Assembly candidates talk traffic, construction and MCIs at forum

Assembly candidates Mike Corbett, Harvey Epstein and Sandro Sherrod at a forum held by local Democratic clubs on Saturday (Photo by Bert Ongkeo)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Candidates for the 74th Assembly District seat met for a forum hosted by the Tilden Democratic Club and the Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club last Saturday evening at the Seafarer’s International House. The forum had been postponed from earlier in the month due to the snowstorm, although the Gramercy Stuyvesant Independent Democrats, which originally planned the event with the two other clubs, ultimately braved the weather and held its forum that day.

Sandro Sherrod, a technology director at NYU Langone, Harvey Epstein, a project director with the Urban Justice Center, and Mike Corbett, an aide to City Council Member Costa Constantinides, all agreed that they didn’t disagree on much but shared their specific positions on issues such as affordability, the MTA, education and other topics.

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Former CB6 chair enters Assembly race

Sandro Sherrod (Photo by Bert Ongkeo)

By Sabina Mollot

In a race that so far has no set Election Day, three candidates have already announced their hopes of replacing Brian Kavanagh in the New York Assembly, 74th District.

The most recent one to make his candidacy official is former Community Board 6 chair Sandro Sherrod, a resident of Stuyvesant Town.

Sherrod, 41, works at NYU Langone Center with the title of director of collaborative infrastructure and audio-visual strategy. (As he explains it, he’s responsible for integrative technology and how it gets used.) He’s been at the East Side hospital for the past 17 years and has a record of community activism that’s almost as long. He’s been the president of the Tilden Democratic Club, where he is now a district leader. He’s been the corresponding secretary of the 13th Precinct Community Council and he’s served on the board of the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association. He is now a board member of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association and is still involved with CB6, which he chaired from 2012-2015. He also chaired the board’s health committee and was vice chair of the parks committee.

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GNA holds annual community exhibit at Arts Club

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By Sabina Mollot

The Gramercy Neighborhood Associates, which curates an exhibit at the National Arts Club each year featuring works by local artists, said that this year’s was the biggest show yet with around 100 works on display. This year’s show will also be the longest, having kicked off on March 15 and running through March 25 in three out of five of the club’s gallery spaces.

Sixty-six artists and photographers participated this year, mostly from Gramercy and Stuyvesant Town. (Full disclosure: One participant was the person writing this.)

On the night of the opening reception for the show on March 17, Alan Krevis, president of the GNA, figured there were about 300 people in attendance, as he peered over the sea of heads. This is normal for the GNA’s art openings.

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CB6 gets new chair

New Community Board 6 Chair Rick Eggers (Photo courtesy of CB6)

New Community Board 6 Chair Rick Eggers (Photo courtesy of CB6)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community Board 6 has a new chair in Murray Hill resident Rick Eggers, who was elected this past October. Eggers’s election brings an end to Stuyvesant Town’s reign over the board, as community residents Mark Thompson and Sandro Sherrod, respectively, have headed the body for the previous two three-year terms.

Eggers, who has lived in the district for 33 years and formally started as the board’s chair in November, was appointed to the board in 2008. He was a member of the Budget and Governmental Affairs Committee for eight years and served as chair on that committee for five years. He was also Vice Chair of the Board for the last three years before being elected Board Chair.

When the bylaws were revised in 2014, Eggers was chair of the Special Committee on Bylaws and was also a member of the Health and Education Committee for almost eight years. He represented the community board on the Bellevue Community Advisory Board and the Mount Sinai Beth Israel Community Advisory Council for about five years.

Eggers is currently retired but was previously a tax law specialist with the IRS and also previously did product research and product management for TIAA-CREF. He is currently a member of the New York County Democratic Committee and a member and officer of the Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club.

Eggers’s predecessor received a proclamation from Borough President Gale Brewer for his service that declared November 18, 2015 “Sandro Sherrod Appreciation Day” in Manhattan. State Senator Brad Hoylman also honored Sherrod with a proclamation, declaring December 16, 2015 as “Sandro Sherrod Appreciation Day” in the 27th Senate District.

In other CB6 news, District Manager Dan Miner parted ways with the board. Eggers said in a notice to board members in December that Miner was resigning to take a job involving community education on resilience, sustainability and energy efficiency. The position has yet to be filled.

