Once a month, Darlene Waters grabs her shopping cart and heads uptown from Chelsea to the Port Authority. Walmart and Sam’s Club beckon, just a bus ride away in Secaucus, N.J. “Right now, they are my two favorite stores,” she said.
Ms. Waters doesn’t lack for shops in her neighborhood. But the marinara sauce her grandson likes — Paul Newman’s — goes for “$4 and some change” in Chelsea, she says, about double what it costs across the river. The same goes for toothpaste, rotisserie chicken, mozzarella for her baked ziti. And never mind cake. At Harbs, a bakery that opened last year on Ninth Avenue, a slice of strawberry cake goes for $10.
Ms. Waters, 70, a retired assistant nursery school teacher, lives in public housing, so at least she can afford her rent. But her surroundings have undergone a dizzying economic transformation in the past two to three decades, with an influx of wealth affecting the residents of less means in both obvious and insidious ways. And that change shows no signs of slowing.
“The area is much more beautiful than when I was coming up,” said Ms. Waters, who has lived in Chelsea since she was 11. “We have all sorts of people we can learn from. The big problem is money.”
Today’s Chelsea, the swath west of Avenue of the Americas between 14th and 34th Streets, could be the poster neighborhood for what Mayor Bill de Blasio calls the tale of two cities. While the average household income in Chelsea has climbed exponentially, the income at Elliot Houses, the housing project where Ms. Waters lives, has remained more or less steady.
Census and city figures show that the average household income in Chelsea, about $140,000, is almost five times the average for households in public housing in the area. The neighborhood now ranks among those in the city with the greatest income inequality, according to the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University, as the share of households in the highest income brackets — over $250,000 — has grown.
With hyper-gentrification has come hyper-anxiety, and not just in Chelsea. The administration of Mayor de Blasio, a Democrat, plans to rezone parts of the city to build both affordable and market-rate housing, spurring passionate protests in East New York and other corners of the city where residents worry that the envisioned development will end up displacing poor, longtime tenants.
And the mayor’s plan to generate more revenue for the New York City Housing Authority, known as Nycha, by leasing land within housing projects for mixed-income housing has fueled longstanding fears that public housing buildings may ultimately be steamrollered by the hot real estate market — privatized or demolished to make room for richer New Yorkers.
“Is Nycha giving up public housing?” a resident of Wyckoff Gardens in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, one of the housing projects where some of the new housing will be built, asked at a meeting this month of residents with officials from the agency.
“Are we guaranteed that people here will keep their apartment?” asked another.
In long-gentrified Chelsea, the worst fears have yet to come true. The housing projects — Fulton Houses (between 16th and 19th Streets and Ninth and 10th Avenues) and the neighboring Elliot and Chelsea Houses (in the mid-20s) — with about 2,000 apartments combined, are still there, as they have been since the 1940s (Elliot) and ’60s (Fulton and Chelsea). The brick buildings have deteriorated, however, under the weight of time and as the Housing Authority’s maintenance budget has fallen short, although city officials say they remain committed to preserving public housing. And the neighborhood around them has metamorphosed into an area of luxury apartment towers, renovated storefronts and offices, and spectacular public spaces, like the High Line, leaving some public housing residents feeling both lucky and doomed.
Barbara Sanchez, 42, who grew up at Fulton Houses during Chelsea’s unsavory history of rampant drug-dealing and prostitution on some streets, still marvels that she can let her 11-year-old daughter walk a few blocks home from school on her own, or that they can visit parks she once shunned.
“You could not walk in the park because of drugs,” she said of a small park on 17th Street. “Now, people lunch, jog through, and people are sitting out with their Mac.”
A report commissioned by the city and released in May studied the effects of gentrification on public housing residents and found benefits like safer streets and higher performing schools and students for those in wealthier settings. Coexistence, the researchers found, also led to higher annual earnings for public housing households in high-income areas than their counterparts in poor neighborhoods.
But there were downsides.
“The residents felt profound anxiety,” said Ingrid Gould Ellen, director of the Furman Center and principal investigator of the study, of which Abt Associates was co-author.
“They appreciated the safety but they felt a loss, and daily expenses were greater and they felt great alienation.”
In interviews, residents noted that gone were the old mom-and-pop stores, the bodegas, the low-rise buildings and the gathering spots, replaced with higher-end substitutes. Old standbys like lunch counters and delis, inexpensive fishmongers and butchers, laundromats and convenience stores have grown scarcer, or disappeared altogether, amid the proliferation of multimillion-dollar condos, tech companies like Google and fancy restaurants imbuing the area with the ambience of the meatpacking district to the south.
Contrasts abound. On one block, yellow school buses line up on Ninth Avenue at pickup time in front of Public School 33. A block away on 10th Avenue, a parade of Cadillac Escalade S.U.V.s do the same in front of Avenues: The World School, a prekindergarten-to-12th-grade private school that opened in 2012, where annual tuition is $44,000.
As the old Western Beef supermarket turned into the Apple store with the glass staircase, and the pizza place into an eyebrow salon, many residents said they had lost a sense of belonging.
Ms. Sanchez spoke of the loss of an ethnic enclave when most residents of the area were from Puerto Rico, where her parents came from. Now, she said, she travels to Delancey Street on the Lower East Side to shop for her Puerto Rican dishes as she tries to impart her culture to her daughter and 13-year-old son.
Juwan Stone, a resident of Elliot Houses who aspires to become an actor, spoke of sometimes overwhelming change.
“All the attention is on the businesses,” he said. “You walk past a scaffold and you wonder, What are they going to build now?”
