Sanitation garage, homelessness addressed at Gramercy forum

Council Member Rosie Mendez, LaToneya Burwell, director of Community Affairs at the Department of Homeless Services, DSNY community affairs liaison Julian Sepulveda, Lieutenant Vincent Collins, Police officer John Considine and Assistant District Attorney Kaitrin Roberts (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Council Member Rosie Mendez, LaToneya Burwell, director of Community Affairs at the Department of Homeless Services, DSNY community affairs liaison Julian Sepulveda, Lieutenant Vincent Collins, Police officer John Considine and Assistant District Attorney Kaitrin Roberts (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel
City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez moderated a quality of life forum at School of the Future on East 22nd Street this past Tuesday evening and answered questions from the community with the help of representatives from various city agencies. The event was co-hosted by Gramercy Neighborhood Associates and Community Board 6 and there were representatives from the various city agencies in attendance to answer questions.

District Manager Dan Miner noted that turnout seemed low because of the ongoing thunderstorms and the middle of the forum was interrupted by a flash flood warning alarm blast from an attendee’s cell phone. The Parks Department, Department of Transportation and the Department of Health did not have representatives at the forum, making it a smaller affair than a similar quality of life forum that was held for the Kips Bay community in the spring.
Mendez noted that this forum was meant to build on the event at Kips Bay and the representatives present at the forum included Lieutenant Vincent Collins and Police officer John Considine of the 13th Precinct, LaToneya Burwell, director of Community Affairs at the Department of Homeless Services, Julian Sepulveda, the community affairs liaison at the Department of Sanitation and Kaitrin Roberts, Assistant District Attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney Crime Strategy Unit.

Alan Krevis, president of the Gramercy Neighborhood Associates (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Alan Krevis, president of the Gramercy Neighborhood Associates (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

One of the topics discussed, albeit briefly, was the sanitation garage that is planned for the Brookdale campus. Councilwoman Mendez said that the garage was a plan that was submitted under the previous administration but the current administration has yet to announce a stance on it. Mendez and her fellow City Councilmember Dan Garodnick have been called to a meeting about the garage that will take place in the next week or so, she added, and more updated information should hopefully be forthcoming after that.

Other questions addressed at the forum had to do with cleanliness. Mendez noted that a number of the questions sent in had to do with dog waste. Sepulveda of the DSNY noted that issuing a summons to someone for not cleaning up after their dog is tricky because it is something that police have to witness occurring. He encouraged residents to submit complaints to 311 so the city is aware of problem areas and the DSNY has been working with Business Improvement Districts throughout the city on sanitation-related issues to make sure that areas are clean, but beyond that, it’s a difficult rule to enforce. Mendez added that a new initiative was proposed and passed in the last city budget this June which allots between $90-$100 thousand per council district for city clean-up.

Burwell, a representative for the Department of Homeless Services, addressed questions about what to do about homeless people on the street. She emphasized that it isn’t illegal to be homeless but residents can contact 311 and DHS will send their street outreach team to engage with the person.

Many of the representatives for city agencies at the previous Kips Bay forum emphasized that 311 was the perfect catch-all for complaints on just about anything and some of the attendees at this most recent forum expressed frustration about the bureaucracy that sometimes seems involved in getting problems solved after reporting them to 311.

Sepulveda acknowledged that calling 311 can seem frustrating but assured the residents that the complaints were being heard.
“Our office deals with 311 requests all day,” he said. “It’s not just a black hole. They are getting somewhere. We do have to abide by certain rules and regulations so sometimes the issue is just out of the agency’s hands.”

Lieutenant Collins of the 13th Precinct also made the distinction between when to call 911 versus 311.
“If you fear for your safety or their safety, that’s a 911 situation,” he said.
“If someone could get injured, that’s always a 911 call. Sometimes if it’s a grey area; they may redirect the call to 311, but if there’s a chance of injury, it’s always better to call 911.”

Community Board 6 will be hosting other forums in the future and Miner said that the next meeting on the radar will be a senior issues panel on September 15. More information about the panelists and topics to be discussed will be available closer to the event’s date.

