Town & Village endorsements for City Council, Districts 2, 4

Because of term limits, the City Council seats in Dan Garodnick and Rosie Mendez’s districts are now open for the first time in 12 years. In both cases, there will be big shoes to fill, and the competition has certainly reflected this.
For the editorial staff at Town & Village, to say coming to a decision on whom to endorse was difficult would be an understatement in the extreme. The choices were made after interviewing each candidate as well as asking them to answer a few additional questions this past week, and those answers are also running in this week’s issue so voters can learn more about how they stand on local issues.

District 2
For the District 2 race, Town & Village is endorsing Carlina Rivera. This wasn’t a simple conclusion to come to because the candidates in this race share so many of the same values and concerns. There is a universal understanding that the district is in immediate danger of losing its character, not to mention that it’s no longer a place too many would find affordable. Homelessness is getting worse. (District 4 is in the same boat on all these issues.) But all things being equal, we’re going with the individual who’s been, in our view, the most serious candidate. Additionally, her history of community activism and on the job training thanks to the work in the office she hopes to occupy, make her the natural fit. That said, to be clear, this is a democratic system, not a dynasty, so we’re not supporting Rivera because we believe whoever works for the current council member is automatically entitled to their seat next. But the experience is not a problem, either.

Before leaving Rosie Mendez’s office to become a full-time candidate, Rivera, then a legislative aide, helped work on the package of tenant safety and anti-harassment legislation that Mayor de Blasio just signed into law. These protections are a big game changer for renters. She is also a longtime member of Community Board 3, so it’s not like she even needs to be briefed on the issues of the community before rolling up her sleeves and getting to work.

Town & Village would also like to recognize Ronnie Cho, who we believe is a genuine and worthy candidate out of a field of seven would-be council members. Not only are his credentials impressive, having worked in public engagement for the Obama administration, we also like his creative thinking on affordable housing. He would like to tie new development to the funding of social and education programs.

District 4
For District 4, with 10 candidates to pick from, the choice was even harder, which is why in this case, even at this point in the race, we feel we can only help narrow down the field for voters. Our top two choices in this race are Marti Speranza and Keith Powers, with the theory here being that whoever voters choose, the district still wins. Here’s how we came to this conclusion.

Both candidates have similar experience giving them relevant knowledge as to how this job needs to be done. Along with having worked for former Assembly Member Jonathan Bing and State Senator Liz Krueger, Powers has also worked until recently as an executive in a consulting/lobbying firm owned by former Council Speaker Peter Vallone. Speranza’s no slouch either. She worked for the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs as well as the city’s Women Entrepreneurs (WE) NYC initiative, which helps women business owners in underserved communities, before becoming a full-time candidate. Both candidates have been presidents of local political clubs and both serve on a community board.

They both prioritize affordable housing and have plans on how to create more of it. They both want to keep small businesses open, with Speranza’s weapons of choice being the SBJSA and creating a legacy business registry and Powers’ plan being implementing a vacancy tax to de-incentivize warehousing and passing legislation to protect small businesses from steep rent increases.

This is simply an instance where we wish there were two jobs available instead of just one. Hopefully, whoever doesn’t win this primary will consider running for Brian Kavanagh’s Assembly seat if he’s successful in replacing Daniel Squadron in the Senate.

In other issues, they both want to push for more pre-K seats, reform the criminal justice system and focus on the environment.

The choice is yours. We hope we have at least helped a little.

T&V would also like to recognize these additional candidates running in the primary that have managed to stand out.

Rachel Honig got our attention when discussing the need for reform of how the City Council operates so hearings on legislation couldn’t be blocked by the speaker.

Then there’s Barry Shapiro, who isn’t afraid to call out his own party when dissecting the reasons tenants are routinely short-changed.

We were also impressed by Vanessa Aronson’s recognition of ST/PCV as a community with unique needs and Jeffrey Mailman’s knowledge of the issues through a legal lens.

Advertisements

Real estate attorney running for City Council

Erin Hussein (Photos courtesy of Erin Hussein)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Real estate attorney Erin Hussein, a candidate for City Council, said that she was motivated to join the race because she’s invested in her neighborhood, the East Village.

“I’m running for District 2 because of District 2,” she said. “I’ve lived here for more than 20 years and it’s been intertwined with my entire life.”

Hussein, a Democrat, is running to replace term-limited City Councilmember Rosie Mendez. She moved to the city for college in 1988 after growing up in Waterbury, Connecticut. While New York is a bigger city, Hussein said she sees neighborhoods that make up the communities as similar to small towns like hers.

