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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Murals will soon adorn Stuy Cove

Art to become a yearly project for SVA students

The mural will have a theme of birds and butterflies. (Pictured) A butterfly lands on a plant at Stuyvesant Cove Park. (Photo by Heather Holland)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

Students at the School of Visual Arts will soon be working on a project to spruce up Stuyvesant Cove Park with murals. The project is being organized through a community service program aimed at getting students more involved with the neighborhood since the university recently opened a new building at 340 East 24th Street.

Regina Degnan, a student advisor at SVA’s International Student Office, explained the project at a recent meeting for Community Board 6’s parks committee, whose members were supportive of the idea.

Dina Elkan, director of communications and events at Solar 1, was also at the meeting and said the area frequently has problems with graffiti and artwork would help combat that issue. Although the pieces will only be completed with acrylic paint and aren’t meant to be permanent, Elkan said that they would be looking into coating the completed pieces with a graffiti-resistant finish to discourage vandalism.

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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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Second bar planned for Maialino

Maialino (Photo courtesy of the Gramercy Park Hotel)

Maialino (Photo courtesy of the Gramercy Park Hotel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Danny Meyer is hoping to give his Gramercy Park restaurant Maialino a partial makeover with the addition of a bar.

General manager Andrea Czachor appeared before the Business Affairs and Street Activities committee for Community Board 6 last Thursday with the proposal, which will require the restaurant to alter its existing liquor license. The committee approved the request, although the community board’s role is only advisory and the change will have to be made official through the State Liquor Authority.

Czachor, who has been working in the restaurant since it opened at the Gramercy Park Hotel, said that the space where the bar will be going is already a counter but the restaurant previously used it for storage and to prepare food. Since the restaurant is no longer using the space for storage or food preparation, Czachor said that management decided to add five seats to the counter in order to convert it to a bar and serve alcohol directly to customers.

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New Kips Bay building includes housing for the disabled

Adam Weinsten, president of Phipps; Aaron Humphrey, Community Board 6 member; Claude L. Winfield, CB6 vice chairman; Jill Schoenfeld, representative of Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh; Pedro Carrillo and Gene Santoro, CB6 members; Council Member Rosie Mendez; Raj Nayar, CB6 Housing Committee chair; and Howie Levine, representative of Council Member Dan Garodnick (Photos by Michelle Deal Winfield)

Adam Weinsten, president of Phipps; Aaron Humphrey, Community Board 6 member; Claude L. Winfield, CB6 vice chairman; Jill Schoenfeld, representative of Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh; Pedro Carrillo and Gene Santoro, CB6 members; Council Member Rosie Mendez; Raj Nayar, CB6 Housing Committee chair; and Howie Levine, representative of Council Member Dan Garodnick (Photos by Michelle Deal Winfield)

By Michelle Deal Winfield

A new building in Kips Bay, which includes some housing for disabled residents, is now ready for occupancy. The completion of the project comes seven years after it was first discussed by Community Board Six’s Manhattan’s Housing Committee and Full Board.

Henry Phipps Plaza South Development — now referred to as 325 KB — is located at 325 East 25th Street, between First and Second Avenues.

The newly constructed building was built on a vacant lot that had been used as a basketball court. Phipps is awaiting a Certificate of Occupancy which the owner expects to receive in two weeks. It consists of 55 rental apartments: 10 studios, 18 one-bedrooms, 27 two-bedrooms, and the superintendent lives on the first floor. Forty percent of the apartments are affordable, which in this case means under 80 percent of the NYC area median income (AMI). The other 60 percent of the units range from 20 percent at 120 percent of the AMI, 20 percent at 145 percent of the AMI and 20 percent at 165 percent of the AMI.

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Letters to the Editor, Nov. 10

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Local candidates kept things classy

To the Editor,

Many thanks to our neighbor and former State Democratic Assemblyman Steve Sanders for reminding us that members of our community have independently crossed lines in the past to vote for and support a number of Republicans like Senator Roy Goodman, Congressman Bill Green and Councilman Eristoff. They were able to work with other bi-partisan legislators to get things done and avoid the national voting gridlock we’ve experienced these last four years.

Credit is well deserved for Frank Scala, a Republican who is a member of our Community Board 6 and the Stuyvesant Cove Park Association Board and active on the 13th Precinct Community Council.

Frank believes in the two party system and will defend his viewpoint but not engage in prolonged gridlock. Even the editorial staff of Town & Village doesn’t disparage either candidate, but can suggest to the reader “Does years of being elected reflect voters’ approval of performance or is it preferable to have term limits such as those persons we elect to the City Council?”

