Monthly Archives

July 2015

News

Chelsea Now: District 3 Projects Get Discretionary Green

July 30, 2015

By Dusica Sue Malesevic

It may be a drop in the bucket compared to the grand total of $78.5 billion — but the amount allotted to District 3 as part of the budget recently passed by the City Council will make all the difference for a variety of grassroots efforts and improvement projects.

Each councilmember got $5 million, explained Councilmember Corey Johnson, who had already earmarked $1 million to fund winning projects from District 3’s first-ever participatory budgeting process, for which voting was held in April.

 Johnson has solidified plans for the remaining $4 million in discretionary capital.

$700,000 went to Hudson Guild to renovate their Fulton Senior Center at 119 Ninth Ave. (btw. 17th & 18th Sts.). It will be a complete renovation, said Johnson, which will include bringing in air conditioning.

“It is going to be a brand new, gorgeous senior center once it’s renovated,” said Johnson.

Three community composting centers for the district received $105,000 in funding. Currently, Johnson’s office is working with community boards and the Department of Sanitation to figure out the sites, which will be in Greenwich Village, Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen.

Money also went toward schools in District 3. PS3, which got $35,000 in participatory budgeting for its library, will also receive $100,000 for bathroom renovations. Students at Quest to Learn (351 W. 18th St.) and the James Baldwin School (351 W. 18th St.) will be getting new computers. Each school will receive $35,000 in funding for the technology update.

At elementary school PS212 in Hell Kitchen’s, the playground safety surface will be redone with $40,000.

After nearly five years of petitions, designs and a hearts-and-minds campaign that had local merchants displaying signs of support in their windows, the effort to put a micro park at 136 W. 20th St. (btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves.) is one step closer to becoming a reality.


“This has been a neighborhood organizing cause célèbre,” Johnson told Chelsea Now. “It has been years in the making, and my hope is that we’re going be able to get this park built in the next couple years.”
In May, it was announced that the park was the top vote-getter in the participatory budgeting process, earning it $200,000 in funding. After the City Council passed its budget at the end of June, Johnson allocated $800,000 for the park.

Matt Weiss, founder of the Friends of 20th Street Park (20thstreetpark.org), started the campaign for the park at the former Department of Sanitation site in September 2010, spurred by the shortage of green space in the neighborhood.

“It’s thrilling,” said Weiss in a phone interview. “I think the community has shown unbelievable support and dedication to this cause from the beginning. It really has struck a nerve in Chelsea and even some areas beyond that — the opportunity to turn a city-owned lot into a public oasis.”

Weiss said that participatory budgeting was a “huge, significant milestone” and noted that the park was the “top vote-getter out of seventeen very worthy projects for the community. 

At one time, the site was eyed for affordable housing. Johnson said affordable housing units slated to go on 20th St. are now going up at the former Slaughterhouse site at 493 11th Ave. (btw. W. 39th & W. 40th Sts.). While the exact number of units is not confirmed, it looks like there will be around 225 units at that site instead of the 75 that were expected on 20th St.

“So it’s a win-win for the community. We’re able to get a new community park that the neighborhood has fought for, for so long — and we’re able to get three times the amount of affordable housing at a site on the West Side, in my district,” Johnson said.

With a park project, construction does not begin until full funding is in place, he said. The exact cost is still unknown, but once it is, Johnson said he would work with the city toward getting that funding. The park at 20th St. will cost somewhere in the $3 to $5 million range, he said.

The money will go toward the demolition of the old sanitation building that is currently on the site, likely environmental remediation, and design and construction costs, said Johnson.

Weiss said, “We are excited about the next step. [It] would be really exciting to see, finally see, after five years of hard work, kind of [the] fruits of our labor. I really just look forward to the day when I see children and families, and people from all walks of life, enjoying and using this public amenity.”