Pols ask city to hold off on plans for sanitation garage

East 26th Street approximately where garage would be built (Photo by Lou Sepersky)

East 26th Street approximately where garage would be built (Photo by Lou Sepersky)

By Sabina Mollot
Last week, East Side elected officials made a last ditch effort to the Bloomberg administration to see if the city would hold off on plans for the Brookdale Campus sanitation garage. Via letter, the politicians argued that while there is no plan in place for the parcels of property set aside for development on both sides of the intended garage site, the city has still been moving along in getting needed approvals to get the garage built.
The local politicians, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Council Member Dan Garodnick and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, reached out to the Department of Sanitation last Wednesday with a letter asking to “table this proposal until a comprehensive plan for the entire site, and more clarity regarding the many issues that have been raised, are provided.”
The many issues referred to are the concerns of residents at nearby Waterside Plaza, East Midtown Plaza and Kips Bay about impacts on air quality and increased traffic on nearby streets due to the expected steady steam of garbage trucks in and out of the garage as well as various safety issues related to the site itself. The fact that the street is in a flood zone was also cited by the community.
It was following a land swap between the city and CUNY that the school’s Brookdale Campus, located on First Avenue between 25th and 26th Streets, was fated to become the site of a sanitation garage that will be built in 2020. The deal is attached to a plan for a new hospital to be developed on the Upper East Side.
However, the garage aspect has been consistently blasted by East Side residents and politicians. Along with the aforementioned reasons, many feel the surrounding neighborhood, better known as Bedpan Alley due to all the medical and science facilities, is simply not the appropriate location for a sanitation garage.
Additionally, with the garage not expected to be ready for use until 2020, Hoylman, Kavanagh and Garodnick said there seemed to be no reason for the city to rush the plan along, other than the fact that Bloomberg will no longer be in office.
“We are conscious and we know they are conscious of the change in administration,” Kavanagh said. “Clearly this proposal is something that came out of the current administration.”
Recently, the Department of Sanitation produced renderings of the garage, which it has presented to the Public Design Commission for preliminary review.
While the pols wrote they “have no issue” with the DSNY continuing work on the requirements on the ULURP (Uniform Land Use Reform Procedure), there’s been “little effort,” they continued, “made in addressing our concerns.”
When asked about the letter, Kathy Dawkins, a spokesperson for the department, told Town & Village that work on the project was not about to be put on hold.
“The Department does not intend to consider slowing down the process until there is a determination on uses for the portion of the site not required by DSNY,” said Dawkins.
“Our analysis will assume that the neighboring parcels will be developed. The required air, noise and traffic analysis will be part of the EIS (environmental impact statement) and address all traffic concerns — vehicle and pedestrian — as well as air quality and noise issues.”
As for the renderings of the garage, Dawkins said they weren’t available at this time since the designs are preliminary. “It is anticipated that the renderings will be available early next year,” she said.
On the DSNY’s response to the letter, Kavanagh said he didn’t want to comment, though he did reiterate a point in the document to say the plan should include information about the non-garage space at Brookdale.
“We feel very strongly that if this is going to be done rationally, it has to be done in the context of the overall site,” he said. “It doesn’t seem rational for a city agency to not consider what another agency might do on the same block.”
(See the full letter to the DSNY.)

Letters to the editor, Dec. 19

Fences cut off access to kids’ ‘sleigh hill’

The 20th Street Loop hill on Saturday afternoon (Photo by William Oddo)

The 20th Street Loop hill on Saturday afternoon (Photo by William Oddo)

To tenant organizers and local elected representatives,

For the first time in Stuyvesant Town’s history this past weekend, our children were prevented from sleigh riding on the “hill” safely because of the installation of a hideous bent metal fence and posts. The metal fence created an obstacle for kids to safely sleigh ride as they have done after every snow event for generations.

Kids were attempting to sleigh ride and have fun while avoiding the perils of the metal fence and poles. In fact, the higher and more fun hill was just too dangerous so most kids and parents used the adjacent smaller and slower area. To top it off even the Oval was fenced off.

I’m writing to you all because there is no one in management to address or contact concerning this very timely issue.  As many of you know, the “hill” along 20th Street Loop and Oval as it known is the only “sleigh ride hill” within a radius of more than three miles of our community. Without any capital expenditure, or entrance fee or expensive “produced family event” our kids were able to just have fun in the snow.

