Saturday, February 28, 2009

Guidelines for funds disbursements from LMDC - Compensation for construction projects below Canal St.

Funding for the Program is being made available from an appropriation to New York State by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
I. General Grant Information
A. Eligible Firms

Assistance will be provided to any “Eligible Firm” that is still in business at the “Eligible Premises” at the time of application and grant payment, and complies with the terms of these Guidelines, and meets the following criteria (see Definitions of terms in Section II below):
(i) is a for-profit Retail Business; and is
(ii) located in the Eligible Area; and is
(iii) located on an Eligible Block; and is
(iv) an Eligible Premises; and
(v) submits an application that shows a Demonstrated Impact on net income, revenues, or operating expenses, net of any proceeds from business interruption insurance or other Federal assistance, during the period of the street or sidewalk closure; and
(vi) submits a Grant Request Form (included with the application); and is
(vii) current on all taxes and other municipal charges.
B. Grant Amounts
Subject to the requirements set forth in these Guidelines, Eligible Firms may be awarded grants computed as follows:
(i) $2.50 per square foot of owned, leased or rented space at Eligible Premises; OR
(ii) the amount of realized economic loss as shown in the applicant’s Demonstrated Impact statement, whichever is less.
Program grants will be capped at $25,000 in the aggregate for each Eligible Firm.
Small Firm Assistance Program Guidelines as of 02/2008 Page 2
II. Definitions
A. Eligibility Period
The Eligibility Period for the Program will begin on July 1, 2007 and includes construction projects underway on this date and projects commencing thereafter until all funds are disbursed or until the Program concludes on December 31, 2010. It is highly recommended that you apply as soon as you are eligible because funds are limited.
B. Retail Business
A Retail Business is defined as a business that sells or provides a good or service. To be eligible, neither the owner of the business nor the business itself may employ more than 50 people. For the avoidance of doubt, an applicant will not be eligible if it employs more than 50 people at its location on the Eligible Block. Similarly, an applicant will not be eligible if it employs less than 50 people at its location on the Eligible Block, but the applicant has more than 50 employees in the aggregate.
C. Eligible Area
The Eligible Area is that area within the Borough of Manhattan bounded on the north by Canal Street (including both sides of Canal Street), from the Hudson River to Rutgers Street (including both sides of Rutgers Street), then southeast along Rutgers Street and continuing along Rutgers Slip (including both sides of Rutgers Slip), to the East River.
D. Eligible Block
An Eligible Block is a block on which the street or sidewalk has been closed or partially closed for at least fifteen days within any thirty consecutive day period due to a publicly-funded construction project as determined by LMDC. The street or sidewalk closure must occur during the Eligibility Period. Publicly-funded construction projects include all projects supported by Federal, State and/or City funds. Each month LMDC will post a list of Eligible Blocks on its website:
E. Eligible Premises
Eligible Premises shall mean business premises (non-residential) located at street level or below-grade with street level access within the Eligible Area on an Eligible Block at which the Eligible Firm operates its business. The Eligible Premises must have been open for business for at least the entire calendar month prior to the temporary street or sidewalk closure along the Eligible Block and still be in business at that location when the grant is paid.
F. Demonstrated Impact
To be eligible for a grant under this program a firm must demonstrate an impact on its business due to the street or sidewalk closure. Impact may be demonstrated through the submission of financial statements, including monthly operating statements, profit and loss statements or cash flow statements. Such statements must show the sales or revenue for the period of the street or sidewalk closure as compared to the same period of the year prior. For new businesses, the sales or
Small Firm Assistance Program Guidelines as of 02/2008 Page 3
revenue for the period of the street or sidewalk closure should be compared to the prior month’s statements. All financial statements submitted with the application must be certified by an officer of the firm.
III. Application Information
A. Application Timing
Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis but funds are limited. Therefore, applications should be submitted within three months of when the firm is eligible.
For applications covering street or sidewalk closures that occurred between July 1, 2007 and December 31, 2007, one application may be submitted for the entire six month period. If you will be submitting an application for a grant covering street closures that occurred between July 1, 2007 and December 31, 2007 it is highly recommended that you apply immediately. Eligible Firms must file a completed application for Program assistance. As noted on the application, each completed application must include:
(i) a completely filled out and signed application form; and
(ii) a completely filled out and signed Small Firm Assistance Program Grant Request Form; and
(iii) a completely filled out and signed City of New York Substitute Form W-9; and
(iv) a copy of the written lease, deed or permit for the Eligible Premises at which the applicant is engaged in business, including any amendments; and
(v) an original utility bill for the Eligible Premises covering the period of the street or sidewalk closure for which the applicant is applying for assistance; and
(vi) verification by the Eligible Firm of the number of its employees (current payroll summary or NYS-45-MN); and
(vii) additional categorical information regarding the salary levels of the applicant’s employees; and
(viii) monthly operating, profit and loss, or cash flow statements verifying the applicant’s estimate of Demonstrated Impact.
LMDC, SBS or EDC may require additional or alternative documentation, in their sole discretion.
B. Separate Applications for Multiple Locations
Applicants are required to file separate applications for each Eligible Premises.
C. Application Submission
Applications for Program assistance will be accepted through the earlier of April 30, 2011 or the distribution of available funds. Applications will be processed in order of receipt of completed applications. Applications must be mailed to:
Small Firm Assistance Program Guidelines as of 02/2008 Page 4
Small Firm Assistance Program
c/o Lower Manhattan Development Corporation
One Liberty Plaza, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10006
IV. Grant Payments
A. Grant Disbursements
Grants will be disbursed on a rolling basis, subject to the availability of Program funds, as well as continued eligibility by the Eligible Firm under the Program and compliance with all terms, conditions and requirements set forth in these Guidelines.
B. Grant Recapture
Grant recipients may be required to repay any or all money received under this Program if any of the following circumstances occur:
(i) if grant recipient’s application, including any information provided therewith or thereafter, contains any material misrepresentation; or
(ii) if the grant was made in error; or
(iii) if the grant recipient is not entitled to assistance under these Guidelines.
V. Processes
A. Determination Process
Applications will be reviewed for completeness and eligibility on a rolling basis in the order that they are received. Applicants who submit an incomplete application will be notified in writing that their application is incomplete and what needs to be submitted in order to complete their application. Applicants will then have twenty business days from the date the notice is postmarked to submit whatever is necessary to complete the application. Complete applications will be further reviewed for eligibility. LMDC, SBS and EDC will use reasonable efforts to evaluate and process all applications in a timely fashion. Background reviews will be performed on all firms before they are approved for a grant. In the event an application is denied, written notification will be provided with the reason for denial. Eligible firms will be notified in writing once they are approved for the grant.
B. Appeal Process
LMDC will notify applicants in writing if their application has been denied. If the applicant believes that its application was incorrectly denied (in whole or in part), the applicant may appeal such decisions within twenty business days from the date the denial notification is postmarked. Such appeal must be made in writing to LMDC and include such information as the applicant would like to be considered. An Appeal Committee will consider and decide all appeals. All decisions by the Appeal Committee shall be final. The Appeal Committee will be the sole arbiter in interpreting the intent and implementation of the Program and these Guidelines.
Small Firm Assistance Program Guidelines as of 02/2008 Page 5
VI. Legal Requirements
A. Audit and Control
LMDC and HUD may audit applications on a random or specified basis covering a period extending to three years after the Program concludes. LMDC and HUD reserve the right to contact at any time federal, state and local government agencies to confirm information included in any application.
B. Non-Discrimination
To be eligible for assistance under the Program, applicants must agree not to discriminate against any qualified person based on race, creed, color, national origin, sex, age or handicap.
C. Fraud Detection Prevention
Background reviews will be performed on all Eligible Firms; additionally, site visits and/or audits may be performed on either an announced or unannounced basis by LMDC and HUD or their auditors.
VII. Additional Information
A. Disclosure of Information
Except as required under law, LMDC, SBS and EDC will endeavor to maintain the confidentiality of tax, financial and rent information submitted as part of the application. Notwithstanding the foregoing, such information may be made available to LMDC, SBS and EDC staff and designated individuals that are processing the application and to Federal, State or local officials or auditors evaluating the Program.
B. Amendments to Guidelines
These Guidelines may be amended as needed. Any amendments to these Guidelines will only be available through the LMDC website:
C. Information on LMDC Website
The application form, these Guidelines and additional information about the Program can be accessed at LMDC’s website:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Have the terrorists already won?

