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

Commission shoots down shell for former Tammany Hall

Rendering of the proposed shell dome, which would have raised the height of the old Tammany Hall building by two stories (Rendering by David Ettinger and Wei Lee, BKSK Architects)

Rendering of the proposed shell dome, which would have raised the height of the old Tammany Hall building by two stories (Rendering by David Ettinger and Wei Lee, BKSK Architects)

By Sabina Mollot

The plan to add a shell-shaped glass dome onto the old Tammany Hall Building in Union Square has been turned down by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. It was during a hearing that took place on Tuesday, November 25, when the Commission declined to approve the rooftop addition for the recently landmarked building. However, the LPC left the door open for the applicant, the architectural firm BKSK, to submit another proposal — and a revised design is already in the works.

Following the hearing, BKSK’s lead partner on the dome project, Todd Poisson, said the firm is hoping to meet with the Commission’s chair informally in January to discuss it and then present it again to the entire Commission.

On the new design, he would only say, “We’re really excited about it.” He noted how the chair had said the building as it stands now “begs for enhancement.”

“Architecturally speaking, it’s a modest building. It’s Neo-Georgian but it’s not the greatest example of Neo-Georgian the city has to offer.”

The dome was intended to create room for around 20,000 square feet of office space. Half of that would have been in the newly created space while the rest would be in the existing structure. Along with the dome, which would have replaced the current slate roof and raised the building’s height by two stories, other proposed changes to the property include removing the theater, restoring the storefront infill, replacing signage and adding windows and a new entrance.

Poisson, who’d given testimony alongside partner Harry Kendall, later acknowledged, in an interview with Town & Village, the “range of opinions” from the Commission on why the proposal hadn’t gotten the green light.

“There was concern about our removal of the existing hipped roof,” he conceded, “and that the proposed replacement was not quite in harmony yet with the rest of the building.” But, he added, “They were intrigued by the proposal’s symbolic content.”

The content he was referring to was inspired by Tammany, the Native American chief of the Lenape. Poisson said the symbol of Tammany’s clan was a turtle, which was from a creation myth of a great turtle rising from the sea and creating land and putting mud on its shell. The idea behind the shell concept at the property, said Poisson, was to “re-brand” Tammany as not just a name synonymous with a corrupt political machine but the chief who helped develop peaceful relations with the European settlers.

“Early colonists use Chief Tammany as a uniquely American symbol and many Tammany societies sprang up,” he said. “The height of irony is that the only Tammany society to make it into the 20th century is Tammany Hall, only to be known for its corruption. We’d like to remind people of the story no one remembers.”

However at the November hearing, not everyone was moved by the historical reference. The few speakers who came to give testimony in support of the proposed alteration were outnumbered by over a dozen in opposition of it, with most saying they thought the contemporary design was inappropriate.

One in the latter group was Jack Taylor of the Union Square Community Coalition. Taylor had been involved in the USCC’s fight for the landmark designation of the building, which was finally approved last year after 29 years of consideration. At the hearing, he argued that the current hipped attic roof of the building, which is opposite Union Square Park’s East Side at East 17th Street, “is so visible that it defines the contours of the building.”

Removing it, he said, “would be to demolish a protected architectural element of the designated structure.” The building, he continued, had been designed to look like the Georgian-inspired architecture of the old Federal Hall on Wall Street. Federal Hall, where George Washington took his oath of office, also had a hipped attic roof.

Others who either gave testimony in person or via written statement against the dome proposal were Council Member Rosie Mendez, the Historic Districts Council, Community Board 5, Gramercy Neighborhood Associates and the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

Rendering of dome design from the side (Rendering by David Ettinger and Wei Lee, BKSK Architects)

Rendering of dome design from the side (Rendering by David Ettinger and Wei Lee, BKSK Architects)

In support of the plan however was Jennifer Falk, executive director of the Union Square Partnership, who gave her testimony in person. She later explained that she did so because the building was very much in need of attention, and the BKSK plan would have added something “bold” to the roof while restoring the rest of the property.

In a written statement, she said, “We applaud BKSK Architects’ bold design, which complements the history of Union Square as a vital and active, contemporary civic space. The removal of the overabundant existing signage, as well as the slate, mansard roof will greatly improve the overall look of this highly-visible property. The streamlined signage plan is simple and elegant, and the addition of a glass-domed roof provides a contemporary element while honoring the building’s Colonial Revival-style.”

Falk added that the USP looks forward to seeing how the design evolves.

Taylor, meanwhile, said he couldn’t help but point out that while the USP supported the new roof, it didn’t lend its support to the landmarking effort.

