Monthly Archives

January 2016

News

New York Times: De Blasio’s Wife and Council Members Share Personal Stories at Mental Health Hearing

January 28, 2016

Amid the stats and figures, dot-driven maps of New York City and questions about the minutiae of neighborhood issues, a hearing at the City Council on Thursday included more than the usual amount of personal revelation from Council members.

One spoke of his struggles with alcoholism that nearly derailed his life as a young man. Another of a family friend who died of opioid addiction. Another, the suicide of a friend.

Listening attentively to the outpouring was Chirlane McCray, the first lady of New York City, who sat behind the panel table and delivered testimony in support of the city’s expansive plan for tackling a large swath of mental health issues faced by New Yorkers.

Her testimony at the Council appeared to be the first for a mayor’s wife, according to a Council parliamentarian, Gary Altman. Joyce Dinkins never did. Ed Koch did not have a partner. Donna Hanover, the former wife of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, “worked as a journalist and TV host for most of her time as first lady,” Mr. Altman said. “This is a first in our memory.”

For just under an hour and a half, Ms. McCray — who, as first lady and chairwoman of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York, has prioritized improving the city’s mental health care — fielded questions along with her fellow panelists from the de Blasio administration: Deputy Mayor Richard Buery and Dr. Gary Belkin of the health department.

She also listened as the Council members shared their own stories. Corey Johnson, chairman of the Council’s Health Committee, began his questions by describing the “family disease” of alcoholism and his six years of sobriety. “It’s not hyperbolic to say it, but I would not be up here today being able to listen to this testimony from you all if I didn’t get sober,” he said before asking about the role of stigma in hindering mental health treatment.

“If we can’t talk about a problem,” Ms. McCray said, “if we can’t acknowledge it, we can’t tell the stories and we can’t do anything about it. And that is one of the reasons why everywhere I go I encourage people to talk about their stories.”

She said the plan, which costs $850 million over four years and sprawls across dozens of initiatives and agencies, was only a start. “It’s intended as a first step,” she said. “It’s intended as a conversation starter.” Much of the plan has yet to be put into place, and Ms. McCray stressed the need for data collection so that it may be evaluated in the future.

However, a good number of the 54 initiatives in the plan are already underway, including training police officers to better handle mentally ill people and teaching New Yorkers about so-called mental health first aid. Others are new, including the creation of a city hotline for counseling and a new “mental health corps” of hundreds of doctors and social workers to work in the city’s underserved neighborhoods. All are bundled under the rubric of ThriveNYC.

The vastness of the plan, which also covers alcohol and drug abuse, appeared to stun Council members, who thumbed through a 119-page glossy explainer produced by the de Blasio administration as their colleagues inquired about everything from opioid addiction on Staten Island to the hiring of mental health workers for city schools to the use of acupuncture to treat crack addicts.

“I haven’t had a chance to leaf through this very impressive document yet,” said Councilman Barry Grodenchik, a Democrat who represents an area of eastern Queens. “Is acupuncture part of the mix?”

“I don’t believe it is,” Ms. McCray said. “But I would say,” she added diplomatically, “it always takes more than medication or one technique to heal a person.”

After the hearing, Ms. McCray said she felt the testimony had gone well and celebrated the personal anecdotes shared, which followed her own testimony that related her parents’ depression and the drug addiction of her daughter, Chiara.

“It gives you courage,” she said. “And it’s a relief. It’s a release. Cleaning out that closet. I love it. I really do.”

She also seemed relieved the testimony was over. “It’s a long time to be sitting there,” she said.

News

New York Times: Animal Deaths Down and Adoptions Up Amid Reforms at New York Shelters

January 20, 2016

A half-dozen pit bull mixes chased one another across an asphalt run behind the shelter, a cinder-block bunker on East 110th Street in Harlem, dancing and wrestling in midair.

Elf, a brown-and-white dog, chest-bumped with Cupcake, who was sporting a purple collar. Cupcake leapt over Ezra. An “enrichment facilitator” stood by with a spray water bottle, in case her charges got too exuberant.

This was “puppy playgroup,” one of many programs begun since 2014 at the Animal Care Centers of NYC (formerly Animal Care and Control), the often-criticized nonprofit agency that runs New York City’s three animal shelters.

The changes have been yielding results, agency officials say.

Euthanasia rates dropped sharply in 2015, down 36 percent for dogs and 25 percent for cats, according to statistics the agency plans to release at itsannual board meeting on Friday. Adoptions rose by 17 percent.

Photo

Changes at New York City’s animal shelters have been yielding results, officials say.CreditNicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

In 2003, the shelters killed more than 60 percent of the dogs and the cats they took in. That number is down to 13 percent now.

Still, last year, over 3,000 cats and nearly 1,000 dogs were put to death at the overcrowded shelters. And private rescue groups, which adopt more than half of the shelters’ animals, say that all too often, animals that are brought in healthy get sick and either die or saddle their rescuers with high veterinary bills.

Animal Care Centers “tries to do the right thing,” said Councilman Corey Johnson, a Manhattan Democrat who is chairman of the Health Committee. “But they’re extremely underfunded and don’t have the right facilities.”

But there is fresh hope on that front, too: A design firm hired last year by the city is scouting sites to build full-service shelters in the Bronx and Queens, something advocates, lawmakers and Animal Care Centers itselfhas urged for years. The existing shelters, in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island, are also being upgraded or expanded.

Animal advocates and agency officials alike said new shelters could go far to alleviate overcrowding and check the spread of disease.

“We really welcome the day that those two shelters are built,” Risa Weinstock, the executive director of Animal Care Centers, said. “In the meantime we still have those challenges. But we’ve proved that we’re an organization worth investing in.”

Since 2007, the city has increased Animal Care Centers’ budget to about $13 million from $7 million.

