Monthly Archives

April 2014


The Villager: Scoopy’s, Week of April 24, 2014

April 24, 2014

Village gay rights museum? We recently heard some exciting news about an idea to create a gay civil rights museum in the Village. No such museum currently exists anywhere in New York City. The logical spot would be somewhere along Christopher St. — where the movement was born during the Stonewall Riots of June 1969 — and that’s exactly where the group is looking, we’re told. Kevin Jennings, the executive director of the Arcus Foundation, which advocates for L.G.B.T. equality and also protection of the great apes, is reportedly spearheading the effort. From 2009 to 2011, Jennings was in the Obama administration as assistant deputy secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools at the U.S. Department of Education. A Community Board 2 source recently told us about a few sites that are being considered for the museum, one of them very seriously. However, the initiative is only in the formative stages right now, and no one wants to say too much about it — at least not on the record. “This is very premature,” Jennings told us in an e-mail. “We haven’t had a first meeting even yet! Once we have some concrete plans I’d be happy to talk.”

Johnson: Neigh to total ban: The Daily News has bumped Lindsay Lohan and Minka Kellyright off its front page as it ratchets up its battle against Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to ban the horse carriages. Obviously, this must be serious business (“business” being the key word). Every day, it seems, the News has some Page One call for petition signatures in support of keeping the poor tourist-towing equines or some gauzy paean to the slaving creatures by actor Liam Neeson. Well,Corey Johnson is the city councilmember in whose district the carriage horses are stabled. At an Earth Day rally in Union Square on Tuesday, we caught up with Johnson, who told us his position on the issue. Actually, he doesn’t support a total ban. “I am for a compromise which restricts the horses to Central Park,” he told us. We support de Blasio’s alternative of vintage cars powered by electricity with zero horse-poop emissions.

A.G. to keynote Squad con: State Senator Daniel Squadron’s annual Community Convention has been a great way for local residents to see the man himself and share their neighborhood concerns, while also hearing a special keynote address from one of Squadron’s government colleagues. Squadron’s sixth convention will be on Sun., April 27, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., at Seward Park High School, 350 Grand St. This year, along with hearing about the senator’s ongoing work in his district — which includes both Lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn — and attendees giving their own thoughts on local issues from housing and transportation to arts funding, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — himself a former Upper West Side state senator — will be giving the keynote address. It’s anyone’s guess what Schneiderman will talk about, but considering that he’s said to be a potential future candidate for governor, we think it’ll be worth showing up to hear what he and Squadron have to say.

You go, Elf Girl!
Congratulations to the Lower East Side’s Reverend Jen for landing the cover photo on this week’s Time Out New York! The elfin-eared Villager contributor is the veritable symbol for the mag’s take on “The City’s Secret Weird Side — It’s still out there, you just have to look for it.” Well, if you’re a Villager reader, you don’t have to look hard for Reverend Jen: You can frequently find her right in the paper’s art section, where she writes her quirky “Adventures of an Underemployed Urban Elf” column — ranging from inebriated mini golf excursions in Hudson River Park to cheap L.E.S. thrills. “I am stoked to be on the cover!” Reverend Jen told us. “Though of course it means I’ll have a dozen new stalkers. But it also means that maybe someone out there will buy one of my five published books and perhaps I’ll get a royalty check for the first time ever. Maybe someone will even publish one of the two books I wrote last year. I don’t know, but right now I don’t have a phone, a computer, rent money or any sense of stability whatsoever. Hoping this helps! I do like that they didn’t photoshop out the lines around my eyes. I earned those lines. And, in reference to The Villager, I have had a blast writing for it. Of course, anytime you get your writing out there, it puts you in the public eye, so no doubt it helped.”

