th Street and above Chambers. We have to say, we agree it’s obviously unfair, and we hope the legislation doesn’t face any obstacles in getting signed.

However, as any Manhattan storefronter can attest to, taxes are just the tip of the iceberg. Amazon is an ever-present competitor and the rent is too damn high with commercial tenants not having much in the way of bargaining power when it’s lease renewal time.

Rosenthal, following the press conference that was held for the CRT bill, said the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, which is aimed at giving business owners an automatic ten-year lease renewal, is being looked at by the council’s counsel. The legislation has been languishing for decades though recently it has gained steam as neighbors have grown weary of seeing their local small businesses get pushed out by chains.

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Garodnick: Travel ban will hurt NYC economy

Council Member Dan Garodnick

By Sabina Mollot

Concerned about the potential impacts the federal travel ban could have on New York City’s economy, Council Member Dan Garodnick chaired a hearing on the subject, where speakers said the ban has already caused financial losses.

Speakers from different organizations testified against the ban, with the takeaway message being that not only would it cut off access to business opportunities, but that New York has already suffered because of the ban — even without it having gone into effect. Garodnick, who chairs the Council’s Economic Development Committee, has openly blasted the president’s order as the “Muslim Travel Ban,” as it aimed to suspend entry to the United States by visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries. While federal courts ultimately were able to temporarily block the executive order, “the damage was done,” Garodnick said. He also referred to a more recent ban of electronics bigger than a cellphone on flights to the United States from 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa.

“Let’s get real,” said Garodnick. “Prohibiting a business traveler from accessing a laptop or tablet during a 13-hour flight does more than create an inconvenience. It means an entire day of lost work — and productivity on the plane.” He also argued that any motivated terrorist would just find a way around the rule, anyway.

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Bills aim to exempt some businesses from paying Commercial Rent tax

Garodnick with other local elected officials and small business owners at City Hall on Monday. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Garodnick with other local elected officials and small business owners at City Hall on Monday to discuss a package of bills. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Local elected officials gathered at City Hall on Monday to announce legislation that would exempt almost 4,000 local businesses in Manhattan from paying Commercial Rent Tax (CRT), which currently subjects owners below 96th Street to an additional tax if their yearly rent is $250,000 or higher. Councilmembers Dan Garodnick, Helen Rosenthal, Corey Johnson and Margaret Chin, along with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, introduced the three bills aimed at providing relief for small business owners.

One of the bills, introduced by Garodnick and Rosenthal, would increase the rent threshold so commercial tenants paying under $500,000 would not have to pay the tax. Johnson and Brewer also introduced legislation aimed at helping affordable supermarkets and would exempt those businesses from the CRT, regardless of the amount of rent they pay.

The CRT was introduced in 1963 to help increase revenue in the city but was phased out in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and even the northern part of Manhattan in the 1990s, and the current rent threshold has not been updated since 2001. Brewer noted that the tax previously made sense because it was primarily applied to larger businesses but since rents have continued to increase, small and medium-sized businesses are affected now as well.

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Opinion: A case against term limits

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

It has been said that the profession of politics is the second oldest one and regarded on about par with the oldest. Politicians are often times reviled beyond any logical reason. If you are unhappy in life, blame a politician. If you feel overburdened, blame a politician.

But too frequently some public officials give good reason for this antipathy by doing corrupt things. While all professions have their bad players, when a politician is caught with his/her hand in the cookie jar, the rest are tarnished and brought down in the eyes of the public.

It is little wonder that the proposition to impose strict term limits is so popular. Of course, it is also entirely undemocratic and occasionally destructive. Dan Garodnick is a case in point.

Dan has been our City Councilman for 11 years. He has effectively represented our community with intelligence, passion and unquestioned integrity. We sorely need those traits in our government leaders today. But he is in his last year as our local representative. You will not be able to vote for him again and our community will be deprived of an exemplary public official and advocate, because of arbitrary term limits.

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Garodnick recommends Trump Tower police unit

Council Member Dan Garodnick

Council Member Dan Garodnick

By Sabina Mollot

Since the presidential election, traffic in the midtown streets surrounding Trump Tower has been consistently snarled, with local stores reporting a yuuuuge amount of lost business as a result.

While it did help that shortly before the New Year, the block of 56th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues was once again opened to traffic, the area still feels somewhat militarized. The reopening had been pushed by City Council Member Dan Garodnick, whose district includes Trump Tower, and this week, Garodnick spoke with Town & Village about how the neighborhood has been inconvenienced since Donald Trump was elected president.

“It’s an ongoing headache that gets worse when he’s around and we hope he does not choose to use Trump Tower as a pied-a-terre,” said Garodnick.

Incidentally, First Lady Melania Trump has recently reiterated plans to remain at Trump Tower with her son Barron until the school semester ends before moving to the White House.

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