On Wednesday, NYC Comptroller John Liu should have received a very loud and crystal clear message from the residents of Battery Park City; Mayor Bloomberg should look to spend his money elsewhere.
Since news broke that the mayor ordered Liu\u2019s of\ufb01ce to study the pos- sibility of acquiring the neighborhood, which is currently owned by the state and presided over by the Battery Park City Authority, Liu stated that before he would move on the mayor\u2019s proposal, he would \ufb01rst want to hear from the com- munity members. BPC residents have been weighing the pros and cons of the transfer ever since.
But at Tuesday\u2019s meeting of CB1\u2019s BPC Committee, the entire discussion seemed to focus only on the cons.
CB1 Chairperson Julie Menin, though not present Tuesday, told the Downtown Express earlier in the week that she had major concerns about the proposal.
\u201cWhile we have had over the years our differences with the BPC Authority, and while I am absolutely opposed to any additional layers of bureaucracy,\u201d stated Menin, \u201cI want to make sure that the needs of BPC are not lost in the shuf\ufb02e in any transfer to the city.\u201d
Con Edison is considering raising its rates if certain 9/11 funds it was counting on are used to help build an arts building at the World Trade Center.
David Gmach, Con Ed\u2019s director of public affairs in the city, delivered that message to Community Board 1 last week, trying in vain to convince the board not to back an idea to transfer at least $150 million of Lower Manhattan Development Corp. money in order to build the proposed World Trade Center Performing Arts Center.
The money, part of a $750 million fund to repair and build utility infrastruc- ture in Lower Manhattan, was meant \u201cto prevent New Yorkers \u2014 residents and small business owners from all \ufb01 ve bor- oughs \u2014 from having to bear the burden of this restoration and recovery effort in the form of rate increases,\u201d Gmach said in a prepared statement to the board. \u201cIn effect these funds belong to New Yorkers who are paying to help restore and rebuild Lower Manhattan following
The Soho Partnership, which trains and employs home- less people to keep the nabe\u2019s streets clean, is looking to turn a narrow slice of the tony area into a business improve- ment district. Barbara Cohen, a consultant on the project, said one of the reasons Broadway is under consideration for a BID is that businesses on the street have not given much support to the Partnership, which relies on donations. Another is that Broadway is the dividing line between two police precincts (the First and Fifth), and the new group could help make sure security is coordinated in the pro- posed district, between Houston and Canal Sts.
She said Partnership founder Henry Buhl started the BID effort, which now has a steering committee of neighborhood property owners and others, but if a district is formed, the Partnership would not be guaranteed the street cleaning contract. BIDs charge property owners a fee that is tpically used for services like sanitation and marketing.
If things go smoothly and the idea is well-received, Cohen hopes the new organization will be up and running next year.
that roughly 15 years ago, the Partnership looked into a BID, but it was defeated because he and other neighbors opposed it. He is reserving judgment this time, but said he is much less likely to oppose this one because it includes far fewer residents than the previous effort.
Cohen said the committee did brie\ufb02 y consider covering a larger area of Soho but decided against because focusing on Broadway would be a \u201cquicker route to getting something done.\u201d
Buhl also founded the Tribeca and Nolita Partnerships, but Cohen kept ducking our questions as to whether those nabes might also be considered for BIDs.
Speaking of BIDs, Carl Weisbrod, the founding presi- dent of the Downtown Alliance and a driving force in the creation of the Hudson Square business district last year, will be leaving as head of Trinity\u2019s real estate division at the end of the year. Weisbrod, 65, told UnderCover he wanted to give Trinity ample time to \ufb01 nd a replacement and himself the chance to consider his next move carefully. \u201cI already have a few offers and I\u2019ll probably collect a few more before January,\u201d he said, declining to go into speci\ufb01 cs. He said he\u2019s proud of the role Trinity has played in helping improve Hudson Square and he\u2019ll miss working with the church and its \u201ccore values.
club, Lower Manhattan Democrats, tells us he\u2019s \u201camazed at how well we\u2019ve done\u201d with 59 members in only a few months. The group\u2019s \ufb01 rst gala will be May 16 in the home of one of it\u2019s charter members, Rebecca Skinner.