Not so long ago a prominent NY'er said "I'm a big believer that if you keep people from moving around reasonably freely, if you take away people's personal rights in the interest of security, the terrorists win without firing a shot,"
Mayor Michael Bloomberg Aug 2003

Comedian Bill Maher had something to say that is very relevant to what is happening in Chinatown today, and for its future, IF we allow City Hall to bulldoze over this neighborhood in the name of "security".

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fire in Chinatown - Community Finds refuge around the corner.

Although the buildings look relatively in good shape, only hours earlier flames were leaping out of the windows at the corner building at James St. (white building). NY Times photos shot from neighboring buildings show that the back of the building is in very bad shape.

A fire killed at least one person in Chinatown last night in an early morning blaze that ripped through a six story tenement building on James St. one block from Chatham Square.

Hamilton Madison House, one of NYC's oldest settlement houses located at 50 Madison Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, around the corner from the scene of the fire is acting as the disaster center for this tragedy. As of 4:pm displaced residents are still there waiting to hear the news about where they will end up tonight.

At about 7:15am Frank Modica, Executive Director of Hamilton Madison House was already at work when he was summoned to the entrance of the "house". First responders from the Office of Emergency Management told Frank that they needed to get about two hundred people off the street and into a warm safe place immediately. Frank instructed his two maintenance personnel, the only two other people in the building at the time, to start setting up tables and chairs in the auditorium inside Hamilton Madison House.

At about 7:45am the families from the scene of the fire started to come in escorted by O.E.M. and Red Cross personnel. Ricardo ElĂ­as Morales, Chairman of the NYC Housing Authority was also on hand to speak with Mr. Modica and insure that everything was going smoothly.

Within minutes a nearby classroom was commandeered to become an impromptu processing and command center.

As Hamilton Madison House staff and personnel started to roll in they immediately got to work translating in both Spanish and English. Frank greeted elected officials who came streaming in all morning.

At 12:pm around 150 or so people were waiting calmly and patiently as CCBA Chairman Justin Yu and his assistant Gary passed out blankets and food, and helped to keep order in an otherwise surreal environment. A faint smell of smoke could be detected in the room. Justin Yu's daughter Pauline was at Madison St. directing families to the Red Cross processing area. Reports say that at least 60 families are temporarily displaced.

Also on hand were Borough President Scott Stringer and his staff members, as well as staff from Senator Daniel Squadron, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Council member Alan Gerson who, like the Borough President was personally on hand to assist.

Jimmy Yan of the Borough President's office was sure to reach out to community leaders as events unfolded to ensure that their office was available to assist in any way. In fact every single elected official representing Chinatown including the Mayor himself was present to offer their help and suppport. Some were seen with the families for hours on end.

Hamilton Madison House staff was sure to respect the privacy of the families who had just been displaced by keeping photographers and press at bay, while allowing for anyone the opportunity to speak to the press, outside of the gym.

Hamilton House reports that approx. 25 young children ages 2 - 18 were waiting in the auditorium, as well as some 20 seniors. One four year old girl was still in stocking feet while she waited to learn the news of where she would be that evening. The Red Cross provided her with shoes and someone brought her a toy bunny.

Some students actually made it to school as the smoke was still rising from the burned out building. I.S. 131, knowing that Hamilton Madison House was the holding center for the displaced families, called there to check on other students. Parents knew that as long as their kids were in school they were safe. In some ways it was more familiar and less traumatizing for the children than being sequestered in the auditorium for hours. A steady stream of individuals and families were moved from the auditorium to the makeshift processing center by Red Cross volunteers.

