Hoylman to push for lower MTA fares and congestion pricing

State Senator Brad Hoylman (pictured at right) spoke about the need for transit improvements at a recent meeting of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

State Senator Brad Hoylman, who’s been an outspoken critic of the bus used by many of his constituents, the M23 a.k.a. the turtle, is now setting his sights on the MTA as a whole, saying he’s sick of seeing funds intended for mass transit get steered elsewhere.

Hoylman brought up the subject on Sunday, November 19 at a public meeting held by the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association during a Q&A period.

The topic was first brought up by a woman who, during a Q&A period, said she didn’t like that a fleet of 200 diesel buses have been announced as a solution to the looming L-Pocalypse in 2019, rather than hybrid buses.

At this, Hoylman said he agreed and wanted to help “wean Albany off of Diesel,” despite the pollution-spewing option being cheaper.

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DEC: Contaminant recovery wells won’t be intrusive

Nov9 DEC meeting cross and macneal.JPG

New York State Department of Conservation project managers Gardiner Cross and Doug MacNeal at a public meeting last Wednesday (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

With a contaminant recovery plan having been proposed for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, representatives from the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) addressed concerns of residents last week at a public meeting.

This included making assurances that wells the DEC and Con Edison plan to build in ST/PCV to collect the leftover chemicals so they can be disposed of wouldn’t be intrusive. Con Ed has been working with DEC on what’s been referred to as a “remediation” for the site, which was once home to a manufactured gas plant (MGP).

The DEC had actually directed Con Edison to begin remediation for this project back in 2011. However, DEC project manager Doug MacNeal said during the meeting that the process was delayed for the last five years because of the changes in ownership at ST/PCV.

MacNeal said that exact locations haven’t been determined for the wells yet, but Council Member Dan Garodnick, who was also at the meeting, which held at Beth Israel last Wednesday, said that he would push DEC to site them as far away as possible from doors, windows and playgrounds.

One possible location for the wells, of which there will be 10 in Peter Cooper and six in Stuy Town, would be inside the garages. Meeting attendees burst into laughter when geologist and DEC project manager Gardiner Cross said that this was because the garages already have good ventilation. However, MacNeal backed up his statement, explaining that to be up to code, a garage has to have a functional ventilation system. If it doesn’t, he added, residents should contact DEC.

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Solar One replacement building breaks ground

City Council Dan Garodnick, Solar One Executive Director Chris Collins and Manhattan Borough Preident Gale Brewer hold hard hats at a ceremony for Solar 2 on Tuesday. (Brewer’s forehead bandage was due to a recent car collision, though she said it looked worse than it was.) (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

After 10 years of planning, environmental non-profit Solar One announced a timeline for the construction of the new, replacement educational center known as Solar 2 on Tuesday, ideally to be completed by the end of next year.

Dina Elkan, communications director for Solar One, said that the incentive to finish within that time frame is partially because city budget is fixed so the funding from elected officials needs to be used by then. One of the challenges will be the overlapping East Side Coastal Resiliency project but Elkan said that since it’s the same architectural firm working on both, the two projects will be coordinating throughout the process.

At a ceremonial groundbreaking on Tuesday, Solar One also acknowledged outgoing Councilmember Dan Garodnick’s commitment to the project from the beginning of his tenure at City Hall.

“When he was elected 12 years ago, he came here with his campaign manager and asked how he could help,” Solar One Executive Director Chris Collins said. “His vision and willingness to examine thorny problems makes him unique to the community.”

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MTA to reduce L train shutdown by three months

Straphangers waiting for the L at First Ave.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The MTA announced at the end of last week that the L train tunnel will likely be closed for 15 months instead of the originally-proposed 18 for Hurricane Sandy-related repairs and the shutdown will begin in April 2019 instead of that January.

Transportation blog Second Ave. Subway first noticed the changes to the plan in the board’s materials last Friday and MTA spokesperson Beth DeFalco confirmed via Twitter that the timeline had changed.

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East River flood protection plan extended to 25th St.

Meeting attendees in 2015 look at a model of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village with a planned elevated park at the waterfront. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Meeting attendees in 2015 look at a model of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village with a planned elevated park at the waterfront. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The plan to provide flood protection to the community along the East River has shifted design elements from East 23rd Street to 25th Street due to complications with the intersection in the original plan. The Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency announced the changes to the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) plan in a task force meeting with Community Boards 3 and 6 on Tuesday night.