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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Ribbon cut at newly expanded Asser Levy Playground

Feb5 Asser Levy Garodnick equipment

Council Member Dan Garodnick tries out the adult fitness equipment. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Last Friday morning, in near-freezing weather following the second snowfall in a week, local community leaders and politicians cut the ribbon on the newly expanded Asser Levy Playground.

Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver joked that “It’s a pleasure to cut a ribbon on this warm and sunny day,” as the politicians on either side of him sat bundled up for the cold. He then went on to say the project had been successful in terms of being both “on time and on budget and that gets a double round of applause.”

New features along the two-block-long park that was formerly a street include a track, adult fitness equipment, a synthetic turf field, drinking fountains, lighting, trees, tables and benches.

The work was funded with allocations of $1,175,000 from Council Member Dan Garodnick, $500,000 from the UN Development Corporation, and $670,000 from the mayor.

While at the podium, Silver joked that Garodnick was so enamored with project, “he named his son Asher.”

In response Garodnick confided that he’d actually told his son that the playground had been named after him.

“There are no limits to my deception,” he quipped. “I told him it was a typo on the sign.” He added that since he also has another son, “We’ll have to see what we can do for Devin.”

While construction had been underway at the site, the Council member said he and both of his young sons would pop by each day from their apartment in Peter Cooper Village and ask the project supervisor for status updates. And, he added, the supervisor was very nice about it.

The playground work was tied to a land deal that would allow the United Nations to put a building on space occupied by Robert Moses Park.While naturally the plan to remove that park space has been met with some opposition from neighbors, Garodnick said Robert Moses Park is underutilized, as the space now occupied by Asser Levy Playground was when it was a street.

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Community Boards 3, 6 create task force on waterfront resiliency

Kayakers fill the East River by Stuyvesant Cove Park during an event last June. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Kayakers fill the East River by Stuyvesant Cove Park during an event last June. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community Board 6 and 3 recently formed a joint task force to offer guidance on how new features along the East Side waterfront can be incorporated into a recently-funded project focused on waterfront resiliency. The new task force met for the first time this past Monday to discuss preliminary ideas for the project and is composed of 11 representatives, including members of CB3, CB6 and various community stakeholders.

CB6 chair Sandro Sherrod, who is also chairing the task force, said that while construction isn’t expected to begin until at least 2017 and the project is currently in the conceptual design phase, the task force is planning to have additional meetings and invite the public to look at different options and various design elements.

The project, which is spearheaded by the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and the Office of Recovery and Resiliency (ORR), is known as the BIG U and is the result of a design competition that was held by Housing and Urban Development in which participants came up with ideas on how to fix areas that were heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. HUD approved $335 million in funding for the project last October.

The BIG U in the project refers to a ten-mile long protective barrier to be built along the east side of Manhattan from East 42nd Street down to the Battery, then looping in a U shape up to East 57th Street. Instead of typical flood barriers and walls, the project proposes to include seawalls, raised pathways, parks, locally appropriate berms and mechanized operable barriers. The plan splits the project into three distinct zones, one of which is the area between Montgomery Street on the Lower East Side and East 23rd Street.

The “zone” from Montgomery Street on the Lower East Side along the waterfront extends to East 23rd Street but this area is split into two different parts. The first project area includes the region below East 14th Street, which includes a number of NYCHA developments on the Lower East Side that were badly damaged by flooding, currently has more concrete design plans than the second project area but the task force will be working with the BIG U team to solidify ideas for the area north of East 14th Street.

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MTA gets earful about L train and station crowding

Straphangers head upstairs to exit the First Avenue L station on a recent morning. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Straphangers head upstairs to exit the First Avenue L station on a recent morning. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Representatives from the Metropolitan Transit Authority made an appearance at Community Board 6’s most recent transportation committee meeting to discuss the lack of distinguishing lights on SBS buses and the ongoing issue of overcrowding at the First Avenue L train station.

Residents at the meeting said that their concerns were more about dangerous conditions at the station due to the crowds, rather than it just being a nuisance.

“It’s an accident waiting to happen,” said one Stuyvesant Town resident at the meeting. “It’s routinely dangerous and way beyond annoying because everyone masses at the station’s exits.”

Others at the meeting agreed, adding that on top of the station’s increasing popularity as more people have moved to Williamsburg, the lack of multiple exits results in commuters packing the end of the train and causing hazardous conditions on the platform because of the pushing and shoving of the crowd.

“We acknowledge that (there are overcrowding problems),” Rob Marino, the MTA deputy director of government and community relations, said in response. “The station was built in 1924 and was probably not designed for the level of service that it receives now.”