Bleecker book brouhaha:Albert Amateau’s article in last week’s issue on Judith Stonehill’s new book, “Greenwich Village Stories: A Collection of Memories,” cited an anecdote by Matt Umanov about how Bob Dylan once came into his Bleecker St. guitar shop and jammed, actually, rather badly. A couple of iconic neighboring Bleecker businesses — Ottomanelli & Sons Meat Market and John’s Pizza — read the article and promptly contacted our ad rep wondering why they weren’t mentioned in the article, too. It turns out, though, they weren’t in the book, which is why they weren’t in the article. Stonehill said she apologizes if her tome inadvertently touched off an uproar. “I’m sorry to hear that Ottomanelli’s and John’s Pizza are irritated, especially since I’m an enthusiastic customer at both places. There are 66 stories in the book, but even so, some of my favorite Village places were not mentioned — including these two.” We agree, Ottomanelli’s and John’s Pizza are two of our favorite local businesses, too.

Gotta have park: As we reported last week, the new restrooms in Washington Square Park are finally open. Doris Diether, of Community Board 2, told us she’s been fielding a lot of complaints “from both sexes — the men and the women,” about the facilities, that there aren’t enough of them. It’s clear that there are a lot fewer urinals and toilet bowls now than there were before. Beyond that,Bob Gormley, C.B. 2 district manager, said it probably would make sense to have some monitoring of the restrooms. “I went in there once and there was a guy with his pants down washing his genitals,” he said. “That’s not something kids should have to see.” Gormley said it was also his understanding that it was the Parks Department, in fact, that had offered the police a small space in the new building to be used to monitor the park’s myriad surveillance cameras. This would allow for the removal of the unsightly police trailer that has been sitting just south of the park for more than a decade and inside which the monitor screens are located. …. Meanwhile, former City Councilmember Alan Gersoncalled us the other day to say he had just walked past the new cable-rope structure and sunken play meadow, and his heart was warmed to see all the kids enjoying it. He and other park advocates had fought to save “the mounds,” the small play hills that were there before, or replace them with a comparable play feature. “I think that the undeniable story is that our persistence and vision was vindicated,” he told us. “Kids were running up and down, rolling down the slopes, or of course climbing the apparatus. My closest adviser, Sophie Gerson, a phys-ed teacher, always said kids need to run — it’s an important part of physical fitness. We had to pull teeth with Parks to get this. It shows how representatives have to put their foot down with bureaucracy.” In fact, he said, there’s room to expand the play area even a bit more. Gerson and park advocates also successfully struggled to save several seating alcoves, a design Parks wanted to scrap in the renovation project. We asked Gerson about what he’s up to now career-wise. His recent attempt at a political comeback was sadly sidetracked by his mother’s passing. “Right now,” he said, contentment in his voice, “I’m just thinking about the park.”


NPR: New Yorkers Protest Long Shadows Cast By New Skyscrapers

April 23, 2014


Skyscrapers are a hallmark of large cities. Modern engineering makes it possible to erect something as tall as the Empire State Building on a very small footprint. Although developers love these buildings, in New York — the city of skyscrapers — residents have been upset at the shadows they cast over public spaces like Central Park.

Journalist Warren St. John first noticed the shadows when he took his daughter to a playground near Central Park’s southern border on sunny, blue-skied fall day. All of a sudden, though, it became chilly. He remembers the parents zipped up their kids’ jackets and hurried off. He looked up, “and that’s when I realized the sun was behind this new building I’d never paid much attention to,” St. John says. “But what really got me was that about six months later, I was at a playground a mile north of here and the exact same thing happened. I looked up, and it was the same building.”

On a recent afternoon, St. John again gets caught in the chill in the shadow of another tall, thin building still under construction. It’s One57, the tallest building south of the park. And, he says, “it will soon be dwarfed by another building, 30 percent taller.” As the sun goes behind the tower, St. John notes, “it’s a little chillier.”

At a community meeting held to address the rise of supertowers and the reach of their shadows into the park, City Councilman Corey Johnson said that most of these apartments “are being sold to foreign investors, who have tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars, who are not making this their primary home.”