The neighborhood feels welcoming in varying degrees, Mr. Stone said. He has worked summer jobs in the High Line park nearby and said he and his friends appreciated the free concerts and other entertainment the park offered. But he said some upscale retailers around him were “stores I feel would be uncomfortable to go in.”
The struggle with affordability has left some young people in public housing knowing that their neighborhood will not be theirs for long. Ms. Waters’s grandson, Justin Waters, 27, a computer systems analyst for the Hudson Guild, a community agency, said he did not see himself staying in Chelsea despite the advantages of the location. “Every single year, prices increase,” he said. “You shouldn’t constantly struggle to live somewhere. At that point you’re not even enjoying it.”
The chasm between the market rents and what is affordable for most in public housing would preclude even the upwardly mobile in the projects from staying in the neighborhood when they seek to move to private housing. Even former newcomers once viewed as gentrifiers have been priced out.
Art galleries, which came to the scene starting in the 1990s, have been closing or leaving for cheaper rents, said Councilman Corey Johnson, a Democrat who represents Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen and the West Village. “A ton of small independent art galleries are fleeing to the Lower East Side and Brooklyn because building owners are asking exorbitantly more in west Chelsea,” he said.
Despite a construction boom — Chelsea had the highest number of residential units authorized by new building permits by 2014, according to the Furman Center — the rental supply hasn’t kept up with demand. The median asking rent was $3,490 in 2014, the fourth highest in the city, officials at the center said.
Public housing is not the only low- and middle-income stronghold. Penn South, a major cooperative of middle-income housing with more than 2,800 apartments, and the rent-regulated apartment stock also help Chelsea maintain economic diversity.
But the city has lost many more rent-regulated apartments than have been built over the last two decades, especially now in areas like Chelsea, where market rents are high enough to enable landlords under the state rent law to take apartments out of regulation when there are vacancies.
“The huge loss in rent-regulated units, paired with an influx of luxury rentals, leaves families with few options to stay in their community,” said Barika Williams, deputy director of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development.
The ever-rising market rates for both homes and businesses have also driven out Chelsea’s once thriving gay community, Mr. Johnson said, citing the departure of gay clubs like Rawhide.
“Chelsea has become much less gay,” said Mr. Johnson, who is gay. “People started moving to Hell’s Kitchen, and now people are going to the outer boroughs.”
Mr. Johnson, who lived in Massachusetts public housing while growing up, said he, too, had been affected by higher housing costs. In 2003, he lived in a studio for $900 a month. Five years ago, he moved to another studio across the street where monthly rent was $1,750. He currently pays nearly $1,000 more — $2,700 — for the same 319-square-foot unit.
As government-subsidized tenants, public housing residents are protected by a federal policy that requires them to pay no more than 30 percent of their income in rent. But the fear of displacement persists nevertheless. Three years ago, the city took a parking lot from Elliot and Chelsea Houses to build 168 apartments for low-to-middle-income households, and it now plans another affordable building, at a parking lot and compactor yard at Fulton Houses, Housing Authority officials said.
“It’d be stupid not to think that, because eventually it will happen,” Ms. Sanchez, of Fulton Houses, said. “A company may say, we have enough to buy Nycha out. There’s somebody out there who’s probably saying, ‘How do we do this,’ because it’s prime real estate.”
As ZIP codes get richer, there are other consequences.
Mr. Johnson noted that he did not get as much discretionary money to spend as his Council counterparts representing poorer districts.
In 2012, the Hudson Guild, which operates on Nycha grounds and at other sites, lost half its day-care program when the Bloomberg administration based funding for free and low-cost child care programs on area income, said Ken Jockers, the guild’s executive director. (The Council restored the money, he said, and the center eventually won a federal Head Start grant to continue the program.)
“A ZIP code analysis doesn’t account for block-by-block nuances,” Mr. Jockers said. “Even now, when the city looks at low-income neighborhoods in the city, which informs so much of city policy, that often disregards the fact that if you’re a poor person in Chelsea, you’re just as poor as the person living in Bushwick.”
Some Chelsea businesses have tried to bridge the divide. Mr. Jockers said the fashion company Tommy Hilfiger USA and IAC/Interactive Corporation, the Internet media conglomerate controlled by Barry Diller, have made multiyear, five- and six-figure money commitments to the guild’s programs, which mostly serve public housing residents and also draw volunteers and mentors from local companies.
The Avenues school, which opened in a renovated warehouse and currently serves 1,229 students, mostly from outside the neighborhood, gives nearly $1 million in financial aid to 35 students from its community board district, officials at the school said. They said the school moved to Chelsea looking for a large space and offerings that could enrich the student experience, like the sports facilities at Chelsea Piers, the High Line and the arts scene.
The officials promise more aid as Avenues expands to a second building nearby in 2018, and it has just created a position for someone to work full time on community engagement. “It’s based on our belief that our students will learn more by being part of our community,” said Gardner Dunnan, the academic dean.
To expand Chelsea Market, the food and office complex on Ninth Avenue between 15th and 16th Streets, Jamestown Properties negotiated with the city a pledge of more than $1 million over four years for a technology training program for public housing youth so they can compete for jobs in the area, as well as $12 million for the High Line and about $5 million for a fund to build affordable housing.
But jobs for local residents have not materialized to the extent expected, residents and local officials said. “When you have some of the best known, best paying companies in the United States located in Chelsea,” said Councilman Johnson, “it’d be ideal to try to get young people who are from low-income families to offer paid internships, job training and jobs to get them involved so they could stay in the neighborhood they grew up in.”
More wealth is coming. At the northern edge of Chelsea, the huge new development known as Hudson Yards is rising, with 5,000 luxury apartments, designer stores, new parks and a hotel, continuing the area’s trend toward affluence.
