Blueprint for affordable housing

WatersidePlaza

By Council Member Keith Powers and Assembly Member Harvey Epstein

As rents continue to climb, the city is working to create, preserve, and secure affordable housing for New Yorkers. Last week, we announced a breakthrough.

In each of our first years in office, we have had the honor of working on a deal that achieves something many dream of but too rarely comes true: a rent reduction for tenants. Over the past several months, we have been involved in negotiations with Waterside Plaza ownership, the Waterside Tenants Association (WTA), led by President Janet Handal, and the City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) on an affordable housing preservation deal that does just that.

The proposed deal provides substantial relief for rent-burdened tenants, permanently freezes the rent in dozens of apartments, and preserves affordable housing on a generational scale through 2098. The guaranteed 75 years of rent protections for hundreds of apartments combined with the immediate relief to tenants whose rent has been steadily increasing demonstrate a groundbreaking model for affordable housing in New York City.

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Letters to the editor, June 7

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Darth VDER is cheating NYers

Did you know that a recent decision by New York State energy regulators means that 32 percent of all New York City residents are not treated equally when it comes to accessing renewable energy as compared to other New York state residents? This affects all of us who do not pay our energy bills directly to Con Ed, including everyone living at Stuy Town, Waterside and most people living in large multifamily buildings, even though we pay the same amount as the other 68 percent of New York state residents to fund the state’s clean energy programs.

For most of us in New York City, remote renewable energy – also known as community distributed generation (CDG) – is the only option we have if we want to purchase clean renewables energy. Recently the Public Service Commission – a board of utility regulators appointed by Governor Cuomo – changed the rules for valuing clean energy generated at locations remote to where is consumed.

This new method, called VDER (Value of Distributed Energy Resources), applies to solar, wind and hydro-electric generation and is intended to succeed the current net meter value methodology. VDER differentiates between those of who pay their Con Ed bill directly to Con Ed, known as Direct Metered and those that do not, known as Master Metered or Master/Submetered, crediting Direct Metered residents almost 50 percent more value. It’s not fair.

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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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East River sinkhole repaired

 

Repaved sink hole (Photo courtesy of Economic Development Corporation)

By Sabina Mollot

The East River bike lane sinkhole has finally been repaired.

According to Shavone Williams, a spokesperson for the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), the faulty valve causing the problem was located on Friday, and fixed, with the road repaved by midday. Workers at the scene had been looking for the damaged water line that belonged to the nearby Skyport garage since a water main shutdown on Wednesday morning, Williams admitted.  The EDC manages the Skyport, which is owned by the city.

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Sinkhole growing on bike lane at E. 23rd St.

Cyclists have been stopping short in front of this sinkhole, which was first reported to the city by Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal over two weeks ago. (Photos by Janet Handal)

By Sabina Mollot

Cyclists, beware.

A sinkhole that appeared earlier in the month has grown even larger as the ground continues to ripple on the bike lane at East 23rd Street and the FDR Drive.

The sinkhole was reported to 311 on July 5 by Janet Handal, president of the Waterside Tenants Association, when she spotted it. But as of Wednesday, July 19 in the morning, it was still there, and, from what she’s observed, stretched into a yawning concrete chasm.

“A rapidly progressing collapse of the pedestrian-bike path in front of the 23rd Street Marina is happening and urgently needs to be attended to,” Handal said in an email.

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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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Garodnick: East Side Coastal Resiliency plans could leave Watersiders stranded

Councilman Dan Garodnick and Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal are concerned about a potential lack of vehicle access to Waterside Plaza in the event of an emergency. (Photo courtesy of Waterside Plaza)

Councilman Dan Garodnick and Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal are concerned about a potential lack of vehicle access to Waterside Plaza in the event of an emergency. (Photo courtesy of Waterside Plaza)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Councilmember Dan Garodnick said he’s concerned that plans for the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, which is aimed at protecting the East Side in the event of a disaster, will block vehicle access to Waterside Plaza.

He mentioned this in testimony he gave on the draft scope of work for the environmental impact statement that will be done for the ESCR Project, on Monday.

