Saturday, May 30, 2009

Brooklyn Merchants Oppose the BID they are in.

Merchant ‘revolt’ against Fulton Street BID
By Mike McLaughlin
The Brooklyn Paper

The Brooklyn Paper / Allyse Pulliam

Atchudta Barkr, owner of Sisters Community Hardware at the corner of Fulton Street and Washington Avenue, says she doesn’t need a business improvement district to do her sweeping.

Fulton Street merchants launched another assault on Thursday against a tax on property owners that would be allocated to improve the business environment along the thoroughfare in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill.

Small business owners and neighborhood activists, mostly from the Clinton Hill-side of Fulton Street, delivered a letter of protest with 70 signatures against the newly formed business improvement district to Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Clinton Hill) and the city Department of Finance in the morning, warning that they’d withhold their fees from the controversial measure.

“We won’t pay,” the letter read. “This BID [business improvement district] has left us out. We want a new, democratic vote. Otherwise it’s a battle on Fulton Street.”

Shopkeepers first revolted against the business improvement district prior to its creation in December, but the rebel forces were not large enough to defeat the vote by the 200 property owners to ratify the tax. The opponents have kept up the fight, though, saying that the tax, $80 for every 20 feet of property, is a burden during the recession.

The tax will raise $300,000 per year and its proponents say the money will be spent on security, street lighting and other enhancements between Rockwell Place and Classon Avenue.

But there’s the fear among some entrepreneurs that it will accelerate gentrification and eventually drive them out of business.

James has defended the business improvement district and said that its formation now enables her to funnel city money to the area for other uses that could revitalize the commercial corridor.

Myrtle Avenue has a business improvement district, which has been credited with diversifying the stores along the strip once known as “Murder Avenue.”

The 88th Precinct played a large role in the turnaround, others say.

©2009 The Brooklyn Paper

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Norman Siegel is no novice in dealing with the LMDC

Norman Siegel, seen here with Chinatown resident Triple Edwards and Jan Lee of the Civic Center Residents Coalition, explained his past experience in dealing with the LMDC.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Councilman Gerson Delivers over a hundred petitions to LMDC office

At 1:00pm today, NYC Council Member Alan Gerson, NYC Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr., public advocate candidate Norman Siegel and residents, community leaders and business owners from Chinatown, rallied at the offices of the Lower Manhattan Development (LMDC) Corporation to demand that LMDC funds allocated for the NYC Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Redesign of Chatham Square be withheld, based on widespread community disapproval of the plan.

Council member Gerson delivered a petition to the LMDC, signed by the boards of directors of several local residential buildings including Chatham Towers, Chatham Green and Southbridge Towers, representing over 5500 residents. Over 140 local businesses also signed the petition demanding the embargo of the funds. The Chatham Square Redesign has been formally rejected by Community Boards 1 & 3, and is “untested, unpopular and unsafe,” according to community leaders, who have created an alternative plan, which was vetted by a professional traffic engineer, Brian Ketcham.

The planning process for Chatham Square was initiated by the LMDC in 2003 to address issues of traffic congestion, pedestrian safety, increasing public space as well as re-establishing the connections that were cut off when Park Row was closed. Subsequently, a sub-recipient agreement allocated $30,690,000 in LMDC funds to the project, none of which has been invoiced yet.

Gerson, Chair of the Council’s Committee on Lower Manhattan Redevelopment, said “The NYC Department of Transportation must listen to the concerns of the community before it proceeds with major traffic reconfigurations. The Chatham Square area community is united in its opposition to this misguided plan, and we will do everything in our power to stop it from moving forward. The Lower Manhattan Development
Corporation has an excellent track record of stewarding federal funds.

It was demonstrated clearly at a City Council joint hearing that the NYC Department of Transportation is in violation of several community input requirements of the sub-recipient agreement. Therefore, the LMDC has a fiduciary responsibility to demand that the community review process fulfill the contractual agreement before funds are disbursed.”

NYC Council Transportation Committee Chairperson John Liu said, "We convened a joint oversight hearing on February 5 to examine the City's proposed Chatham Square Reconfiguration. Despite substantial objections from area residents and businesses to the plan, including formal resolutions from Manhattan Community Boards 1 and 3 rejecting the plan, the City had indicated the project will move forward. Chairperson Gerson and I had called for a full community review of the DOT's plans, including a six-month breathing-period delay in the plans to commence construction, because little information and opportunity for feedback has been afforded to the community. The City cannot disregard the community objections and outcry formally submitted today by way of petitions."