Back in a more modest New York, Ms. Waters gets her hair done at a beauty school on 34th Street for $15, and alternates among three restaurants she can afford for the occasional meal out. As the vice-president of the tenants’ association at Elliot Houses and president of the Hudson Guild’s neighborhood advisory committee, she is now working with other residents to rent a van or a bus in November for a holiday shopping trip to New Jersey. In between cross-state trips, she studies shoppers and saves coupons before she hunts for deals closer to home.
But on balance, she said, “I’d rather have Chelsea as it is today.”
“There’s more people,” she said. “It’s brighter, it’s beautiful, it’s more inviting than it used to be. We’re very lucky to be able to stay in housing that hopefully will not disappear.”
BY EILEEN STUKANE, October 21, 2015
Four months ago, families were living normally, as they had for years, in their rent-regulated apartments at 264 and 266 W. 25th St. Today, the five-story, 17-apartment building at 264 has been transformed into a demolition and construction site, with 10 of those apartments gutted and under renovation. At 266, the five-story building next door, residents are also vacating.
Why is everybody leaving?
This summer, rent-regulated tenants were told by a new landlord that their leases would not be renewed (one resident was known to take a buyout), so they left. Only a few residents, who knew their rights, decided to stay and stand their ground amidst the dust, debris, and noise of construction work that has become an all-too-common form of tenant harassment in this city.
Out of the 17 rent-regulated apartments at 264 W. 25th St., only four are currently occupied. Tenants tell Chelsea Now that residents there, and in 266 W. 25th St. (which has nine, soon to be seven, out of its 15 rent-regulated apartments occupied), were driven away by the actions of Leor Sabet of The Sabet Group, which purchased both buildings this year. From July to October, residents have filed about 30 complaints to the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB), notifying the agency of illegal construction and unsafe conditions. In response, the DOB has sent inspectors, issued certain violations, and, this month, put a partial Stop Work Order in place.
In addition, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (HMH) issued an October Stop Work Order due to the serious health hazard of lead dust. Residents say this isn’t enough. They have never been informed about, nor have they ever experienced anything related to, the city-mandated Tenant Protection Plan that is required in occupied buildings during construction, and the harassment via construction has been relentless.
“I’m extremely proud of Chelsea’s tenants for taking a stand against abusive landlords. Real estate speculators have become increasingly aggressive in their approach and will often stop at nothing to force out tenants in affordable units. Landlords who deliberately create unlivable conditions and lie on construction permits must be held accountable for their actions,” Councilmember Corey Johnson wrote in an email to Chelsea Now.
Here’s what’s happening on the ground:
A Worker Falls Through A Ceiling: One resident, speaking anonymously, has stories that are incredulous, such as the day this person came home from work after hearing the news that a construction worker on the floor above had fallen through their bedroom ceiling.
“Every single wall in my home has damage, a hole here, a hole there, and then I get word that a worker, perhaps drunk or high, but definitely unprofessional, has fallen from the upstairs floor through my ceiling,” said the tenant, “and when I got home, I found windows open and a sloppy patch over the hole. I called the police.”
DOB permits posted at the time only allowed for work on the second floor, but demolition was ongoing on all other floors in 264 W. 25th St., activity that residents had already reported to the DOB. “There’s a lot of dust and debris everywhere, on the floor, the doors, in the air, it’s a constant thing,” the tenant added.
Then there was the rent money order, payment for this same tenant’s ceiling-damaged rent-controlled apartment, that was returned by The Sabet Group, stating that the resident was not the tenant of record, that the tenant’s mother, who had been deceased for over 30 years, was the tenant of record, and that they had no rights. This tenant had paid rent on time for decades and was the legal tenant of record at the NYC Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) since 1984 — but the burden of proof was on their shoulders.
Insects and Bedbugs: Since demolition and construction in 264 W. 25th St. began, records show that another tenant has been battling cockroaches, water bugs, beetles, flying insects, and a bedbug infestation confirmed by an extermination service. This tenant had to relocate while the apartment was being fumigated. Rats and mice were also reportedly seen in the hallway of the building.
Water Cascades Through Floors and Ceilings: Steven Cincotta, a second-floor resident of 266 W. 25th St., was awakened on a September morning at 4 a.m. by the sound of water rushing down from the ceiling in the hall outside his apartment. Discovering a flood situation, he called the fire department, which found the source of the problem several floors above him. A faucet had been left on in a fifth-floor apartment in the process of demolition, a gutting for which there was no work permit. As far as water, hot water and heat are concerned, tenants report periodic interruptions without notice.
Hazardous Lead Particles: As stated in its report, the HMH found this month that the work in 264 W. 25th St. was “generating and dispersing paint chips, debris and dust,” and warned, “improperly performed work which disturbs lead-based paint may expose members of the public, particularly children under six years of age, to the risk of lead poisoning.”
“These tenants are just one example of people forced to live under horrendous and dangerous conditions while construction goes on around them,” Assemblymember Richard Gottfried wrote in a statement to Chelsea Now. “My office is inundated with tenants who tell horror stories about their landlords performing massive construction and renovations in buildings while tenants live there. The landlords systematically harass these tenants to get them to move out, so the rents can be increased and the apartments can be taken out of rent stabilization and rent control systems. This must stop. The Department of Buildings must aggressively protect tenants, not help the people attacking tenants and destroying affordable housing.”
Assemblymember Gottfried’s office has been actively working to help tenants find legal recourse.
