Monthly Archives

October 2017


The Villager: Salvation Army building and theater on W. 14th St. both landmarked

October 19, 2017

By: The Villager
October 19, 2017

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to designate The Salvation Army National and Territorial Headquarters, located in the Village, as a New York City individual landmark.

A focal point of the Salvation Army’s activities in the U.S., the headquarters, at 120-130 W. 14th St., between Sixth and Seventh Aves., was constructed from 1929 to ’35 to serve the American operations of the organization, an international religious and charitable organization started in England in 1865 by William and Catherine Booth.

The Art Deco headquarters building was opened and dedicated in May 1930 as the centerpiece of The Salvation Army’s Golden Jubilee National Congress, in celebration of 50 years of mission work in the U.S. and the Army’s contributions to American society.

“I am very proud that the commission voted to designate the original National and Territorial Headquarters of The Salvation Army, an organization that serves in 127 countries around the world and annually assists approximately 25 million people in this country alone,” said Meenakshi Srinivasan, the L.P.C. chairperson. “This is an important designation, which recognizes the architectural significance of this Art Deco-style complex and the cultural significance of the organization in New York and the nation.”

In 1895, The Salvation Army erected an auditorium and office building on part of this site. By the 1920s, though, a larger headquarters to serve a wider variety of purposes was required. The choice of the pre-eminent architect Ralph Walker reflected the group’s desire for a signature structure. Walker created a simple but striking Art Deco brick-and-cast-stone complex of three buildings specifically meeting the needs of this organization.

The office building and auditorium are the subject of Monday’s designation; the third building, a 17-story dormitory built originally for working women, is already part of the Greenwich Village Historic District and is not part of this individual designation.

Facing W. 14th St., the modern, 11-story office structure is surmounted by a tower at its northeastern corner, and is adjacent to a smaller building. They share a distinctive, arched entranceway, providing a large public gathering space that leads to the auditorium.

Local politicians cheered the designation.

“Lower Manhattan maintains a number of important structures that contribute to the historical, cultural, and architectural history of New York City, and the Salvation Army Headquarters Building and Theater is an important part of this history,” said Assemblymember Deborah Glick. “This building is a beautifully maintained and functional theater that should receive landmark designation and be kept in the historical record for its acclaimed Art Deco style. I strongly support this landmark designation for our community.”

Added Councilmember Corey Johnson, “I thank the L.P.C. for acknowledging this historically and architecturally significant building, which, for many years, has served as a community-service asset and as a prominent piece of neighborhood architecture. This action will ensure that this 1920s Deco masterpiece will survive for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.”

The Salvation Army served a critical role in helping New Yorkers during the Great Depression, establishing free employment bureaus for men and women, opening free food stations in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and providing food and shelter for unemployed men and families.

In 1982 the national headquarters relocated to Verona, N.J., with the Eastern Territorial headquarters moving to Nyack, N.Y., in the late 1990s.

Today, the complex’s office-building portion continues to house the offices of the Greater New York Division of The Salvation Army, as well as a social-services center that offers alcohol and drug treatment, casework services, detoxification services and transitional housing, while the four-story auditorium building is still used for worship services, meetings and concerts.


Chelsea Now: The Time Has Come for Countdown Clocks

October 18, 2017

Photo by William Alatriste

By: Levar Alonzo
October 18, 2017

This was one Friday the 13th that turned out to be anything but unlucky, at least for riders on the M11 bus route. On that day last week, City Councilmember Corey Johnson joined Department of Transportation representatives, local residents, and transportation advocates to officially announce the rollout of real-time passenger information (RTPI) bus clocks in District 3.

“Whether you use the bus to get to work, shop for groceries, or visit your friends and family, these new countdown bus clocks will help you make it to your destination on time,” said Johnson.

The RPTI clocks were installed at the W. 42nd and W. 34th St. bus stops along 10th Ave., to help improve service along the M11 route. The new bus clocks, equipped with both audio and visual components, will provide thousands of riders who use the route each week with an accurate countdown on when the next bus will arrive. Riders can see the clocks ticking down the minutes and also push a button to hear a recording telling of the next arriving bus. The M11 route serves riders between the West Village and Harlem.

These two clocks are the first of many to be installed throughout the district, with funding awarded through the Councilmember Johnson’s Participatory Budgeting (PB) process.

“I find it to be extremely handy. It kind of fills you with joy to know when the next bus will arrive. It’s like a slight reprieve from all the other delays in the system,” said Joanna Blum, a 30-year resident of the West Village.

