Monthly Archives

April 2016

News

Chelsea Now: Waterside Park Group Covers Lots of Ground

April 27, 2016
Picture By Yannic Rack

Picture By Yannic Rack

By Sean Egan | April 27, 2016

With the fair weather seemingly here to stay, the warm, clear night of April 20 was a perfect evening for the Chelsea Waterside Park Association’s annual meeting. At around 6pm, members of the group — as well as local electeds and community members — gathered in the halls of St. Paul’s German Evangelical Lutheran Church (315 W. 22nd St., btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.) for a pre-meeting reception, enjoying each other’s company, as well as a spread of refreshments.

A little after 7pm, Zazel Loven, the group’s president, called the meeting to order, welcoming everyone, and joking that her love of horticulture had somehow “turned into a full time job.” Loven then introduced Dave Conover to talk briefly about the Clearwater, a replica of a historic cargo sloop. The ship, which is used as an educational platform, is currently undergoing extensive renovations, and Conover (Interim Executive Director of the Clearwater) was seeking support to complete these efforts by highlighting various fundraising programs. Visit clearwater.org for more info.

After this, Loven introduced City Councilmember Corey Johnson. Asserting “I think it deserves a makeover,” Johnson revealed that he has pledged $825,000 towards the renovation of the Chelsea Waterside Park playground.

“Chelsea Waterside Park is getting a lot of love…A lot of money and a lot of love,” Johnson said with a laugh.

Next up was Assemblymember Richard Gottfried. “The fact that we have Chelsea Waterside Park is really a testament to this community,” Gottfried stated, also revealing that, through his efforts, the park would be receiving a new comfort station in the near future, an announcement that received a great amount of applause.

The evening’s keynote speaker was Rashid Poulson, the Horticultural Supervisor of Brooklyn Bridge Park. His presentation, entitled “Resilience at the Waterfront,” addressed the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. A highlight of the presentation came when Poulson drew attention to the kinds of plants that could — and couldn’t — survive the stress brought onto them by the storm.

Following Poulson’s presentation was a short speech from Greg Wasserman, a member of the Playground Committee of Friends of the Hudson River Park. “The playground at Chelsea Waterside Park is well used and well loved by kids,” said Wasserman of the facility, installed in 2000, but noted, “along with love and use comes wear and tear.”

A local family drops off food scraps at Chelsea Waterside Park. Materials produced by a new electric composter, dubbed “the way of the future” by HRPT’s Peter Kelly, will be used along the Chelsea “buffer” between W. 17th and W. 22nd Sts. Courtesy Hudson River Park Trust.
A local family drops off food scraps at Chelsea Waterside Park. Materials produced by a new electric composter, dubbed “the way of the future” by HRPT’s Peter Kelly, will be used along the Chelsea “buffer” between W. 17th and W. 22nd Sts. Courtesy Hudson River Park Trust.
The proposed renovation project is estimated to cost $1.6 million, and after the money pledged by Johnson, and another $400,000 in private donations secured by Wasserman, about another $400,000 is still needed to make the budget. Wasserman encouraged people to donate, and to send him any information that might help lead to more private donations in order to “fill the rest of the gap.” Visit hudsonriverpark.org/playgrounds for more info.

Closing out the meeting were presentations from two members of the Hudson River Park Trust, Horticultural Manager Peter Kelly and Vice President of Marketing and Events Tom Lindon. Kelly’s speech and PowerPoint went over the general accomplishments of the Trust over the past year. Chief amongst the highlights was news of the park’s new electric composter, which Kelly dubbed “the way of the future.” The composter, which was donated to the park last year, helps keep a half-ton of organic waste off the road every day, and saves $40,000 a year in organic litter collection. Trust employees have also taken to bringing in hundreds of pounds of organic waste from home every week, to be compacted.

“It’s a big deal,” Kelly said proudly, noting that Chelsea would benefit from the compost, as it was to be used along the Chelsea “buffer” between W. 17th and W. 22nd Sts.

