Senate Democrats push ethics reforms

State Senator Brad Hoylman (at podium) discusses his legislation in Albany.

State Senator Brad Hoylman (at podium) discusses his legislation in Albany.

By Sabina Mollot

Amidst growing interest from the media about state lawmakers’ outside incomes and last week’s quick replacement of the longtime leader of the Assembly, Senate Democrats have introduced a package of legislative reforms aimed at cleaning up the Capitol.

Mainly, the new bills, which were introduced on Monday afternoon at an Albany press conference, are aimed at capping politicians’ outside incomes, making it illegal for officials to use campaign cash for any criminal defense fees they incur and stripping corrupt officials of their pensions.

So far, the Democrats have said the Republican majority has blocked its efforts for ethics reform.

However, with the spotlight being firmly planted on state legislators’ outside activities and U.S. Attorney Preet Bhahara’s warning the public to “stay tuned,” some Democrats, like Brad Hoylman, are hopeful this might change.

“This is a great Watergate moment for the state legislature,” said Hoylman, “and by that I mean that public confidence is at an all-time low. And it is up to both parties to usher in some reform, much like the Congress did in 1974. We should look at that example.”

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Pols, tenants weigh in on Silver, Skelos

State Senators Liz Krueger and Brad Hoylman say reports of corruption in Albany make people think all politicians are the same. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

State Senators Liz Krueger and Brad Hoylman say reports of corruption in Albany make people think all politicians are the same. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Just eight days after the arrest of one of Albany’s famed three men in a room, came the news that another one in the power trio, Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, was also being investigated. U.S. Attorney Preet Bhahara, whose investigation into Sheldon Silver led to his stepping down as Assembly speaker on Monday, is looking into Skelos’ ties to real estate and outside income from a law firm, the New York Post reported.

Skelos, of Long Island, has since reportedly laughed off the allegations.

Meanwhile, at the ribbon cutting for the new Asser Levy Playground in Manhattan on Friday morning, Town & Village cornered a couple of local state senators as well as a few community leaders to ask for their thoughts on the latest scandals from the Capitol.

Senate Senators Liz Krueger and Brad Hoylman both told Town & Village that it’s a shameful day in Albany any time there’s news of alleged criminal activity.

“Everyone who’s in elected office knows that they’re supposed to be held to a higher standard,” said Krueger. “The vast majority of us believe in good government, and when this happens, people think, ‘A pox on all your heads.’ Who’s going to want to run for office if everybody thinks you’re a criminal?”

When asked if she was just relieved it was a Republican on the hot seat this time, the Democrat senator insisted she wasn’t.

“No. I think any time there’s an elected official in Albany that gets indicted, the general public believes ‘they’re all corrupt and there’s no point in government.’”

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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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Airbnb grilled at packed Council hearing

Stuyvesant Town tenants Arlene Dabreo and Marina Metalios were among hundreds protesting Airbnb outside City Hall before  a legnthy hearing attended by Airbnb execs, hosts who use the service, tenants and politicians. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Stuyvesant Town tenants Arlene Dabreo and Marina Metalios were among hundreds protesting Airbnb outside City Hall before a legnthy hearing attended by Airbnb execs, hosts who use the service, tenants and politicians. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Airbnb, the controversial home sharing listings site, was the subject of a lengthy and contentious hearing on Tuesday that consisted mainly of accusations being traded between politicians and the company’s director of global policy.

At the heart of the conversation was whether Airbnb was making efforts to comply with state law that forbids short-term rentals in most residential buildings, which the hearing’s chair, City Council Member Jumaane Williams, said he doubted. Meanwhile, Airbnb’s representative, David Hantman, threw in — at every chance he could get — a chance to defend Airbnb users who rent their homes out infrequently, who he said make up the bulk of the service’s users — and asked repeatedly why the law couldn’t be changed to exempt them. Instead, he argued, the law should just focus on “bad actors,” tenants or landlords who regularly rent apartments to tourists for short-term stays, making life hell for neighbors.