“I fully support this petition, and hope that the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will heed the call by the community and elected officials to reconsider its funding of the Chatham Square / Park Row Improvement Program,” said New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. “This ill-conceived plan, developed by the City, has completely failed to take community concerns into consideration. Furthermore, if it moves forward, small businesses in Chinatown will loose significant amount of business at a time when they can least afford it. If the City will not step in and address these concerns, then I urge LMDC to take immediate action and stop this program from moving forward.”

Community leader Jeannie Chin said, “The LMDC must follow their own charter mandate in considering the tremendous effect that the reconfiguration of Chatham Square would have on the lives of thousands of residents and businesses surrounding Chatham Square and on the thousands more who use this critical major cross-town intersection in Chinatown and Lower Manhattan. With three other nearby cross-town streets shuttered either for reconstruction or permanently -- Fulton Street until 2014 and Park Row/Pearl Streets -- one cannot begin to imagine the traffic congestion, air quality and emergency access issues that our community will face in the next 4-5 years. We challenge the DOT to examine the community alternative and the LMDC to look before funding this white elephant.”

Several other community leaders including Danny Chen, Jan Lee and Margaret Chin also spoke passionately against the proposed traffic plan. Gerson then carried the petitions to the LMDC.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Parks Department - oblivious

A day after Senator Squadron and Borough President Stringer announce a new legislation called the Haley and Diego bill in honor of the two children killed on East Broadway as a result of a commercial van backing into them, the NYC Parks Department continues to threaten the sidewalks around Columbus Park with their OWN vehicles. Almost all of the vehicles have poor rearward visibility due to their size. This is especially troubling considering the considerable usage of the park.
Note the school kids trying to relax next to an idling truck. Would you allow this in your neighborhood?
It's time the parks commissioner reign in his dangerous and disrespectful fleet. This is no way to be "green".

Daniel Squadron and Scott Stringer present new legislation on City Hall Steps today

On the steps of City Hall today Borough President Scott Stringer and Senator Dan Squadron along with Transportation Alternatives Paul White announced newly authored legislation they would like to see passed. Many Chinatown community leaders were also present including CCRC.

According to the Borough President, "The proposed legislation - recognizing the increased risk of injury and death faced by cyclists, pedestrians and other road users traveling outside the protection of an automobile - requires drivers who kill or seriously injure "vulnerable" roadway users to appear before a judge in court, attend driver safety training, and perform up to 60 days of community service. If a convicted driver fails to complete the safety training course or the community service requirement, he or she may also face fines of up to $10,000 and the loss of his or her driver's license."

Some concerns over this legislation, which was not available in print at the press conference for review, are whether or not the motorist would be "run through the system". It was not clear at the press conference about exactly what was to take place in the event of an accident resulting in injury. While it is clear that the onus should not be on the policeman on the scene to determine a driver's guilt or innocence, we are reminded of possible abuses of one's rights if one is run through the system.
We need to have a reasonable balance. CCRC is waiting to see this legislation.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What annoys Mayor Bloomberg? Mention his money.

New York City - Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the question “ridiculous.” A reporter wanted to know whether, in view of the economic adversity facing New York and the nation, he would consider limiting his spending in the coming mayoral campaign.

The Mayor was clearly annoyed.

“I don't understand your question,” he said angrily. “'I am not going to talk about the campaign. I think it's one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard.”

It may not sound so ridiculous to the New Yorkers who are living from paycheck to pay check or those who fear that that might soon be the case. Reportedly, Mike Bloomberg is ready to spend 80 to 100 million dollars to get elected to a third term. He put the heat on the City Council to have the law changed to allow him to run -- even though by referendum the people of New York had already voted twice to limit the number of terms to two.

This mayor is used to getting his own way and he's glad to throw money around to accomplish that goal. The Times carried a story the other day detailing the fat bonuses he's given his closest aides out of his own pocket for their services in furthering his ambitions. His generosity also extends to how he treats them on the road. According to the Times, Bloomberg puts his senior staff members up at the Four Seasons in London [$400 a night], at the Intercontinental in Paris [$320] and at the King David in Israel $345]. And, the Times reports, as he seeks to recruit new members to his staff for the campaign ahead, he makes it clear that they will have a chance to inhabit the Bloomberg world and get handsome bonuses for their efforts.