Other parks and playgrounds in District 3 that received funding include $775,000 for the renovation of Downing Street Playground, $55,000 for a fence and ADA accessibility for Jane Street Garden, $50,000 for the Leroy Street Dog Run and $65,000 for the Pier 84 Dog Run.

The Chelsea Waterside Park (at W. 23rd St. & 11th Ave.) received $170,000 for playground upgrades. It also won funding through participatory budgeting — $85,000 to create an interactive garden for children.

Funding also went to protecting trees in the district. Clinton Hell’s Kitchen Coalition for Pedestrian Safety, or CHEKPEDS, as well as Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association received $7,000, and the Greenwich Village Block Associations received $5,000 to install tree guards.

 

News

NY1: Chelsea Residents Complain of Growing ‘Rat Academy’ in Neighborhood

July 28, 2015

Elected officials in Manhattan held what they call a “rat academy” Monday night to address the rodent problem they see in their neighborhood. NY1’s Lori Chung filed this report.

“We’re talking about rats that look like cats,” one resident of Elliot Chelsea Houses said. “You can stand in front of the building—it can be four…five o’clock in the afternoon—you’ll see them coming back and forth like it’s nobody’s business.”

They weren’t hard to find. Residents say rats have made themselves at home, becoming a far too common sight this summer.

People filled the community center here for what organizers called a “rat academy,” with health officials educating residents and property owners on how fight a problem plaguing west side neighborhoods.

“We’ve gotten a really high number from the west 20’s in Chelsea. That’s where the largest number come from. We also get complaints from in Greenwich Village and Hell’s Kitchen as well,” said Councilman Corey Johnson.

The informational brought out community gardeners who are trying to figure out why their urban are turning into rodent havens.

“Anything that has fresh healthy soil becomes vulnerable to rat burrowing,” one woman said.

“People are freaked out of doing their gardening this year because of the rat problem,” another neighborhood resident said. “They eat flowers. They eat veggies.”

They also eat food left in the garbage. Some at the session were given trash bins designed to keep rats out but here at the Elliot Chelsea Houses, where those burrows were in abundance, some are wondering how much worse their rat problem is going to get.

“I see that the rats are getting bigger and there’s more of them,” one resident said.

Health officials suggest getting one of those rat resistant trash bins if you can, since rats can easily chew through garbage bags, and need relatively little food and water to thrive.

News

DNAinfo: ‘Rat Academy’ Seeks To Counter Growing Rodent Problem in Chelsea

July 27, 2015

Neighborhood residents will arm themselves with a new weapon against rodents Monday night: knowledge.

City Councilman Corey Johnson has organized a “Rat Academy” in response to a rise in complaints about rats in the neighborhood.

“We were getting more and more calls, particularly from Chelsea residents, that this was a growing problem,” Johnson said in a statement.

“We’ve been responsive and were constantly reaching out to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to investigate various cases,” he said. “But when it comes down to it, it’s more effective and more efficient to give the community the tools it needs to prevent rats from showing up in the first place.”

The training will be held Monday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Hudson Guild Center at 441 W. 26 St. Representatives from the Department of Health will review methods for rat prevention. Plus, 20 rodent-resistant garbage cans will be raffled off, according to the flier.

The training is appropriate for building superintendents, tenants, maintenance and building management employees as well as those maintaining community gardens.

“If we can get our neighborhoods unified and trained on this, then we are going to start seeing some real results,” Johnson said. “I’m grateful that DOHMH is going to come and show us a thing or two about prevention.”

News

The Villager: Bea Arthur Residence is a ‘Golden’ moment for homeless gay youth

July 23, 2015

Using a $3.3 million grant from the City Council, the Ali Forney Center will renovate an East Village brownstone and open a residence for homeless queer youth there in late summer of 2016.

“The last 13 years have been extraordinary,” Carl Siciliano, AFC’s founder and executive director, said at a July 20 event marking the start of the renovation of the E. 13th St. facility. “Our community has woken up to the need to help our L.G.B.T.Q. youth.”

