Women veterans told their brain injuries were just stress

Navy veteran Bridget Dolan said the misdiagnosing of traumatic brain injuries is common, in particular for women. (Photos by Photos by Hannah La Folette Ryan/VA Medical Center)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Navy veteran Bridget Dolan reached her breaking point when yet another doctor asked how her personal life was going after she ended up in the emergency room for vertigo and dizziness, all while dealing with a headache that never went away.

“I just laughed and said I couldn’t believe I was going through this again,” she said.

Dolan said she felt like she was walking around with a constant hangover after getting multiple concussions both during and before her Navy training. But none of the doctors over the last 22 years had picked up on the fact that she had suffered a traumatic brain injury until a doctor in the Veterans Affairs Medical Center told her to walk in a straight line with her eyes closed and she couldn’t.

“It was just a simple test that cost the VA no money,” she said. “That’s when I finally had somebody believe me.”

Continue reading

Advertisements

Sandy-related construction still ongoing at VA Medical Center

Work includes replacing elevators along with the entire electrical system as part of a $207 million federal relief package. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

It was over five years ago when Superstorm Sandy flooded much of Manhattan’s East Side, crippling hospitals in Bedpan Alley. But it was the VA Medical Center on East 23rd Street that fared the worst, closing for six months.

Today, thanks to $207 million in federal relief money, the veterans’ hospital, while fully operational, is still undergoing work to replace systems that need to be upgraded rather than just repaired in the event of a future catastrophe.

Martina Parauda, director of VA NY Harbor Healthcare System (which includes local facilities including the Manhattan one), spoke to veterans about some of the ongoing projects at a town hall meeting on Tuesday morning.

The massive floodwall that began construction in 2015 is mostly done, including parts that can’t be seen like underwater pumps. It was originally supposed to be completed in 2016, but the VA has previously said underground excavation proved to be more complicated than expected.

Continue reading

City proposes reconfiguring 2 playgrounds as part of East Side flood protection plan

nov24-asser-levy-playground

Asser Levy Playground (pictured) and Murphy’s Brother’s Playground will be impacted by the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. (Photo courtesy of Parks Department)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The city has been exploring options to redesign Asser Levy Playground and Murphy’s Brother’s Playground, since both will be affected by the construction of flood protection along the East Side of Manhattan from East 23rd Street to Montgomery Street.

Earlier in the month, representatives from the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency discussed the proposals at a community meeting held at Washington Irving High School.

Carrie Grassi, the deputy director of planning for the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, mentioned how the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project will run adjacent to both parks and construction will disturb activities there.

However, since the city is only in the concept design stage with the project, Grassi said that decisions for all aspects aren’t necessarily final yet. One such instance is the placement of the floodwall as it approaches the Asser Levy Playground. One configuration has the wall bordering the park along the FDR Drive, turning along East 25th Street and connecting with the floodwall that the VA Hospital is working on.

“But some feel that would be too imposing,” Grassi said.

Continue reading

VA: Flood wall now expected to be finished by end of 2016

The contractors working at the hospital site faced delays due to difficulties drilling through found materials like concrete and rocks and a tentative projected finish date for the project is the end of the year, with work on the Asser Levy Park side expected to be finished some time this summer. (Photo by Anne Greenberg)

The contractors working at the hospital site faced delays due to difficulties drilling through found materials like concrete and rocks and a tentative projected finish date for the project is the end of the year, with work on the Asser Levy Park side expected to be finished some time this summer. (Photo by Anne Greenberg)

By Sabina Mollot

Last August, Town & Village reported on how the project to build a flood wall outside the VA Medical Center was scheduled to be finished by March of this year.

However, as anyone who has walked past the construction site recently could see, the project is still ongoing and the actual wall hasn’t even been built yet.

This week, when asked the reason for the delay, a spokesperson for the VA blamed the delay on “unforeseen factors,” specifically a less than cooperative construction site.

Work on the part of the wall along Asser Levy Park is now expected to be finished this summer, according to “tentative projections,” the spokesperson, Claudie Benjamin, said. The walls and work along 23rd and 25th street is now expected to continue until the end of the calendar year. Benjamin added that once the work along Asser Levy Place is finished, the park, which is now partially blocked off, should be “like new” at some point in the summer.