“Cities are organisms,” she said. “It’s a collection of neighborhoods, a collection of people. But we’re becoming less focused on people and more focused on buildings, and on the very wealthy elites.”

Continue reading

Attorney running to replace Mendez

Jorge Vasquez, a lifetime Lower East Sider and attorney (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Lower East Side resident Jorge Vasquez has his lifelong neighborhood to thank for his aspiring City Council candidacy. Vasquez, an attorney who is running to replace term-limited City Councilmember Rosie Mendez in District 2, said that it was the local Boys & Girls Republic, as well as his mother’s influence, that got him involved in community advocacy.

“It was a tradition with me and my mom on Election Day where we would wake up and I would go with her to the polls,” he said, recalling that he and his mother also canvassed for Antonio Pagan, the City Councilmember for District 2 in the 1990s prior to Mendez’s predecessor, Margarita Lopez.

Vasquez said that he started attending programming at the Boys & Girls Republic, which offer youth the opportunity to participate in self-government, at age six and was putting bills together by age 10. When Vasquez joined, the program was known as the Boys Brotherhood Republic but the program later became part of the Henry Street Settlement and was renamed the Boys & Girls Republic.

“Those programs give youth the opportunity to be active in the community,” he said. “Being part of democracy, and even to be familiar with the courtroom and jury rules, is so important. I wouldn’t be an attorney without access to these programs and the advocacy it instilled in me.”

Continue reading

Council candidate focused on housing, mental health services

Jasmin Sanchez (Photo courtesy of Jasmin Sanchez)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Lifelong Lower East Side resident Jasmin Sanchez had already been working in public service for most of her career when she decided to try to transfer those skills to the City Council.

Sanchez, who still lives in Baruch Houses in the Lower East Side where she grew up, has experience in the nonprofit sector, working with community leaders at Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) and in State Senator Daniel Squadron’s office, which is where she said she learned how to be a community advocate. She is running for the Council seat in District 2, with City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez being term-limited out next year.

A major focus of Sanchez’s campaign is mental health services, primarily because it’s an issue that ties into not only healthcare, but can affect housing and education as well, and has an impact on homelessness. She added that she feels having affordable housing can sometimes be the lynchpin for communities and families, and that it can be especially detrimental for students if they have a tenuous living situation.

“If you don’t have housing, you don’t focus as much on everything else and your performance suffers,” she said.

“It’s not a stable life for kids from shelters. It can be very stressful for them not to have a stable place to live. Schools have mental health services but they have to be holistic and make sure that families are receiving those services as well.”

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Letters to the editor, May 25

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Bad old days are back on E. 14th St.

The following is an open letter to City Council Members Dan Garodnick and Rosie Mendez whose districts share a border along East 14th Street.

I would like to point out the present poor condition of street crossing on 14th Street and First Avenue.

A homeless man sleeps at a street corner.

Please note:
Southeast corner:
Homeless people on the corner in front of T-Mobile and McDonald’s
Garbage cans overflowing, papers spread out from First Avenue to half of the block
Grease and dirt underneath the garbage cans
Streetlight missing in bus station, stump is still there, but light was removed 20 years ago
Nonfunctioning emergency pole – an eyesore
Bus station not long enough, stopped buses block pedestrian walk

Continue reading

WIHS neighbors blast lack of notice on planned construction

Council Member Rosie Mendez at a meeting held at the school building (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Residents of East 16th and 17th Streets expressed frustration about the planned construction for Washington Irving High School’s façade at a meeting hosted by Council Member Rosie Mendez inside the building on Monday.

East 16th Street resident Julie Block said that she was frustrated by the lack of communication on the part of the School Construction Authority about the project.

“Shame on you for the lack of community input until now,” she said. “We’re the stakeholders in this and we deserve to know what’s going on.”

The purpose of the project, Mendez said, is to repair the facade because of the cracks in the masonry. Netting and scaffolding has been put up to prevent pieces from falling onto pedestrians and some parts of the facade have been temporarily fixed, but some of the more severe cracks have caused water damage and staining inside the school. The budget for the project is $40 million and the expected completion date is March 2020.

The Department of Education did not have representatives at the meeting.

Residents who attended, however, were also concerned that the project will take longer because the work has to be done outside of school hours, with some asking why the work couldn’t get done when the main school closed in 2015 and before the multiple charter schools started moving in.