On June 29, AFC, which was founded in 2002, purchased the vacant building for a dollar from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The City Council money, which was originally budgeted in 2012, will pay for the renovation. Because AFC owns the building, cash for operations from two grants the agency has from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development can go toward providing services, as opposed to paying rent.

“It’s the first building we own, which is a real game changer,” said Alex Roque, AFC’s director of development.

The 18-bed residence is named for actress Bea Arthur, who left $300,000 to AFC in her will. Arthur died in 2009. The beds will add to AFC’s existing inventory of 89 beds and another 18 that are expected to come online in the fall.

The city took over the building in a tax foreclosure action in 1991. It has fallen into disrepair since then. The front of the building is closed off with a chain-link fence and the interior, which is largely inaccessible and will be gutted, shows significant deterioration. While New Yorkers are known for generally supporting social services agencies as long as they are serving clients in someone else’s neighborhood, this facility was welcome.

“I know the residents on this block are happy there’s going to be a beautiful new building here,” said Steve Herrick, executive director of the Cooper Square Committee, an East Village nonprofit that develops affordable housing and other facilities. The committee partnered with AFC in developing the facility.

The groundbreaking included references to “Golden Girls,” the TV series that aired from 1985 through 1992 and starred Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty, and “Maude,” another series that starred Arthur that ran from 1972 through 1978. Cheesecake, which was an ongoing bit on “Golden Girls,” was served following the groundbreaking.

“This is going to be an incredible tribute to Bea Arthur and her compassion,” said City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, an out lesbian who represents the East Village.

Mendez was joined by City Councilmember Corey Johnson, who heads the Council’s L.G.B.T. caucus, and state Senator Brad Hoylman, who noted he constitutes an L.G.B.T. caucus of one in that body.

“This is the conscience of our community,” Hoylman said. “We need to look after the kids who are coming after us.”

Johnson, who noted that Arthur’s character in “Golden Girls” was his favorite among the four leads, had a similar comment.

“This is more than a building. This is more than bricks and mortar,” he said. “This is a beacon of hope.”

Mendez said, “I am filled with pride as I stand with the Ali Forney Center and Cooper Square Committee for this extraordinary event. I am filled with joy, not only because I am a part of this but because it’s happening in my district, which has a long and rich history of welcoming, housing and providing services to all individuals in need.”

News

Phyllis Gonzalez Way Street Renaming

July 20, 2015

New York, NY | On Saturday, July 18, 2015 “Phyllis Gonzalez Way” was unveiled by Council Member Corey Johnson, local elected officials, members of the Gonzalez family and community leaders. Phyllis Gonzalez was a legendary tenant leader and housing advocate in the Chelsea neighborhood. Throughout a long and dedicated career of service to her community, she served as four term president of the Elliott-Chelsea Houses and a social worker for the Hudson Guild. Prior to this she focused on helping to move residents from the Allerton and Martinique welfare hotels into the Elliott-Chelsea Houses. At this event, the Department of Transportation revealed their official street sign.

News

Chelsea Now: Food Program Gives Seniors a ‘Fresh’ Start

July 15, 2015

Amid the happy chatter and plate clatter of the cafeteria, Peter Gallinari, 67, talked about why he decided to take part in a food bag program aimed at seniors.

“The price is good — $8 for a bag of groceries,” Gallinari told Chelsea Now last week. “Fruits and vegetables are not cheap anymore.”

Now in its fourth year, the “Fresh Food for Seniors Program” was being offered for the first time at the Encore Senior Center (239 W. 49th St. btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.).

Gallinari now lives in Queens but at one time worked and lived in Manhattan. An actor, he has been in films such as “Men In Black.” He regularly comes to eat at the center in Hell’s Kitchen, he said, as the food is good.

Nieves Taveras is the assistant director of the center, and has worked there for 20 years. She explained that the center offers a free breakfast (albeit 50 cents for coffee) and asks for a $1.50 donation for lunch — although no one is turned away if they can’t contribute.