“For the first time in my memory, which goes back to the days of when the BID and the LDC (now the Union Square Partnership) were first formed in the 1980s, it’s a reaction to a landmark issue, a preservation issue,” he said. “Which,” he added, “the Partnership, as now it’s called, has never spoken anything about. And now there’s a reaction to an issue involving preservation and landmarking and of course it’s on the wrong side.”

In response, a spokesperson for the USP said the Partnership had been in support of the designation. However, since the effort wasn’t facing opposition once the building owner decided to support a designation, the organization didn’t feel it was necessary to send anyone to testify.

Other people who testified in support of the dome included Barry Benepe, co-founder of the Union Square Greenmarket, and Margaret Cotter, president of Liberty Theaters and the building’s owner.

Along with needing the LPC’s blessing to move forward with a plan to create office space, Cotter would also require a special use variance to build the dome. Poisson said this is because the eastern most portion of the property falls into a different zone than the rest of the building, and the eastern zone is residential.

Over 700 area residents get trained by National Guard for future disasters

The auditorium of the High School for Health Professions and Human Services was packed with people, many from Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village,  to be trained in emergency preparedness from the New York National Guard. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

The auditorium of the High School for Health Professions and Human Services was packed with people, many from Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, to be trained in emergency preparedness from the New York National Guard. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Over 700 community residents, many from Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, received training in emergency preparedness from the New York National Guard last Thursday evening, courtesy of a program initiated by Governor Cuomo and designed by the Department of Homeland Security.

The training was led by Captain Glenford Rose, who advised area residents to be aware of different kinds of emergencies, including fires and gas leaks, and not just Sandy-like disasters. Rose reminded residents, who had packed the auditorium at the High School for Health Professions and Human Services, to stock up on supplies and to have a kit ready with everything needed in an emergency. Participants at the training received a knapsack full of necessities, but Rose emphasized that this kit was just a starting point and noted that individuals should make sure to customize their kit for their needs, such as accounting for pets, special medications and adding in various important documents.

Councilwoman Rosie Mendez was at the event and had a tip of her own: fill the bathtub with water.

“But make sure the lock works,” she added. “I put water in mine and two hours later it was gone!”

A number of other local elected officials were involved in the event, including Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. City Councilman Dan Garodnick and State Senator Brad Hoylman also made appearances at the event, with both offering opening remarks for the training.

Garodnick recounted his experience with a group National Guard troops during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, in which he led about 50 servicemen and women all the way through Stuyvesant Town, on a chilly November night while the power was still out, in an attempt to reach Waterside Plaza before they were met with a locked gate at the northeast corner of Peter Cooper Village.

“That was the end of my military career,” Garodnick joked.

The Manhattan CERT team also collaborated on the event with the governor’s office, in addition to New York State Community Affairs, the PCVST Management office and the ST-PCV Tenants Association.

Ready New York liaison Virginia Rosario had put together 950 packets of materials to hand out at the event and ST-PCV Tenants Association president and Ready New York member John Marsh put together a flier that was posted in all Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village buildings, courtesy of management.

Alexandria Wiedenbaum and Sergeant Major Armando Lopez, helping people sign in and register for the training.  (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Alexandria Wiedenbaum and Sergeant Major Armando Lopez, helping people sign in and register for the training. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

There were 739 people at the training meeting, which wound up being the highest number of people that have been trained at a single event. Following the training last Thursday, there was an additional event in Lower Manhattan last weekend where 455 people were trained. Since the program was launched in February, the New York State National Guard has held 205 of these events and trained 27,245 people.

Erik Bottcher, a representative from Governor Cuomo’s office, said that he was thrilled with the turnout and said it probably won’t be the last opportunity for residents to find out about emergency preparedness.

“This is an ongoing project,” he said. “As a storm-affected area, there will definitely be more events here in the future.”

Garodnick noted after the event that the chaos following Hurricane Sandy increased awareness for emergency preparedness and since then the number of these kinds of events has increased.

“It is really important for people to be prepared for the unexpected and the expected in New York,” he said. “We’re no strangers to natural disasters or other emergencies but the time to focus on this issue is in a moment of calm. I think because of the number of people it affected and the duration of time that they were affected, (Hurricane Sandy) opened a lot of eyes toward emergency preparedness.”

Alexandria Wiedenbaum, who has been in the Army National Guard for over two years, usually leads trainings in Staten Island with Sergeant Major Armando Lopez. There are eight teams of throughout the state and each team is responsible for a different region, but Wiedenbaum said that she and Lopez, as well as others from teams throughout the state, had congregated at the Thursday training, because it was such a big event.

“This is our tax dollars invested,” Lopez said of the training sessions. “Sandy told us that there’s a problem. Sandy showed how many people weren’t prepared so we’re trying to change that.”