LEGALITIES AND THE NEED FOR ACTION
Leor Sabet of The Sabet Group, which purchased 264 and 266 W. 25th St. this year, checked off “No” on the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) PW1 permit application, indicating that 264 W. 25th St. — which had families in their homes — was vacant. Once again, men, women and children who called their apartments home, were all invisible on the new owner’s falsified PW1 application for construction this summer. Chelsea’s Community & Residents Protection Working Group (CRP) has made the community aware that an unoccupied building does not require a Tenant Protection Plan — so residents who are not recognized are subject to unsafe conditions, and then the predictable landlord pressure is exerted to motivate them to move out.
Not understanding their rights as rent-controlled or rent-stabilized tenants, not wanting to endure life on a construction site, and being notified by the new landlord that he would not renew their leases, the majority of families on W. 25th St. did what many do — they relocated. Demolition began full force within apartments at 264 W. 25th St., and to a lesser degree at 266 W. 25th.
Chelsea Now spoke with Leor Sabet by phone and asked what the plans were for the buildings. Were the apartments to be turned into condos? No response. When asked about the accuracy of tenants’ statements that no Tenant Protection Plan was in place, the response from Mr. Sabet was: “There’s no comment. Thank you for the call, but no comment,” and he hung up.
Alex Schnell, a spokesperson for the DOB, noted in an email: “On a 9/15/15 visit [to 264-266 W. 25th St.], inspector was provided documentation showing tenant protection plan.” According to Schnell, the tenant protection documentation would have been on the work plans for the buildings, but regardless of what might have been indicated on paper, tenants have not experienced a Tenant Protection Plan.
A number of work permits were issued in relation to the second-floor demolition in 264 W. 25th St., but then the demolition spread to other apartments. Eventually permits were issued for specific work in other apartments in the building, and construction has been undertaken in the common areas of both buildings. The owner noted on DOB applications that work would not involve more than 50 percent of a building — but at 264 W. 25th St., 10 out of 17 apartments gutted is certainly more than 50 percent of the building.
Cincotta also questions whether the Certificate of Occupancy in the buildings, which states that there are 10 habitable rooms per floor, is being violated. He discovered that the apartments being renovated have increased numbers of rooms.
“Where there were two bedrooms, there will be three. Where there were three bedrooms, there will be four,” he said, and notes that the bedrooms are small with attached bathrooms, as if dormitory or hotel living were being created, which would change the living environment of the building.
LOOKING TO THE CITY AND COURTS FOR HELP
Residents who want to continue living in their homes at 264 and 266 W. 25th St., filed over 30 complaints to the DOB. When DOB inspectors arrived to investigate illegal construction and falsified applications, work came to a halt, doors were locked, and inspectors were often denied the access they needed — according to tenants, who suspect that an alleged lookout stationed in front of their buildings alerted workers. Action that might have been taken to file violations was, thus, delayed.
Nevertheless, to their credit, the DOB inspectors did issue violations, including the latest Stop Work Order for plumbing issues. Eight DOB violations remain outstanding, and two of them are for different work permit applications that falsely noted there was no rent-controlled or rent-stabilized occupied housing in either 264 or 266 W. 25th St. The violations at the respective addresses carry penalties of $2,400 and $4,830.
What seems a glitch in the system, however, is that last summer’s falsified PW1 application for construction at 264 W. 25th St., after a violation was issued, was resubmitted with the notation: “Respectfully Requesting Approval of Amended Schedule ‘B’ and Plans,” an amendment which corrected the occupancy status in the building. This amended application was requested and approved in September, with what appears to be no further challenge by the DOB. In addition to open DOB violations, the two addresses on W. 25th St. have a combined 19 open NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) violations filed in the last half of 2015.
Although the current DOB Stop Work Order for plumbing and the HMH Stop Work Order for lead contamination have given the tenants a little breathing space, they are far from satisfied. Their friends and neighbors are gone. What often happens is that by the time city agencies become aware, tenants have chosen to move away rather than suffer through harassment. The affordable housing that existed is gone and the neighborhood environment is changed.
Gottfried and Johnson are both working to stem this particular tide. “We need to use every tool at our disposal to fight back and protect tenants, and the package of legislation that my City Council colleagues and I introduced last week will give the City broader enforcement power,” Johnson emailed Chelsea Now, adding that he was “pleased that the Department of Buildings and the Department of Heath issued Stop Work Orders at these properties, and I look forward to working with our city agencies until full accountability is reached.”
The tenants at 264 and 266 W. 25th St. want the entire workplace closed down by a complete Stop Work Order that ends their harassment, allows DOB full access, and brings in an on-site superintendent (which the buildings currently do not have). That The Sabet Group refuses to issue renewals to rent-regulated tenants, and delays in depositing rent payments, questions legality. Tenants would rather go to court than be forced to move out, and that is just what they are ready to do.
BY TEQUILA MINSKY | The corner of Bedford and Grove Sts. is now Larry Selman Way, named for the street’s relentless fundraiser and community activist who died in 2013 at age 70.
On Tues., Oct. 6, the sidewalk was packed with members of the Bedford St. Block Association and Community Board 2, and other neighbors and friends spilling into the streets to mark the occasion. Assemblymember Deborah Glick and Councilmember Corey Johnson emceed the event.
Larry Selman, who lived on Bedford St., would often base himself at that corner, hitting up passersby — neighbors, tourists, everyone he encountered, for causes like cancer, St. Vincent’s Hospital, 9/11 victims, the annual AIDS Walk, muscular dystrophy, juvenile diabetes, cerebral palsy or for disabled firefighters. He sold thousands of dollars of raffle tickets for the block association and got to know everybody.
Johnson reminded those present that he did it for $1, and sometimes only a few cents, at a time.