The food bag program, which provides fresh produce from local farms, is new to the center, she said, and is in its second week. The first week, 15 seniors signed up, and 10 signed up for the second, she said. The program is also open to those who are not seniors, and others have signed up.

Taveras also noted the low cost. The first week, many were expecting more fruit, she said, but the bag only contained blueberries.

Gallinari didn’t mind that, saying he was happy with what he got — radishes, lettuce, beets and zucchini — and signed up again.

Both he and his wife — married for 28 years — love to cook, he explained. Growing up in Brooklyn, he learned from his father, who was a chef at a restaurant in Coney Island, and his wife learned from her mother.

He was hoping for different vegetables each week, saying, “variety is the spice of life,” with a smile.

Ken Jockers, executive director of the nonprofit Hudson Guild, said in a phone interview that this is the second year that his organization is participating in the program.

“We are delighted to be participating again in the program this year,” said Jockers.

He explained that it all started when Gale Brewer, now Manhattan borough president, was a councilmember and used to run the program in her district. Councilmember Corey Johnson then decided to bring the program to District 3. This is the second year that the program is being offered in the district.

People pay their $8 fee one week and then get the food the next, Jockers explained.

The pick up for the bags of veggies and fruits for Hudson Guild is at the Fulton Senior Center (119 Ninth Ave. btw. 17th & 18th Sts.), said Jockers, who noted that 33 people signed up for the first distribution this year, which was on par with last year.

“We expect that number to increase as people are reminded that it is available again, and as word of mouth spreads,” he said.

Older adults can take part in the program as much or as little as they would like, said Jockers.

“It allows people to participate based on what their schedule is, what their week to week finances are,” said Jockers. “The obligation to participate is not high — you can opt in whenever you want, which is a very nice flexible thing for people.”

Flexibility is one of things that Darlene Waters, 70, vice president of the Elliott-Chelsea Houses, also noted. Waters participated in the program last year and is again this year.

“The program is beautiful,” Waters said by phone. “I love it. For me, it’s making my family eat a lot more vegetables.”

She also enjoys learning about the different vegetables that come in the bag, she said.

Waters has been spreading the word to the complex’s residents and a lot of them have been participating in the program. This has spurred conversations among neighbors about recipes and how to prepare the vegetables, she said.

Jockers said that the program has been well received at Hudson Guild, and it is a way for people to access fresh fruits and vegetables.

“I think people have been very happy with the flexibility and ease and the quality of the food,” he said. “I think it’s an incredible resource for older adults in the neighborhood.”

The Fresh Food for Seniors program makes deliveries every other week, through Nov. 18. Those interested in participating can enroll and pay at Councilmember Corey Johnson’s office (224 W. 30th St., Suite #1206 btw. Seventh & Eighth Ave.) or at a participating senior center that includes the SAGE Center, VISIONS, Greenwich House and West Village Houses Neighbors Helping Neighbors. For more info, call 212-564-7757 or email district3@council.nyc.gov.

News

Chelsea Now: Plan Would Heed Siren Calls to Relocate Ambulance Station

July 15, 2015

When the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) situated Emergency Medical Service 7 under the High Line on West 23rd Street (btw. 9th & 10th Aves.) in November 2011, it was in response to the closing of St. Vincent’s Hospital, and the need for medical services on Manhattan’s West Side.

“Back then, the FDNY and DCAS [Department of Citywide Administrative Services] were scrambling to find a location, and maybe were not fully done discussing the idea with the community,” said Community Board 4 (CB4) chair Christine Berthet. “Everyone could see it was the wrong location because it was adjacent to residences and had no roof, but they did the best they could by themselves and found that location, and it was a simple solution in a crunch.”