In an interview, Ms. Weinstock described how the money had been put to use: new “mobile adoption centers” — vans from which more than 700 animals were adopted last year; a food pantry for pets in the Bronx; a behavioral staff of 22 that, among other things, runs the playgroups, which the shelter says improve the dogs’ immunity and make them more docile and adoptable when they return to their kennels. (Coming soon to the backyard run in Manhattan: artificial grass.)

Ms. Weinstock said the shelters had also added admissions counselors who, since 2014, have persuaded about 1,700 owners to keep their pets rather than surrender them by connecting the owners with medical grants, low-cost boarding or behavioral advice.

“So often,” she said, “people come in and think that’s their only option.”

The agency has worked on its image as well. Last year it changed its name, though it does not yet have the money to alter its signs.

Ms. Weinstock said she hoped the $5 million adoption center the city is planning to build beside the Manhattan shelter would have its entrance on 109th rather than 110th Street, to make it seem more separate from the shelter itself.

“We want the public to see us the way they see Animal Haven and A.S.P.C.A. — warm and friendly,” she said.

Warm and friendly can be tough to pull off when the agency must take every animal that is brought in — something Animal Care Centers’ contract with the city requires — and it does not have the room or the capability to treat them all.

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The city has increased Animal Care Centers’ budget to about $13 million, from $7 million.CreditNicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

“Caring for 35,000 animals is an impossible task,” Ms. Weinstock said.

Last year, the shelters euthanized 15 percent of cats and 9 percent of dogs. (The shelters also take in hundreds of rabbits but do not euthanize any unless it is medically necessary.)

The daily “at-risk” lists that the agency puts out — candidates for euthanasia if not adopted by the next morning — often include animals who were listed as “normal” on an initial medical exam and as having “major conditions” days later. Upper respiratory infections like kennel cough spread quickly through the shelters and can easily turn into pneumonia.

“All the brand-new dogs and the sick dogs are traveling in the same hallway all the time,” said a volunteer at the shelter in East New York, Brooklyn, who declined to give her name for fear of losing her post. “If a dog has kennel cough and they’re in the adoptions room, sometimes it’s not recognized for a day or so.”

Doug Halsey, the president of one rescue group, Ready for Rescue, told the story of Muska, a tortoiseshell cat who was counted in Animal Care Centers’ statistics as an animal saved.

She entered the Manhattan shelter healthy in November and came down with a crippling upper respiratory infection the day after Ready for Rescue took her from the shelter, Mr. Halsey said. She died, but only after Ready for Rescue had run up $5,000 in veterinary bills.

“The euthanasia rate is down while rescues bear the burden of taking on all the sick and hard-to-adopt animals,” he said.

A letter Animal Care Centers sent to rescue groups last summer was matter-of-fact about the situation, noting that if an animal pulled from a shelter “is already sick or becomes sick and requires hospitalization, please understand that medical care of several thousand dollars can be expected.”

The stubbornness of contagion is one of the main reasons advocates are pinning their hopes on the new shelters.

“By building facilities in all the boroughs,” said Christopher Mancuso ofStaten Island Hope Animal Rescue, which accepted 2,300 of Animal Care Centers’ 20,000 cats in 2015, “that will give them more space to isolate the sicker ones and the animals will come out of there healthier.”

The current city budget includes $1.4 million to start the siting process, and Christopher Miller, a spokesman for the health department, said a design firm had begun identifying possible sites and researching zoning and building requirements.

Councilman Paul Vallone, a Queens Democrat and the prime sponsor of a 2014 bill that would require the city to build the shelters, said he hoped the 2017 fiscal year budget the mayor was expected to propose on Thursday would include money to begin construction.

“If you don’t get the fiscal commitment you’re just creating another empty promise,” Mr. Vallone said.

Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for the office of Mayor Bill de Blasio, said that finding sites for the buildings had to come first. She said the mayor, a Democrat, “has made a major commitment to creating new animal shelters in Queens and the Bronx.”

In the meantime, the animals keep coming. One Saturday afternoon this month, David Santiago led his two pit bulls into the Manhattan shelter. A few minutes later, he left, alone. His landlord in the South Bronx, he explained, had told him he could not keep the dogs. They were 2 years old, and he had raised them from puppies.

“They’re like part of your family,” Mr. Santiago said. “The hardest part is that you know what happens to them if they don’t get adopted.”

News

Queens Chronicle: Officials, activists say they’ll continue MLK’s fight for justice

January 18, 2016

Posted: Monday, January 18, 2016 1:09 pm

by Peter C. Mastrosimone / Editor-in-Chief

Elected officials and activist organizations in Queens and elsewhere are marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day with rallies and statements pressing an ongoing dedication to civil rights for all.

In Queens, airport workers, clergy and elected officials were planning to rally and then march to LaGuardia Airport in an act of civil disobedience calling for higher wages. They said they would risk arrest in their effort to raised the pay of baggage handlers, terminal cleaners, cabin cleaners, skycaps, wheelchair agents, customer service agents, terminal security officers and ramp workers to $15 and allow them to unionize.

The rally is one of 10 being held in major cities across the country in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who fought for higher wages during his campaign for civil rights, 32 BJ of the Service Employees International Union noted in announcing the event.

Among those expected to join in the protest were Queens City Council members Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), the majority leader, Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) and Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst).

Several people were arrested, according to City Councilman Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan), who was one of those taken into custody.

“During the 1963 march on Washington DC, Dr. King and the movement he led demanded $2 an hour minimum wage. Adjusted for inflation using the BLS calculator, that $2 amounts to $15.51 an hour today,” the 32 BJ SEIU announcement said. “Airport workers and other low wage workers are continuing MLK’s legacy by also calling for $15 today. Contracted airport workers and their allies will be risking arrest as part of their commitment to do whatever it takes to win at least $15 and union rights for every airport worker.

“Like the striking Memphis, Tenn., sanitation workers who took action nearly fifty years ago, and with whom Dr. King stood at the end of his life, airport workers face inhumane conditions at work and the daily humiliations of poverty.”

