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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.

News

Patch: Grocery Delivery Program For Seniors Expands

September 28, 2017

NILES, IL – SEPTEMBER 15: Bags of spinach sit on a shelf at a market on September 15, 2006 in Niles, Illinois. An outbreak of E. coli has prompted the FDA to issue a warning to all consumers that they should not eat bagged spinach of any brand as this may be a possible cause of the outbreak. One person has reportedly died and dozens of others became sick after an outbreak in eight states. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

By: CIARA MCCARTHY
September 28, 2017

A Manhattan program that delivers fresh, low-cost produce to seniors is expanding, Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer announced on Wednesday.

The initiative works to make healthy foods more accessible to seniors, some of whom are largely home-bound or have trouble accessing fresh produce. The program’s popularity means that it’ll now be getting its own dedicated van and a part-time driver, so that the initiative can reach more seniors.

Brewer started the Fresh Food for Seniors Program as a council member on the Upper West Side in 2013. Since then, she’s coordinated with other council members, including Corey Johnson and Helen Rosenthal, to reach seniors in Hell’s Kitchen, the West Village, Roosevelt Island, Harlem, Inwood and Washington Heights. The simple initiative gives participating seniors a bag of seasonal produce for just $8.

“This program has taken off, it’s popular, and it’s growing – but we needed a little help to make sure it’s sustainable and can expand even further,” Brewer said in a statement on Wednesday. “I thank the de Blasio Administration for making this investment in Manhattan seniors.”

“The Fresh Food for Seniors initiative is one of the most popular programs for my office and any opportunity to expand it is exciting.” Said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Council’s Health Committee. “By providing fresh fruits and vegetables at an affordable price, we ensure that the generation that helped build this city into what it is today are happy and healthy enough to enjoy it for many years to come.”

Letters, News

City & State: NEW YORK CITY’S RUNAWAY HOMELESS YOUTH DESERVE BETTER SERVICES

September 27, 2017

By: COREY JOHNSON AND BETH HOFMEISTER
September 27, 2017

For most young people, turning 21 is ceremonious. It’s a rite of passage into adulthood celebrated with spirits and friends.

But for runaway and homeless youth utilizing New York City’s specialized youth shelter system, turning 21 carries a much different and daunting significance. Per existing law, homeless young people can only stay in specialized youth shelters until the age of 21, at which point they must leave the home-like environment and tailored services of youth shelters and move to single adult shelters.

ZG, a Legal Aid client who just turned 21, recently made this transition. A young transgender man, ZG previously had access to runaway homeless youth drop-in centers, emergency crises shelters and transitional independent living programs where he felt safe and better positioned to start the path of self-sustainment. In youth housing, ZG was able to finish high school, regularly access medical care, and even sleep normal hours.

Since turning 21, life has been much tougher for ZG. Because of his smaller size and gender identity, ZG does not sleep at men’s shelters out of fear of being targeted and harassed. As a result, ZG struggles to find short-term rooms or couches to crash on. He is now cut off from the services that were building him a foundation to eventually live successfully as an independent adult.

ZG’s situation is not unique. Many of his peers share his story and the same fears of adult shelters. These places are often not appropriate for individuals who are still trying to stabilize after difficult childhoods and time on the street. These transitions are even more dangerous for lesbian, gay, transgender and gender non-conforming youth. Approximately 40 to 60 percent of the runaway homeless youth population identifies as LGBTQI.

Compounding this reality is the fact that the adult brain is not fully developed by age 21 but continues to transform well into the late twenties. Early research shows that trauma can slow or modify standard brain development as well. This is also why targeted services and treatment for young people are so important.

In April, New York state enacted enabling legislation allowing localities to expand how programs service runaway homeless youth. Albany has done their part, and now it’s time for the city to do ours.

This is why the New York City Council recently introduced a package of legislation that will be heard Thursday in committee, which deals with this issue in a comprehensive way.

Specifically, if signed into law, this legislation will:

-Increase the age eligibility for runaway youth to access RHY programs from 21 to 25.

-Extend the periods of time youth may remain in runaway and homeless youth shelters.

-Require the city to provide shelter services to all runaway and homeless youth who request such services.

-Report on the description and size of the RHY population as well as service needs population and other important data to help formulate tailored policy and programs.

-Streamline the intake and assessment process connecting youth quicker to adult services and shelter programs when they age-out or time-out of RHY programs.

The Legal Aid Society also has a pending class action against the city to secure some of these changes.

On a small scale, Legal Aid has seen how the additional time in runaway homeless youth shelters benefits clients. The lawsuit’s 11 plaintiffs were given unlimited stay at these shelters and access to the specialized youth services. From this experience, many gained the confidence and skills needed to transition into adulthood, including finding long-term housing. Most of the current runaway homeless youth programs and services infrastructure work well, but more youth need access to it for longer periods of time.

Runaway and homeless youth comprise one of the city’s most vulnerable and deserving communities. Many are in precarious situations through no fault of their own and yet demonstrate the same incredible potential and spirit that defines all New Yorkers. New York City must raise the age on this issue to provide our young people the full lot of services they deserve.