As of 3:pm Hamilton Madison House says that several van loads of people have been taken to the Red Cross headquarters at 49th street for final processing to determine where they will be spending the next few days. The condition of the buildings next to the scene of the fire is still being assessed, however it looks as though at least some families will be able to return to their apartments tonight.

Hamilton Madison House will remain open for as long as it takes to process every single individual. The care that Hamilton Madison House provides will continue long after today, however, as their newly appointed Dr. Paul Wong will be on hand for counseling. Dr. Wong is a specialist in child psychology. Peter Yee, Hamilton-Madison House’s Assistant Executive Director for Behavioral health Services will also be on hand for counseling and support.

Hamiton Madison House made sure each family received a flyer so they could contact HMH's Chinatown Resource Center to help them process the paper work in the days and weeks to follow this disaster.

As the families, about 90% of whom are Chinese and 10% are Hispanic, wait patiently Hamilton Madison House is already planning for their needs and support for the coming days, weeks and even years. As Frank Modica puts it "this is what we're here for".

Hamilton Madison House will be accepting donations of clothing and blankets as well as towels for the families in the coming days, please contact them at Hamilton-Madison House: 50 Madison Street, New York, NY 10038
Phone: (212) 349-3724
Fax: (212) 791-7540

The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association
Chinese Community Center, Inc
62 Mott Street, New York, NY 10013
Tel: (212)226-6280 Email: Fax: (212)431-5883

In addition Wellington Chen, Executive Director of the Chinatown Partnership which is located across the street from the fire is also accepting donations of clothing and supplies, they can be reached at The Chinatown Partnership 60 St. James Place
New York, NY 10038
Tel/Fax: 212-346-9288

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Limousines line up at City's wedding Chapel - more traffic on Worth

A stretch limo, one of many on any given day, on already crowded Worth St. in front of the newly opened NYC Wedding mill expected to rival Las Vegas in number of weddings performed annually.

What -- wedding traffic? Despite the Chinatown community's strong opposition to the city's proposal to reduce Chatham Square's moving traffic lanes to two, the wedding vehicles to Worth Street's new Marriage Bureau/chapels (that Mayor Bloomberg has been trumpeting as a rival to Las Vegas' marriage chapels) will certainly cram this narrow street and increase travel time for all crosstown traffic. With Fulton Street under reconstruction, Pearl Street and parts of Duane Street permanently closed, Worth Street is one of the few crosstown streets in Lower Manhattan. Ever see a bride wearing a wedding gown on mass transit? Wake up DOT or soon, you won't be able to get to your own offices on Worth Street.

The question is where were all the pedestrian and bike advocacy groups when the City announced the opening of this wedding depot? Bloomie says he wants this wedding factory to "rival Las Vegas" in the number of weddings performed, many of these weddings will be accompanied by limousines like the one pictured. I guess limos streaming past Columbus park where kids play and elderly visit is just fine with these so called pedestrian advocacy org's.

The change of this building's use from the dept. of motor vehicles to a wedding chapel that will rival Las Vegas in the number of weddings performed annually should have been a red flag for pedestrian and bike advocates since this change SURELY brings more vehicles (limousines no less) into the already congested Worth Street corridor. Thanks to the City and Mayor Bloomberg we now have more cars taxis and limousines in Chinatown, we could have used the help of pedestrian and bike advocates to STOP this insanity.

The closure of the Brooklyn Bridge during its construction will bring 4000- 5000 cars per hour into Chinatown over the Manhattan Bridge, over 700 of those cars will be diverted through Chatham Square (while it is under construction) and onto Worth St. now crowded with Judge's cars, Government employee's cars, taxis and limousines.
What would you do if the City decided to plop the Catskills on your street???

Chinatown is left with the task of balancing the commercial and residential needs of the community while trying to cope with an accelerated time frame forced upon us by the City's own slash and burn agenda. What the community doesn't need are special interest groups who claim to have the best interests of safety at hand, while they promote untested, unproven plans in neighborhoods they don't live in , don't work in, and don't pay property taxes in.

If there was EVER something to protest in the name of safer streets it should have been the placement and opening of the city's wedding factory on Worth St.
The pedestrian and bike advocates were strangely silent on this issue and have instead chosen to openly support the DOT's plan for Chatham Square even before it was put through vigorous traffic simulations by an unbiased professional (someone who works with Trans. Alt. almost daily).

Much in the same way that the D.O.T. has ignored all the construction going on in Brooklyn, the new condos on Flatbush, DUMBO, Battery Park City, Chinatown, and now the wedding chapel on Worth in its plan for Chatham Square, Transportation Alternatives has just as blindly signed on to the D.O.T.'s agenda. They've chosen to do this even though no one in Chinatown wants the D.O.T.'s plan to move ahead. If you can't be a part of the solution FOR CHINATOWN, then don't be a part of the problem.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Chatham Square design challenges over the years

A NY Times photo of Chatham Square in 1964

A 2005 D.O.T. and A.A.F.E./ R.C.I. - Rebuild Chinatown Initiative produced proposal for Chatham Square. Note the placement of the American Legion War Veteran's memorial arch. This plan was in place before the D.O.T. and the community realized that the memorial arch sits on federally regulated NY State parkland. The parkland designation means the arch and the land it sits on cannot be moved or altered without State legislation. In subsequent renderings the memorial arch is no longer moved, but the land it sits on grows into a 22,000 sq. ft. blockade to Park Row which effectively makes permanent the elimination of Park Row as a public thoroughfare.

This rendering of the Chatham Square plan is similar to the one produced for the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Park Row Closure. This is the DOT produced plan that is being pushed through, despite a lack of pedestrian safety studies to accompany the plan, and despite virtually no public outreach by DOT and NYPD. (see CCRC blog posts relating to lack of outreach)

CCRC proposal #1 - This and the plan below are alternatives to the DOT produced plan which will allow for the full reopening of Park Row in the future.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Government workers have a day off from commuting - Chinatown breaths again.

