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Coterminality, at ﬁrst glance, seems to be a very straightforward concept.
To simplify services to a community, the New York City Charter requires that coterminous service districts be created using the bor- ders of community districts. Section 2704(1) applies to local parks and recreation services, street cleaning and refuse collection services, a wide array of social services — and the patrol services of the police department. Every census year, there is
review of these services and the agencies that provide them so that community boards and services coincide as much as possible in order to function more efﬁ ciently.
Its implementation, how- ever, has become very com- plicated and contentious. Some community districts have more than one police precinct, and a few precincts cover broader areas. CB4’s Chelsea/Clinton neighbor- hoods — whose boundaries lie between 14th and 59th Sts. to the west of Eighth
Manhattan Community Board 4 voted against the nonproﬁt Bowery Residents’ Committee plans to build a 328-bed shelter at 127 W. 25th St. At a July 15 community forum held at FIT’s Haft Auditorium, BRC and the Department of Homeless Services met with the board of CB4 to address concerns about the size of the facility, security plans, zoning, and litigation against the property owner. The board voted 9 to 3 to support the transfer of 128 existing beds from downtown BRC shelters, but not the proposed 200-bed shelter for mentally ill homeless men.
They upheld this vote at the July 21 CB4 board meeting, held at the Fulton Center Auditorium.
With an estimated 450 attendees ﬁ ll- ing the auditorium, CB4 Chairman Joe Weis opened up the July 15 proceed- ings to a panel of 12 board members. Among them were Joe Rusticcia and David Hanzel, who directed questions to BRC director Muzzy Rosenblatt and George Nashak, deputy commis- sioner of the Department of Homeless Services. Attorney Daniel Connolly (of Bracewell & Giuliani), was also pres- ent — representing the Flatiron Chelsea Coalition, a group of concerned prop-
Safety was among the top issues. When questioned about the security plan, Rosenblatt appeared to skirt the question. He originally informed the crowd that there would be 74 uni- formed ofﬁcers patrolling all ﬂoors of the shelter, 24 hours a day, whose primary duty was security. He later said that they would have other duties, but would not enumerate these addi- tional duties, nor would he give a direct answer when asked how many would be on duty at any given time.
In the past month alone, Chelsea Now has report- ed on the demise of Life Discount & Cosmetics, Eros Cafe, and View bar — all of them small businesses, and all shuttered due to land- lord/tenant issues.
If history is any indica- tion, these small businesses and their ilk will likely be replaced by chain stores who can afford ever-increasing Chelsea rents that seal the fate of longtime businesses whose presence, ironically, contributed to the neighbor-
If the malliﬁ cation of Manhattan continues at this frenzied pace, readers might one day soon no longer be confronted with such sad news — because there will be no small businesses left whose absence we can report on.
With over 30,000 busi- nesses within Chelsea, the Village, NoHo and SoHo (according to a 2005 NYU/ Stern Business School Survey), we’re not likely to
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A federal judge last Friday denied art- ists a preliminary injunction against new rules that limit the number and locations of First Amendment-protected vendors in four Manhattan parks: Union Square, the High Line, Battery Park and parts of Central Park.
As a result of the decision by Judge Richard Sullivan, the new rules went into effect on Monday, July 19, and will continue unless the two related lawsuits seeking to permanently enjoin the rules are successful.
But more than 100 artists turned up in the south end of Union Square on that day, waved signs and ignored the rules legally while police and Parks Enforcement Patrol ofﬁcers looked on.
Under the new rules, 18 locations in Union Square Park marked by small plastic medallions designate where “expressive mat- ter” can be sold. Protesting artists, however, paid no attention to the medallions. They took advantage of the fact that the new rules do not apply to wandering art vendors who do not stay in one place any longer than necessary to transact a sale. The rules also do not apply to artists who display their art but do not sell it.
Robert Lederman, president of A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists’ Response to Illegal State Tactics) and co-plaintiff in one of the two federal court lawsuits seeking to over- turn the new regulations, promised more
“We’re going to stay in this park and away from the marked spaces. We’re going to defy the mayor and we’re going to defy the Parks Department,” said Lederman.
Artists also protested that the locations of the designated vending spots adjacent to the streets on the east and west sides of the southern end of Union Square Park were dangerous.