“He built a community on a foundation of generosity and service,” Johnson said.
Selman was developmentally disabled with an IQ below 60 and was practically living in poverty himself, which made his community participation so much more remarkable.
When neighbors learned of his financial situation, they pitched in to contact social services and other support that helped him live comfortably and independently.
Glick highlighted how significant it was that this block of neighbors came together in the true sense of community. She noted that, in a time of rising rents, and changing demographics, this sort of solidarity is increasingly hard to find.
Selman’s life gained more attention when his neighbor Alice Elliot made a short documentary about him, “The Collector of Bedford Street.” The film was nominated for an Academy Award in 2003 and the two attended the awards in Hollywood that year.
With the movie, Selman’s life changed. For eight years, he attended film festivals and premieres of the film, traveling to 18 states and two countries, Canada and Dubai, accompanied by his neighbor and friend Sally Dill. At the street sign dedication, Dill recounted their travels.
“Larry received The Caring Award [for outstanding contributions as a volunteer] in 2009 along with Colin Powell at the Frederick Douglass Museum in downtown L.A.,” she recalled. “He hit up Powell for a donation following receiving the award.”
Powell gave him a bill — a $100 one.
After the remembrances of Selman, those who knew him so well yanked the rope to pull off the paper covering and unveil the sign. They then gathered in the yard at the Greenwich House Music School, at 46 Barrow St., for a casual reception.
A plaque with his name sits in a tree pit outside of his Bedford St. apartment building. But the Bedford Barrow Commerce Block Association, led by its president, Kathy Donaldson, wanted to recognize Larry Selman in a larger way. The co-named street was the result of the dedicated efforts of the block association, the C.B. 2 Traffic and Transportation Committee, the City Council and the Mayor’s Office. Mayor de Blasio signed a bill authorizing “Larry Selman Way” on Aug. 10, 2015.
BY YANNIC RACK, October 14, 2015
What if you could step into the shoes of local legislators and decide what improvement projects to greenlight for your neighborhood? That possibility is becoming real, once again, as the Participatory Budgeting process kicks off — after last year’s inaugural effort awarded funds to, among other things, a new park on W. 20th St. and an ADA [Americans With Disabilities Act]-compliant bathroom for Jefferson Market Library.
About $1 million is up for grabs in Council District 3, which along with Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen also includes the West Village and parts of Flatiron, Soho, and the Upper West Side.
“We want to know what the needs are in the district, and how Participatory Budgeting can meet those needs,” Matt Green, an aide to District 3 Councilmember Corey Johnson, recently told a group attending a neighborhood assembly at New Dramatists (on W. 44th St.), one of several held throughout the district to introduce residents to the concept.
Participatory Budgeting is a grassroots process that lets community residents vote to directly allocate money toward proposals developed to meet local needs. Through a series of public meetings, they work with elected officials throughout the year to identify neighborhood concerns and craft proposals to address them. Residents then decide which proposals to fund through a public vote.
Anyone who lives or works within the district can volunteer to become a budget delegate, which means they will join a committee advocating for one of the projects, with regular meetings scheduled through next spring.
The proposals will then be submitted to Corey Johnson’s office and reviewed by the responsible city agencies some time in late January or early February. Green said the agencies would then come back with cost assessments and feedback on the individual projects.
The final ballot will go to a public vote in late March or early April. Anyone, even undocumented immigrants, can vote as long as they live in the district, and are at least 14 years old. The winning ideas will be adopted into the city’s budget in June.
“Then it can take a number of years for them to be implemented,” Green said, noting that although no projects chosen during April 2015’s final voting process have broken ground yet, the funding would not be lost.
At the meeting in Hell’s Kitchen, around a dozen residents brainstormed in small groups to come up with a new slate of viable projects. Half of them had been at a launch event on the High Line organized by Johnson a few days earlier, but only a few had taken part in the process last year.
“I think it’s a worthwhile cause,” said Carrie Smith, 41, who found out about the event through a newsletter sent out by Johnson’s office. Smith lives on W. 42nd St., between Eighth and Ninth Aves., and said she came to propose some kind of street beautification project, like planting trees and adding a roundabout or a public bathroom on her block.
“I care about the condition of my neighborhood,” she said. “I don’t think that, just because it’s a major thoroughfare, that’s an excuse to have a really disgusting block, where I smell human feces and urine every single day on my way home.”
Last year, around 2,400 people voted for their favorite projects in the district.
One of them was Susan Treacy-Mannix, 49, who lives in the Manhattan Plaza complex on W. 43rd St. She said she had found out about the process too late to actively participate last time, and had come to the meeting to advocate for a library at the new City Knoll Middle School on W. 33rd St., where one of her sons attends seventh grade.
“We need it, we need it for these kids. These kids that don’t have anything, they can’t continue because there’s no resources for them. If we can get this middle school up and running it will benefit everybody,” she said.
“Downtown had everything, then they got hit by Sandy, and got it again. We never had anything to begin with [in Hell’s Kitchen], and this goes back a long time. That’s why I want this library.”
Treacy-Mannix, who sits on the school’s PTA, said she might even decide to volunteer as a budget delegate if she can find the time.
Green said that the district had 55 delegates last year, with a few assigned to each of the 17 projects on the ballot, of which seven were eventually selected.
The total funding pledged in the district’s first round came to $1.68 million, with individual projects ranging from as little as $35,000, for library renovations at PS3, to as much as $500,000, for the Jefferson Market Library project.
The costliest idea was actually renovations for the bathrooms at Lab School, running to $560,000, but the NYC School Construction Authority is funding that project — showing how Participatory Budgeting can raise awareness for community improvements even beyond the program’s own resources.