Extell Development, the developer of One57, braved the hostile audience at the community meeting.

“The shadows cast by tall, slender buildings, which is what most of the buildings going up are, are very brief — maybe they’re 10 minutes in any one place — and cause no negative effect on the flora or fauna of the park,” said Gary Barnett, president of Extell Development. What’s more, Barnett says, the buildings are creating many permanent jobs in retail, hospitality and construction. “And these are not minimum-wage jobs,” Barnett says. “Many of the union construction jobs compensate between $100,000 and $200,000 a year. Upon salaries like this our fellow New Yorkers can build a better life.”

St. John responds that each of these buildings might have 100 apartments, but 40 million people use the park. To wit, in the shadow of One57, he points to a row of empty benches in the shade. “Nobody is sitting on these benches, but over there where the sun is, people are sitting,” he says. “They’re having a snack.”

Moving on to another area of Central Park, older buildings throw shorter shadows right next an open area filled with constant sunlight. He points to buds on the trees in the sunlit area, “but if you look just to the trees beyond them, there are no buds on those trees because that is where the shadows begin to fall from these buildings.”

If it was just that one building, St. John says, you could kind of shrug it off. But he ticks off six or seven buildings that are going up right in this area. Central Park is landmarked and protected from development, but there is nothing to protect it from shadows cast by buildings outside the park.

Landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh designed the tiny teardrop park near the World Trade Center. Surrounded by tall buildings, he wondered, would there be enough sunlight for a lawn? “Sunlight is the joy of what a park is,” he says.

One57 is a residential skyscraper under construction in Midtown Manhattan. At the moment it is the city's tallest residential building.

One57 is a residential skyscraper under construction in Midtown Manhattan. At the moment it is the city’s tallest residential building.

Christina Horsten/DPA/Landov

Experts analyzed how much sunlight would be necessary, and one of the architects actually lowered part of a building under construction “so enough sunlight came in,” Van Valkenburgh says. “But everything was within inches of not working.”

As to whether the shadows will stress trees and plants, he says, they will probably die slowly — over five years. ” ‘Oh, why are the trees dying?’ ” he predicts people will say. ” ‘It must be related to global warming.’ ”


NY Times: Health Officials to Propose Tighter Monitoring of Water Tanks

April 18, 2014


In a reversal, New York City health officials are proposing stronger oversight of rooftop water tanks, which supply drinking water to millions of residents and workers each day but are often neglected by their owners.

The city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is proposing to change the health code to require building owners to submit records of annual tank inspections to the city.

Currently, the owners, who are responsible for cleaning, inspecting and testing water tanks once a year, are required only to keep their records for five years and make them available upon request. The inspection records are the primary indication health officials have of the cleanliness of a water tank and the drinking water inside.

The move follows an investigation by The New York Times that found that regulations governing water tanks were rarely enforced and that some tanks contained E. coli, a bacterium, found in feces, that is used to predict the presence of viruses, bacteria and parasites that can cause disease. The presence of E. coli suggested that animals had gotten into the tanks, experts said. Building superintendents interviewed by The Times reported finding dead birds and mice in their tanks, and one said a person had been sleeping in the space between the tank cover and the roof.

Rooftop water tanks in Manhattan. Owners are required to inspect them once a year, but the city is considering stricter rules. CreditKirsten Luce for The New York Times

“This is a civilized city in a first-world country,” Corey Johnson, a City Council member of Manhattan, said. “People should not be drinking water that has feces or bones or anything else in the water. It’s unacceptable.”

Recent surveys by the health department showed that nearly 60 percent of landlords did not comply with existing rules.

Health officials, who previously insisted that they were satisfied with their current oversight, indicate in their proposal that the changes will “promote building owner compliance with the inspection mandate and facilitate the department’s ability to monitor compliance.”

The health department will hold a public hearing on the proposed changes on Monday and the Board of Health is expected to vote on the proposal on June 9.