Most of the people in attendance were tenants opposed to Airbnb, due to illegal hotel activity in their own buildings, but there were also a few dozen supporters of the company, including hosts, with both groups demonstrating outside before the hearing. Those against the company carried signs with slogans like “I don’t want strangers for neighbors” and “sharing = selfish.”

A couple of demonstrators in that camp were Stuyvesant Town residents Arlene Dabreo and Marina Metalios.
Both said they’d seen suspected illegal activity in the community.

“We’ve seen it for sure, definitely in the past year,” said Metalios. “A lot of people coming in with suitcases and garbage being kept in the wrong place.”

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Also at the event was ST-PCV Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg, who’d hoped to speak about illegal hotel operations in Stuy Town, but finally gave up at around 5 p.m. since she had a meeting to go to. At this time the hearing, which began at around 11 a.m., was still going on. Since the City Council chambers were filled with around 200 people, some of them standing, the rest of the attendees, like Steinberg, had gotten herded into an overflow room.

Had she been able to give testimony, Steinberg said she would have focused on how, when residents’ use of Airbnb started to take off in 2011, it coincided with an uptick in bedbug infestations in Stuy Town buildings where short-term rentals were taking place. Following meetings with company reps alongside reps from CWCapital, illegal hotel activity in the complex has decreased, though it hasn’t ended completely.

Steinberg also had included in her testimony how the TA had heard concerns from neighbors about their safety when they challenged short-term renters who wanted to gain entry into buildings. In one case, an irate guest “just pushed their way into the building.”

One tenant who did get to testify at the hearing was West Side resident Audrey Smaltz, who said she’d lived in a penthouse apartment in her building since 1977, always feeling safe with the same neighbors for many years. But in recent years, this changed, with the owner renting vacant units as hotel rooms. “The entire fourth floor is for short-term rentals and (there are) many units on other floors,” she said.

As for Airbnb supporters, not too many had signed up to testify at the hearing, which Hantman had explained as being because they’re working people who can’t afford to wait around five hours.

“They have jobs; they have no voice right now,” he said.

However, politicians seemed less than sympathetic about the plight of New Yorkers resorting to home-sharing to help pay their own rent.

Council Member Corey Johnson, who represents Greenwich Village, said he lives in a tiny studio apartment for which “the rent is too damn high,” but added with what New Yorkers pay in rent, they should have the right to not be surrounded by transients.

Another Council Member, Robert Cornegy of Brooklyn, asked Airbnb for their revenue in 2014 and projected revenue for this year, which Hantman said he wouldn’t be allowed to provide. “I’ve got to FOIL that?” Cornegy asked him. “You’ve got to go to our finance people,” Hantman responded.

When questioned about how the attorney general had found that 72 percent of Airbnb rentals to be illegal, Hantman said this was “inaccurate,” especially since Airbnb has since removed thousands of listings by users who don’t provide a “quality” experience.

In response, Williams blasted Hantman for mentioning the word “quality” more than once when discussing hosts’ renting practices.

“You keep mentioning quality — you never once mention following the law,” said Williams. “I’m sure you have lobbyists that can try to change the law, but I don’t know how you can be a business person and never mention state or federal law. You only mention quality of experience. That’s not an effective business model in the City of New York.”

Hantman had argued that very few Airbnb rentals turned out negatively out of two million people using the service to stay in New York over the past few years. He also said 1400 of those people had found places to stay when they were impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

Council Member Helen Rosenthal, who represents the Upper West Side, asked about quality of life issues related to short-term rentals, when Hantman mentioned Airbnb has a neighbor hotline that can be called if a resident wants to report problems with an Airbnb guest or host. Rosenthal challenged this, asking “How would they know?” if a neighbor is in fact an Airbnb user as opposed to a client of some other home-sharing service or that the number even exists for the reporting of such issues.