At the meeting, Green also emphasized that this was an opportunity for residents to bring attention to what they think needs fixing in their community, whether the projects will eventually be chosen or not.
“We want to expand civic engagement,” he said. “The best ideas come from the residents who interact with their physical environment every day.”
This year, New Yorkers in 27 Council Districts will collaboratively decide how to distribute over $30 million to local capital projects. Each idea must cost between $35,000 and $1 million to be viable.
Patrick Shields, 52, was at the neighborhood assembly with his mind already made up. Like Treacy-Mannix, he had come with a particular proposal: to replace the tar surface at the William F. Passanante Ballfield on W. Houston St. with a proper soccer turf.
Shields was a budget delegate last year, but his pet project, funding another soccer turf near the Fulton Houses on W. 17th St., wasn’t selected. As a longtime resident of the West Village who only recently moved to Manhattan Plaza in Hell’s Kitchen, he said that, by sprucing up unused playgrounds, they could be preserved from development in the future.
“I want to get as much soccer turf anywhere I can, because those actually get used. Passannante Park is empty constantly,” he said.
The last initial information session on the Participatory Budgeting process will be a youth assembly held on Oct. 29 at the LGBT Community Center on W. 13th St. Green said that a website with this year’s proposals for Council District 3 would be launched soon. In the meantime, visit coreyjohnson.nyc for the latest on this and other District 3 concerns.
As for the stated goal of fostering civic engagement, it seemed the residents at the community assembly were taking it to heart. Between the three groups, they came up with a multitude of different ideas, ranging from bike lanes on W. 14th St. and a pop-up business space in Hudson River Park, to sidewalk repairs and solar-powered trash compactors throughout the district.
Shields’ project, the soccer turf on W. Houston St., also garnered wide support, and he said he had learned from last year’s budgeting process.
“I’m going to work really hard to get out the vote on this one,” he said.
By Horia Ungureanu, Tech Times | October 15
Uber might soon give a helping hand in cases of missing children.
On Wednesday, Oct. 14, the car service app announced a partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). The cooperation means that drivers will receive AMBER alerts about cases of children that were reported missing.
The number of drivers sporting the app amasses to more than 30,000. Members of the “extended search team” get the announcement if they have the Uber app open, and can help track a suspicious car involved in abduction. The best case scenario involves drivers spotting a missing child and reporting his location.
The partnership means that all U.S. Uber users may contribute to the search efforts.
“Uber’s presence in communities all across the country will be an incredible asset,” a special programs director for missing children at NCMEC, Robert Hoever, said.
Reports from the car sharing service state that only in New York, around 7,300 drivers use the app for an hour every week.
“With so many driver-partners traveling across the city every day, this effort can help make a real difference for our neighbors and communities,” Uber NYC’s general manager, Josh Mohrer, affirmed.
Corey Johnson, a member of the west Manhattan city council, commended the companies’ contribution to the increased safety of toddlers.
“The more eyes that we can activate when a child goes missing the higher the likelihood is of a good outcome,” he said.
Meera Joshi, who is the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commissioner, fully supports the idea. She points out that the TLC broadcasted AMBER and Silver alerts in the past, leading to numerous children and seniors being found.
Her opinion is that large communities can benefit from the integration of technology in transportation, and that proves that the administration and the people can work together constructively.
Uber is not the first technology company to embed AMBER alerts in its system. Google already fits the alerts into some of its services and Facebook and Microsoft are doing the same.
The partnership between Uber and NCMEC could rally popular apps to become a medium for disseminating emergency information, such as violent crime, national security, natural disasters and product recalls.
AMBER alerts are in use since 1996 and have so far led to the recovery of 772 missing children.
Uber’s drivers on the hunt for passengers can now keep an eye out for missing children.
The car service app will announce on Wednesday a partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to blast out to its drivers around the country Amber alerts, which provide time-sensitive emergency information on child abductions.
Drivers in the city — there are more than 30,000 of them now — that have the Uber app open will get the alerts in the hope they are able to spot a missing child, a suspect or a vehicle used in abduction. Uber will also be sending targeted Amber alerts to its drivers around the U.S. under the partnership.
“Uber’s presence in communities all across the country will be an incredible asset,” said Robert Hoever, a special programs director for missing children at NCMEC.
In New York, there are about 7,300 Uber drivers using the app an hour during an average week, according to Uber officials.
“With so many driver-partners traveling across the city every day, this effort can help make a real difference for our neighbors and communities,” Josh Mohrer, Uber NYC’s general manager said.
Councilman Corey Johnson, who reps Manhattan’s west side where Uber is headquartered in New York, praised the effort, pointing to the thousands of Uber cars on the road at any given time.
“The more eyes that we can activate when a child goes missing the higher the likelihood is of a good outcome,” he said.
Yellow and green taxis, meanwhile, have been displaying Amber alerts and Silver alerts for missing elderly people on drivers’ monitors.
“The TLC has been broadcasting Amber and Silver alerts for years, and it is good to see our licensees using technology in this positive way, and working constructively with the larger community,” Taxi and Limousine Commissioner Meera Joshi said.
Streetsblog NYC: Transportation Alternatives, Manhattan Pols Urge DOT to Commit to Fully Redesigning Fifth and SixthOctober 12, 2015
Last month DOT announced its intent to add a protected bike lane along 19 blocks of Sixth Avenue. A coalition of advocates, business groups, community board representatives, and elected officials think the city can do better. At a press conference next to the Flatiron Building this morning, they called on DOT to redesign the entire length of Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan.