Each alternative design for the ESCR has a set of barriers that would block the northbound FDR Drive service road at 23rd Street when deployed in the event of a flood. Garodnick pointed out that the barriers would then be blocking the only point of vehicle access to Waterside Plaza, which would block access for emergency vehicles, buses and trucks to the complex.

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Neighbors against sanitation garage call for city study of alternative sites

Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Brookdale Neighborhood Coalition is continuing its fight against the proposed sanitation garage by exploring alternatives in existing facilities in other parts of Manhattan, options that have not yet been discussed at the public hearings or Community Board 6 meetings on the topic.

“This additional option came to our attention and we liked the idea so it was included in our public comments on the draft scope,” said Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal, who is also one of the coalition’s co-founders. The comment period for the draft scoping document for the project ended on July 22.

On behalf of the coalition, which represents tenant groups who oppose the sanitation garage planned for East 25th Street and First Avenue, Handal has also asked local elected officials, including Councilmembers Rosie Mendez and Dan Garodnick, as well as Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, to request that the Independent Budget Office, a publicly funded city agency that provides nonpartisan information about the city’s budget, do an appraisal of the Brookdale site as well as an evaluation of the existing Pier 36 garage and an old incinerator building located on 215th Street.

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Bellevue Hospital to build flood wall

Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal has expressed concern about the project's construction. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal has expressed concern about the project’s construction. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Bellevue Hospital is in the beginning stages of a plan that aims to protect the facility from future Hurricane Sandys and released an environmental assessment on the project at the beginning of July. The document is the first the Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), Bellevue’s parent organization, has released concerning the project and outlines the most viable alternative, a comprehensive mitigation system, which consists of a “perimeter boundary protection system” or flood wall around the hospital center. It will include a series of connected permanent and removable walls and integrated flood gates, as well as new elevators, a secondary domestic water pumping system, relocation of the HVAC equipment to above the 500-year flood plain and other features.

Other alternatives that were discussed in the document but that were ultimately dismissed include relocation of the hospital center or just a flood wall with no other changes. Relocation is not being considered because HHC does not think it practical to abandon the infrastructure investments that have been made on the existing site. The second alternative has been dismissed because while it is expected to provide similar flood protection to the wall in the selected plan, HHC wanted to incorporate a “Multiple Lines of Defense” strategy.

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Hospitals weigh in on sanitation garage

By Sabina Mollot

While neighborhood residents have been quite vocal in their opposition to the city’s plan to build a sanitation garage on East 25th Street, the area’s other neighbors, the nearby hospitals, have noticeably stayed out of the debate. Residents, who have argued that the 180-truck garage could delay ambulances due to the increased traffic, have, since the plan’s becoming public, speculated that the hospitals’ silence on the issue is due to “political reasons.”

“One could question whether city employees have been asked not to comment,” said Janet Handal, president of the Waterside Tenants Association. Handal has been one of the most vocal opponents of the plan, last week announcing the formation of a coalition of tenant and cooperator groups who are opposed to a sanitation depot on First Avenue.

This week, Town & Village reached out to nearby hospitals, to ask if they had any concerns about the garage and also to note that their silence hasn’t gone unnoticed by the community. Those hospitals include Mount Sinai Beth Israel, VA Medical Center’s Manhattan campus, Bellevue and NYU Langone.

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Neighbors stand firm on hatred of sanitation garage

Garodnick, Mendez echo residents’ concerns at meeting

Residents of Waterside, East Midtown Plaza, ST/PCV and nearby co-op buildings filled out the audience. Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Residents of Waterside, East Midtown Plaza, ST/PCV and nearby co-op buildings filled out the audience. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Residents of buildings located near the planned sanitation garage on East 25th Street took turns ripping into city officials last Wednesday at a raucous meeting that was aimed at getting public feedback.

Over 150 people attended the scoping session, which was at the garage site, the current CUNY Brookdale campus. Many of them were leaders of local tenants associations and co-op boards who’ve joined the recently formed Brookdale Neighborhood Coalition, which opposes the garage. The garage plan has been deeply unpopular since it was announced in 2013, and, just like at previous meetings, tenants voiced their concerns about potential impacts on air quality from truck fumes, odors, vermin and added traffic congestion that could delay ambulances at local hospitals. Many also argued that a garage for 180 sanitation trucks just seemed out of place on First Avenue’s science/medical corridor.