Monday - President's Day Feb 16th 09

What if 85 % - 90% of all government workers, NYPD, and court officers used mass transit?
What if it was illegal for government employees to use a personal car to drive to work and park for free?
What if any car a government worker needed to use was able to be tracked and monitored?
What if City Hall got SERIOUS about traffic congestion and defied unions and political pressure in favor of clear air and free flowing safe streets and sidewalks free of cars parked on them?
What if Chinatown's largest park WASN'T ringed bumper to bumper with Government sanctioned personal cars used for commuting?
What if NYC led that NATION in putting an end to what Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler calls "a necessary perk we feel balances out moderate salaries paid to our employees"?
What if NYC traffic agents could carry out their job free of intimidation from Police?
What if bullies with dashboard placards didn't exist?

We'd have what you see in these photos. This photo was taken on Mulberry St where NYC has designated this stretch of what used to be public land "for Government parking only".On this public holiday there are no government or court officers cars commuting, and therefore the street is blissfully clear at 12:30pm.
On any given weekday government cars that are parked here stay here for the entire day because the cars that park on this stretch of Mulberry St. are used for commuting and commuting only.
Until Mayor Bloomberg REMOVES this unnecessary PERK from City employees and NYPD our streets will continue to be overrun with traffic, and pollution and our streets, PARTICULARLY Chinatown's streets will continue to be unsafe.

It's time to eliminate the Government Parking Perk.
We don't need congestion pricing to make this City better, we need BETTER GOVERNMENT to make this City better !!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Chatham Square Oversight Hearing - Chinatown D.O.T. Supporters: zero

Council Members Alan J. Gerson and John Liu asked the NYC D.O.T. and the Mayor's office "who in Chinatown supports this plan?" Simple enough question, it had to be asked a couple of times though.
Answer from The Mayor's office and D.O.T? "We'll get back to you."
Council member Liu: "I can answer that right now, you don't have any supporters for this plan in Chinatown, my staff checked".

Chinatown and Downtown Brooklyn in for a traffic nightmare - CB3 Traffic Engineer has determined

Community Board 3 will hold its penultimate
Chatham Square Task Force meeting

Thomas Yu, committee Chair for questions

on Feb. 18th 6:15pm Confucius Plaza meeting room (entrance on Bowery)

Areas affected by this construction taking place over the next 5 years:
Entire Chinatown area
Two Bridges communities
Lower East Side
Flatbush Brooklyn
DUMBO Brooklyn

At the next Chatham Square Task Force meeting Brian Ketcham, CB3's traffic Engineer will elaborate on his findings based on his research of D.O.T's proposed plans to :
begin construction at Chatham Square , under ground utility work in preparation for Chatham Square's total reconstruction
refurbishment of The Brooklyn Bridge and adjacent roadways
roadwork on Tillary St. , Brooklyn (immediately on the other side of manhattan Bridge)
roadwork on Flatbush Ave. Brooklyn (also immediately on other side of manhattan bridge)

an excerpt from Brian's memo :
"The City must return to the drawing board, prepare a proper micro-assignment traffic model that will make a convincing case for diversions, and provide backup that otherwise does not exist. This can be done quickly. The models exist from other projects. And the work can be completed before the Brooklyn Bridge reconstruction gets underway. The analysis must take into account that, for much of the programmed reconstruction schedule, Chatham Square will not really be available as a diversion route and that alternative routes must be found to accommodate this traffic."
Brian Ketcham - Traffic Engineer, CB3

Jan Lee
Chatham Square Task Force CB3 public member

Friday, February 13, 2009

Fines issued to Washington D.C. and NYC Government workers and NYPD go unpaid

The FBI and U.S. Armed Forces are institutions in which following the rules is supposed to be a given.

Except when it comes to paying their parking tickets.

According to a congressional report scheduled to be released Oct. 24th 08, federal workers in the District and New York City failed to pay $176,000 in fines for 1,147 tickets issued last year to their U.S. government vehicles.

Leading the way in the District were the Army, Navy and Air Force, whose employees ignored 158 tickets for $28,000 in 2007. Most were racked up by recruiters working at the Armed Forces Recruiting Center near 13th and L streets NW.

In New York, FBI agents set the worst example, accumulating $35,000 in fines and comfortably besting the Department of State ($28,000) and the Marine Corps ($20,000) in unpaid violations.

Almost half of the citations were issued during morning and evening rushes, increasing congestion and creating safety hazards, the report concludes. Other violations included parking on sidewalks, in handicapped zones and in front of fire hydrants and bus stops. Only 6 percent were for expired meters.

The report was done by the majority staff of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure at the request of the panel's chairman, Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.) It faults "lax fleet management practices" that enable many workers to ignore fines.

Here's the link to the document.

On Page 21 the Committee recommends a searchable database of vehicles used by Government employees. We stand behind this recommendation and many others by the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and hope that NYC's government is listening. NYC is leagues away from curtailing its parking abuse problem.
At least Washington D.C. is looking into tracking technology similar to the existing ZipCar method. Bloomberg's administration has not even entertained such a logical step in the right direction.

The recommendation reads as follows:

"Establish capability to search U.S. Government-issued license plates in online ticket search engines. Many State DMVs have an online search capability where drivers can search for outstanding tickets by entering their license plate numbers. DC has such a system, but it does not recognize U.S. Government plates. DC should modify its search software to enable Government plates to be searched. Fleet managers should periodically query vehicle plate numbers in all jurisdictions where the fleet operates to assess employee compliance with local parking laws; and whether fines were paid timely and supervisor reporting requirements met."
page 21

Downtown Express covers the Chatham Oversight Hearing

Council pokes holes in Chatham Sq. plan

By Josh Rogers

The City Council peppered officials with questions on the Chatham Square traffic plan last week, exposing contradictions in the effort to lessen the problems caused by the security closures near Police Plaza.

The city will begin looking for contractors for the $50 million project in a week, but local politicians and the community boards are pressing for a halt to the planning in order to make changes. The plan would increase the sidewalk and plaza space in the dangerous square, and line the streets leading into Chatham in an effort to make it less confusing, but many Chinatown residents say the proposal has many problems.

