Mayor Bill de Blasio hands out fliers regarding COVID-19 preparedness in Union Square last Monday. (Photo by Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Mayor Bill de Blasio and health officials provided updates about the city’s response and approach to the coronavirus at Bellevue Hospital on Tuesday, with the mayor noting that the city is working to keep the public informed but emphasizing that information has been changing rapidly.
“I think we can all say with coronavirus we have rarely seen a situation that started with people not even understanding the disease to begin with because it was brand new – that’s been the whole international community, the medical community,” de Blasio said. “We’ve all had to learn by doing and our understanding of the best approaches keeps evolving, so you will hear change because the information is changing. But we are still in the middle of a fight right now.”
The mayor also emphasized that while the government is working to protect New Yorkers and prevent the spread of the virus, residents can help with their own actions.
“Everyone has to participate from those basic things, washing your hands, hand sanitizer, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze onto the kinds of decisions we make in our life, starting with being very sensitive to the vulnerable people,” he said. “We have seen this over and over again. It’s very consistent all over the world.”
Those in attendance at the meeting last Tuesday sat at tables while the pros and cons of each option for the project were discussed. (Pictured) Guests seated before the presentation began (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Neighborhood residents recently learned that the East River may be getting a new elevated park along with flood protection. The discussion about the park took place at the most recent workshop for the East Side Coastal Resiliency project, held at the Stein Senior Center last Tuesday. Representatives from the mayor’s office and BIG U, the winning design firm in the Rebuild by Design competition in 2013, said that this type of flood protection was one of the most popular with residents, according to feedback from the community at the previous workshop in May.
Carrie Grassi, senior policy adviser at the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, also discussed the three options for flood protection in the area along the East River between 14th and 23rd Streets, which includes a berm, which would have a park on top, a flood wall or a deployable, and noted that community members saw the advantages of all three depending on the area.
The area along the river from 14th to 23rd is known as Project Area 2 and Project Area 1 extends south from 14th Street to Montgomery Street. The workshops have been split along these boundaries to focus more on the specific needs of each area.
Grassi noted that there is a need for compromise when considering different characteristics even within each designated project area and the specifics of each kind of flood protection, and they’re hoping the workshops will help find the right balance for Project Area 2.
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)
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.”
Below is a list of a few upcoming events for community residents:
Go bag (Image courtesy of the NYC Office of Emergency Management)
Emergency preparedness meeting
An meeting on emergency preparedness will be held Thursday, November 20, 6-8 p.m., at the High School for Health Professions and Human Services (old Stuyvesant High School), 345 East 15th Street, between First and Second Avenues. There is a disability entrance on 16th Street with an elevator to the main floor.
At the end of the session, attendees will get a free go-bag packed with items essential to have in an evacuation situation. Participants must register in advance at www.nyprepare.gov. To receive the go-bag participants must register and attend.
Tenants Association planning meet for December 6
A general meeting of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association will be held in the auditorium of Middle School 104, East 20th Street between First and Second Avenues, on Saturday, December 6 at 1 p.m. Doors will open at 12:30 p.m, and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. More details will be provided at a later date.
Cub Scout Pack 422 holding food drive on Sunday
Cub Scout Pack 422 is holding food drive on Sunday, November 16 to benefit New York Gospel Mission which is an organization dedicated to feeding our local men, women and children from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
The drive will take place at Trader Joe’s at 14th Street, just West of Third Avenue.
Most requested non-perishable items are: canned vegetables, pasta, canned fruits, rice, canned fish, baby food, canned soup, crackers, boxed macaroni & cheese, dried fruit and nuts, cereal and juice.
The Cub Scouts will be in front of Trader Joe’s to help with food selection or to even shop for your donation.
Stuy Town holding holiday season food drive, coat drive
The management of Stuyvesant Town is asking residents to donate to two community drives, a coat drive that will benefit New York Cares and a food drive benefiting City Harvest.
