Christmas trees lighting up throughout the neighborhood

Stuyvesant Town celebrated their tree lighting on the Oval last Wednesday night. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Christmas season is in full swing throughout the neighborhood this month, with a number of areas celebrating the holiday with Christmas tree lightings, including Stuyvesant Town’s tree on the Oval and Madison Square Park, which holds the title of oldest tree lighting in the country.

StuyTown Property Services general manager Rick Hayduk lead the annual reading of “Twas The Night Before a StuyTown Christmas” at the tree lighting on the Oval last Wednesday night, with a local twist on the Christmas classic, and Lucy & the Goossettes performed Christmas favorites throughout the evening while hot chocolate was served to the hundreds of residents who attended.

Santa Claus made an appearance at the lighting before the main event, when residents flipped the switch for the occasion.

Councilmember Carlina Rivera was on hand in Madison Square Park the following night last Thursday to help kick off the holidays for NoMad. The park has been celebrating the tree lighting for more than 100 years.

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Conservancy proposing ‘trash structure’ for Madison Square Park

Trash from the park is currently kept in dumpsters on the east side near the southern corner, just south of the public toilet right outside the park. The Conservancy has proposed the structure to be built behind this space. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Madison Square Park Conservancy announced at a Community Board 5 Parks and Public Spaces committee meeting on Monday that it will be constructing a 1,000-square foot structure to hold trash at the southeastern side of the park.

Tom Reidy, senior project manager at the Conservancy, said at the meeting that there are currently dumpsters on the east side of the park adjacent to the Department of Transportation self-operating toilet that Shake Shack uses for trash now and one of the goals of the new structures is to have a more closed-in space for garbage that staff for the Conservancy could also use for dumping refuse collected from park garbage cans. Reidy said that the trash cans around the park get emptied three times a day for five months out of the year during warmer months and two times a day for the rest of the year, so the amount of trash is substantial.

The Conservancy also uses space behind the Shake Shack to store various equipment and tools, so another goal of the new structure is to free up space behind the restaurant’s building. The Conservancy also has a 400-square foot storage space in Long Island City for seasonal equipment that could be partially stored in the new building, although Reidy said that they will likely still have to store some items in that storage space.

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Madison Square Park Conservancy installation confronts climate change

“Ghost Trees” will appear in Madison Square Park next June. (Rendering courtesy of Pace Gallery)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Madison Square Park Conservancy announced on Tuesday that artist Maya Lin will design the 40th public art commission for the park, set to debut on June 8, 2020. The new “site-responsive” installation will focus on the impact of climate change on woodlands around the world. The piece, titled “Ghost Forest,” will take the form of a grove of spectral cedar trees sourced from the surrounding region, and will be presented in contrast to Madison Square Park’s existing tree line.

Lin worked with the Conservancy to source dead trees from the tristate area, including from the Pine Barrens in New Jersey, which is a site that has suffered severe deprivation. The Atlantic Cedars that will be installed as part of the piece were afflicted by extreme salinization during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 as a result of flooding and salt-water inundation, and were slated to be cleared to encourage the regeneration of surrounding trees.

Lin’s piece takes its name from the natural phenomenon of “ghost forests,” which are tracts of forestland that have died off as a result of climate change, due to sea-level rise and salt water infiltration. Lin frequently addresses climate change in her work and this installation will serve as a call to action for the public visitors who pass through the park on a daily basis.

The installation intends to emphasize the grim reality of this naturally-occurring phenomenon to the public in a dense urban environment and encourages viewers to consider natural practices that can help restore and protect the ecosystem.

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Activists protest Jeff Bezos at his Manhattan apartment on Amazon’s Prime Day

Protesters demonstrated at the Manhattan home of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on Prime Day, condemning the tech mogul for his company’s alleged connections to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Immigration activists attempted to deliver more than 270,000 petitions to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos during a protest at his new home across from Madison Square Park during a protest on Monday afternoon during Amazon’s Prime Day. Activists were calling on Bezos to cut ties with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and end abusive working conditions at Amazon warehouses.

