Monthly Archives

July 2016


The Villager: From the seats to the streets: Reflections on the D.N.C.

July 28, 2016

July 28, 2016

After the spectacle of last week’s Republican National Convention, intelligence (finally), inspiration and idealism have reigned at this week’s Democratic National Convention. And after all the xenophobia and fear-mongering in Cleveland, Lenny Kravitz, rocking the D.N.C. stage on Wednesday, urged Americans to put aside their differences and “Let Love Rule.”

Members of the New York Democratic Delegation have had a front-row seat on it all, since they hail from Hillary Clinton’s adopted “home state,” earning them pride of place right by the stage.

Most of the elected officials attending from the Downtown Manhattan area are Clinton delegates. Although there is also notably District Leader Arthur Schwartz, Bernie Sanders’s New York campaign counsel.

Meanwhile, fresh from covering — and protesting at — the R.N.C. in Ohio, former East Village activist John Penley is at the D.N.C. in Philadelphia — again covering it, and again protesting. His photographs of marches and rallies outside the convention center are filled with Sanders supporters and barely any Clinton backers because that was the makeup of the protests.

Inside the Wells Fargo Center, the television cameras frequently panned the New York Delegation for reaction shots. Photogenic local state Senator Brad Hoylman frequently seemed to be in the center of the shot. During Kravitz’s performance, there was a glimpse of Senator Chuck Schumer doing a slow groove to the tune.

Wednesday morning, The Villager reached out to local politicians and activists at the D.N.C., asking for their thoughts and impressions after the first two days of the quadrennial political-palooza.

“For political junkies, the Democratic National Convention is nirvana,” Hoylman said. “It seems you can’t walk two feet without spotting an icon from the world of government or media. The conversations among many of us delegates are often like, ‘Look, there’s Donna Brazile! Rachel Maddow is at the next table over! I saw Governor McAuliffe in the gym today!

“But the core of what we’re doing this week as delegates to the D.N.C. in Philadelphia couldn’t be more serious,” Hoylman reflected. “Our goal is to unify the party and provide a forum to explain to the nation why Hillary Clinton is our best choice in November. And thanks in part to Bernie Sanders, the platform we approved this week is “But the core of what we’re doing this week as delegates to the D.N.C. in Philadelphia couldn’t be more serious,” Hoylman reflected. “Our goal is to unify the party and provide a forum to explain to the nation why Hillary Clinton is our best choice in November. And thanks in part to Bernie Sanders, the platform we approved this week is the most progressive in history. Helping make the case have been an amazing array of everyday Americans who’ve addressed the convention, including moms who’ve lost kids to gun violence, a young woman with a disability, and the children of undocumented immigrants.

“Hillary Clinton will win New York handily,” Hoylman predicted. “She’ll also help propel candidates down the ballot, too. So I’m extremely hopeful that, based on the strength of her candidacy we’ve seen on display in Philadelphia this week, New York Democrats will ride her coattails and flip control of the state Senate.”

City Councilmember Corey Johnson praised the depth and values on display at the D.N.C.

“What a contrast it’s been from last week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland!” Johnson said. “One thing that’s really striking here is how much depth each member of the party has brought to the national discussion. Whether it’s President Bill Clinton, disability-rights advocate Anastasia Somoza, Senator Cory Booker or any of the other incredible speakers, we have heard one convincing argument after another about why Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party are infinitely better suited to face our nation’s challenges and look out for the best interests of the American people. Unlike the other side of the aisle, we’re talking about the needs of every community in America, and engaging in a real dialogue about how we can do a better job for each of them.

“As somebody who has been raised with the values that we must all care for one another and work together to build stronger communities and a healthier planet,” Johnson continued, “I feel right at home here among so many outstanding like-minded leaders. Perhaps Michelle Obama put it best when she said, ‘This election, and every election, is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives.’ Even though we’re only halfway through this convention, I think our Democratic leaders have made it clear that we, under President Hillary Clinton, are the party that will actually instill the right values in our children and create positive change for everybody across our great nation.”

Much was made in the media of the Sanders supporters’ raucous chanting for their candidate and booing Clinton and her proxies on Monday night. But Schwartz said he wasn’t among those making a ruckus.

“Bernie asked that we not boo, or turn our backs, or be disruptive, so I followed his wishes,” Schwartz said. “To a certain extent, I think that those who were disruptive don’t really understand that political change is a long-term process, and don’t understand that Donald Trump is fascistic.