“If you find a way to stop Eva Moskowitz, let me know,” responded Mendez. “There’s a K-4 school here now and I don’t think we should even have elementary students in this building, but I wasn’t able to stop it.”

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading

Former Mendez aide running to replace her in City Council

Former Rosie Mendez aide Carlina Rivera in Madison Square Park (Photo courtesy of Carlina Rivera)

Former Rosie Mendez aide Carlina Rivera in Madison Square Park (Photo courtesy of Carlina Rivera)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Life-long Lower East Side resident Carlina Rivera has been involved in local politics since as young as age 12, so it should come as no surprise that her next move is running for City Council. Until recently, Rivera was the legislative director for Councilmember Rosie Mendez, and she left the position to focus on running to fill the seat in District 2 that Mendez will vacate this year due to term limits.

Rivera’s introduction to politics at such a young age was thanks to tenant advocate Marie Christopher, who lived on the first floor of her building on Stanton Street when she was growing up.

“She was an amazing tenant advocate, always pushing issues of public safety and preservation of NYCHA,” Rivera said of Christopher, who died in 2013. “She brought me to my first community council meeting. She knew that the community was an ecosystem, and she knew the importance of working with elected officials but also holding them accountable.”

Continue reading

Letters to the Editor, Oct. 27

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

The legacy of President Barack Obama

Firstly, it takes generations for historians to make decisions which demonstrate valid meanings and consensus – and who are doing the evaluations.

And, they can change with time. E.g., President Eisenhower was viewed unfavorably by most of the pundits but now during the past 60 years or so, his greatness is far more appreciated. In his final speech as president, he showed great prescience when he warned the nation of the growing danger of the “military industrial complex.”

Another example is Truman, who left office in 1953 with quite low appreciation and with years, he is recognized as having been in the upper tier.

Methinks as I have observed Obama during the past almost eight years… he may well be the greatest chief executive that I have encountered in my life. Brilliant, articulate and a real mensch, he has demonstrated the patience of a saint. On the very night of the day he was inaugurated, the top Congressional GOPers met and vowed complete obstruction so as to make him a one term president. Some patriotism!

Continue reading

Even without internet, homeless camps still a concern in Gramercy

A LinkNYC tower is used on Third Avenue (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

A LinkNYC tower is used on Third Avenue (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Sabina Mollot

Last Wednesday, the city yanked the internet from its new wi-fi stations following community outrage and news reports about the kiosks being monopolized by the homeless. As Town & Village recently reported, in Gramercy they’d be used for hours or even days at a time by homeless people who in some cases set up camps and according to one Post report, a Murray Hill resident was even treated to the sight of a man masturbating near her home while using a kiosk to watch porn.

However, even with internet access now scrubbed, some Gramercy residents are saying the kiosks are still hangouts for homeless people who in some cases drink at the sites and remain there for days on end. Their concerns were raised on Tuesday night at a meeting of the 13th Precinct Community Council, where the precinct’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Brendan Timoney assured neighbors police were responding to such complaints, and increasing homeless outreach efforts.

One woman, Julie Block, complained that homeless people are a round-the-clock presence at 16th Street and Third Avenue. In response, Timoney said those individuals have actually since moved a block north to 17th Street. However, he also said there would be more efforts to get those people into shelters, in coordination with the organizations Breaking Ground and Urban Pathways. “We’ll have to go out there again,” Timoney said.

Continue reading

One year after explosion, bills aim to prevent similar tragedies

Local elected officials including Council Member Rosie Mendez, Public Advocate Letitia James, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assembly Member Deborah Glick and State Senator Brad Hoylman stand at the explosion site on Saturday with CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) members. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Local elected officials including Council Member Rosie Mendez, Public Advocate Letitia James, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assembly Member Deborah Glick and State Senator Brad Hoylman stand at the explosion site on Saturday with CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) members. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Local politicians, East Village residents and former tenants of the collapsed buildings commemorated the first anniversary of the gas explosion on Second Avenue killed two people this past Saturday. The building collapse of 119, 121 and 123 Second Avenue and Seventh Street also resulted in the loss of 30 apartments, many of them rent-regulated.

In an effort to prevent similar disasters in the future, the City Council introduced legislation on February 24 through nine different bills. Councilmember Rosie Mendez, who was at Saturday’s event at the explosion site, is the lead sponsor of a bill that requires gas providers to notify the Department of Buildings within 24 hours of a gas shut off. This is in order to create transparency and hold city agencies accountable.