However, the current management is on a tear to fence off virtually every bit of space no matter how absurd the effect or benefit. Management has fenced off areas so small that the fences themselves comprise more area than the space it protects besides wasting money. It has even included a fenced off access to the Oval lawn Christmas tree (reserved for summer “practically no bathing suit” sunbathing) and a second fence around the new and not ready for prime time “Christmas” tree.

So please use your collective access to see if you can contact anyone in management to “temporarily” remove these “temporary wire fences.” They can be removed quickly and reinstalled later if needed at all.

In all fairness, I understand that leaf control was a partial reasons for metal fence policy. However, the many private park spaces have employed much less costly temporary natural material during late fall season, then removed it later. It has also been reported that fences were installed by management partly in response to complaints from tenants of pets ruining our flower garden areas. Perhaps a discussion could be organized to address these concerns and perceptions and resident pet owners’ concerns and not have our children suffer from a poorly thought out management policy.

What should management (who ever they are) do now? What you could tell them:

• Start by recognizing this longtime community activity and put in place temporary measures to support sleigh riding on the “hill” for our children.
• Remove the wire fence and metal poles.
• Install temporary safe barricades at the curb to protect sleigh riders like redeployed haystacks from Halloween events.
• Create a temporary safe walking path adjacent to the “hill” for other residents.
• Redeploy security personnel from standing inside the skating rink tent and post them outside in advance of the “hill” to protect kids and direct traffic.
• Open up the Oval (early spring is plenty of time to restore grass for sunbathers).

A longstanding community activity like “sleigh riding on the hill” supports an authentic and vital community. As a student of urban planning, community activities like these are a designer’s delight that planners, developers and architects work mightily to create. It’s what current management has failed to recognize here.

Lastly, this management team’s effort to control and watch everything in this community only serves to undermine and ruin their efforts. Worse yet, the world knows a fence, a wall or “security” camera can never contain a genuine human activity. I would be happy to help in this effort and appreciate a tenant organization’s or others’ response.

Respectfully,

William Oddo,
Resident, organizer of Stuyvesant Town
Quiet Oval Group 

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Mendez, hoping to improve housing crisis, running again

Council Member Rosie Mendez in front of her campaign office

Council Member Rosie Mendez in front of her campaign office

By Sabina Mollot

Rosie Mendez, who’s served as City Council member for the second city district for the past eight years, is hoping voters will choose her on Primary Day, as she seeks a third term.

Mendez, who’s been tackling such issues as building neglect in public housing, disappearing affordable housing options in the district and more recently, plans for a sanitation garage on First Avenue that she opposes, said she’s running again because, “I love my job and I still have more to do. I don’t want to run for something else.”

On Monday, Mendez discussed her goals for the coming years if re-elected as well as ongoing projects at her campaign office on Avenue B and 11th Street, just down the block from where she lives.

In that area of Alphabet City, it’s hard to find a storefront that doesn’t have a campaign poster with either Mendez’s smiling face or Democratic rival Richard del Rio’s.

Del Rio has been critical of his opponent for running for a third term, but at her office, Mendez defended her position, saying that while she had been against overturning term limits for the mayor, she doesn’t feel the same way about other city legislative positions.

“My opponent and some people do not remember the whole process,” she said of the City Council’s move to overturn the term limits, which allowed Mayor Bloomberg to run for a third time.

The reason she said she feels a different policy should apply to the executive of City Hall from the rest of the elected officials, is that simply put, the mayor, with his staff, has outnumbered and outmaneuvered the Council, with theirs, at numerous turns and disagreements.

“Their staff was able to run circles around us,” she admitted. “We don’t have the staff with the experience to really get in and catch everything they’re hiding.”

At this point, Mendez is hoping the next mayor will be the Democratic candidate she’s endorsed, Speaker Christine Quinn. (Mendez also said she supports term limits for that position as well.)