“It shows how little good faith the Parks Department has on this issue,” Lederman said.
A spokesperson for the Parks Department said the vendor locations would be reviewed over time with a view to adjusting them.
Julie Milner, attorney for Lederman and A.R.T.I.S.T., said the court case “was mov- ing on a fast track.”
In addition to the 18 expressive-matter vending locations in Union Square, the new rules designate 40 more locations on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays when the Greenmarket does not occupy the north and west plazas of the park.
Around Central Park south of 86th St. (including in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and at Columbus Circle) the rules set out 68 expressive-matter vending sites.
its familiar ground. In 1994, he and other artists sued in federal court to overturn the rule that all vendors except booksellers had to get a general vendor’s license in order to sell their wares in any public place. It was the ﬁrst of several similar lawsuits won by Lederman, including one that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, against limits to the vending of expressive matter protected by
Lederman last week noted that all of the actions that he eventually won had an initial setback with a denial of a preliminary injunction.
BRC’s written response, released on July 20, assured that there would be 79 indi- viduals assigned to “the safe and secure operation of the facility,” with a minimum of 16 such staff on site at any given time. Their additional duties will include distrib- uting linen and toiletries, conducting ﬁ re drills, and answering phones. Per the board’s request, the BRC released a detailed ﬁ ve- page security and safety plan.
When asked about penalties for clients who broke rules, such as loitering outside the shelter, Rosenblatt said that lawbreak- ers would be reported to the NYPD, but would not outline clients’ rules for behavior or penalties for breaking those rules saying they would be judged “on a case by case basis.”
In their written responses, BRC addressed a question from Chelsea Now regarding screenings from clients not referred from DHS. The BRC said that once these walk-in clients are admitted, they would conduct an extensive interview with them to gather any relevant material that will enable BRC to assist the client.
Rosenblatt was also asked to provide an approximate breakdown of the project’s funding sources. “I don’t have the exact amount; I can get that information for you,” he replied. This credo proved to be the standard response for most questions directed toward Rosenblatt throughout that evening—a tactic that was not well received by the crowd. (The BRC later esti- mated construction costs at $14 million, with the landlord contributing $4 million, loans providing $8 million, and BRC to raise the remaining $2 million).
Rosenblatt similarly refused to give a breakdown of case manager to client ratio, whether medication would be adminis- tered, and how often doctors and nurses would be on site. His written responses to these questions show that there will be a part-time medical director on site, full- time psychiatrists available, and a 24-hour nursing staff at the Chemical Dependency Crisis Center.
His indication that the site would be staffed with medical personnel, however, seems to conﬁrm that the “transient hotel and ofﬁce space” use applied for in the BRC’s application to the DOB hardly rep- resents the entire scope of planned use for the space, some of which appears to be out of sync with the zoning permitted for that area of Chelsea.
In the written response to questions asked at that forum, the BRC replied that, “The DOB held that, since the sleeping accommodations are used primarily for transient occupancy,” providing a single desk check-in, housekeeping, laundry ser- vices, and a dining area, “the use of the Premises is a Use Group 5 ‘transient hotel’, as deﬁned in Sections 10-12 Zoning Resolution.”
developer in this area. BRC and the build- ing’s landlord attempted to circumvent the law…by providing incomplete and inac- curate information to the appropriate city agencies,” said Rob Schubert, speaking on behalf of Chelsea Flatiron Coalition at the July 21 board meeting. “BRC has represented this facility as a hotel, which it clearly is not…. BRC has failed to inform the relevant city agencies of the exten- sive medical care and treatment that will be administered at this center.” Schubert urged elected ofﬁcials represented at the meeting to not allow this landlord to evade the established process for ﬁling, saying, “no one is above the law.”
The board also questioned Rosenblatt about litigation surrounding the property, which they say could cause the building to go into foreclosure. “I am not aware of any litigation against the owner,” Rosenblatt said.
Connolly took Rosenblatt to task for this professed ignorance, saying, “You received permits as recently as today for the building. How can you be building already without a contract?”
“We are proceeding at our own risk,” Rosenblatt replied, eliciting a volley of hisses from the crowd.
“The specter of foul play is palpable,” said Connolly. “If the building is foreclosed you could be thrown into the street. How can you say you are not aware of this?”