In Brooklyn, a group called ICE-Free NYC Coalition/Reclaim MLK NYC will join with Black Lives Matter activists to protest what they call the city’s “ongoing assault on people of color, immigrant communities, and poor people through multiple and continual forms of state violence.”

ICE refers to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The organizations demand an end to both the deportation of illegal immigrants and the stopping and frisking of people police deem suspicious.

“The Black Lives Matter organizations in NYC understand that the militarization of the police affects both black and brown communities,” KaLisa Moore, an activist with People’s Power Assemblies and NYC Shut It Down, said in a statement announcing the event. “We must stand in solidarity with one another to fight the police state that is terrorizing both our neighborhoods and our bodies.”

The announcement continued, “Although Dr. King’s legacy of struggle against the white supremacist power complex has been co-opted to fit the agenda of those in power, we will remember him as a leader who recognized the intersection of capitalism and race and stood for economic liberation for black and brown communities. We will honor his message of unity by marching together in his name.

“Martin Luther King Day is a day to remember the legacy of a man who dreamed and fought for a world without the constant persecution of black and brown people in this country. Whether it is NYPD or ICE, the constant policing and dehumanization of our people will not be tolerated. In the name of Martin Luther King’s true credence of justice, we stand united against our oppressors, together in the name of justice and equality for black and brown people.”

The de Blasio administration commemorated MLK Day with a day of service held in coordination with the Brooklyn Nets, nonprofit groups, city agencies and public schools. Activities included student mentoring, beautifying schools in the Bronx and creating “college survival kits” for college freshmen and high school seniors in Queens.

“What better way to honor Dr. King’s legacy than through volunteerism and community involvement,” said Mayor de Blasio. “If he were here today, he would say there is much work to be done related to inequality — especially economic inequality. That is why I urge everyone to lend a hand and work together to create a safer and more equitable city, not just today, but year round.”

Other King-related events were more celebratory in nature, even while still reiterating the struggles of people of color.

Councilman Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) and the AlphaCare health insurance organization were co-sponsoring a celebration of King’s legacy at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center. Also co-sponsored by several other area elected officials and groups, the event was to feature performances by students and others, along with a keynote speech by Yusef Salaam, one of the teenagers convicted in the Central Park jogger rape case and later exonerated after spending years in prison.

Elected officials used the holiday to issue statements supporting ongoing efforts toward equality.

“Dr. King said ‘faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase,’” Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman (D-Jamaica) said in an emailed statement. “He understood the importance of pushing boundaries and overcoming obstacles even in the face of uncertainty because our community deserved better. He didn’t know what the outcome would be for Black people when he marched and protested, but he had faith that God would make a way. His faith allowed him to a dream of a better America and helped change the course of a nation.

“The inequalities King spoke about more than 50 years ago still exist. That’s why I fight everyday for our community. To help ensure our schools are funded equally, our neighborhoods are safe and our seniors protected. Together we can make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream a reality for Southeast Queens.”

Gov. Cuomo said in statement, “Today we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Above all else, Dr. King’s crusade was about justice – racial justice, economic justice, social justice. He was fighting for the very soul of our democracy, which was not living up to its promise of equality for all. The truth is that crusade for justice is not over; instead it is an ongoing struggle, and there is much more that we have yet to accomplish.

“Today we are fighting to continue that legacy and create a better future for our children. From raising the minimum wage and offering paid family leave, to proposing the nation’s most comprehensive package of criminal justice and re-entry reforms, we are showing the country that there is more we must do, and in New York we will lead the way. So today I join with all New Yorkers in honoring the tremendous impact of Dr. King, and in rededicating ourselves to the dream that he left behind. Together, we can and we will continue his march toward a more just and brighter future for all.”

The governor’s and assemblywoman’s comments were echoed in statements issued by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan, Bronx), Public Advocate Letitia James, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and other officials.

News

Gothamist: LGA Workers Arrested At MLK Day Protest For Living Wage

January 18, 2016

BY EMMA WHITFORD

IN ON JAN 18, 2016 1:20 PM

Hundreds of airport workers are protesting at LaGuardia’s Terminal B this afternoon to push the Port Authority’s hand on a living wage and benefits. Several workers were arrested outside the terminal entrance around 12:45 p.m., according to participants. Exact numbers were not immediately available.

Today’s planned civil disobedience coincides with actions at 10 major airports across the country, including Boston, Chicago and Miami. Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been NYC airport workers’ only paid holiday since January 2014, freeing up many of today’s participants to march over the 94th Street Bridge.

“That’s what MLK fought for—justice, equality and a non-violent movement,” said Jean Timmer, 42, a Jet Blue cabin cleaner for going-on five months. With a living wage of $15/hr, Timmer says he could help send his 23-year-old daughter to college to pursue fashion.

Timmer, who lives in Brooklyn, currently makes the Port Authority-mandated minimum of$10.10/hr. His job entails cleaning airplane seat cushions and bathrooms, where he regularly encounters bodily fluids like saliva to vomit.

The timing of today’s action is deliberate. Organizers pointed out that King demanded a $2/hr minimum wage at the 1963 march on Washington. Adjusted for inflation with the BLS calculator, that comes to $15.51/hr in 2015.

Airport terminal and cabin cleaners have long alleged that Roma and Ultimate Aircraft, JetBlue’s non-union cleaning service subcontractors, fail to supply their employees with sanitary gloves or goggles to clean airport bathrooms and airplane galleys, and distribute unmarked cleaning chemicals.

011816_JFK2.jpg
(via SEIU 32BJ)

Today’s action is the latest in a two-year-long effort to raise wages and secure benefits at airports nationwide. In January 2014, cabin cleaners, bag haulers, and other minimum wage airport employees—all employed by subcontractors—rallied outside of Port Authority, demanding a living wage, in addition to vacation days and health benefits. Later that month, 32 protestors were arrested outside of LaGuardia while rallying for similar benefits.