Years later, the open-air station still exists on a residential block that neighbors and community leaders believe is ill-suited for the purpose. Now, with the help of Councilmember Corey Johnson, they hope to find a permanent location for the EMS station that has brought loud sirens, overcrowding and continuous emissions from idling vehicles to their environs for far too long.

Johnson first began working to relocate this EMS station while serving as chair of CB4. Initially, he helped pass a resolution denying the FDNY’s application to locate the station in this high-density area, to no avail.

“I felt strongly then, as I do now, that an unenclosed emergency service station under the High Line on a residential block is not a suitable location for an EMS station,” wrote Johnson in a June 19 letter to Commissioner Stacey Cumberbatch of DCAS and Director Dean Fuleihan of the Office of Management & Budget.

“While I appreciate the critical need of an EMS station that can effectively respond to emergencies in our community, this temporary space under the High Line will be unable to meet growing needs as thousands of new residents move to Manhattan’s West Side as part of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project,” he added.

Berthet said that from day one, CB4 knew the EMS station would cause problems. But, “unfortunately, that was the quick and dirty solution, and then they were supposed to work on a longer-term plan. Unfortunately, as is the tendency with the city, the quick and dirty becomes permanent. It may not be forever, but it’s a long time — about five years now.”

That’s five years too long for local residents and business owners, who have had enough of the EMS station. Residents deal with sirens, exhaust from idling vehicles and crowded streets.

“It’s very disruptive; my life is intolerable,” said Susan Singer, a resident of London Terrace for 19 years. “I have witnessed vehicles going against traffic at 5 p.m. with the sirens blaring, only to park the vehicle, not to run to an emergency. All residents at London Terrace have been impacted by this.”

Singer, a realtor, said that the station brings down property values and quality of life across Chelsea. When you consider the price points people pay for apartments in the area, said Singer, it’s unfair to ask them to tolerate this.

“They say they don’t turn their sirens on until 10 a.m., but residents in 465 and 470 West 23rd Street can tell you exactly when they start: 8:15 a.m.,” said Singer. “You also have to think about local businesses where people may be dining outdoors. It makes no sense to have this in an affluent, go-to part of the neighborhood.”

Chelsea Now contacted several local businesses including the Half King Restaurant (at 505 W. 23rd St.), but none reported any significant problems due to the EMS station. Still, local leaders cannot ignore the mounting complaints from residents over the emissions and noise.

“This current location prohibits FDNY from making substantial improvements to their facility, like enclosing the station to capture emissions and noise, which are creating dangerous, unhealthy conditions for residents of neighboring buildings,” said Johnson. “For these reasons, it is critically important that EMS Station 7 is relocated to a new, permanent location that can fully support the operational needs of the FDNY as soon as possible.”

This new location, as determined by discussions with CB4, DCAS, the FDNY and real estate developers, will be on W. 29th St. (btw. 11th & 12th Aves). Johnson has urged DCAS to work with the FDNY to evaluate this as a permanent location for EMS 7.

After speaking with the FDNY and the developer, he believes the proposed site on W. 29th St. can provide ample vehicle capacity and space for FDNY to expand their services. In addition, the developer will work with the Department of City Planning, FDNY, and relevant city agencies to design a building that is flood-resilient to coastal flooding.

Berthet said that working with developers will be paramount, noting that the city must put energy into negotiating a lease for this location and making sure that the developer is included in the plans from the get-go, so it happens as it should.

The Quality of Life Committee at CB4 would also like to see the FDNY come back to them to discuss their desire to get the Department of Transportation to dedicate the appropriate amount of parking spaces for emergency workers’ personal vehicles.

“One of the problems emerging is that firemen don’t want to get a ticket from parking in the street, so they park their private car inside the lots and the ambulances are moved out to the street,” said Berthet. “We would prefer to do the reverse — have dedicated curbside parking for them, which is the case at most fire stations. At least that would free up some space inside the station.”

The other request they have is that EMS 7 serves as a pilot program for the adoption of a new electric idling system, so that ambulances could be plugged into an electrical outlet.

