Mayor grilled on garage

Council Member Dan Garodnick and Mayor Bill de Blasio at a town hall on Tuesday (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

On Tuesday, the mayor was grilled about the proposed sanitation garage for East 25th Street by neighbors who attended a town hall.

The hotly-contested issue was the topic of discussion at numerous Community Board 6 meetings when it was first announced in 2012 but the plan has stalled in the last two years, and Mayor de Blasio said at the town hall, which was also hosted by Council Member Dan Garodnick, that the issue will be reviewed again once the next term for City Council begins.

“The fundamental problem is that the facilities are concentrated in Lower Manhattan so we need some kind of facility to serve this area and so far this seems like the most viable site,” he said. “But there should be a real conversation about what the community needs.”

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Some East Midtown Plaza shareholders launch new effort to turn complex private

East Midtown Plaza resident Jeanne Poindexter, who is staunchly against privatizing the property (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

East Midtown Plaza resident Jeanne Poindexter, who is staunchly against privatizing the property (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Mitchell-Lama cooperative East Midtown Plaza is once again beginning the process to go private with a vote happening this Thursday evening.

The vote will be held at a special meeting that was called because the co-op’s board received a petition from more than 250 shareholders who support privatization. The property has been through this process in the past, with the last attempt at privatization resulting in a court case that sided with co-operators who were against the privatization, with a final decision made in November, 2012. Privatizing would allow residents to sell their homes at a profit. The special meeting this Thursday, which will be held at the NYU Dental School, is only open to shareholders.

The vote this Thursday is the first of three successive votes that shareholders will participate in to determine if the property will go private, and is for a feasibility study on whether or not the plan to go private is viable. The first vote only requires a simple majority of 51 percent of those who attend the meeting but the second and third votes require a two-thirds majority of all shareholders, rather than just those who show up at the meeting. The second vote is required to be held at least a year later where shareholders vote on a proposed offering plan on whether or not to continue to the next step. If the second vote passes, a “Black Book” offering plan is filed with the Attorney General, which proposes the form of a privatized co-op and the third vote, at least another year later, is taken on the completed, accepted and filed cooperative structure. If this vote passes, the property can privatize.

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2015: A look back

A coyote (not the one pictured) was spotted in Stuyvesant Town in January.

A coyote (not the one pictured) was spotted in Stuyvesant Town in January.

By Sabina Mollot

Capped with yet another sale of Stuyvesant Town — this time with the highest price tag ever at $5.45 billion — 2015 was certainly an eventful year for the community.

Town & Village has taken a look back to find the top ten local events of the year.

1. The highly anticipated sale of course was a big one, with the deal being cheered as part of Mayor de Blasio’s campaign platform promise to preserve or build 200,000 units of affordable housing. The sale to new owners The Blackstone Group came as welcome news to many tenants due to its representatives’ willingness to listen to tenant concerns as well as a commitment to preserve 5,000 units of affordable housing. While for others — specifically, tenants in the other 6,200-plus units, the deal simply maintains the status quo of stabilized status with market rate tents. Blackstone has promised additional announcements early in the New Year, which hopefully will include a decision, made in cooperation with the city, of how people can get a lease to the affordable units as they become available.

2. Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, while always known as a bird sanctuary and a habitat for the world’s most well-fed squirrels, also managed to attract the attention of a coyote. The young female coyote, named Stella by Parks reps who rescued her, had been found wandering around the Avenue C side of the property near the Con Ed plant. She was captured by police officers, and then later released by the Parks department into a wooded area in the Bronx.

A Parks official T&V interviewed about the incident said that coyote sightings in the city are becoming more common, and she expected that this trend would only continue. Just a couple of weeks prior to the Stuy Town sighting, another coyote was found in Riverside Park, and in 2011, another coyote had wandered into Tribeca.

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Coalition formed against sanit garage

The Brookdale site as seen from Waterside (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

The Brookdale site as seen from Waterside (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Tenant groups against the proposed sanitation garage at the Brookdale campus organized themselves just in time for another public scoping hearing that took place at the site of proposed facility on Wednesday.