“There is process and a procedure, and when that process gets violated, it deprives the community and the city of its ability to assess whether or not this is appropriate,” said Connolly. “There is an appropriate process to determine whether or not this type of facility should exist on West 25th St. And the community plays a direct role in that. Some of these elected ofﬁcials are saying ‘There’s nothing we can do.’ But they need to understand that we are say- ing, ‘Go and do this the right way, and let’s see where it goes.’”
At this point, elected ofﬁcials have taken notice. In a July 13 letter, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer posed questions about how the BRC would facili- tate safety and security. BRC responded on July 20 with a ﬁve-page document outlin- ing their current strategy for safety and security, and per Stringer’s request, revised plans to keep the rooftop garden open until 11 p.m., an hour past DHS curfew.
Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, in a July 21 statement, wrote, “I believe the project must be substantially scaled back from the proposed size.” Gottfried noted that outstanding questions remained about the legality of zoning for the building, stat- ing that these must be addressed.
Although he lauded the BRC’s success in various locations on the Lower East Side and the Bowery, he added, “Even a well-run program can experience or give rise to problems when its scale is too large. Large numbers of residents can be more difﬁcult for a program to work with and for a community to accommodate and absorb. Therefore, while I do not have a speciﬁc number of to recommend, I do believe that the 328-bed facility is substan- tially too large.”
City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn was equally frank in the opening of her distributed statement, writing, “The current proposal by Bowery Residents’ Committee (BRC) before Manhattan Community Board 4 is simply too large.” Quinn resolved to meet with DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond to express their concerns with the size of the proposed shelter.
The statement goes on to say that most people agree that the proposed 328 beds is too much, Quinn saying, “I have even heard from homeless advocacy groups concerned that such a large shelter might negatively impact the quality of services being deliv- ered.”
At the July 21 public forum, several mental health professionals shared their feelings that the needs of mentally ill home- less men are extremely difﬁcult to meet, adding that plans to house 200 of these high-risk clients in one facility would lead to problems in both maintaining safety and providing quality of care. Rosenblatt also spoke about general issues of safety and care at the July 21 forum.
“When the opportunity presented itself not only to relocate programs but to help even more individuals who are homeless, we thought it was a good thing,” said Rosenblatt. “BRC believes it would be irre- sponsible and indeed inhumane to allow homeless individuals to be left out in the cold when the opportunity to provide a decent shelter and services they need is present and available. We desire 127 W. 25th St., like all of our other locations, to be safe, because we want our clients, our staff,
and the communities in which we work to be safe. We start by providing a clean and safe environment and caring staff and we have found that when you provide these people with quality and treat them with respect, they treat the environment, staff, community, and themselves similarly.”
At the FIT forum, board members had also inquired about Fair Share, a process determining limits for community use facili- ties in any given area of the city. Nashak informed attendees that Fair Share assess- ments would occur, and that the informa- tion would be available to the public.
Susan Finley, a co-director of the Flatiron Alliance, shared her concerns about Fair Share at the July 21 board meeting. “When it comes to this Fair Share process of ﬁnd- ing out how many places there are in a community, I am disturbed that that pro- cess doesn’t happen ﬁrst, before you pick a site,” said Finley. “The permits are there, the wink-wink is there, they’re open, the population is there, and the community is screwed.”
The board concluded the July 15 meet- ing by reading statements both for and against the plan, with the majority of sup- port coming from non-local groups, such as the New York Building Congress, Planned Parenthood, and the Building Trades Union, and concern voiced by locals including Save Chelsea, the Chelsea Block Association, and the Madison Square Park Conservancy, which has requested that BRC do homeless outreach in the park and provide funding for additional security in the park. The BRC has promised to begin homeless outreach this month, on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.
Individual board members then shared personal concerns surrounding security, the shelter’s impact on the community, and the lack of transparency surrounding the process. They eventually voted, 9 to 3, to support the transfer of 128 beds from other shelters but that they would “under no cir- cumstances consider the proposed 200 beds for mentally ill homeless men.”
Some board members later proposed raising the number of beds to 200, the limit for new city shelters. But in the end, the vote was upheld at the July 21 CB4 board meet- ing, with a resolution that the BRC obtain a favorable ﬁnding with the Fair Share assess- ment, comply with zoning regulations, and present a detailed security plan, which they have done.
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