Lindon used the platform to draw the crowd’s attention to some of the upcoming summer programming coming to the park soon. Highlighted programs included the popular weekly movie night, kids’ programs, dance performances, and a new senior fishing program. He also announced that the “Summer of Fun” would have its own app, as well as a presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram (visit hudsonriverpark.org for all social media info).

And with that, all the speakers had said their piece, and the meeting was drawn to a close for another year.

News

DNAinfo: Defibrillators May Be Required at Youth Baseball Fields Under Council Bill

April 20, 2016
The City Council is voting Wednesday on requiring defibrillators at city-owned baseball fields used by youth leagues. By: Eddie Small

The City Council is voting Wednesday on requiring defibrillators at city-owned baseball fields used by youth leagues. By: Eddie Small

By: Trevor Kapp |  Apr 20, 2016, 2:45pm

The City Council will vote Wednesday afternoon on legislation that would require the city to provide lifesaving defibrillators at all youth baseball league games and practices.

The bill, which is sponsored by Council Members Steven Matteo and Corey Johnson, would mandate the city provide automated external defibrillators for free to leagues playing on city-owned land.

“The simple fact is that AEDs save lives,” Johnson, chair of the Committee on Health, said in a statement. “We have the opportunity to prevent needless deaths‎, but we must take action to expand the availability of these devices.”

If passed, the city would have to provide AED training to coaches and umpires with the goal of saving kids in cardiac arrest, the leading cause of death for youth athletes.

Leagues would be required to bring AEDs to every game and practice and ensure a trained coach or umpire is present.

“Sudden cardiac arrest is the number one cause of death in this country, and among the leading cause of death in young athletes,” Matteo said. “An automated external defibrillator is a person’s best chance of surviving a SCA.”

News

CHELSEA NOW: Residents Riled by Eminent Domain Scenario for Bus Terminal Revamp

April 20, 2016
Photo By Yannic Rack

The Sea Breeze Fish Market is one of the local businesses that could face displacement if the Port Authority decides to move ahead with a design for a new terminal extending west of the current station. Photo by Yannic Rack

By Yannic Rack | April 20, 2016

Hundreds of Hell’s Kitchen residents dreading the arrival of a new bus terminal that could obliterate parts of their neighborhood gave an earful to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey this week, in an attempt to prevent any plans that would involve bulldozing residential and commercial blocks to make way for a replacement station.

A town hall-style meeting held on the evening of Mon., Apr. 18, was filled to capacity with neighborhood residents, activists and business owners voicing their concerns. The Metro Baptist Church was an appropriate host for the spirited discussion: its location at 410 W. 40th St., just west of the current Port Authority Bus Terminal, makes it a potential casualty of plans to widen the facility’s footprint in the neighborhood.

Although nobody (not even its operators) disagreed about the fact that the decades-old bus terminal is an outdated mess in need of replacement, the residents said they were mostly worried about the prospect of eminent domain — the controversial process through which the city or state can take over private property to make way for important public projects.

“Our message is, ‘Do no harm,’ ” said Dale Corvino, who lives on W. 43rd St. and is a member of Community Board 4 (CB4).

Locals fear the construction of a new and bigger terminal will include the destruction of their blocks through eminent domain. Photo by Yannic Rack.
Locals fear the construction of a new and bigger terminal will bring about the destruction of their blocks through eminent domain. Photo by Yannic Rack.
The Port Authority recently launched a design competition to solicit proposals for the station, but not before it released a set of concepts that were meant to illustrate possible replacement scenarios — some of which included taking over property west of the current station (on Eighth Ave. btw. W. 40th & W. 42nd Sts.).

Worries about the impact of a new, and larger, terminal in the neighborhood have started to peak in recent weeks, after the Port Authority announced at its board meeting last month that it was committed to building a much-needed replacement in Manhattan — rather than New Jersey, which, unsurprisingly, seemed to be the more popular option with Manhattanites.

“You have the perfect solution…the light should have gone on and somebody should have said, ‘Why don’t we move the bus terminal out to the Meadowlands Sports Complex and then build a light rail into Manhattan?’ ” suggested Bob Minor, one of the speakers at the event and a co-chair of the HK 50-51 Block Association, to thundering applause.