 The Brookdale Neighborhood Coalition announced their formation on Tuesday in the form of a press release. The individual tenant organizations have been fighting the construction of the garage since it was announced almost three years ago but this is the first time that the groups have officially come together to oppose the plan. The coalition consists of the tenant associations at Waterside Plaza, Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, East Midtown Plaza and the Kips Bay Neighborhood Association.

The Economic Development Corporation had invited community members to provide their input on the project through a working group, but this venture was designed to discuss plans for the bookend sites, not the garage itself.

Janet Handal, president of the Waterside Tenants Association, said that many members of the community were hopeful and then quickly discouraged by the purpose of the working group because most people primarily wanted to discuss how to prevent the garage and talking about the outer parcels was less of a priority.

“(DSNY) said the time to talk about the garage would be at public meetings so we organized after last public meeting and decided we would be more effective as one voice,” Handal said.

The coalition aims to keep higher standards for the DSNY in terms of its requirements for the projected studies that the department will be conducting and a formal response will be released on July 22. At that time, the coalition will outline its concerns on pedestrian safety, traffic, air quality and other issues.

Tenants are concerned about the fact that DSNY says a public health analysis of the project is not warranted.

“When you start looking at the data, Gramercy has the worst health

quality and that’s from the mayor’s own portal,” Handal said. “DSNY says, ‘well, we use ultra clean diesel,’ but that does not do anything with the fine particulate matter. The filters on the trucks reduce that pollution by 90 percent, which is good, but that’s not all of it so you have a net increase of pollution. The devil is in the details, as they say.”

Other issues that the coalition is worried about involve pedestrian safety, especially because of the area’s proximity to a number of schools, in addition to the multiple residential housing complexes. Traffic is another concern: according to data from the city website for Vision Zero, there is a high density of traffic-related incidents in the area and there was a 30 percent increase in collisions from 2009 to 2014.

“When you go back and think about what Mayor de Blasio’s goals were with Vision Zero, the first responsibility of government is to protect its citizens,” Handal said. “How is that happening here?”

The group is also hoping to highlight some points that they feel the draft EIS has missed in terms of comprehensive analysis of the garage’s impact, including the identification of alternative locations and not adequately studying the health hazards.

The last public scoping hearing, which was scheduled for July 15 (after T&V’s press time), was meant to gather comments that will be incorporated into the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Residents will get a 30-day period in which to respond and then the final Environmental Impact Statement will be released. Handal said that she’s not optimistic that DSNY is open to a discussion addressing all of the community’s concerns, but she has been motivated by her investigation into the hazards to keep trying anyway.

“I sometimes get lulled into the notion of a kinder, gentler garage,” she admitted, “but when I do the research it’s so upsetting because we’re right next door.”

A spokesperson from the DSNY was not immediately available for comment on the coalition.

Neighbors still feel ‘steamrolled’ by plans for sanitation garage

Attendees at Monday’s meeting, including Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal (above right) expressed their concerns about the sanitation garage that’s expected to be be built at the CUNY Brookdale site. Photo by Daryl Baurer

Attendees at Monday’s meeting expressed their concerns about the sanitation garage that’s expected to be be built at the CUNY Brookdale site. (Photo by Daryl Baurer)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Almost 200 residents living in the area around the Brookdale Campus where a sanitation garage has been proposed expressed their frustration on Monday night when the Department of Sanitation and the Economic Development Corporation continued to move forward with the plans, hosting a public scoping hearing on the draft Environmental Impact Statement.

While some of the aggravation stemmed from the lack of notice for the recent hearing, as well as the location on East 17th Street and Second Avenue, an inconvenient venue for the many Waterside Plaza residents who wanted to attend, many residents were primarily concerned that plans for the garage were going ahead with little consideration for the community’s objections.