When accused of putting tenants at risk for eviction for hosting, Hantman said the company does have a pop-up on its site for New York City users warning them hosting may not be legal in their buildings or allowed in their leases.

“We know how much they earn, but we don’t know what their lease is,” he said. “We ask our hosts to obey the law.”

One host there to support the company, Lee Thomas, told the panel about how after he became ill with cancer, his high-paying career on Wall Street came to an end and the only means he had of supporting himself was by renting out his getaway cottage. In response, Williams told him the illegal hotels law didn’t even apply to him because it applies to multi-family buildings while his property was just a two-family one.

Along with Airbnb, also getting quite a bit of criticism was the city office tasked with investigating illegal hotel activity, with Council members accusing its director of not doing enough or having the resources needed to adequately deal with the ongoing problem.

Elizabeth Glazer, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, kept saying she believed her office was doing a good job at keeping up with complaints, but politicians countered that the system shouldn’t just be complaint-driven. Rather, Rosenthal said, it should be proactive enough to keep up with any suspicious short-term rental listing. This was after Glazer had said her office last year had received 1,050 illegal rental complaints, up from 712 in 2013. In response, Rosenthal told her there were over 2,000 listings in Council Member Antonio Reynoso’s district in Brooklyn alone.

“I publicly take issue with what you’re saying,” said Rosenthal.

When asked how the office investigates tips of illegal activity, Glazer said there is “an array of techniques that we use,” but she declined multiple times to say what they were.

This answer didn’t impress Council Member Peter Koo, who threw back, “I don’t see you using them though.”

He told Glazer about how he’d seen an inspector show up at an address where there was suspected illegal activity and knock once. When no one answered, the inspector knocked again. Then, after a few minutes more, when the door remained unanswered, he was gone.

“How come it’s so hard to open a door?” asked Koo. “Pretend you’re a tourist. Send a decoy. Tell them they’re here to give a massage.”

Despite getting some chuckles from the audience, Koo was then cut off by Williams. Koo said he represents an area in Flushing that’s become a “gateway of Asian tourism.”

Also sitting in at the hearing were the authors of the 2010 illegal hotels law, State Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Member Richard Gottfried. Krueger said what she hoped would come out of the event would be more and not less enforcement of the law at the city level.

“Without enforcement at the local level, it’s as if we didn’t pass it,” she said.

According to Glazer, out of the 1,050 complaints received in 2014, 883 resulted in inspections and 495 violations being issued.

Council Member Dan Garodnick, who was not at the hearing since he is not a member of the housing committee, later said he does support “more aggressive enforcement” of the law.

From hoarding to healthcare: CB6 holds forum on senior issues

State Senator Liz Krueger hosted a forum on senior issues.

State Senator Liz Krueger hosted a forum on senior issues.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community Board 6 hosted its first forum on senior issues at the NYU Medical Center on Monday, September 15. The event was hosted by State Senator Liz Krueger, a senior issues advocate whose office annually puts out the Senior Resource Guide, and panelists who attended included Linda Whitaker from the Department for the Aging, KARPAS Health Information Center director Julie Spillman, OATS and Senior Planet Exploration Center director of programs Kimberly Brennsteiner and Elder Care Giving Senior Care Advisor Joanna Leefer.

The panelists discussed opportunities for seniors and different healthcare options available, as well as some of the problems that seniors might face. Senator Krueger opened the forum with information on one of the issues that some seniors don’t want to talk about because of the stigma: hoarding.

“You’ve lived a long time. You’ve acquired a lot of stuff. But it can be a fire risk and can exacerbate a pest problem,” she said. “The worst calls that we get are from landlords who say they’re going to evict those tenants because it’s a health and safety risk.Our golden rule is to help people keep their homes.”

The senator also discussed the complications of providing healthcare to the rapidly growing senior population in the city.

“We don’t have adequate long-term health care programs and the programs that we do have pay for too little,” she said. “When you’re trying to decide in your 50s what will be good for you, things change by the time you hit your 70s and 80s.”

