East Harlem Rezoning Meeting on Monday, October 22

CIVITAS and Community Board 11 have been working together, brainstorming ways to modify land use and zoning policies in East Harlem. They’re talking about creating affordable housing, promoting economic development, and controlling appropriate building sizes for the area under consideration, which is Madison to Lexington Avenues and 115th to 132nd Streets, excluding the 125th Street corridor.

To learn more about the changes the 2003 rezoning brought to East Harlem, please watch CIVITAS’ 2010 video of an East Harlem walking tour led by land use planner Richard Bass:

Be a part of the conversation and envision a better East Harlem.

WHO: CIVITAS, Community Board 11, land use consultants Insight Associates and George M. Janes & Associates

WHAT: Land Use & Zoning in East Harlem meeting

WHEN: Monday, October 22 at 6:30 PM

WHERE: The Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, 2nd floor auditorium. 2180 Third Avenue at 119th Street

RSVP: Community Board 11 office at 212-831-8929

Melissa’s Statement on Approval of HHC Housing Development on E. 99th Street

On Wednesday, August 23rd, the City Council approved a land use item that will pave the way for the construction of a new housing project E. 99th Street, adjacent to Metropolitan Hospital. The project, which will be built by the City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) will provide housing to 176 low-income elderly and/or disabled New Yorkers who currently reside at HHC’s Coler Goldwater skilled nursing facility on Randall’s Island, but no longer require intensive care. After extensive negotiations with the Bloomberg administration and HHC, I arrived at the decision to support this project.

The move of the Coler Goldwater facility from Randall’s Island to El Barrio/East Harlem was in the works since at least 2010, but the final push to move this plan along came with the announcement that the City was seeking to use the land occupied by Coler Goldwater for a new engineering school on Randall’s Island (which will be operated by Cornell University). The new facility planned for E. 99th Street is one of several new developments coming into the East Harlem community as a result of the closure of Coler Goldwater. A new nursing facility will be built near North General Hospital, and a former North General building will also be renovated to provide acute long-term care (these two sites are outside of my Council district).

The E. 99th Street Sanitation Garage

The community had expressed a number of concerns about the proposed move of Coler Goldwater facilities into El Barrio/East Harlem. The most salient of the issues raised by community stakeholders like the Metropolitan Hospital Community Advisory Board (CAB) and Community Board 11 involved a longstanding concern with the location of the E. 99th Street Department of Sanitation garage.

I share the community’s frustration about the location of such a garage across the street from our public hospital, and now from a planned housing development for low-income seniors and disabled individuals, and I have raised this with the Bloomberg administration, the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) Commissioner and HHC in the past.

In negotiating the Council approval of the 99th Street housing development, I secured several commitments from the administration:

  1. Search for potential new location of sanitation garage: DSNY will work with the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to try to identify another City-owned or privately-owned site on which to house the sanitation garage. DSNY has pledged to keep me updated on this process.
  2. Reduction in number of sanitation vehicles: DSNY will reduce the total number of vehicles stationed at E. 99th Street in its summer season (April 2nd through November 11th) by 20%. Additional vehicles will be added in the winter season, but those will only be used for the purposes of cleaning up snow in Community District 11.
  3. Additional parking space for trucks on 1st Avenue: The City has secured additional space to park Sanitation trucks on the corner of 1st Avenue and 99th Street, eliminating the need for trucks to park on 99th Street itself.

I believe that these commitments are an important step in the right direction to mitigating some of the negative impacts of the garage on 99th Street and opening up the possibility that the garage could eventually be moved if the right opportunity presents itself.

Resources from Cornell University

The community also requested that El Barrio/East Harlem receive consideration for resources that Cornell University is planning to provide to schools on Roosevelt Island, considering the burden our community is taking on with the influx of patients formerly located at Coler Goldwater. While we could not receive specific commitments at the present time, I am confident that there is a genuine openness on the part of the administration to help secure resources for our schools from Cornell, as the development of the engineering school moves forward.

Thank you for your continued support. If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact my office.

New Commercial Zoning Protections Proposed for Upper West Side/Manhattan Valley

The NYC Department of City Planning announced earlier this week the initiation of public review on a series of proposed zoning regulations that aim to protect the vibrant retail character of the Upper West Side community.  An original version of the proposal did not include the Manhattan Valley portion of the Upper West Side in these zoning protections.  However, after advocacy by local community leaders, CB 7 members, small businesses and Melissa’s office, City Planning has agreed to extend these protections to parts of Amsterdam Avenue in my district from W. 96th Street to W. 110th Street.  For details on these zoning protections, click here. 

“We must do all that we can to ensure that diverse retailers continue to define the distinct character of the Upper West Side,” said City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “I am thrilled that part of the Manhattan Valley neighborhood which I represent is being included in this proposed zoning change, so that it can also be protected from the increasing dominance of banks and retailers that tend to occupy a large ground floor footprint, leaving little room for the diverse small businesses that fuel our local economy. I applaud Commissioner Burden and my colleagues for their leadership on this zoning change and look forward to voting for it in the City Council.”