Terence O’Neal, who is chair of the Community Board 6 Land Use and Waterfront committee but who submitted his testimony at the hearing as an individual and not a representative of CB6, said he was frustrated that the draft EIS failed to mention any of the work the community board has done in looking at alternate sites and alternative solutions.

“While the working group from EDC is prominently mentioned, the city planner that the community board hired is glaringly left out,” he said. “When a community takes its time and energy and its own funding, it’s telling that the city agency doesn’t even mention the study. One would hope this oversight doesn’t reflect their opinion of the study and we hope our comments given tonight are taken seriously.”

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Letters to the Editor, May 28

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

If we knew then what we know now…

To the editor:

There is an absolute absurdity that keeps circulating in the halls of banality. Its primary function is to deflect responsibility for the actions of our nation, our people and our leaders and the press. It resurfaced a few weeks back with Jeb Bush and Mrs. Clinton, and again, recently, in NPR’s Brian Lehrer and All Things Considered, on Sunday, May 24 — but make no mistake, it is not limited to Mrs. Clinton, the Bushes and NPR’s people. So here it is: “If we knew then, what we know now…” (Finish with: “would we have invaded Iraq?”)

It is an American tragedy that the question was formed. It shows an induced loss of memory among those of us who are over 60, and ignorance on the part of everyone else.

So let’s go back to the Eisenhower years, specifically, May 1, 1960. That was the day one of our U2s was shot down twelve miles above the Soviet Union — we were stunned that the Russians had that ability. Recall its pilot, Gary Powers… put on display by Khrushchev to the utter embarrassment of President Eisenhower who could no longer deny our flying over Russia. I leave it to the reader to figure out what one of our high altitude U2 planes (hint) with cameras was doing over Russia. (End episode I.)

Let’s go forward to October, 1962. President Kennedy is on television. He is explaining the identity of objects and the significance of shadows in an 8 x10 photo of the ground in Cuba. The photo was taken by our aircraft flying over Cuba. Kennedy was about to take serious action and he wanted the American people to know why he was going to take the actions he was about to take: blockade Cuba and demand the removal of Russian missiles. (End episode II.)

Suffice now to recall that during the 50 years of the cold-war, we and the Soviets developed sophisticated technology with which to photograph each other’s country. On CBS news, Walter Cronkite described our technological capacity to photograph from space a pack of cigarettes in a man’s shirt.
The great advance in our ability to photograph the ground from space came with satellites whose speed would keep them over the same spot on Earth. We and the Russians knew every square inch of everything that was the other’s.

Let’s move ahead to 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003. George Bush is President of The United States.

Over the years, our media has served the wrong sets of questions. Rather than demanding: “Given our technology, how could we not have known about WMD in Iraq?” it insisted that while we know now, maybe, just maybe, back then maybe we did not know. But what we know now, we don’t know only now. We are not in a privileged position now compared to back then.

Sending our troops running around in the desert on wild goose chases established nothing new. What we know now is precisely what we knew back then.

John M. Giannone, ST

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Former Community Board chair running for Civil Court judge

Lyle Frank (Photo courtesy of the candidate)

Lyle Frank (Photo courtesy of the candidate)

By Sabina Mollot

An East Midtown Plaza resident and former chair of Community Board 6 is now turning his attention towards public office. Lyle Frank, an attorney who works for the City Council, is running for Civil Court judge for the second municipal court district. His campaign was officially kicked off last week with a fundraising party at the Stuy Town home of Tilden Club President Mark Thompson.

Frank, who’s also from Stuy Town originally, has lived at EMP for 38 years, now raising his six-year-old twins Gavin and Catherine there with his wife, Elyssa Kates. She, too, is an attorney, with the firm BakerHostetler.

This week, Frank spoke with Town & Village about his campaign, and how his desire to become a judge was inspired by his father, Louis, who was also a judge.

“I’m very fortunate that the jobs I’ve had I’ve enjoyed,” said Frank, “but my father was an administrative law judge. He handled a lot of workers’ compensation cases; these were people who got hurt on the job, and he had a great temperament and he was everything you’d want in a judge.”