As for the difficult work conditions, Benjamin said this was discovered during the excavation for the flood wall’s foundation.

“We found some unanticipated site conditions that required us to bring in archeological and architectural teams to review and opine that we were doing everything safe for the site and the local community and that we didn’t have any archeological sites of significance,” she said.

Continue reading

ST-PCV TA will hold meeting on planned E. 20th St. ferry landing

The East River Ferry service that was launched last year recently served a million riders. Mayor Bloomberg announced that he and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn will be launching a survey to help improve the service.

The East River Ferry

The city is planning to expand existing ferry service on the East River and citywide, and a new ferry landing is to be built at East 20th Street. The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association has invited officials from the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to fill residents in on the project. The new landing would be part of the Lower East Side route, a stop between an existing stop at East 34th Street and another at Wall Street/Pier 11.

The Tenants Association is holding an open meeting on Thursday, January 14 from 6-7:30 p.m. at the VA Medical Center atrium conference room, 423 East 23rd Street east of First Avenue.

Questions are encouraged, such as:

What impacts will the new facility have on noise and pollution? Will ferry passengers crowd local buses? What effect will the ferry landing have on the new storm barrier design? What impact will the landing have on pedestrians and bicyclists in Stuyvesant Cove Park? What new commuting options will be available to Stuy Town and Peter Cooper residents?

 

 

Construction begins on VA flood wall

Barriers section off part of Asser Levy Park. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Barriers section off part of Asser Levy Park. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Last Monday, the VA Medical Center began its long-planned work on its flood wall at Asser Levy Park.  Mark Thompson, Community Board 6’s chair of Parks, Landmarks and Cultural Affairs, noted that the project has taken over a portion of the park about seven to eight feet wide, intruding upon the fitness equipment area and the track. However, Thompson said, the turf field should remain open for the duration of this project, except for a few days if the hospital needs to make a new water connection.

When asked about the project, and how long it would take, a spokesperson for the VA said it’s expected to be completed by March 10, 2016.

The rep, Claudie Benjamin, also sent T&V a letter that had been sent to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer in advance of the project getting underway, which stated the plan of the hospital’s floodwall contractor, J. Civetta and Sons.

The letter, by Mike Bozeman, director of major projects at the VA’s Manhattan campus, stated that the project began with putting up a barrier along with length of the park, and by doing so, closing the western run of the track oval and decommissioning benches, ping pong tables and exercise equipment.

“J. Civetta and Sons recognizes that this encroachment into a public space presents a nuisance and therefore has affirmed that they are committed to complete all the necessary contractual work and to restore the park in a timely manner; not later than six months from the start – by March 10, 2016,” Bozeman said.

Hospitals weigh in on sanitation garage

By Sabina Mollot

While neighborhood residents have been quite vocal in their opposition to the city’s plan to build a sanitation garage on East 25th Street, the area’s other neighbors, the nearby hospitals, have noticeably stayed out of the debate. Residents, who have argued that the 180-truck garage could delay ambulances due to the increased traffic, have, since the plan’s becoming public, speculated that the hospitals’ silence on the issue is due to “political reasons.”

“One could question whether city employees have been asked not to comment,” said Janet Handal, president of the Waterside Tenants Association. Handal has been one of the most vocal opponents of the plan, last week announcing the formation of a coalition of tenant and cooperator groups who are opposed to a sanitation depot on First Avenue.

This week, Town & Village reached out to nearby hospitals, to ask if they had any concerns about the garage and also to note that their silence hasn’t gone unnoticed by the community. Those hospitals include Mount Sinai Beth Israel, VA Medical Center’s Manhattan campus, Bellevue and NYU Langone.

Continue reading

VA Medical Center building flood wall

Rendering of the sea wall, designed by HDR

Rendering of the sea wall, designed by HDR

By Sabina Mollot

When the wrath of Hurricane Sandy sent 14 feet of river water gushing through the streets on Manhattan’s East Side, one of the buildings to get damaged the most heavily was the VA Medical Center. As a result of the water damage, the federal facility remained closed for the next six months.

But soon, as part of a $207 million hurricane repair and restoration project, the building will be protected from future flooding thanks to a wall that will be 14.5 feet tall at its highest point.

Preparations for the project have already begun with the placement of temporary fencing on the east side of the building by the new Asser Levy Playground and the closing of a parking lane on the north side of the property at 25th Street.