However, Quinn, she believes, would be more sympathetic to tenants, and housing has for many years been the biggest challenge facing the district. This is particularly due to owners of regulated units opting out of the Mitchell-Lama and Section 8 programs and public housing being in a state of crisis with NYCHA having fallen seriously behind on repairs — around one million jobs. Additionally, at this point, the agency seems unsure where to go with a previously hatched “infill” plan to build market rate housing at existing low-income developments. As of last week, NYCHA went from asking developers from RFPs (requests for proposals) to RFIEs, requests for expressions of interest. Mendez said this week that she doesn’t want to see anything pop up that doesn’t have the support of tenants and isn’t entirely or mostly affordable housing. She also doesn’t want any new development at one of NYCHA’s proposed infill sites, Smith Houses, because of how it flooded during Hurricanes Irene and Sandy.

Council Member Rosie Mendez at Campos Plaza, where residents recently got a security camera system Photo by Sabina Mollot

Council Member Rosie Mendez at Campos Plaza, where residents recently got a security camera system
Photo by Sabina Mollot

Having grown up in Williamsburg Houses, the first public housing project to be built in Brooklyn, Mendez is no stranger to the problems of public housing.

Mendez said she is also not a supporter of the infill program because she doesn’t think the expected income from market rate units will cover the financial needs of the complex, but, she said, doing away with the $74 million NYCHA pays each year for police services would. The practice of paying the police, which private landlords do not, began in the Giuliani era. Mendez said she’s been pushing for the payments to end since she first came into office. While she is not enthusiastic about that happening any time soon, she has allocated $10 million in funding to NYCHA this coming fiscal year. Last year she did the same.

Mendez, who chairs the Council’s Public Housing Committee, said one thing she is considering — if constituents like the idea — is to get some affordable housing built specifically for seniors. Although well aware that it “takes funding to make,” she’s optimistic about the future under a new mayor, who, she hopes, would give owners incentives to maintain as well as build affordable housing beyond the standard 80/20 formula.

Priority one though for Mendez, if re-elected, would be to focus on a plan of action and preparation for the next Sandy-like disaster. After the superstorm hit, Mendez and her staff went to many buildings to check on the district’s most vulnerable residents, the elderly, sick and disabled. In some cases, this meant trudging up the stairs of high-rises to recharge residents’ motorized wheelchairs or bring them hot meals, medicine and buckets of water for drinking and flushing. With many residents having no water or just afraid to use what they’d saved, “It created an unhealthy and unsanitary situation,” said Mendez. By coordinating with local nonprofits such as GOLES and the Stein Senior Center, Mendez said she was able to meet the needs of those who were most in need while also not duplicating services offered by other agencies.

“It was multiple levels of triage to try to get to everyone so we wouldn’t have a tragedy,” she said, though she added that, “Unfortunately, we did have some tragedies.” One was a senior living at Kips Bay Court who had been carried down the stairs from her apartment on an upper floor, in her bed, as well as along with her oxygen tank, for medical help. The woman ended up not surviving although curiously, she wasn’t considered a Sandy casualty, with her death getting blamed on whatever condition she had. “It should count,” said Mendez.

Other problems were that at local emergency shelters, there weren’t enough cots for people who’d evacuated, and that those who remained behind in their homes were in many cases just unprepared for a blackout that lasted several days.

On education issues, Mendez has been opposed to many of the co-locations of schools in recent years and blasted the Panel for Education Policy as “rubber stampers” for approving the Department of Education’s co-location plans.

“I like to say I’m old school,” said Mendez. “When I went to school, a school was a building and a building was a school.”

From what Mendez has seen, the co-locations have led to principals having to put students’ issues on the back burner while trying to coordinate on who gets the library or rear yard at what time and schools not getting enough funding for arts, music and summer programs.

“I’ve been trying to supplement it with that much maligned discretionary funding,” she said. “It allows me to fund after school programs and during the day.”

Schools that have been on the receiving end of such funding include PS 110, PS 34, PS 40, PS 116, PS 188, PS 15 and MS 104, which recently used the money for a summer tennis clinic.

Other money from the discretionary funds has gone towards local nonprofits’ food pantry and hot meal programs. Mendez noted how on any given Saturday morning, at a church across the street from her campaign office, near the corner of Avenue B, the line for bags of food stretches outside almost down to Avenue A. “You’ll see anywhere from 200 to 400 people,” she said.

