Tom Duane Says Goodbye to CB4
BY LAKSHMI GANDHI | Former State Senator Tom Duane was an unexpected guest at the first full board meeting of Community Board (CB4), which took place on January 2 at the Fulton Auditorium.
“Brad was kind enough to let me say goodbye,” said Duane, referring to his successor Brad Hoylman. First elected in 1998, Duane declined to run for re-election after seven terms in office — a move that surprised political observers in both Manhattan and Albany. Throughout his remarks, Duane credited his time on CB4 in the eighties and early nineties as being a vital part of his career.
“Board 4 was the greatest training ever,” Duane told the meeting as he reminisced about serving on the board early in his career. “The city and our neighborhoods wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t do what you do.”
He singled out 1996’s Chelsea Plan, which recommended zoning changes to preserve the neighborhood while also promoting new development. “Some of you were around for the Chelsea Plan. It was an amazing coalition of people. We gave up a lot to get that in place.”
“I love Board 4,” Duane continued. “I just want you to know that despite the capital being far away, it was a pleasure that you allowed me to be the voice of Board 4 there. And everything I learned, I learned not in kindergarten, but in Board 4. And from the bottom of my heart, thank you for representing the neighborhoods that I love.”
Duane then left to warm applause and a standing ovation from the board, pausing several times to shake board members’ hands as he departed the auditorium.
Earlier in the meeting, during the public comment session, several community members spoke out in support of a proposed park to be located on Dyer Avenue between 34th and 35th Streets. The land is owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which supports the plan.
Jeff Peyser, who lives near the proposed park, told the board that the proposal would bring a needed green space to the neighborhood. “As a resident, I cannot tell you how much I hope that we are able to proceed,” he said.
Architect Meta Brunzema, who worked on the proposed design of the park, displayed a rendering during her remarks. “Our group’s intent was to make this a park for everybody,” said Brunzema. “We know that the Port Authority is about to do renovations on the lanes. We hope this board will vote at this opportune time.”
Several people who spoke at the meeting said they were hopeful the park would ease traffic and make the neighborhood safer for pedestrians. Danielle Sheypuk, a 34th Street resident and current Miss Wheelchair New York, said that Dyer Avenue was currently very dangerous for people in wheelchairs because drivers constantly speed down the road. “Having a park there would be very safe if it was ADA [American Disabilities Act] compliant. It would benefit the community,” she said.
Amy Gross agreed that the speeding cars were a major problem in the neighborhood. “The cars come and careen down 34th Street to go down on Dyer. It’s a very dangerous crossing,” she said. “The benefits of the park cannot be overstated.”
The board unanimously recommended the proposal to the Port Authority, but members also said the project should not proceed until there was a budget and funding in place. “The Port Authority has no money for this,” noted Transportation Committee co-chair Jay Marcus.
Donald Bernstein, an attorney for the Chelsea Highline Hotel (180 Tenth Avenue), also spoke during the public comment session. The hotel had applied for a liquor license, and he urged CB4 to support it. He said that a few former employees of the hotel spoke at board meeting shortly after Superstorm Sandy, saying they had been discharged after the storm. “They had concerns about the hotel,” said Bernstein, who noted that the hotel has not reopened since the storm. Bernstein said the employees and management came to a resolution and that the discharged employees will reapply for their jobs after the hotel is running again.
Miguel Acevedo, who acted as a representative for the discharged High Line Hotel employees, also addressed the board. He thanked the High Line Hotel for working with the group of discharged employees. “They were afraid of losing their jobs,” said Acevedo. “After speaking to the employees, they are now in support of the liquor license application.”
Acevedo also thanked the community members who volunteered at the Fulton Houses during Superstorm Sandy, saying many elderly Fulton residents were afraid and anxious during the storm and that support from volunteers, elected officials and the Housing Authority made a big difference.
Other issues discussed at the meeting included a noise complaint from a resident of 52nd Street, by Pier 94. She said that parties and concerts at the Pier meant that she and her neighbors were subject to “very loud house music, parties for three days straight.” She was advised to speak to the Quality of Life Committee, whose next meeting was scheduled to take place on Monday, January 7, at 6:30pm (at the CB4 offices; 330 West 42nd Street, 26th floor).
Another local resident spoke about delays on the 14D bus line and also said that there was a problem with cars illegally parking in bus stops around 14th Street, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. She said the cars made it very difficult for people in wheelchairs to board the buses because of the difficulty of getting off the curb. She was encouraged to take her concerns to the Transportation Committee, which is scheduled to meet on January 16, at 6:30pm (at Geffner House; 351 West 42nd Street, in the Piano Room).
