Lawsuit aims to stop L-pocalypse

Apr5 14th St coalition Schwartz Prentiss

Attorney Arthur Schwartz (pictured with Edith Prentiss, a disabled rights activist) says disabled commuters aren’t being considered, nor are the neighborhoods that will be dealing with chaotic traffic. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday morning, a coalition of neighborhood groups sued in a Manhattan Federal Court in an attempt to stop the planned L train shutdown starting a year from now. The suit accuses the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the city Department of Transportation and the Federal Transportation Administration of ignoring the needs of disabled riders along the L line, and disregarding the communities who’ll be dealing with constant congestion from diesel-spewing buses.

According to the attorney representing the groups, dubbed “the 14th Street Coalition,” Arthur Schwartz, the FTA “has failed to enforce compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) even though the nearly $1 billion project is being federally funded.” The MTA and DOT meanwhile, he said have failed to prepare a required Environmental Impact Statement, which he said would have compelled the agencies to be more responsive to community input.

The suit aims to halt the work as well as its federal funding until the plans do something about the lack of elevators in each L station and about the expected environmental impacts from substituting the L train with significantly expanded above ground mass transit.

The plan calls for creating a 14th Street “busway” between Third and Eighth Avenues going west and from Ninth to Third Avenues going east. Car traffic will not be able to cross anywhere along the busway. Access-A-Ride will be included along with emergency vehicles. The plan is to enforce these rules during “peak” hours. A constant fleet of shuttle buses will be traveling from Brooklyn to Manhattan over the Williamsburg Bridge and there will also be a protected bike lane on East 13th Street.

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Robber hitting drugstores in Manhattan

Robbery suspect

Cops are on the lookout for a man who’s been robbing drugstores in Union Square and in Greenwich Village as well as a Dunkin Donuts in The Bronx. The suspect, in each incident, has made employees believe he had a gun before demanding cash.

Police say the string of holdups started on the morning of Monday, December 18 when the man strolled into a CVS at 65 Fifth Avenue between 13th and 14th Street. He then threatened employees while simulating a gun inside his coat. The suspect helped himself to $150 from the register before running out.

On the evening of Tuesday, December 26, the man walked into a Walgreens at 145 Fourth Avenue near East 14th Street. He simulated a gun under his coat while threatening employees, this time getting away with $500 in cash.

Later that same evening, he did the same thing at a Dunkin Donuts at 513 East 138th Street. He swiped $1,700 from the register before fleeing the store into a subway station.

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Hoylman takes aim at ‘high rent blight’

Various empty storefronts in State Senator Brad Hoylman’s District, the subject of his recent study, “Bleaker on Bleecker” (Photo collage courtesy of Brad Hoylman)

By Sabina Mollot

State Senator Brad Hoylman, whose district includes Stuyvesant Town, Gramercy, Chelsea and Greenwich Village, recently conducted a study that found a high percentage of vacant storefronts in the district, with some retail corridors about 10 percent vacant and on Bleecker Street, a vacancy rate of 18.4 percent.

This is no breaking news to area residents of course; but the senator’s study “Bleaker on Bleecker,” which focuses on what’s been dubbed “high rent blight,” has led to his offering a few proposals to combat the problem.

In particular, the phenomenon of landlords of choosing to keep a space vacant “suggests waiting for Marc Jacobs instead of renting to Jane Jacobs,” the study quotes economist Tim Wu as saying.

The study also mentions the closure last year of the Chelsea Associated Supermarket, which had seen its $32,000 rent jump by $100,000. The now-shuttered store had the same owners as the Associated in Stuyvesant Town, the future of which is still murky.

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Bill would change how RGB calculates landlords’ costs

Rent Guidelines Board tenant members Sheila Garcia and Harvey Epstein (at podium) with Council Member Corey Johnson (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Rent Guidelines Board tenant members Sheila Garcia and Harvey Epstein (at podium) with Council Member Corey Johnson (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The City Council member representing Greenwich Village, Corey Johnson, has called on the mayor to reform the Rent Guidelines Board and eliminate the price index from the calculations used to determine the annual rent adjustments for stabilized tenants. Elected officials and tenant advocates joined Johnson at City Hall last Thursday to support his legislation on the matter because they say that the Price Index of Operating Costs (PIOC) does not accurately reflect the costs and revenues accrued by landlords, causing unfair increases for tenants.