“In the New York Sanders Delegation, we voted not to boo,” he said. “The New York Sanders Delegation has been holding meetings around the state, and today we voted to create a new grassroots Democratic organization to pursue reform politics in New York. It will be the New York chapter of the national group Bernie wants to create, but we are ahead of his schedule. We meet again tomorrow — I have been one of the co-chairpersons — and will do a press event on Thursday.”

As for his feelings about the D.N.C., Schwartz said, above all, he’s extremely scared — scared about what he sees as the glaring weakness of their candidate. Indeed, bombastic G.O.P. nominee Trump recently edged ahead of Clinton in the polls.

“The convention conveyed some powerful messages,” Schwartz said, “and the Democratic Party, on most issues, takes compelling positions on inequality, racism and social justice. But we have a very flawed candidate, who has done admirable things in her life, but is broadly distrusted. I am scared to death that Trump might win. Bernie would have killed him.”

Conversely, Assemblymember Deborah Glick put a very positive spin on things. For starters, she said she has been getting a lot out of her convention experience.

“There have been lots of interesting panel discussions — the Hispanic Caucus, the Women’s Caucus, the L.G.B.T. Caucus,” she said.

As for the speakers, they have been amazing, she said.

Michelle Obama was “spectacular,” while Bill Clinton “is an incredible storyteller and hits the high points,” she noted.

As for the Bernie boo birds, she said, “There has certainly been a Bernie Sanders segment that has been rude and disrespectful, frankly, to people who didn’t deserve it. The first day was the worst. It really was an isolated group, near the press box, so it was amplified.

“A lot of people are here for the first time,” the veteran pol observed. “The Sanders campaign, to his credit, brought a lot of people in. They’re not used to — ‘You don’t always win.’ You have to be able to say, ‘Yes, that we got most of what we wanted.’”

Glick maintained that Sanders honestly has pushed Clinton to the left on some issues, for example, like higher education and foreign trade.

As for the takeaway from the Republicans’ confab, she said, “Look, it’s not a surprise. It was a very negative, hostile message about a country I do not recognize. Doom and gloom — make everyone afraid, and the strongman will come in.”

Schwartz had hoped to challenge Glick in the September primary. But he recently called it off due to concern about his heart, having experienced high blood pressure during a confrontation with an obstreperous group of Glick supporters.

He and the assemblymember are longtime political nemeses. Asked if he had buried the hatchet for the sake of party unity, or at least chatted with or sat near Glick, at the convention, Schwartz said no.

“There are 291 delegates from New York,” he said. “I sat next to Councilmember Rosie Mendez and Mike Schweinsberg from the 504 Democratic Club — the disabled-rights group — last night. The first night, I sat next to former state Senator Tom Duane. We are all staying at the same hotel and eat breakfast together in a huge ballroom, but Deborah and I haven’t spoken.”

Speaking of conflict, things were about to boil over on the steamy South Philly streets near the convention center Tuesday afternoon, when Penley called in to give a brief report.

“All hell is breaking lose,” he said. “Almost turned into a riot, but it didn’t. There’s a massive amount of people gathered at the F.D.R. Park and AT&T subway stop. It’s usually where the delegates come out. It’s a combination of Bernie people and Black Lives Matter people. I’m right in the middle of it here. Gotta go!”

Schwartz there was “talk of a protest” against former Mayor Mike Bloomberg when he spoke Wednesday night, but that apparently didn’t materialize.

“Trump says he wants to run the nation like he’s running his business. God help us!” Bloomberg said at a highpoint of Donald bashing during his speech. The camera panned to Hoylman and Co. for a reaction shot.

Penley’s former East Village roommate, radical comic book artist Seth Tobocman, was also in Philadelphia. Last Friday and Saturday, he painted a dozen banners for Sunday’s environmental march. The banners show the various steps — and dangers — of fracking.

“Railcars that carry fracked gas are explosive,” the artist explained of one sign. “The storage of local gas in communities, refineries,” he said of others. “There’s a refinery in Philadelphia that releases toxic fumes to a whole community. There’s this infrastructure that a lot of us are unaware of.”

Tobocman said Clinton actually isn’t a flip-flopper on fracking.