“This would allow the ambulances to remain cold inside, because their medical machines can’t heat up,” said Berthet. “That’s the reason that they are always idling. We are exploring the technology to replace that idling with these electric plugs. And we have asked that 23rd Street be made one of the places they test that first, to get the benefits of that technology before the rest of the city, because we need it so badly.”

Berthet would like to see movement on the technology issue by September or October, and on the two short-term items even sooner. Legally, she noted, no vehicles should remain idling for more than three minutes. But these are emergency vehicles serving a higher order of business: to save lives. Although few people are thrilled about the current location of the EMS 7, all agree that the West Side needs this resource to keep its residents safe.

“One of my highest priorities is that our community receives and has access to quality and comprehensive health care,” concluded Johnson. “This includes ensuring that first responders can effectively respond to emergencies on Manhattan’s West Side. The FDNY cannot, however, simple settle into their current location on West 23rd Street.”

News

Chelsea Now: Momentum Building to Confront Construction Permit Fraud

July 15, 2015

New York state and city elected officials are responding to the activism of the newly-created Community & Residents Protection Working Group (CRP), which this year has been alerting Chelsea residents to widespread building fraud that has previously gone unnoticed.

At meetings with representatives of city agencies and Community Board 4 (CB4), the CRP began to flush out owners, landlords and developers who received NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) permits for construction by routinely lying on their DOB Form PW1, section 26 applications, stating that occupied buildings were unoccupied — a statement which freed them from instituting required Tenant Protection Plans, and making conditions unlivable in order to pressure occupants to leave.

The CRP revealed that 80 occupied buildings in Chelsea were construction sites permitted through falsified applications. Seeing legal permits posted, residents of those buildings did not think they had any recourse. As research deepened, it also became apparent that this fraudulent situation is a citywide concern. The CRP’s findings ignited a call for action, which shows strong signs of being heard — especially by the DOB, which is receiving word from community leaders, and has its own reforms in the works. Although no specific corrective measures are in place, the drive for change has begun.

On June 30, 2015 five elected officials — Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, NYC Councilmember Corey Johnson, NY State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, NY State Senator Brad Hoylman and U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler — signed a letter addressed to DOB Commissioner Richard (Rick) Chandler, requesting a meeting with him and his appropriate staff to discuss the CRP’s findings and to “find a satisfactory way for the agencies to work together to stop the harassment and dangerous conditions facing many tenants today.”

Assemblymember Gottfried’s office, as point person for the signers, is in the process of following up on the request for a meeting.

The CRP has suggested that one possible remedy is greater communication between city and state agencies, especially between the DOB and the NY State Department of Homes and Community Renewal (DHCR), since the DHCR holds every building’s occupancy and rent regulation status — information the DOB does not have.

In the letter, the signers also noted that the DHCR has a Memo of Understanding (MOU) with the NYC Departments of Finance (DOF) and Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) “to permit access to confidential registration records so DOF can approve SCRIE [Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption] and DRIE [Disability Rent Increase Exemption] applications, and HPD can monitor various housing regulations” and added, “We hope that this MOU can be amended to add your agency to perform this vital check.”

Assemblymember Gottfried told Chelsea Now: “My office has received many calls from constituents with horrible stories about landlords doing major construction work in buildings while populated by residential tenants. It can make life hell. Often services like gas, heat, hot water, and elevators are shut off, and tenants are forced to live in unsanitary and unsafe conditions with dust, holes in walls and floors, and noise at all hours. When tenants complain they are told to move out, which is exactly what the landlord wants. Landlords get away with lying on the DOB permit applications, claiming there are no tenants in the building, and not filing a Tenant Protection Plan. This is all part of the pattern of landlord harassment to force tenants out and make way for sky-high prices. The DOB needs to crack down, make landlords tell the truth and obey the law, and prosecute landlords who don’t.”

