Goodbye summer, hello fall

Ajna Dance Company performed at Waterside Plaza in July.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Although the official end of the season isn’t until the end of this month, the unofficial end of summer comes at the start of the school year, which begins for public school students this week. With another summer over, Town & Village takes a look back at some of the activities and events in the neighborhood that took place in the last few months in the sunshine and heatwaves.

After an announcement earlier this year that concerts at Stuyvesant Cove wouldn’t happen this summer due to a cut in funding, the park’s association got sponsorship for the series from New York City Ferry, operated by Hornblower. The funding was initially short because the application process for receiving discretionary funds from Councilmember Keith Powers had become too complicated and time-consuming for Stuyvesant Cove Park Association, an all-volunteer run organization.

This season opened with a performance from the NYPD Jazz Band on July 9 and the Haggard Kings brought country sounds to Stuyvesant Cove on July 15. Sean Mahony and the New York Swing Orchestra performed on July 17. Rutkowski Family and Friends performed in Stuyvesant Cove on July 24 after the original date was postponed due to rain. Harlem Renaissance Orchestra performed the final show of the season on July 30.

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Safety concerns about new Kips Bay bike lane

Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal expressed concern last week that the new shared bike path underneath the FDR at the heliport is too narrow for both bikes and pedestrians. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Waterside Plaza tenants rallied last Thursday to protest the newly-installed shared bike/pedestrian path for the East River Greenway that runs adjacent to the heliport at East 34th Street that the Department of Transportation installed within the last month.

Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal told Town & Village this week that there are a number of issues with the new configuration, primarily around the newly-painted lane by the heliport.

“It is a major thoroughfare for parents with children in strollers going to the United Nations International School and the British International School,” she said, noting that before the lane was painted recently it was a pedestrian path, but the new lane between 33rd and 34th Streets designates it as a shared bike and pedestrian path, making it cramped when both cyclists and pedestrians are there at once.

“It’s certainly not room for bikes going both directions and people walking,” she added.

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Bike lane coming to FDR service road

The bike lane outside of Waterside Plaza (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Department of Transportation will begin implementing safety improvements on the FDR Service Road that include a two-way bike lane between East 25th and 33rd Street this month. The improvements specifically address the Greenway along Waterside Plaza, the Water Club at East 30th Street and the East 34th Street intersection near the heliport.

The DOT made the announcement about the project on Twitter last Thursday, although the plan was originally presented to Community Board 6 two and a half years ago in November 2016. The DOT had also announced plans last September to start implementation of the project in the fall but later said in November that it would be pushed back to this summer.

A spokesperson told Town & Village that the then-two-year delay was not unusual, given that the project was especially “complex” and the agency was still working out construction scheduling and the final designs. The DOT also attributed some of the delay to changes in the plan to the design around the Water Club.

Manhattan DOT Community Coordinator Colleen Chattergoon told members of Community Board 6 last fall that the Water Club didn’t want bike traffic directly in front of their entrance, so the design was adjusted to include granite planters and a Jersey barrier as buffers. The restaurant also agreed to relocate a large container currently in their parking lot so that the DOT could more easily implement the bike lane changes.

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British International School of New York celebrates Red Nose Day

Students at the British International School of New York at Waterside Plaza don red noses as part of a campaign aimed at fighting children’s poverty. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Students at the British International School of New York celebrated Red Nose Day at the Lewis Davis Pavilion in Waterside Plaza last Thursday with a jokeathon to raise awareness for child poverty.

Brave 10, 11 and 12-year-olds took the stage in front of their classmates to make them giggle for the event, which is part of a national fundraiser that collects donations for various organizations that benefit children throughout the US and the world. Red Nose Day started as a charity event in the UK through the organization Comic Relief, which started holding live fundraising comedy shows in the 1980s to address famine in Ethiopia. The highlight of the fundraising efforts was Red Nose Day, during which comedians participated in a telethon to raise money to address worldwide poverty.

Comic Relief USA is a sister organization to the charity in the UK and primarily raises funds specifically to tackle child poverty, while the UK focuses on poverty, as well as mental health issues and refugees. Walgreens sells the noses for $2, with $1.30 going to the fundraising effort, and Walgreens doesn’t make a profit on the noses.

Abigail Greystoke, director of BISNY, said that this is the first year the school held a jokeathon for Red Nose Day but students did still get involved in the event last year by hosting a bake-off to raise money for the cause.

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Council approves Waterside affordability deal

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Waterside Plaza as seen from Stuyvesant Cove Park (Pictured last August) Photos by Sabina Mollot

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The City Council voted last Thursday to approve an agreement that will protect longtime Waterside Plaza tenants against substantial rent increases as part of a lease extension between the property and Housing Preservation and Development.

The agreement will allow tenants who have been living at the property since before Waterside left the Mitchell-Lama program and will be retiring soon to receive rent protections. City Council Member Keith Powers, who has been working with Assembly Member Harvey Epstein and the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development on negotiations for the deal for over a year, was able to negotiate an additional year with HPD so that tenants have until 2020 to retire and qualify for the rent protections, compared to 2019 when the plan was first announced.

