Monthly Archives

July 2017


Chelsea Now: Leery Locals Say Something’s Off at Target Site; City Agrees

July 27, 2017

July 26, 2017

The dust went flying and so did the fur, at a Midtown West construction site currently in its excavation phase.

Locals say XIN Development is not doing enough to clear the air and control the noise at the future home of a luxury apartment building with a Target store on the ground floor.

“As soon as excavation started several weeks ago, we had dust pouring out into the street, with three machines working simultaneously, but only one hose man. But when we spoke to them about it, they just said they were within DOB [New York City Department of Buildings] guidelines,” said Tom Cayler, president of the 517-525 W. 45th Street Tenant Association.

XIN Development, the US arm of Beijing-based Xinyuan Real Estate, secured permits from the DOB in May to start excavation work at 615 10th Ave., between W. 44th and 45th Sts. The full-block project came with a $108 commercial loan from Bank of the Ozarks, who also provided a $27M bridge loan in January 2016 to help Xinyuan purchase the former Speedway gas station for $57.5M.

The company intends to build a 29,000-square-foot Target retail store, with seven stories on top featuring 82 units of residential housing (with four large apartments on the top floor). By July, they had filed permits for the mixed-use condo and began excavation for the foundation.

Once the dust started flying, neighbors began contacting Community Board 4 (CB4), elected officials, the DOB, and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to complain, with the city’s 311 Service Request Map indicating that about 25 complaints were submitted in July alone from residents adjacent to the site.

“I personally try to avoid walking near the construction site on Tenth, but I inevitably have to bike past it on my way to the Greenway, and have smelled and seen what feels like toxicity in the air,” said Chana Widawski, co-chair of the West 45th/46th Street Block Association. “Neighbors that live closer share daily photographs of the billowing dust; their vantage point indicates minimal dust abatement measures. Some of the restaurants have even had to close outdoor seating because of it.”

Local residents have reported that construction work on the site begins at 7 a.m. every weekday and goes on until almost 6 p.m. at night (after CB4 rejected XIN’s requests to work seven days a week). But Cayler said that their single hose man disconnects from the fire hydrant at 4 p.m., letting the dust fly where it may, creating problems.

Apparently, the DOB and DEP agreed. On July 11, the DOB inspected the site and issued two violations, one for concrete work that ran contrary to approved plans, and another for high vibration readings. And the next day, July 12, inspectors from the DEP issued a violation for “failure to control dust.”

“Frankly, whenever you make complaints as a citizen, no pun intended — you just hold your breath that some inspector will show up and see what you see,” said Cayler. “So last week when the DEP issued a violation for work outside of the scope, I was just like ‘Thank God!’ For these guys, until the DOB or DEP shuts them down for a couple of days, they could care less. We have to assume they are going to continue to be this way until elected officials put pressure on city agencies to get a stop work order and clean up their site.”

“My office has been in direct communication with XIN Development to ensure they take steps to minimize the impact that this construction project has on the community,” said Councilmember Corey Johnson in an email statement to this publication. “Developers have a responsibility to mitigate the impact of construction on the community, especially dust created during the summer months when air quality suffers most. While I appreciate that XIN Development has taken steps like installing sound deadening blankets to reduce noise and more personnel to spray down dust to address these issues, we will continue to work with our city agencies to ensure their compliance.”

In a July 19 letter to DOB Manhattan Borough Commissioner Martin Rebholz and DEP Acting Commissioner Vincent Sapienza, CB4 District Manager Jesse Bodine expressed the “sincere concern and frustration with the lack of environmental mitigation plans” at the site, and urged them to put all current excavation permits on hold for the location.

Bodine spoke of a year of good-faith talks with XIN Development, during which time CB4 repeatedly highlighted the communities’ concerns regarding the environmental impact the project would have on neighboring schools and residents. XIN Development had “repeatedly stated the project would meet city regulations and work with the agencies to follow best practices,” but Bodine, in his July 19 letter, expressed disappointment with the current mitigation efforts, saying, “This was not done and it is clear that only the bare minimum in terms of mitigation is being done currently.”

After noting site visits by representatives from the DOB, DEP, and NYPD, who reported minimal mitigation techniques, and pointing to violations issued by the DOB and DEP, the CB4 letter noted they “do not believe that work on the site should continue until XIN Development and its contactor enact a complete alternative mitigation plan that addresses dust, air quality, noise and vibration and that plan be reviewed by the enforcing city agencies, the elected representatives, and the community.”

