Stuy Town-Peter Cooper residents have been asking for Avenue A entrance to L train since 1947

Rendering of Avenue A entrance to First Avenue subway station, currently under construction

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

With the L train slowdown officially underway, Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents and others who rely on the train are already enduring service cuts and crowding. However, the bright light at the end of the tunnel, especially for residents living farther east, along with a safe subway system, is the promise of a new entrance at Avenue A and East 14th Street for the First Avenue station.

Town & Village has reported in the last five years that neighborhood residents, transit advocates and local elected officials had been asking the MTA to consider a new entrance at least since 2014 and were denied on more than one occasion, but the request is actually almost as old as Stuyvesant Town itself.

A Stuy Town resident who moved into the complex when it opened in 1947 wrote a letter to the Brooklyn Manhattan Transit Corporation, which operated the L at the time, asking if the transit agency would expand the First Avenue station by building an entrance at Avenue A. Resident Reginald Gilbert of 625 East 14th Street argued that pressure on the station from the influx of new residents made the new entrance a necessity.

“With the increase of tenants in (Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village), the First Avenue station is becoming more and more crowded during the rush hours with passengers jamming up in the first cars going west and the rear cars coming east,” Gilbert wrote in his letter, which T&V also published in the November 27, 1947 issue. “This condition exists with only a small portion of (the complex) occupied and will be aggravated with the influx of new residents during the next few months.”

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Neighbors say safety first with Bellevue South Park renovations

Bellevue South Park (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community organizers and the Parks Department got closer to an agreement about renovations planned for Bellevue South Park in Kips Bay after a Community Board 6 Parks committee meeting last Tuesday. The meeting was scheduled because park advocates were unsatisfied with designs the city had presented to the committee last month.

Manhattan Borough Commissioner Chief of Staff Steven Simon, who expressed frustration at the last meeting when met with resistance about the plans, at first balked at the idea of coming back to the committee next month, saying that it was unusual for Parks to even come back to the community board a second time, but ultimately agreed that the architects could make additional adjustments to the design and return to the committee in March.

Kips Bay residents Aaron Humphrey, Karen Lee, Pauline Yablonski and Courtney Bird offered suggestions to the plans that the Parks Department presented to the committee in January, which includes an ADA-compliant dog run and updated play equipment that will also be moved away from the adult exercise equipment.

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Kips Bay residents say planned renovation of Bellevue South Park won’t make it more inviting

The renovation plan was discussed at a Community Board 6 meeting last Wednesday. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A plan to renovate Bellevue South Park that city officials presented to the Community Board 6 Parks committee last Wednesday left neighborhood residents feeling like they hadn’t been listened to.

“I don’t see much of what we talked about in the focus groups,” said Aaron Humphrey, a resident of Straus Houses and a longtime advocate for the park. “We have quality of life and safety issues. In the southeastern part of the park, we have a lot of homeless who sit on the benches there and smoke marijuana. The trees block all of it. We wanted the gate removed to make it more community friendly, and we wanted to maximize the space.”

Community organizers have been pushing the city to make changes to Bellevue South Park in Kips Bay to create an Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible dog run and separate the adult exercise equipment from the children’s play equipment, primarily to discourage residents from the nearby shelters from congregating near where children play. But residents also said that the amount of tree cover in some areas of the park encourages shady behavior and had been hoping that the design would take more of this into account, possibly by opening up the park and removing some of the fences.

“I recall a conversation that one of the goals was to keep it more open so that the transient population wouldn’t stay there,” Kips Bay resident Karen Keavey said. “I know we have limited funds but I don’t see any changes to how the park is now. What we’ve been talking about is the entire ethos and vibe of the park so it’s more user-friendly and safe.”

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Garodnick endorses Epstein

(Pictured) Former Council Member Dan Garodnick with Harvey Epstein

By Sabina Mollot

On Wednesday, former City Council Member Dan Garodnick announced his support for Harvey Epstein, who’s running for the Assembly seat vacated by State Senator Brian Kavanagh.

“I’ve known Harvey Epstein for years and have personally witnessed his leadership in fighting for tenants and seniors — especially his advocacy for Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village,” said Garodnick,

“Not only was he responsible for supervising my office’s free tenant hotline over the past decade, but his work on the Rent Guidelines Board led to the historic two-year rent freeze. It is important that we have elected officials who understand the community’s needs and the government process and I am confident that Harvey will be a real asset in Albany.”