News

chelsea now: On a Hot High Line Afternoon, Participatory Budgeting Gathers Steam

September 27, 2017

By: LEVAR ALONZO
September 27, 2017

An unseasonably balmy second day of fall, mixed with excitement in the air, made for great community brainstorming on the afternoon of Sat., Sept. 23. Council District 3 representative Corey Johnson held the “Year 4 Kickoff” event for Participatory Budgeting (PB), 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.

Matt Green, Councilmember Johnson’s deputy chief of staff, started the event (held on the High Line) by giving a brief overview of what PB is all about. The process, he noted, is “a great way to learn about democracy in action, and be the driving force behind real changes in the community.”

As a visual aid, Green brought along a poster that was used to campaign for one of the winning ideas from last year: $500,000 to renovate playground fencing, walkways, and garden areas at the Elliott-Chelsea Houses (10 Ave.,. btw. W. 26th & 27th Sts.). Four projects in all were funded, with the top vote-getter providing $200,000 for the creation of a park in Hell’s Kitchen (10th Ave., btw. W. 48th & 49th Sts.).

A member of the audience wanted to know how much input the councilmember’s office has throughout the process of brainstorming and voting.

“We are just here to facilitate and keep the community informed,” Green said.

After watching a short video explaining PB, those assembled broke down into five groups that rotated between five different tables, in order to share their ideas on projects they think are necessary for their community. Ideas were taken down by volunteers and representatives from the councilmember’s office on their iPads and made ready for online viewing.

Residents were encouraged to develop more proposals, get their neighbors involved, and volunteer to be delegates (individuals who help facilitate the PB process), and take leadership roles at events like project expos.

At the end of the brainstorming session, the ideas from the five tables were presented and the councilmember staffers wrapped up the event with a raffle, giving away PB T-shirts, a guided tour of the High Line, and a chance to have coffee with Johnson.

The period to submit ideas is open until Oct. 13, after which the ideas are developed into full proposals and reviewed by delegates in a series of expos held through February 2018. Voting takes place April 7-17, 2017. The winning projects will be announced in May. To submit ideas, visit council.nyc.gov/pb/participate. To contact Councilmember Johnson’s office, visit council.nyc.gov/district-3/ or call 212-564-7757.

News

WNYC: City Launches Coordinated Effort to Serve LGBTQ Youth

September 19, 2017

By YASMEEN KHAN
September 19, 2017

New York City is creating a multi-agency project in hopes of better coordinating — and expanding — existing services for LGBTQ youth. The effort includes a focus on health programs, homeless services, suicide prevention and added supports in the public schools.

First Lady Chirlane McCray launched the initiative Tuesday, which city officials are calling NYC Unity, by calling awareness to the specific needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning or queer youth. These young people are vulnerable to violence, bullying, homelessness and mental health issues, she said.

“To all of our city’s LGBTQ young people — especially those just discovering their sexuality or identity, or those feeling isolated and afraid — take it from me, you are not alone,” she said. “You are wonderful and New York City will always have your back.”

Speaking from the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan, McCray invoked her own personal story of being part of New York City’s LGBT community in the late 1970s. She found support and encouragement from friends, though not necessarily from political leaders, she said.

Others on the podium also spoke about the city’s progress and the growing political embrace of LGBTQ rights — as if they were elder LGBTQ statesmen and women passing on wisdom to the next generation.

City councilman Danny Dromm, a former teacher who chairs the education committee, said he came out as an openly gay teacher in 1992 in the very room in which NYC Unity was announced. Councilman Corey Johnson recalled that Act Up, a group which fought to call attention to the HIV/AIDS crisis, was founded in the same room as well.

“Activists were coming and plotting on how to infiltrate the health commissioner’s office at the height of the HIV and AIDS epidemic, because we weren’t getting a response,” said Johnson. “And now we have the health commissioner sitting here in the room talking about how to change the Department of Health to be more responsive.”

The city will invest $4.8 million in NYC Unity, which will include opening a new 24-hour drop-in center specifically for LGBTQ youth in Jamaica, Queens. The center is slated to open next month.

The city currently has one other 24 hour drop-in center for LGBTQ young people. It’s in Harlem.

Other initiatives include expanding mental health and suicide prevention services; training health professionals; and convening a summit of more than 100 faith leaders this winter.

News

CHELSEA NOW: Chelsea Answers Cruelty With Caring: Recollections of the Bombing

September 13, 2017


BY COUNCILMEMBER COREY JOHNSON
September 13, 2017

The night of September 17, 2016 will forever be seared into my memory. It was a night in which the world’s attention was focused on a relatively inconspicuous block in Chelsea, and our community was tested like never before. It was a night when our community narrowly avoided a potentially devastating loss of life.