“We’re here today to commend the Department of Transportation and Mayor de Blasio for committing to a complete street redesign on Sixth Avenue between 14th and 33rd streets, but we’re also here today to encourage them to do much more,” said TA Executive Director Paul Steely White. “It’s just irresponsible to have so many cyclists on a main thoroughfare with no protection whatsoever.”
“[We] have been asking for a while that the Department of Transportation make this entire area a bicycle network, so that you don’t simply have to avoid certain avenues because you’re afraid you may be hit or injured,” said Council Member Corey Johnson.
TA conducted traffic counts between April and August, gathering a total of 32 hours of data. Cyclists comprise 10 percent of vehicle traffic on Fifth and Sixth. Bike-share accounts for 26 percent of that bike traffic — more during morning and evening rush hours.
“The numbers do not lie,” said City Council Member Dan Garodnick. “Fifth and Sixth avenues are important corridors for the city and they are important corridors for bicyclists.”
Counts on both avenues at 38th Street revealed that women accounted for 10 percent of cyclists. TA reports that the share of female riders is twice as high — 20 percent — on First Avenue and Ninth Avenue, which have protected bike lanes.
When DOT announced that it would begin planning for a northbound protected bike lane on Sixth between 14th and 33rd streets, the agency said southbound cyclists wanting a protected lane could use Broadway. “When I ride my bike on Broadway, I’m always getting off and walking my bike,” White said. “The pedestrian volumes are such that people are spilling into the bike lane on Broadway. If you want an expeditious route, you have to use Fifth… Cyclists are already using Fifth Avenue, and they’re only going to use it more.”
Commissioner Polly Trottenberg also said at last month’s announcement that protected lanes in Midtown would proceed “one step at a time,” with DOT looking “to work our way north, as we have on a lot of these projects.”
Dan Rivoli of the Daily News asked what TA thought of City Hall’s overall track record on bike lanes. “I’d say it’s mixed,” White said. “We’re still working on the mayor. We’re still encouraging him to make that goal of doubling bicycling as prominent as some of the other goals of his administration.”
On the other hand, White said, “I think it’s safe to say, if you could do a protected bike lane on Queens Boulevard, you could do it anywhere.” The Queens Boulevard bike lane primarily used buffer space already on the street, however, and did not require much reallocation of space from moving cars to bicycles and pedestrians.
I asked White if he’s satisfied with City Hall’s commitment to reclaiming street space from the automobile. “I think we’re getting there,” he said, before mentioning a long-anticipated plan on the Upper West Side. “Amsterdam is going to be an interesting project to watch, because by most accounts that project will require the repurposing of one car lane to give pedestrians and bikers more space.”
“For years, the city has had a goal of speeding traffic, and what we’ve seen is that has made our streets less safe. Slowing down, having lower speed limits, is a positive,” said Assembly Member Deborah Glick. “While there may be some frustration on the part of some drivers, maybe that will encourage them to get out of their cars.”\
October 8, 2015
BY AMY RUSSO | Deciding how to best spend $1 million in public funding will be no small task for residents of City Council District 3.
The first of a series of “participatory budgeting” meetings for the district was held on the evening of Wed., Sept. 30, at the Hudson Park Library, at 66 Leroy St., and was attended by slightly more than a dozen residents from the Village area, each with their own suggestions of projects needing funding in District 3.
The West Side district, which stretches from W. 63rd St. to Canal St., is represented by Corey Johnson.
Attendees gathered to share and collaborate on ideas in search of the most efficient use of the million dollars.
Also present were David Moss and Matt Green, staff members from Johnson’s office and liaisons between local residents and their representative.
The evening commenced with a short presentation by Green discussing the participatory budgeting process in which members of District 3 will be allowed the opportunity to propose projects deserving of funding.
The $1 million falls under the category of discretionary funds, which are divided into two types: expense funds and capital funds. Expense funds go toward people and services while capital funds go toward infrastructure or so-called “bricks and mortar” projects.
The costs of suggested projects must fall between $35,000 and no more than $1 million, though partial funding may be given if a project exceeds the million-dollar mark.
Following the presentation, attendees split into two groups and listed all possible ideas for funding, selecting their top three choices at the end.
Some popular proposals from the group overseen by Green included technology upgrades in the library of the Museum School, at 333 W. 17th St., the development of underutilized space in Hell’s Kitchen and upgrading broken computers in the teen lounge of the Hudson Guild, at W. 17th St. and Ninth Ave. in Chelsea.
Participants in the second group, led by Moss, proposed adding safety measures at the dangerous intersection of Mulry Square (W. 11th St. and Seventh and Greenwich Aves.), A.D.A. upgrades for the Hudson Park Library, and increased signage and reminders to cyclists to make use of bicycle lanes throughout the Village.
For his part, Moss cited energy-saving roofs, better street lighting and hurricane preparedness as particularly viable options to which locals may want to give further consideration. It was noted that the Village experienced significant damage after Hurricane Sandy, and that protective measures should be taken for the future.
“For the purpose of assemblies, any idea is fair game at this point,” Green stated at the meeting. “We really just want to hear what your ideas are and what the community needs.”
Councilmember Johnson’s district is one of 27 New York City Council districts conducting participatory budgeting for the 2015-16 cycle. The initiative gives residents the unique opportunity to advocate for programs they feel are of importance.
It’s the second year Johnson’s district will have participatory budgeting. In the inaugural effort, about 2,500 people voted, with the winning projects ranging from an effort to build a new park at 136 W. 20th St. to bathrooms at the Jefferson Market Library, at Sixth Ave. and W. 10th St.