“She’s for fracking,” he said. “The only candidate who’s come out against fracking — outside maybe [Green candidate] Jill Stein — is Bernie Sanders. If the Democrats were to come out as the anti-fracking party, they’d have a lot of support.”

Environmentalists at the D.N.C. are actually looking beyond the convention, he said.

“The conversation is about a major protest at the inauguration of whoever is elected in January,” he noted. “We know it’s going to be either Trump or Hillary, and neither has good positions on the environment, for sure.

“Bernie was very popular with environmentalists,” Tobocman reflected. “It’s probably his best issue. He’s from Vermont, c’mon. He wants a ban on fracking.”

After Schwartz dropped out of the Assembly primary, veteran gay activist Jim Fouratt decided to run in his place against Glick in September. Fouratt, who is not a convention delegate, watched the D.N.C. on TV in the Village. On Monday night, he posted his thoughts on Facebook as Sanders spoke about the importance of coming together for the sake of defeating Trump.

For Fouratt, who was a fervent Sanders supporter, the fact that the next president will shape the direction of the U.S. Supreme Court was the deciding factor for why he’ll vote for Clinton.

“I am sitting watching Bernie and tears are streaming down my cheeks,” Fouratt posted. “Sad at what could have been, that for whatever reason is not. I realize that Bernie’s political revolution is not over. That is why I am running for state Assembly. I share Bernie’s vision for the future…one election at a time. But I can’t at this particular moment stop crying. Life goes on… I believe CHANGE is possible… I will vote for the Clinton the Democratic Party chooses for president in this election because I use the Supreme Court as my litmus. Period. I will continue to oppose the T.T.P. [Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal] and fight for universal healthcare. And commit to building a national organization based in grassroots organizing to make the Sanders political revolution a reality. Thank you, Bernie.”


Chelsea Now: Height Victory Makes Fence Advocates Stand Tall

July 27, 2016

July 27, 2016

Last week, it was revealed that the NYC Parks Department has agreed to let the fence at Clement Clarke Moore Park (10th Ave., btw. W. 21st & W. 22nd Sts.) remain at its current height of seven feet — providing an example of how community advocacy can influence city-laid plans.

This decision came to light when Matt Green, Deputy Chief of Staff for Community Affairs for City Councilmember Corey Johnson, sent an email on July 20 to the West 400 Block Association.

The height of the fence became the subject of controversy in March, when the Parks Department presented its plans/designs to renovate Clement Clarke Moore Park to Community Board 4’s (CB4) Waterfront, Parks, and Environment Committee (WPE). While the community was pleased with much of the redesign, they took issue with the Parks Department’s plan to shorten the wrought iron fence that surrounds the park from seven feet to four — in accordance with its Parks Without Borders initiative, which sees lower (or no) barriers as a way to make parks more welcoming and usable.

This was an immediate source of contention, as both committee members and residents present noted that the fence was necessary to keep the park safe after dark, as the space was frequently misused prior to the installation of the fence.

Community outpouring against shortening the fence’s height could be found in the pages of this very paper, as an article covering the WPE meeting (Changes Coming to Clement Clarke Moore Park; March 16, 2016) prompted a number of responses against shortening the fence. “Decreasing the height to four feet will make the fence easily scalable and revert the park to a haven for crimes of opportunity and the pissoir it once was,” read one strongly worded reader comment submitted by Maya Hess on the version of the article.

“We didn’t hear anything and we began to push a little bit,” said Allen Oster, a member of WPE and the West 400 Block Association, of the aftermath of that meeting. It was then that advocates contacted Johnson’s office to help navigate the issue, and Oster noted that his “office was very proactive in supporting us in this.”

For their part, CB4 issued a letter to the Parks Department in early May, cataloging their suggestions to the existing park plans, noting specifically that they wanted the fence height maintained, stating they were “worried about safety concerns that may arise if the fence is removed.”

According to Oster, communication continued for a while between the groups advocating for the seven-foot height — such as the West 400 Block Association and Friends of the Park — and the Parks Commissioner and Johnson’s office, who exchanged a few letters. It was also kept in the public eye at meetings of said groups, and eventually, the fortuitous news arrived.

The matter of park design and fence height doesn’t seem to be going away, however. The debate continued on in the case of the recently funded 20th Street Park (140 W. 20th St., btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves.). At a July 15 WPE meeting, while presenting preliminary plans for the space, the Parks Department again proposed a four-foot fence, which WPE bristled at. It remains to be seen if this community feedback will be incorporated in the final plans come the fall, though Friends of 20th Street Park’s Matt Weiss is confident that compromise with Parks is possible, and that they “will find a reasonable middle ground or solution in time.”