Ernesta King from the City Department of Health spoke about the Big Apple Prescription Program. She said the program, which allows card holders to get discounts on their prescriptions and some over the counter medications, is being underutilized. Residents do not need to have health insurance or fill out forms to receive a card, which can be printed from the nyc.gov website.
LETTER TO STRINGER NIXED
The most contested part of the meeting was during a discussion on a proposed letter for Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer on Good Jobs and Responsible Development. During the 40-minute discussion, many members of the board said they were uncomfortable with the scope of the proposed letter — which provided guidelines on standards for employers in the city. Although CB4 Chair Corey Johnson said eight other Manhattan community boards voted to endorse similar letters, the board voted 25-14 not to send the drafted letter.
The Board also ratified the Executive Committee’s decision to not take a stand on the proposed early voting plan.
REPORTS FROM ELECTED OFFICIALS
Assemblymember Richard Gottfried also addressed the Board, welcoming the new State Senator Hoylman. He also thanked the community and members of the Hudson Guild for assisting residents of the Fulton Houses, who did not have power for days following Superstorm Sandy.
Gottfried then spoke about what was happening in Albany. He said that while gun control is in the news, “Year after year the Assembly passes gun control and then [the bills] go nowhere in the State Senate.” Regarding Hudson River Park, he noted, “There was some expectation that there might have been a special session on how to get more revenue, especially to Pier 40,” he said. “But the special session didn’t happen.” Gottfried’s office can be contacted at 212-807-7900 or at assembly.state.ny.us/mem/richard-n-gottfried.
City Council Member Gale Brewer also stopped by the meeting and spoke about new legislation on housing conditions. Brewer said that if tenants had ten complaints about leaking ceilings, the new legislation would require the roof of the building to be fixed.
Brewer’s office can be reached at 212-873-0282 or at council.nyc.gov.
Michaela Miller, a representative from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s office said the Speaker had sent a letter to Speaker of the US House of Representatives John Boehner expressing outrage about the delayed Hurricane Sandy relief bill. In the letter, dated January 2, Quinn wrote, “The human and economic impact of this storm is so severe and evident that it’s impossible to fathom why the House left Washington without taking action to assist our region.” The letter concluded with a plea that Congress pass the relief bill as soon as possible in the new session. (After the Sandy relief bill passed the House and Senate on January 4, President Obama signed the $9.7 billion bill into law on Sunday, January 6). Quinn’s office can be reached at 212-564-7757 or at council.nyc.gov/.
As a result of redistricting, part of Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen are now in State Senator Adriano Espaillat’s area of coverage. Community liaison Ben Schacter visited the meeting to introduce himself and give more information about the district office. Schacter said that while the district office is in Inwood (at 5030 Broadway), the Senator was trying to opening a satellite office Downtown. Schacter noted that Espaillat’s staff can be contacted at 212-544-0173 or at nysenate.gov/senator/adriano-espaillat.
District Manager Robert Benfatto announced that January 28 is the annual New York Street Survey, which asks people to go out into their neighborhoods to keep track of how many homeless people are on the street during the cold weather.
Paul Sawyer, from Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal’s office, noted that the public comment period on hydrofracking will close on January 12. He said Rosenthal is requesting that the “entire process on fracking be stopped” until a new health impact report is released. Rosenthal’s office can be reached at 212-873-6368 or at assembly.state.ny.us/mem/linda-b-rosenthal.
Representing the Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Jessica Silver encouraged members of the community to apply for the open community board positions. The applications are due on January 18. Applications can be downloaded at mbpo.org. Silver also spoke about a new report released by the Borough President’s office called Start-Up City: Growing New York City’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem for All, which she described as a thorough look at the tech economy and New York City. The report, which can be found at startupcitynyc.org, covers everything from computer science curriculum in high schools to helping medium-sized businesses find office space. Stringer’s office can be reached at 212-669-8300 or at mbpo.org.
Laurie Morrison, from the office of newly elected State Senator Brad Hoylman, encouraged community residents to contact their office with any concerns in the community, like problems with housing and healthcare. She said that the Senator’s email system was still not running — but noted that anyone could call Hoylman’s office at 212-633-8052 or visit bradhoylman.com. Morrison also announced that there will be a swearing-in ceremony for Hoylman on January 13, from 2-4pm, at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s David Dubinsky Student Center (Eighth Avenue and 27th Street).
CB4’s full board meeting, open to the public, takes place on the first Wed. of the month. The next meeting is Feb. 6, 6:30pm, at the Fulton Center Auditorium (119 Ninth Ave., between 17th & 18th Sts.). Call 212-736-4536, visit nyc.gov/mcb4 or email them at email@example.com.