Photo by William Alatriste

PB is an initiative which gives residents a hand in deciding how their tax dollars are spent by setting aside $1 million in capital funds for projects proposed, developed, and voted for by community members.

From last year’s PB process, $125,000 was allocated to install more RTPI’s throughout the district — bringing the total amount to $225,000 (similar funding came as a result of previous PB voting).

“Through the participatory budgeting process, we were able to take this important step toward achieving our goal of enhancing bus service throughout District 3,” said Johnson. “The community and government partnership showed with this project a model for projects everywhere. We’ve got a long way to go to improve public transportation in New York but these bus clocks are going to add a lot of convenience to our trips.”

Photo by William Alatriste


Chelsea Now: Cyclist Fatalities Addressed; Route Adherence Stressed, Crosstown Bike Lanes Suggested

October 10, 2017

By: Dusica Sue Malesevic
October 10, 2017

For the first time since two cyclists were killed this past summer after being struck by charter buses, bus companies sat down last week with the community, elected officials, the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) and the NYPD.

Brandon Buchanan, director of regulatory affairs for the American Bus Association, said it was the first time they had been invited. The meeting, which took place on Thurs., Oct. 5 and was convened by Councilmember Corey Johnson’s office, was a good opportunity to establish a partnership, Buchanan, who attended the meeting, said by phone.

The association includes around 800 bus companies across North America as members along with tour operators and companies, Peter Pantuso, the association’s president, said by phone. About 65 percent of the motor coach companies on the road are part of the association, he said.

Representatives from the Bus Association of New York, United Motorcoach Association, Academy Bus, NJ Motor, Coach USA and Trans-Bridge Lines, Inc. also attended to the meeting, according to Johnson’s office.

One of the main issues is bus companies using appropriate routes — the same ones trucks utilize — while in New York City.

Buchanan said that in one of the incidents over the summer, the bus company was not locally based — it was from the Midwest — and that bus routes need to be “easily accessible for those who are not locally familiar.”

Christine Berthet, who attended the meeting, said bus companies need to familiarize themselves with the local laws. Berthet is the co-chair of Community Board 4’s Transportation Planning Committee and one of the founders of the pedestrian advocacy group CHEKPEDS (Clinton Hell’s Kitchen Coalition for Pedestrian Safety).

“That’s their job,” Berthet said by phone.

State Senator Brad Hoylman said, “If the bus companies are coming into New York City, they need to follow our laws and regulations.”

Berthet said the bus companies need to use proper routes to avoid fatalities in the future. Depending on a bus’ destination, there are instances they can go on streets outside those designated for trucks. For instance, if they are picking up passengers on W. 15th St., they are allowed to do so, she explained.

However, bus “drivers must leave the truck routes at the nearest intersection to their destination and return at the nearest possible location,” according to the DOT’s website. “Bus operators should always plan ahead before traveling in New York City to familiarize themselves with appropriate routes, planned construction work and traffic conditions,” according to the site.

On Mon., June 12, 36-year-old Brooklyn resident Dan Hanegby was using a Citi Bike to get to work when he was hit by a charter bus on W. 26th St., between Seventh and Eighth Aves., according to police. Five days later, on Sat., June 17, a charter bus making a right turn on W. 29th St. hit an 80-year-old Chelsea resident, Michael Mamoukakis. Both died.

“We pressed the bus companies to use GPS systems that clearly show the truck routes they are required to use, as truck companies do,” Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, who attended the meeting, said in an email statement to Chelsea Now.

Gottfried added the bus companies need to improve the education and training of their drivers. “We called on city DOT and the NYPD to join in pressing and requiring the companies to make these changes,” he said.

Pantuso, the president of the bus trade association, said by phone that “having the information available to them is a really good first step,” for out-of-town bus companies. Buchanan said that the DOT has an education campaign that they are looking to support. “We look forward to continued dialogue and being part of the solution,” he said.

“It was a good start to a longer conversation,” Hoylman said by phone. “It’s an important issue for our district.”

Hoylman, who attended the meeting along with a member of his staff, said he uses Citi Bikes frequently and that the first fatality, when Dan Hanegby was hit, happened directly in front of his office, saying “it was very unnerving.”

Some bus companies utilize a GPS tool to ensure that drivers stay on the designated routes and others are able to monitor idling, sending alerts to their drivers if they run their engines too long, Hoylman said.

Bus idling has been a concern for the community, with Berthet saying, “I raised the idling issue because our neighborhood has the third worst air quality in the city.”