Referencing the situation at Clement Clarke Moore Park, Oster noted that the months of meetings and correspondence “ended up being a good experience for everyone, I think. The residents, the city administration, and the Parks Department came together, and hopefully we can now go on and work toward the renovation. It might take a while, but we’re looking forward to getting a new and improved, modern Clement Clarke Moore Park.”


Chelsea Now: Major Movement on Micro-Park Plans

July 27, 2016

July 27, 2016

Last week, the highly anticipated and hard-won 20th Street Park took a decisive step to becoming a reality, with the revealing of rough plans for the green space that will be built on a former Department of Sanitation site between Sixth and Seventh Aves.

At the July 15 meeting of the Community Board 4 (CB4) Waterfront, Parks, and Environment Committee (WPE), the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation was on hand to present the first official, concrete plans for the space — which took the form of a “bubble diagram,” named such for the way in which the space and its amenities are represented on the page as rough oblongs (as opposed to precisely organized schematics, which will be produced later). These plans enjoyed a largely positive reception, and the feedback gleaned from the meeting will be used to improve the finalized plans — estimated to be done in the fall.

The grassroots effort to establish a park on W. 20th St. officially began in 2013, when Matt Weiss founded Friends of 20th Street Park, which soon established itself as a vocal and motivated coalition of residents and businesses with a shared vision for the abandoned, 10,000 square foot lot in park-starved Chelsea.

The group succeeded in having the park appear on the ballot for Council District 3’s 2015 Participatory Budgeting process — an initiative in which Councilmember Corey Johnson’s office distributes about $1 million in discretionary funds amongst community-voted-on public projects. Emerging as the top vote-getter, it won $200,000 — after which Johnson committed an extra $800,000 to the endeavor. An even larger windfall came in late 2015, when the Parks Department pledged $4.3 million in funds for the lovingly dubbed “micro-park.”

“To see the progress being made is just a dream come true,” Weiss said of the bubble diagram. “When we started this effort, you know, we had some volunteers within the community who would draw pretty crude renderings of what open space, green space, would look like on that site. So to see it now with an official New York City Parks Department maple leaf, and an actual schematic design coming together is incredibly gratifying and exciting.”

Weiss is very pleased with the amenities the Parks Department has incorporated into its design, which include open space, benches, planters, and play areas for both younger and older children. In addition, there is a planned water feature whose white noise will “allow you to feel even further from the street,” Weiss noted, adding that the Parks Department was “very thoughtful” in including nods to the neighborhood’s character in the design.

“They’re incorporating a stage, and temporary public arts displays, [a] children’s mural wall,” he said, envisioning the combined effect of these features as creating “a nice connection, a neighborhood connection, to this community that has a lot of history with the arts in its DNA.” These artistic features are among many elements in the bubble design that reflect suggestions that emerged from an April community scoping meeting, held to poll the community for ideas as to what they want from the park.

“I think the Parks Department has done a great job incorporating the feedback, to come back to the community with a design for a park that offers a little something for everyone,” Weiss said.

The next step for the Parks Department is incorporating ideas from the CB4 committee meeting while producing their finalized plans — there was an amount of disagreement over the height of the fence, which Weiss believes could be compromised on, and discussion about the arts features and potential public Wi-Fi — but largely its just the “fun stuff” that’s left. While the plans are being revised, the structures remaining on the lot will be demolished in order for a 2017/2018-construction phase and a 2019 opening.

“I think what people really heard was we’re looking for an oasis,” Weiss observed. “An urban oasis, right in the heart of Chelsea, that’s a nice escape from the busy streets, and is a gathering place, where people can either get together with and get to know their neighbors, or find a tranquil spot to just be with their own thoughts and just enjoy the city, enjoy some shade.”


AM NEW YORK: NYC rat complaints up; most reports in Flatbush, Harlem

July 24, 2016

July 24, 2016

Rat complaints to 311 are on the rise, and have been fairly consistently for the last five years.

Citywide, there were 10,534 complaints in 2010. But that number rose to 15,272 last year — a 44.98% increase, according to city statistics. See our interactive map here.