JFK and LaGuardia workers launched a 24-hour strikein mid-November 2015, and a 24-hour hunger strike on the eve of Thanksgiving.

Last fall’s actions coincided with the resignation of former Port Authority executive director Patrick Foye. Foye voiced his support for a $15/hr minimum wage at the end of his tenure, and had support from several Port Authority board members, according to the NY Times. But Board Chairman John Degnan opposed the move, stating that the Port Authority is “not a social welfare agency.”

The authority is in the midst of planning several expensive projects, including a $4 billionoverhaul for LaGuardia, and a new tunnel under the Hudson River.

“The Board sounded off but didn’t take any action,” said Amity Paye, a spokeswoman for the service workers union SEIU 32BJ, which organized today’s march. “So airport workers are still waiting.”

Governor Cuomo endorsed an industry-wide $15 minimum wage in an op-ed published in the Daily News on Sunday. “By raising the minimum wage for airport workers, we can put thousands of families on the path to financial independence and a brighter future,” he wrote.

The Port Authority did not immediately respond to a request for comment. We will update with any additional information.

UPDATE: There have been 25 arrests at LGA this afternoon, according to a spokeswoman for the union. Among the arrestees are three elected officials: Councilmember Corey Johnson, State Assemblyman Keith Wright, and Councilmember Mark Levine.

News

Chelsea Now: Night of Notable Firsts for CB4

January 13, 2016

Added by Scott Stiffler

January 13, 2016.

New CB4 Chair, Dolores Rubin (center), presides over her first meeting in that position, on Jan. 6. Photo by Sean Egan.

New CB4 Chair, Delores Rubin (center), presides over her first meeting in that position, on Jan. 6. Photo by Sean Egan.

BY SEAN EGAN | For many, the new year is a time for change, as well as reflection on the past. Community Board 4 (CB4) is no exception, as their Wed., Jan. 6 full board meeting at Mount Sinai West Hospital (1000 10th Ave., btw. W. 58th & W. 59th Sts.), was not only their first of 2016, but the first to feature recently elected officers enacting their roles — including the new Chair, Delores Rubin.

The meeting’s first portion, however, was devoted to the aforementioned reflection, as those in attendance honored the service and achievements of outgoing Chair, Christine Berthet (who remains a member of CB4). 

A representative of City Comptroller Scott Stringer was the first to praise Berthet’s achievements, presenting her with a framed proclamation. Next, a rep from NY State Senator Brad Hoylman said that in her service to CB4 since 2006, Berthet was an “indispensible partner and ally” with an “infectious joie de vivre” behind her stern schoolmaster’s facade — and named Jan. 6, 2016 “Christine Berthet Appreciation Day” in New York’s 27th District.

City Councilmember Corey Johnson, through Chief of Staff Erik Bottcher, called Berthet “the most stylish of the CB Chairs” as well as the most effective. He recounted anecdotes, such as when she crawled inside the ceiling of the CB4 offices to update the computer system, how she won three Grammys from the jazz record label she co-founded, or the time she “arrested a bus for making an illegal turn.” Final words of praise came from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who commended her impressive work ethic, especially since she “runs on decaf” and occasionally M&Ms. In a secondary honor similar to the one Hoylman had bestowed, Brewer declared the day “Christine Berthet Appreciation Day” in Manhattan.

Berthet was visibly flattered with every testimonial and plaque presented in her honor. “Thank you all. This is very, very sweet,” she said with a smile, noting that the most important thing that came out of her tenure as CB4 Chair were the friends she made.

FLEA MARKET MAJOR TOPIC OF PUBLIC INTEREST

The public comment section was then opened by incoming First Vice Chair Burt Lazarin (who, like Rubin, was elected last December). The session was uncharacteristically brief, as only nine individuals had signed up to have their two-minute turn at the microphone. Most of them spoke about one particular topic: the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market (HKFM). 

The HKFM has, in recent weeks, been the source of some controversy in the media — primarily over the alleged behavior of management towards the vendors, and the way in which the business was running without the official endorsement of a functioning non-profit for a number of years after achieving profitability. These issues were addressed at the Dec. 7, 2015 Quality of Life (QOL) Committee meeting (see the article “CB4 Key to Flea Market’s Plea” at chelseanow.com). After a large showing of support for the manager, Alan Boss, from vendors, QOL voted to draft a letter in favor of the Market to SAPO (the governing body that approves the market), conditional under certain stipulations that would rectify the issues facing the Market.

Thus, at the Jan. 6 full board meeting, a number of vendors took the mike to express gratitude to for QOL’s sign of faith in helping keep the HKFM open, and to further encourage CB4. Four-year Market veteran Carol Cartman testified, “I made a living off this market and enjoy every minute of it.” Another 15-year vendor, Jeffery Frank said, “Alan Boss has been a terrific management person to us all,” and thanked CB4 for helping to keep the Market open.

A few more vendors expressed similar sentiments, and later on in the evening, the item pertaining to the full board ratifying the letter QOL drafted to SAPO passed with no discussion or controversy.

Another woman got up to read a letter she had penned to Medicare, following a series of unfortunate experiences with their system with regards to her ill mother. When she finished, Rubin directed her to speak with the representative from Councilmember Johnson’s office, in hopes of getting some help with her situation. Lisa Wager, from the Fashion Institute of Technology, closed out the public comment section by highlighting a number of the school’s upcoming events. She also addressed Rubin and Berthet about the newfound Chair status quo, with an old joke about boats: “They say the happiest day is when you get it, and when you sell it.”

REPORTS FROM ELECTEDS

Next, reports from elected officials saw the representatives who had testified to Berthet’s mettle taking the podium once again.

First up was a rep from Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who highlighted the proposed National Park he co-introduced to Congress — the first dedicated to LGBT civil rights history, to be located near Christopher Street’s Stonewall Inn (Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer introduced identical legislation in the Senate). Nadler’s rep also applauded the recently reauthorized 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which would provide assistance to first responders and survivors, as well as the Emergency Information Improvement Act, which would provide FEMA assistance to public broadcasters.