Officials from the mayor’s office and the city Dept. of Transportation evaded many questions from Councilmembers Alan Gerson and John Liu during a three-hour hearing filled with tense moments Feb. 5.

Liu, chairperson of the Council’s Transportation Committee, started things off by insisting that the city panelists not spend an hour reading their statement. He asked them to condense it down to 15 minutes since some of the information has been discussed for years.

“We’re not starting off in kindergarten here,” he said, according the Council’s official recording of the hearing.

Later on, city officials reluctantly acknowledged the plan had differences from the Environmental Impact Statement they are using to go forward with the Chatham Square project, but said it was similar enough to proceed. It was a difficult assertion to check since the E.I.S. is no longer available on the N.Y.P.D.’s Web site. Spokespersons for relevant city agencies did not explain why the E.I.S. is unavailable.

Panelists also said last week that the E.I.S. was an important part of the public review process.

Luis Sanchez, the Lower Manhattan borough commissioner for transportation, said the community still has time to propose minor changes to the sidewalk configuration, which would not have to be finalized for another year, but later, Susan Stetzer, Community Board 3’s district manager, testified that city officials told her the board needed to make its final recommendations this month, before the city takes the work out to bid.

Brian Ketcham, C.B. 3’s traffic consultant, told Downtown Express Wednesday that he is scrambling to finish his final report to the board so it has enough time to recommend at least some changes. He said the city has not done the thorough traffic analysis needed to evaluate the proposal, and it has been hard getting information.

“They’ve been stonewalling me for two months,” he said. “I give them long lists of things I need, and they give me dribs and drabs.”

Ketcham said when the final plan was released last November, his initial assessment was it would improve an unsafe intersection, but as he has gathered more information, it’s clear to him that it will be a traffic nightmare, particularly when you factor in nearby projects expected to be proceeding at the same time — major work shoring up the Brooklyn Bridge, reconstruction work on Chambers St., and street work activity near the bridge in Downtown Brooklyn.

Scott Gastel, a D.O.T. spokesperson, said they’ve given Ketcham “substantial data” on the project and will continue to do so.

But the city did not have answers last week to basic questions that are typically part of environmental statements. On Wednesday the city still did not know or would not say how much traffic would increase on St. James Pl., one of 10 streets that currently lead into or right near the square.

“They did a very rudimentary analysis of it,” Ketcham said of the overall traffic study.

The environmental report was a study of the police-ordered closure of Park Row, which was the main connection between Chinatown and the Financial District/Civic Center area before 9/11. The reconfiguration of Chatham Sq. was proposed as a mitigation measure in the Park Row environmental study, so it was not the focus of the E.I.S.

Officials at first suggested that the entire plan was studied in the E.I.S.

“This Chatham Square Park Row project was approved through an E.I.S. process — that’s your testimony,” Gerson asked Andrew Winters, director of the Mayor’s Office of Capital Projects

“Yes,” Winters replied. But later officials acknowledged the plan was “similar” but not identical.

Winters first began working on the Chatham Square plan about five years ago when he was chief of planning for the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which is putting up nearly $31 million of the $50 million needed for the project. About three years ago, the project’s estimated costs were $25 million and the city has not explained the reasons why it has doubled since. It hopes to get some of the shortfall from Con-Ed and has not identified any other sources of money yet.

Gerson has alerted the L.M.D.C. that he plans to ask the corporation to cancel its agreement with the city on the grounds that the city has not lived up to all of its terms, including providing the E.I.S. to local libraries, like the eponymous Chatham Square branch.

Mike Murphy, the development corporation’s spokesperson, said the agency believes the city has met its commitments so far, but it will continue to monitor the plan.

City officials presented the Chatham plan two weeks ago to a very receptive L.M.D.C. board, which praised the city’s efforts. The board might have walked away unfamiliar with the opposition had not Judy Rapfogel, chief of staff to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, pointed out that Community Boards 1 and 3 had opposed the project nearly unanimously.

City officials expressed frustration at the Council hearing because some aspects of the plan have been discussed at community meetings for years. Long ago, the L.M.D.C. suggested removing lanes on Park Row in favor of plaza space since police made it clear they were not going to reopen the street to traffic anytime soon. The street runs under police headquarters.

Assistant chief James Waters of the N.Y.P.D.’s counter-terrorism unit testified last week that “the threat is real, it’s clear and the only way to mitigate that threat is the closure of Park Row.”

But some neighborhood advocates say police headquarters should move to a place in the city that police could secure without disrupting residents and businesses.

Jan Lee, a Chinatown business owner and resident who has sued the city over the street closure, said Police Plaza is still unprotected because subways run under it, there is a gas station right near it, and one of the bridge exit ramps is very close.

“They’re vulnerable now,” Lee said. “The back door is open and underneath them as well. Clearly the security issue is a moot point. If someone wants to hurt them they can.”

The city wants to begin Chatham Square work this summer, so that the utility work is done by the middle of next year, when the repair work on the Brooklyn Bridge will begin. The bridge work will no doubt divert traffic to the Manhattan Bridge, which feeds into Chatham.

Lee, Gerson and others have suggested suspending tolls on the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel during bridge construction weekends in order to prevent the deluge on Chatham from the Manhattan Bridge, thus relieving the pressure to begin the Chatham work as soon as possible.

D.O.T.’s Sanchez told the Council that they were considering that very option but later officials admitted that they had not even asked the Metropolitan Transportation Authority about it. A toll suspension would have to be approved by the M.T.A.

Gerson was incredulous that the city was about to go to bid on a contract yet at the same time they were claiming to consider an option that could avoid the need to rush into the construction contract.

“You’re reaching a conclusion before you’ve completed the study you need to reach the conclusion,” he said raising his voice.
He also wants the city to hold off on narrowing Park Row, particularly since D.O.T., acknowledged there were no logistical problems to delaying that part of the plan.

Winters from the mayor’s office also said even if Park Row narrows, it could still reopen someday if the security situation changed.

“It would be a side street, but it would be perfectly functional,” he said.

