Thursday, May 16, 2013

Summary of May 14, 2013 Meeting - and Gil Tauber's Talk

The General Tenants Meeting began with announcements:

In the past 3 weeks, three events would not have been as bad if the super had had keys (or known who in the building had keys) to tenant apartments:
  • Gas leak in an apartment - a fire hazard for all
  • Tenant pressed medical alert button, but there was no way for the emergency helpers to get to him
  • Flood that went down several stories.
Our super, Carlos Martinez, keeps  keys in a locked cabinet in his office.  They are coded (rather than labeled with names and apartment numbers), with the code in a book in a separate place in his office.   Give him a copy of your keys or (at worst, give keys to 2 neighbors and let Carlos know who has them.)   Click here for an emergency contact sheet to print out, fill out, and give him.

Rent stabilized tenants are now paying monthly 1/5  of the MCI addition for electrical
submetering, covering the period from February 2011 through September 2012.  
We'll pay this for 5 months.  Our tenant association's appeal is pending.  If we win, we will get the money back.  If we lose, we will also have to pay what we would have paid for this same MCI for June 2010 through January 2011.  


And on June 10, 2013, Sue will be testifying before DHCR on proposed regulations. Join Sue, Na'ava and Joan in a car going to the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, 1 Bowling Green.  Contact Sue.

Joan Browne gave her report.  If you haven't paid your $10 annual  dues or given what you can afford for the $100 legal fund to the tenant association for 2013, please do it now.  We're facing big legal struggles ahead.

Below are just a few tidbits of information that left tenants saying "fascinating!" and asking for more.  (Any inaccuracies are this author's - who was so rapt following Gil's presentation that she didn't take close notes.)

The east side of Manhattan island was always more favored than the west since there was easier access to the water - and most travel and commerce was by boat when the Dutch owned the place.  There was one important exception: Strycker's Bay around 96th St., a cove and break in the steep access to the Hudson River.   (Former tenant association founder and president Ivan Merber was part of the Strycker's Bay coalition of Mitchell-Lama buildings that fought for tax abatements for our tenants.)

To bring drinking water to Manhattan, there was a long aqueduct coming all the way down from
Westchester's Croton Reservoir to the Central Park Reservoir. The aqueduct went along the east side of much of what is now Amsterdam Avenue, and in places was 50 feet tall.  There were only a few passages through from west to east, and those were right in our neighborhood.  Only when underground sewer pipes were laid was the wall demolished - and its stones used to build at least one old neighborhood church.

The whole area from about 59th Street north was known as "Bloomingdale," probably because it (and Harlem) coincided geographically with the parallel areas in the Netherlands:  New Amsterdam (Amsterdam) in the south, Bloomingdale (Bloomendaalon the northwest, and Harlem (Haarlem) on the northeast. 

There was a road going north called Bloomingdale Road.  If you walk along 97th St. between Broadway and West End Avenues on the north side of the street, you'll see a gap between buildings: that gap is a remnant of the Bloomingdale Road.  It was later widened and shifted a bit to become Broadway. 

Because the area became known for the Bloomingdale Asylum for the Insane,  big real estate owners lobbied to change our area's name to the "West End" - including changing 11th Avenue's name to West End Avenue.  When the Bloomingdale Asylum moved up to White Plains,  Columbia University took over its site.  

In 1811, New York City set out a street grid, with all streets running non-stop from the Hudson to the East River.  But it was the property owners' responsibility - as the streets were actually developed - to pay for their leveling.  So where the streets were really steep, owners lobbied for breaks or parks, which is how we got Morningside Park.  Our street and those around it didn't get fully developed until the 1880's or 1890's.

When Robert Moses controlled development in New York City,  he had areas that were not slums declared "blighted" and demolished.  That included the vibrant and primarily African American and Irish working class community from the West 90's through West 104th Street.  And that demolition literally paved the way for the West Side Urban Renewal Plan and the Mitchell-Lamas that lined the avenues and some of the larger streets, and to Park West Village.   Our building was finished in 1970.  

And there's more - but you should go on Gil's walking tours,  read his books and see his web sources, including  Old Streets in New York City.

Our next full tenants meeting will be in September - so have a great summer!  
And FLOOR CAPTAINS and BOARD MEMBERS are having our next meeting on Wed., June 12, 2013 at 8 PM. 

- Sue Susman, Na'ava Ades, Joan Browne, Rich Jordan, Steve Koulish, Greg Murray

Friday, May 10, 2013

City-Wide & Local Tenant Activities

History of our Neighborhood - Tues., May 14
8 PM in our Community Room with Historian & Author Gil Tauber

City Budget Forum - Wed., May 15 
at Goddard-Riverside Community Center
593 Columbus Ave. at 88th St.  
4:00-5:30 PM

Tenant Lobby Day  - Wed., May 22 
Free bus to Albany.  Contact Sue [sue at janak dot org] or Na'ava [na'ava at gmail dot com]  if you'd like to come. You'll get training on the bus, and lobby for tenant protections and fair elections.

DHCR Regulation Proposals -  Mon., June 10 
Sue, Na'ava  and others will be testifying.  Come demand changes to limit Major Capital Improvement increases, among others.  U.S. Custom House auditorium, Alexander 
Hamilton U.S. Custom House, One Bowling Green. Sue is driving down.  Contact her for a ride. 

The Rent Guidelines Board - June 13
The next public hearing is  downtown at the Emigrant Savings Bank, 49-51 Chambers St. (between B'way and Centre St) Manhattan, 10 Am to 2 PM. 

The RGB is considering raising rents for stabilized tenants between 3.25-6.25% for 1-year leases and 5-9.5% for 2-year leases. That's a sharp increase from last year-increases of 2% and 4% were the lowest in recent memory.  

With more than 50% of New Yorkers living in poverty, now is the time for the RGB to respond to the needs of the people and hold more extensive public hearings. Somehow, they've decided to forgo outer borough hearings and blatantly disregard rent-stabilized tenants in 4 of the 5 boroughs. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

West Side Spirit
Lead Found at Future West Side Construction Site Next to School 
Written by NY Press on May 1, 2013. Posted in News & Features West Side Spirit

A curious neighbor paid for an expert to test the parking lot where Jewish Home Lifecare plans to build a new facility, and found alarming levels of toxic lead

By Nora Bosworth

Nobody asked Martin Rosenblatt to protect the schoolchildren at the Upper West Side’s P.S. 163, but he may have done just that. The story begins with a nursing home, one very informed citizen, and a lot of paperwork.

Since 2008, the elder care company Jewish Home Lifecare (JHL) has been planning to erect a 20-story nursing home alongside a public elementary school on the Upper West Side. The tower would be built on West 97th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, on a parking lot that is now part of the Park West Village apartment complex, which borders P.S. 163.

Read rest of article.