One former adviser said he was surprised to find, after the 2001 election, that $25,000 had been added to his bank balance. Bloomberg had bestowed a little gift on him.

“I was shocked,” he said. “I knew big campaign operatives would negotiate bonuses but I was just a policy adviser.”

William Cunningham, an affable man who advised Bloomberg on strategy in the 2001 and 2005 campaigns, was paid about 1.2 million dollars for his work---and, the Times reports, he got bonuses of $300,000 each after each contest. The money enabled him to send his children to college, he said, and to go on pricey vacations with his family. “For that,” Cunningham said, “I am very grateful.”

No one can begrudge anyone a chance to make a good living. And the fault here is hardly on the recipients of Bloomberg largesse.

The problem here falls squarely on Bloomberg's shoulders. New York has a campaign finance law that was devised to make for an equal playing field. In the coming mayoral election, the two major contenders for the Democratic nomination are City Comptroller William Thompson and Congressman Anthony Wiener. Alongside Mike Bloomberg, both are paupers. Financially, he can wipe the floor with them.

Thompson's campaign manger, Eduardo Castell, said: “as he has in the past, the Mayor is buying a campaign.” Speaking of the perks that go to Bloomberg aides, the Mayor's spokesman Stu Loeser said: “These are rare and relatively minor benefits that don't come close to offsetting the workload, especially when you've flown through the night and have to work on both local and New York City time.”

Which gets us back to what the Mayor called a “ridiculous” question.

We're facing tough times. The mayor is a great philanthropist. He's supported many charitable causes. The other day, he promised the bishop of Brooklyn to consider a plan to convert four parochial schools threatened with being closed into public charter schools.

But it is hardly ridiculous to ask whether this man should flaunt his wealth in the political arena. he has done good for the city. He has also exhibited great hubris and if he truly believes in a democratic system, he should be willing to accept legal limits on campaign expenditures.

You have fans out there, Mr. Mayor, and critics. Are you afraid to test your achievements on a level playing field?
Gabe Pressman WNBC Feb. 11th 2009.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Parks Department Vehicles on Columbus Park Sidewalks send a message to Chinatown

Despite the presentation of photos depicting Parks Department vehicles parked on Columbus Park sidewalks at a recent Transportation Town Hall on the L.E.S. the parks department insists on endangering Chinatown kids and seniors who use the park.

Lower Manhattan D.O.T. Commissioner Luis Sanchez expressed to CCRC at the Town Hall that he would be calling Parks Dept. reps to put a stop to this practice, but only three days after the Town Hall the same vans and trucks are back again.

The Parks Dept. can be reached here.

Chinatown working Group - Parking, Transportation, Circulation & Security acts on Zip Car / Fast Fleet momentum

The "Parking, Transportation, Circulation & Security committee" of the Chinatown Working Group agreed last Tuesday to present the Zip Car / Fast Fleet technology idea, currently enjoyed by Washington D.C., to the full Chinatown Working Group at the next full Board meeting.
Washington D.C. is the first City in the country to adopt for its own government fleet of cars, thereby cutting as many as 300 cars from its fleet.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ever wonder where all the money went? New website will help NY'ers track the $$$

Comptroller Candidate David Yassky created a website for NY'ers to follow the "earmarked cash" (money divvied out by Councilmembers to favorite orgs.)
Although CCRC has not endorsed a candidate for comptroller, we find this website very useful.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Downtown Express and The Villager coverage of the Liu / Gerson Town Hall on Transportation Issues

Volume 21, Number 51 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | May 8 - 14, 2009

Traffic changes driving ’em crazy in L.E.S. and Chinatown

By Albert Amateau

Lower East Side and Chinatown residents braved the rain on Monday to denounce Mayor Bloomberg and the city Department of Transportation over traffic changes the city has made during the past several months and is contemplating for the future for their neighborhoods.

City Councilmember Alan Gerson, who convened the May 4 forum on traffic and parking at P.S. 137 at East Broadway and Grand St., told Transportation officials that what the city thought would be improvements to traffic circulation and pedestrian safety on Grand St. have not worked.

