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New York Times: Trying to Save a 1950s Mural of 1800s Chelsea From Demolition

November 22, 2017

By: Peter Libbey
November 22, 2017

The battle is on to prevent a mural depicting New York City’s past from becoming history.

Julien Binford’s 1954 “A Memory of 14th Street and 6th Avenue,” a 110-foot-long canvas painting of the intersection during the late 19th century, is housed inside a bank building set to be converted into condominiums and retail space. The interior, which Binford also designed, has already been removed.

City Councilman Corey Johnson, a Democrat who represents the neighborhood, and the preservationist group Save Chelsea are trying to convince the developer to either preserve the mural or turn it over to someone who will.

“Save Chelsea would very much like to see the mural saved and protected,” said Laurence Frommer, one of the group’s leaders. “And we would, of course, like it to be done in the proper way.”

The property’s developer, Gemini Rosemont, is open to preserving the mural but has not yet committed to doing so.

“We don’t have enough information to make any decisions at this point,” said Brian Ferrier, Gemini Rosemont’s vice president of development. “We’re interested in the community’s thoughts about this, and we’re going down the road to find a solution.” He added that the new building is still being designed, and no date has been set for demolishing the supporting walls on which the mural hangs.

The mural is painted on canvas, not plaster, which significantly eases the burden of preservation. The developer contacted several galleries to determine its value and see if there was any interest in the work. Mr. Ferrier says that they did not receive any positive responses. “It was kind of crickets.”

Jamestown, the real estate company that owns the neighborhood’s Chelsea Market, expressed interest in helping to preserve the mural after being contacted by a representative of Save Chelsea. On Tuesday, Erik Bottcher, Mr. Johnson’s chief of staff, said that Google had contacted his office to say it would like to play a role in protecting Binford’s painting.

Local leaders were alerted to the existence of the mural by Andrew Cronson, a junior at New York University, in October. “I walked by this sort of mundane bank on the corner of 6th Avenue, and its ghostly presence struck me,” he said of mural. When he returned to the building and saw demolition permits posted there, he contacted several local preservationist groups, and Save Chelsea answered the call.

The painting’s subject is the intersection of 14th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan as it might have looked at the end of the 1800s. Horse-drawn carriages compete with women carrying parasols for the right of way. Commuters climb the stairs to the aboveground train, and crowds congregate on sidewalks where vendors hawk their wares. A marching band on parade startles a horse and what appears to be a young couple strolls, oblivious to the commotion surrounding them.

Though Binford, who died in 1997, is not well known, “A Memory of 14th Street and 6th Avenue” is connected to an important tradition of America painting, Jon Ritter, a professor of architecture and urbanism at N.Y.U., explained in a phone interview. Binford had painted a government-commissioned mural for a Mississippi post office in 1939, and Professor Ritter noted the Chelsea mural’s aesthetic kinship with the government-funded large-scale works of the Great Depression. The painting, he said, also bears the influence of Mexican muralists like Diego Rivera and of European Cubists like Picasso and Braque.

“It’s clearly not a linear picture of a single moment of time on this street,” Professor Ritter said. “He’s using a radically distorted or fragmented approach to storytelling to show a number of different scenes at once. The idea of Cubism was to represent multiple time sequences on one single canvas.”

By the time Binford painted the mural, the world it portrays was long gone. Cars had replaced horses and carriages, and parasols were long out of fashion. Today, the building stands at the intersection of Chelsea, the West Village and the Meatpacking District, three of Manhattan’s most expensive neighborhoods. According to city records, Gemini Rosemont bought the one-story building in April for $42.4 million.

“It’s alarming when something so special comes close to being demolished,” Mr. Johnson wrote by email. “Binford’s mural is a window into our neighborhood’s history. I’m hopeful that the building owners will save the mural. If they don’t, I hope we can find someone who can.”

News

The Villager: Trying to keep a mural from becoming a memory

November 16, 2017

By: Dusica Sue Malesevic
November 16, 2017

Preservationists, City Councilmember Corey Johnson’s Office and a developer are looking to conserve a piece of 1950s New York: Julien Binford’s mural at a former bank building on the corner of W. 14th St. and Sixth Ave.