On a recent weekday, buses were queuing up on Dyer Ave. to get into the terminal through a ramp. Photo by Yannic Rack.
On a recent weekday, buses were queuing up on Dyer Ave. to get into the terminal through a ramp. Photo by Yannic Rack.
“We don’t want to throw the community under the bus — or the bus garage, in this case,” said state Senator Brad Hoylman, who organized the town hall together with Assemblymember Dick Gottfried and CB4.

“I think we can all agree that the current Port Authority Bus Terminal is obsolete,” said District 3 City Councilmember Corey Johnson. “We need a plan that will right-size the terminal…what I am not in favor of is any plan that displaces Hell’s Kitchen residents, institutions or businesses. We need a plan that takes into consideration this neighborhood.”

The Metro Baptist Church, where hundreds of local residents directed their anger and concerns at officials from the Port Authority this week during a town hall meeting. Photo by Yannic Rack.
The Metro Baptist Church, where hundreds of local residents directed their anger and concerns at officials from the Port Authority this week during a town hall meeting. Photo by Yannic Rack.
The Port Authority officials at the meeting emphasized that the agency would work hard to avoid any scenario that would displace longtime residents.

“We’re going to use Port Authority property wherever possible, I can’t emphasize that enough,” said Mark Muriello, the agency’s Deputy Director of Tunnels, Bridges and Terminals.

“We’re not looking to overrun the neighborhood — we want to integrate the neighborhood,” he added.

Joe Calcagno, who owns the Capizzi pizzeria around the corner on Ninth Ave., told his neighbors that trying to thwart any plans by the Port Authority was a hopeless cause. Photo by Yannic Rack.
Joe Calcagno, who owns the Capizzi pizzeria on Ninth Ave., told his neighbors that trying to thwart any plans by the Port Authority was a hopeless cause. Photo by Yannic Rack.
The current terminal serves more than 230,000 passengers daily, which is already more than it was built for in 1950. The Port Authority estimates that number will increase to 270,000 by 2020, and could reach 337,000 after another 20 years — clearly demonstrating the need for an expanded facility.

But the community was not convinced of the agency’s assurances to minimize its impact, with some going so far as to declare the whole discussion as over before it even started.

“The Port Authority is a horrible neighbor. The back end of Ninth Avenue is their dumping ground,” said Joe Calcagno, who owns the Capizzi pizzeria around the corner (547 Ninth Ave., btw. W. 40th & W. 41st Sts.).

“It’s inevitable, the fix is in, guys. This thing is done already, don’t fool yourself,” he told his fellow neighbors.

The current Port Authority Bus Terminal is already overcrowded, and the station is expected to see ridership increase by tens of thousands of additional daily passengers over the next four years. Photo by Yannic Rack.
The current Port Authority Bus Terminal is already overcrowded, and the station is expected to see ridership increase by tens of thousands of additional daily passengers over the next four years. Photo by Yannic Rack.
Most of the other speakers were more hopeful that they could still avert a doomsday scenario, and many spoke to the value of the neighborhood, which has lived with the bus terminal for decades. During the meeting, buses were parked on the street outside, waiting for their turn to pick up passengers inside the station.

This block alone, a microcosm of the Hell’s Kitchen South neighborhood, is home to a row of handsome residential buildings and a range of long-standing community organizations, including the Clinton Housing Development Company and The Dwelling Place, a women’s shelter.

The Metro Baptist Church itself, which has been on the street since 1985, houses a teen center and an after-school program, and has a roof garden that helps feed up to 800 people every month through a food pantry.

Scott Stearman, center, the pastor at Metro Baptist, said his church provided essential neighborhood services to the Hell’s Kitchen community, including a food pantry, as well as teen and after-school programs. Photo by Yannic Rack.
Scott Stearman, center, the pastor at Metro Baptist, said his church provided essential neighborhood services to the Hell’s Kitchen community, including a food pantry, as well as teen and after-school programs. Photo by Yannic Rack.
“From the roof, where we have a farm, to the basement, where we have a food pantry, it’s a very vibrant building. It’s so important to the neighborhood, so we want to encourage looking at land that the Port Authority already owns,” said Metro Baptist pastor Scott Stearman. “We know that the Port Authority needs to be revitalized — there’s no question,” he added. “We just don’t think it needs to be these blocks.”