For the food drive, nonperishable foods such as canned and boxed goods will be accepted through December 17. The items will then be distributed by City Harvest to over 500 community food programs.
For the coat drive, gently used coats and jackets for adults and children will be accepted through December 26. The coats will be distributed to New Yorkers most in need by New York Cares through local churches, schools and shelters.
The dropoff point for both drives is the Stuyvesant Town management office at 276 First Avenue.
This will also be the dropoff point for the Town & Village holiday toy drive benefiting Beth Israel, with donations being accepted through December 12.
For local entertainment events such as concerts, theater, comedy, children’s activities and art exhibits, see our Around & About section. For listings of free events happening throughout the city this week, see Cutting Corners. For health and fitness events such as screenings, support meetings and classes, see our Health and Fitness section. To see what’s going on service and program-wise at different houses of worship, see our Religion in the Community section.
Mural of fifteen environmentalists created by girls of the Lower Eastside Girls Club
As world leaders convene in New York City next week for a United Nations Summit on Climate Change, more than one hundred thousand people are expected to attend a mass demonstration demanding action on the climate crisis. Organized by a coalition of over 1,200 environmental, labor, faith, and business groups, The People’s Climate March will be held this Sunday, September 21. The march comes less than two years after Superstorm Sandy caused more than $65 billion in damage along the east coast and as the world continues to experience extreme weather events including severe drought in California and the worst flooding South Asia has encountered in more than a century, all of which scientist consensus increasingly links to manmade climate change.
Residents of East Lower Manhattan, along with neighborhood organizations such as Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), are campaigning to get their neighbors to join the march, which will start at 11:30 a.m. on Central Park West and proceed south through midtown.
“During Hurricane Sandy, the stretch from E. 20th Street to E. 34th Street was under over six feet of water,” said Stuyvesant Town resident and organizer Lucy Block. “As climate change continues, NYC will face more extreme weather events. As a young person, I’m fighting for my future.”
“After years of organizing to protect our community from unjust housing policies and bad landlords, surviving Hurricane Sandy taught us that we would also have to protect our community from the impacts of climate change,” said Demaris Reyes, Executive Director of GOLES. “We know that climate change disproportionately impacts low-income communities of color, and capping greenhouse emissions is an huge step to prevent more disasters like Sandy and protect our community.”
Area organizations that have signed up as partners of the Climate March include the New School, the Sara Roosevelt Park Community Coalition, the Sixth Street Center, La Plaza Cultural, 9BC Tompkins Square Block Association and the NYC Community Garden Coalition.
Benjamin Tressler, a resident of Kips Bay, said, “The march is just the start. We have to keep up the pressure on our government and corporations – but we also have to do more as individuals and as communities to reduce our carbon footprint, conserve energy, and turn from dirty fossil fuels to clean renewable power.”
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
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
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.”
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Borough President Gale Brewer, Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Council Member Daniel Garodnick and Community Board 6 invite you to participate in the New York State’s Citizen Preparedness Training Program.
The program will take place on Tuesday, August 12th 2014 at 7 p.m. at United Nations International School (UNIS), 24-50 FDR Drive (just North of 23rd Street).
Through the Citizen Preparedness Corps Training Program, approximately 100,000 New Yorkers will be provided with the tools and resources to prepare for emergencies and disasters, respond accordingly, and recover as quickly as possible to pre-disaster conditions.
Trainings participants (one per family) will receive a free Citizen Preparedness Corps Response Starter Kit, which includes:
– AM/FM pocket radio with batteries
– Regular flashlight
– Plastic drop cloth
– Light stick
– (2) D Batteries
– First Aid Kit
– Face mask
– Safety goggles
– (6) packs of drinking water
– (6) food bars
– Emergency blanket
– Duct tape
– Work gloves
– Water bottle
Council Member Rosie Mendez in front of her campaign office
By Sabina Mollot
Rosie Mendez, who’s served as City Council member for the second city district for the past eight years, is hoping voters will choose her on Primary Day, as she seeks a third term.