L.M.D. splintered from Downtown Independent Democrats at the end of last year after at least two years of in\ufb01ghting at D.I.D.
Both Love and D.I.D. leader Sean Sweeney said inter-club relations have gotten better since Sweeney left as club president last month. Sweeney said Jeane Wilcke, the new D.I.D. presi- dent, is more conciliatory than he is and has already reached out to Love, who also thinks all of the \ufb01 ghting will cool down. (Talk about your recipe for getting ignored by UnderCover.)
Sweeney, though, is personally not ready to bury any hatchets. He says after Love\u2019s allies failed to defeat him as president two years ago \u201clike spoiled children, they took their marbles and started another game.\u201d He can\u2019t see their reason for another club now that he he is no longer the leader.
The city appears to have gotten out while the getting was good and protected its perfect record regarding helicopter noise complaints in Lower Manhattan. Last Friday, the city\u2019s Economic Development Corp. announced new rules designed to reduce chopper noise from Downtown Heliport \ufb02 ights.
Tourist traf\ufb01c from the Wall St. heliport has been steadily increasing there because it has been phased out of the 30th St. spot. There were many complaints from Downtown Brooklyn, but we were surpised to report a few weeks ago that the city had received zero com- plaints from Lower Manhattan since tourist traf\ufb01c began incereasing Downtown.
E.D.C. spokesperson Kyle Sklerov told us this week that there still have been no complaints from Lower Manhattan.
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Chinatown is going green \u2013 with cooking oil. Last week Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver kicked off a program that will convert the grease from deep-fat fryers to biodiesel fuel, which can be used to power cars, trains and even heating systems.
Under the initiative workers at the DOE Fund\u2019s Ready, Willing & Able Resource Recovery Fund, which employs formerly homeless New Yorkers, will pick up used cooking oil for free. The oil will be converted to biodiesel, which pro- duces 84 percent less emissions than petroleum-based fuel. Businesses that sign up are eligible for a tax credit of up to 15 cents per gallon.
\u201cThis is the beginning of a new relationship between Chinatown businesses, environmental groups and govern- ment that will help clean our air of harmful fumes and clear our waters of waste[d] cooking oil,\u201d Silver said in a state- ment. \u201cThis program will instantly provide positive change to our environment and I encourage other interested restau- rants in Chinatown to sign up for this free program.\u201d
\u201cThe Lower East Side Ecology Center is so happy to be launching our recycling training and outreach program in Chinatown,\u201d said Tara DePorte of the Lower East Side Ecology Center.
Jing Fong, a dim sum restaurant that can seat up to 800 people, was the \ufb01rst establishment in Chinatown to sign on. The oil was collected by DOE Fund workers for the \ufb01rst time on April 30.
\u201cIt\u2019s good for the environment, it\u2019s good for the city, it\u2019s good for everybody,\u201d Mandy Chan, the general manager at Jing Fong, said. \u201cIf it wasn\u2019t for recycling it might go into the sea.\u201d
This initiative has been going strong on the Lower East Side since last summer. Due to the efforts of the Lower East Side Ecology Center and the Lower East Side Business Improvement District, about 120 businesses have joined in the effort.
Early last week, eco-volunteer youth groups at Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) visited restaurants in Chinatown and invited owners to participate in the program. Although they only went out for three hours, Peter Gee, pro- gram manager at AAFE, said three more restaurants signed up and about 10 expressed interest. Restaurant owners are still working through the logistics of the program and their
\u201cWe\u2019re going one-on-one to people,\u201d Gee said. \u201cOur youth program is explaining the bene\ufb01ts to restaurant own- ers.\u201d
Recycling cooking oil is not only good for the environ- ment, it\u2019s good for New York City residents too. Chinatown has one of the highest asthma rates in New York City and vehicles that run on cleaner fuel can counter that.
