A hawk roosts on a Stuy Town air conditioner in February. (Photo by Jenny Dembrow)
Town & Village is proud to present “The Soapbox,” a column featuring a different voice from the neighborhood in each one. All are welcome to submit columns on the topic of the author’s choice, preferably not longer than 650 words, to email@example.com.
By John Cappelletti
You won’t see this celebrity very often in New York. In fact, you might never see him. He’s like the eponymous character in “The Invisible Man.”
But he does make an appearance every once in a while, like last summer for instance when he flew in from L.A., D.C. or some other location so competitive they use initials. Here there’s no competition. Attention, attention must be paid to this celebrity when he chooses to grace our lives with a welcome visit. Everyone at the park at Stuyvesant Oval where I hang out stops whatever they’re doing and moves to get a glimpse of him.
Semi-naked young people on the grass totally absorbed in painting their firm, shapely bodies with sunshine suddenly leave their comfortable blankets and move under our marvelous shade trees for a better view. Even though many of these beautiful trees have been chopped down by the landlord’s landscape designer, those that escaped the axe provide refreshing shade and filter the city air for residents like myself and I’m grateful to them.
Old folks relaxing on the wood and iron benches that line the cinder paths cutting through the Oval stop complaining to each other and focus their limited eyesight on our elusive visitor here. Stuyvesant Town has been designated as the unofficial home of the black squirrel because there are so many of these furry friends of the residents who have had their population driven sky high from being fed all kinds of nuts, including expensive black walnuts.
The following letter was originally published as a comment on Town & Village Blog in response to the letter, “Sidewalks (better) get a lot clearer,” T&V, Sept. 22.
If people pick up after their animals (and by the way, they should also use water from a bottle to wash away remnants) what is the problem? People should take responsibility for their actions without everything being put into law. Fines never work.
Let’s try something new that would also affect people who are too busy making $$$, or too busy reading their (not so) smartphones: community service cleaning up poop and other messes throughout the city. Rather than paying fines, the inconvenience to their selfish lifestyle may have them reconsider having an animal in the first place.
About the dogs, I would just like to put the following out for consideration.
NYC Health code 161.03 specifies: “A person who owns, possesses or controls a dog, cat or other animal shall not permit the animal to commit a nuisance on a sidewalk of any public place, on a floor, wall, stairway or roof of any public or private premises used in common by the public, or on a fence, wall or stairway of a building abutting on a public place.”
Whether or not the sidewalks of STPCV are deemed public or private, the reason this law is relevant is that we have very dense populations here of both people and dogs (perhaps the most dense in the city), and we have a lot of toddlers here who play and fall on these sidewalks all the time. These small children are the most important factor of all.
Even if dog owners clean up the messes, does that really matter so far as children’s health is concerned? There is residual fecal matter in all cases and in some cases, effective “picking up” is impossible especially if the dog is sick.
Just as in the rest of the city, dogs should not be allowed to defecate on our sidewalks. There’s actually more reason for this law to apply here than in the rest of the city.
In lieu of phasing out dogs here entirely, I’ll offer the following possible solution.
Today as I walked from the Oval toward 18th Street, I saw a couple with its dog doing its business off the sidewalk in a small, open mulched area. The dog finished, they picked up. Fine. Not on the sidewalk, totally within the law.
There is a small mulched area near the flagpole at 22nd Street where I’ve seen a man bring his dog. He stays on the mulch, stays off the grass, picks up afterward. Seems totally within the law. Again, nothing done on the sidewalk.
Seems to me given appropriate limitations, a little intelligent planning and intelligent application of effort, small mulched areas could be set up around the buildings and used for the dogs to relieve themselves, and that would help. I’m not talking about dog runs. Just talking about small mulched areas where dogs could do their thing, owners pick up and then go on with their walks.
Of course, there would also have to be a cap on the number of dogs allowed here. Past a certain point under any circumstances, the problem becomes totally unhealthy and unmanageable.
Any fines management decides to impose would also need to be enforced with respect to dog owners who refuse to cooperate. Accidents happen so fines would be limited to those who don’t clean up afterward (in accordance with NYS Heath Code 1310).
Bus stop construction site on First Avenue and 14th Street (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By William Oddo
I know we are supposed to feel grateful for only a $50 a month rent increase for “maintenance improvements.” Some might suggest common sense and that these maintenance items should be paid from our monthly rent. In any case, there are some significant day-to-day issues that most residents would like improved but few seem to have addressed.