That part of the plan has raised the most anger in the community because many residents want to retain the possibility of restoring Park Row as a major connection.

“The Berlin Wall came down,” Gerson said. “Things can happen.”

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Daily News Article - Chatham Square oversight hearing

Daily News (New York)

February 10, 2009 Tuesday




LENGTH: 415 words
WITH NINE streets converging into it, crossing Chatham Square in Chinatown by car or on foot is a daunting task.
City officials told a City Council hearing last week that there have been 22 serious accidents in Chatham Square over the past two years, "despite the near-constant presence of NYPD traffic enforcement agents."
Now the city is on the verge of launching an ambitious $50 million plan to improve the traffic flow by reconfiguring Chatham Square and its maze of streets.
The plan - to be largely paid for with federal funds channeled through the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. - also calls for creating a landscaped Chatham Square public plaza of nearly 27,000 square feet, along with a landscaped promenade for pedestrians and bicyclists from Chatham Square to south of the Brooklyn Bridge.
The surrounding area is dotted with government buildings, including Police Headquarters, state and federal courts and a federal correction center.
The Chatham Square project includes a major upgrade of the various security barriers and infrastructure installed on some surrounding streets after 9/11.

Bids for the street reconfiguration are expected to go out in the next two weeks. Construction would begin this summer and take nearly three years to complete.
Work on the open space and pedestrian promenade is expected to start in 2010.
City officials tout the project as a boon for Chinatown residents and businesses, but many in the community are leery of the project - if not opposed.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), who represents the area, said he's "outraged" about the plan.

Councilman Alan Gerson (D-Manhattan), who also represents the area, said "the plan does not work for the community," and called for delaying it to allow for more community input.

Other critics say the reconfiguration will cause four years of construction disruptions that will further damage Chinatown's tourist-oriented businesses and, perhaps, make the intersection even worse.
"The reconfiguration will be a painful and costly endeavor that most likely will not improve the situation, and could possibly lead to worse conditions than exist now," said Danny Chen, co-founder of the Civic Center Residents Coalition.

The critics contend the major cause of Chatham Square's traffic woes is the fact that Park Row - its major access road to the financial district - has been closed to general traffic ever since 9/11.
Since 2005, it's been open only to MTA buses and pedestrians.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

City Council Debates Chatham Square Plan

By Jonathan Weeks
Epoch Times Staff

Feb 7 09

NEW YORK—Representatives from City Council today called for a full community review of the Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to reconfigure Chatham Square.

Chatham Square is located on Park Row between the federal buildings of lower Manhattan and Chinatown. Pedestrians crossing through Chatham Square must contend with long crossings, inadequate sight lines, and multiple simultaneous turning movements through crosswalks. A new design would reconfigure Chatham Square improving traffic and pedestrian conditions, and create a new public open space according to a program released by the NYC government in 2008.

The City has proposed a $50 million plan to reconfigure Chatham Square to help diminish the impact of Park Row’s closure on the community. Andrew Winters, director of the Mayor's Office for Capital Projects, testified that the project would improve traffic flow and conditions for pedestrians. A pedestrian promenade that will be open to bikers as well is planned for the parking lanes of Park Row, which will still be used by official vehicles. The reconfiguration will include a 22,000 square foot public plaza and will be designed in partnership with the Department of Parks and Recreation.

The residents of nearby Chinatown hold another view. The majority do not want this project to see fruition. Many feel that the reconfiguration will make foot and wheeled traffic worse and will endanger pedestrians more than the current layout. It also moves the community closer to the permanent closing of Park Row which is a vital artery between Chinatown and lower Manhattan.

Officials indicated that the project will move forward despite strong community objections, including formal resolutions from Manhattan Community Boards One and Three rejecting the plan.

"It is clear from the testimonies that the plan does not work for the community. The bidding needs to be delayed to allow for meaningful community input, in accordance with the timetable, which the City's agreement with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation requires," said Council Member Gerson, chair of the Council Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Committee.

The City has made it clear that Park Row will not be reopened in the foreseeable future due to the "current threat environment." This is based on an assessment by the NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau in consultation with outside security experts, said James Waters, Commanding Officer of the NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau in a testimony.

After the September 11 attacks Park Row was closed to protect police headquarters, the Metropolitan Detention Center, and the Federal and State Court Buildings. "The closure of Park Row has had a devastating effect on Chinatown, causing increased congestion, impeding emergency services vehicles, increasing noise and air pollution, and hurting businesses," said Council Member Gerson.

Prior to the September 11 attacks, the federal government had issued plans to increase security at its federal buildings at 26 Federal Plaza and 290 Broadway, which included closing parts of Broadway and Center Streets. City officials objected to these closures, saying that the streets were main arteries into Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. They voiced concerns that emergency service vehicles would be obstructed. According to a press release, the debate over the closings of Broadway and other streets adjacent to the Federal buildings became so heated that the Federal government threatened to take the streets by eminent domain.

Many residents of Chinatown are wondering why similar effort is not being put forth to fight the permanent closing of Park Row.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

CB3 Chatham Square Task Force Meeting Schedule

For your reference--this is also on CB 3 website at

Chatham Square Task Force Meetings

Wednesday, February 18th at 6:30pm
Confucius Plaza Community Room, 33 Bowery

Monday, February 23rd at 6:30pm
Public School 124, 40 Division Street

Bloomberg's 2003 opinion about "taking away people's rights in the interest of security"

A 2003 Daily News article about Sheldon Silver urging the Mayor to "Open Park Row" quoted Bloomberg offering his opinion about security vs. personal rights.