The company started Prime Day last year offering deals for members of the Amazon Prime and the protest was organized specifically on Prime Day as part of a national day of action against the company. Representatives and activists from New York Communities for Change, Make the Road New York, ALIGN NY, NYC-DSA, Mijente, DRUM, JFREJ, MPower Change, Workers United SEIU, Tech Workers Coalition and Chhaya CDC, as well as immigrant families and former Amazon workers, participated in the protest, which started on the northern end of Madison Square Park and marched to the West 26th Street entrance of Bezos’ apartment at 212 Fifth Avenue.

Curbed reported at the beginning of June that Bezos had purchased three condos, including a penthouse previously listed for $58 million, in the building. The penthouse that Bezos reportedly purchased is a triplex with five bedrooms, five bathrooms and almost 6,000 square feet of outdoor space. The Wall Street Journal reported that the total value of the apartments Bezos bought in the building was around $80 million.

One former Amazon warehouse worker who spoke at the protest, detailing the long hours with no breaks that employees have reportedly been subjected to. While speaking about working with insufficient lunch and bathroom breaks, the former Amazon employee held up a clear water bottle with an unnamed yellow liquid, although an organizer assured protesters that the mystery liquid was not urine.

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New installation in Madison Square Park

Leonardo Drew’s City in the Grass debuted in Madison Square Park in June and will be on view until December 15. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Artist Leonardo Drew has sculpted a sprawling carpet for the latest installation in Madison Square Park, creating a topographical view of an abstract cityscape titled City in the Grass.

“You’re Gulliver and looking down on Lilliput, so to speak,” Drew said, referring to the satire by Jonathan Swift in which Gulliver is shipwrecked on an island inhabited by six-inch-tall Lilliputians.

The piece marks the 38th commissioned exhibition for the Madison Square Park Conservancy and opened in the spring, running through December 15.

Drew said that he’s never worked outdoors but was excited about the possibilities and appreciated the Conservancy’s guidance, or lack thereof, with the piece.

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Million Millimeter March celebrates one million visitors to math museum

One of the points along the march through Flatiron (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The National Museum of Mathematics just north of Madison Square Park (a.k.a. MoMath) celebrated its millionth visitor in one of the mathiest ways possible: with a million-millimeter march. The March began in front of the museum on East 26th Street on 6/6 (June 6) at 6 p.m. in honor of the institution reaching visitor number 10 to the 6th power (also known as one million).

Translated into a more recognizable measure of distance, the March was 0.62 miles throughout the Flatiron District, starting at the museum and heading south to landmarks throughout the neighborhood, including Madison Square Park and the Flatiron building, with signs along the way indicating how many millimeters participants had traveled up to that point.

The march went down Fifth Avenue towards the Flatiron building, around the landmark and looped back up through Madison Square Park, then ended back at the museum on 26th Street.

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Madison Square Park dog run to get fully renovated

The Madison Square Park dog run as it appears today (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Madison Square Park dog run is getting a makeover, courtesy of a project from the Madison Square Park Conservancy, which presented its plans for the run at a Community Board 5 meeting on Monday.

Tom Reidy, a senior project manager for the Conservancy who presented the project at the recent meeting, said that one of the main goals of the renovations was to expand the small dog area in the park by flipping the orientation.

“Right now, the small dog area mostly gets used as a time out spot for bigger dogs,” Reidy said of the current configuration. The small dog section of the run is currently on the northern end, so the plans would have the area for small dogs in the southern end, giving them more space to run around.

Both the small and big dog areas would include small berms, or hills, with K-9 turf, a type of artificial grass designed specifically for dogs that is supposed to offer better drainage than the surface currently in the dog run.

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March for Mueller report

 

By Sidney Goldberg

On Thursday evening, a protest was held to demand the full release of the Mueller report that began in Times Square and ended in Flatiron outside Madison Square Park.