Cement safety barriers will be going up this week to protect anyone in the vicinity of construction, with the heavy equipment for digging expected to be brought to the site in several weeks.

Temporary fence where sea wall will be built (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Temporary fence on hospital’s east side where flood wall will be built (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The sea wall or “floodwall protection system,” as the hospital is referring to it, is expected to be completed in October, according to Mike Bozeman, the program manager of major projects at the VA’s Manhattan campus. It will include floodgates, a secant wall providing seepage cutoff, internal stormwater piping and storage, utility modifications and internal drainage area pump stations. There will be some demolition required for the project which will include the removal of fencing, paving, sidewalks, utilities, landscaping walls and “other designated site features.”

Bozeman mentioned these details and others in an email to Janet Handal, the president of the Waterside Tenants Association, last week. This was after she reached out to the hospital with a host of questions when curious neighbors began noticing that areas were being fenced off. Seeing an official looking sign at 25th Street that declared there was no parking allowed, Handal at first contacted the DOT, where initially, “Nobody knew anything about it.” With a bit more digging though, she learned that it was all for the VA’s flood wall.

Naturally, Handal’s concerns, along with the initial lack of communication from the hospital, were the usual neighborhood worries related to any major construction project, specifically excess noise and debris. Handal said she also wondered about the aesthetics of the wall, which she described as “fortress-like” after seeing the rendering, along with the expected removal of trees.

The height of the wall, which was designed by a firm called HDR, will vary with the highest point being at the Asser Levy Playground. Although the wall will be 14.5 feet high it will appear to be 11.5 feet high due to the ground there being three feet elevated from the hospital. The wall will stretch around the hospital’s east side and go west three quarters of the block towards First Avenue on 23rd Street and the entire length of the block towards First Avenue on the 25th Street side. The wall will slope downwards towards First Avenue to about eight feet from the ground. At 23rd Street it will vary from 11 feet high to about four feet high at the hospital entrance to match the existing wall.

The wall will also vary in thickness from eight inches to one foot and two inches though since it’s on VA property, it’s not expected to reduce the width of the surrounding sidewalk, Bozeman said.

Funding for the wall was provided by federal allocations, the VA’s associate director of finance and information management, Jodie Jackson, said on Monday. Out of the $207 million that was given to the hospital, $23,830,000 is going towards the wall.

Other restoration and improvement projects either ongoing or planned include moving the hospital’s generators to a higher floor, renovation of the entire ground floor and the building of a new sterilization processing area. Currently, the sterilization unit sits in a structure on the parking lot that’s connected to the hospital.

“It’s not convenient,” said Jackson of the parking lot location. “We’re anxious to get the renovations done so we can go back to normal. It’s been difficult, but our staff has adjusted and pulled through to be able to provide for our veterans.”

As for the flood wall in particular, Jackson said the hospital’s administration, still smarting from the months-long closure, is “very anxious” to see that work get started.

In the meantime, the hospital is finalizing details such as a contract for temporary nearby parking for its employees and figuring out what impacts there may be on anyone using the neighboring playground.

“I do feel it’s going to have some effect on that area,” said Jackson. “I don’t know how much or when. But I do suspect it will impact that park.”

Jackson admitted that at this time, she doesn’t know how much noise the project will create but doesn’t expect that any after-hours variances will be requested, with the bulk of the work being done during the day.

With regards to debris, an air assessment test was done in 2013, and according to Bozeman, no significant effect on the environment is expected. He added that the contractors, of Bronx-based firm Civetta, are expected to implement a dust control plan and “meet all federal, state, and local regulations with regard to dust and noise control.”

Claudie Benjamin, a hospital spokesperson, added that “every effort will be made to minimize the impact on the community and to have the work done during daytime hours.”

A representative from the hospital was scheduled to speak about the project at a Community Board 6 Transportation Committee meeting on Monday evening, but that was postponed due to weather. The meeting will instead take place on Monday, February 9 at 7 p.m. at NYU Langone Medical Center, 550 First Avenue, Room 109.

Sandro Sherrod, chair of CB6, said the board will be “working closely” with the VA on the project’s development.