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Civic groups oppose city proposal for half of street fair vendors to be community-based

Carol Schachter, vice president of the 13th Precinct Community Council, pictured at right at a recent street fair that the Community Council sponsored, with a member, Pat Sallin, and its president, Frank Scala (Photo by Mary Mahoney)

Carol Schachter, vice president of the 13th Precinct Community Council, pictured at right at a recent street fair that the Community Council sponsored, with a member, Pat Sallin, and its president, Frank Scala (Photo by Mary Mahoney)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community organizers are worried that proposed new rules requiring participation from local businesses in street festivals will affect their revenue because they feel there won’t be enough participation from neighborhood vendors.

The Mayor’s Office of Citywide Events Coordination and Management (OCECM), which oversees the Street Activity Permit Office (SAPO), proposed new rules for street festivals, including a requirement that 50 percent of participating vendors have a business or local presence within the same community board as the festival, as well as a limit on how many are allowed per community board every year, decreasing the number from 18 to 10.

Carol Schachter, who’s the vice president of the 13th Precinct Community Council, said that a number of groups depend on revenue from local street fairs to fund programming for the neighborhood. Schachter attempted to provide testimony about the issue at the public hearing held last Thursday but noted that the hearing was held in a small room without enough space to accommodate all those who wanted to speak.

“Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association hosts events like tangos in the park. They rely on street fair revenue,” she said. “We don’t have money as community organizations to pay for these things otherwise. We need that money for National Night Out: the giveaways, ice cream truck, they all have to be paid for and it’s paid for by revenue from street fairs.”

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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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Wait list opens for affordable apartments in Kips Bay

By Sabina Mollot

New Yorkers on the lookout for a more affordable home might want to consider Phipps Plaza South, two buildings located in Kips Bay, where there is currently a lottery for affordable apartments.

There is at this time just a small amount of vacancies, but there is also a wait list, according to a spokesperson for Phipps, which, this week, announced the opportunity via an ad. The reason for the announcement since most units are already filled is that the owner, nonprofit developer Phipps Houses, is required to periodically refresh the waiting list if it’s out of date or applicants fall below a certain number. This policy is a HUD requirement for Section at 8 at the property.

The two buildings are located at 330 East 26th Street and 444 Second Avenue and together have 404 apartments that are mostly low-income. None are market rate, according to the spokesperson, James Yolle, and it’s covered under a regulatory agreement until 2039 and will then become rent stabilized. Any unit rented goes to someone on the waiting list, which applicants can get on based on income limits.

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MTA will conduct study on a traffic-free 14th Street during L train shutdown

hoylman

State Senator Brad Hoylman (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The MTA will be conducting a study on a plan to close 14th Street to traffic for the duration of the planned 18-month L train shutdown.

The feasibility study was announced by State Senator Brad Hoylman on Wednesday, who, along with quite a few other elected officials, had requested the study.

“More than 50,000 people cross Manhattan daily on the L train below 14th Street,” Hoylman said. “It’s crucial that we have a plan in place to accommodate these riders given the L train will be closed for 18 months starting in January, 2019.”

He added that the study includes a proposal for a dedicated bus lane and expanded cyclist and pedestrian access.

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Homeless hogging Gramercy wi-fi kiosks, say business owners

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

When the new wi-fi towers on Third Avenue arrived at the beginning of this year to replace defunct payphones in the neighborhood, Orbit News manager Ali Siddiqui thought it would be helpful for the occasional tourist that came into his shop looking for a map. But he said that it didn’t take long for the spots to get taken over day and night by various homeless people.

When a reporter was in the neighborhood last Friday, there was a man with his own rolling desk chair hooked up to the kiosk in front of the newsstand on the east side of the Avenue near East 20th Street and Siddiqui said that he had been in the same spot for three straight days.

“He brought his own chair and he just stays there, sitting and eating,” Siddiqui said.

He added that there are occasionally multiple people at the kiosk at once, usually streaming content through YouTube, and the men occasionally get aggressive when the sidewalk gets more crowded.

“Tourists want to use it but no one can because the same people are always there,” he said. “Customers complain about this to me all the time. This is a good neighborhood but since this started, it’s a nuisance.”