\u201cThere\u2019s a huge problem in Chinatown because a lot of the cooking oil is dumped down storm drains. That causes problems for city infrastructure. So this is a win-win for everyone,\u201d Gee said. \u201cThere\u2019s a lot of issues with asthma and bad smells. This is a very holistic approach to addressing a community problem.\u201d
who has lived in the area for 30 years said. \u201cChinatown should be more clean so more people will come down here.\u201d
Cooking oil is not the \ufb01rst thing that comes to mind when people think about going green and many are championing the program\u2019s creativity.
\u201cIt\u2019s a really interesting initiative. We should be encourag- ing businesses in the area to participate,\u201d Bob Zuckerman, executive director of the Lower East Side Business Improvement District, said. \u201cEspecially since this big oil spill, we have to come up with new ways to fuel our cars. It\u2019s a new process but it certainly sounds like it\u2019s viable.\u201d
The DOE Fund is providing multilingual service via a direct phone line to make the process easier for Asian- American business owners wishing to participate.
The accordion-style M15 Limited bus was nearly full at 12:20 on Tuesday after- noon when it left the Allen Street stop, just below Houston. Twenty minutes later it arrived at its destination, City Hall, one- and-a-quarter miles away. The MTA bus map estimates that a person could walk that distance in about twenty-three min- utes, meaning that the riders on that bus saved only three minutes for their $2.25.
That is the reasoning behind the Department of Transportation\u2019s recent deci- sion to extend \u201ctransit signal priority\u201d to buses along the M15 route, as part of its Select Bus Service (SBS) from 125th Street to South Street Ferry. Signal priority allows bus drivers to change the lights in front of them in order to reduce time spent idling in
traf\ufb01c. A similar program along Fordham Road in the Bronx has reduced travel time by 20 percent, according to a January pre- sentation by the MTA and DOT.
\u201cIf it worked and made the buses quicker, that would be great,\u201d said Nancy Cronkite, 61, as she waited for the M15 at the Stanton Street stop. Cronkite uses the bus to commute to her job as a yoga instructor on 86th Street. She said that the trip took anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the traf\ufb01c.
Though the Select Bus Service will entail street re-designs along most of its route, the impact below Houston is muted, with new SBS stops at the intersections of Oliver and Madison Streets, Grand and Allen Streets and Houston and Allen Streets the only planned changes for Downtown.
That was welcome news to Manolo Urena, 34, who was unloading a truck full of Dow gas lines at Grand and Allen on Tuesday. Urena said the recent redesign of Broadway had caused extra traf\ufb01c and decreased the availability of parking. He said he normally could accomplish six or seven deliveries in an hour, but that num- ber would drop to four or \ufb01ve if he got stuck on Broadway.
\u201cIt\u2019s like \u2018Survivor\u2019 out here, you just do what you gotta do to get the job done,\u201d he said. \u201cBut it helps when they don\u2019t change things on you.\u201d
Kay, the driver of the M15 bus that navigated Downtown\u2019s busy streets on Tuesday afternoon, said that she is delayed on her route about 25 percent of the time. She said the signal priority would be
helpful, but that the knots of traf\ufb01c and delivery trucks downtown were a bigger problem below Houston than red lights.
\u201cIt only takes one truck to create a catas- trophe,\u201d Kay, who declined to give her last name because she was still on duty, said.
Ro Sheffe, a Community Board 1 mem- ber, said that the Select Bus Service was \u201ckind of a no-brainer.\u201d He said the loss of parking spaces that would result from the new stops would be more than offset by the new ease with which people could move through Downtown.
\u201cI have yet to see anything that even resembles a downside to this,\u201d Sheffe said. \u201cAny improvement, I don\u2019t care if it\u2019s oxcart transport, to allow people to move between downtown and uptown, I\u2019m for that.\u201d
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