Representatives from the Office of Recovery and Resiliency as well as the urban design team working on the project have spoken at community meetings previously about the plan, the goal of which is to provide flood protection from Montgomery Street to East 23rd Street, incorporating floodwalls and an elevated park.

Carrie Grassi, Deputy Director for Planning at the Office of Recovery and Resiliency, said that the “tieback” was moved to East 25th Street because East 23rd Street is a technically difficult area.

“We’re trying to come up with an alternative that doesn’t make that intersection worse,” she said.

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MTA will conduct study on a traffic-free 14th Street during L train shutdown

hoylman

State Senator Brad Hoylman (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The MTA will be conducting a study on a plan to close 14th Street to traffic for the duration of the planned 18-month L train shutdown.

The feasibility study was announced by State Senator Brad Hoylman on Wednesday, who, along with quite a few other elected officials, had requested the study.

“More than 50,000 people cross Manhattan daily on the L train below 14th Street,” Hoylman said. “It’s crucial that we have a plan in place to accommodate these riders given the L train will be closed for 18 months starting in January, 2019.”

He added that the study includes a proposal for a dedicated bus lane and expanded cyclist and pedestrian access.

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L train will close for 18 months in Manhattan in 2019, MTA says

Straphangers waiting for the L at First Ave. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Straphangers waiting for the L at First Ave.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The MTA announced this morning that the L train will be completely shut down between Brooklyn and Manhattan for 18 months beginning in January, 2019.

According to social media, email surveys and testimony from public meetings, 77 percent of respondents were in favor of the 18-month full shutdown, the MTA said.

The 11 community boards in the affected areas along the L, which hosted meetings about the two options prior to the decision, were also more in favor of a full closure than of a partial shutdown. In the joint meeting hosted by Community Boards 3 and 6 at the end of last month, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney expressed her strong support of the full closure, basing her decision on a number of meetings with the community that she had attended previously.

“During this process, it quickly became clear to many in affected communities that a shorter, full closure will be less painful than a longer period with minimal service, as long as there are broad and varied alternative ways to get to work while the line is closed,” Maloney said following the announcement. “I’ve argued that most people will accept full closure, as long as it takes them no more than 20 extra minutes to reach their destinations, and I look forward to working with the MTA to make sure this happens.”

The New York Times first reported the news on Monday morning, noting that officials hope to finish the repairs, made necessary because of damage from Hurricane Sandy, as quickly as possible to limit the impact on riders.

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More buses promised during L train shutdown

For Stuyvesant Town and East Village residents, a bright spot of the looming L train shutdown is a new subway entrance on Avenue A, as pictured here in a newly released rendering.

For Stuyvesant Town and East Village residents, a bright spot of the looming L train shutdown is a new subway entrance on Avenue A, as pictured here in a newly released rendering.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Residents affected by the imminent L train closure got a visit from New York City Transit officials last Wednesday in a meeting organized by Community Board 3 and 6, held at Mount Sinai Beth Israel.

At the meeting, NYC Transit reps promised a beefed up bus fleet around Stuyvesant Town to deal with the planned L train shutdown.

Agency Operations Planning Chief Peter Cafiero said, “If there is no service in Manhattan, then we need to build up the bus fleet. We could be implementing what I’m calling the M14 SBS. It would serve Stuyvesant Town more directly by looping up to East 20th Street.”

This was the second of what the agency has said would be a number of meetings to both get feedback and inform the community about the planned shutdown, which won’t start until 2019. The agency also said at this recent meeting that they will be hosting a meeting some time in the fall just for Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village residents.

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VA: Flood wall now expected to be finished by end of 2016

The contractors working at the hospital site faced delays due to difficulties drilling through found materials like concrete and rocks and a tentative projected finish date for the project is the end of the year, with work on the Asser Levy Park side expected to be finished some time this summer. (Photo by Anne Greenberg)

The contractors working at the hospital site faced delays due to difficulties drilling through found materials like concrete and rocks and a tentative projected finish date for the project is the end of the year, with work on the Asser Levy Park side expected to be finished some time this summer. (Photo by Anne Greenberg)

By Sabina Mollot

Last August, Town & Village reported on how the project to build a flood wall outside the VA Medical Center was scheduled to be finished by March of this year.

However, as anyone who has walked past the construction site recently could see, the project is still ongoing and the actual wall hasn’t even been built yet.

This week, when asked the reason for the delay, a spokesperson for the VA blamed the delay on “unforeseen factors,” specifically a less than cooperative construction site.