“It’s not huge but it at least gives people who might be affected a better idea of how they should plan,” Powers said after the Council vote of the additional year.

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Nanny gets 15 years for shoving baby wipe down an infant’s throat at Waterside

Waterside Plaza

By Sabina Mollot

On Monday, a nanny who was found guilty last month of trying to kill an eight-week-old boy in his family’s Waterside apartment was sentenced to 15 years behind bars.

Apparently fed up with the baby’s crying and her salary, Marianne Benjamin-Williams, 47, had shoved a baby wipe down the infant’s throat on May 18, 2017. Despite arguing that the baby’s toddler sister had done it, the jury found her guilty on all charges, including attempted murder, assault and strangulation.

It hadn’t helped her case that she’d lied about her employment history to the family she worked for, including past work and references and had doctored her IDs.

Following the sentencing, District Attorney Cyrus Vance called the former nanny’s actions “gruesome.”

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Man charged with assaulting bus driver

An M34A bus at Waterside Plaza (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police arrested 42-year-old Sharif Pasha for allegedly assaulting an MTA bus driver at Waterside Plaza in Kips Bay on Friday, December 21 around 10 p.m.

According to Patch.com, Pasha, who is homeless, walked over to the driver’s side window when he got off the bus at Waterside Plaza and grabbed the 28-year-old driver, repeatedly punching her in the face and chest. Police said that Pasha fled the scene but was arrested about an hour later near the 30th Street Men’s Shelter near First Avenue, where he lives.

Police said that the driver was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment and is in stable condition. Pasha was charged with assault. The Manhattan district attorney’s office did not have any further information about the case.

2018: A year of L hell, ferry launch and more

Vehicles and pedestrians squeeze between construction barriers along East 14th Street. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The year 2018 didn’t lack for major changes in the community from the transformation of East 14th Street into a (potentially full-time) construction zone to the maiden voyage of a ferry with a stop at Stuyvesant Cove to the axing of a courtyard full of beloved trees in Stuyvesant Town. There was also what appeared to be an uptick in crime perpetrated by youths and homeless men in Kips Bay as well as some political intrigue, with Congressional fixture Carolyn Maloney seeing her first serious competition in nearly a decade.

For more on the year that was, as covered by this newspaper, read on:

  1. There is no doubt at this point that 2018 was the year of L hell. (The day after Town & Village went to press, Governor Cuomo announced his alternative proposal.) Long before the dreaded L train shutdown even would begin, residents of the street have been impacted by the loss of 60 parking spaces, constant noise and clouds of dust from the vehicles going in and out of the construction area along the north side of the street, all while construction on developments goes on along the south side of the street. Local elected officials have been pushing the MTA for some concessions and have won a few so far, like better lighting along the construction barriers, sound reducing blankets and the installation of air quality monitors. But the effort has remained to reduce evening and weekend hours of work to give neighbors — some suffering from respiratory problems — a break. At one point, a lawsuit that had been filed to stop or delay the L train work due to accessibility and congestion issues was expanded to include the misery felt by residents whose apartments face the construction zone between Stuyvesant Town and the East Village.

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Woman convicted for trying to kill baby at Waterside apartment

Waterside Plaza

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday, a nanny who worked for a family at Waterside Plaza was convicted of trying to kill a two-month-old infant she was watching last year.

Apparently fed up with the baby’s crying and her salary, Marianne Benjamin-Williams, 47, had shoved a baby wipe down his throat. Despite arguing that the baby’s toddler sister had done it, the jury found her guilty on all charges, including attempted murder, assault and strangulation.

It hadn’t helped her case that she’d lied about her employment history to the family she worked for, including past work and references and had doctored her IDs.

Benjamin-Williams is expected to be sentenced on January 7. According to the district attorney, she’s facing eight and one third to 25 years in prison for the attempted murder charge alone.

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Greenway project near Waterside postponed to 2019

 

The bike lane outside of Waterside Plaza (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

After announcing in September that work would begin this fall on improvements to the Greenway on the East Side between Waterside Plaza and the East 34th Street Heliport, the Department of Transportation confirmed this week that it has been put on hold until next year.

A spokesperson for the DOT did not have specific details on when next year the work would begin but said that the agency expects to start work when the weather gets warmer and to complete the project by next summer.

DOT originally presented the project to Community Board 6 two years ago in November 2016 with plans for the bike lanes north of Stuyvesant Cove Park leading up to Waterside Plaza, past the United Nations International School and the Water Club, up to the heliport at East 34th Street, reconfiguring the lanes to make them more visible and separate cyclists from vehicle traffic.