BY ALBERT AMATEAU | Loving, selfless, and with a temper as short as her stature, Mae Doris Corrigan was remembered on Sun., Oct. 7 for her fierce devotion to her Chelsea neighborhood and her persistent advocacy of progressive Democratic Party politics.
More than a hundred friends, neighbors, and colleagues gathered at the Hudson Guild to pay tribute to Doris, who died July 23 at the age of 87.
The crowd included elected officials whose campaigns Doris promoted, Democratic Party volunteers with whom she worked for more than 35 years, and several of her nieces and nephews.
“Doris was a community center all on her own,” quipped Ken Jockers, executive director of Hudson Guild, host of the memorial event. “I would pass this conference room at the end of my day and there she’d be, holding another meeting. It made me think I should go back to my desk and put in another couple of hours.”
Tom Schuler, a fellow member of the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club who, along with Laura Morrison and Steven Skyles-Mulligan, took care of Doris during her final months, said, “She made us all better neighbors, better citizens, and better democrats. She was the epitome of the neighborhood activist.” He recalled one of her favorite causes, the completion and opening of the Chelsea Recreation Center on W. 25th St. in 2001, after the project had been interrupted for 25 years.
Schuler also remembered a trip they took in Doris’s battered old car that ended in a breakdown, and left them both laughing. He also recognized Mary Dorn, Sylvia Dipietro and Judge Lottie Wilkins for helping secure a place for Doris in the Amsterdam Nursing Home, where she lived at the end of her life.
“Doris had an incredible life,” said Skyles-Mulligan. “We all remember how she could fly off the handle and took great joy in arguments. She told me she wanted to be cremated, with no urn, and wanted the speeches at her memorial to be as short as she was,” he recalled.
Kathy Kinsella, a resident of Rhinebeck and a former neighbor, said, “Doris was old enough to be my mother or my aunt. She wasn’t. She was my friend. She was fiercely independent and adventurous.” Kinsella noted that Doris once went to the Galapagos Islands, and also went rafting down the Colorado River to the Grand Canyon.
“Once, when we were hiking near my place in Rhinebeck, she fell and broke an ankle. I told her, ‘Just sit there while I go for some help.’ By the time I came back she had walked halfway home,” Kinsella said.
Doris’s kindness extended to everyone she met
“She took care of her cats, and of other people’s cats,” Kinsella said, recalling that she took temporary care of a cat that a homeless man had been keeping in his knapsack. Doris became the owner of the cat, Sunshine, when the original owner couldn’t take him back. Doris would often let friends of friends sleep on her couch when they needed a temporary place to stay, Kinsella recalled.
“Doris was my mentor. She taught me how to analyze a problem and think it through. We had a loving friendship, even though she’d sometimes hang up the phone on me when we had an argument,” Kinsella said.
Tim Gay, a former Chelsea resident who now lives in Kingston, met Doris when both were elected Democratic District Co-leaders for Chelsea. “We wouldn’t have the wonderful waterfront that we do if it weren’t for Doris and Bob Trentlyon,” he said. (Trentlyon, a co-founder with Doris of the Chelsea Waterside Park Association, was out of town and could not attend the memorial.)
Gay recalled that in 1994, he and Doris faced two other candidates for district leader. “Doris got more votes than the three of us combined,” he said.
A nephew, Jason Hannon, recalled that Doris rode 30 miles on her bicycle to Watchung, NJ, to visit him. “She came to New York after graduating from Wayne State University in Detroit in a beat-up old car with $30 in her pocket,” he said.
“She would beam whenever she talked about Chelsea,” Hannon said.
A niece, Lisa Wagner, a member of the Clark family that adopted Doris as a child, said her aunt taught her to live each day to the fullest.
“She was a moral leader,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler. “She put pressure on everyone to do the right thing. We were all the beneficiaries of her belief in the power of collective action. It’s a testimony to her that the community cared for her at the end,” he said, adding, “May her memory be a blessing and continue to inspire all of us.”
Comptroller Scott Stringer said, “Doris was the one who got it done. She was always there for us.”
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney recalled that when she was first elected to the New York City Council, she voted against the Westway landfill highway project, against most of the Manhattan delegation. The leader scolded her and made her sit in an obscure corner of the chamber. “I told Doris about my humiliation and she said, ‘He can tell you where to sit but he can’t tell you how to vote.’ We were all lucky to have had Doris in our corner,” Maloney said.
Former State Senator Tom Duane recalled the many occasions when he and Doris solicited election petition signatures. One September evening after the Yom Kipper fast ended at sundown, Duane and Doris were on W. 23rd St. near a synagogue.
Doris said, “They’ll be starving, go get their signatures.”
Duane also remembered Doris’s efforts — successful in the end — to get the shed on Pier 64 demolished because they believed that, if the shed remained up, there would be pressure to lease it for commercial development. He also remembered Doris’s support for a Chelsea residence for homeless HIV-positive people. “Doris was the least NIMBY [not-in-my-backyard] person that I knew,” he said.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer paid tribute to Doris Corrigan’s advocacy, and Assembly Member Richard Gottfried commented that she was never afraid of a fight. “She was an extraordinary person who made a difference,” Gottfried said.
Brad Hoylman, current State Senator representing Chelsea, said, “Doris always kept it real. Many of us in politics are overly interested in getting credit. Doris wasn’t concerned with credit. She wanted to get things done.”
Corey Johnson, current City Council member for Chelsea, recalled that Doris always convinced him to go out to close a poll at 9 p.m. on election day, even when he didn’t want to be bothered.
“Doris set the example for me on how to live in a community and be a part of it,” said Laura Morrison. “She loved Chelsea. She loved the tree outside her window. It was a privilege for me to be part of her life.”