While a Health Department report released Friday shows there are fewer “active rat signs, such as live rats and active burrows” in targeted neighborhoods in Manhattan and the Bronx, the rise in complaints is continuing.

“I think the rodent problem is prolific in the city of New York,” said Council Member Inez Dickens, whose district includes parts of Harlem and Central Park. “You can’t even sit in Central Park — they come out at night, like they’re paying taxes.”

There have been 8,186 complaints for the first half of 2016, a 23.4% increase from the first half of last year, where there were only 6,632 complaints. And rat-related complaints have gone up a whopping 66.3% since the first half of 2010, when there were only 4,923 calls.

A city spokeswoman said the increase in complaints — which saw a dramatic rise in 2014 — coincides with the same year 311 started offering the ability to gripe about rats on their app.

“New Yorkers can now report rat sightings at the touch of their fingertips, and within a few seconds of noticing a problem — and when it’s easier to reach 311 and subsequently more New Yorkers are contacting 311 year after year, we know we’re doing something right,” a 311 spokesman said in an email.

In 2014, about 18% of complaints were made through the mobile app, according to city statistics. That number jumped to 37% in 2015 and is about 46% for the first half of this year.

Certain areas of the city, however, are having a more pronounced increase in rodent complaints than others.

In the zip code 11226, which includes parts of Flatbush and Ditmas Park, there were 162 complaints about rats for the first half of this year, the most in the city. That was up from 69 complaints for the same time period in 2015.

The second most belonged to 10026, which includes parts of Harlem and a northern section of Central Park. There were 151 complaints made for the first half of the year, compared to 85 for the first half of last year.

Flatbush resident Patricia Beaubrun said the rats come out at night, especially concentrated around a few specific blocks, like Caton Avenue.

“I’m not used it it, I’m scared of that,” she said. “I’ll deal with roaches if I have to, but not rats. They have to do something about it because it’s overtaking Brooklyn — they’re big, fat rats.”

Deanna Shepherd, 25, said she often sees garbage piled up on the sidewalk without a can.

“It’s New York City, there’s rats everywhere,” said the Flatbush resident. “You’re kind of used it it, but at the same time it’s still disgusting.”

Several residents in Harlem pointed toward construction projects as a possible reason for the rats.

“You can’t really park here — they chewed on my battery wire, they chewed on my air conditioning wire,” said Harlem resident Sylvia Quiles, 46. “They chewed through all kinds of stuff. We’ve never been afraid of the rats, we knew there always were some in the neighborhood. But now we’re afraid of them.”

Ivan Rodriguez, 56, has lived in Harlem for 23 years and said he sees rats in his neighborhood often.

“I’m cautious,” he said. “Before I leave here, I look down the block, up the block, to make sure that I see anything. The rats are everywhere. They’re never going to be gone. You can’t get rid of them.”

Dickens said she has seen five community gardens in her district destroyed by rodents. But she doesn’t think Harlem necessarily has more rats than other areas, just more people calling 311 about them.

Dickens encouraged people to clean out their recycling as a way to ward off the rodents.

While the Garment District and the Far West Side — zip code 10018 — had fewer complaints, there was a larger increase in them from year to year: there were 23 complaints for the first half of 2016, a 666.7% increase from the same time period in 2015, when there were only three complaints.

“That area, in particular, there’s been a huge amount of new construction and when there is construction, especially significant construction, it stirs up rat reservoirs,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, whose district includes that area. “You end up seeing more rats because their habitat under the city streets is being destroyed.”

Johnson said there are likely far more rats in the area than the complaint number reflects since the area is more commercial than residential, and the bulk of complaints tend to happen where people live and not where they work.

The increase of complaints there was only surpassed by the 866.7% jump in the zip code 11421, which includes Woodhaven and Forest Park, Queens. There were 29 complaints for the first six months of this year, compared to only three last year.

Johnson’s office will be hosting a “Rat Academy” with the Health Department on Aug. 16 to teach people about steps they can take to prevent rats from infesting the neighborhood.

And the Health Department is also trying to fight the pesty problem by focusing on “rat reservoirs,” baiting large concentrations of rats and then closing the burrows.

In the first year of the pilot program, the Health Department focused on three areas of Manhattan — East Harlem, the East Village and Manhattan Valley — and three areas of the Bronx — Grand Concourse, Mt. Hope and Belmont.

A spokesman for the Health Department said the city has invested $2.9 million in fighting rats throughout New York City.