NYPD: what ever they want plus Park Row

"I'm a big believer that if you keep people from moving around reasonably freely, if you take away people's personal rights in the interest of security, the terrorists win without firing a shot," Michael Bloomberg Aug 7th 2003

Friday, February 6, 2009

City Council Chaham Square Oversight Hearing - continued

The Department of Transportation and the Mayor's office have tried to make their case that the Park Row Environmental Impact Statement, released in Aug. of 2007 after two and half years in the making is sufficient to satisfy the EIS requirement in the LMDC contract recently reviewed by Council members John Liu and Alan Gerson. It's noteworthy that the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Park Row has been removed from the NYPD website, there is no way for the public to obtain a copy of the Final EIS for Park Row unless it is "FOIL'ED". There's no way to tell when the F.E.I.S. was removed from the NYPD website.
Much was found to be inaccurate in the Park Row EIS, and in fact CB3 pointed out such goodies as "illegal segmentation" of data and testified at the draft EIS hearings in Chinatown. Community members and CCRC pointed out the business survey in the socioeconomic portion of the EIS is flimsy and without translations. CCRC could confirm less than 2 dozen businesses in Chinatown that were interviewed for the Park Row EIS. Real estate values and economic conditions were inaccurate and data used to obtain the findings were gleaned from constantly expanding and contracting geographic areas, a tactic often used to skew data to a desired outcome.
Business surveys and economic data, after community outcry, were rewritten to reflect a more realistic condition for the FINAL EIS. In short, the Park Row EIS was replete with errors, misinformation, flimsy surveys and worst of all the Chatham Square plan as a mitigation for the closure of Park Row. Between the draft EIS hearings and the final EIS some details were changed due to heavy scrutiny and criticism. Outting the errors and conspicuous omissions have been the source of much whining by the City and DOT as the reason why a backlog has occurred between the reconstruction of the Brooklyn Bridge and Chatham Square's reconstruction.

The Park Row EIS is unique in that it was done after the fact. Rarely are EIS's done retroactively. It is difficult to determine the effects of an "action" after it was done to the community and the data that precluded the action is difficult to reflect accurately. If the City wishes to have the EIS have a predetermined outcome, in this case - "closing Park Row was justified and necessary" - then the data collected to come that conclusion can be molded to formulate that result. CCRC has maintained that this is what was done in the Park Row EIS. Phillip Habib is the same planner responsible for both the Park Row EIS, and the Chatham Square plan being used today.

The socioeconomic portion of the Park Row EIS being applied to Chatham Square's reconstruction today is wholly inaccurate given the fact that the data collection reflects a period from before 2001 through early 2005. To say that the "action", in this case a four year long total tear down and reconstruction of Chatham Square, has been accurately addressed in the EIS which was begun in 2004 and completed in 2007 amounts to lying.

The Park Row EIS which contains socioeconomic impacts with a baseline condition precluding the attacks of 9/11/01 and ending in 2005 cannot be used to reflect an action that is ABOUT TO HAPPEN (Chatham Square reconstruction) in today's climate of recession, with projections that should extend at least five years into the future in the "WITH ACTION" scenario.

Although the Park Row EIS contains a rudimentary version of the Chatham Square alignment suggestions as a mitigation for the closure of Park Row, it does NOT reflect what impacts 4+ years of construction will have on the Chinatown community and therefore cannot be used in PLACE OF a separate and timely EIS of its own.

One of the most egregious omissions in the Park Row EIS is the lack of a pedestrian safety study. Numerous times the community and traffic Engineer Brian Ketchum have asked for a pedestrian safety study for the Chatham Square plan ,yet none has been produced. If such a study existed in the Park Row EIS, surely one would have been offered. Even if pedestrian counts and safety analysis was done for the Park Row EIS it could not be used today because, as Brian Ketchum has said numerous new residential developments have not been accounted for in the Chatham Square area.

Councilmembers Liu and Gerson questioned the D.O.T. and City representatives as to when the Chatham Square plans and accompanying maps and diagrams were submitted to local public libraries. The Council members determined from the lack of an answer that in fact no materials have ever been submitted to any public library anywhere in the City.

The City and DOT's response to claims of "not enough outreach" and "no access to materials" for perusal by the public of the Chatham Square reconstruction plan has been that they have satisfied this requirement because "it's included in the Park Row EIS" . CCRC has made the case that the version included in that document is rudimentary and therefore unacceptable. Not only that, the Park Row EIS is virtually impossible to locate online to this day. It used to be on the NYPD website, and during the draft EIS process complaints were made to the NYPD that the public had a hard time finding the 300+ page document on their website.
The Park Row Environmental Impact Statement is not available at the Chatham Square public Library. The only two documents that contain various versions of the Chatham Square reconstruction are NOT available at any public library in NYC, and yet the City and DOT claim that they have satisfied their requirement in providing access to the plan.

Councilman Gerson and Councilman Liu Chair a Hearing on Chatham Square at City Council

Thursday Feb. 5th 2009
Councilman Alan J. Gerson, Chair of the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Committee and Councilman John Liu, Chair of Transportation Dept of the City Council, co-chaired a hearing on Chatham Square's reconstruction Thursday.

CCRC and members of the business and residential community were present to testify.

The Dept. of Transportation, the Mayor's office, and NYPD made their case for the reconstruction of Chatham Square. John Liu at the very start of the meeting made it very clear that the presentation is accompanied by 12 pages of text and therefore he is limiting their presentation to 15 minutes in the interest of allowing everyone a chance to speak including members of various Chinatown groups and residents. The D.O.T. explained that they didn't want anyone to miss any of the details however they would try to paraphrase. 25 minutes later they were done - but not off the hook by any means. Gerson and Liu grilled the panel for well over an hour after their presentation.

Early on in the hearing, while trying to understand the presentation being made by reps from DOT, Mayor's office, and NYPD Councilman Koppel of the Bronx took issue with the fact that he could not follow along with the presentation because he didn't have a map in front of him, he was provided with just text. This is what the Chinatown community had been saying all along. The City Council Chairs and members of the committee were denied maps and diagrams to accompany the presentation. After an embarrassing pause and a huddle, someone from the Mayor's office ran to find the nearest copying machine, this held up the hearing for some time.