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Tivoli owner agrees to remove word ‘bar’ from new cafe’s sign

Tivoli’s owner said there would be no stand-up bar and the establishment would close at midnight, which calmed some concern from neighbors that the place could become a college watering hole. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Tivoli’s owner said there would be no stand-up bar and the establishment would close at midnight, which calmed some concern from neighbors that the place could become a college watering hole. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The owner of the new Tivoli restaurant on Third Avenue has agreed to remove the word “bar” from his signage in exchange for the support of the community in his application for a full liquor license at the incoming establishment.

Owner Gus Kassimis voluntarily agreed to the change last Thursday at a meeting held by Community Board 6’s Business Affairs and Street Activities committee, which voted to approve the application.

Kassimis also agreed that the restaurant, which is replacing the popular Lyric Diner, would not have a stand-up bar. He also said in his application that the business would be closing by midnight every day, which quelled neighborhood anxieties about the place’s potential to become rowdy college student hang-out.

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L train will close for 18 months in Manhattan in 2019, MTA says

Straphangers waiting for the L at First Ave. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Straphangers waiting for the L at First Ave.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The MTA announced this morning that the L train will be completely shut down between Brooklyn and Manhattan for 18 months beginning in January, 2019.

According to social media, email surveys and testimony from public meetings, 77 percent of respondents were in favor of the 18-month full shutdown, the MTA said.

The 11 community boards in the affected areas along the L, which hosted meetings about the two options prior to the decision, were also more in favor of a full closure than of a partial shutdown. In the joint meeting hosted by Community Boards 3 and 6 at the end of last month, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney expressed her strong support of the full closure, basing her decision on a number of meetings with the community that she had attended previously.

“During this process, it quickly became clear to many in affected communities that a shorter, full closure will be less painful than a longer period with minimal service, as long as there are broad and varied alternative ways to get to work while the line is closed,” Maloney said following the announcement. “I’ve argued that most people will accept full closure, as long as it takes them no more than 20 extra minutes to reach their destinations, and I look forward to working with the MTA to make sure this happens.”

The New York Times first reported the news on Monday morning, noting that officials hope to finish the repairs, made necessary because of damage from Hurricane Sandy, as quickly as possible to limit the impact on riders.

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Mt. Sinai: Renovating Beth Israel would have cost $1.3 B

Brad Beckstrom, senior director for community and government for Mount Sinai, speaks at a meeting held by Community Boards 3 and 6 about the plans for a new Mount Sinai Beth Israel facility.

Brad Beckstrom, senior director for community and government for Mount Sinai, speaks at a meeting held by Community Boards 3 and 6 about the plans for a new Mount Sinai Beth Israel facility. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Following the news that Mount Sinai would be moving and downsizing Beth Israel, reps from the hospital network met with neighborhood residents to insist that simply renovating the First Avenue hospital was not an option.

Mount Sinai Beth Israel met with Community Boards 3 and 6 earlier this month to share details on the plan to relocate most of the campus on First Avenue to a much smaller facility at East 14th Street and Second Avenue, adjacent to the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary.

Brad Korn, director for community and government affairs at Mount Sinai, along with Brad Beckstrom, senior director for community and government affairs at the company, told committee members and residents of the community that the main reason for the downsizing is the advanced age of the facility on First Avenue at East 16th Street.

“This is an aging, outmoded infrastructure,” Beckstrom said. “We get the question, ‘is it possible to renovate?’ But it would cost $1.3 billion and would take many years.”

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CB6 urges city not to eliminate M23 stop

Request a condition for support of M23 SBS plan

New York City Transit said the M23 route was picked for SBS because of its high ridership per mile and the nearby subway connections. (Photo via nyc.gov)

New York City Transit said the M23 route was picked for SBS because of its high ridership per mile and the nearby subway connections. (Photo via nyc.gov)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Transportation Committee for Community Board 6 voted for a resolution in support of the Department of Transportation and NYC Transit’s plan for select bus service along the M23 route, but only on the condition that the proposal reconsider the elimination of bus stops near Peter Cooper Village along the route.

The DOT and NYCT presented the plan to the committee at last month’s meeting and one part of the proposal included consolidating the East 20th Street stops at First Avenue and the East 20th Street Loop on the westbound side of the route. The plan would relocate the First Avenue stop closer to the existing Loop stop, to a location between the two but closer to First Avenue.

The proposal argued that the distance between the two stops is short, even for local bus spacing, and the stop at First Avenue would need to be lengthened anyway to install the fare payment machines for Select Bus Service, so consolidating the stops would potentially decrease travel times along the route.

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