More recently, another issue that has been of concern to Mendez is the planned Brookdale campus sanitation garage. While located in City District 4, it would affect Mendez’s constituents living in East Midtown Plaza and Kips Bay. Mendez said she is mainly opposed to it because the garbage trucks would all be located in an area where “we’ve seen cars floating. If the trucks were to get flooded, there are pollutants and a lot of dirt and grime on them. I don’t know how the mayor justifies putting this right in the middle of hospital row, right in the middle of a flood zone. I think it’s very ill advised.”

On crime, Mendez said she believes the police force currently has too few officers due to a shrinking force, and while District 2, which covers the Lower East Side, the East Village, Alphabet City, Gramercy Park and Kips Bay, hasn’t seen the kind of crime it used to, there is still the occasional shootout, and noted Mendez, a spike in sexual assaults all around the city. She suggested that the city put “less money into consultants and more into our agencies.”

As far as quality of life issues is concerned, noise from bars has been an ongoing one though Mendez noted stipulations on hours venues can do business as well as fines issued by the State Liquor Authority against repeat offenders have helped to some degree. Another growing complaint has been evening noise from construction sites with developers applying for and getting variances to do construction from as early as 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mendez said she’s, in some specific cases, managed to get it “scaled back” though at other locations, late construction has persisted despite intervention from her office. She said she’ll continue to meet with the developers as well as the Department of Buildings.

Throughout her career in the City Council, Mendez said she considers her biggest accomplishments to be helping to save the Stein Senior Center, which has recently reopened in a new and improved location, preventing closures of daycare centers and in general, being responsive to individual concerns.

“Everything in politics is local,” she said, “so I’m proud of my track record with constituent services.”

Before her first run for office, Mendez graduated from New York University and Rutgers School of Law.

She began her career in politics as chief of staff to her predecessor in the Council, Margarita Lopez (now employed by NYCHA). Like Lopez, Mendez is openly gay and a champion for LGBT rights.

Letters to the Editor, Aug. 22

Why landscape fences make complete sense

A number of neighbors have voiced irritation at the presence of fencing now encircling much of the plantings. About that fencing, I agree, it is rather cheap, ugly and not the sort of fencing likely to last. In fact, in some places it is already compromised.

However, I find our neighbors’ expressed puzzlement a bit fictitious. “Why has the fencing gone up?” they ask. Really? Really? They don’t know?

Let’s provide some data from which they might construct a hypothesis.

First: “dog friendly.” Second: irresponsible owners of PCV/ST: No place for dogs to do doggie things. Third: irresponsible tenants: First: buying dogs when it is know that the place has no way to accommodate their elimination needs. Second: some irresponsible dog owners: putting it out that it is ok for dogs to urinate on anything that grows and anything that does not — grass, bushes, trees, garbage cans, street posts, bench legs, the walkways, the legs of pedestrians. (Ok, so the last is false!)

Third: making a common practice of allowing dogs to defecate on common ground. (Thanks by the way to the large dog owner who covered his/her doggy’s fecal matter with leaves on the south side of the paddle ball courts a few weeks back: I really loved the soft gushy slippery feel.)

So, about our neighbors who want the rest of us to believe that they are puzzled about the presence of fencing and the closing of the “open look” give an explanation your best shot!

John Giannone, ST

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Pols: Sanitation garage plan rushed, incomplete

A tour of the 57th Street sanitation garage was held last Wednesday. (Pictured) A DSNY rep, Bob Qu, a rep for Council Member Dan Garodnick; Janet Handal, president of the Waterside Tenants Assocation; Garodnick, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and Gerard Schiffren, a resident of East 23rd Street Photo courtesy of Dan Garodnick

A tour of the 57th Street sanitation garage was held last Wednesday. (Pictured) A DSNY rep, Bob Qu, a rep for Council Member Dan Garodnick; Janet Handal, president of the Waterside Tenants Assocation; Garodnick, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and Gerard Schiffren, a resident of East 23rd Street
Photo courtesy of Dan Garodnick

 