“Resiliency has become a major priority for our community and we are pleased that the VA Medical Center, an institution that is so important to our city’s veterans, is taking the important steps needed to harden the facility from adverse weather,” Sherrod said. ” This is also a site that abuts our newly opened Asser Levy Park and Hunter College’s Brookdale campus that will soon undergo a transformation. We are committed to working closely with the VA to make sure that any flood mitigation doesn’t detract from all the effort in improvements to this area to make it better looking and more usable for all.”

Stuyvesant Town veteran receives medals at VA

At ceremony, Maloney says vets not taking advantage of 23rd St. hospital

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney pins a medal on Jerry Alperstein’s jacket during a ceremony on Tuesday. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney pins a medal on Jerry Alperstein’s jacket during a ceremony on Tuesday. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
A Stuyvesant Town veteran was among a group of vets honored at a ceremony at the VA Medical Center on Tuesday afternoon.
The ceremony, led by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, took place a few days ahead of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy to liberate France from the Nazis.
Though he didn’t serve in WWII, Vietnam War Navy vet Jerry Alperstein was presented with the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Meritorious Unit Commendation Ribbon and the Combat Action Ribbon.
Alperstein, the former head of the local post of the Jewish War Veterans, said he only learned recently that he was entitled to the ribbons. All the others who served on his ship off the coast of North Vietnam during a period of combat in 1967 were entitled to them as well. A friend, who’d been doing some searching online, found about it on a defense website and alerted him.
“I’m grateful to Congress Member Maloney and her staff for doing all the paperwork for me,” quipped Alperstein. Maloney then pinned the medal onto his jacket.
Alperstein said the combat aboard his ship, the Charles R. Ware DD-865, involved shore bombardment, supply barge interdiction and evasive maneuvers when under fire from the shore.
Another speaker at the VA ceremony was 91-year-old Seymour “Sy” Beder of Peter Cooper Village, who’d been a lieutenant in the Airforce during WWII.
Beder said he was very grateful to others who’d served overseas since he was luckily allowed to return home before the war ended.

Seymour Beder, WWII vet from Peter Cooper Village

Seymour Beder, WWII vet from Peter Cooper Village

“They sent me home for rest and recuperation with no last mission to fly,” said Beder. He’d had the option to return to active duty after his rest period but didn’t take it.
“I wanted to be home with my wife who was pregnant,” said Beder, adding that his job as an accountant was also waiting for him upon his return. “It was a pleasure to be back.”
Alperstein also returned to his job, in his case as a unionized copy boy for the New York Post. He also went on to jobs at other newspapers, including at Town & Village, where he was the editor. He later went on to teach. Meanwhile, Rocco Moretto, a WWII veteran who fought in the Normandy invasion, worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad company.
When at the podium, Maloney asked Moretto, an Astoria resident, who now uses a cane and a wheelchair, how he managed to survive Normandy when so few others did.
He responded, “It was mostly my mother’s prayers. I got lucky.”
According to Moretto, his unit had started with 219 men and ended with just two — including him — who weren’t killed or captured.
During the fighting, Moretto recalled once running with four other men through a mined beach and watching one of the men get sent flying into the air after hitting one of them. “I just kept running and so did the other three,” he said. The fighting lasted eight or nine days.
“We fought whatever was in front of us,” Moretto said

Honoree Jerry Alperstein of Stuyvesant Town, Vietnam vet

Honoree Jerry Alperstein of Stuyvesant Town, Vietnam vet

Vets not taking advantage of Manhattan VA, Maloney says
During a presentation, Maloney pointed out that they’re all now in their 80s and 90s and their numbers are dwindling.
“The services we promised them have never been more important,” she said.
Later, when asked about recent news reports about vets having to wait long periods for badly needed healthcare at VA centers, Maloney said she never heard complaints from any of her own constituents about long waits. Still, she recently called the Manhattan VA hospital anyway to ask about wait times and was told there’s no backlog. “And I’m not hearing anything different from the vets,” Maloney said.
What is a problem, she noted, is exactly the opposite, which is that veterans aren’t taking advantage of the East 23rd Street center for their health needs.
Once, after a veteran in her district came into her office and Maloney realized he was sick (she couldn’t recall with what), she personally brought him to the VA’s emergency room. But then, she said, “The guy gets up and leaves.”
Maloney added that she often recommends veterans go to the Manhattan facility, which she called “one of the best in the system,” but they don’t always heed her advice. “They’re independent people and they don’t want to be in a hospital.”
As for long wait times at other VA centers, Jodi Jackson, the Manhattan VA’s associate director for finance and information management, said the hospital is looking into ways to help veterans from other areas.