Mendez, who’s been tackling such issues as building neglect in public housing, disappearing affordable housing options in the district and more recently, plans for a sanitation garage on First Avenue that she opposes, said she’s running again because, “I love my job and I still have more to do. I don’t want to run for something else.”
On Monday, Mendez discussed her goals for the coming years if re-elected as well as ongoing projects at her campaign office on Avenue B and 11th Street, just down the block from where she lives.
In that area of Alphabet City, it’s hard to find a storefront that doesn’t have a campaign poster with either Mendez’s smiling face or Democratic rival Richard del Rio’s.
Del Rio has been critical of his opponent for running for a third term, but at her office, Mendez defended her position, saying that while she had been against overturning term limits for the mayor, she doesn’t feel the same way about other city legislative positions.
“My opponent and some people do not remember the whole process,” she said of the City Council’s move to overturn the term limits, which allowed Mayor Bloomberg to run for a third time.
The reason she said she feels a different policy should apply to the executive of City Hall from the rest of the elected officials, is that simply put, the mayor, with his staff, has outnumbered and outmaneuvered the Council, with theirs, at numerous turns and disagreements.
“Their staff was able to run circles around us,” she admitted. “We don’t have the staff with the experience to really get in and catch everything they’re hiding.”
At this point, Mendez is hoping the next mayor will be the Democratic candidate she’s endorsed, Speaker Christine Quinn. (Mendez also said she supports term limits for that position as well.)
However, Quinn, she believes, would be more sympathetic to tenants, and housing has for many years been the biggest challenge facing the district. This is particularly due to owners of regulated units opting out of the Mitchell-Lama and Section 8 programs and public housing being in a state of crisis with NYCHA having fallen seriously behind on repairs — around one million jobs. Additionally, at this point, the agency seems unsure where to go with a previously hatched “infill” plan to build market rate housing at existing low-income developments. As of last week, NYCHA went from asking developers from RFPs (requests for proposals) to RFIEs, requests for expressions of interest. Mendez said this week that she doesn’t want to see anything pop up that doesn’t have the support of tenants and isn’t entirely or mostly affordable housing. She also doesn’t want any new development at one of NYCHA’s proposed infill sites, Smith Houses, because of how it flooded during Hurricanes Irene and Sandy.
Council Member Rosie Mendez at Campos Plaza, where residents recently got a security camera system Photo by Sabina Mollot
Having grown up in Williamsburg Houses, the first public housing project to be built in Brooklyn, Mendez is no stranger to the problems of public housing.
Mendez said she is also not a supporter of the infill program because she doesn’t think the expected income from market rate units will cover the financial needs of the complex, but, she said, doing away with the $74 million NYCHA pays each year for police services would. The practice of paying the police, which private landlords do not, began in the Giuliani era. Mendez said she’s been pushing for the payments to end since she first came into office. While she is not enthusiastic about that happening any time soon, she has allocated $10 million in funding to NYCHA this coming fiscal year. Last year she did the same.
Mendez, who chairs the Council’s Public Housing Committee, said one thing she is considering — if constituents like the idea — is to get some affordable housing built specifically for seniors. Although well aware that it “takes funding to make,” she’s optimistic about the future under a new mayor, who, she hopes, would give owners incentives to maintain as well as build affordable housing beyond the standard 80/20 formula.
Priority one though for Mendez, if re-elected, would be to focus on a plan of action and preparation for the next Sandy-like disaster. After the superstorm hit, Mendez and her staff went to many buildings to check on the district’s most vulnerable residents, the elderly, sick and disabled. In some cases, this meant trudging up the stairs of high-rises to recharge residents’ motorized wheelchairs or bring them hot meals, medicine and buckets of water for drinking and flushing. With many residents having no water or just afraid to use what they’d saved, “It created an unhealthy and unsanitary situation,” said Mendez. By coordinating with local nonprofits such as GOLES and the Stein Senior Center, Mendez said she was able to meet the needs of those who were most in need while also not duplicating services offered by other agencies.