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Kips Bay dog run opens unofficially

Pooches play at an unfinished dog run at Bellevue South Park. (Photo by Aaron Humphrey)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Pooch owners in Kips Bay celebrated the opening of a temporary dog run in Bellevue South Park earlier this month after having pushed for the run for years. Neighborhood group KBK9 announced on its Facebook page on December 16 that the temporary run had been opened since the double gate was fully installed that week. The spot for the temporary run is an already fenced-in area adjacent to the basketball courts near the East 26th Street end of the park. Community advocates have been pushing for a fully ADA-compliant dog run in the space and while the temporary version is not accessible, the completed run will be once renovations are finished.

Dog owners using the park on Wednesday morning said they were grateful for the run’s opening, since they don’t want to have to take their dogs too far from home now that winter’s begun. Karen Keavey lives two blocks from Bellevue South and said that the next closest dog run is Madison Square Park, which is at least a 20-minute walk, whereas Bellevue South is a four-minute walk for her and her puggle, Louis.

“This has changed my life,” Keavey said. “It’s good for the park that this has opened up. It brings a different element in.”

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East Village street co-named for men who died in explosion

Alfredo Locon, the brother of Moises Locon, speaks at the ceremony while flanked by local elected officials. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Two men killed in the gas explosion on Second Avenue at East 7th Street in 2015 have been memorialized with a street co-naming on the block.

The new signs up at the location designate East 7th Street between Second and Third Avenues as “Moises Locon Way” and the block of Second Avenue between East 7th and 8th Streets as “Nicholas Figueroa Way.”

On October 14, City Council Member Rosie Mendez held a ceremony to announce to unveil the sign, attended by family members of Locon and Figeuroa.

Moises Locon’s brother, Alfredo, was at the event and read a letter from his seven-year-old daughter, Stephanie.

“I miss you and my dad is so sad,” she said in her letter. “We have you in our heart.”

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Powers and Rivera win big in City Council race

 

Council Member-elect Keith Powers, pictured outside Peter Cooper Village on Tuesday morning with his mother Barbara and Council Member Dan Garodnick (Photo courtesy of Dan Garodnick)

Council Member-elect Carlina Rivera (center) with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer on Tuesday (Photo courtesy of Gale Brewer)

By Sabina Mollot

After a citywide general election that proved to be hotly contested in local City Council races but somewhat lackluster in the mayoral department, the results were in on Tuesday night, with all sought after positions remaining solidly Democrat.

Based on unofficial results provided by the New York City Board of Elections, Keith Powers and Carlina Rivera will be the next City Council members, replacing the term-limited Dan Garodnick and Rosie Mendez, respectively.

Democrat Rivera won with wide margins in District 2, receiving 82.86 percent of the vote. Republican and Rent is 2 Damn High Party’s Jimmy McMillan got 11.58 percent of the vote. Liberal Party’s Jasmin Sanchez got 2.02 percent. Libertarian Party’s Don Garrity got 1.73 percent. Green Party’s Manny Cavaco got 1.56 percent. There were also 59 write-ins (0.26 percent) out of 23,047 people voting in the race.

Democrat Powers also won easily with 57.09 percent of the vote in District 4. Republican Rebecca Harary came in second with 30.75 percent. The tally also includes votes for the candidate through the other lines she ran on, Women’s Equality, Reform and Stop de Blasio. Liberal Party’s Rachel Honig got 12.06 percent. There were also 26 write-ins (0.1 percent) out of 27,511 people voting.

Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, as was widely predicted, got Daniel Squadron’s abandoned downtown Senate seat, receiving 84.86 percent of the vote. Republican candidate Analicia Alexander got 14.68 percent. This means Kavanagh’s District 74 Assembly seat, which includes Stuyvesant Town and Waterside, is now vacant. A few local Democrats have already expressed interest.

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Who’s on the ballot in Council race

By Sabina Mollot

Tuesday, November 7 is Election Day for citywide races that include mayor, comptroller, district attorney, public advocate and City Council as well as borough president. Local races of interest however are really limited to the Council due to the open seats in Districts 2 and 4.

Town & Village has previously interviewed all the candidates in those two Council races, except District 2 Libertarian Donald Garrity, who couldn’t be reached. But for those still on the fence about who to vote for, read on for a cheat sheet on who’s on the ballot.