This time, however, a few elected officials also showed up to the meeting, and two City Council members, Dan Garodnick and Rosie Mendez, called on the city to be more responsive to residents’ concerns.

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Local bird’s-eye 4th of July

Fireworks, as seen from Waterside, lit up the night on July 4th. (Photo by Tobias Batz)

Fireworks, as seen from Waterside, lit up the night on July 4th. (Photo by Tobias Batz)

By Sabina Mollot

On Saturday, July 4th, with four of Macy’s barges lined up from 23rd to 37th Streets over the East River, residents at Waterside Plaza enjoyed a particularly enviable view of the fireworks this year.

Throughout the evening, with access limited to residents and their guests, between 5,000 and 6,000 people lined up along the outdoor plaza.

Thousands more lined up just north of Waterside’s towers along the car-free FDR Drive. Another fireworks display took place further downtown near the Brooklyn Bridge. Before the sky filled with the familiar flash and boom though, at Waterside, festivities also included a barbecue on the plaza for residents and various kids’ activities.

During this time, Town & Village spoke with residents to ask about what July 4th has been like there over the years.

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Ravitch wants senior housing built at Brookdale site

Waterside Tenants Association president Janet Handal and Waterside owner Richard Ravitch at a Tuesday meeting (Photo by  Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Waterside Tenants Association president Janet Handal and Waterside owner Richard Ravitch at a Tuesday meeting (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Waterside’s owner and developer Richard Ravitch revealed on Tuesday that he would like to see the bookend parcel of the proposed sanitation garage on East 25th Street become housing for seniors.

Ravitch discussed the issue at a meeting held by the Waterside Tenants Association, saying that some kind of affordable housing option would be the most compatible use of the Brookdale site for the community.

“There’s no reason that the interests of the landlord should be different from those of the people at Waterside,” he said.

Ravitch, who’s an octogenarian himself, said that he has been talking with nonprofit organizations to come up with a plan for some kind of development that would offer both housing and services for seniors, although nothing is solidified at the moment. He emphasized that what he would like to prevent is a tall commercial building on what is now the CUNY Brookdale site, and would prefer the addition of services for tenants at Waterside.

“Having services that are easily accessible for the elderly is an important part of what we would like for the community,” he said. “Some tenants have lived here since the beginning, which is why I feel so strongly about it.”

He added that another one of his concerns, even more specific to Waterside Plaza residents, is the fate of the footbridge over the FDR Drive that connects the property to East 25th Street. He said that there is a possibility that the property is put to competitive bidding and if that happens, the possibility of making the bridge accessible seems even more uncertain.

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Teen arrested for fake checks from Waterside Tenants Association

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

An 18-year-old, Lionel Burton, was arrested last Thursday after two fraudulent checks belonging to the Waterside Plaza Tenants Association were deposited into his Bank of America account, the District Attorney’s office said.

The amount of the checks totaled $1,956.50 and once deposited, at the beginning of January, Burton allegedly withdrew $930 from his account. Police said that he later withdrew an additional $505.59 with his ATM card in four separate transactions.

Burton had allegedly provided access to his online banking information to someone that he met on Instagram and he told police that the person he gave his banking information to was known as “Vanilla Bada$$,” but no additional information about this person was available. Police said that after Burton provided his banking information, the fraudulent checks were deposited into his online banking account via cell phone. No information was available about how the checks were deposited into Burton’s banking account or who deposited them.

Waterside Plaza Tenants Association President Janet Handal said that the incident happened after the TA had given out holiday gratuity checks to the Waterside Plaza staff at the end of last year, as they have in the past.

“This is the first year that this has happened,” she said.

Handal said that police told her whoever deposited the checks is associated with Waterside Plaza in some way, because the fraudulent checks that were deposited had the correct account numbers, which means that the person had seen a copy of a valid check from the TA.

“There’s a connection to Waterside somewhere but (the NYPD doesn’t) know where yet,” she said.

Handal added that there had also been an attempt to deposit another fraudulent check for almost $5,000.

“That was the thing that alerted us to the problem,” she noted. “We would have seen the problem anyway but that was our heads up.”

Burton’s Legal Aid attorney didn’t return a call for comment by Town & Village’s deadline.