The Villager: Green roof plans looking up at 75 Morton school

July 21, 2016

July 21, 2016

The new middle school at 75 Morton St. will be getting a green roof as part of the public school’s construction.

In 2013, Community Board 2 passed a resolution supporting the construction of green roofs. In 2014, the 75 Morton Community Alliance — a grassroots group involved with starting up the new school — attended a C.B. 2 public envisioning meeting, at which they presented the idea for a green roof topping the planned middle school, M.S. 297, along with green roofs for four other schools.

Finally, this winter, C.B. 2 submitted grant applications for “Resolution A” funding — school-specific capital-improvement or -enhancement grants — that would enable the School Construction Authority to build the proposed green roofs.

Assemblymember Deborah Glick, Councilmember Corey Johnson and Borough President Gale Brewer allocated a combined $500,000 for the project — $200,000 each from Johnson and Glick and $100,000 from Brewer. “Resolution A” funding is also used for upgrades to schools’ auditoriums, science labs and other infrastructure.

According to Jeannine Kiely, Chairperson of the C.B. 2 Schools and Education Committee, the green roof has not been designed yet, but is in the preliminary stages.

Once the project is fully designed, the S.C.A. can begin construction. Kiely said the project will likely take inspiration from other green roofs, such as ones completed ones at Greenwich Village’s P.S. 41 and the East Village’s Earth School and P.S. 64. The future principal of M.S. 297, Jacqui Getz, is helping to design the roof, Kiely said.

Unfortunately, this new green roof may not be as extensive as these earlier ones, which cost between $1 and $1.8 million apiece, and contain irrigation systems, composting areas, outdoor patios and other aesthetically pleasing design features.

These planted rooftops’ functions are not limited to natural beauty. Children will be able to plant gardens and study plant life during science classes in hands-on exercises. At P.S. 41, the feature is called a Green Roof Environmental Literacy Laboratory, and is used for chemistry, biology and math classes.

M.S. 297, which will open in fall 2017, is one of three schools to receive funding for rooftop construction from Brewer recently.

The B.P. also allocated $100,000 to fund a greenhouse and vertical gardens at City-As-School High School, on Clarkson St., and another $100,000 for a Green Roof at the NYC iSchool, at Sixth Ave. and Broome St.


Chelsea Now: Electeds Rally to Reboot PABT Design Process

July 21, 2016

July 21, 2016

On the morning of Thurs., July 21, elected officials gathered outside the offices of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in order to formally call for the immediate halt of plans for a new Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) — specifically the design competition the Authority recently initiated, which they believe was launched prematurely.

Standing on the southwest corner opposite of 4 World Trade Center (where Authority offices are located), Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Brad Hoylman, and State Assemblymembers Richard Gottfried and Linda Rosenthal lined up to deliver statements decrying the way in which the Authority has handled the project’s development thus far. Matt Green, Deputy Chief of Staff for Community Affairs representing City Councilmember Corey Johnson’s office, was also present to deliver a statement, as was Community Board 4 (CB4) Chair Delores Rubin.

Those gathered to speak were consistent in voicing demands that the Authority cease its forward momentum on exploratory scenarios — and restart the process in such a way that directly solicits community input, while taking into account the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood character and the massive project’s environmental impact.

The PABT project has been controversial ever since it was officially announced in late 2015, in order to meet the needs of a projected 50% increase in ridership in the next few decades. It has been subject to even more scrutiny in recent weeks — particularly by CB4 and its subcommittees, as the Authority’s decision to launch the design competition so quickly has not sat well with the public. Should the Bus Terminal remain at, or near, its current location (Eighth Ave. at W. 42nd St.), the surrounding community is very concerned about the potential use of eminent domain — a process where the government takes control of privately owned land for public works projects — which could displace residents and destroy long-term businesses and institutions.

For the Authority’s part, this outcry hasn’t slowed them at all, as they’ve already narrowed down their design options to five candidates, to present final proposals in August.

Nadler led off the conference, announcing from its outset that its purpose was “to terminate the design competition immediately,” citing a lack of community and neighborhood stakeholder engagement as a source of unease, as well as a lack of analysis into the impact the new terminal would have. He further criticized the lack of serious considerations of other options, which include use of land in New Jersey for an additional terminal — a scenario that has been gaining traction with Manhattanites. “This is a non-starter,” Nadler declared. “Eminent domain must be off the table for this project.”