The rep from Manhattan Borough President Brewer’s office relayed that the BP believes the 25% rent increase on Clinton Towers is too steep, and reminded the crowd that her office is currently taking applications for federal grants. State Senator Hoylman’s rep spoke of the Senator’s commitment to ethics reform in Albany, and the need to fix the current laws pertaining to rent controlled tenants. He also expressed the Senator’s support of the recently announced redevelopment of Penn Station.

Councilmember Johnson’s office used their time to highlight his accomplishments over the past year, including getting seven of his bills passed, and his successful food bag campaign. NY State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried’s rep spoke of a meeting the assemblymember had to address concerns about the inter-city bus system, and also expressed Gottfried’s support for the Penn Station project. Comptroller Stringer’s office talked about the dire circumstances he discovered while auditing the Department of Homeless Services, and stressed the need to improve the homelessness problem in the coming year. Finally, a rep from Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal’s office discussed some of the assemblymember’s goals for the upcoming year, including passing a law that would eliminate taxes on tampons throughout the state.

Following the official adoption of the agenda was the District Manager Report, led by District Manager Jesse Bodine, who sped through a short list of highlights from the past month — singling out attending meetings with the Hudson River Park Trust and the superintendent of School District Two, while also noting that the QOL committee meeting would have a venue change — one with significantly more space than their previous HQ of the CB4 offices. Most warmly received was the fact that, with efforts from Councilmemeber Johnson’s office, there would now be overtime pay for trash pickup along Seventh through 10th Aves.

Complementing Bodine’s rundown, the Chair Report segment was similarly brief. “Considering I’ve only been Chair for a few days, I don’t have much to report,” Rubin joked, while highlighting a Construction Task Force meeting with BP Brewer, the Department of Buildings (DOB) declined to participate in. 

She also announced that, despite the outpouring of affection for Christine Berthet, she wouldn’t actually be leaving CB4 anytime soon. Indeed, she was announced to be the new co-chair of the Transportation Committee, along with Ernest Moderelli.

 “All of it is effective…now. Get to work,” she said with a laugh.

Outgoing CB4 Chair Christine Berthet (standing), and incoming Chair Delores Rubin (seated), at the final full board meeting of 2015. Photo by Winnie McCroy.

Outgoing CB4 Chair Christine Berthet (standing), and incoming Chair Delores Rubin (seated), at the final full board meeting of 2015. Photo by Winnie McCroy.

AGENDA ITEMS, DOB CONCERNS

And get to work they did — quickly and efficiently — as the board moved on to the docket of items they needed to vote on. First up were the items pertaining to the Business License and Permits committee (BLP), which set the tenor for much of the rest of the evening’s voting process. Stating they were going to “set a record,” Burt Lazarin proposed that all 10 BLP items be bundled for vote — which they then were, and were approved without issue.

Next up were the QOL items (including the HKFM letter), which were again approved quickly and with little fanfare. The items from the Transportation Committee warranted a little more discussion, but again were approved quickly. Brief discussion was had over some of the proper terminology in the letters, but all items were ultimately passed as well.

While still being a relatively quick process, the items on the Executive Committee generated a bit of spirited discussion. One of the topics that garnered the most interest was the Item 16, a letter to the DOB concerning the proposed (and since halted) demolition of 319–321 W. 38th St.

Joe Restuccia, a public member of CB4, explained the ins and out of the complicated situation, and the contents of the 19-page letter — which highlighted the intervention of electeds and the DOB, and recommended future courses of action for the site. Despite being acquired in an illegitimate way, being located in a Special Zoning District, and having false information present on forms submitted to the DOB, the building had been approved for demolition. Through the efforts of Restuccia and CB4, the situation was able to be rectified before it was too late, as the DOB issued a Stop Work Order.

“DOB, in the very rare occasion, have admitted they’re wrong,” Restuccia said to the crowd, which chuckled knowingly. This statement opened up a Pandora’s box of complaints about the DOB, though, including their lack of a centralized system, and lack of real consequences for individuals who submit fraudulent applications to the Department. Ernest Moderelli, another board member, proposed that the W. 38th St. buildings should be restored to how it was before the prep work (gutting the buildings) was conducted, in anticipation of what would have been an illegal demolition. Moderelli’s suggestion was warmly received by the CB4 board.

“Probably this year, we need to work on DOB,” Rubin said as the final word on the issue, before the item was passed.

The next item to pass was CB4’s revised Affordable Housing Plan, which Rubin described as a “living document” that would be regularly revised. Next was the Business Diversity Task Force Strategy Report, which Lazarin described as an effort for CB4 to help support and highlight small businesses in the area, which help make it special. There was a little contention over what would fall under the purview of “small business” and wording, but the item passed.

And with that — seeing as the Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen Land Use Committee, Waterfronts, Parks and Environment Committee, Housing, Health and Human Services Committee, and the Chelsea Land Use Committee all had no items to report on — the first CB4 meeting of 2016 drew to a close, just under two hours after it had started. The new Chair seemed a little surprised and amused by the swift conclusion of her first outing as the head of the board.

“We can sit here for 40 minutes, but we don’t have to,” Rubin said to the amusement of those present. “I could talk all night — but the meeting is adjourned.”

The next CB4 full board meeting will take place on Wed., Feb. 3, at 6:30 p.m., at the Fulton Auditorium (119 Ninth Ave., btw. W. 17th & W. 18th Sts.).

Uncategorized

Daily Mail: ‘Like jail’: New York homeless say shelters not the answer

January 13, 2016

Life on the streets of New York may be miserable for the thousands of homeless who sleep rough, but many are disillusioned by stepped-up efforts to eradicate a modern-day crisis.

