disticting

Melissa Testifies to Keep East Harlem Whole

Yesterday, Melissa testified at the NYC Districting Commission’s Manhattan public hearing. In front of the Commission and District 8 constituents, who were the overwhelming majority of those in attendance, Melissa had another chance to speak before the Commission’s next map revision comes on January 23rd.

Melissa testified:

My community of El Barrio/East Harlem has a clear message: we want to remain united within one district. We are asking for the full restoration of the current East Harlem boundaries in the 8th District, which will protect a historic community of interest, keep our public housing developments united and encapsulate critical community and cultural resources within one district. We are also asking for the restoration of Randall’s and Wards Islands and the preservation of Central Park within District 8. All of this is accomplished by the Common Cause map, while greatly expanding District 8’s portion of the Bronx, something I fully welcome. I strongly urge the Commission to use the Common Cause map as the basis for the reconfiguration of the proposed District 8.

For the full testimony, please click here. 

To watch Melissa’s testimony, please fast forward to around the 52-minute mark:

Thank you to everyone who came out to testify and signed our petition. We presented a petition with over 150 signatures to the Commission calling for the full restoration of the East Harlem boundaries. For those who were not able to make it out to testify, the final hearing is on January 15th, so there is still time to submit written testimony to hearings@districting.nyc.gov.

Read more about yesterday’s hearing from City & State.

Downtown-First-Avenue

New Video Tells Story of Bike Lanes in El Barrio/East Harlem

https://i0.wp.com/www.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/FirstSecondCompletionRally.jpgAs you may know, protected bike lanes are on their way on First and Second Avenue in El Barrio/East Harlem. Melissa is featured in a new video produced by StreetFilms, How Complete Streets Came to East Harlem, which tells the story of how the East Harlem community fought for this important amenity in our community. Take a look at the video and stay tuned for information how we will kick off and celebrate the completion of the lanes this coming spring!

Daily News Op-Ed: If Park Slope gets a bike lane, why not East Harlem?

Today’s New York Daily News features an op-ed written by Melissa in support of bike lanes for El Barrio/East Harlem.  Take a look at the excerpt below and follow the link to read the full op-ed.  Then, take a moment to add your voice to the comments section below the article.

If Park Slope gets a bike lane, why not East Harlem? 

City Council member says poor and minority communities deserve the same amenities

BY MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

In October, Manhattan Community Board 11’s Transportation Committee and Full Board voted in support of protected bike lanes on First and Second Aves. from 96th to 125th Sts. Since then, a small group of local business owners has sought to stymie the process, peddling misinformation that has helped sway some community board members to vote to suspend support of the bike lanes pending further investigation.

This is bad news for East Harlem.

The addition of protected bike lanes — which have barriers to make riding safer for cyclists and drivers alike — is nothing short of a social and environmental justice issue. Until recently, nearly all of the proposed locations for these lanes were in primarily white and higher-income neighborhoods — from the East Village to Chelsea to the upper East Side to Park Slope.

But all along, communities of color like El Barrio/East Harlem have needed these lanes too.

READ MORE

More Benches Coming to East Harlem Sidewalks

Melissa with DOT Commissioner Sadik-Khan and local seniors. (Photo Courtesy of Jeff Mays/DNA Info)

Yesterday, Melissa helped announce a new City initiative that will place 1,000 new benches on sidewalks throughout New York City, beginning with the two brand new benches at East 109th Street between First and Second Avenues, outside of the Leonard Covello Senior Center.  The initiative, called City Bench, was launched in our community in response to the efforts undertaken by Melissa’s office and East Harlem’s Aging Improvement District (AID) to make our neighborhood more age-friendly.  These new benches are mainly intended to help seniors have an opportunity to stop and rest as they are out walking in the community.

