Public can weigh in on how district dollars get spent this year

Council Member Keith Powers

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Residents of City Council District 2 and 4 will be getting a say on how to spend $1 million that’s being allotted to each district, starting this summer.

The opportunity to weigh in on which projects are most important for the community, through a program called participatory budgeting, started citywide in 2011. This year’s cycle is currently underway and the City Council is soliciting suggestions from New Yorkers for “capital” projects, which means proposals that make improvements to physical infrastructure in spaces like city parks, public schools or any other city-owned property. “Expense” projects, which includes ideas like expanded bus service and afterschool programs, are not eligible for participatory budgeting.

City Councilmember Keith Powers is launching participatory budgeting in District 4 (covering Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, Waterside, Midtown East, Central Park South, and the Upper East Side), for the first time, as is Councilmember Carlina Rivera for District 2 (Gramercy, the East Village, Alphabet City and Kips Bay). Neither of their predecessors, Councilmember Dan Garodnick and Councilmember Rosie Mendez, participated in the program previously.

“The process for the last cycle started the year before (I was elected) and if the district didn’t start then, we needed to wait, so this is the first year we could implement it,” Powers said. “There was big growth for it in the last City Council and additional growth in it this year, in districts like this one. All the new members that didn’t have it in their district, Carlina Rivera, other new members in districts where it wasn’t previously offered, are able to take part now.”

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National Night Out Against Crime

NATIONAL NIGHT OUT AGAINST CRIME was held by the 13th Precinct Community Council at Peter’s Field playground last Thursday evening, providing the neighborhood with an annual barbecue and block party, though this year’s ended early due to a storm. (Pictured) Some of the event’s organizers: Carol Schachter, Pat Sallin, Frank Scala, president of the 13th Precinct Community Council, Deputy Inspector Steven Hellman, commanding officer of the 13th Precinct, NYC Department for the Aging Assistant Commissioner Eileen Mullarkey, who presented a proclamation, and the precinct’s Executive Officer Ernesto Castro

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

National Night Out Against Crime, an annual block party aimed at bringing members of law enforcement agencies and community members together, was cut short this year due to a thunderstorm. However, before the blackening sky shut things down last Tuesday evening, the event held by the 13th Precinct Community Council in the Peter’s Field playground on Second Avenue in Gramercy managed to draw a steady stream of neighbors.

As always, participants got to speak with NYPD officials and representatives from other agencies and local businesses and nonprofits at informational tables over plates of free food. There were also free activities for children.

The storm was no joke, though, as Gothamist reported last Wednesday that three people had been struck by lightning.

But prior to the event shutting down after two hours instead of the usual three, in keeping with tradition, a representative from the mayor’s office brought a proclamation.

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Preservationists blast tech hub plan

Site of the future Tech Hub on East 14th Street at Irving Place (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Neighborhood preservationists were disappointed that City Council’s approval for the proposed Tech Hub on East 14th Street at Irving Place last Thursday didn’t include specific rezoning to protect the area south of the new center, while Council Member Carlina Rivera celebrated the unanimous vote for the plan, claiming that the city is working on putting neighborhood protections in place. The City Council’s Committee on Land Use approved the project at the beginning of the month and the full Council approved the measure last Thursday.

Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation executive director Andrew Berman criticized Rivera, who represents the area on East 14th where the new tech center will be built as well as the neighborhood to the south, for voting yes on the plan, noting that she campaigned on the issue and promised she would only vote for it with specific protections for the surrounding neighborhood.

“The City Council’s deal approves the mayor’s Tech Hub with just a fraction of a fraction of the protections the surrounding neighborhood needs and called for, and which Rivera promised to condition her vote upon,” Berman said. “The approval of the Tech Hub will accelerate the transformation of the adjacent Greenwich Village and East Village neighborhoods into an extension of ‘Midtown South’ and ‘Silicon Alley,’ which many developers and real estate interests have already begun to call them. We are seeing 300-foot tall office and condo towers going up in this area and 300-room hotels being built, which are completely out of character for these neighborhoods, with many more to come.”

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Gramercy Neighborhood Associates holds annual art show

Alan Krevis

Gramercy Neighborhood Associates President Alan Krevis (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

On Tuesday, June 19, artists and their friends and followers packed the Salmagundi Club in Union Square for the Gramercy Neighborhood Associates art show opening. Around 60 artists showcased 90 pieces, mostly paintings and photos, at the venue, where art could be viewed from Monday to Friday last week.

Later, the GNA announced that it was one of the most heavily attended events ever at Salmagundi.

The art show is an annual event though this year it returned after a two-year hiatus and this was the first time it was held at the Salmagundi Club. Most of the artists were residents of Gramercy or Stuyvesant town, though the exhibit was open to others as well.

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SBJSA advocates rally for hearing

Council Member Carlina Rivera with with the bill’s supporters and its prime sponsor Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez at her left (Photo courtesy of Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez)

By Sabina Mollot

Small business activists are actively pushing for a hearing of the Small Business Jobs and Survival Act, which was reintroduced in the City Council in March under a new prime sponsor, Ydanis Rodriguez.

Representatives from various pro-SBJSA groups attended a hearing on the steps of City Hall last Wednesday, along with Rodriguez and fellow Council Member Carlina Rivera. Additionally, the coalition has continued to reach out to small businesses across the five boroughs as well as those who enjoy patronizing them, encouraging email to their local member of Council.

Harry Bubbins, East Village and special projects director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said hundreds of email forms to council members were sent through the GVSHP’s website. Additionally, since the bill was reintroduced, 12 council members have signed on as sponsors.