“A year after the East Village explosion, all that remains is three empty lots as a constant reminder of an avoidable tragic event that took the lives of two young men, rendered dozens of residents homeless, temporarily displaced hundreds of others from their homes and interrupted the livelihood of small business owners for weeks and in some cases months,” Mendez said. “We can never forget the tragedies that were avoidable and we vow to work to ensure that no one else has to suffer and endure what the families and our communities have.”

Continue reading

Six new officers headed to shelter

The 30th Street shelter at Bellevue’s “Old Psych” building (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The 30th Street shelter at Bellevue’s “Old Psych” building (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The 30th Street Shelter at Bellevue Hospital, which will soon be for employable men only, is getting six additional peace officers and NYPD officers, Town & Village has learned.

Additionally, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Homeless Services, Nicole Cueto, security in the surrounding neighborhood is also being beefed up with regularly scheduled patrols.

Cueto, in an email, said the following security initiatives have already been implemented:

• NYPD now regularly patrols the block through the afternoon and evening three days a week.
• On Saturdays, 2-3 pairs of DHS Police patrol the area between 34th Street and East 2nd Street, from FDR Drive to Eighth Avenue, from 11 a.m. through the evening.
• The DHS Police on patrol pay special attention to the parks and unsheltered “clients” or homeless men in the streets.

Continue reading

Neighbors of shelter say homeless men have gotten out of control

Homeless men congregate in front of a residential building across the street from the shelter, where neighbors say the men pandhandle, fight, urinate and occasionally worse.

Homeless men congregate in front of a residential building across the street from the shelter, where neighbors say the men panhandle, fight, urinate and occasionally worse.

By Sabina Mollot

For the Kips Bay residents whose homes are near the men’s homeless shelter on First Avenue and 30th Street, concerns over safety and quality of life didn’t begin in April after a rape at a local bar, which was allegedly committed by one of the shelter’s residents.

A few neighbors who were interviewed by Town & Village recently said they’ve had to alter their daily routines for years now in an attempt to avoid the homeless men, who’ve become a near-constant presence on the sidewalks, loitering, fighting, panhandling and using phone booths on the corners as a toilet as well as a spot to do drugs.

Residents have also reported being harassed and an increase in aggressive behavior. In May, a coalition of fed up neighbors who live the shelter started a petition aimed at reducing the number of beds at the shelter to about 250. Currently there are 850 and the shelter, at Bellevue’s “Old Psych” unit, is running at full capacity.

Other requested changes include forbidding any man who’s been charged with a sexual offense or other violent crimes to stay there, and closing the loophole in the law that allowed those men to stay there in the first place.

While all the sex offenders who’d been staying at the shelter were relocated after the rape at Turnmill bar on East 27th Street, this isn’t necessarily permanent. State law dictates that sex offenders can’t be within 1,000 feet of a school. However, this only applies to sex offenders who are out on parole or probation, so the Department of Homeless Services, which runs the shelter, has been in compliance.

The neighbors, meanwhile, said they also want to see the closure of the shelter’s Mainchance Intake Center located on East 32nd Street, blasting it in the petition as poorly run and having no regard for the community. It now has over 1,300 signatures. Though it’s not mentioned in the petition, area residents as well as the superintendent/resident manager of a building across First Avenue from the shelter, Antonio Rodriguez, have indicated they’d also be thrilled if the city got rid of the phone booths along the avenue.

Continue reading

Mendez bill would make illegal hotels a form of tenant harassment

Councilmember Rose Mendez (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Councilmember Rose Mendez (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Councilmembers Rosie Mendez and Rory Lancman announced legislation last Thursday to crack down on tenant harassment from illegal hotel conversions.

“(Short-term renters) are coming in at all hours, bringing people they meet into the apartment and it’s then impacting the quality of life, in that there are strangers in their building,” Mendez said. “It’s a breach of peace and quiet in your home because of the noise and people traffic.”

She noted that in a hotel, guests can call down to the concierge if there’s noise in the hallways late at night and the hotel can take care of the problem.

But in an apartment building without a live-in super that’s been turned into an illegal hotel, the solution isn’t quite so simple.

“When tenants call the landlord, they’re not going to reach them at 2 a.m.,” she said. “And if it’s the owner who’s renting it out, they may not follow up with the complaint.”

Whether the noise is due to someone renting from a building tenant or the landlord, if the landlord does not address the problem, this legislation would make the act of illegally renting out apartments a form of harassment and would allow tenants to sue the landlord.

Continue reading