America’s biggest and wealthiest city is a beacon across the world for financial success and entertainment — one of the biggest tourist draws on the planet, welcoming 56 million visitors last year. It has more billionaires than any other city in the world, says Forbes.

And yet 75,000 people are homeless, according to US government figures — the mentally ill, those who lost jobs in the 2008 global financial crash, employees who cannot afford skyrocketing rents, families and children.

75,000 people are homeless in New York, according to US government figures - the mentally ill, those who lost jobs in the 2008 global financial crash, employ...

75,000 people are homeless in New York, according to US government figures – the mentally ill, those who lost jobs in the 2008 global financial crash, employees who cannot afford skyrocketing rents, families and children ©Spencer Platt (Getty/AFP/File)

Dozing on benches in Penn Station, begging on the street or curled up at the bottom of subway stairwells, the plight of the city’s homeless is clear for all to see.

The Coalition for the Homeless non-profit says nearly 60,000 people are in shelters each night and that in recent years homelessness in the city has hit highs not seen since the 1930s Great Depression.

The statistics are an embarrassment for Mayor Bill de Blasio, a progressive Democrat two years on the job who campaigned to redress the city’s colossal inequality after two decades under Republican mayor Rudolph Giuliani and billionaire Michael Bloomberg.

His office marked the New Year by announcing a slew of initiatives, upping the number of personnel taking people off the streets when temperatures drop, increasing the number of beds for homeless youth and promising to double the number of city-funded drop-in centers.

“I am taking the gloves off on this issue, we are going at this with everything we’ve got. We will turn the tide,” de Blasio promised.

– ‘Like prison’ –

But it’s not a problem going away overnight. Outreach teams took 97 people to shelters during one particularly cold night last week, out of an estimated 3,000-4,000 believed to sleep rough.

“Woah, there’s a lot of people don’t like shelters,” Eddie, 61, told AFP as he shuffled down Ninth Avenue with a walking stick.

“When you go in, they’re gonna screen you like you’re in prison, they’re gonna pat you down.”

Last month, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer issued a stinging report about “nightmare conditions” endured by children in family shelters run by the department of homeless services.

“What they gotta do is, instead of building all these goddam hotels for the tourists, all these abandoned buildings should get the homeless,” said Eddie, gesturing at nearby skyscrapers.

Some of those most hardened to life on the streets say they loathe shelters, claiming they are dirty and violent.

Troy, a 48-year-old grandfather and military veteran, says he hasn’t slept in a shelter for nearly a year.

Sitting on a crate on top of a piping-hot air vent on a bitterly cold afternoon in Manhattan, he compares shelters to “being in jail” and prefers life on the streets.

“Oh, it depends where you at! You see where I’m at, I’ve got many locations like that,” he said, warming his hands over the hot air.

“The time I go and see my buddy is when I can take a shower or I go to the community center and take me a shower.”

Asked what the solution is, he waved towards a vacant-looking building — prime real estate — saying the city should renovate it and turn it over to the homeless.

– ‘Not the mayor’s fault’ –

On Monday, de Blasio announced $8.5 million a year to finance drop-in centers, which offer food, showers, medical care and advice, acknowledging that many street homeless dislike traditional shelters.

It is the latest in a series of reforms following a 90-day review, including 15,000 new supportive housing units.

“I got into an argument with somebody and they swung at me, and I got beat up,” said Dashaun Brown, 38, from Georgia, sheltering in Penn Station for warmth and remembering his worst shelter experience.

Tall and lanky, and self-conscious about his heavily decayed front teeth, he says he last had a job as a teenager, flipping burgers.

The city says it has helped more than 22,000 people leave shelters, expanded homelessness prevention programs and services to support over 91,000 New Yorkers since July 2014.

Supporters say it is unfair to blame de Blasio.

“This administration is stepping up to the plate,” Democrat city council member Corey Johnson told reporters last week.

“The homeless crisis is not of the mayor’s making,” he said. “This administration inherited a goddamn mess.”

But Troy’s fed up. He wants to go home to Chicago, where he has family and a friend has offered to pay the ticket.

“The cost of living out here is too expensive. I need to be making at least $20 an hour if I’m working for someone just to pay the rent.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announces a partnership between the city and the Roman Catholic church to provide 150 beds for winter to homeless people l...

A homeless woman is seen sitting on 5th Avenue at 42nd Street in New York on January 4, 2016, as she tries to stay warm in the cold temperatures

A homeless man looks for food in a garbage can in New York
A homeless man looks for food in a garbage can in New York ©Spencer Platt (Getty/AFP/File)
News

Chelsea Now: In an Empire Station State of Mind

January 13, 2016

Added by Scott Stiffler

BY YANNIC RACK

January 13, 2016.

In a double win for the West Side, Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled two multi-billion dollar plans last week that would expedite the stalled redevelopment of Pennsylvania Station and the James A. Farley Post Office on Eighth Ave., and expand the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. One big announcement chased the other, as Cuomo unveiled a slate of ambitious projects.

“There is so much in this game plan, this agenda, that frankly we couldn’t fit it into one day and one speech, and we’re announcing it in components all throughout this week,” the governor said at the Javits Center on Jan. 7. “What happens tomorrow depends on what we do today. Let’s be as bold and ambitious as our forefathers before us,” he added.

A few days later, in his Jan. 13 State of the State address, Cuomo made the case for his Built to Lead infrastructure program as the key to developing a new system of transportation “for the next 100 years.”

“The mass transit access point in New York City is Penn Station. Penn Station is grossly over capacity and under-performing. Penn, in a word, is miserable. It is un-New York, it is unwelcome, and it is unacceptable,” the governor said. “We’re gonna build a new Penn-Moynihan complex, finally.”

Plans for both Penn Station and the Javits Center have a less-than-glorious past. A few years ago, Cuomo was considering scrapping the Javits Center altogether, and the Penn Station overhaul has been stalled for a decade. Last week’s announcements, however, promise to bring even more activity to an area already bustling with development.