“They are responding to their local constituents as well as the needs of the city, the obvious crisis of retail spaces in the city,” Bubbins said.

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Rivera talks SBJSA, homelessness, L train shutdown and 14th St. tech hub

Council Member Carlina Rivera speaks about a “21st century” version of the SBJSA as well as other issues at an event at Almond in Flatiron, hosted by the Union Square and Flatiron BIDs. (Pictured) Rivera with NY1 reporter Michael Scotto (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

New Councilmember Carlina Rivera spoke with NY1 reporter Michael Scotto in an event at Almond Restaurant in Flatiron at the end of March, focusing on small businesses, the upcoming L train shutdown, homelessness and the planned tech hub for Union Square.

The event was a community breakfast hosted by two neighborhood BIDs, the Union Square Partnership and the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership.

As she previously mentioned in a roundtable with Town & Village, Rivera said that she supports a “21st-century version” of the Small Business Jobs and Survival Act, clarifying further at the recent breakfast that she partially meant taking online shopping into consideration.

“We need to consider how we shop, but we also need to consider that the piece of legislation we introduce, as of last term, was 20 years old,” she said. “The way we’ve shopped has changed dramatically in 20 years so I think giving the small business owner the ability to negotiate is important. (The 21st-century version) is taking into consideration mixed-use buildings, and making sure that Small Business Services does a better job at marketing the resources they have available, along with the Department of Consumer Affairs.”

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Students participate in March For Our Lives

Protesters on Central Park West (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Young students and gun control advocates participated in the March For Our Lives on the Upper West Side this past Saturday, calling on Congress to pass stricter gun laws. Mayor Bill de Blasio posted on Twitter following the march that 175,000 New Yorkers had participated in the protest.

The rally prior to the official march along Central Park West to Columbus Circle included survivors from the Parkland shooting, as well as survivors from the Las Vegas and Sandy Hook shootings. Volunteers for the march were also wandering through the crowd encouraging participants, especially high school students about to turn 18, to register to vote and helping them fill out the appropriate paperwork.

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Council calls for stronger rent regs

Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg (at right) waits to give testimony about why rent regulations are needed. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The City Council Housing and Buildings committee held a hearing on legislation aimed at maintaining rent stabilization in the city this past Monday, with city elected officials also expressing strong support for the repeal of various policies at the state level that allow landlords to increase rents and move apartments out of the program, such as vacancy decontrol, preferential rent and vacancy bonuses.

Although the state controls rent regulation, the legislation heard in the Council this week proposed the extension of rent stabilization in the city and includes a resolution determining that a public emergency requiring rent control continues to exist and will continue to exist on and after April 1.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson pressed representatives from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development at the hearing about whether or not the de Blasio administration supports the repeal of vacancy decontrol.

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Rivera focused on mom-and-pops and affordable housing at tech hub

Council Member Carlina Rivera outside her district office in the East Village (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Newly-elected City Council Member Carlina Rivera spoke with members of the community media in a round-table discussion this week, covering affordable housing, the plight of small businesses and the transit woes affecting District 2.

Rivera, who took over the seat from Rosie Mendez, who was term-limited after 12 years in office, previously worked with Mendez as her legislative director and is a long-time community activist working in the East Village and the Lower East Side.

One of the subjects she brought up was the new “tech hub” the city is planning on East 14th Street, and Rivera said she wants to make sure affordable housing is factored into the plan.

“In terms of the zoning, it’s going to be important to look at how we can incentivize affordable housing,” she said. “People are worried that this tech hub is going to be a purely commercial development and one of the most important things we need is affordable housing.”

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Epstein secures Democratic nomination for Assembly

Harvey Epstein at Monday evening’s County Committee vote with a supporter, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (Photo courtesy of Harvey Epstein)

By Sabina Mollot

On Monday night, the Manhattan Democratic Party County Committee unanimously nominated Urban Justice Center attorney Harvey Epstein for State Senator Brian Kavanagh’s vacated Assembly seat. However, the vote, held by about 200 county committee members at the Sirovich Senior Center, was technically already decided ahead of time when the two other Democrat candidates in the race, Sandro Sherrod and Mike Corbett, withdrew.

Corbett, a City Council aide and former president of New York Young Democrats, announced on Monday morning he was withdrawing and giving his support to Epstein.

In an email blast, he said it was clear Epstein had more backing from the party.

“I was especially honored to have the support of so many of you in this race,” wrote Corbett. “However, as we approach the County Committee vote tonight, I believe that the result is no longer in doubt. My friends, to paraphrase the musical Hamilton, I don’t have the votes.”

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Worker dies at Flatiron construction site

The death was being investigated at the site on Tuesday morning. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Police are investigating the death of a construction worker found at the bottom of an elevator shaft on Tuesday.

The 33-year-old victim, later identified as Brooklyn resident Jucong Wu, was working on the ninth floor of 111 East 24th Street, a Sam Chang-owned building in the Flatiron District.

Emergency services were called to the site at 8:53 a.m. and pronounced the man dead at the scene.

The investigation is ongoing, though a police source said it appears to be a job site accident.

According to a spokesperson for the Department of Buildings, Wu was employed by U-Tek Elevator Inc., a firm that was installing an elevator car in the 12-story building, which is being converted to a 130-room hotel by Chang’s McSam Hotel Group.

Wu, however, was not tied to a fall-protection safety line, said the DOB.

A person who picked up the phone at McSam Hotel Group declined to comment.

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