“My family has lived in Hell’s Kitchen for six generations,” said Michelle O’Connell Diaz. “This neighborhood has always been about community, and gradually everyone is being pushed out and displaced. But there’s so many great things on this block still, despite everything that’s been torn down.”

Michelle O’Connell Diaz, who lives on W. 42nd St., said every piece of the neighborhood was worth preserving. “There’s so many great things on this block still, despite everything that’s been torn down,” she said. Photo by Yannic Rack.
Michelle O’Connell Diaz, who lives on W. 42nd St., said every piece of the neighborhood was worth preserving. “There’s so many great things on this block still, despite everything that’s been torn down,” she said. Photo by Yannic Rack.
Another resident offered some advice to the Port Authority, which he said had made things difficult by being a bad neighbor to the community for so many years. “If you want to make people feel better about you, be better neighbors,” said CB4 member David Solnick. “Don’t be the guy who leaves his car jacked up in the front yard.”

The locals won’t have to wait long to find out whether or not the concerns raised at the town hall will have any impact on the eventual design: the Port Authority expects to announce the winner of its competition in the fall.

For anyone attending the event, one thing was clear, however.

“We certainly heard tonight that the community draws the line at eminent domain,” Hoylman said.

News

OBSERVER: Council Votes to Crack Down on Naked Ladies and Costumed Characters in Times Square

April 7, 2016

By

The legions of superheroes, cartoon characters, Muppets and body-painted babes prowling Times Square will have to learn to think inside the box.

That’s because the City Council voted today to authorize the mayor’s administration to set hard rules designating times and spaces on pedestrian plazas where such performers can pose for photographs in exchange for tips. The legislation is a response to numerous incidents in which characters badgered, groped or assaulted a tourist or police officer, as well as the furor last summer over the appearance of half-naked desnudas at the crossroads of the world.

“Times Square is basically a victim of its own success,” said Councilman Corey Johnson, who represents part of Times Square and co-sponsored the legislation. “What we’ve seen is a proliferation of commercial uses that are now taking place on these plazas throughout Times Square.”

“People should be able to walk through Times Square without being harassed and harangued,” he continued.

Mr. Johnson said he believed most of the dressed-up entertainers are “hard-working and honest,” but argued that there were too many bad actors, and that their activities were impinging on normal foot traffic and business activity in Times Square. His co-sponsor, Councilman Daniel Garodnick, agreed.

“They harass tourists, they aggressively solicit tips and many of them won’t leave you alone,” said Mr. Garodnick, whose district also covers parts of Times Square. “Just Google your favorite superhero and ‘arrested in Times Square,’ and you will get a million hits.”

The measure allows the Department of Transportation to create regulations for all pedestrian plazas citywide, as well as to lay out a formal process for obtaining permits to hold events in the public spaces. The bill passed the Council overwhelmingly, though a few members dissented.

“I feel strongly we should not regulate or police any New Yorker for a harmless activity that they rely on to put money in their pockets and food on the table,” said Brooklyn Councilman Robert Cornegy.

Abdelamine el-Khezzani, an Astoria resident who has performed in Times Square for a decade, came to the hearing in full Spider-Man costume. He insisted the law violated his Constitutional freedoms, and vowed to disobey any new rules.

“I have a right to freedom of speech, I have a right to a freedom of expression and if I want to be in Spider-Man costume, I can walk anywhere I would like to walk,” he told the Observer. “I have a right to walk in my costume, and if people want to take pictures of me, nobody can stop that.”

News

AP: NYC mayor signs bill banning smokeless tobacco in ballparks

April 7, 2016

Apr 7, 2016 at 7:12a ET
NEW YORK — New York Mayor Bill De Blasio has signed a bill that bans the use of smokeless tobacco products at all ticketed baseball stadiums, sports arenas and recreation areas.