Binford’s mural — “A Memory of 14th Street and Sixth Avenue” — graces the lobby of a now-closed HSBC branch, according to Web sites GothamToGo and New York Songlines. Binford painted the mural in 1954 for what was then the Greenwich Savings Bank, according to New York Songlines.

Built in 1953, the one-story commercial building at 101 W. 14th St. — also known as 531 Sixth Ave. — is slated for demolition, according to the project developer, Gemini Rosemont, and streeteasy.com. City records show the building was sold in April for $42.4 million.

Brian Ferrier, Gemini Rosemont’s vice president of development, said a timetable has not been set for demolition. The developer is still in the design phase, he said, adding that, in general, the project will include retail space and residential condos.

On the mural, Ferrier said, “We’re investigating a couple different options.”

Andrew Cronson, a junior at New York University, would pass by the vacant building on his way from class to Penn Station to catch a train back to Long Island.

“Peering in through the windows, the interior was mostly gutted, but this 150-foot mural stood out prominently among the gritty rubble and dust,” Cronson said, noting that the building was designed by Halsey, McCormack & Helmer.

In late October, Cronson said he reached out to a number of advocacy groups, including Laurence Frommer of Save Chelsea.

“We think it’s significant artwork,” Frommer said. “It reflects the history of the area. It seems to capture the glory days of Sixth Ave.”

Save Chelsea contacted Johnson’s office. Erik Bottcher, the councilmember’s chief of staff, said the developer has been asking galleries if they were interested in the mural, but got no takers, so the developer is, in fact, considering preserving and keeping the mural.

Groncki, also of Save Chelsea, also suggested to Johnson’s office that Jamestown, the owner of the Chelsea Market building, might be interested in taking the mural, Bottcher said. Bottcher has been in touch with the investment and management company, but, as of now, Jamestown is “waiting in the wings,” he said.

Jamestown declined to comment.

Frommer of Save Chelsea said that whoever takes the mural, he hopes that “it is done properly with the right conservation mindset,” and preserved “in perpetuity.”

Binford was born in Virginia in 1908, and died shy of his 89th birthday. He created artwork in both Virginia and New York, and “about 37 paintings for the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project” between 1938 and 1940, according to a 2015 Richmond Times-Dispatch article.

Cronson said the mural at the former bank “depicts a jovial street scene in panoramic form of what this area would have looked like in the late 1800s, back when there was an elevated train and riders used horses as a mode of transportation.”

“It would be a tragedy if this mural is demolished,” Johnson said in an e-mail statement. “Losing it would really be losing a piece of our history. We are working frantically to find a new home for it. We hope to succeed at this in the next few days.”

News

Chelsea Now: Groundbreaking at Hudson Guild

November 8, 2017

By: Scott Stiffler
November 8, 2017

On Thurs., Nov. 2, a groundbreaking ceremony put the business end of those shiny hammers to an equally symbolic plank of wood. If that action was for show, there was no doubting the real work about to take place. For the first time since its opening in the 1960s, the Robert Fulton Houses’ Fulton Center (119 Ninth Ave., btw. W. 17th & 18th Sts.) will undergo a substantial renovation.

Touting the groundbreaking, a press release from Hudson Guild (which runs all of the programs at Fulton Center, where NYCHA is the landlord) noted that, upon completion, the work will see restoration of “a critical anchor to the Chelsea neighborhood,” providing “seniors with social services, education programs, daily meals, and activities. It will also offer our community a modern, inviting space for meetings, celebrations, and youth activities.” All of the Center’s bathrooms will become compliant with the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act), the kitchen will be modernized, and a “teaching” kitchen for kids and seniors will be added. The art gallery, currently located in the back, will face the street to entice passersby. Staff offices and meeting spaces are also getting an upgrade, as is the building’s exterior, lobby, and all-important Fulton Auditorium (frequent host to Community Board 4’s full board meetings).

In addition to Hudson Guild and NYCHA representatives, the electeds in attendance included Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, and Councilmember Corey Johnson — all of whom can be seen in the accompanying photo wielding those much-ballyhooed (at least by this publication) golden hammers. The project is expected to wrap up in fall 2019.

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.”