Work on the part of the wall along Asser Levy Park is now expected to be finished this summer, according to “tentative projections,” the spokesperson, Claudie Benjamin, said. The walls and work along 23rd and 25th street is now expected to continue until the end of the calendar year. Benjamin added that once the work along Asser Levy Place is finished, the park, which is now partially blocked off, should be “like new” at some point in the summer.

As for the difficult work conditions, Benjamin said this was discovered during the excavation for the flood wall’s foundation.

“We found some unanticipated site conditions that required us to bring in archeological and architectural teams to review and opine that we were doing everything safe for the site and the local community and that we didn’t have any archeological sites of significance,” she said.

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L train could be shut down for years between Brooklyn and Manhattan

Feb26 L Train

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

L train service between Brooklyn and Manhattan could be shut down completely for multiple years due to long-needed repairs because of damage from Hurricane Sandy.

The service disruption was originally reported by Gothamist last Wednesday, which explained that the work would not shut down the train completely but would terminate Manhattan-bound service from Canarsie at Bedford Avenue, the line’s busiest station.

Following the report on Gothamist, transportation blog Second Avenue Sagas noted that a complete shutdown would likely not last three full years, as this is the long-term timeline for all of the work needed on the L line if the repairs were done on one tube at a time or otherwise split the shutdown of the tunnel. If the MTA were to completely shut down the tunnel to do the repairs, it would take two years at most, a source told the blog.

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Letters to the Editor, Nov. 12

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Smoke gets in your eyes

The Tenants Association gets frequent queries as to the legitimacy of management’s installing a dual carbon monoxide/smoke detector and charging $50.00. This typically occurs when a tenant requests a replacement battery for an existing smoke alarm or when management makes an apartment inspection. While the TA has questioned other surprise charges, according to the New York City Rent Guidelines Board, this charge is permitted.

To quote the RGB’s Frequently Asked Questions: “The NYC Housing Maintenance Code requires landlords to provide and install smoke detecting devices in each apartment unit. All smoke detectors must now use a non-removable, non-replaceable battery that powers the alarm for a minimum of 10 years, and shall be of the type that emits an audible notification at the expiration of the useful life of the alarm. The owner may charge the tenant up to $25 per smoke detector (or $50 for a combined smoke/carbon monoxide detector).

“Landlords are also required to provide and install at least one approved carbon monoxide alarm within each dwelling unit. The landlord may charge the tenant $25 per carbon monoxide alarm (or $50 for a combined smoke/carbon monoxide detector).”

Other questions the TA gets are: Why install a joint detector if tenants have a functioning smoke detector? That way, the tenant would only need to pay $25.00. Furthermore, why can’t tenants buy their own combo detector? In fact, why do we need a carbon monoxide detector?

New York City requires the installation and maintenance of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Both property owners and tenants have responsibilities to ensure that all New Yorkers remain safe in their homes from the dangers of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. Landlords are required to ensure that tenants are provided with both carbon monoxide (CO) and smoke detectors (SD) that comply with the physical requirements of the Building Code.

New York City rules require that where a smoke alarm was installed prior to April 2014 and the useful life of the alarm is not known, “that it be replaced with the newly required model within seven years of the effective date and that the owner is responsible for providing and installing the detector.” The landlord also has to make sure that the device complies with applicable guidelines and has to keep records of installation. Filing is required when devices are changed according to the requirement timeframes or whenever broken/missing devices are replaced.

The occupant has one year from the date of the installation to make the reimbursement (bet you didn’t know that).

The Tenants Association is still looking to see if an exemption for STPCV is possible because our complex uses steam heat, which does not have a carbon monoxide risk. However, our research is still ongoing. In the meantime, please know that the installation of dual carbon monoxide and smoke detectors is legitimate and the $50 fee is an unfortunate, but legal burden.

It is always better to err on the side of safety for our valuable community.

Susan Steinberg
President, STPCV Tenants Association

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Editorial: Hypocrisy below the Mason-Dixon line

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

Three years ago this month in an historic deluge, New York City was inundated by Superstorm Sandy.

The hurricane force gusts and rainfall of epic proportions obliterated homes and businesses, and drowned swaths of our shoreline causing billions of dollars of damage

The Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper community was particularly hard hit due to our close proximity to the East River which spilled into our community in torrents swallowing up cars and flooding streets and basements. The rebuilding and recovery in our community alone took over a year.