In the past year, the Department of Transportation (DOT) acquired federal funding to install 1,000 benches across the city to improve quality of life among the elderly. As part of the AID process, the New York Academy of Medicine surveyed seniors from throughout the East Harlem community last year to hear from the seniors directly as to what we as a community could do to make life easier for them. In response to the overwhelming request for more seating on our sidewalks, Melissa brought the idea back to DOT and they promised to launch their new and upcoming bench program in East Harlem.

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Mays/DNA Info.

This is just Melissa’s latest effort to help provide an improved quality of life for our senior residents. Last month, Melissa stood in support of a DOT proposal that would bring bike lanes to the neighborhood. These lanes not only improve the health of all members of our community but the lanes will also make it easier for older adults to cross 1st and 2nd Avenues, since pedestrian islands will be created as part of the plans.  This past summer, she also helped launch the first-ever Senior Pool Hours at Jefferson Pool in East Harlem, and earlier this year, the East Harlem AID distributed chairs to local businesses that agreed to offer seating in their stores for seniors.

Transportation Commissioner Sadik-Khan, Aging Commissioner Barrios-Paoli, Deputy Mayor Gibbs and Council Member Lappin, who chairs the Council’s Aging Committee were all on hand for the City Bench announcement, along with many older adults from the Leonard Covello Senior Center.

We look forward to bringing more benches to the district. If you would like to propose a new site for a bench, please visit http://www.nyc.gov to make your request.

NY Daily News: Ballfields at $120 million Randalls Island largely unused, not attracting neighborhood kids

Cross-posted on the NYC Council Parks & Recreation Committee blog.


Ballfields at $120 million Randalls Island largely unused, not attracting neighborhood kids

BY DANIEL BEEKMAN
DAILY NEWS WRITER

If you build it, they will come – but not to Randalls Island.

Dozens of new ballfields in the sprawling park beneath the RFK-Triborough Bridge went unused last summer by the kids who need them most, the city parks boss admits.

And with school almost out for summer, advocates are complaining the $120 million revamp of Randalls Island Park in early 2010 created a playground for the rich and took crucial dollars from neighborhood ballfields.

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe cited the low traffic earlier this year to justify plans for a private sports camp.

“Fields on Randalls Island have gone largely unused during weekday daytime hours in July and August, and thus availability should not be an issue,” he wrote City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito in January.

The deal called for Florida-based IMG Academies to operate the camp on Randalls Island after donating $200,000 to the Randalls Island Sports Foundation. But plans for the $895-a-week camp fell through in April, with IMG citing low enrollment.

Mark-Viverito (D-East Harlem/Bronx) slammed the pricey park rehab, claiming thousands of trees were cut down to make way for the artificial turf fields.

“Why would you build so many fields and then have a problem in terms of utilization?” she asked. “It was shortsighted and now we’re paying the price.”

“From day one, we were concerned there was no need to build so many” new fields, said Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates. “Now that has come to fruition. The result is the fields are empty.”

The park boasts fancy golf and tennis centers, but no basketball courts, he added.

During the rehab, the city took heat for a $2.2 million-per-year pay-to-play scheme involving Manhattan private schools. It was struck down in court after East Harlem and Bronx community groups sued.

“The fields were built mostly to accommodate the private schools,” Croft said. And Marina Ortiz, of East Harlem Preservation, called the park “a private playground … designed to bring in revenue.”

There’s a move afoot now to try and spread the word about what’s in the park. Randalls Island fields go unused partly because they are isolated and more people need to be made aware of the space, said Frances Masrota of Manhattan Community Board 11.

A renovated E. 103rd St. pedestrian bridge is set to reopen soon, while the M35 bus runs between the park and E. 125th St. – but few youngsters make the trip.

The Parks Department has assigned a representative to attend Board 11 meetings and share info related to Randalls Island to try to spread the word on what’s there.