It was pleasant mid-September Saturday night; the kind of night that reminds you that summer doesn’t truly end on Labor Day. After having dinner with a friend at Trestle on 10th Ave., I began walking east on W. 23rd St. When I reached Ninth Ave., the night’s quiet was shattered by a deafening sound: BOOM! The ground shook under my feet as I and those around me stopped in our tracks. We exchanged knowing looks. It was clear that we shared the same initial thought: terrorism.

Though I couldn’t see the source, the explosion had come from the east. I instinctively walked in that direction as I called Deputy Inspector Brendan Timoney of the NYPD’s 13th Precinct. He was already aware of the incident and en route to the scene.

At W. 23rd St. and Seventh Ave., emergency responders were already on site and the NYPD had begun to cordon off the block. Within minutes, a large police, fire, and EMT presence occupied the neighborhood. The intersection was thick with emergency vehicles and a growing crowd of concerned onlookers were assembling on the street corners.

The explosion had occurred within a construction dumpster immediately in front of VISIONS at Selis Manor/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, on the north side of W. 23rd St., between Sixth and Seventh Aves. The NYPD was fairly certain early on that the explosion was man-made. I remember that only a truly sick individual would intentionally target this population. It was also puzzling: This location makes little sense as a target for terrorism. A midblock dumpster on a street with moderate pedestrian traffic in a partially residential area didn’t seem to make sense. This wasn’t a landmark or tourist destination. This wasn’t Times Square or the World Trade Center. It was just a regular New York City street.

A tremendous feeling of relief swept over us when we learned that there were no initial reports of casualties. But we knew that this could change, and prayed that it wouldn’t. The police continued to widen the secure area surrounding the site of the attack. Bystanders were ushered toward W. 22nd and 24th Sts. Patrons of nearby sidewalk cafes on the avenues were asked to leave the restaurants immediately. Firmly in control of the scene, it was clear that the NYPD’s extensive training for this type of situation had prepared them for a well-executed response.

A sobering sight was a unit of heavily armed antiterrorism forces in body armor with what appeared to be automatic weapons. It made me cognizant of the nightmare scenario for which they were prepared.

FDNY Chaplain Reverend Stephen Harding, who is also pastor at St. Peter’s Church in Chelsea, arrived at the scene. I was struck by the realization that he was on site to potentially deliver last rites. Nonetheless, his presence was indeed comforting amidst the very tense scene.

One of my most important functions as a City Councilmember is to help disseminate important information to the public. I tweeted what I knew as information became available. My cell phone rang with NY1, CNN, MSNBC, and other outlets seeking accurate and up-to-date information from the site. The surrounding subway stations were evacuated and service was suspended. Residents were asked to remain clear of the area. Residents of the affected block were asked to shelter in place. The number of those injured would eventually climb to 31. Thankfully and remarkably, none of these injuries were grievous and there were no reported fatalities.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assemblymember Dick Gottfried and I connected with the Mayor’s staff within a secure area in the intersection. The Mayor and Police Commissioner O’Neill, who had just been sworn into his new role two days before, were on their way.

When the Mayor and Police Commissioner arrived, my colleagues and I were all escorted onto W. 23rd St. between Sixth and Seventh Aves. and from a distance we witnessed the mangled remains of the dumpster and the damaged building facades for the first time. The world’s press corps had converged on this one spot to hear from the Mayor and Police Commissioner and a host of Homeland Security officials; people who knew more about what had happened than perhaps anyone.

It was around this time that news of a secondary device in Chelsea began trickling in. As we had learned from 9/11, misinformation abounds in the chaos following an attack. But officials soon confirmed that a suspicious device had been discovered on W. 27th St., between Sixth and Seventh Aves. Residents of the block were told to shelter in place while the bomb squad investigated.

We would later learn that an undetonated explosive device had indeed been spotted by a vigilant Chelsea resident named Jane Schreibman, who saw a strange object on her block and reported it. It would turn out to be an improvised device that was abandoned by the terrorist. Reports of undetonated devices at NJ Transit stations in New Jersey would also prove to be true. Again, the loss of life could have been devastating had this plan been carried out as intended.

Night became day as hints of the sun crept over the rooftops to the east. The following hours and days blurred together as I sought to assure and provide information to my constituents and assist the residents and small businesses directly affected by the bombing. We did what we could to help the community bounce back. The following weekend, my staff and I organized a Small Business Crawl on W. 23rd St. Hundreds of New Yorkers came out to patronize businesses that were either damaged by the bombing or closed in its aftermath.

What I remember most from that time after the bombing, however, are the ways in which New Yorkers rose up to support and protect one another. The Malibu Diner, for example, served free, hot meals to the residents of Selis Manor when they couldn’t use their own facilities. It was an honor to present the Malibu Diner with a City Council Proclamation the following week at City Hall.

Even now, I become emotional when I remember scores of New Yorkers running toward, not away from, the sound of the blast, in case there was some way they could help.

The lowest moments and cruelest acts of humanity also inspire the greatest and most incredible acts of love and caring. We’ve seen that in the aftermath of the devastating hurricanes in Texas and Florida. We saw it in the days and weeks after September 11, 2001. And we certainly saw it last year in Chelsea.