De Blasio signed the bill Wednesday. He said the legislation was important to the health of baseball players and the people of New York.

The City Council approved the legislation last month by a vote of 44-3. It was sponsored by Council Member Corey Johnson.
Similar bans previously were enacted that impacted Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco ballparks. Both the Mets and Yankees have said they support the ban.

Matthew Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, says it sends the message to ”young fans that chewing tobacco is dangerous and should not be an accepted part of sports culture.”

News

If We Can Make It There, We’ll Make It Anywhere, There’s No More Chew, New York, New York

April 7, 2016

WASHINGTON, April 6, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Yankee Stadium, old and new, has been home to many historic firsts – from Babe Ruth’s record-breaking 60th home run to Don Larsen’s World Series perfect game; from Roger Maris breaking the Babe’s single-season home run record to Derek Jeter becoming the first Yankee to 3,000 hits. Tonight Yankee Stadium will witness another milestone: The first tobacco-free regular season game in the history of Major League Baseball.

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation today to prohibit the use of all tobacco products – including smokeless tobacco like chew, dip and snuff – at all ticketed sporting events within the city. The measure covers Yankee Stadium and Citi Field – and took effect immediately. New York joins San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles and Chicago in enacting similar measures. A statewide law in California will take effect before the 2017 season. Once all these laws are implemented, one-third of major league stadiums will be tobacco-free, and other MLB cities are considering similar measures.

“Tonight, at Yankee Stadium, Major League baseball history will be made again with the first tobacco-free game,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “We welcome this historic action because our national pastime should be about promoting a healthy and active lifestyle, not a deadly and addictive product. With the mayor’s signature, New York sends the right message to millions of young fans that chewing tobacco is dangerous and should not be an accepted part of sports culture.”

The Knock Tobacco Out of the Park campaign, a coalition of public health and medical organizations, has advocated for tobacco-free baseball. Key facts in support of the campaign include:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that high school athletes use smokeless tobacco at nearly twice the rate of non-athletes, and smokeless tobacco use among athletes increased more than 11 percent from 2001 to 2013, even as smoking rates dropped significantly. Among male high school athletes, smokeless tobacco use is particularly alarming at 17.4 percent in 2013.

Public health experts – including the CDC, U.S. Surgeon General, U.S. National Cancer Institute and World Health Organization – have all concluded that smokeless tobacco use is dangerous. Smokeless tobacco contains at least 28 known carcinogens and causes oral, pancreatic and esophageal cancer. The product also causes nicotine addiction and other serious health problems like gum disease, tooth decay and mouth lesions.
Smokeless tobacco manufacturers spent more than $500 million on marketing in 2013 (the most recent data available), driving home the message that teen boys cannot be real men unless they chew. The link between baseball and chewing tobacco reinforces this message.

Baseball stadiums are workplaces and public places. It is entirely appropriate to restrict the use of a harmful substance in such a setting. While players are on the job, they have a responsibility to set the right example for kids. These measures do not affect what players can do off the field in their personal lives, although they are encouraged to quit using tobacco for their own health.

“We applaud Mayor de Blasio, Council Member Corey Johnson and other Council members for stepping up to the plate on behalf of our children and taking tobacco out of baseball in New York City,” Myers added. “With the nation’s largest city and home to two storied franchises moving to rid baseball of tobacco, this cause is destined to get even more serious and deserved attention across the country. New York today sent a simple and powerful message to kids: baseball and tobacco don’t mix.”

For more information, visit www.tobaccofreebaseball.org

News

STATEMENT FROM COUNCIL MEMBER COREY JOHNSON ON THIS HISTORIC MINIMUM WAGE AND PAID FAMILY LEAVE VICTORIES

April 2, 2016

“Today’s victories in the Fight for $15 and for Paid Family Leave are huge wins for the working families of New York State. These policies embody our values as New Yorkers and as Americans. No one who is working full time should be forced to live in poverty. Every family should be granted the dignity of time at home with a newborn or by the side of an ailing loved one. I commend Governor Cuomo and the members of the State Legislature for coming together and achieving these longstanding goals that will have a tremendous impact on countless lives.”