These new zoning changes aim to slow down a trend that we are seeing in many parts of our city, whereby banks and chain stores are leasing exceedingly large ground floor commerical spaces.  This practice reduces the diversity of our streetscape and retail corridors and does not provide opportunities to the local small businesses that make the Upper West Side the vibrant neighborhood that it is. 

The zoning protections being proposed by City Planning will include restrictions on frontage space for stores, banks and residential lobbies, and once adopted, will apply to new developments as well as alterations, conversions and changes in use in existing buildings.

Melissa Sends a Letter to the State Health Department Reiterating Call for Public Hearings on the JHL’s Proposed Move to W. 100th Street

Melissa sent a letter to the New York State Department of Health today in support of the community’s request for a public hearing regarding JHL’s application to open a new facility on W. 100th Street. The full letter can be read below.  We will update the blog when we receive a response from the Department.

Melissa and Speaker Quinn Call for the Protection of NYC’s Community Gardens

Melissa spoke at the New York City Community Garden Coalition‘s forum on Saturday, where advocates, elected officials and local community members met to discuss how we can protect the city’s community gardens.

Click above to see NY1's coverage of the event.

The agreement between the City and the State Attorney General’s office that has helped preserve the gardens will soon expire.

At the forum, Melissa spoke about the importance of community gardens in her district and throughout the City, as well as the efforts the City C0uncil will engage in to ensure they remain a part of New York City’s neighborhoods. Speaker Christine Quinn and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer also took part in this event.

Melissa released the following statement about community gardens on Saturday:

Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, Chair of the Committee on Parks and Recreation, stated:

Community gardens are more than simply gardens. They are truly unifying public spaces, areas of reprieve and recreation for neighborhoods desperately lacking community space. Local community members have struggled for years to support themselves, oftentimes against powerful forces, and in spite of a lack of support and resources. Today, they know they are no longer alone in this fight and we in the City Council will work until we achieve real permanent protections for our gardens.

Victory for Community in Randalls Island Court Decision

A court decision released today regarding Randalls Island represents a real victory for community members who have fought against a number of actions supported by the Bloomberg administration.

Randalls Island

One of the most controversial of these actions — also the subject of this court decision — has been a deal struck between the City and several private schools for the use of public parkland on Randalls Island as their athletic fields.

Today’s decision found that the City had circumvented a public review process, known as ULURP, before brokering the deal.

Melissa has long opposed the City’s handling of Randalls Island, which is part of District 8, for its lack of transparency and public participation with respect to a number of major decisions about the Island.

She also opposed the deal with private schools, citing the disregard for low-income young people who also should benefit from the use of the athletic fields being developed on Randalls Island.

The following is a quote from Melissa about today’s court decision:

“I am happy to learn that the court has validated what we knew all along, that this concession required the ULURP process.  This decision represents a significant victory for the community and advocates who have engaged in longstanding efforts to preserve open, public space on Randall’s Island.  I will continue to monitor the developments of this case to ensure that the community gets the maximum benefit out of further negotiations on this matter.”

NY Observer Article Mentions Melissa’s Prevailing Wage Bill

An article published by the New York Observer on Tuesday made a brief mention of Melissa’s recently-introduced legislation that would guarantee a prevailing wage for building service workers in buildings that receive financial assistance or rent from the City.  The article places this legislation in the context of the Council’s rejection of the Kingsbridge Armory proposal on Monday largely over the issue of living wages.

On top of the push for retail workers’ wages, the powerful building service workers union, SEIU 32BJ, is pushing a bill that would grant similarly high “prevailing” wages to building employees in subsidized projects citywide.

Intro 1098, the legislation mentioned above, is one of many bills Melissa hopes to reintroduce in her second term, which begins in January.

City Council Votes Down Kingsbridge Armory Proposal

Yesterday afternoon, Melissa voted with an overwhelming majority of her City Council colleagues to reject the proposal for the re-zoning of the Kingsbridge Armory. The proposal had called for the opening of a shopping mall within the historic site.

A number of concerns have been raised about the project, including environmental impacts and the refusal of the developer to guarantee that a living wage (defined as $10 per hour with health benefits or $11.50 per hour without) would be paid by all businesses operating within the proposed Kingsbridge mall.

The community and many elected officials, including Melissa, had argued that it wasn’t enough to simply create jobs, but that they should also be quality jobs, particularly considering the significant tax incentives and subsidies offered by the City for the project.

While the administration is considering a veto of this decision, the Council has enough votes to override the veto. Meanwhile, local residents are hoping to jumpstart a new planning process that will lead to the creation of a community facility at the Armory.