New York City’s water flows from upstate reservoirs through hundreds of miles of tunnels into city mains and arrives with only enough pressure to supply water up to the sixth floor of most buildings. Since the late 1800s, owners of taller buildings have employed pumps in the basement to carry water up to a wooden tank on the roof. Water enters the tank through a spout at the top, and when drinkers or bathers open their taps below, water exits the tank through a pipe midway down. Gravity does the rest.

From 12,000 to 17,000 water tanks crown city structures today as part of a delivery system that has barely changed in a century. Even today, new water tanks are usually built from yellow cedar.

City health officials reject the idea that the tanks pose any health hazard. “Though there is no evidence that drinking water tanks pose a meaningful risk to public health, we are proposing these additional actions to help reassure New Yorker’s that the city’s drinking water is safe and encourage greater compliance with the Health Code,” the health department said in a statement.

Daniel Kass, a deputy health commissioner who is in charge of water tank oversight, wrote a letter to the editor criticizing The Times’s investigation the day after it was published. He characterized the city’s water testing program as “vigorous” and said that of “the 534 samples the Health Department has collected at buildings over seven stories high since 1985, not a single one tested positive for E. coli.”

But Daniel R. Garodnick, a City Council member from Manhattan, said: “Five hundred and thirty-four samples in 30 years? That’s a drop in the bucket. A few hundred inspections in over three decades probably won’t calm many nerves.”

Approval of the proposal by the Board of Health is not assured. At a board meeting in March, some members expressed hesitation about even publishing the proposed regulation and soliciting public comment, given that the department had no data showing that drinking water was unsafe.

One member, Bruce C. Vladeck, suggested that rather than strengthening the reporting requirement, the department should consider cutting back inspections from once a year to once every five years. Mr. Vladeck said the regulations added to the cost of housing. In his building, he said, that could save up to “$20,000 every year for the plumber.”

In contrast, Mr. Garodnick’s office is working on legislation that would go even further than the health department’s proposal, requiring the health department to report landlord compliance rates to the Council annually and to create a searchable online database for water tank inspection reports.

The public advocate’s office is drafting a bill to require more thorough reports from landlords, random water tank field inspections by health officials, and detailed notices of inspection results posted for residents. “We’re trying to keep it clean and safe for New Yorkers,” the public advocate, Letitia James, said. “The only way to ensure that is to shed some light on the system.”

Both the Building Owners and Managers Association of New York and the Real Estate Board of New York said they supported the city health officials’ proposed changes to the code, noting the importance of keeping tenants safe and the ease of satisfying the new requirement. “Buildings are required to conduct the inspections, so submitting the paperwork will not be difficult,” a board representative said.

But another landlord advocacy group, the Rent Stabilization Association, is concerned that the health department’s proposal could leave landlords vulnerable to lawsuits.

“At first blush, it sounds like something to give ammunition to sue an owner,” said Frank Ricci, the group’s government affairs director. “A tenant can get sick in a building and it may or may not be from the water supply. But now, when you have this thing on file with the health department saying that you should have filed in January, but you waited until June? Someone’s going to use that for litigation purposes.”


NY daily news: Free ‘NYC’ condoms are being smuggled into the Dominican Republic and sold illegally for cash

April 15, 2014

The taxpayer-funded condoms, distributed for free across the five boroughs under a city Health Department program since 2007, are popping up in stores in the Caribbean country at cheaper prices than other condom brands. Health Department officials acknowledged they’ve caught some businesses shipping the free condoms out of the country.

LAS GALERAS, Dominican Republic — Have rubber, will travel.

Large numbers of the New York City-branded condoms that are distributed for free across the five boroughs under a city Health Department program are being smuggled into the Dominican Republic and sold for cash.

The distinctively labeled NYC Condom can be found in stores across this Caribbean country — even in this tiny beach town on the Dominican east coast.

At the Las Galeras Pharmacy, they are sold for about 50 cents each — a better deal than Durex condoms, which sell for more than a dollar.

A few dozen of the NYC Condoms are displayed in neat rows alongside other condoms, pregnancy tests and lotions in a glass display case at the front of the store.

The NYC brand is intended for free distribution to high-risk populations in New York City and is increasingly smuggled into the Dominican Republic and resold illegally.

“We buy them from a provider here in the Republic,” said pharmacist Francisco Pallano. “They distribute them to any pharmacy that wants them.”

He claimed he did not know the distributor’s name.

The New York City Health Department gives away 38 million NYC Condoms a year in an effort to stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV, and limit unplanned pregnancies.

The NYC Condoms come in a chic wrapper stamped “Not for Resale.” They are manufactured for the city at taxpayer expense by Ansell, the same company that makes LifeStyles condoms.

The Health Department provides the NYC Condom, in bulk, to 3,500 nonprofit groups and businesses, including bars, restaurants, nail salons, barbershops and hospitals, for free distribution.

Health Department officials acknowledged they’ve caught some businesses shipping the free condoms out of the country.

At least five businesses have been booted from the program since it began in 2007, including one caught sending the rubbers to the Dominican Republic.

A department spokeswoman declined to name the businesses. “We estimate that the lost condoms are a very small percentage of overall distribution,” she said.

But the NYC Condom is so popular in the Dominican Republic that it turned up in a 2012 report from market researcher Euromonitor International.

The researchers found them at corner stores and pharmacies in Santo Domingo and smaller cities such as Mao and Esperanza.

“The NYC brand is intended for free distribution to high-risk populations in New York City and is increasingly smuggled into the Dominican Republic and resold illegally,” the report found.

The city has a pair of five-year contracts with Ansell, at a total cost of $5.7 million, to manufacture the condoms — which come in an assortment of varieties, including extra-large and ribbed — as well as lubricant packets, according to documents filed with the city controller’s office.

These are supposed to be free for New Yorkers,” said City Councilman Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan), chairman of the Health Committee.

“We should ensure that no one is taking condoms from places in New York City where they are needed and selling them for profit out of the country.”

But if the condoms are leaving the country, he hopes they’re doing some good.

“If they’re ending up in the Dominican Republic, I hope people are using them,” he said.


The Real Deal: West Side residents protest TF Cornerstone project

April 14, 2014

Midtown residents have formed a neighborhood coalition to protest the construction of TF Cornerstone’s 1.9-acre residential complex at 606 West 57th Street, near 11th Avenue.

About 150 people, as well as City Council members Helen Rosenthal and Corey Johnson, gathered last week for a community-run forum on overdevelopment in the area. They called on the Council to reduce the caliber of TF Cornerstone’s plans. The project, composed of two 28-story towers and a 14-story cube above them, is slated for a vote by the City Council on April 23.

The City Planning Commission, Community Board 4 and the Manhattan Borough President’s Office have already signed off on the project. The neighborhood coalition Citizens for Responsible Organized West Side Development With Environmental Deference began its push late in the process.

“Fifty-Seventh Street is under siege,” resident Jessica Bondy told DNAinfo. “All of us are concerned about the unsustainability of projects this size. It’s a giant, giant project.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for TF Cornerstone said: “Every level of the public review process has supported the project thus far, with the participants finding that the development will invigorate a new up and coming neighborhood without any major unmitigated  impacts to the current environment. TF Cornerstone is particularly proud to be making such a significant contribution toward the Mayor’s goal for more affordable housing.” [DNAinfo]Mark Maurer


NY Times: New York Today: Their First 100 Days, Too

April 11, 2014
The City Council members Corey Johnson, left, Ben Kallos and Inez Barron.
The City Council members Corey Johnson, left, Ben Kallos and Inez Barron.Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times; Ángel Franco/The New York Times; Michael Nagle for The New York Times

Good morning on this warm, cloudy Friday.

Welcome to the 101st day of the year.

Mayor de Blasio will continue talking about his first 100 days in a Google Hangout this morning.

He’s hardly the only politician recounting his early ups and downs (mostly ups, of course).

The “first-100-days” stocktaking has spread to lesser officials. They, too, find it an easy way to remind constituents of their existence.

We asked some other newcomers to reflect on their first 3.33 months.

City Councilman Corey Johnson stepped into some big shoes: he took over Christine C. Quinn’s district on Manhattan’s West Side.

In his first month, a giant hole opened up in the middle of it.

“There was a pretty massive water main break,” he said.

Inez Barron, a Brooklyn councilwoman, made her first mark byrapping a poem for Black History Month in the council chambers, with backup by finger-snapping council members.

Councilman Ben Kallos faced the wrath of his constituents when the Upper East Side was under-plowed after a big snowstorm.

He had not a cross word for them.

“We got some tweets,” was all he said.

Here’s what else you need to know for Friday and the weekend.


Clouds and sun battle it out, with a high of 64.

Clouds declare victory by late afternoon, celebrate with evening shower.

Lovely on Saturday, though, with a high of 69. Cloudier but still warm on Sunday.

Spring progress report: The overnight low this morning of 56 is the highest since that freaky day in December when it did not get below 61.


Subways: Check latest status.

Rails: Check L.I.R.R., Metro-North or N.J. Transit status.

Roads: Check traffic map or radio report on the 1s or the 8s.

Beware of presidential gridlock starting in midafternoon.

Alternate-side parking is in effect.

Weekend Travel Hassles: Check subway disruptions or list of street closings.


• President Obama addresses the convention of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network at the Sheraton on Seventh Avenue and 53rd Street around 4 p.m.

• Principals, teachers, parents and students from 34 schools across Manhattan protest the recently held state English exams. 8 a.m.

• The mayor’s Google Hangout is at 11 a.m.

• The 16-year-old accused of setting the Brooklyn high-rise fire that killed a police officer is due back in court and could face murder charges.

• A start-up job fair at IAC/InterActiveCorp in Chelsea. Noon to 5 p.m.

• A day-labor hiring hall in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, guaranteeing workers at least $15 an hour, turns 12 years old. Many officials attend.

• It’s the last day you can drive the northbound Pulaski Skyway before it closes for two years.

“Submerged Motherlands,” a “monumental” Hurricane Sandy-inspired installation by the Brooklyn-based street artist Swoon, opens at the Brooklyn Museum. [$12 suggested]

• An illustrated lecture by the photographer and geographer David Zurick on “The Sacred Geography of Tibet and the Himalaya,” at the New School. 5 p.m. [Free, registration required]

• Learn to do mathematical magic with a deck of cards at the Museum of Mathematics. 6:30 to 8 p.m. [Free]

• The two-night Bad Film Festival begins in Williamsburg. One of the first offerings is “Worm.” Description: “Mike eats a worm in stop motion.” 7 and 9 p.m. [$7]

• The Times’s Weekend Miser recommends a Columbia University astronomy lecture on binary stars. 8 p.m. [Free]


• A federal prosecutor criticized Governor Cuomo for shutting down a panel investigating corruption. [New York Times]

• The January death of 4-year-old Myls Dobson was ruled a homicide, allowing murder charges to be filed against his babysitter. [New York Times]

• A credit-card skimmer was discovered on a MetroCard vending machine in Columbus Circle. [Gothamist]

• Midterm primary season has begun: Representative Charles Rangel debated challengers on Thursday night. [New York Times]

• Stephen Colbert will play “himself,” not his blowhard character, when he replaces David Letterman. But he’ll still pronounce his name the French way. [New York Times]

• A popular dance-fitness class has been built entirely around Beyoncé videos. [New York Times]

• God is having credit-rating problems — God Gazarov, the Brighton Beach jeweler, that is. The name’s to blame. [New York Post]

• Scoreboard: Yankees ball up Red Sox, 4-1. Mets beat Braves, 6-4.Rangers dull Sabres in home finale, 2-1. Senators exorcise Devils, 2-1 in shootout. Islanders blank Canadiens, 2-0.



• Slow down, it’s Slow Art Day at six city galleries (and more than 200 others around the world). The concept: Look at five artworks for 10 minutes each, then meet and discuss.

• A new show at the Jeffrey Leder Gallery in Queens, “Whitewash,”features nine graffiti artists whose work formerly adorned the 5Pointz building. [Free]

• Shakespeare near a park: N.Y.U. students perform “Love’s Labour’s Lost” at the Stern business school plaza east of Washington Square. 1 and 4 p.m. Also Sunday. [Free]

• Watch four Charlie Chaplin shorts at the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center. 2:30 p.m. [Free]

• Celebrate National Grilled Cheese day with a free sandwich and live music at Brooklyn Slate Company in Red Hook. Noon to 4 p.m.


• Luna Park and the Cyclone open for the season in Coney Island. The first 100 people ride the Cyclone free. Noon to 10 p.m.

Hunt Easter eggs at the Bartow-Pell Mansion in the Bronx. 1:30 p.m. [$12]

• A free concert at Columbia by the Latin jazz sax player Bobby Porcelli. 8 p.m.

• The American Tap Dance Foundation gala to support the Gregory Hines Youth Scholarship Fund, at the 14th Street Y. 1 p.m. [$125 and up]

• For more events, see The New York Times Arts & Entertainment guide.

• And if you’re looking for fun outside New York City, The Times’s Metropolitan section has suggestions for Westchester, Long Island,New Jersey and Connecticut.


A local band called Kiss finally got its due at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony at Barclays Center Thursday night.

The band did not perform, though, so here’s a treat to make up for it:

A sweetly unbombastic song from Peter Criss’s pre-Kiss band, Chelsea, back when he was Peter Criscuola of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The 1970 song is “Silver Lining.”

Nice cowbell.


Chelsea Now: Town Hall Panel Touts Strategies, New and Ongoing

April 9, 2014


Photo by Zach Williams
City Councilmember Corey Johnson (right, at podium) moderated, as a panel of city officials addressed local concerns.

BY ZACH WILLIAMS | ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED APRIL 3, 2014  |  City Councilmember Corey Johnson hosted local and city officials at a March 25 town hall meeting held at the School of Visual Arts Theatre (333 West 23rd Street).

Over 100 residents attended, as Johnson moderated a discussion on topics including education, traffic safety and noise mitigation — with a focus on new strategies being employed to improve quality of life. Inter-agency cooperation is the key to unlocking solutions, officials said in response to audience questions read by Johnson throughout the meeting.

Asked how the increasingly crowded Chelsea and Greenwich Village area can accommodate the demands of universal pre-kindergarten, Department of Education representative Sadye Campoamor said community organizations have submitted an abundance of proposals to provide space for a projected 20,000 area youngsters. The approval that day by the department of a new middle school at 75 Morton Street was an example, said Campoamor, of such “community initiative.”

Mary Basset, newly appointed commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said early in the event that public servants are seeking a new strategy of community outreach which requires them to “not do to people, do with people.”

Consolidated Edison spokesperson Pat Richardi said the company depends on the public in order to prevent leaks, which can lead to explosions — such as that which occurred near the intersection of Park Avenue and East 116th Street on March 12, leading to seven fatalities.

“Your noses are our first line of defense,” she said.

The company is currently exceeding regulatory safety requirements, she said. This year, 65 aging pipes were replaced at the same time as operations expand in order to meet the growing demand.

One question read by Johnson elicited ironic chuckles from the crowd: “Why is Con Ed always doing construction on the streets?”

Richardi responded by saying the company faces a large volume of requested projects, each with individual challenges, in Chelsea and surrounding neighborhoods.