Simultaneous to the elected officials’ letter to DOB Commissioner Chandler, a letter was sent from CB4’s Housing Health and Human Services Committee (HHSC) to BP Brewer and Councilmember Johnson, with copies to eight other elected officials as well as DOB Commissioner Chandler, DHCR Commissioner Darryl Towns and HPD Commissioner Vicki Been.

The CB4 letter also called for extensive reforms. Included in the letter were lists of more than 50 DOB projects that had false filings and non-compliant Tenant Protection Plans, and the request that “DOB conduct a file audit of the DOB applications for the projects identified.” The letter, signed by CB4 Chair Christine Berthet and CB4 HHSC co-chairs Joe Restuccia and Barbara Davis, also asked the elected officials “for assistance to prevent the further loss of affordable rent regulated apartments in our district due to the lack of enforcement by DOB of existing safeguards.”

Chelsea Now reported that the CRP hoped attention would be paid to the issue of falsified applications at DOB’s Build Safe Conference on April 27 (“CRP Pressing For Promised Building Fraud Action,” May 7, 2015).

The issue did not appear to receive direct seminar time, but shortly after the Conference, on May 14, Commissioner Chandler issued a groundbreaking plan for reforming the DOB: “Building One City: A Blueprint For Fundamental Transformation at the New York City Department of Buildings.”

Within the Blueprint are plans for change that include a new Industry Code of Conduct, Enhanced Legal Action Against Bad Actors, and the creation of the Risk Management Office (RMO) to analyze extensive amounts of DOB data to determine where vulnerabilities exist and to recommend solutions.

Reducing falsification during the filing process is also a goal. The DOB is working toward becoming a fully electronic system. At present, only about 30 percent of the PW1 filings are done online, with the rest still filled out by hand, according to Alex Schnell, DOB’s press secretary.

When speaking with Chelsea Now, Reynaldo Cabrera, DOB’s Risk Management Officer since the start of the RMO in January 2015, noted that just last year alone there were over 140,000 building permits issued. The DOB is aware of the issue of falsified applications and the RMO is working with Timothy Hogan, DOB’s deputy commissioner of enforcement to deal with falsifiers. “Whether having privileges by the department revoked, or licenses revoked, whether we refer them (landlords) to the state department for licensing issues, or in certain circumstances, make referrals for criminal prosecution, we’re looking at the range of penalties,” says Cabrera, who adds, “Now the issue with information, we’re looking at the data that we currently collect, and how we can better leverage that data. Within the Blueprint, we talk about what we’re doing on the technology side, how we can better upgrade. We’re relying on legacy systems so the first step that we’re working on internally is to have full electronic filing that will allow us to have more front end accountability.” Cabrera also notes that the DOB after upgrading, will be able to be more effective in data-sharing with other agencies, but even now, “We’ve been working with HPD on nuisance construction, illegal conversions and, more recently, we’ve started working with Con Ed.”

On another front, the work of the Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force, which has connected the NY State Attorney General’s Office, the HPD, the DOB, the DHCR and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene this year, has resulted in the first arrest of an NYC landlord. Brooklyn landlord Daniel Melamed and his engineer Pirooz Soltanizadeh have been indicted on charges of unlawful eviction and endangering the welfare of a six-year-old child. Melamed had stated in his DOB filings that his Crown Heights building was vacant when some of the units were occupied, a number of them by rent regulated tenants.

After the indictments were brought by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in June, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “Our Task Force is sending a loud message to predatory landlords: you will be caught, and the consequences will be severe.”

Although these latest arrests are a sign of action, Bill Borock, who as president of the Council of Chelsea Block Associations is also involved in the CRP, would like to see more forward momentum. “If Commissioner Chandler agrees to meet with elected officials to talk about CRP’s issues, that would be progress. But saying the DOB is going to meet and actually meeting are not the same thing. Saying you will do something is very different than doing it, and in this situation, enforcement is key.”