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Aug. 12 SCRIE/DRIE workshop to be held at Community Center

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh held a press conference about the DRIE income limit increase on July 24, just moments before the City Council gave its blessing to the increase. Kavanagh is pictured with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Public Advocate Letitia James, Ellen Davidson of Legal Aid and Council Member Helel Rosenthal

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh held a press conference about the DRIE income limit increase on July 24, just moments before the City Council gave its blessing to the increase. Kavanagh is pictured with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Public Advocate Letitia James, Ellen Davidson of Legal Aid and Council Member Helel Rosenthal

A workshop on recent expansion of eligibility for the programs SCRIE and DRIE (income caps for both programs have been raised significantly in both cases to $50,000) will be held at the Stuyvesant Town Community Center on Tuesday, August 12.

State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Kruger, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and Council Members Rosie Mendez and Dan Garodnick will be co-hosting the event, which is aimed at helping senior and disabled constituents apply for SCRIE and DRIE. One-on-one sessions at which eligible candidates can get personal assistance with their applications, or get their questions answered, will be held 1:30-4:30 p.m. at the community center, located at 449 East 14th Street (on the First Avenue Loop, near 16th Street).

If you are 62 and think you may be newly eligible for SCRIE (Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption) or are 18 or older and eligible for DRIE (Disability Rent Increase Exemption), you can learn how to apply at this event.

The SCRIE and DRIE programs provide exemptions from future rent increases and some MCIs (major capital improvements). They are now within reach of many more ST/PCV residents, due to legislation authored by Kavanagh ecently enacted at city and state levels.

If you plan to attend, call the Community Center at (212) 598-5297, so staffers will know how many to expect.
For those who can’t make it, there will be two additional informational events/registration drives.

One will be at Tompkins Square Library, 331 East 10th Street between Avenues A and B, on Monday, August 11 from 1-3 p.m.
Another will be held at Stein Senior Center, 204 East 23rd Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, on Tuesday, August 21 from 1-3:30 p.m.

Remembering Roy Goodman and more civilized days in Albany

Roy Goodman in a photo that ran in Town & Village in 1977

Roy Goodman in a photo that ran in Town & Village in 1977

By Sabina Mollot
On June 3, 2014, Roy Goodman, the Republican New York State senator who represented part of the East Side of Manhattan, including Stuyvesant Town, for 33 years, died at the age of 84.
According to his daughter Claire Pellegrini-Cloud, Goodman’s death at a hospital in Danbury, Connecticut, was most likely caused by pneumonia.
He had also, for around a decade, been battling Parkinson’s and relied on a wheelchair to get around. His death came as a surprise however, since he’d been active and was just returning home to Manhattan from a trip to see one of his six grandchildren graduate from Harvard. He also attended a number of other events at Harvard, his alma mater, recently, including an awards dinner. On the way home from the graduation trip, an aide noticed that Goodman’s hands were turning blue and called 911. Goodman was admitted to Danbury Hospital on Thursday night, but wound up taking a turn for the worse over the weekend.
“He was surrounded by family up until the last moment,” Pellegrini-Cloud said. “It was a peaceful death.”
Throughout his lengthy political career, Goodman was known for his socially liberal views. He was a supporter of women’s rights, from protection against domestic violence to the right to choose, as well as of LGBT rights and services for people with HIV/AIDS when the disease was just coming into public awareness. He also fought for tenant rights and affordability and was instrumental in the prevention of Riverwalk, a towering luxury development that would have cut off ST/PCV residents’ access to the waterfront and blocked their views of the river. While tackling the city’s fiscal crisis during the 1970s, he still pushed for continued funding of the arts. He also worked on city charter revision and ran the State Senate’s committee on investigations.
Though he left office over a decade ago, with his passing, former colleagues have been wistfully noting the official end to an era when Republicans and Democrats enjoyed a far less contentious — and far more productive — working relationship.
Since his departure from office in 2002, when he was succeeded by Liz Krueger, there have been no Republicans elected anywhere in Manhattan.