The fields are “generally permitted to capacity” in the evenings and on weekends, Parks spokesman Zachary Feder said. The park foundation also offers a free summer program, he noted, and softball leagues
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2011/06/14/2011-06-14_kids_unaware_or_unwelcome_after_120m_randalls_island_fixup_theres_a_park.html#ixzz1PG07ybD9

Video, Photos and Media Coverage from Yesterday’s Latino Marriage Equality Press Conference

For those who missed yesterday’s press conference featuring Latino leaders and community members in support of marriage equality, we have compiled a video with some of the highlights, as well as photos and media coverage:

Press Coverage:

Photos:

Melissa Speaks Out Against Five Borough Taxi Plan

Melissa joined a large protest of livery cab drivers and base owners on Monday morning who were speaking out against the Bloomberg administration’s latest Five Borough Taxi Plan.  The administration is seeking to expand street hail service in the outer boroughs and Manhattan above 96th Street, where yellow cabs do not typically pass, creating a market in these areas for illegal street pick ups by livery cabs.

Photo by Michael Appleton/The New York Times

However, the Bloomberg administration’s plan aims to sell new yellow cab medallions, which come with licenses for a new class of livery cabs that have the ability to do street pick ups in the outer boroughs.  Livery base owners, who have traditionally provided pre-arranged cab services in communities underserved by yellow cabs, worry that they will be displaced by this new plan, while current livery drivers have expressed strong concerns that the $600,000 to $900,000 cost of these new medallions is far out of reach for them.

This plan requires Council approval and Melissa and several of her colleagues have pledged that they would not support the plan as it stands.

Melissa Joins Rally Against NYPD’s Marijuana Arrest Practices

Melissa joined a rally held by VOCAL-NY near Mayor Bloomberg’s home to criticize the NYPD’s aggressive marijuana arrest practices, which disproportionately target communities of color and cost the City at least $75 million per year.  Watch the video above for Melissa’s remarks at the rally.

Photo by Angel Franco/The New York Times

In the 25th Precinct (East Harlem), there were 1,069 low-level marijuana arrests in 2010, compared to just 34 in the 19th Precinct where the Mayor lives.  Melissa is currently drafting a City Council resolution in support of bipartisan legislation introduced in the State Legislature that would de-criminalize displaying marijuana in public view.  Currently, possession of small amounts of marijuana is already de-criminalized under State law.  However, when police perform stop and frisks, they routinely ask that individuals empty their pockets.  If they take out marijuana, it is considered to be in public view and can be punished by arrest.

Click here to read more background information in the full press release.  Below are links to the press coverage from the event:

Melissa Chairs Hearing on the Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) Program

New York City Parks Enforcement patch

Image via Wikipedia

Melissa chaired a hearing on the City Council’s Parks & Recreation Committee on Wednesday regarding the Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) program.  The hearing focused on the disparities in the allocation of PEP officers among different parks and communities as well as workplace issues faced by the officers.

PEP officers are unarmed peace officers, who enforce the rules of our parks and are empowered to issue summonses for quality of life offenses, as well as disorderly conduct and unlawful possession of weapons.  They also review park facilities for health and safety issues.  There are currently 92 PEP officers to cover over 28,000 acres of parkland, with an additional 83 officers that are contracted by conservancies and other private entities to work in specific parks.  There are often just a few at-large officers on duty at any given time for the entire borough of the Bronx, whereas in a single park in communities of greater means, there might be a dozen.

Melissa and other members of the committee stressed the need for more resources for the PEP program so that these officers can cover more parks, particularly at a time when the City is seeing an increase in crimes committed on parkland.  Melissa also highlighted that the practice of contracting with private entities that are able to purchase increased security from the department while the majority of other parks go unsupervised sets up a two-tiered system in our public parks.

The hearing also focused on the issues that PEP officers face as a workforce. Several officers came to testify about the difficult and dangerous jobs they do, including doing car stops and removing homeless individuals from parks, without the help of the NYPD or the Department of Homeless Services. They asked for greater numbers of PEP officers and more support to help make our parks safer.

In the coming months, the Committee plans to hold another hearing jointly with the Public Safety Committee on crime in parks, which will continue to examine these issues.

Coverage of Wednesday’s hearing: