Monthly Archives

August 2015

News

Politico: City Wants Affordable Housing at Site of Former Slaughterhouse

August 31, 2015

By SALLY GOLDENBERG 2:33 p.m.
Aug. 31, 2015

The Manhattan site of an early 20th century slaughterhouse turned warehouse turned NYPD parking lot would become home to an affordable housing complex with other amenities under a proposal Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration issued Monday morning.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation is seeking bidders to build a mixed-use facility on the 24,687-square-foot, city-owned site at 495 11th Ave.

The administration is hoping the property’s proximity to the expansive Hudson Yards project, coupled with the upcoming extension of the 7 train, will attract developers.

“The Slaughterhouse Site Request For Proposals takes advantage of the real momentum happening on the far west side of Manhattan to enhance the existing neighborhood through the creation of much-needed affordable housing,” Department of Housing and Preservation Development commissioner Vicki Been said in a prepared statement.

The project sets the bar high for affordable housing by encouraging respondents to build a completely affordable residential project, preferably without any city subsidies.

But the language in the RFP is careful to state that that is just a goal and leaves open the possibility of public subsidies for the project.

The city “will evaluate proposals based on the feasibility of the applicant’s plan to maintain long-term affordability of residential units through cross-subsidy from the commercial and/or community facility uses, without ongoing public subsidy,” according to the RFP.

In other words, the administration is hoping private revenue will fund affordable housing, helping the mayor reach his goal of building 80,000 units and preserving another 120,000 by 2024.

“We have a unique opportunity through this project to activate a prime location in a growing neighborhood for new affordable housing development,” EDC president Maria Torres-Springer said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to advancing the mayor’s Housing New York goals through this project and providing new opportunities and amenities for longtime residents and local businesses in Hell’s Kitchen.”

The 59-page RFP does not define specific targets for affordable housing, but sets the ceiling at 165 percent of the area median income — $128,184 for a family of three, according to federal standards.

The solicitation does encourage respondents to come up with a range of affordability levels. “Proposals that have a maximum of 15 percent studio units and a minimum of 15 percent three-bedroom units are strongly preferred,” it adds.

EDC anticipates that commercial and community space on the site could exceed 100,000 square feet, an agency spokeswoman said.

The agency is looking for proposals that include recommendations from the local community board, including a supermarket, “affordable rehearsal space” and a height restriction on buildings of 450 feet.

The RFP also notes that the local community board has expressed concerns about hotels, and as such, “hotel uses are strongly discouraged.”

Responses are due by Dec. 11.

This is the third solicitation for a development project in conjunction with de Blasio’s affordable housing plan. Last month, the EDC sought bidders for a mixed-income development on Spofford Avenue in Hunts Point in the Bronx, and in February, it issued a solicitation for a mixed-income development on a city-owned side in the Jamaica section of Queens.

The agency said it will release more requests for proposals in the coming months for mixed-use developments that require affordable housing.

During the past fiscal year, the administration financed more than 20,000 units of affordable housing, but the overall goal could be complicated by a series of uncertainties, including the future of the 421-a development tax break, City Council approval for a series of rezonings that would require low- and middle-income housing and an outstanding lawsuit threatening the city’s affordable housing lottery program.

Councilman Corey Johnson, who represents the slaughterhouse site, said in an email that the city “must use every tool at our disposal to keep the west side affordable to working- and middle-class New Yorkers and projects like this are key to helping us meet that challenge.”

News

Daily News: Laid-off office cleaners say they’re being discriminated against in their quest to win back their jobs

August 31, 2015

Monday, August 31, 2015, 2:00 AM   BY ALBOR RUIZ

Alejandrina Marte had it right a couple of weeks ago when she, along with 10 co-workers, went to reapply in person for office cleaner jobs at the Manhattan offices of WeWork, only to be turned away at the door.

“They said we needed an appointment,” Marte said at the time. “I felt they didn’t care about us.”

The workers lost their jobs on Aug. 23, after their employer, Commercial Building Maintenance, which paid them a miserable $10 an hour, ended its contract with WeWork shortly after they tried to join a union.

Since then, it has become clear that WeWork, despite its promise to give the cleaners a fair chance, really does not care about the more than 100 men and women, most of them Latino immigrants, who for years have kept their offices spotless.

Monday evening, after learning they no longer had jobs, the cleaners held a candlelight vigil outside WeWork headquarters at 115 W. 18th St. They were joined by Council members Margaret Chin and Corey Johnson, State Sen. Daniel Squadron and Deputy Manhattan Borough President Aldrin Bonilla.

WeWork, with 17 sites in Manhattan and Brooklyn, decided not to use contractors any longer, but to hire workers directly. The $10 billion company invited the CBM employees to fill out applications to be rehired.

Those applications stipulated that rehired cleaners would be required to have the “ability to communicate in English,” and would make $15 an hour — still below what unionized janitors make. They would also have health care coverage, a 401(k) plan and stock options.

“I think (the English requirement) is unfair,” said Gloria Rendón, a Colombian immigrant and one of the workers who were let go. “What else do you need besides knowing how to say toilet and floor and mop?”

So far, only 15 of the CBM employees have been rehired and, according to the company, another 25 positions are still open.

“We will be interviewing all CBM employees and we expect that a number of (them) will meet the qualifications,” WeWork president Artie Minson has said. So far only a handful have been interviewed.

“I worked on Sunday, the day the contract expired,” said Néstor Melgar, 26, one of the now-unemployed cleaners and who, by the way, speaks perfect English. “But no one told us what to do, so I went to work on Monday and I was locked out; my building ID card did not work any more.”

Melgar and some of his coworkers tried last Tuesday to reapply for their jobs in person, but as had happened to Marte, they were rejected at the door. Melgar’s mother, his sister and a cousin also lost their jobs at WeWork, making the family’s situation extremely difficult. Despite Melgar’s ability to speak unaccented English, he has not been re-hired.

Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, which represents building workers, filed a complaint against WeWork with the National Labor Relations Board, citing unfair labor practices.

“The truth is that the workers were left without jobs because they wanted to join the union,” said Rachel Cohen, a union organizer.

Rendón agrees.

“I never had any problem, but because we want to join the union they don’t want to have anything to do with us any more.”

No one was available at WeWork to take a call seeking their reaction.

News

NY1: City Council Passes Cooling Tower Legislation as Mayor Says Legionnaires’ Outbreak Contained

August 13, 2015

By Courtney Gross
Updated Thursday, August 13, 2015 at 10:53 PM EDT

Looking to prevent future outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease, the City Council approved new regulations to require building owners register and clean their cooling towers, regulations that will eventually be implemented statewide. NY1’s Courtney Gross filed the following report from City Hall.

The fact that there was no pre-existing list of cooling towers complicated the city’s response to the Legionnaires’ outbreak in the south Bronx.

“As this outbreak deepened, we literally had to scour every possible building in the south Bronx looking for any that might have a cooling tower,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “There was no pre-existing list of cooling towers.”

That is going to change. The Council overwhelmingly approved legislation on Thursday that gives building owners about a month to register their cooling towers.

“Within that 30-day window, all units are supposed to be registered,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

It’s a compromise between the governor’s office and City Hall, which came together to regulate towers like this for the first time.

Contaminated towers are the source of the Legionnaires’ outbreak in the South Bronx.

Under the legislation, the towers will have to be inspected and cleaned every three months. If building owners don’t comply, they face some stiff penalties: $2,000 for the first violation, $5,000 for a second violation and $10,000 if the violation leads to a serious injury. Owners could even face criminal charges, including a $25,000 fine and a year in jail.

“When a commissioner issues an order and a directive, it’s as a result of some serious situation going on,” Mark-Viverito said. “So if there is a failure to comply with that, we believe that there should be serious penalties as well.”

“If the health commissioner in New York City has given you a direct order to disinfect and clean your tank and you haven’t done it, then you are up for potential criminal prosecution,” said City Councilman Corey Johnson of Manhattan. “I think that’s appropriate. There are lives on the line here.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to take the framework of this legislation and apply it statewide. He is expected to take that action in the coming days.

De Blasio said he will sign the bill next week.

“I look forward to signing it then,” he said.

News

Daily News: NYC pet stores now must have sprinklers to protect animals from fires

August 13, 2015

Thursday, August 13, 2015, 10:43 PM  BY

Pet stores will be required to have sprinklers to protect animals from fires under legislation passed by the City Council Thursday.

The rule, which has been a pet cause of animal rights activists for years, was spurred by several pet shop fires in Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens that have killed hundreds of animals unable to escape the flames.

The legislation passed by a vote of 41 to 1 and will apply to pet stores, kennels, pounds and veterinary clinics where animals are kept overnight.

But it exempts spots that have automatic smoke detection systems and are open before the end of next year, when the law takes effect, as well as facilities with 24-hour human supervision.

“Every few years, there’s another incident in which animals perish in ways that could have been prevented,” said Councilman Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan), the sponsor. “These tragedies demonstrate that every pet shop in every borough across the city is vulnerable as long as it does not have sprinklers.”

He said it would also protect firefighters who end up running into blazing pet shops.