Hoylman: Add ST/PCV, hospitals to Sandy restoration area

14th Street between Avenues B and C (Photographer unknown)

14th Street between Avenues B and C during Sandy (Photographer unknown)

By Sabina Mollot

State Senator Brad Hoylman, along with other East Side elected officials, has been petitioning the state’s new storm recovery program, which has been focusing its efforts on restoring and protecting Lower Manhattan from future Sandy-like disasters, to include areas further north — in particular Stuyvesant Town, Peter Cooper Village, Waterside Plaza and the hospitals along Bedpan Alley.

Through the program, New York Rising, which was launched by Governor Cuomo, Lower Manhattan was awarded $25 million to implement community-input-driven strategies to rebuild downtown and strengthen the area against future extreme weather.

However, as Hoylman noted in testimony he gave to the Lower Manhattan Community Planning Committee on October 30, areas as far north as the mid-30s on the East Side and the high 20s on the West Side also saw serious damage as a result of the superstorm. Just a few examples include the flooding and months-long shutdowns at hospitals including NYU Langone, Bellevue and the VA Medical Center, loss of numerous services for months in 15 buildings in Peter Cooper Village and two in Stuyvesant Town, as well as the destruction of the management office there, and on the West Side, the flooding of half a dozen residential buildings that required evacuations, including one Chelsea building housing 50 people with HIV/AIDS.

In mid-October, the planning committee for NY Rising agreed to extend the borders of its catchment area from Canal Street west of Essex Street up to Delancey Street east of Essex up to all of Manhattan south of 14th Street, so Hoylman said he hoped the committee would also consider expanding the area further north to include Bedpan Alley.

The ongoing effort by NY Rising is “laudable,” said Hoylman, “but it excludes major swaths of Manhattan

The East River flows west under the FDR Drive last October 29. (Photographer unknown)

The East River flows west under the FDR Drive last October 29. (Photographer unknown)

that were damaged by Sandy including Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, and especially the hospitals, which serve the whole city. I think our community above 14th Street is a natural fit for this conversation.”

Hoylman’s senatorial district includes ST/PCV, Waterside, Chelsea and Greenwich Village, areas that saw some of Manhattan’s heaviest damage last October.

Especially important in planning for the future of those areas, noted Hoylman, is the protection of the elderly population.

“The seniors in Peter Cooper and Stuy Town were essentially cut off from civilization,” he said.

Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney and Nydia Vasquez, Assembly Members Brian Kavanagh and Richard Gottfried, State Senator Liz Krueger and Council Members Dan Garodnick, Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez have also been in support of the area north of 14th Street’s inclusion in the planning and on October 22, all signed onto a letter, as did Hoylman, that was sent to Seth Diamond, the director of the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery. At this time, Hoylman said they’ve yet to receive a response.

Letters to the Editor, Nov. 14

The year since Sandy at VA Medical Center

On Monday, November 11, Veterans Day, our nation paid tribute to America’s Veterans. As the director of VA New York Harbor Healthcare System, the charge of maintaining VA health care facilities to provide care to veterans is always foremost in my mind.  And this year has been a daunting challenge.
With safety as our priority, over 100 inpatients were evacuated to VA facilities in Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx and Montrose, NY without incident one day prior to Hurricane Sandy’s landfall.  VA staff accompanied patients to the new locations to ensure uninterrupted care.
On October 29, the Manhattan VA Medical Center sustained catastrophic flood damage to mechanical and electrical switches, steam system, generators, elevators, heating/air conditioning/ventilation units and the Sterile Processing Service.  The storm left the facility flooded with no power, heat or fire suppression.  The ground floor, where 150,000 square feet of outpatient care suites and diagnostic imaging equipment was located, was completely devastated.
Centralized scheduling, a call center and clinic staff began calling veterans to reschedule Veteran appointments to nearby VA medical centers and VA community clinics. A Pharmacy Refill Program was established to enable Veterans to receive medication at several local pharmacies, and VA shuttles transported veterans to clinic appointments. VA mobile health units were positioned at the Manhattan VA Medical Center to triage patients, renew prescriptions, give vaccinations and schedule appointments.
Recovery efforts began immediately and lasted several months.  Mechanical, electrical and other utilities were reestablished and existing space to relocate outpatient clinics was identified, renovated and the clinics were moved.
Outpatient clinics were phased in by April and inpatient care, including surgery and the Emergency Department, were completely operational in May.  Several major projects, some underway now, will harden the facility against future flooding.
I am moved by the encouragement and support provided by veterans and grateful for a dedicated VA staff who worked tirelessly to restore services.  On this Veterans Day, we salute our veterans and take pride in overcoming the challenges to provide the quality health care and services they deserve at the Manhattan VA Medical Center.
Martina A. Parauda
Director,
VA New York Harbor Healthcare System