State Senator Roy Goodman (left) with Vincent Albano, chairman of the New York County Republican Committee, in a 1979 Town & Village photo

State Senator Roy Goodman (left) with Vincent Albano, chairman of the New York County Republican Committee, in a 1979 Town & Village photo

At that time, noted Pellegrini-Cloud, Goodman was disappointed at the sharp right turn his party had taken, and that “people couldn’t rise above personal vendettas to work together. He was very solution oriented.”
She added that this attitude extended to Goodman’s family life. When she was growing up, Goodman would make sure each of his three children, Claire, Randolph and Leslie, got equal airtime at the dinner table. When there were disagreements, “He would say, ‘Let’s not be so quick to judge that person. Let’s see it from their point of view,’” said Pellegrini-Cloud.
Meanwhile, she disagreed with a detail in a recent story in the New York Times, which first reported on Goodman’s passing, that said her father was seen by some as a snob.
“He was known for mixing it up with anyone,” she said. “Yeah he used flowery language, but he was a great believer that the average person could understand that. Why dumb it down?”
Steven Sanders, the Assemblyman who represented the ST/PCV area for 28 years (25 of those alongside Goodman) recalled working with the senator to fight Riverwalk as well of another development farther north in Tudor City. That Harry Helmsley project would have destroyed residents’ park space. Sanders, on the morning of his wedding day, heard that a bulldozer had come to the site, and promptly headed over there to join the tenants in forming a human chain. Goodman, meanwhile, managed to secure an order from a judge to stop work despite it being a weekend.
He also recalled how due to legislation sponsored by Goodman in the Senate and Sanders in the Assembly, the cost of major capital improvement rent increases (MCIs) for tenants was reduced.
“Since MCIs as we know are paid in perpetuity, the cumulative savings for tenants became hundreds of dollars in each year,” Sanders said. They also worked together with the owner of Waterside Plaza, Richard Ravitch, and the Waterside Tenants Association to create an affordable housing contract for tenants at the complex when its Mitchell-Lama contract expired in 2001.
He also recalled how back in the 1980s, he and Goodman, along with then Town & Village Publisher Charles Hagedorn and Bill Potter, then the general manager of Stuyvesant Town, would meet for lunch every few months. The spot was usually Capucines, a restaurant on Second Avenue at 19th Street that recently closed.
“It was social and an occasional discussion of some community issues,” said Sanders, who is now the only surviving member of that group. “Imagine that… Republicans and Democrats, and the representative of the landlord Met life along with the publisher of the Town & Village joining together as colleagues.”
But, added the former assemblyman, who left office eight years ago, “Roy and I come from a different time. That notion of governing seems to have been lost. Politics has been exceedingly contentious. It’s all about winning and losing. We had our tussles every two years when I supported my candidates and he supported his, but then we’d have a drink or lunch and we would do community work for our district. We will not see his like again.”
Krueger, whose first run for office was against Goodman, said she remembered her opponent’s humor when he ultimately defeated her.
“His graciousness and good humor were on full display from that campaign’s beginning to its end, when, victorious after a six-week recount, he jokingly dubbed himself ‘Landslide Goodman,’” she shared in a written statement last week.
According to a Times article, he had a similar attitude when he lost a mayoral race in 1977 to Ed Koch.

Roy Goodman (right) with Frank Scala in a 2006 campaign  flier for Scala’s Assembly run

Roy Goodman (right) with Frank Scala in a 2006 campaign flier for Scala’s Assembly run

