Monthly Archives

October 2017

News

Chelsea News: The Greening of Chelsea

October 31, 2017

By: Liz Hardaway
October 31, 2017

As the leaves begin to change, the urban jungle can look forward to a greener fall.

Council Member Corey Johnson has allocated $300,000 to plant trees in every viable tree pit in District 3. Approximately 200 trees will be planted by the end of November in Chelsea’s 495 acres.

“Street trees are pretty and nice to look at, but their benefits extend much further,” Johnson said. “They absorb pollutants and generate fresh air. They provide shade from the sun and food and shelter for birds and wildlife. They make our neighborhoods really feel like neighborhoods.”

According to the NYC Parks & Recreation Department, 150 trees have already been planted this year in District 3 as of Oct. 20. Only six were planted in 2016. Currently, the district has a total of 8,484 trees, according to the Parks’ 2015 street tree census, with a theoretical maximum planting capacity of 3,034 new trees.

“Young street trees face many challenges in NYC,” a representative from the NYC Parks & Recreation Department said, “including air pollution, drought and soil compaction.”

In order to better care for these trees, residents need to water them once a week with 15 to 20 gallons during the summer, remove litter and weeds and prevent dog owners from leaving waste in the tree bed. Signage and tree guards can usually help keep trees healthier than if they are left without the extra help.

The first round of funding came from participatory budgeting, with $100,000 going toward the NYC Parks and Recreation Department in the spring of 2016. This spring, Johnson’s camp decided to allocate $200,000 more towards the tree initiative from the FY18 budget.

To get a tree pit filled, submit a tree service request at nycgovparks.org or e-mail district3@council.nyc.gov.

News

Chelsea Now: 20 Months After Shutoff, Tenants Still Getting Burned by Lack of Cooking Gas

October 25, 2017


By: Winnie McCroy
October 25, 2017

A group of Chelsea tenants who have not had cooking gas for over 20 months — and who often don’t have reliable heat or hot water — are fired up over what they call a pattern of harassment by a bad landlord who just wants to see them leave.

In an Apr. 19 article, Chelsea Now first reported about an ongoing situation at the five-story apartment building at 311 W. 21st St. (btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.), where longtime tenants Kelly Maurer and Jordan Lage say new owners NYC Management Corp. continue to collect their rent checks every month (via Certified Mail, which some tenants say the company refuses to cash) while failing to provide much maintenance beyond trash removal.

Con Edison cut off the gas back in Feb. 2016 after a gas leak — but when former owner Sidney Rubell sold the property, plans for a new gas system were put on hold. Since that time, tenants say they’ve been subject to harassment, including regular shutdowns of heat and hot water, in an effort to get them to move out.

“It was 41 degrees the other day, and there was no heat,” said Steven Zivkovic, who has lived in the apartment for 47 years. “Someone needs to pay attention to this!”

“We have hot water, but on the last few cold nights, no heat was coming through the radiator,” said Lage. “The weather hasn’t been too cold yet, but everyone in the building is girding their loins and saying, ‘Here we go again!’ ”

The clock is ticking as winter approaches, but a recent development might provide some hope. As the result of a legal case brought against the landlord by the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) a judge has ordered that gas must be restored to the property by the end of this month, or face consequences for non-compliance.

“We will continue to support the tenants in housing court and bring our own cases against the owner as warranted,” said HPD Press Secretary Juliet Pierre-Antoine. “If a property owner creates an unsafe living environment for their tenants, we will continue to use all of the enforcement capabilities tools [available] to us to hold them accountable. All tenants throughout the City deserve safe and decent homes. We will continue to monitor the situation.”

Recalling the events of Oct. 2, Maurer told Chelsea Now, “We were heartened by the fact that a gas plumber showed up with a permit that seemed to be within the law for both occupancy and regulations,” even when that worker reportedly told tenants that if all went well, they would have cooking gas restored within four months.

But those hopes were dashed a week later, Maurer recalled, when NYC Management Corp. sent tenants an email acknowledging the problem, then asking if they’d like two-burner hot plates and toaster ovens to rectify it.

“We’ve had that since February 2016 — that’s the only way I can cook,” said Lage, disappointed. “They’re late on that ball by a year and a half.”