 

Do we have a say on 14th St. development?

Re: “Building across from Stuy Town to be redeveloped,” T&V, Oct. 24
My worst fears were confirmed in Town & Village about what’s happening on the south side of 14th St. The proposed buildings could have a monumental negative impact on our neighborhood in so many ways. How is Stuyvesant Town going to handle the onslaught of people living across the street?
The redevelopment could bring hundreds more people wanting some green space to not only sit in, but walk their dogs or just walk around. In addition, a once desirable sleepy part of 14th street will be hustling and bustling. Can the infrastructure handle all the new residents?  And, not to mention it’s going to be a major, major irreversible crime for residents who’ve enjoyed light and views all the way downtown to lose them! If ST ever goes condo or co-op, could this decrease property values?
Before it’s too late, where does Council Member Garodnick stand on this? Can he fight for us and win to limit the height and scope so the buildings are no higher then existing tenement buildings on the south side? Can he partner with Council Member Rosie Mendez to help us? Where does the TA stand on this and can they harness their power and influence to help us? Where does CWCapital stand on this?
It’s not to say that this stretch has not been blighted, but the character of the neighborhood could forever be changed for the worse. We’ve seen this type of building invade other neighborhoods. How can information be so hard to get? Is the zoning commission a secret organization? Someone, somewhere, somehow is approving plans. It’s time to rally and defeat this plan. Help!
Name withheld, ST

 

It’s time for some MCI reforms

Re: Letter, “MCIs then and now,” T&V, Nov. 7
To the Editor:
Regarding the rent increases from MCIs, Geraldine Levy asks “When and where will this end? Our legislators…regularly object to these outrages.”
Unfortunately, the majority of our legislators do NOT object to many outrages that harm New Yorkers financially, physically or psychologically. If they did, they would immediately correct this assault on affordable housing. I suggest two proposals.
First, these state reps would legislate that all legitimate MCI increases will end when the MCI is paid off.
For example, I’ve been paying for the same antique stove and refrigerator for 22 years; for what I’ve paid I could have bought new appliances every two years. These appliances may not be considered MCIs but they were considered improvements which raised the rent on my apartment and continues to this day.
Wouldn’t it be nice if I received a retroactive reimbursement for every penny I paid more than the cost of the stove and refrig, or for any other MCI that I’ve paid for many times over?
Second, these honest legislators (Is that an oximoron?) would transfer the DHCR and its authority over all housing matters for NYC including MCIs back to New York City.
Then our newly elected Democratic mayor, who promises to correct the abuse of our annual rent hikes courtesy of 20 years under Republican mayors, Bill de Blasio could fire every official in the current DHCR and hire new ones who support affordable housing in NYC, especially housing that already exists like ST and PCV and not those new housing developments that real estate moguls dream about.
Speaking of dreams, if we lived in Disneyland instead of New York State, my proposal might be the happy ending at the top of every tenant’s wish list.
But unfortunately as the saying goes,  “In your dreams! Fahhgeddaboudit!”
Perhaps under the leadership of the capable Dan Garodnick and the Tenants Association something might be accomplished to ease this burden on tenants so that our housing here in Stuy Town at least remains affordable. Let’s hope so.
Otherwise, it’s Hello, Mississippi!
John Cappelletti, ST

 