The price index doesn’t measure what owners actually spend running buildings but instead estimates their costs based on changes in prices for goods and services, like utilities, without taking changes into account, like the weather. The price index also doesn’t measure any of the income received on the properties.

“The PIOC overestimates landlords’ expenses by as much as one third and doesn’t measure income,” Johnson said. “Tenants deserve a fair shot. The 2.5 million rent-stabilized tenants in New York deserve a metric that accounts for actual income and expenses.”

Mike McKee of TenantsPAC said that the price index study is “an enormous amount of work” and that there is nothing in the law that requires the board to use the data from the study in their decision.

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Local Halloween events for adults

(Pictured L-R) Elizabeth Barkan, Elena Shadrina and Charles Battersby as Eco-Witches in a skit for Theater for the New City’s Village Halloween Ball (Photo by Jonathan Slaff)

(Pictured L-R) Elizabeth Barkan, Elena Shadrina and Charles Battersby as Eco-Witches in a skit for Theater for the New City’s Village Halloween Ball (Photo by Jonathan Slaff)

Halloween is coming up, and while one could always head to a nightclub or the parade that evening there are other things for adults to do. Read on for details of a few local events.

Ghosts of Greenwich Village Tour—In the days leading up to Halloween (every evening at 7:30 p.m. until the 31st of October) Ghosts of New York presents “Edgar Allan Poe and His Ghostly Neighbors of Greenwich Village.” Participants will go in search of the spirits of Eleanor Roosevelt and her pet dog Fala, Aaron Burr, the ghosts of the New York University Library and of Washington Square Arch, and, of course, several Edgar Allan Poe sites.

Meeting place is 85 West Third Street, one block south of Washington Square Park between Thompson and Sullivan Streets, Greenwich Village in Manhattan opposite Fire Patrol Station no. 2. Tours are $20 for adults, $15 students and seniors. For more information or to book the tour, visit http://www.ghostsofny.com.

Ghosts of the East Village Tour—Ghosts of New York presents “Peter Stuyvesant and His Ghostly Friends of the East Village” tour on October 31 at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Participants will go in search of Peter Stuyvesant’s ghostly friends such as Edgar Allan Poe, August Belmont, Joe Papp, Washington Irving, Tredwell sisters of the Merchant House Museum, Samuel Clemens, Harry Houdini, and many others in the East Village.

This tour departs from the lion sculpture in Abe Lebewohl Park in front of St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, northwest corner of Second Avenue and 135 East Tenth Street. Tours are wheel-chair accessible, 90 minutes in duration, and approximately a mile in length. The cost is $20 for adults, $15 students and seniors. For more information, visit http://www.ghostsofny.com or call (646) 493-7092.

Theater for the New City Costume Ball and performances—Theater for the New City presents its 38th annual Village Halloween Costume Ball on Friday, October 31 at TNC, 155 First Avenue at 10th Street. The event takes over all four of TNC’s theater spaces, plus its lobby and the block of East Tenth Street between First and Second Avenues.

Hot Lavendar Swing Band, an all-Gay and Lesbian 18-piece orchestra, and Maquina Mono (The Monkey Machine), a Latin Salsa Rock band, will perform at The Johnson Theater. The theater will also have aerial dance by Suspended Cirque. Holiday dishes are contributed by neighboring East Village restaurants. There will be performance artists, songwriters, poets and variety artists including Phoebe Legere, Penny Arcade, Evan Laurence, Arthur Abrams, Norman Savitt, Richard West, Ellen Steier, Dawoud Kringle (sitar) and Gary Heidt.

Outside, there are R&B and Dixieland bands, fire eaters, jugglers, storyweavers and stilt dancers, all free to the public and a gift from TNC to its neighborhood. Inside, there is theater all evening. The lobby will be divided into rooms featuring rooms for astrology/numerology readings. Phyllis Yampolsky will throw the I-Ching.

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and indoor entertainment begins at 8 p.m. There will be two continuously-running cabarets. Outdoor entertainment, free to the public, will start at 4:30 p.m. Outdoor entertainment is capped by “The Red and Black Masque,” an annual Medieval ritual show written by Arthur Sainer, scored by David Tice and directed by Crystal Field which is performed by torchlight. Reservations are strongly recommended. The TNC box office number is (212) 254-1109. Admission is $20; costume or formal wear is required. Once inside, everything is free except food and drink. For tickets, call (212) 254-1109 or visit http://www.theaterforthenewcity.net.