In a July 20 email, Hana Kolarikova of XIN Development said the company is taking measures to minimize the impact on the community, assuring that “we have had several visits from DOB and DEP’s representatives and if a violation was found, it was cured immediately.”

On the recommendation of the DEP inspector, they installed sound-deadening blankets on the two sets of chain link gates to deal with noise decibel readings exceeding the allowable range. They spoke to the excavation company about the dust issue, and added another hose man.

“They confirmed that they added another water cannon, so there are two of them now and we requested they added the second man, which they confirmed they would do,” said Kolarikova. “Finally, we have five line-drilling machines onsite. We only run one or two at a time and each machine has a water hose connected to it, so there is no dust being generated by this operation.”

Kolarikova said that there are now no open DOB violations, adding that they were still looking for additional actions they could implement to improve the situation. She also noted that the project was a month ahead of schedule, saying, “Hopefully, we can finish sooner and expose our neighbors to the construction work for a shorter time period.”


DNA Info: Hundreds Protest Trump’s Proposed Transgender Military Ban in Times Square

July 26, 2017

July 26, 2017

MIDTOWN — More than 1,000 demonstrators gathered at the Times Square military recruitment center Wednesday to protest President Donald Trump’s proposed transgender military ban.

Trump announced the ban on Twitter Wednesday morning, writing that the military needed to focus on victory and “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

But protesters countered that a ban would infringe on transgender people’s civil rights.

Yael Leberman, 24, said she had three brothers who served in the Israeli military, where transgender people serve openly.

“To say trans people can’t contribute to the military is bullsh–t,” said Leberman, who is gender nonconforming. “It’s just bullsh–t.”

Vietnam veteran Christopher Countey, 70, said he was angered Trump made the announcement on the 69th anniversary of President Harry Truman integrating the military.

“He’s a coward because he avoided the draft by getting a note from a corrupt doctor,” Countey added.

“He’s a traitor because he and his campaign have colluded with an enemy of this country to influence the democratic process.”

The announcement came while the Senate was in the midst of voting on Affordable Care Act replacement plans.

City Councilman Corey Johnson said he thought transgender people were being used as “scapegoats” to distract from Trump’s failures in office like not yet being able to repeal the ACA.

“This is not just an attack on trans service members,” Johnson said. “This is an attack on the entire United States military by this president.”


DNA Info: Councilman Corey Johnson Talks About His Arrest During Health Care Protests

July 20, 2017

July 20, 2017

Local Councilman Corey Johnson, who was was arrested in Washington Wednesday protesting efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, said that being HIV positive compelled him to demonstrate with dozens of others outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office.

“I’m very open about the fact that I’m HIV positive, and I’m lucky that I’m a City Council member, so I have good health insurance,” Johnson told DNAinfo New York on Thursday after returning to New York. “But there are millions and millions of people who would be immorally affected by a repeal.”

Johnson, chairman of the Council’s health committee, whose district includes Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, the West Village and parts of Flatiron, SoHo and the Upper West Side, was among at least 155 people arrested during the demonstrations Wednesday.

“It’s always a little scary to get arrested, but… when you’re doing it for a cause you believe in, it’s empowering at the same time,” he said. “We were peaceful, told our stories and complied with the Capitol police when they asked us to.”

Facebook videos show the politician chanting outside McConnell’s office before being led handcuffed into a police vehicle outside the building.

Police cuffed Johnson around 4 p.m. Wednesday and released him from custody around 9 p.m., he said, noting it was the fourth time he has been arrested for civil disobedience. He returned to New York City about 1:45 a.m. Thursday, his spokesperson said.

Many of the protesters in D.C. yesterday were HIV and AIDS activists — though “not exclusively,” he noted — and the number of people who occupied Senate office buildings Wednesday “shows how much is on the line.”

“[People] can’t lose their Medicaid, they can’t not have access to life-saving medication and health insurance coverage,” he said. “For a lot of people, this is life and death.”


New York Post: Councilman arrested after protesting outside Mitch McConnell’s office

July 20, 2017

July 20, 2017

City Councilman Corey Johnson was arrested Wednes­day outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s DC office.