Frank Scala, the president of the Vincent Albano Republican Club, was a friend of Goodman’s and had his endorsement when he ran an unsuccessful campaign for Assembly in 2006 during a special election.
This week, Scala pointed out that most people living in ST/PCV are unaware of Goodman’s involvement in the creation of Stuyvesant Cove Park a decade ago.
While still in office, he’d allocated $1.2 million for its construction. “If it wasn’t for Roy Goodman the park wouldn’t have been built,” said Scala.
Goodman had also encouraged Scala to revive the Albano Club after it had been inactive for years.
In 1981, Goodman became the Republican New York County Committee chair and remained in that position for 20 years.
After leaving office, he served as CEO for the United Nations Development Corporation and was a participant in a handful of organizations supporting the arts. Up until the time of his death he lived on the Upper East Side, where he grew up, the grandson of Israel Matz, founder of Ex-Lax.
In an interesting coincidence, Goodman’s death occurred within 24 hours of the time his wife of over 50 years, Barbara, died eight years ago.
On both days, Pellegrini-Cloud remembered there being loud, violent thunderstorms, and only after the more recent one, she spotted a rainbow.
“I like to think it was my dad’s stairway to heaven, going to join Mom,” she said. “It was incredible.”
Condolence visitation for Goodman was held on Sunday, June 15 from 6-8 p.m. at Frank E. Campbell, 1076 Madison Avenue at 81st Street. The funeral service was on Monday, June 16 at Temple Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue and 65th Street. The burial was private.

Hoylman to have sit-down with ‘Santa’

Revelers outside an East Village bar at last year's SantaCon (Photo by Allegra Kogan)

Revelers outside an East Village bar at last year’s SantaCon (Photo by Allegra Kogan)

By Sabina Mollot

Last week, a coalition of local elected officials led by State Senator Brad Hoylman were able to get the mysterious organizers of SantaCon to agree to a few policy changes to help turn the annual pub crawl from naughty to nice.

This has included the organizers providing the event’s route to local precincts ahead of time and promising to have “elves” on the sidewalks to help keep the roaming crowd of Santas, Mrs. Clauses and other Christmas characters under control on their way from one bar to the next.

Now, said Hoylman, the organizers have also agreed to meet with the politicians face to face following the event to review how things turned out. This, he noted is progress, considering that previously, the organizers had only spoken with the pols over the phone or through email with only first names provided.

SantaCon, which has grown in recent years due to social media, will take place this year on December 14. Hoylman said either he or someone from his office will be “observing” the event, which according to a report in the Daily News, will start at Tompkins Square Park, head to the Lower East Side and end up in Brooklyn.

As Town & Village has reported, officers from the 13th Precinct have previously said they are preparing for the event, due to crowds last year that were larger than expected.Critics, including local precincts and community boards, have complained that the event has become a nuisance due to crowding outside bars and rowdy, drunken behavior that’s included public puking and urinating.

Last week, a rep for the event, who would only identify him or herself as “Santa,” told Town & Village organizers have been trying to be cooperative and were in agreement with Hoylman about bad behavior among participants not being acceptable.

Other politicians in the coalition include State Senators Liz Krueger and Daniel Squadron, Assembly Members Brian Kavanagh, Deborah Glick and Richard Gottfried and Council Members Dan Garodnick, Rosie Mendez and Margaret Chin.

 

 

Hoylman: It’s time to rein in SantaCon

Revelers outside an East Village bar at last year's SantaCon (Photo by Allegra Kogan)

Revelers outside an East Village bar at last year’s SantaCon (Photo by Allegra Kogan)

By Sabina Mollot

State Senator Brad Hoylman, who has recently called on the mysterious figures behind the ever-growing bar crawl SantaCon to start policing its crowds, said this week he was able to get the group to agree to some of his suggestions on achieving this.

Though the conversation he had with the group was over the phone with individuals who would only identify themselves by first name, Hoylman said it was a positive talk since the group said it would take some concrete steps to keep the event under control.

“We’re reserving our judgment,” said Hoylman on Wednesday, in reference to himself and a coalition of other local politicians who also want to see the mass gathering become less of a disturbance to the neighborhoods it visits.