Zivkovic echoed this sentiment, saying, “Getting a $25 hot plate from Amazon does not appease me. We need to expose this.”

Maurer wrote the management company back to say ‘no thanks,’ but noted that the company delivered a shipment of cooking appliances on Oct. 21, which residents refused to accept. In her email, Maurer noted she told her landlord that Councilmember Corey Johnson’s office wanted to set up a meeting between the landlord and tenants to discuss how they could move forward in the future, so the company could safely begin construction while still providing basic services to existing tenants.

Said Maurer, “The email I got back from NYC Management said they’d been in full communication with all of the tenants at 311, and the request to meet with us and the Councilmember’s office was denied. They won’t meet with us and they won’t meet with them.”

“My office has been working with tenants of 311 West 21st Street to ensure they are safe during this completely unacceptable situation,” Councilmember Johnson told Chelsea Now. “They have now been without gas for 20 months and I understand that the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development has brought a comprehensive litigation case against the owner and received a consent order from a judge to restore gas to the building. I encourage anyone who is unsuccessful in resolving heat issues with their landlord to report it to 311 and my office at 212-564-7757.”


Tenants of the building say that Matt Green, Councilmember Johnson’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Community Affairs, has been a tireless advocate for them, with Lage noting, “It’s nice to know there’s actually a politician’s office that’s on your side. But my understanding is that NYC Management just blows them off. They don’t show up or they just pay the fines. To them, this is just the cost of doing business.”

As reported in an Oct. 4 Chelsea Now article (“New Laws Give More Muscle To Tenant Safety”), tenants subject to these conditions have been given some hope via a raft of legislation by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who on Aug. 30 signed into law 18 pieces of tenant safety legislation designed to mitigate these “construction as harassment” tactics. Tenants of 311 W. 21st St. may be able to benefit from NYC Councilmember Stephen Levin’s bill to create a Real Time Enforcement Unit within the Department of Buildings (DOB) to quickly follow up on complaints of work being done without a permit.

Another part of this package was NYC Councilmember Helen Rosenthal’s bill creating an Office of Tenant Advocate to serve as an internal watchdog at the DOB. Although it’s not yet clear who will be staffing this position, the position will go into effect on Dec. 28.

“This is an instance in which residents and local elected officials have had to struggle to get the Department of Buildings to do the right thing,” said Councilmember Rosenthal in an Oct. 23 email to Chelsea Now. “It looks like DOB has taken some corrective actions, but it’s a large bureaucracy and those steps took a lot of outside work. When the Office of Tenant Advocate is installed within the DOB, we will have staff at the agency who will be solely responsible for defending tenants’ rights — helping to get things right and, crucially, to continue to follow up until situations like these are fully addressed.”

Although representatives of the DOB originally argued that a Tenant Advocate was not necessary, DOB Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Rudansky told Chelsea Now in an Oct. 18 email that the “DOB won’t tolerate landlords who use construction activity to harass their tenants. We are a proud partner in the city’s Tenant Harassment Protection Task Force, though which we’ve conducted more than 2,000 tenant-related safety inspections in the last year, including at this property.”

Tenants maintain that it’s a vicious circle, with the landlord illegally applying for permits. Once tenants inform the DOB that rent-regulated tenants are in the building, an inspector’s findings may invalidate the permit — after which the landlord just repeats the application process.

The past history of permit applications submitted and denied speaks to this situation, although the DOB indicates that inspectors have found no violations at this building since an Aug. 2017 inspection, and no complaints.

Tenants are skeptical that more legislation will solve their problems. Lage said it may depend on how the rules and regulations define “middle class,” as many advocates are only authorized to help those who fall well below the poverty line. Maurer noted that 11 of the laws passed have the potential to help lower-middle class people throughout the city — but only if they are enforced.

“At this point, with 20 months of no cooking gas, many calls to the DOB about no heat and hot water last winter, with repeated falsifications on submitted permits, where are the fines?” asked Lage. “Where are the consequences for them that would make them stop doing this? What does it take before the city steps up and says, ‘enough?’ These people are being harassed and abused in their own homes.”

News

Chelsea Now: A New President — At Least at London Terrace

October 25, 2017

By: Levar Alonzo
October 25, 2017

A peaceful transition of power and an acknowledgement of past service distinguished the annual meeting of the London Terrace Tenants Association (LTTA), held Monday night at the Avenues: The World School (10th Ave., btw. W. 25th & 26th Sts).