The outside of Penn Station and Madison Square Garden, seen from across Eighth Ave., as it is today. Photo by Lindsay Bu.

A rendering imagines how the Eighth Ave. side of Penn Station could look. Courtesy Office of the Governor.

“The governor came into town and really made a big splash,” said Delores Rubin, the new chair of Community Board 4, whose area of coverage includes the convention center as well as the Farley Post Office.

Cuomo’s dual plans for West Side expansion earned praise from local elected officials, who said the momentum of other projects in Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen surely played a part in jump-starting these new developments.

“There’s a lot of excitement about the future of the West Side,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman, invoking the rapidly rising Hudson Yards neighborhood, as well plans for a new Port Authority Bus Terminal and the already completed 7 train extension — whose Hudson Yards stop provides Javits Center visitors with a walking distance option. “That’s no doubt a driver for these projects,” he said.

“A new Penn Station, a new Moynihan Station, the Gateway Tunnel project, Hudson Yards rising, a renovated and expanded Javits Center, and a new Port Authority Bus Terminal,” noted City Councilmember Corey Johnson, “are projects that are transformational not just for the neighborhoods, but also for the entire region.”

Between the governor’s two announcements, he added, “This has been a great week for the West Side.”

The renovation of Penn Station is part of Cuomo’s larger plan to revitalize New York’s infrastructure, which includes expanding the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) as well as building a new Tappan Zee Bridge and LaGuardia Airport.

The Penn Station plan would essentially renovate the existing station maze below Madison Square Garden, build a new train and retail hub within the block-long general post office across Eighth Ave., and eventually link both facilities underground, to create what the governor has dubbed the “Empire Station Complex.”

“Penn Station is the analog to LaGuardia,” Cuomo said, referring to the troubled airport whose reputation once inspired Vice President Biden to assert that a blindfolded visitor would, upon the reveal, mistake it for “some Third World country.”

“Let’s be honest,” the governor added, “Penn Station has been wholly unacceptable for a long, long time.”

He said the terminal — the busiest in the country and notoriously overcrowded — is expected to double its traffic over the next 15 years. It already serves 650,000 people every day, which is more than triple the traffic it was originally designed for (and more than that of Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports combined).

What a redeveloped Penn Station might look like, viewed as a cross-section of the underground terminal along Seventh Ave. Courtesy Office of the Governor.

What a redeveloped Penn Station might look like, viewed as a cross-section of the underground terminal along Seventh Ave. Courtesy Office of the Governor.

The state, along with Amtrak, put out an expedited Request For Proposals (RFP) last week, which gives potential developers 90 days to come up with viable ideas for the redevelopment.

Possible options suggested in the governor’s presentation include the creation of a grand, glass-walled entrance to Penn Station on Eighth Ave., which would entail razing the 5,600-seat theater beneath Madison Square Garden. The addition of new entrances on Seventh Ave. and W. 33rd St. is also an option.

According to a statement from the governor’s office, the project will “widen existing corridors, reconfigure ticketing and waiting areas, improve connectivity between the lower levels and street level, bring natural light into the facility, improve signage, simplify navigation and reduce congestion, and expand and upgrade the retail offerings and passenger amenities on all levels of the station” — which could go a long way in addressing decades-old complaints about the layout of the terminal.

The state and its partners will also solicit a developer for the long-stalled plan to turn the nearly vacant James A. Farley Post Office into a train station and waiting room for Amtrak, LIRR and New Jersey Transit passengers, ringed by shops and offices.

At 210,000 square feet, the train hall will be roughly equivalent in size to the main room at Grand Central Terminal.

Developers can submit proposals for either or both of the buildings, and the overall project is estimated to cost more than $3 billion.

For the last decade, two of the city’s largest real estate developers, Vornado Realty and Related Companies, have tried in vain to transform the post office into what was to be called Moynihan Station — named after the New York senator who first put forth the idea in the early 1990s.

Under a previous agreement with the state, they sought a tenant for the space, and even proposed moving Madison Square Garden across the street, but no real progress was made, culminating in last week’s announcement that the playing field was once again open for new proposals.

Over the past year, construction already started underneath the Farley Building to expand Penn Station’s West End Concourse, as well as the existing underground corridor below Eighth Ave. to the subway and the terminal.

A view of the proposed Farley Post Office redevelopment, from the new train hall. Courtesy Office of the Governor.

A view of the proposed Farley Post Office redevelopment, from the new train hall. Courtesy Office of the Governor.

This portion of the plan — which also includes new entrances at the W. 31st and W. 33rd St. corners of the post office — is scheduled for completion this fall.

The overall redevelopment would be finished in the next three years, the governor said, with Farley opening before Penn Station’s revamp is complete.

“There has been inaction and complacency around coming up with a substantive, workable plan for Penn Station and Moynihan Station,” said Johnson. “And what [the governor] has put on the table is really a game changer, because he has been able to bring key parties to the table who have acceded to work something out — Amtrak, Madison Square Garden and the MTA.”

“The RFP has already been issued, so the governor is wasting no time,” said Hoylman.

A spokeswoman for Related confirmed in an email that the company expects to respond to the solicitation.

“We continue to passionately believe in the project and are reviewing the materials,” she said. “We applaud the governor’s focus on the revitalization of Penn Station and Moynihan Station.”

Vornado declined to comment.

Cuomo has already said that $325 million for the project would come from government sources, while “nearly all of the work” will be privately funded by the chosen developer — in exchange for an interest in the long-term revenue stream generated by the retail and commercial rents.

Such creative funding streams won’t be needed for the Javits Center, however. Cuomo said the complex’s $1 billion expansion, for which construction will kick off later this year, would be financed “within existing resources.”

A rendering of what the Javits Center will look like after its $1 billion expansion, with the new addition at its northern end visible to the right. Image: Architect, FXFOWLE Epstein / Rendering: Neoscape, Inc.