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is looking to revamp its bus terminal — on Eighth Ave. (btw. W. 40th & 42nd Sts.) — to increase capacity by 40 percent by 2040. “What we should be doing is decreasing the pollution,” she said.

Buchanan, from the American Bus Association, said there was a “good dialogue” about idling at the meeting, and, “No company wants to waste money on gas.”

Last week, the Transportation Committee supported a proposal from the business improvement district, Hudson Yards / Hell’s Kitchen Alliance, that is asking for protected bike lanes on W. 37 and 38th Sts., between Eighth and 11th Aves., Berthet said.

The community board has already asked multiple times for protected crosstown bike lanes, which would definitely help with crashes, she said.

Erik Bottcher, Councilmember Johnson’s chief of staff, said by phone the DOT plans to unveil a crosstown protected bike lane proposal late this fall or winter.

The DOT did not respond to questions about the meeting, including ones regarding a crosstown protected bike lane proposal.

Hoylman said the DOT is working on it, and that “it can’t come soon enough. As a cyclist, as a husband, as a parent, I think about this a lot. It’s a city that had been built around vehicles, and our traffic laws and infrastructure needs to be updated to reflect that we have hundreds of new cyclists on the street.”

Johnson declined requests for a phone interview, but said in an email statement, “The DOT has come forward with a number of proposals to address pedestrian and cyclist safety, and I look forward to seeing more, including protected crosstown bike lanes.”

He added, “Only by getting all stakeholders to the table will we be able to adequately address these issues. The bus companies need to be part of the solution. There needs to be better training, better communication between DOT and the bus companies [and] better enforcement.”


Chelsea Now: MSCC Seeks Seed Money for Midtown Rooftop Garden

October 4, 2017

By: Dusica Sue Malesevic
October 4, 2017

The Midtown South Community Council’s cleanup crusade continues.

While the council, known as MSCC, did not have meetings in July or August, its president, John A. Mudd, and its board members were still busy working on improvements for the area, which spans 29th to 45th Sts., from Lexington to Ninth Aves.

“We’ve had a few successes over the summer,” Mudd said at the council’s most recent meeting on Thurs., Sept. 21. “We had garbage dumping that was going on quite a bit in the neighborhood. There [were] several different sites around Midtown.”

MSCC, with the help of the Midtown Community Court, recently did its fourth cleanup operation, picking up trash and other items that included rusted, derelict bikes and construction cones, he told the crowd gathered at the Midtown South Precinct at 357 W. 35th St. btw. Eighth and Ninth Aves.

Derelict bikes — attached to lampposts, railings, tree guards, scaffolds and other street furniture — have been a problem in the area, and Mudd said they are looking to install some type of bike rack to help mitigate it.

Additional bike racks are one of several proposed projects that the council hopes will get a slice of the $1 million Participatory Budgeting pie through Council Member Corey Johnson’s office. The community gets the opportunity to vote on which projects should get funding, and the Council Member’s office hosted a kickoff event in late September.

At the meeting, Mudd discussed a project that has been long in the making: a rooftop garden on the top of the Midtown South Precinct. “We’ve got a rooftop garden proposal edited, sent out,” he said. “We’re still looking for answers.”

The council has partnered with Inner City Farmers, which has a rooftop garden at 205 W. 39th St., to grow vegetables, herbs, and fruits. Mudd said later in a phone interview that the NYPD is still considering the proposal. “We’re still trying to push them for that,” he said. “We’re looking at other options.”

Mudd went to the District 3 Participatory Budgeting event on Sat., Sept. 23, and met with Judith Dahill, a librarian from the High School of Fashion Industries on W. 24th St. Dahill’s interest in a green roof for the school “might be a perfect fit,” said Mudd. “The rooftop idea seemed to have a lot of interest,” he said, and noted he is hoping to get some funding for the rooftop garden project. Depending on how much funding is received, the garden may be able to provide a work opportunity for someone who is homeless, Mudd said.

Inner City Farmer gives the majority of its produce away to a women’s homeless shelter. Mudd said he wants the rooftop garden to be a self-sustaining enterprise with the hope there might be several in the neighborhood.

Other projects include getting the sidewalk repaired on a stretch of Eighth Ave. from W. 35th to 40th Sts. “It’s in shambles,” he said. “It’s horrific really.” And Eugene Sinigalliano, the council’s beautification director, is going to spearhead an effort to take “care of Port Authority’s trees along 40th St. between Eighth and Ninth,” Mudd said. “They’re planting new trees along… that street and we’re going to be taking care of that.”