Oct. 24 Week In Review

Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal introduced legislation last year that would protect rent-regulated tenants filing for bankruptcy protection and would prevent a landlord from buying a rent-regulated tenant’s lease at a discounted price to satisfy a portion of the tenant’s debt in bankruptcy. In a recent trend, bankruptcy courts have been allowing bankruptcy trustees to count the value of a rent-regulated lease as an asset when the tenant files for bankruptcy.
The state provides an exemption for homeowners filing for bankruptcy so that they will not lose their homes and the intent of bankruptcy is not to destabilize families by making them homeless and the same should be true for rent-regulated tenants, Rosenthal argued, because their apartments are just as much of a home as a house or other owned property.
“Filing for bankruptcy won’t land you in debtor’s prison anymore, but if you’re a rent-regulated tenant, it could make you homeless, and that’s simply unfair,” Rosenthal said. “That’s why I introduced legislation to ensure that rent-regulated tenants are afforded the same protections as homeowners when filing for bankruptcy.”

A flood wall will soon be built to protect the VA Medical Center from future storms. (Rendering courtesy of VA Medical Center)

A flood wall will soon be built to protect the VA Medical Center from future storms. (Rendering courtesy of VA Medical Center)

There will soon be a temporary flood wall around the VA’s Manhattan Campus on East 23rd Street, the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System announced on Tuesday. The temporary wall will extend from Asser Levy Place, partially up East 23rd Street and to East 25th Street. The eight-foot flood wall, made of cellular structures filled with sand, is expected to take about six weeks to complete construction. Construction of a higher, more permanent wall to protect from future storms potentially stronger than Hurricane Sandy will be built over an 18-month period. The VA was closed for many months following Hurricane Sandy, opening partially in March and then fully over the summer.

Asser Levy Place will also be closed to traffic beginning October 28 in anticipation of a new park that will be in its place. The expansion of the park is due to funding from City Councilmember Dan Garodnick and the United Nations Development Corporation. Work is expected to be completed on the project within a year.
“Open space is sorely needed on the East Side of Manhattan, and this expansion will ultimately mean more open space not only at Asser Levy, but also for the whole East Side waterfront,” Garodnick said. “This is the first step in a plan that will increase the amount of active space East Siders get, and at no cost to the City.”

With the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy coming up next week, Con Edison has made numerous improvements to its energy-delivery systems as part of its plan to strengthen critical infrastructure and protect residents from major storms. The overhead equipment is now more resilient, substations have new walls and raised equipment and gas and steam infrastructure is protected with water-proofing measures. The next steps for post-Hurricane Sandy plans throughout the next few years include burying 30 miles of overhead lines, installing stronger aerial cable, redesigning lower Manhattan networks to de-energize customers in flood zones and replacing cast iron and steel gas pipes in flood-prone areas.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that a number of New York chefs and restaurants have taken the “Pride of New York Pledge” to support New York State’s agricultural products and local foods, increasing their usage by 10 percent or more. The program is designed to encourage the local culinary industry to take advantage of the food and beverage products that the state has to offer. A number of local restaurants will be participating, including Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe, Maialino and Blue Smoke.

The New York Daily News reported last Saturday that Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio is a supporter of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban on big sodas. “I’m not ever afraid to disagree with Mayor Bloomberg when I think he’s wrong. But I believe the mayor is right on this issue,” de Blasio said. “We are losing the war on obesity. It’s unacceptable. This is a case where we have to get aggressive.”

The Downtown Manhattan exit ramp will be closed for the weekend beginning on Friday at 7 p.m. Motorists are advised to use an alternate route into Manhattan and to expect delays. There will also be one tube closed for the weekend at the Queens Midtown Tunnel, beginning this Saturday at 1 a.m., through 5 a.m. next Monday, due to necessary construction.

Bill de Blasio failed to report the tens of thousands of dollars in income from renting out his second Brooklyn home in his Conflict of Interest Board filing, Crain’s New York Business reported on Monday. A campaign spokesperson told Crain’s that the rental proceeds didn’t need to be reported to the conflicts board because there was no net income, but the city’s administrative code says that lawmakers need to report any income of $1,000 or more from each source during the previous calendar year.

Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, chair of the Commission on Government Administration, co-hosted a roundtable discussion on cloud computing in government last Tuesday. Cloud computing technology creates opportunities to improve coordination and efficiency of government resources, as well as reshape the state government’s interactions with the general public, such as how the public can access important information. Kavanagh will also be hosting a roundtable discussion on open data next Tuesday.

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.