The protest was organized by MoveOn.org together with the Nobody is Above the Law Coalition and was said to be one of almost 300 similar protests around the country yesterday.

There were protest songs led by the group Sing Out, Louise! and a few speakers, including the NYC public advocate, from a stage that was set up on Broadway.

Despite the large turnout of at least hundreds, the event was hampered by a delay in marching, with the crowd being held at Times Square and a half. This caused some grumbling among the participants about the need for all the stage time commanded by the speakers.

Cops arrest suspect for assault, then connect him to a robbery in Madison Square Park

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police arrested a man for an assault in Kips Bay last week and later charged him in connection with an assault that took place in Madison Square Park last year.

James Beard, 31, allegedly assaulted a man at the corner of Second Avenue and East 25th Street on Monday, February 18 at 2:36 p.m.

The victim told police that he was walking north on Second Avenue between East 24th and 25th Streets on Monday when he got into an argument with Beard, at which point Beard allegedly punched him in the face, causing redness and pain.

Police said that Beard repeatedly said that his name was Jaquan Thomas despite multiple warnings, and was also charged with impersonation, as well as harassment.

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Veterans Day Parade celebrates end of WWI

Photos by Sabina Mollot

By Sabina Mollot

On Sunday, around 25,000 veterans, active military personnel and their supporters marched up Fifth Avenue from 23rd Street for New York City’s annual Veterans Day Parade.

The city’s parade, which is the largest in the country, this year celebrated the centennial of the end of World War I, with the army the featured branch of the military.

Prior to the march, speakers mentioned how that war presented a number of firsts, including women joining the ranks. Additionally, one tenth of the military during what was then known as “The Great War” or “The World War” were residents of New York State, half of those New Yorkers from the city.

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Police Watch: Man arrested for allegedly filming woman, Handy.com worker accused of theft

MAN ALLEGEDLY FILMED TEEN MCDONALD’S EMPLOYEE WHILE SHE WAS CHANGING
Police arrested 19-year-old Jose Urtarte Encarcanacion for alleged unlawful surveillance inside the McDonald’s at 401 Park Avenue South and East 28th Street on Friday, October 26 at 5:07 p.m. According to the District Attorney’s office, the 17-year-old victim went into a unisex single-person changing area for employees at the restaurant.

Police said that the private area has a curtain that can be closed, and the victim went inside to change her clothes. She said that once she was in the changing area, she noticed an iPhone 7 plus propped up on the coat rack with the camera app open, and she saw that the phone was recording video. Police said that officers recovered the phone from Encarcanacion’s pocket while he was in the back office of the McDonald’s. At the time, he also allegedly said, “Am I in trouble? Will there be any punishment? The phone must have clicked on the video camera. iPhones do that.”

An attorney for Encarcanacion could not be reached for comment.

HANDY.COM WORKER ACCUSED OF THEFT
Police arrested 26-year-old Destiny Matos for an alleged theft from an apartment at 39 West 16th Street on October 8 around 7 p.m. Police said that while Matos was working for cleaning service Handy.com, she allegedly took the victim’s credit card from her apartment and later made several unauthorized charges. Matos was charged with grand larceny inside the 13th Precinct on Tuesday, October 23 at 7:48 p.m.

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Nature-inspired sculptures now on display at Madison Square Park

This sculpture of a woman is now on display as part of Arlene Shechet’s installation, “Full Steam Ahead.” (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Madison Square Park Conservancy has debuted a series of nature-inspired sculptures as the latest public art installation to go up at the park. The work opened to the public on Tuesday to torrential downpours throughout the morning and afternoon but the rain lightened to a drizzle in time for the installation’s opening reception that evening.

Sculptor Arlene Shechet created 11 different pieces that make up “Full Steam Ahead,” designed as an outdoor room intended to be interactive. Shechet is primarily known for her work in ceramic but the pieces in this exhibition are made from cast iron, wood, steel and porcelain.