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Mayor: Bellevue South Park getting $3.5M for upgrades

Mayor Bill de Blasio with Councilmember Rosie Mendez at last week’s town hall meeting for residents of Gramercy, Kips Bay, the East Village and Lower East Side (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Long requested improvements to Bellevue South Park, including a dog run, will be getting made, thanks to an infusion of $3.5 million in funding announced by the mayor.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the allocation of cash during a town hall hosted by Councilmember Rosie Mendez last Thursday for her constituents in Gramercy, Kips, Bay, the East Village and the Lower East Side.

“This is a park that Councilmember Mendez has put resources into as well as the borough president and Councilmember Garodnick,” the mayor said. “We’ll be able to add a dog run, upgrade the plaza and add a large play area.”

Natalie Grybauskas, a representative for the mayor’s office, added that the renovations also include upgrades to the basketball court, but could not provide specifics on the exact scope of the project, including where in the park the dog run will be located.

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Mendez mulling a run for Kavanagh’s Assembly seat

Councilmember Rosie Mendez (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

With Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh having recently secured the party support he needed to secure the Democratic nomination for Daniel Squadron’s downtown seat, term-limited Council Member Rosie Mendez said she’s looking into the possibility of running for Kavanagh’s Assembly seat.

Prior to the primary for City Council and other citywide races, Mendez said she hadn’t had time to focus on the race. But now, she said, she can.

“It’s something I will look into now that we are through with the primary,” she said on Sunday afternoon, after the unveiling of Children’s Court Way street co-naming in Gramercy.

In September, Kavanagh secured the nod to get on the ballot through support of Brooklyn and Manhattan party bosses, rather than individual county committee members having their votes counted — or even getting to vote at all in Brooklyn, which makes up part of the Senate district. This strong-arm tactic, while criticized by more than a few people, was the legal alternative to a primary, which Squadron’s hasty departure from the legislature left no time for.

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Mendez hosting town hall with the mayor on October 12

Council Member Dan Garodnick with Mayor Bill de Blasio at a recent town hall (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

If you missed the recent town hall with Mayor Bill de Blasio hosted by Council Member Dan Garodnick, you can still share your thoughts with the mayor at another town hall on October 12 at 7 p.m. to be hosted by Council Member Rosie Mendez.

The event is intended for residents of the Council District 2, encompassing the neighborhoods of East Village, Gramercy Park, Kips Bay, Lower East Side, Murray Hill and Rose Hill. Along with Mendez, co-sponsors are Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Community Boards 2, 3, 5 and 6, Grand Street Settlement, Henry Street Settlement and the Loisaida Center. Along with the mayor, commissioners and NYPD representatives will be present.

To attend, RSVP by October 10 at 5 p.m. via email at manhattantownhall@cityhall.nyc.gov or by calling (212) 788-2781. Space is limited. Doors open at 6 p.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. at P.S. 188 The Island School, 442 East Houston Street. (Enter on corner of East Houston Street and Baruch Drive.)

Mendez, in an email to constituents, has also mentioned the following rules: Each constituent who is called on to ask a question will be able to ask one question. No signs will be permitted into the event. Chanting is not allowed.

 

Gramercy block is co-named for former Children’s Court building

(Pictured L-R) Some of the project committee members gather at the sign unveiling: Claude L. Winfield; Judge Andrea Masley; Lois Rakoff; Tiffany Townsend; Dr. Samuel D. Albert; Louise Dankberg; Molly Hollister; Michelle Deal Winfield; Dr. David Christy, provost of Baruch College; and Council Member Rosie Mendez (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Sunday afternoon, a crowd of around 30 people, mostly community activist types, gathered at the northwest corner of East 22nd Street and Third Avenue for a ceremony to co-name the block “Children’s Court Way.”

The project was in the works for the past two years, and was the idea of East Midtown Plaza resident Michelle Deal Winfield.

The Children’s Court used to be located on East 22nd Street, in what is now home to Baruch College’s Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute. Today, there is just a bit of lingering evidence as to what the building’s prior purpose was, like the marble water drinking fountain built specifically for a child’s height, as well as some of the stairs in the building that are four and a half inches high instead of the standard eight.

According to Gramercy: Its Architectural Surroundings, a book published by the Gramercy Neighborhood Associates in 1996, a court for children was first established in Manhattan in the former Department of Public Charities Building on Third Avenue and 11th Street. This was in response to a push by reformers to treat juvenile delinquents differently from adult criminals and take their family circumstances into account. However, this court, a division of The Court of Special Sessions, was still required by law to treat children in the same manner as adults.

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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.

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.”

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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.”

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