One is unsafe, substandard and hazardous pedestrian intersection ramp condition at intersections and crosswalks. The other is the loss of significant resident parking due to constant “temporary construction” of one sort or another and lack of government attention and repairs.
Sidewalk pedestrian ramp conditions
Throughout our community at sidewalk intersection ramps poorly designed, unsafe physical conditions, and steep ramp angles create conditions for large water “ponding” to form (think ice skating in winter).
This both blocks passage in warm weather rain and creates slipping conditions after practically every cold rain event. The “ponding” condition is worsened by the placement of Citi Bike stations that block drainage along street curbs.
Worse yet, the steep pedestrian ramp angles lack adequate level and safe sidewalk refuge areas (particularly all along the 1st Ave. west sidewalk area – 15th to 22nd St.), and tripping hazards at pavement and curb intersection.
Even in dry weather the most able of us have to be aware of these and other obstacles like phone/billboard obstructions, newspaper stanchions, and other street furniture that block and impede the 13 access nodes/locations surrounding our community.
Fourteen intersection improvements for 25,000+ people shouldn’t be too difficult for our electeds. Here’s the list if they need: 14th St. at Ave. A, B and C; 1st Ave. at 14th, 16th, 18th, 20th and 23rd St.; 20th St. at Ave. A, B and C, and Ave. C at 23rd, 18th and 16th St.
The fact is these pedestrian street crossing ramps do not assure disabled and aging community residents of a safe crossing let alone meet current engineering design standards (plus substandard federal, state, NYC DOT requirements).
Street crosswalk conditions
Once entering the street crosswalk one is presented with more dangerous crossing conditions; don’t even think of tripping here. The worst conditions exist at 1st Ave. at 14th and 20th Streets. Here it’s due to poor pavement conditions, utility manhole location hazards, the abrupt change in crosswalk elevations (urban hill and dale tripping hazards) and constant construction (destroying just finished improvements).
These conditions are of course beyond the usual post winter pothole repairs.
Bus stop construction
The forever bus stop construction project (over a year in the works) surrounding the busiest transit intersection at 14th St. and 1st. Ave has created more pedestrian safety issues and obstacles and further loss of resident parking.This particular project begins along 14th Street (in front of our closest and one of busiest MTA community bus stops) and extends along First Ave to 16th Street.
So if you need to transfer from a 14th St. bus to 1st Ave. bus or from 14th St. “L” train stop, just hike on over to 16th Street. It’s comical if not a pathetic situation.
Neighborhood parking search
Apparently, pedestrian walking hazards and residents driving in circles after work (yes there are jobs that are not near public transit or require private vehicles) in search for a parking space have escaped the attention of our local elected officials.
Recently, we have lost significant parking along the entire First Ave. Loop road and created pedestrian obstacles with little or no mitigation. We have lost almost 200 parking spaces all 14th and 15th Street due to Con Ed. They said this was a terrorist hazard but only at this power pant.
If you live in a public housing residence on 14th Street there is a good chance private, onsite parking is available for about $100 a month. Better yet for free on the non-terrorist side of the 14th Street power plant.
Some possible solutions
So here’s what our elected officials can do to get to work to help everyday conditions for all our residents:
1. Improve all 14 intersections surrounding our community free of “ponding” and designed to meet NYC/S and federal pedestrian design standards.
2. Identify and create permanent and robust intersection crosswalks at major crossings in our community. Once completed, no major deconstruction work is allowed unless in extreme emergencies. This can be accomplished by building adequately sized utility access conduits (mini-tunnels) for future needs under these crosswalks.
This would require an inter-department and public /private property coordination to establish future design and construction requirements and standards for access. Just think what we did in Times Square – we can do this here. Let’s start with 1st Ave. at 14th and 20th Street as a pilot.
3. Relocate all Citi Bike on street parking to city owned islands and wide sidewalk areas surrounding our community. That effort alone would regain about 30 to 40 permanent parking space for our community and improve drainage and intersection “ponding.” There are plenty of examples of this suggestion all around our community and city. (Hint, photos examples sent to our local officials).
4. Redesign and reopen hundreds of safe parking spaces along 14th and 15th Streets and still keep us safe from terrorists. An added benefit is pedestrian safety adjacent to our schools, parks, churches, and synagogues will be significantly improved and vehicular traffic reduced. Why? Because vehicles to and from the FDR Drive will have access to highway ramps that have been closed.
5. Contact our local electeds and Community Board 6 officers (some even live in our community) to act on your behalf to improve a few everyday community safety conditions.
William Oddo is a Stuyvesant Town resident and founder of Stuyvesant Town Quiet Oval.