Transportation committee member Fred Arcaro asked about the possibility of conducting a study to increase the number of trains but according to MTA representative Marcus Book, there have been studies done determining when the train is the busiest and the L is already running at capacity at those times, he said.

Stuy Town resident and Transportation Committee Member Larry Scheyer asked about the possibility of building another entrance to the station at Avenue A in an attempt to balance out the crowds. CB6 Chair Sandro Sherrod added that there was discussion in CB6 about four years ago about L train crowding at the station and the MTA had discussed the possibility of doing a feasibility study on an eastern entrance for the station. But both Marino and Book said that there were no plans for such a study at the moment and although they understand it’s a problem, building an entirely new entrance is an “expensive proposition.” They had no other information about solutions for the time being, other than to say that the issue was “on the radar.”

Meanwhile, area residents also shared their concerns about the SBS blue lights with the MTA reps.

A lack of the flashing blue lights that used to announce the impending arrival of the SBS express buses have been a problem for bus riders since Staten Island representatives pressured the MTA to turn them off at the end of 2012. SBS buses were put into service in 2008 and the lights caused no problems until Staten Island got its first SBS bus in late 2012 and then-MTA commissioner Joe Lhota agreed to turn them off at the beginning of 2013.

Marino said at the meeting that at the time SBS routes were initially rolled out, the NYPD had no problems with the flashing blue lights on the front of the buses, but Staten Island representatives later protested the lights, saying that they were too similar to volunteer emergency vehicles and were causing too much confusion for drivers.

Since the lights were turned off about a year ago, the MTA has been trying to work with the State DMV to find an alternative but have had no luck so far, as most other light colors are also reserved for emergency vehicles by law.

Local elected officials have introduced legislation that would allow purple lights and although it will be reintroduced in the next Assembly and State Senate sessions, Staten Island representatives have said that they oppose any lights for the vehicles.

As a result of the difficulty in getting the lights restored, the MTA has been exploring other options.

“We’re looking into doing things that are not regulated by the state and will hopefully be able to do something to designate (SBS buses),” Marino said. He added that the MTA is coming up with such a plan, one that doesn’t involve lights at all. He wasn’t able to give any details at the meeting but said that he was hoping they would be able to announce the plan soon.

Ground broken on extension to Asser Levy Playground

Local politicians and Parks reps break ground at a Wednesday morning ceremony. (Pictured Parks Department Manhattan Borough Commissioner William Castro, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Parks Commissioner Veronica White, Council Member Dan Garodnick, Community Board 6 Chair Sandro Sherrod, State Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Local politicians and Parks reps break ground at a Wednesday morning ceremony. (Pictured) Parks Department Manhattan Borough Commissioner William Castro, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Parks Commissioner Veronica White, Council Member Dan Garodnick, Community Board 6 Chair Sandro Sherrod, State Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Local elected officials joined the New York City Parks Department and neighborhood residents to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new park planned for Asser Levy Place between East 23rd and 25th Streets on Wednesday.

“This underutilized space was screaming for us to do this here,” said City Council Member Dan Garodnick, who helped secure some of the funds for the new park.

Garodnick was joined at the ceremony by State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger, NYC Parks Commissioner Veronica White, Manhattan Borough Commissioner William Castro, CB6 chair Sandro Sherrod and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, who rode a Citi Bike to the event.

“The Parks Department has a great legacy in this city and we’re grateful for all the open spaces that you’ve brought here,” Hoylman said. “It’s important to our kids and families to have these open spaces and we want to attract more young people to the community. This park is going to help.”

Kavanagh added that the planned park was the result of a successful land swap and although other parkland was given up, it was beneficial that the city was able to gain more park space in exchange.

“This is a very exciting day because we’re doing more to expand our parkland. This is just the first piece of a bigger project,” Garodnick added, referring to the plan for the East River Blueway.

The new park will be adjacent to the Asser Levy playground and recreation center. The space will serve as a replacement for the parkland lost to the development of a new United Nations building at Robert Moses playground. The new park will offer space for various recreational activities, including ping pong, badminton, volleyball, chess, soccer, football, t-ball and others.

There will be an artificial turf field, adult fitness equipment, benches, tables, an exercise track, drinking fountains and trees. The project was funded with allocations of $500,000 from the UN Development Corporation and $1,175,000 from Garodnick and it is expected to be complete by next fall.