Federal disaster relief funds was sought for our devastated areas, but shockingly opposed by a coalition of conservative and Tea Party members of Congress led by the delegation from South Carolina. In return for any federal aid they demanded equivalent cuts in urban social programs. Their rallying cry was that a disaster is a political opportunity not to be missed.

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Stein Center offering program for seniors impacted by Sandy

Flooding at 14th Street and Avenue C. (Photographer unknown.)

Cars partially submerged in floodwater during Hurricane Sandy at 14th Street and Avenue C. (Photographer unknown.)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

For many people living and working in Manhattan, the direct effects of Hurricane Sandy ended when the electricity came back and subway service was restored. But like local businesses and institutions that undertook the painstaking work of rebuilding, still an ongoing process almost two and a half years later, residents who live in areas that flooded are also still recovering. A new program from the Department for the Aging available at the Stein Senior Center on East 23rd Street is trying to help ease the emotional effects of the disaster, specifically catering to seniors.

The $1.7 million in funding for SMART-MH (Sandy Mobilization, Assessment, Referral and Treatment for Mental Health) was awarded from FEMA to the Aging in New York Fund by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office through the Superstorm Sandy Social Services Block Grant in 2013.

The Department for the Aging and the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College are working together to execute the program, which started at the Stein Center in February and is exclusively available for New Yorkers age 60 and older. Stein Center Executive Director Jane Barry said that the free program will be available as long as there are seniors who meet the criteria, and noted that a number of people have been helped already.

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City hears community input for East Side Coastal Resiliency Plan

Some of the crowd at a workshop held at Washington Irving High School on Monday to gather information on how community residents want to interact with the waterfront (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Some of the crowd at a workshop held at Washington Irving High School on Monday to gather information on how community residents want to interact with the waterfront (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Since wreaking havoc on the city almost two and a half years ago, Hurricane Sandy has prompted the formation of various programs and projects throughout New York, with efforts being made to prevent such a catastrophe from repeating. One such effort driven by the city is the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, which is in the early planning stages and this past week held workshops looking for input from community residents on how they want to interact with the waterfront.

The workshops were held last Thursday and this past Monday, with the first being held on East Houston Street and the second at Washington Irving High School on Irving Place. A representative for Rebuild by Design, which was launched by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and which ran the competition to come up with solutions for preserving the coastline, said at the event on Monday that the locations were intentional; each workshop covered the same material but was held in different parts of the project area to give residents an option that was in their neighborhood.

Maps were stationed at the back of the auditorium for attendees to provide input on how they interact with the waterfront throughout the project area, which spans from Montgomery Street north to East 23rd Street. Dan Zarrilli, director of the Office of Recovery and Resiliency, said that one of the major aspects of the process for the project is community engagement and gathering input from activities like this.

“We’re here to listen and we want to make sure that we incorporate the insight of the community,” he said. “We’ve set up a task force with community boards 3 and 6 to be a continuing source of insight. The city came up with this program to recommend things to do. It’s not just about the past, it’s about a range of shocks we endured and looking beyond the coast to build up and reinforce the infrastructure. It’s about interacting with the neighborhood.”

Zarrilli said that much of what the project is focusing on through the end of this year is getting this feedback from the community to create a more complete picture for the design plan and another workshop soliciting input is planned for the end of May.

The project is part of a bigger initiative to protect Lower Manhattan known as the Big U, which was the winning design in the Rebuild by Design competition in 2013. Jeremy Siegel, a project designer with the consultant team of Big U and director of Rebuild by Design, explained at the workshop what the designers are looking at for this phase of the project.

“We’ve been working since December on some of the engineering aspects, like investigating below grade and checking drainage, checking how much water the existing infrastructure can accommodate, surveying the land and inspecting waterfront structures,” he said. “We have divers out in the East River examining the flood risk and checking how high the flood wall would need to go.”

Zarrilli added that community involvement is an important component to add to all the information from the engineers.

“We’ll be taking the site surveys and all of the engineering things with the overlay of the community process so we can understand everything in context,” he said. “Community engagement is key.”

Siegel noted that within the space from Montgomery to East 23rd, the project is split into two project areas: Montgomery to East 14th Streets and East 14th to 23rd Streets. All of the neighborhoods in these areas had different challenges during Hurricane Sandy and Siegel said that part of the design plans will be the considerations for different aspects of the area, such as the substation at Con Edison that flooded and caused power outages throughout Lower Manhattan, as well as the NYCHA properties and hospitals that are nearby that also suffered flood damage. The three different options for mitigating flooding in the future that Siegel outlined include some kind of berm or levee, a permanent floodwall or some kind of deployable floodwall.