“It was multiple levels of triage to try to get to everyone so we wouldn’t have a tragedy,” she said, though she added that, “Unfortunately, we did have some tragedies.” One was a senior living at Kips Bay Court who had been carried down the stairs from her apartment on an upper floor, in her bed, as well as along with her oxygen tank, for medical help. The woman ended up not surviving although curiously, she wasn’t considered a Sandy casualty, with her death getting blamed on whatever condition she had. “It should count,” said Mendez.
Other problems were that at local emergency shelters, there weren’t enough cots for people who’d evacuated, and that those who remained behind in their homes were in many cases just unprepared for a blackout that lasted several days.
On education issues, Mendez has been opposed to many of the co-locations of schools in recent years and blasted the Panel for Education Policy as “rubber stampers” for approving the Department of Education’s co-location plans.
“I like to say I’m old school,” said Mendez. “When I went to school, a school was a building and a building was a school.”
From what Mendez has seen, the co-locations have led to principals having to put students’ issues on the back burner while trying to coordinate on who gets the library or rear yard at what time and schools not getting enough funding for arts, music and summer programs.
“I’ve been trying to supplement it with that much maligned discretionary funding,” she said. “It allows me to fund after school programs and during the day.”
Schools that have been on the receiving end of such funding include PS 110, PS 34, PS 40, PS 116, PS 188, PS 15 and MS 104, which recently used the money for a summer tennis clinic.
Other money from the discretionary funds has gone towards local nonprofits’ food pantry and hot meal programs. Mendez noted how on any given Saturday morning, at a church across the street from her campaign office, near the corner of Avenue B, the line for bags of food stretches outside almost down to Avenue A. “You’ll see anywhere from 200 to 400 people,” she said.
More recently, another issue that has been of concern to Mendez is the planned Brookdale campus sanitation garage. While located in City District 4, it would affect Mendez’s constituents living in East Midtown Plaza and Kips Bay. Mendez said she is mainly opposed to it because the garbage trucks would all be located in an area where “we’ve seen cars floating. If the trucks were to get flooded, there are pollutants and a lot of dirt and grime on them. I don’t know how the mayor justifies putting this right in the middle of hospital row, right in the middle of a flood zone. I think it’s very ill advised.”
On crime, Mendez said she believes the police force currently has too few officers due to a shrinking force, and while District 2, which covers the Lower East Side, the East Village, Alphabet City, Gramercy Park and Kips Bay, hasn’t seen the kind of crime it used to, there is still the occasional shootout, and noted Mendez, a spike in sexual assaults all around the city. She suggested that the city put “less money into consultants and more into our agencies.”
As far as quality of life issues is concerned, noise from bars has been an ongoing one though Mendez noted stipulations on hours venues can do business as well as fines issued by the State Liquor Authority against repeat offenders have helped to some degree. Another growing complaint has been evening noise from construction sites with developers applying for and getting variances to do construction from as early as 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mendez said she’s, in some specific cases, managed to get it “scaled back” though at other locations, late construction has persisted despite intervention from her office. She said she’ll continue to meet with the developers as well as the Department of Buildings.
Throughout her career in the City Council, Mendez said she considers her biggest accomplishments to be helping to save the Stein Senior Center, which has recently reopened in a new and improved location, preventing closures of daycare centers and in general, being responsive to individual concerns.
“Everything in politics is local,” she said, “so I’m proud of my track record with constituent services.”
Before her first run for office, Mendez graduated from New York University and Rutgers School of Law.
She began her career in politics as chief of staff to her predecessor in the Council, Margarita Lopez (now employed by NYCHA). Like Lopez, Mendez is openly gay and a champion for LGBT rights.