Aug. 12 SCRIE/DRIE workshop to be held at Community Center

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh held a press conference about the DRIE income limit increase on July 24, just moments before the City Council gave its blessing to the increase. Kavanagh is pictured with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Public Advocate Letitia James, Ellen Davidson of Legal Aid and Council Member Helel Rosenthal

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh held a press conference about the DRIE income limit increase on July 24, just moments before the City Council gave its blessing to the increase. Kavanagh is pictured with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Public Advocate Letitia James, Ellen Davidson of Legal Aid and Council Member Helel Rosenthal

A workshop on recent expansion of eligibility for the programs SCRIE and DRIE (income caps for both programs have been raised significantly in both cases to $50,000) will be held at the Stuyvesant Town Community Center on Tuesday, August 12.

State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Kruger, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and Council Members Rosie Mendez and Dan Garodnick will be co-hosting the event, which is aimed at helping senior and disabled constituents apply for SCRIE and DRIE. One-on-one sessions at which eligible candidates can get personal assistance with their applications, or get their questions answered, will be held 1:30-4:30 p.m. at the community center, located at 449 East 14th Street (on the First Avenue Loop, near 16th Street).

If you are 62 and think you may be newly eligible for SCRIE (Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption) or are 18 or older and eligible for DRIE (Disability Rent Increase Exemption), you can learn how to apply at this event.

The SCRIE and DRIE programs provide exemptions from future rent increases and some MCIs (major capital improvements). They are now within reach of many more ST/PCV residents, due to legislation authored by Kavanagh ecently enacted at city and state levels.

If you plan to attend, call the Community Center at (212) 598-5297, so staffers will know how many to expect.
For those who can’t make it, there will be two additional informational events/registration drives.

One will be at Tompkins Square Library, 331 East 10th Street between Avenues A and B, on Monday, August 11 from 1-3 p.m.
Another will be held at Stein Senior Center, 204 East 23rd Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, on Tuesday, August 21 from 1-3:30 p.m.

Sanitation garage, homelessness addressed at Gramercy forum

Council Member Rosie Mendez, LaToneya Burwell, director of Community Affairs at the Department of Homeless Services, DSNY community affairs liaison Julian Sepulveda, Lieutenant Vincent Collins, Police officer John Considine and Assistant District Attorney Kaitrin Roberts (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Council Member Rosie Mendez, LaToneya Burwell, director of Community Affairs at the Department of Homeless Services, DSNY community affairs liaison Julian Sepulveda, Lieutenant Vincent Collins, Police officer John Considine and Assistant District Attorney Kaitrin Roberts (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel
City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez moderated a quality of life forum at School of the Future on East 22nd Street this past Tuesday evening and answered questions from the community with the help of representatives from various city agencies. The event was co-hosted by Gramercy Neighborhood Associates and Community Board 6 and there were representatives from the various city agencies in attendance to answer questions.

District Manager Dan Miner noted that turnout seemed low because of the ongoing thunderstorms and the middle of the forum was interrupted by a flash flood warning alarm blast from an attendee’s cell phone. The Parks Department, Department of Transportation and the Department of Health did not have representatives at the forum, making it a smaller affair than a similar quality of life forum that was held for the Kips Bay community in the spring.
Mendez noted that this forum was meant to build on the event at Kips Bay and the representatives present at the forum included Lieutenant Vincent Collins and Police officer John Considine of the 13th Precinct, LaToneya Burwell, director of Community Affairs at the Department of Homeless Services, Julian Sepulveda, the community affairs liaison at the Department of Sanitation and Kaitrin Roberts, Assistant District Attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney Crime Strategy Unit.

Alan Krevis, president of the Gramercy Neighborhood Associates (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Alan Krevis, president of the Gramercy Neighborhood Associates (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

One of the topics discussed, albeit briefly, was the sanitation garage that is planned for the Brookdale campus. Councilwoman Mendez said that the garage was a plan that was submitted under the previous administration but the current administration has yet to announce a stance on it. Mendez and her fellow City Councilmember Dan Garodnick have been called to a meeting about the garage that will take place in the next week or so, she added, and more updated information should hopefully be forthcoming after that.

Other questions addressed at the forum had to do with cleanliness. Mendez noted that a number of the questions sent in had to do with dog waste. Sepulveda of the DSNY noted that issuing a summons to someone for not cleaning up after their dog is tricky because it is something that police have to witness occurring. He encouraged residents to submit complaints to 311 so the city is aware of problem areas and the DSNY has been working with Business Improvement Districts throughout the city on sanitation-related issues to make sure that areas are clean, but beyond that, it’s a difficult rule to enforce. Mendez added that a new initiative was proposed and passed in the last city budget this June which allots between $90-$100 thousand per council district for city clean-up.

Burwell, a representative for the Department of Homeless Services, addressed questions about what to do about homeless people on the street. She emphasized that it isn’t illegal to be homeless but residents can contact 311 and DHS will send their street outreach team to engage with the person.