That’s when Frank realized serving as a judge was “just a great job and very rewarding. It’s just a dream of mine.”

He also believes he’s the right person for the job, meeting a requirement of at least 10 years of experience as an attorney (he’s got over 17), including seven as an arbitrator, helping many cases get concluded in Small Claims Court.

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Changes to sanit. garage plan aired

Area residents still against proposal, DSNY shoots down CB6’s suggested alternative sites

The Brookdale campus, the city’s proposed site for the sanitation garage. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

The Brookdale campus, the city’s proposed site for the sanitation garage. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community residents and members of Community Board 6 were packed in at an unusually well-attended Land Use and Waterfront committee meeting last Wednesday to hear a presentation from the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) and the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) on some of the new plans for the Brookdale Campus at East 25th Street and First Avenue.

The EDC first became involved in the project last year due to the protesting from the community and elected officials, demanding a more comprehensive plan for the site. EDC is now working with DSNY on the project, but DSNY is still the lead agency for the garage proposal, which encompasses the middle section of the site. EDC is the lead agency on the development of the bookend parcels of the site and will be working with the community to come up with options for the development of that property. The EDC has also formed a working group to address possibilities for the bookend property of the site, consisting of community board members, elected officials, residents and other community advocates, which will first meet on February 23 and it will be holding up to eight additional meetings through the end of April.

The most recent meeting on the garage, which itself was held inside one of the buildings at the Brookdale Campus, was mainly an opportunity for the DSNY to come before the committee and the public and discuss changes to its proposal for the garage. It is the first time since a previous meeting in June, 2013, also held in the auditorium at Brookdale, that DSNY has publicly spoken about the proposal and it is the first time the EDC has come to one of the committee meetings specifically to address the proposed sanitation garage.

This particular meeting had also been postponed a number of times due to scheduling and weather, but when the two agencies got through their respective presentations, the consensus among the residents was no different than at meetings in the past: we don’t want this garage in our community.

Kate Van Tassel, Vice President of the EDC, wasn’t able to get through much of her presentation before being interrupted by an angry resident who said that he was sick of hearing the same thing from the city about the garage proposal and was upset that the construction of the garage would mean giving up a viable housing facility. Van Tassel explained that this presentation was actually new, and did offer different options for community space on the bookend parcels such as affordable housing, which has not been discussed at previous meetings on the garage, but all of the plans were working under the assumption that the sanitation garage would still be located in the middle portion of the property.

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The Soapbox: Polystyrene food ware can cause serious health risks

Town & Village is proud to present “The Soapbox,” a column featuring a different voice from the neighborhood each week (space providing). All are welcome to submit columns on the topic of the author’s choice, preferably not longer than 800 words, to editor@townvillage.net.

By Michelle Deal Winfield

After reading that New York City has decided to ban polystyrene, I decided to lend my voice to the discussion. I will focus on the impact of polystyrene on human health.

Years ago, my husband was provided a polystyrene cup with hot tea and lemon. As the lemon wedge rested on the side of the cup, a hole visibly appeared. That was the first time my family and I became aware of the possible hazards of polystyrene products. That was in 1984.

Migration of Styrene occurs when foods containing acids, fat and/or alcohol, leech into the foods, more quickly when foods or drinks are hot.

Hospitals use polystyrene products. Inpatients in hospitals do not have a choice. Some of the patients are our most vulnerable populations in our community. When food is served on polystyrene products, the hazardous chemicals may cause the following health problems:

Fatigue
Nervousness
Lack of concentration
Difficulty sleeping
Mucous membrane and eye irritation
Depression
Hearing loss

These symptoms are often attributed to seniors.

Styrene is a volatile organic compound (VOC). The damage is cumulative.

In June 11, 2011, the U.S. federal government placed polystyrene on their “Cancer Risk list.” Similarly, in the 1990s hospitals stopped using latex gloves because irritations to people were discovered. Hospital boards moved ahead of the curve to protect their patients.