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Police Watch: Man arrested for allegedly filming woman, Handy.com worker accused of theft

MAN ALLEGEDLY FILMED TEEN MCDONALD’S EMPLOYEE WHILE SHE WAS CHANGING
Police arrested 19-year-old Jose Urtarte Encarcanacion for alleged unlawful surveillance inside the McDonald’s at 401 Park Avenue South and East 28th Street on Friday, October 26 at 5:07 p.m. According to the District Attorney’s office, the 17-year-old victim went into a unisex single-person changing area for employees at the restaurant.

Police said that the private area has a curtain that can be closed, and the victim went inside to change her clothes. She said that once she was in the changing area, she noticed an iPhone 7 plus propped up on the coat rack with the camera app open, and she saw that the phone was recording video. Police said that officers recovered the phone from Encarcanacion’s pocket while he was in the back office of the McDonald’s. At the time, he also allegedly said, “Am I in trouble? Will there be any punishment? The phone must have clicked on the video camera. iPhones do that.”

An attorney for Encarcanacion could not be reached for comment.

HANDY.COM WORKER ACCUSED OF THEFT
Police arrested 26-year-old Destiny Matos for an alleged theft from an apartment at 39 West 16th Street on October 8 around 7 p.m. Police said that while Matos was working for cleaning service Handy.com, she allegedly took the victim’s credit card from her apartment and later made several unauthorized charges. Matos was charged with grand larceny inside the 13th Precinct on Tuesday, October 23 at 7:48 p.m.

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Opinion: Tales of the Waterside ducks

Oct11 Waterside ducks

Photo courtesy of Waterside Plaza

By Marsha Sorotick 

On the first day of Spring, 2014, much to the surprise of Waterside residents, a lone female duck was seen strolling around the Plaza looking like she owned the place. Shortly thereafter, she was observed taking a morning swim in the neat little pond that is part of the Plaza’s garden space. In time, a mallard joined her in the pond. To the residents’ delight, the two of them would sun and groom themselves on the ponds’ rocks, take short swims, and an afternoon snooze.

It eventually was reported by the garden staff that, apparently, it wasn’t all sunning and swimming and snoozing. Eggs were discovered, well hidden in the garden’s shrubbery. So began several weeks of waiting, watching and wondering by Watersiders. Checking on the duck eggs became the thing to do.

The day finally arrived when the ducklings appeared in all their fuzzy cuteness swimming with their mom in the Plaza pond. They stayed until they were deemed ready to leave by their mom and, as is their tradition, marched out of the garden in single file behind their mother, down the Plaza steps to the river.

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Improved Kips Bay bike lane coming soon

The bike lane outside of Waterside Plaza, pictured on Tuesday (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Department of Transportation will begin implementing improvements along the East River Greenway near Waterside Plaza at the end of September with street configurations meant to calm traffic and protect cyclists. The DOT announced the improvements via Twitter late last week, although the agency originally presented the changes to Community Board 6 nearly two years ago in November, 2016.

Regarding the gap between the presentation to Community Board 6 and the project’s implementation, a spokesperson for the DOT said the time frame for this “complex” project is not unusual, due to working out the final design and construction scheduling.

The improvements are planned specifically for the area of the Greenway between East 25th and 34th Streets, alongside Waterside Plaza, the Water Club Restaurant at East 30th Street and the East 34th Street intersection.

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Waterside Plaza residents retiring next year could benefit from affordability plan

Waterside residents learn more about the affordability agreement at a Community Board 6 meeting on Monday. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Waterside Plaza tenants might want to consider early retirement to take full advantage of the affordability deal brokered between owner Richard Ravitch and the city.

Representatives from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development told Waterside Plaza residents at a recent Community Board 6 meeting that only tenants who have retired by 2019 will be eligible to have their rent reset as part of the deal that was announced earlier this month.

Dozens of residents, including Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal and property manager Peter Davis, were at the Land Use and Waterfront committee meeting on Monday to learn additional details about the plan.

A number of residents at the meeting expressed concern about how much they would benefit through the plan, saying that they were eight to 10 years away from retirement and would ideally like to stay at Waterside Plaza for the foreseeable future but wanted to be eligible for a rent reduction.

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Blueprint for affordable housing

WatersidePlaza

By Council Member Keith Powers and Assembly Member Harvey Epstein

As rents continue to climb, the city is working to create, preserve, and secure affordable housing for New Yorkers. Last week, we announced a breakthrough.

In each of our first years in office, we have had the honor of working on a deal that achieves something many dream of but too rarely comes true: a rent reduction for tenants. Over the past several months, we have been involved in negotiations with Waterside Plaza ownership, the Waterside Tenants Association (WTA), led by President Janet Handal, and the City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) on an affordable housing preservation deal that does just that.

The proposed deal provides substantial relief for rent-burdened tenants, permanently freezes the rent in dozens of apartments, and preserves affordable housing on a generational scale through 2098. The guaranteed 75 years of rent protections for hundreds of apartments combined with the immediate relief to tenants whose rent has been steadily increasing demonstrate a groundbreaking model for affordable housing in New York City.

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