Many of the representatives for city agencies at the previous Kips Bay forum emphasized that 311 was the perfect catch-all for complaints on just about anything and some of the attendees at this most recent forum expressed frustration about the bureaucracy that sometimes seems involved in getting problems solved after reporting them to 311.

Sepulveda acknowledged that calling 311 can seem frustrating but assured the residents that the complaints were being heard.
“Our office deals with 311 requests all day,” he said. “It’s not just a black hole. They are getting somewhere. We do have to abide by certain rules and regulations so sometimes the issue is just out of the agency’s hands.”

Lieutenant Collins of the 13th Precinct also made the distinction between when to call 911 versus 311.
“If you fear for your safety or their safety, that’s a 911 situation,” he said.
“If someone could get injured, that’s always a 911 call. Sometimes if it’s a grey area; they may redirect the call to 311, but if there’s a chance of injury, it’s always better to call 911.”

Community Board 6 will be hosting other forums in the future and Miner said that the next meeting on the radar will be a senior issues panel on September 15. More information about the panelists and topics to be discussed will be available closer to the event’s date.

Management office work almost complete, a few playgrounds get new water features

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

By Sabina Mollot
Despite the beginning of July being a holiday week, things were still eventful in Stuyvesant Town, where construction has been ongoing at the site of the future management office.
Work at the new facility should be complete some time in August, CWCapital said in a newsletter emailed to tenants at the end of June. Additionally, electrical work beneath the First Avenue Loop that had closed the road for weeks is now complete and excavation has been completed for the site. The work remaining is to complete the roof, which is currently in progress.

Meanwhile, although the work has been progressing on schedule, residents who live in the four buildings affected by the construction along the Loop have had to deal with construction noise that has started in the mornings as early as 6 a.m.
A spokesperson for CWCapital said this week that the work schedule was changed due to the need to pour concrete within a certain timeframe so the project won’t get delayed by adverse weather.

“This has required them to make minor adjustments to the regular schedule,” the rep, Brian Moriarty, said.

In response to the noise issue, Susan Steinberg, chair of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, pointed out that the city Department of Environmental Protection normally allows construction between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays. Other times, off-hours authorization is required, which in this case management has gotten a permit for.
“Unfortunately, if management has the appropriate permits, there is not too much we can do other than let management know that they are making tenants’ lives miserable,” said Steinberg last Monday. “However,” she added, “if tenants think the noise level may be above allowable decibels, especially on weekends, they should call 311 and create a record.”

By last Tuesday, however, Council Member Dan Garodnick said that after being asked to discontinue the early morning work “for the sake of the peace of residents,” management told him no more work was expected to take place at that time.
“Which is encouraging,” said Garodnick. Last October, Garodnick co-sponsored, along with Council Member Rosie Mendez, legislation aimed at curbing variances that allow owners and developers to do construction work into the evenings.

In other construction news, part of the management office project includes renovating Playground 8, which has begun. According to CW’s last newsletter, the soon-to-come water feature at Playground 8 will have floor-mounted and overhead sprays that keep with the space’s train station theme as well as a new train for kids to play in.

A few other playgrounds in the complex have already been upgraded to include water features or improve the ones that had been there previously.
At Stuy Town’s Playground 4 and Peter Cooper Village’s Playground 2, existing kiddie sprinklers now also include ground sprays, overhead sprays and an interactive spray in Playground PCV 2. Stuyvesant Town’s Playground 2, which didn’t use to have any water sprinklers, now has a water feature that’s interactive and takes up about half the space of the playground.

On Thursday, July 3, a few parents at that playground said they welcomed the new addition as their kids ran around in the sprays.
Peter Cooper resident Stacey Pattillo was one of them although she also had a suggestion for management.
Noting that the sprinklers includes a cannon-like feature that can be moved from one direction to another, Pattillo observed that some of the littler children “come and get blasted” by the high-pressure spray aimed by other kids. “They should keep it fixed to a light shower,” she said. “You see some of the kids get walloped in the face and they get traumatized.” But otherwise, she added, “It’s very nice.”

In more property-related updates, the Oval lawn has officially opened to sunbathers, Moriarty said. Last week, the area was still closed off, leaving desperate sun worshipers attempting to catch some rays on the concrete next to the fountain.

Around the Oval and beyond, the grounds have been extremely colorful lately thanks to the addition of thousands of flowers, which were purchased from local nursery Emma’s Garden Growers.
In its newsletter, CWCapital said the new plantings include: 3,600 caladiums of mixed colors (planted along First Avenue entrances), 1,000 dragon wing begonias, 800 New Guinea impatiens of mixed colors, 800 coleuses of mixed colors, 500 periwinkles of mixed colors, 35 tropical hibiscuses and 35 canna lilies of mixed colors.