“The Port Authority has put the bus before the horse,” quipped Brewer, who highlighted the need to address quality of life concerns and ensure that hundreds of homes and businesses are not destroyed or negatively impacted by eminent domain. “We’re ready to work with them if they will work with us,” she concluded.

Hoylman noted that the “new Port Authority Bus Terminal is the biggest project of its kind in the world,” and asserted that it shouldn’t be forced upon Hell’s Kitchen residents “without extensive studies” or a “transparent public process,” and alluded to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie being unreceptive/uncooperative in exploring New Jersey options for the project. “Residents of Hell’s Kitchen should not be thrown under the bus terminal,” Hoylman said. “Let’s start over.”

“The Port Authority literally does not know what they’re doing,” Gottfried asserted, chiding the Authority for encouraging plans in the design competition that would require the use of eminent domain, while allowing them to sell the land the current PABT sits on to commercial developers for a massive profit.

“Port Authority started a fight they will lose,” Rosenthal said, echoing the sentiments of her peers, and noting that the plans will reverberate for generations and thus must be taken seriously. Green, reading a statement on Johnson’s behalf, expressed the Councilmember’s desire for the Authority to call off the competition, and his firm rejection of using any form of eminent domain whatsoever.

Nadler then opened the floor for questions, where he was asked if the electeds had a preferred option or plan. “We don’t know at this point,” he replied. “Neither do they.” He reiterated that while “everybody recognizes something needs to be done” about the current terminal, all of the options need to be thoroughly explored.

Following the question session, the elected officials made their way over to 4 World Trade Center, in order to attend the Port Authority’s 10am board meeting, and air their grievances to the board and Port Authority Chair John J. Degnan. They were armed with a jointly written July 21 letter addressed to Degnan and Vice Chair Steven M. Cohen, outlining their issues with the project in detail.

“It would be a grave disservice, not only to our constituents, but to all the people of New York and New Jersey, to proceed with the Competition for a new PABT before a thorough and public examination is conducted of all of the outstanding issues and all of the available alternatives regarding a new bus terminal,” reads an excerpt from the letter, which also calls on the Authority to respect current residential zoning regulations, examine how the PABT would function with other transportation hubs, and enact an environmental impact study.

A short time after the meeting concluded, First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris released a statement on the PABT project. In it, he states, that due to a lack of the community’s voice in the process thus far, “the City has therefore urged the Port Authority to reconsider the current competition process, and begin a comprehensive public engagement and planning process that considers all possible options for a new terminal.”

Chelsea Now will continue to follow this story as it develops.


Fort Greene Focus: City Council Passes Bill Requiring Breastfeeding Centers

July 18, 2016

July 18, 2016

New York City will now require breast feeding centers to be available at a host of public spaces.

The City Council passed bill 1063-A, Requiring Lactation Rooms In Certain Locations Open To Public,on July 14, requiring various municipal buildings to have at least one lactation room available, and this would not impede the right to breastfeed in public. The bill was sponsored by Council Members Cornegy, Laurie Cumbo, and Corey Johnson. The bill will take effect on July 1, 2017.

“As working and stay-at-home mothers transition into their new roles, it is often a challenge to identify safe spaces where women can nurse and pump to care for their child(ren). This legislation will transform certain public spaces into safe havens to support the bonding experience between mother and child while promoting their well-being,” said Council Member Laurie Cumbo.

Contemplated locations include job centers, SNAP centers,medical assistance program center of the Department of Social Services/Human Resources Administration, as well as every city-owned borough office of the Administration for Children’s Services and every health center operated or maintained by the Department of Health And Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).

The DOHMH would be required to keep a list of all public lactation rooms on its website.

“We have birthed a new breastfeeding movement in the borough of Brooklyn, starting with the opening of Brooklyn Borough Hall’s Lactation Lounge last Mother’s Day,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

Adams has spent considerable time championing the bill.



July 14, 2016

This brutal assault has absolutely no place in our City. The apparent randomness of this attack is deeply disturbing and inexcusable, and these perpetrators must be held accountable for their actions. Our City and our West Side community value peace and goodwill, and we will not tolerate this kind of vicious behavior. My thoughts are with the victim, and my deep thanks go to the NYPD, which is out in full force to apprehend the culprits. I implore anybody with any information on this attack to immediately contact NYPD Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.