A rendering of what the Javits Center will look like after its $1 billion expansion, with the new addition at its northern end visible to the right. Image: Architect, FXFOWLE Epstein / Rendering: Neoscape, Inc.

“The Javits Center has long been an economic generator for this state, but we want to build and expand it to ensure it remains a premier venue for the next generation,” he said in a statement. “The new Javits Center will continue to garner millions in economic activity, create jobs and keep New York’s economic momentum moving forward.”

The proposal will add a glassy 1.2 million-square-feet extension at the center’s northern end (it currently stretches six blocks along 11th Ave., from W. 34th to W. 40th Sts.), resulting in a fivefold increase in meeting and ballroom space.

In addition, a four-level, 480,000-square-foot garage will be built to accommodate the thousands of trucks flood the neighborhood every year to service the convention center, which is the busiest in the country.

“There is a massive problem right now, on Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh Avenues, of just choking truck traffic. And any plan that is going to move some of these trucks off of the streets is going to help from many standpoints — air quality, pedestrian safety, traffic,” Johnson told Chelsea Now. “So this is a big deal for local residents.”

Last year, the facility hosted more than 2 million visitors, which the governor’s office says supported 17,500 local jobs and generated an estimated 478,000 hotel room reservations, with an overall economic impact of $1.8 billion.

Although the convention business is often written off as contributing comparatively little to the economy, Cuomo said that the expansion would help bring more trade shows, jobs and tax revenue to New York.

Particularly, he asserted, it would add 4,000 full-time, 2,000 part-time, and over 3,000 construction jobs, and generate an extra $393 million in annual economic activity.

“More convention centers are coming online, and if you want to remain competitive, you have to grow and you have to increase to stay ahead of the competition, and that is just what we want to do with this plan,” Cuomo said. “This will be the convention center of the next generation.”

The announcement comes on the heels of a $463 million makeover for the convention center two years ago, which included the addition of Javits North — a semi-permanent structure that will be replaced by the truck garage.

The state previously had plans to nearly double the size of the publicly owned center in 2008, but backed out after the predicted cost exploded.

The proposal will add a glassy 1.2 million-square-feet extension at the Javits Center’s northern end (it currently stretches six blocks along 11th Ave., from W. 34th to W. 40th Sts.). Image: Architect, FXFOWLE Epstein / Rendering: Neoscape, Inc.

The proposal will add a glassy 1.2 million-square-feet extension at the Javits Center’s northern end (it currently stretches six blocks along 11th Ave., from W. 34th to W. 40th Sts.). Image: Architect, FXFOWLE Epstein / Rendering: Neoscape, Inc.

And just four years ago, the governor wanted to raze the Javits Center entirely and replace it with a $4 billion convention center in Queens, a plan that was ultimately scrapped as well.

“If they move with this expansion in the same thoughtful way as previously, I think our community will be pleased with the outcome,” CB4’s Rubin said of the new plan. “We do have a meeting planned with the Javits Center, so we’re pleased that they do want to involve us in that conversation.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer has also started putting together a task force — comprising community board members and local elected officials — to weigh in on the Penn Station development.

“We really plan to be very active in the conversation — because it’s important not just for the millions of commuters that come in, but also the thousands of residents that live in and around that area, that are directly affected by any change,” said Rubin.

“There’s more than these two projects going on, and the biggest hope is that we don’t look at all of them in isolation.”

She added that, with the predicted population influx from residential projects like Hudson Yards in the future, conversations should start early about neighborhood services that may be needed down the line, like additional school seats and transportation.

Hoylman, who said he is looking forward to working with the Penn Station task force, went even further, and suggested the area may benefit from a construction command center, like the one that was used to coordinate the rebuilding of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.

“We’re talking about a decade-plus of major construction, and we need to make certain that local residents and community boards have input into everything,” Hoylman said.

 

 

 

News

JDUpdates: NYPD Seeking Public’s Help Identifying Suspect Who Punched Jewish Man In Manhattan

January 13, 2016

01/13/2016
by Mark Hirshberg

The New York City Police Department is asking the public’s assistance identifying a suspect wanted in connection with an assault on a 67-year-old Jewish man that accrued one month ago in the Chelsea section of Manhattan.

As reported the assault took place On Monday, December 14, at around 11:15 a.m. when Mr Shlomy Schwartz, who lives in Brooklyn exited the 14 Street train station, at the corner of East 16 Street and Avenue of the Americas, when the suspect approached him punched him in the back of his head knocking off his hat, Yarmulke, and said : You want to be First?” “Lets Go”, implying lets go fight, an official explained, the Hasidic man ignored him and kept walking north on 6th Avenue.

Detectives from the Hate Crimes Task Force have been working the past four weeks on this case where able to obtain a photo from a nearby surveillance camera and are asking the public’s help to identify him.

 “My father walked out from the train station and was assaulted by a man from behind. There were a lot of people passing the street at the time of the assault and no one stopped him,” the victim’s son, Chaim Shloem Schwartz, told JP a day after the assault.

The suspect is described as a Black male, 5’9″ in height with Dreadlock style hair, cops said.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS.

The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM.

“This type of hate violence is truly appalling,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, who represents the neighborhood of Chelsea. “No New Yorker should ever be targeted because of his or her religious affiliation. ‎This is not what New York stands for and we will not stand for it. I thank the NYPD for vigorously investigating this incident.”

Uncategorized

STATEMENT FROM COUNCIL MEMBER COREY JOHNSON REGARDING GOVERNOR CUOMO’S PLAN TO OVERHAUL PENN STATION

January 6, 2016

 

“Big problems require big solutions. The current Penn Station is a big problem, and today Governor Cuomo went big. After decades of talk and little action, we finally have the leadership, vision and commitment needed to restore Penn Station. His plan will create a gateway that is worthy of New York City, something that we lost when the original station was demolished. I want to thank the Governor for his leadership and for stepping up to the plate, and I look forward to helping make this great plan a reality.”

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