Johnson (D-Manhattan) was held briefly for what he said was “an act of peaceful civil disobedience” against the ObamaCare repeal effort.

“I and hundreds of others with pre-existing medical conditions . . . occupied the offices of Republican senators and demanded that they immediately cease all efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act,” wrote Johnson, who is HIV-positive.


Metro: NYC Council Member arrested at #Killthebill healthcare protest in DC

July 20, 2017

July 20, 2017

A New York City Council Member was detained at Capitol Hill yesterday after protesting the repeal of Obamacare, which Republican Senators have been threatening to abolish without a replacement bill.

Corey Johnson of District 3 was taking part in a protest inside the Capitol at Senator Mitch McConnell’s office when he was arrested and removed by authorities while onlookers shot live footage of the action for social media.

The Council Member tweeted a video of himself being escorted out by police while shouting that he was there to defend those in need of healthcare, saying, “This is gonna hurt so many Americans!”

Being HIV-positive, Johnson’s life depends on his coverage to which he says he’s fortunate to have access. In a statement released yesterday evening, Johnson remarked, “As an elected official, I am lucky to have good health care. But there are countless others who could literally die if the Republicans get their way.”

Johnson also called attempts to end the ACA “pure evil.” “We must not allow it,” he stated.

The GOP healthcare bill’s future remains uncertain after the latest version failed to pass the Senate.


New York Daily News: City councilman arrested during protest at Mitch McConnell’s D.C. office to fight Obamacare repeal bid

July 19, 2017

July 19, 2017

City Councilman Corey Johnson was among more than 150 protesters cuffed inside the U.S. Capitol Wednesday while protesting the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare.

Johnson (D-Manhattan), the chair of the Council’s health committee, was arrested around 4 p.m. after a sit-in at the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Hundreds of demonstrators with pre-existing medical conditions targeted the offices of Republican senators.

“I am HIV-positive. As an elected official, I am lucky to have good health care. But there are countless others who could literally die if the Republicans get their way,” Johnson wrote in an email to constituents.

Johnson said he spent about five hours in custody and was charged with misdemeanor incommoding, a District of Columbia statute that prohibits demonstrations inside the Capitol complex.

Capitol police said demonstrators were arrested at three Senate office buildings, saying there were about 45 different locations where protesters gathered.

Of the 150 people arrested, four were charged with resisting arrest.

The Republican health care bill has been stopped for now, after a handful of Republican senators said they would not vote for it, leaving it without the votes needed to pass. McConnell then said he’d hold a vote to repeal Obamacare outright with no immediate replacement, but enough GOP senators have also said they’ll vote against that.

Liberal groups went forward with Wednesday’s protest, saying the Affordable Care Act remains under threat.

“Trump, McConnell and Ryan are still driving hard to repeal the ACA and strip health care from tens of millions of Americans. What they are doing is pure evil. We must not allow it,” Johnson said in a statement.


Chelsea Now: Steps to Safer Streets Sought After Deaths of Chelsea Cyclists

July 19, 2017

July 19, 2017

At a July 17 stakeholders meeting convened in response to a pair of Chelsea-based fatalities involving cyclists hit by charter buses, the Department of Transportation (DOT) offered a list of preventative measures.

On June 17, Michael Mamoukakis, 80, was traveling down Seventh Ave. when a charter bus making a right turn on W. 29th St. struck him, police said. Mamoukakis’ death was less than a week following an incident where Dan Hanegby, a 36-year-old investment banker from Brooklyn, collided with a charter bus on W. 26th St. (btw. Eighth & Seventh Aves.) after swerving to avoid a parked van on June 12, according to police. The similar nature and proximity of the two deaths led to Councilmember Corey Johnson calling for an emergency meeting with the DOT, NYPD, other electeds, Community Board 4 (CB4), and bus companies immediately following Mamoukakis’ death.

The group, which excluded the bus companies, met on Monday to discuss possible next steps to improve safety and mitigate present dangers. According to a DOT spokesperson, the agency was looking at possibilities for more protected crosstown bike lanes. Additionally, the DOT is looking for ways to better communicate the city’s designated truck routes to bus companies and drivers, including meetings and training with the company representatives.