By Sabina Mollot
Local elected officials are calling on the city to come up with a more comprehensive plan on its intended use for a block where a planned sanitation garage is to be built. More details, they’re saying, are needed about what the east and west parcels of the property on the current Hunter College Brookdale campus, would be used for, as well as other factors. Only the center area is slated to be used for the garage.
This comes after a tour was held last Wednesday of an existing garage facility on 57th Street in an attempt by the Department of Sanitation to answer questions about the one intended for 25th Street and First Avenue. The tour was attended by Council Member Dan Garodnick, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and representatives for State Senator Brad Hoylman and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, as well as a few community leaders. Janet Handal, president of the Waterside Tenants Association, was present, as was the property’s general manager, Peter Davis, and 23rd Street resident Gerard Schriffen, president of a group called the Rose Hill Community Association. Leading the tour at the 57th Street facility was Dan Klein, director of real estate for DSNY.
Following the tour, Kavanagh and Garodnick echoed concerns previously made by community residents about the Brookdale facility plan, which was first announced close to a year ago, being sped along to get necessary approvals while Mayor Bloomberg is still in office. The city announced the plan as part of a land swap that would give Hunter property on 73rd Street for a new school and medical facility to be built in collaboration with Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Kavanagh, however, called the DSNY’s hope to get a ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) for the garage “premature,” considering the garage isn’t even going to begin construction until 2018. The ULURP, he added, should wait “until they can tell us what they want to do with the entire building. And they have no idea what they want to do with the rest of the building. There are a lot more questions than answers at this point.”
Garodnick said the tour was “useful in that you can get a sense of the potential structure,” but, he added, “We think this proposal is being rushed and it has not fully contemplated the entire block be tween the FDR Drive and First Avenue.”
The Brookdale campus takes up a full city block from 25th to 26th Streets and First Avenue to the FDR Drive. “It’s impossible to evaluate an incomplete plan,” said Garodnick, “and that’s what we have.”
He added that he thought the discussion should continue as it has been at Community Board 6 meetings. The last public meeting on the subject was held in late June and an extended public comment period ended on August 14.
In response to a question from a reporter of whether the DSNY would delay its ULURP request, Belinda Mager, a spokesperson for the department, indicated it wouldn’t.
“DSNY needs to advance the site selection and design process of this garage so that construction contracts can be awarded as soon as the city has site control in 2015,” she said. She added that, “DSNY would only control the part of the site required for the garage.”
The department has said previously the west and east sides could be leased out by the city to private developers. Meanwhile, the lack of available information on the plans for the east and west parcels has led at least one neighborhood resident, Schriffen, to draw his own conclusions — that the city will be using one side to store fuel tanks, the other for a salt shed. The DSNY has however said that while there will be fuel storage onsite, there won’t be a salt shed.
“No salt shed is included with this project,” said Mager. “Salt spreaders would be loaded at existing salt sheds.”
Still, Schriffen, a former prosecutor turned private practice attorney, said he thinks that’s what’s coming because there isn’t yet one nearby and the department’s own scoping document, dated May 24, notes that the department wants to rezone the block from its current R8 (mixed residential and institutional status) to M-16, which is for “large scale special development” and to get “various bulk waivers.”
As for a salt shed, he said he was opposed to that use for the property as well as the storage of diesel fuel due to the dangerous chemicals that are found in both.
To store the fuel tanks, Schriffen said he was told on the tour that there would be a berm made of pebbles with a concrete lid. Handal said it was explained that it would be placed below ground but appear to be above ground inside and “above the flood plain.” She added that she’s been asking for a drawing of the plan since she and others on the tour found the explanation confusing.
Later, Mager said the tanks would be stored underground “and would be constructed to adhere to all applicable city, state and federal codes.”
On the tour, Sanitation reps noted that there were vents in the garage for pumping out fumes for the safety of people in the building, but Schriffen, who lives on East 23rd Street, later said he wondered about the safety of the surrounding community.
“Where do those fumes go?” he said. “Bellevue? The V.A. hospital? NYU Medical School is going to be sucking all that in?”
Other area residents have also expressed concern about the presence of onsite diesel fuel tanks at the garage and how they would affect security and air quality. Additional concerns have been raised about traffic on the surrounding streets due to sanitation trucks competing for space with V.A. and Bellevue hospital ambulances, odors from garbage emanating from the site and excess noise once construction begins.
Handal said she was particularly concerned about traffic congestion around the facility since Waterside Plaza, which is located right across the FDR Drive from the site, has two onsite schools. Additionally, a nearby street, Asser Levy Place, is eventually going to be closed to traffic following the Asser Levy Playground’s planned expansion.
“They say they’ve done traffic studies already, but I want to see copies of those because they need to do that during the school year,” said Handal.
Area residents have also been vocal about their opposition to the garage based on the fact that such a facility is completely inconsistent with the rest of First Avenue in the East 20s and some of the 30s, now a corridor housing three hospitals as well as numerous other medical and science-related facilities.