Therefore, I am calling on all hospitals, nursing facilities and senior centers to stand tall and immediately initiate policies to rid their closets and storerooms of polystyrene food service ware. Furthermore, I urge New York City not to grant hospitals, nursing facilities and senior centers exemptions from the policy to ban polystyrene products. I too, welcome the ban on foam.

Michelle Deal Winfield, is a community activist and resident of East Midtown Plaza.

Seniors attend East Midtown Plaza forum on emergency preparedness

Seniors in attendance at the event held on Tuesday by the Office of Emergency Management and CERT volunteers (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Seniors in attendance at the event held on Tuesday by the Office of Emergency Management and CERT volunteers
(Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

With the worst of hurricane season yet to come, since activity in the Atlantic picks up the most from August through October, the Office of Emergency Management offered a presentation for the East Midtown Plaza senior committee last Tuesday evening.

John Greenwood, a Human Services Planning Specialist for the OEM, and members of Community Board 6’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) explained the importance of emergency preparedness for seniors, including evacuation protocol in the event of a disaster and the new hurricane zones, at the monthly meeting. Greenwood noted that the hurricane guide changed after Hurricane Sandy and that instead of three lettered zones, there are now six numbered zones.

Committee co-chair Jeanne Poindexter added that the buildings East Midtown Plaza are in three different evacuation zones and that any of the buildings located on First Avenue are highly susceptible to flooding.

Jeanne Poindexter, East Midtown Plaza senior committee co-chair

Jeanne Poindexter, East Midtown Plaza senior committee co-chair

The new hurricane maps, which were made available at the meeting, are also available online or zones can be found out by calling 311 and Greenwood said that although they’re not the most pleasant place, it’s important for residents to know where the evacuation centers are as well, which are also noted on the maps.

“They’re just a giant room with cots and the food isn’t the greatest, but it’s good to know where they are in case you have to go,” he said.

He added that pets are allowed in all of the evacuation centers and Baruch College is the closest handicap accessible facility that functions as an evacuation center. There are 10 facilities throughout the city that are handicap accessible and meet all the ADA requirements but Greenwood said they haven’t been noted on the map yet. Greenwood noted that one of the reasons for the changes in zones is money.

“The mayor is the only one who can make the call for evacuations but it’s a multimillion dollar decision,” he said. “With the changes in the zones, there are now less people per zone so it won’t encompass as many residents if evacuations have to take place.”

Jeanne Poindexter, East Midtown Plaza senior committee co-chair

Jeanne Poindexter, East Midtown Plaza senior committee co-chair

Greenwood also told the seniors at the meeting that it’s important to have an emergency plan and to fill out the “Ready New York” packets that detail important information for residents to have at hand in case of an emergency, like contact phone numbers and any medical conditions. “That’s beneficial for you because if you show up at an evacuation center with this guide, they’ll have all the information already and can give you the best care if you need help,” he said.

Virginia Rosario, a member of the CB6 CERT and a resident of Stuyvesant Town, explained what her responsibilities are as a member of the team and how she is prepared to help other residents if disaster strikes. “We’ve been trained by the OEM and we’re only deployed when the office gives permission,” Rosario said. “We weren’t deployed during Hurricane Sandy because most of CB6 was down but some volunteers can help with things like bringing water to residents.”

Shareholders successfully fight opening of restaurant/bar at East Midtown Plaza

A vacant retail space at East Midtown Plaza (currently covered by a scaffolding) will remain vacant a bit longer. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