Apparently no one from DOT nor the City thought the Committee would find it necessary to have a map of the plan, despite the fact that they are accepting bids on it in two weeks. A $50 million ,four year long project at the most crucial intersection in Lower Manhattan should have been explained with accompanying maps, especially at a City Council OVERSIGHT HEARING. Maps? who needs maps? On previous occasions CCRC asked Seth Meyers of the Mayor's office and Pauline Yu, from the Mayor's Community Affairs office (ironically) if handouts could be provided to accompany their presentations. Apparently neither individual could carry out this simple request, not even for the City Council. At Community Board hearings and at a public hearing on Dec. 2nd 08 members of CCRC had to provide maps and documentation for the community so they could follow the one hour long presentation.

Councilman Liu made it clear that he does not agree with the premise that Park Row will for ever be closed. It could be something as simple as a change in administration that could change this (of course with appropriate security measures in place).
According to the DOT they didn't make the plan with the concept that Park Row will forever be closed, in fact the DOT said "Park Row can still function if it is reopened - although it will NOT function to the capacity it originally did."

Gerson made the point that it is not necessary to narrow Park Row - and in fact it should not be narrowed if everyone accepts the premise that Park Row MAY in fact be opened at some point in the future. He determined through his line of questioning that there is no legitimate reason to close the width of Park Row by half.

John Liu questioned for some time WHERE the actual "order" was made for Park Row to be closed. He "grilled" the NYPD for some time on precisely WHO made this decision, and who signed a piece of paper that says Park Row must be closed. During the hearing actually asked the panel to produce the document that reflects this executive order. It was very interesting that no one had this answer, nor a document to point to. You would think that there would be a single person responsible and fully accountable, but lo and behold there was not a single name to be associated with this closure. "We have to get back to you on that" was the answer provided by NYPD.

Once it was established by Liu and Gerson that Park Row was closed "for security" the Councilmen held up a report that explained that after the first attack on the World Trade Center it was proposed that Broadway be closed permanently for "security" reasons. They went on to say that it was D.O.T. who stepped in to oppose this closure, even in the face of "security" concerns. Broadway remains open despite several federal court buildings, City Hall, and F.B.I. headquarters adjacent to it.
Gerson said loudly "this smacks of a double standard" being applied to Park Row's closure.

Councilmen Liu and Gerson had copies of the LMDC contract. They asked the DOT when precisely did the Chatham Square Plan get posted to any City agency website. After another huddle the answer was "we don't know the exact date". This was not acceptable to Councilman Liu and he pressed further.
After more prodding "late november of 2008" was the best the panel could offer.

(In fact the date was Nov. 26th 2008) Chinatown business owners vigorously demanded to see all of the Chatham Square plan on line at a DOT presentation on Nov. 25th 08, the answer at that time by the DOT engineer making the presentation was "it's not my department, but I will look into it, I can't tell you when that will be made available." Within 24 hours the full presentation was made available on the D.O.T.'s website. Had the Chinatown community not demanded this information be made available to the public who knows WHEN they would have made it available if at all.

It was later determined by Councilman Liu, while questioning CB3's District Manager Susan Stetzerand Transportation Chair David Crane that Community Board 3 had .pdf files of the plan available to them "sometime in Oct. of 2008". These were not made available to the public, nor were they made available to members of the community board itself, nor to public members who could have disseminated the information conspicuously into the community.

In particular CB3's volunteer outreach committee members Jeanie Chin and Jan Lee were not notified that CB3 had the final version .pdf files of the Chatham Square plan in Oct. 2008.

By the time the plans became available it was only a little more than eight weeks prior to this hearing. Bids for the project are going out two weeks from today.

The DOT and the Mayor's office contend that manifestations of the plan were available through the Environmental Impact Statement for Park Row ( a result of a lawsuit brought about by CCRC). Councilman Gerson made it very clear that the E.I.S. for Park Row has no mention of Chatham Square in its title and that Chatham Square is a part of the E.I.S. and not its main focus thus making it difficult to find if one were searching for detailed plans of Chatham Square's reconstruction.

CCRC is quick to point out that the version of Chatham Square's reconstruction in the E.I.S. is included as a proposal only and not a "done deal" as it is presented at today's hearing and the hearing of Dec. 2nd 08, where DOT Lower Manhattan Commissioner Luis Sanchez exclaimed "we're moving forward with the project" after sitting through three hours of public testimony opposing the plan.

At some point between the publishing of the E.I.S. for Park Row in 2005, and the Oct. 2008 time frame a "FINAL" version of the Chatham Square alignments and overall street plan was made without community input, and again without ever providing handouts of the plan at any presentation. What took place to finalize the alignments and street configuration was done so behind closed doors with only the Mayor's office, NYPD and DOT present. The DOT and Mayor's office claim that their process has been "inclusive of community input" yet the community, prior to Nov. 26th 2008 had no possible way to access the plans in their current "final" form. It is of NO use, even if one could find the E.I.S. documents buried deep within the NYPD website, that contained some version of the Chatham Square plan, because those diagrams and proposals are vastly different than what has been presented AFTER Nov. 26th 08.

Councilman Gerson continued his questioning "when exactly, what is the date that you provided the chatham square plans with accompanying documentation to the public libraries in the area?" . Silence. A huddle. more Silence. Councilman Gerson "it's not a difficult question, what was the date that you dropped off the documents to the library? There's even a branch of the NY Library called The Chatham Square Branch. When did you drop off copies of the plan there?" No answer.
"In fact you never did drop off copies to any library, did you? My Chief of Staff checked in with the librarian and she said you never dropped off anything. It says in the LMDC contract that you "must provide documentation to local libraries" and you've not done that."

Again, this underlines the lack of respect that the DOT has for a community it is about to tear apart. In violation of the LMDC contract they plow ahead. Without providing copies to the community they plow ahead. Without making the plans available on line, they plow ahead. We commend our councilmen for exposing this injustice and for exposing the DOT for what it is.

Members of the Chinese press also demanded to have copies of the presentations prior to Nov. 26th and none were provided. In fact there has never been an attempt to provide for any form of translation, no documentation has ever been published in any form in Chinese describing what is about to happen to Chatham Square.

Despite a budget of $50 million, paper handouts for libraries, and translations of the plans in Spanish and Chinese have never been provided. What does this say about where the money for this project is being spent?

Tune in CCRC fans , there's much more on this hearing to follow...........