Watersiders campaign against sanitation garage

Residents worried about onsite fuel tanks

Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal Photo by Brightsmith

Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal
Photo by Brightsmith

By Sabina Mollot

Along with extra traffic from garbage trucks and noise from construction, residents living near 25th Street and First Avenue, the site of a planned Department of Sanitation garage, are now saying they are also concerned about safety due to the presence of thousands of gallons of diesel fuel, which are expected to be stored at the property.

Janet Handal, president of the Waterside Tenants Association, which has been opposed to the garage plan, said this week that she was concerned about the potential for explosions due to an accident or arson. Meanwhile, she said tenants at Waterside have compiled around 300 letters in opposition to the garage, based on a form letter prepared by the WTA with their own comments added. The public comment period on the project ended on Wednesday. At some point after comments are reviewed, the Department of City Planning will issue a final environmental impact statement.

Though the letters mention more than one reason for their stand on the city project, which was first announced last year, the fuel tanks, said Handal, “are a very serious concern. It poses a security risk.”

She noted how she recently strolled down to a similar facility located at 57th Street around 10:30 in the evening, also where fuel tanks are stored, “and there was no security guard and the doors were wide open. A fire could break out or an explosion from fumes, from something purposeful or someone doing something careless.”

Handal said the issue was raised at the last public scoping meeting, which took place on June 25, but she hadn’t gotten a response.

As for whether or not any fumes or odors could be a nuisance to Watersiders, Handal said it would depend on what the winds are like that day. The garage, which is now located on CUNY’s Brookdale campus, is also in front of the main entrance/exit at Waterside, the 25th Street footbridge over the FDR Drive. Traffic there, where the SBS bus stops, is also a concern to residents, said Handal, since trucks are expected to start leaving the facility each day before 6 a.m.

The Department of Sanitation has said early on the 135-foot-high facility would accommodate space for 170 DOS trucks and 145 other vehicles, including those owned by department employees over a total of 108,600 square feet.

The WTA, like the garage’s other detractors, has also attempted to argue that the garage is also just out of place for a neighborhood that’s better known to residents as Bedpan Alley due to all the hospitals and other medical facilities, including the City Office of the Medical Examiner.

Another neighbor of the Brookdale campus, the East Midtown Plaza co-op complex, has also made this argument in recently submitted written testimony.

Jerry Fox, president of the co-op board, said residents at EMP have also had concerns about future weather-related floods and outages in the area, including at the garage site. “Where are you going to put those fuel tanks?” asked Fox. “You can’t put them on street level. If it floods, you’re going to have major problems.”

In response to the residents’ concerns, DOS Public Information Chief Keith Mellis said safety was a top priority with regards to the fuel storage and there was also a plan for noise mitigation.

“All fueling operations will meet stringent local, state, and federal regulations and will be regularly inspected to ensure not only the safety of our workers but of the overall community,” said Mellis, “just as we have done over the years at all DSNY facilities citywide.”

He added that the building would be staffed “24/7, providing security at all times, and the garage will be designed to meet flood risk standards. In our continuing effort to work with the community to minimize any inconveniences, a noise mitigation plan also will be implemented during construction.”

Op-Ed: History of local Sanitation Dept. garage

This op-ed was written by Lou Sepersky, the community historian for the 6th Community District. He was originally appointed to that position in 1999 by then-Borough President C. Virginia Fields and has been reappointed ever since.

EMS ambulance on East 26th Street (approximately where the garage would be built)

Town & Village’s page one story (Sept. 20) on the proposed construction of a Department of Sanitation (DoS) garage on 26th Street east of First Avenue, on the Bellevue Hospital Center campus, has a very definite Town & Village root. And a lesson that needs to be learned for future public projects.

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Upcoming Events

Town & Village has compiled a list of events that we believe are of interest to the community, from health fairs to community board meetings. See T&V’s blog for arts and entertainment listings, local health workshops and events at local houses of worship.

Art in Odd Places begins on Oct. 5 along 14th Street

September 29
Stuy Town Yoga
Stuyvesant Town is celebrating National Yoga Month with free outdoor classes on Sat., Sept. 29. Sun Salutation with Erin will be at 9:15 a.m. Power yoga with Chintamani will be at 10:15 a.m. Yoga master class with Justin will be at 11:15 a.m. Classes are free to all residents and will be held in Playground 10.
National Prescription Pill Take Back Day
Precincts throughout the city will be participating in National Prescription Pill Take Back Day on Sat., Sept. 29 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Additional information about the event is available by calling 311. Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents can bring their unused prescription pills and medication to the 13th Precinct at 230 East 21st Street.

October 1
CB6: Public Safety, Environment & Transportation meeting
There will be a Community Board 6 meeting about the sanitation garage proposed for East 25th Street and First Avenue. The meeting will be on Mon., Oct. 1 at the NYU Medical Center, 550 First Avenue, Coles 109 at 7 p.m. and will include a presentation from Daniel Klein, the director of the Department of Sanitation Office of Real Estate. Edward Janoff of the Department of Transportation will also be at the meeting to provide updates on Kips Bay Plaza.

October 2
CB6: Parks, Landmarks & Cultural Affairs meeting
Community Board 6 will be hosting a meeting about the new Asser Levy playground and about crime reporting in public parks on Tues., Oct. 2 at the NYU Medical Center, 550 First Avenue, Coles 101 at 7 p.m.

October 4
Senior Resource Fair
Senator Liz Krueger will be hosting the 6th annual Senior Resource Fair on Thurs., Oct. 4 from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Temple Emanu-El, 1 East 65th Street at Fifth Avenue. Various exhibitors will be available to provide information to older adults about food stamps, health care, senior centers, social security, technology, legal services and other issues. Lenox Hill Hospital will be on site to offer blood pressure testing and NY Legal Assistance Group will offer help with health care proxies and living wills.

October 5
Art In Odd Places
Art In Odd Places is an annual art festival that takes place along 14th Street from Avenue C to the Hudson River. This year the festival will be from Oct. 5 to Oct. 15 and will feature poetry, performance, site-specific installations, videos, painting, sculpture, drawing, illustration, street art, mobile studios, design and music.

October 6
Roller Hockey Tournament
The annual roller hockey tournament will be held on Sat., Oct. 6 at 10 a.m. in Playground 7. The event will be open to residents 21 years old and up.
Paddle Tennis Doubles Tournament
The annual paddle tennis doubles tournament will be in Playground 5 on the weekend of Oct. 6 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The tournament is open to residents age 16 and older.
Worldwide Day of Play
Stuyvesant Town will be hosting a Worldwide Day of Play for residents on Sat., Oct. 6 from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m. on the Oval. All residents ages 5 to 11 will be able to participate in games, field events and Zumba.
Zumba
There will be a Zumba class on Sat., Oct. 6 from 12 p.m. to 12:50 p.m. at Oval Fitness. This class is free to all residents on this day only and attending will earn a point for Maintain Don’t Gain.
Outdoor Sports Screening: MLB Division Series
Residents will be able to watch the 2012 MLB Division Series Playoff on Sat., Oct. 6 from 1 to 7 p.m. on the Oval. The event is free for all residents and their guests.

October 13
Bocce Tournament
Playground PCV 1 will be hosting a singles and doubles bocce tournament on Sat., Oct. 13 at 10 a.m. The event is open to residents 16 years old and up.
Thriller Dance
Stuyvesant Town residents will be able to learn the choreography to Michael Jackson’s iconic Thriller music video at Oval Fitness on Sat., Oct. 13 from 2 to 3 p.m. This event is free for all residents.