“We get too many complaints that D.O.T. turns a deaf ear to community concerns,” Gerson said. “Traffic on Grand St. is worse. Pedestrian crossings are more dangerous. Critical turns for the Fire Department, ambulances and police have become difficult.”

Neighbors also railed against the recently established Grand St. bike lanes, and denounced bike riders who ride on the sidewalks and ride in the wrong direction when they do use the bike lanes.

Jan Lee, of Mott St., presented photos of Depart-ment of Parks cars and garbage trucks parking in the entrance of Columbus Park in Chinatown.

“It’s a daily occurrence,” he said. “Every weekday between 12 and 2 you’ll see a whole circulation of cars, even though there is curbside parking space reserved for the Parks Department.”

Luis Sanchez, a D.O.T. official at the forum, said the department tries to respond to the needs of pedestrians, drivers and delivery trucks.

“We end up taking from one group and giving to another,” he said. But he promised to call the Parks Department about vehicles in Columbus Park.

Triple Edwards, another Chinatown resident, insisted that the Police Department should be involved in traffic and parking forums.

“They are part of the traffic and parking problem in Chatham Square, and there is no dialogue with N.Y.P.D.,” he said.

Harold “Heshy” Jacob, the manager of the East River Housing Co-ops on Grand St. at the F.D.R. Drive and a director of the Hatzolah volunteer ambulance service, said the Grand St. traffic islands installed last year and the Grand St. bike lanes have interfered with emergency calls and delayed truck deliveries.

“Ambulances can’t get up Grand St.,” Jacob said. “I’ve seen fire engines tied up at Pitt St. Cars can’t move on Essex St.” Jacob recalled that the traffic islands last winter were useless as safety refuges for pedestrians because they were covered with snow and ice. The concrete of at least one island disintegrated over the winter and doesn’t exist any longer, he said.

Jacob also said the Grand St. bike lanes were a menace because they force trucks to park in the middle of the street when making deliveries.

Jacob recalled that Margaret Forgione, D.O.T. Manhattan borough commissioner, told a Lower East Side forum earlier this year that the Grand St. median island was intended to avoid pedestrian deaths on a section of Grand St. where there had been three fatalities. Jacob said he obtained records through a Freedom of Information Law request and found that there were no fatalities at that location, but that there had been one death on Clinton St. after a safety island had been installed at an intersection.

Jacob said there should have been an environmental impact statement done for the Grand St. traffic islands, but there was none.

Sanchez did not respond to Jacob’s comments.

“This is Bloomberg — arrogantly conceived and arrogantly carried out,” said Aaron Mitrani. He recalled pointing out to a construction foreman at one location last year that his crew was building an island next to another that was under construction.

“They made a mistake and they had to take it all down,” he said.

Mitrani noted that north-south traffic, especially along Essex St., is often at a standstill as far as the eye can see. He also condemned cyclists for disobeying traffic rules and riding wherever they pleased.

“It’s time the city licensed bikes so they can track offenders,” he said.

Iris Blutreich was angry about the curbside parking lost because of the bike lanes. She also called for an end to alternate-side-of-the-street parking rules and suggested that new street-cleaning technology could vacuum trash from the gutters. Parking-meter rules on the Jewish Sabbath should also be dropped, Blutreich said.

Darci Kennedy, a resident of Rutgers St. between Madison and Cherry Sts., said two parking lanes leave no room for cars on the street. Fire trucks cannot get to buildings, she said.

Rutgers St. residents called on D.O.T. to change traffic rules in time for the annual Rutgers St. neighborhood stickball game on May 23.

“It’s an important event for us,” Kennedy said.

Morris Faitelewicz also called for licensing bicycles and giving summonses to bike riders who violate traffic rules.

“They must he held accountable,” he said. Motorcycle and motor-scooter riders who remove their license plates and park on sidewalks should also get summonses, he added. Faitelewicz suggested that license identification should be affixed permanently on the vehicles rather than on a removable license plate.

Gerson said he intends to conduct a series of traffic town hall meetings, the next one on May 19 at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Mulberry St. at Prince St.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


Councilmember Alan J. Gerson, District 1

Joined by Councilmember John C. Liu,

Chair of City Council Transportation Committee
Invite you to a


on your




(Of the Lower East Side)

MONDAY, MAY 4, 2009



Public School 134

293 East Broadway at Grand Street

If you have any questions, please call (212) 788-7722

Department of Transportation invited and expected to attend