A vacant retail space at East Midtown Plaza (currently covered by a scaffolding) will remain vacant a bit longer. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
A taco restaurant and bar that had been close to signing a lease at East Midtown Plaza has already made a run for the border.
Though initially hoping to move into a retail space last occupied by a Carvel shop and have outdoor seating for 40 people as well as 30 indoor seats, the owners of Cascabel Taqueria pulled out last week. The reason apparently was that the restaurant, which offers bottomless cocktails during brunch at its two uptown locations, would have been limited to a wine and beer license only and would have had to close earlier than its desired closing time of 1 a.m.
The limitations, recently imposed by EMP’s co-op board, came after a number of tenants blasted the plan to have any kind of bar operating outside on the area of the complex known as the triangle. This is currently a common area on East 24th Street and Second Avenue used by residents as well as the public. It’s a popular spot to have lunch when the weather permits it and there’s no alcohol drinking allowed there.
Residents were first made aware of the plan to open the restaurant, called Taco 1584, at a Community Board 6 meeting last month when owners David Chiong and Elizabeth Gaudeau requested the board’s blessing for a liquor license.
Shelley Winfield, an EMP resident, told Town & Village she was at that meeting and told the owners she hadn’t heard about any restaurant coming. In response, she said the owners said the co-op complex’s board wanted them to sign a lease but first start the process of getting a liquor license.
Winfield voiced her opposition to the idea due to noise concerns and CB6’s Business Affairs and Street Activities committee instructed the owners to come back with ideas on how to mitigate concerns about noise. However, shortly before the meeting that was scheduled for Thursday, April 24, the restaurant’s application was pulled from the agenda.
Winfield later said that though she was opposed to a bar, she would welcome a restaurant. “The co-op benefits when the commercial spaces are leased.” Still, she recalled living in another apartment on the second floor within EMP nearby the proposed space and how “noises could be heard from the street.”
Another resident against the plan was John Small, who noted that the space Cascabel would have moved into was occupied by a bar decades ago, which, he said, caused problems with noise, transients coming through the complex at night and rowdiness.
And Cascabel, it seemed, would not have been any different. Along with the bottomless cocktails, the current locations already feature happy hours and flights of tequila. “They also,” said Small, “invite SantaCon attendees to come to their bars during the annual drunkfest.”
Also of concern to Small was that EMP’s co-op board initially didn’t want to discuss the plan for Taco 1584. Small said that at a recent co-op meeting, when the board’s president, Mark Andermanis, was asked about it, he said the matter would be discussed at a “closed meeting” between board members.
“They refused to answer questions,” said Small. The decision to impose restrictions on the restaurant’s operation, he added, was only done after shareholders started complaining and distributing fliers opposing its moving in.
Winfield, who served on the board of directors from 1996-1999, seemed to agree. “It appears the board shares information after everything is settled,” she said.
Andermanis wasn’t available for comment when T&V called him about the issue, but a member of EMP’s co-op board, Mala Mosher, confirmed that the deal with Cascabel’s owners was now officially off the table.
“Both parties agreed that they were not going to continue” in negotiations, said Mosher.
However, she said the lack of information given to tenants wasn’t intentional, but that when the talks began, the co-op board had not yet been presented with a detailed business plan. Once restrictions were brought up, “I don’t think it was doable for them,” she said.
In a letter to CB6 dated April 18, the board said it would have liked to see a license given with restrictions because the proposed space has been vacant for years and is hard to rent because of how small it is.
According to another shareholder, Jeanne Poindexter, the last tenant, Carvel, closed after its rent was doubled. Fortunately for EMP, she added, it’s currently the only vacant space in the Mitchell-Lama complex’s retail strip.
When asked for comment about the plans being scrapped, a manager at Cascabel Taqueria, who said she fields calls for the owner, claimed to have no knowledge of the proposal to open a location at East Midtown Plaza. Chiong and Gaudeau did not respond to the call from T&V. The restaurant, online, claims it has the best tacos in New York.

Op-Ed: History of local Sanitation Dept. garage

This op-ed was written by Lou Sepersky, the community historian for the 6th Community District. He was originally appointed to that position in 1999 by then-Borough President C. Virginia Fields and has been reappointed ever since.

EMS ambulance on East 26th Street (approximately where the garage would be built)

Town & Village’s page one story (Sept. 20) on the proposed construction of a Department of Sanitation (DoS) garage on 26th Street east of First Avenue, on the Bellevue Hospital Center campus, has a very definite Town & Village root. And a lesson that needs to be learned for future public projects.

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