LTTA outgoing president Andy Humm — a frequent contributor to our sister publication Gay City News and co-host of the long-running weekly LGBT news show Gay USA (gayusatv.org) — passed the baton to Inge Ivchenko, who got down to the business of presiding over her first meeting. Humm is not going away completely, as he will now serve as secretary for the association.

“The only thing that I regret and wish I could fight for more was the pool,” said Humm. “Unfortunately we are not getting the pool back.” Humm noted the association won a $165/month (per stabilized tenant) permanent rent reduction to compensate for the loss of the amenity.

Humm encouraged all tenants willing to commit the requisite time and effort to run for office and help fight for their neighbor’s rights. Offering a bit of good news, Humm expressed delight that Sept. 23’s London Terrace Street Fair made more of a profit than the annual event has in recent years.

State Senator Brad Hoylman joined the meeting to present Humm with a Proclamation that officially designated Oct. 23, 2017 as “Andy Humm Appreciation Day.”

Hoylman gave the award to Humm for all the work he has done in serving the LTTA and, by extension, the surrounding community. The Proclamation read, in part, “Humm has been a tenacious defender of tenants rights and the rights of New Yorkers.” The award came as a surprise to Humm, who noted that he often has to write things that are critical of politicians.

“I joined the association because there has to be a check on unlimited landlord power,” said Humm in a Facebook message posted late in the day on Oct. 23 (which began with a cheeky alert that there was “less than an hour to observe” Andy Humm Appreciation Day).

“None of us does this kind of work for recognition,” the posting noted. “I was actually shamed into joining the group by a past leader who I was offering criticism to back in ’91 without offering to “DO” anything… I saw his point: we’re all in this together and we all need to pitch in however we can. So, at least tonight a small group of Americans got to have a new president — something we all deeply desire.”

Other notable events at the LTTA meeting included a presentation by board member Mark Shulman, who announced the enhancement of an online building staff directory. The directory, which can be seen at LTTA.info, features the name, job title and photo of building staffers so residents can acknowledge who they are (and it helps with tipping during holiday time).

District 3 City Councilmember Corey Johnson was in attendance to announce that there are two proposed locations — W. 29th St. (btw. 11th & 12th Aves.) and W. 37th St. (btw. Ninth & 10th Aves.) — to move Emergency Medical Service 7 from its current location: under the High Line on W. 23rd St. (btw. Ninth & 10th Aves.). Johnson said that the developers of these two locations are very interested in making space for the EMS unit.

The NYFD placed the emergency medical unit under the High Line in response to the closing of St. Vincent’s Hospital and the need for medical service to Manhattan’s West Side. The Councilmember, since his days as chair of Community Board 4, has been looking to move the EMS station because of loud sirens, overcrowding, and emissions from its idling vehicles.

Gabriel Lewenstein from Public Advocate Letitia James’ office was at the meeting to announce that as of Oct. 31 there will be an official ban on job seekers being asked of their previous salary history at interviews.

“Let your neighbors and friends know that it will be now illegal to be asked of their previous job salary at their interviews,” he said. This is to protect and bring about more equality in the workforce for women and minorities, according to the public advocate staffer. James’ office also announced that all public schools would offer free school lunch for all students.

A presentation by Lieutenant Joe Delligatti of the FDNY offered safety tips to avoid fires and guidelines on protocols to observe during a fire. Delligatti said that he would that he would take an hour out his schedule to come and give residents an in-depth lecture on fire safety. The FDNY offers Fire Safety Materials on a wide range of topics. Safety publications are downloadable and printable at www1.nyc.gov/site/fdny/education/fire-and-life-safety/fire-safety-educational-publications.page.

Events

Crossing Guard Appreciation Ceremony on Monday, November 13

October 23, 2017

I’m proud to host a Crossing Guard Appreciation Ceremony on Monday, November 13th at 5:30pm. Please come to the 6th floor of Local 372 at 125 Barclay Street (Corner of Westside Highway) to help show our appreciation for the people who keep our children safe every day!

News

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.

News

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

News

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.”

News

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.

News

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.