“(The deployable wall) would only be put in place in a storm event,” Siegel said. “These carry risks because human operation is involved, so we’re looking at more passive and permanent measures, so resiliency is there in a robust way.”

One resident asked at the workshop why the project area didn’t extend past East 23rd Street since the hospitals in that area had been badly damaged by flooding as well. Zarrilli explained that billions of dollars are already being invested in that area through different projects.

“The city just announced more funding for Bellevue and NYU is receiving FEMA money, so this project is focusing south,” he said.

Peter Cooper Resident Anne Greenberg had a related question about one such project that the VA Hospital on East 23rd Street has proposed, which includes a floodwall to protect the facility from water damage in the future. She noted that in the event of flooding like that in the future, the water could be redirected right into Peter Cooper Village. Zarrilli noted that they are looking at flood modeling to make sure that doesn’t happen and added that they do intend to talk to STPCV management to work with them, but he couldn’t confirm that they have yet.

Following the workshops, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney emphasized the importance of the project and praised the mayor’s office for the initiative.

“We need to immediately address the City’s vulnerability to extreme storms, which are only increasing in frequency and severity as a result of climate change,” Maloney said. “Lower Manhattan was particularly hard hit, and I am pleased to have worked to obtain federal funding to improve the resiliency of the area. I applaud Mayor de Blasio and the Office of Recovery and Resiliency for coordinating the city-wide efforts to protect our residents and infrastructure and for including the public in the planning. The East Side Coastal Resiliency Project is an important first step in preparing Manhattan’s East Side for future storms and will offer new open space and amenities that will benefit our community for generations to come.”

Soapbox: Port Ambrose problems: Reso. 549 would stop it

By Anne Lazarus

A liquid natural gas facility has been proposed to be built, approximately 15 miles off the shore of Long Island. When Methane is chilled to -260 degrees, it becomes a highly-volatile, potentially explosive liquid. The port would allow two LNG (liquified natural gas) vessels (which are as long as the Empire State Building is tall) to directly connect to the region’s natural gas system. This capacity could be increased.

Port Ambrose has been presented as an importer of natural gas (Methane), but the United States is awash in natural gas and is looking for opportunities to export this fossil fuel. Prices for Methane abroad are higher than domestic prices. This facility can easily and will be used as an export facility. Liquifying and reversing to vapor form of natural gas is fossil-fuel intensive. Port Ambrose is a stimulus to the tracking industry in the Marcellus. What are the dangers and problems with Port Ambrose?

This facility is within a few miles of three international airports and densely-populated areas. It is located near highly-trafficked navigational areas, including tankers carrying chemicals and petroleum. A collision could be disastrous. Hundreds of thousands of boats and ships navigate in the area of the proposed LNG. During Hurricane Sandy wave heights were nearly 30 feet. We are expecting more intense hurricanes. Scarce resources will be spent for security.

LNG tankers, plus the operation and construction of this facility will destroy billions of fish eggs and other benthic and marine life. Avian life will also be severely affected. The fishing industry will be negatively affected. The quality and safety of fish caught in this region will also be questionable. Whale species such as Fin and Humpback, Dolphin species and other marine mammals and reptiles, such as endangered sea turtles will be exposed to the harmful effects of this LNG. Tourism and recreational use of the oceans will be curtailed.

Who owns Liberty LNG, Port Ambrose?

Liberty Natural Gas is a foreign entity. The corporation may be licensed in Delaware.  It has an office in New York City, but managed by an investment group in Canada and entirely owned by a bank in the Cayman Islands. We do not know who is behind the company.

Port Ambrose can be stopped. If either Governor Cuomo or Governor Christie of NJ veto the project, it will not be built. Resolution 549 in the NYC Council, if passed will request Gov. Cuomo to veto Port Ambrose. This resolution has been introduced by Councilman Donovan Richards and many Council members are supporting it, but more are needed. Hopefully, Resolution 549 will pass. More than 24,370 citizens submitted comments on the first phase of Port Ambrose and only 17 were in favor. Only six permanent jobs will result from the port. Go to CleanOceanAction.org for more information.

Anne Lazarus is a resident of Stuyvesant Town and an environmental activist. She is the guide for the seasonal bird watching tours organized by the Stuyvesant Cove Park Association.