In terms of punitive measures, the DOT noted increased use of warning letters, a stricter process for bus stop permit renewals, and working with the NYPD for more thorough enforcement on buses traveling outside of designated truck routes, according to Johnson’s office.

The councilmember said the morning meeting was productive as both the DOT and stakeholders were prepared with solid ideas towards increased safety.

“Convening this step of stakeholders is a crucial step in helping ensure that our streets are safe for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike,” Johnson said in a statement. “This is literally a life or death issue.”

Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, who attended the meeting, said far too many pedestrians and cyclists were being injured and killed by buses and trucks on streets they don’t belong.

“DOT and NYPD are right to step up their enforcement of truck and bus route regulations and educating and warning bus and truck drivers to obey the law, or pay the consequences,” Gottfried said.

Christine Berthet, a CB4 member and attendee at the stakeholders meeting, said there were a lot of ideas exchanged, but it would ultimately come down to implementation. CB4 has been aware of the hectic situation with the charter buses using non-truck-routes and has already brought up many of the possible solutions mentioned.

But on top of protected crosstown bike lanes and better enforcement, Berthet mentioned the idea of permit revocation for certain reckless drivers and their companies.

“If proven that the behavior of the buses was responsible for death, we’d like the permit to be taken away from the bus companies,” Berthet said.

As for future incidents, the CB4 member recommended that the NYPD not speak about the incidents until the investigation was more complete to avoid misinformation.

While the bus companies were not involved in the July 17 meeting, Johnson’s office is working on scheduling the next meeting to include those stakeholders.


Chelsea Now: B-Ballers Back to Sinking Baskets at Renovated Court

July 19, 2017

July 19, 2017

It’s game on at the Robert Fulton Houses as officials unveiled the newly renovated basketball court on Ninth Ave.

Young b-ballers, parents, and community advocates joined New York City Housing Authority reps, elected officials, and the developer during the July 12 ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new courts between W. 18th and 19th Sts.

The court renovations were done as part of Artimus Construction’s 18-story affordable housing project at 413 W. 18th St. that would provide 160 units of permanently affordable units. The $77.8 million development will build onto the complex’s parking lot and began construction in May. As part of the deal, the developer agreed to renovate the basketball courts and the children’s playground.

The previous courts at Fulton Houses had seen years of wear and tear resulting in bent backboards and torn nets, according to the players. But the renovation breathes new life into the courts with fresh hoops and a vibrant red and blue layout.

Jordan Hughes, who’s at the court daily, said the old backboards and ground were uneven. Many spectators would often have to stand as the benches were sparse and beat up, he added. Zayin Bumbray, another frequent player from Fulton Houses, said the old courts looked trashy.

“The courts were busted, the hoops were destroyed, the nets were torn up,” Bumbray said.

But now, their local court is ready for some serious pickup games.

“It feels better,” Hughes said of the new court. “It helps you work on your shot to make you more dominant and the spacing is good, it’s like a real actual court.”

Councilmember Corey Johnson said the court was a big win for the residents as it’s rare a developer is willing to offer amenities or assets to the community they invade.

“In one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the United States of America, it takes a lot of teamwork to accomplish more than just what a developer wants to potentially give or what the city is asking for them,” Johnson said at the ribbon cutting.

“To make this happen is a really big deal,” Johnson said. “It’s because of all your hard work and us coming together collectively… to ask for more.”


Patch: Basketball Courts At Chelsea Public Housing Complex Renovated

July 14, 2017

July 14, 2017

CHELSEA, NY — Newly renovated basketball courts were officially opened this week at Chelsea’s Robert Fulton Houses.

The public housing complex got the newly renovated courts, located on Ninth Avenue between 18th and 19th streets, as part of a massive new development project coming to the area. The public housing complex is getting a brand new building, courtesy of Artimus Construction, which will bring more affordable homes to the area.

In May, the city’s public housing agency announced that the new building at Robert Fulton would bring 160 more units to Chelsea, and those units would be permanently affordable.

Artimus Construction, which won the bid to build Robert Fulton’s new building, also agreed to renovate the basketball courts, in addition to updating the local playground and parking lot.

Community leaders including Council Member Corey Johnson, who represents Chelsea in City Council, gathered at the courts on Wednesday for a ribbon cutting at the new courts.

In total, the new developments at Robert Fulton are expected to cost about $77.8 million, according to NYCHA.