“We are seeing more requests for additional gas, additional electric, additional steam, safety and reliability,” she said.

Candles are now the third leading cause of residential fires in the city, according to Kevin Anderson, who represented the FDNY Fire Safety Division on the panel. Some local buildings quarantine flames within individual units, requiring residents to stay inside in the event of a fire in another unit rather than using fire escapes, he added.

Accidents were not the only issue raised by the audience on the topic of home security and well-being.

Safeguarding house and home against invaders requires the involvement of residents as well as landlords, officials said. Ensuring that doors and windows are always locked could help temper a spike in local burglaries say police — but rats and mold are more resilient foes, said officials from other departments.

A 2013 city law empowers the Department of Housing and Building Preservation to issue orders against landlords who fail to address mold issues discovered through visual inspection, according to Deputy Commissioner Vito Mustaciuolo. A similar authority is in place to address tenant complaints about rats, said Basset, though expectations cannot be too high.

“I can’t say we are going to eliminate them,” she said.

However, one plan to eradicate a growing scourge of city life is well underway. Stronger enforcement of traffic laws on cyclists led NYPD officials to tout initial progress in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, which aims to eventually eliminate traffic fatalities in the city.

Keeping cyclists in bike lanes and motorists out is part of an “aggressive” effort, according to NYPD Capt. David Miller, commander of the 10th Precinct. Of 68 biking accidents in Chelsea last year, only eight occurred within designated bicycle lanes, he said.

More than 600 summonses have been issued recently as part of the effort, he added. Decreasing the speed of all moving within busy local streets is part of an overall plan to mix crime and transportation safety strategies with extended public outreach. More speed barriers are also being considered for accident-prone areas, Miller said. Street intervention teams will also roam the streets reminding violators of the law.

“We like to target hot spots,” Miller noted.

Extreme circumstances are required to relocate Citi Bike share sites, but residents have opportunities nonetheless to take some control of their streets.

Citizens can adopt street meridians, which are normally overseen in partnership between the Parks Department and the Department of Sanitation. It is just one way that residents can increase the prevalence of trees in the local area. Reaching out to city councilmembers may also lead to empty tree pits being filled.

Addressing sound pollution evoked the lone catcall of the evening, in response to a question on the criteria for granting permits for after-hours construction. Byron Muñoz, a representative of the Department of Buildings, said, “We believe in engaging in after hours work for safety.”

A heckle followed the remark. Muñoz remained quiet during the interruption, but subsequently added that the volume of complaints made to the department about a particular site can influence the prospects of future applications.

Rowdy bars in the Meatpacking District are difficult to tame, said Inspector Elisa Cokkinos (former commander of Chelsea’s 10th Precinct, who now oversees the Village’s Sixth Precinct). A cabaret team targeting violators has issued 10,000 summonses, she said. Still, the department is challenged by the area’s density of bars.

“It’s an ongoing struggle,” said Cokkinos.

Keeping fares down on public transportation will also be difficult, according to Zachary Campbell, Assistant Director, MTA NYC Transit. He declined to comment on the possibility that subway fares will increase this year, but said technology will have an influence in any case on tickets.

The agency is considering the adoption of smart phone technology as a replacement to the currently used magnetic cards. Though such a plan is still years away from implementation, he added that more than money passes to the agency when straphangers swipe through turnstiles. Data garnered from the cards is used by the agency to determine the number and habits of riders. Analysis of resulting statistics influences decisions on service levels, he said.

Throughout the night, city officials stressed the utility of 311, in response to audience queries on how to contact them.

In one of the evening’s final remarks, Muñoz promoted a new Department of Buildings mobile phone application meant to engage the public. Like speakers before, he concluded by mentioning the opportunities citizens have to engage city departments on a personal basis, such as his department’s planned workshops meant to steer homeowners through the permit process of renovation.

“It’s a discovery time before you engage a professional,” he said.