Last Tuesday, the group penned a letter to urge the anonymous organizers to work with police and community boards on curbing the crowding and rowdy behavior seen at SantaCon events in recent years. SantaCon, an annual event, encourages participants to dress like Santa or other Christmas-themed, and even Hanukkah-themed characters, as they head down a route announced only shortly before the crawl via social media, and hit various pubs along the way. As it’s grown, however, the event has been widely criticized by residents of neighborhoods that are included, due to the crowded sidewalks and the obvious intoxication of participants.

Last December, a Town & Village intern covering the event reported having to dodge male and female Santas yelling, fighting and even puking as they stood waiting to get into various bars or sitting on bus stop benches in the East Village and Union Square. After getting a few photos, the intern, Allegra Kogan, and a friend got into a cab and, before they could exit at Union Square, had the door flung open by more drunken Santas who tried to force their way in.

“Even the cab driver, probably used to New York City antics, looked shocked,” Kogan said.

This year’s SantaCon is set for December 14, with the route so far unannounced.

In their letter, the pols said the route ought be made public in advance to give the NYPD and local businesses time to plan.

“While SantaCon is an open event, the organization still bears ultimate responsibility for its participants,” the letter from the coalition of politicians read. “Every organization must ensure that it is not encouraging lawbreaking, which in this instance includes public consumption of alcohol, public intoxication, public urination, as well as disorderly and overly aggressive behavior.”

Along with Hoylman, others to sign the letter were State Senators Liz Krueger and Daniel Squadron, Assembly Members Brian Kavanagh, Richard Gottfried and Deborah Glick and Council Members Dan Garodnick, Rosie Mendez and Margaret Chin.

Hoylman also noted that in a previous attempt he made to reach out via letter to SantaCon in October, organizers did respond, but it was “in a very cursory manner.”

He added, earlier this week prior to the Tuesday conversation, “They said they were looking at some options to police themselves and work with the NYPD, but it wasn’t sufficient.”

However, after the conversation, Hoylman said volunteers for the group said they would be willing to work with local community boards, precincts and elected officials and let the precincts know the route of the event ahead of time. There will also be volunteers to help maintain crowd control on the sidewalk “as well as weed out the bad actors, or rather the bad Santas,” said Hoylman.

Part of the event’s problem, he was told, was that anyone can participate simply by donning a Santa suit. “So there’s this flash mob mentality.

“At this point we’re reserving our judgment to see whether they follow through on their promises,” he said.  “The challenge will be whether they can actually control the people who participate.”

As for the organizers’ decision to withhold their full identities, Hoylman said, “It was the best we could do at this point, so I remain skeptical. Given that they’re a loosely affiliated group of people who want to remain unnamed, we all need to be watchful.”

In November, as T&V reported, police officers from the 13th Precinct announced that they were gearing up for SantaCon, following the unexpectedly large crowds last year.

Prior to the phone call with Hoylman, when asked for comment on the elected officials’ concerns, a spokesperson for SantaCon, who would only identify himself as “Santa” to T&V via email, insisted that the organizers have been trying to be cooperative.

“Once again, SantaCon organizers are in agreement with much of what Senator Hoylman’s office has stated,” the email said.

“We want to return the event to one that values the creative and charitable aspects of SantaCon over the consumption and over-crowding it is known for.

“This year we are reaching out to community boards, police precincts, Parks Departments and governmental agencies to coordinate our event. We plan to remain in contact with them in order to mitigate the negative effects SantaCon may cause on any community it passes though.”

On the event’s website, organizers note that the real purpose of the event is not boozing, but raising money for charity. Last year’s event raised over $45,000 for Toys for Tots and collected 10,000 lbs. of canned food for the Food Bank of New York City. This year, participants are being asked to contribute $10, which will be distributed to several charities.

On the site, “Santa” added that, “Santa agrees that there is no excuse for inappropriate behavior. Public drunkenness, urination or rude behavior is not only prohibited by the stated rules of the event, but actively discouraged by the crowds of Santas themselves, who are for the most part, responsible, creative community-minded New Yorkers.”

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.

 

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.