Other proposals for Participatory Budgeting funding focus on resources for the homeless, including a day space where the homeless could gather, Mudd said. Homelessness has been on the council’s radar and it works with several nonprofits and outreach groups on the issue.

During the council’s summer hiatus, frustration mounted over quality-of-life concerns and the homeless. At the meeting, residents wanted to know what could be done. Several cited behavior — masturbating, having sex in the open, urinating and defecating, drug use and continuous inebriation, among others — that concerned them, with some parents saying their children had seen it as well.

At the council’s June meeting, Inspector Russell Green, commanding officer of the Midtown South Precinct, said the precinct had been selected for a pilot program with the city’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS). After the meeting, Green told this publication four teams twice during the day were going out to do homeless outreach.

Lt. Louis Marines said at the most recent meeting the team goes out on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and that, “We’ve made close to 600 contacts.” Often people will not accept services right away. Earlier this year, when a reporter from this publication accompanied an outreach team from the nonprofit Breaking Ground, which works to get the homeless inside and housed. Members of the team said a lot of outreach is about repeated contact and it could take years to get someone inside.

Matt Green, deputy chief of staff to Council Member Johnson, said, “This is a very difficult issue… We want to be compassionate but we also want to make sure that our quality of life is not destroyed by people urinating and defecating and engaging in illegal activity.”

Mudd, who has worked on this issue for a some time, said he understood residents’ frustration, and encouraged people to get involved in any way they could. “As a community and as a police department, we have to really get our hands dirty and participate, find solutions,” he said.


Strausmedia: Helping homeless youth

October 4, 2017

By: Liz Hardaway
October 4, 2017

City Council members presented four pieces of legislation last Thursday that would help the city’s efforts with combating youth homelessness.

The legislation included raising the age for runaway homeless youth from 21 to 24; streamlining youth intake at the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) from the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD); extending how long youth can stay in a shelter from 30 to 60 days, and 120 days with guardian permission; and requiring DYCD to never turn away a homeless youth.

“While we support the intent of the following bills,” said Commissioner Bill Chong of DYCD, “it would be extremely challenging for the Administration to implement these measures without adequate funding.”

“Young people who face the cold hard truth of aging out,” Alexander Perez, 24, who testified at the city council hearing for the Committee on Youth Services on Thursday, “now [have] to understand why things like funding come in between the city’s youth having a semblance of what home is.”

DHS currently has three shelters that solely house homeless youth with a capacity of 167 beds, according to Council Member Steve Levin.

“Clearly there are not enough beds for this population,” Levin said.

Chong said that 525 beds were available through the DYCD Runaway Homeless Youth (RHY) drop-in centers and crisis shelters, and 128 are in-progress to being implemented. DYCD also plans on increasing the price per bed to $47,000, allowing greater funding for services per youth.

“Runaway homeless youth are commonly referred to as one of the most vulnerable populations in New York,” Councilman Corey Johnson said Thursday at the hearing. “It doesn’t fully describe the gruesome reality of physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse and exploitation that young people endure when they are forced to live on the street.”

Typically, DYCD claims to serve an average of 474 youth each night, with 50 beds available, according to Susan Haskell, the deputy commissioner of youth services.

“We can find a bed for any young person,” Haskell said. “The number of truly unsheltered youth has been very small for the past couple of years, around 44 unsheltered age 21 or under … many more are unstably housed.”

However, there appears to be some discrepancies between the numbers obtained by DYCD and other sources. In July 2017, there was a reported total of 60,856 homeless people sleeping in the New York City municipal shelter system, according to the Coalition for the Homeless. At one downtown drop-in center, The Door, which primarily provides services for youth development, 45 percent of young people can’t get shelter when they request it, according to Sarah Meckler, the center’s assistant director of special populations.

“We’re hearing two things that don’t jive,” Levin said. “Honestly it’s up to [DYCD] and the providers to explain … why you’re not on the same page.”

During the hearing, Levin received information that on the previous night, the Ali Forney Center on West 35th Street reported that they had 12 youths in their drop-in center overnight because of a lack of crisis beds to send them to. The Ali Forney Center is a 24-hour drop-in center that has become the “largest agency dedicated to LGBTQ homeless youths in the country,” according to their website. The center serves nearly 1,400 youth annually and provides over 70,000 meals annually.

Senior director Randolf Scott of DYCD gave out his number during the hearing, 1-646-457-2705, to ensure that no youth goes without a bed.