Shechet refers to the exhibition as a “manufactured version of nature” and the installation is functional as well as a work of art, with a number of the pieces functioning as seating. Shechet said that the installation was initially inspired by memories of the living room in her grandparents’ apartment.

The pieces, located along the pathways and perimeter of the park’s reflecting pool, are human-scale sculptures that create a physical presence for visitors, and Shechet used forms suggestive of the nature around the park, such as twigs, tree trunks and other plants. Other sculptures around the pool are reminiscent of various fauna, some of which could be found at the park, such as a feather from a bird, although another, part of a lion’s head and paw, is less common in the middle of Manhattan.

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Madison Square Park Conservancy begs visitors to stop feeding squirrels

aug30-squirrel-eating-mspc.jpg

A squirrel samples human cuisine at Madison Square Park, where, the conservancy says, squirrels, in their growing numbers, have been damaging trees. (Photo courtesy of Madison Square Park Conservancy)

By Sabina Mollot

On the heels of Stuyvesant Town’s management appealing to tenants for suggestions on ways to prevent squirrels from attacking their children, the overseers of Madison Square Park have appealed to community residents with a plea to stop feeding the park’s squirrels.

In a blog post published on the conservancy’s website on Tuesday, August 21, the conservancy told feeders their actions are doing more harm than good, by getting squirrels used to a free food source that disappears in the winter.

Additionally, according to a conservancy spokeswoman, as a result of all the feeding, squirrels have been multiplying more, and due to competition for food and resources, have taken to gnawing on tree branches, damaging the park’s dense tree canopy. Humans have also been getting pestered more, as recently noted in this newspaper by Town & Village associate editor Maria Rocha-Buschel, who was recently poked — twice — on the shoulder by a pushy squirrel as she sat on a park bench.

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Con Ed asks ST/PCV, Gramercy and Flatiron residents asked not to use unnecessary appliances during repairs

Sept6 Con Ed repairs

Con Ed workers on Broadway and 23rd Street in Flatiron (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Throughout the day on Thursday, Con Ed has been asking customers to curb their power use, while making repairs to electrical cables.

At around 9 a.m., when Con Ed announced the repairs, a spokesperson said the utility hoped to restore any power to lost to customers by the evening.

By the afternoon, Con Ed reduced voltage by five percent in the neighborhoods of Madison Square, Gramercy and Flatiron in Manhattan as a precaution to protect equipment while repairs were being made.

Con Edison has asked customers within the confines of East 31st Street to the north, East 14th Street to the south, Fifth Avenue to the west and the East River to the east not to use appliances such as washers, dryers and, unless needed for health or medical reasons, air conditioners, and other energy-intensive equipment. Customers have also been asked to turn off lights and televisions when not needed until the problems are resolved.

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Opinion: That moment when you’re poked by a squirrel on a park bench

A similar offender in Stuy Town in 2016 (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Squirrels have been a hot topic in this community and in this newspaper over the years. Each side has been unexpectedly passionate in defending its position, to say the least: one of the most recent controversies involved a resident who received a threatening postcard because of a lukewarm annoyance at the rodents’ ceaseless begging. But the debate has finally become personal because on a weekend earlier this summer, I had an encounter that tipped my bias in favor of a ban on squirrel-feeding.

I was sitting on a bench in Madison Square Park on a Saturday afternoon, minding my own business, when I felt something tap against my shoulder. I turned and realized I was almost face to face with a squirrel, not the expected human hand, perched on the back of the bench, who for some reason thought I had a treat for him.

I’ve never had particularly strong feelings about this topic before and could see both sides of the argument. Squirrels can be a bit ratty-looking but also cute in their own way and I can understand the appeal of communing with nature in a city where nature is scarce. And if someone wants squirrels surrounding them or even climbing all over their body, that’s their business.

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