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Voice of the W. 13th St. 100 Block Association, Inc., 155 W. 13th St., New York, N.Y. 10011
Issue No. 14
Big Dig Finally Finished
4 1/2-Year MTA Project Ends; Assn. Board Plans for Future
By Gary Tomei St. Vincent’s Big Construction Plan: What it Could Mean for Our Block As you may have read in The New York Times, St. Vincent’s Hospital plans to redesign and restructure its physical plant in order to create a state of the art medical facility. Nineteen months after entering bankruptcy, St. Vincent’s is poised to emerge from court protection as a smaller, profitable company that says it can repay its debts. As a result of inefficient business management (for example, the Hospital was spending millions of dollars per year on consultants) as well as by overextending itself by taking over the operation of a number of smaller hospitals, St. Vincent’s went bankrupt in 2005. In 2003, St. Vincent lost $68 million, cut hundreds of jobs, and doctors took a vote of no confidence in management. In 2004, it turned over its management to Speltz & Weis, a consulting firm. Losses more than doubled that year. It lost $140 million in 2004 and about $17 million in 2006, In July 2005, St. Vincent’s filed for bankruptcy. The Hospital hired Guy Sansone, a turnaround specialist. In recent months, it has been operating in the black and projects a $60 million profit this year.
(Continued on p. 3)
In May, with girls in spring dresses, Marilyn moments would have bloomed like so many fluttering blossoms. But no -- the steady wind that came from underground in mid-March ruffled only the dark coats of winter. It was the long-promised test of the fruits of the Big Dig, an endurance run of subway ventilation machinery that was billed at 100 hours, but in fact ran much longer, more than a week in all, ending only with the late-winter snowstorm of March 16. Block Assn. board member Alan Jacobs has some thoughts:
I kind of miss the hubbub and excitement! The huge MTA fan project that started back in October 2002 is basically finished. The fans are installed and tested. During the tests, the whoosh of the fans was audible to those in front apartments at 105, but it wasn’t too disturbing. Rather like an idling car – annoying, but you can sleep through it. Following this initial testing period, the fans are to be switched on just a few times a year, unless they are needed. When they're on, there's an impressive updraft as you walk over the grill in front of the parking garage; you can just channel Marilyn Monroe and say to yourself, "Isn't it delicious!"
(Continued on p.2)
W. 13th St. Gazette
Big Dig Finished (cont. from p.1)
The MTA installed two sets of fans, one set on our side of 6th Ave., another on the east side. The fans are said to be state-of-the-art, and are intended to protect riders on the F, V, D and B lines from inhaling smoke or toxic gas. Unfortunately, if the worst happens in the subway, those substances will be blown onto our block, up through the sidewalk grill. We can only hope the fans will never need to be used for that purpose – and if they are used – that it will be windy day and the smoke and fumes will dissipate.
By Daphne Uviller
On Tuesday, Jan 30th, at 7pm, about 15 block residents met with representatives from The Church of the Village (NW corner of 13th street and 7th Ave.) to discuss neighborhood concerns. Chief among them was the increased presence of homeless people outside the church. Bishop Johnson led the meeting. Also attending were others members of the church and representatives from the LGBT Center, a representative from the Sixth Precinct and a number of residents of 175 W. 13th, many of whom have apartments overlooking the church. Residents raised concerns about homeless outside the church blocking the sidewalk, cajoling and threatening 13th street residents, defecating on their property or on the sidewalk and, in at least one early morning incident, chasing them. Officer Duffy, the liaison from the Sixth Precinct, emphasized that the first step to redressing the situation is to put it on record. He noted there are nearly 100 fewer officers in the precinct than there were a few years ago, and that their attention is directed towards more troubled areas of the Village. He emphasized that the most important thing to do is to call 311 to register complaints, and keep the complaint number. Also, leave a message for Officer Duffy with the complaint number, so that he can personally track the incidents, something he is very willing to do for us. His number is TKTK. Suggestions made included shining spotlights on 7th Ave to discourage congregation; daily sidewalk scrub downs similar to what the church does on Sunday mornings; coordinating with other organizations in the neighborhood, like the Y, Salvation Army, New School, and Teamsters to trade information and gain insight on troublesome individuals; educating ourselves on who exactly we are dealing with, since it is likely only one or two bad eggs are making things ugly. We can help by volunteering at the Church’s soup kitchens. In addition to being a good deed, meeting the homeless and learning their names makes it a bit less likely there will be a confrontation down the line. The hope is that someone to whom you’ve served lunch will greet you rather than chase you. The church serves a hot lunch every Wednesday at 1:30, Saturday at noon, and Sunday at 1pm. Call Amanda Block at (212) 721-4721 or e-mail email@example.com to volunteer.
I went underground to see the fans, along with State Sen. Tom Duane (pictured), Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, and several of our neighbors. It was a thrill to go down under the sidewalk and walk around in a space that's just outside my door, yet in a totally different realm. It was a rush to feel the breeze as the trains zoomed by. But the fans themselves were pretty boring. (I wasn't allowed take a picture of them – we don't want to help the terrorists plan their attack, do we?) They looked like any old fans, but bigger of course, about 10 feet high. It took a long time to get them up and running, but now they're just another piece of the City's boring infrastructure. May they run flawlessly for the rest of the century, and let's hope they never need to be used.
What’s next for our block? The Block Assn. Board is discussing many options, including new iron guards for all our trees. See p. 4 for details.
W. 13th St. Gazette
(cont. from p.1)
Real Estate Report
By Kitty Sorrel
Block Assn. member & VP, Corcoran Real Estate
St. Vincent’s has filed a plan calling for it to raze the O’Toole Building (the white building on the west side of 7th Ave. between 12th and 13th Sts.), which is presently used as offices for its medical staff and to replace it with an entirely new in-patient facility, comprising approximately 450 beds. It will be left with only one acute-care hospital, its flagship, along with other businesses like nursing homes and a home health care service. While many jobs disappeared with the hospital closings only about 300 jobs have been eliminated out of about 8,000, mostly in administration. The hospital would either sell much of its existing facility to a real estate developer or to an institution for adaptive re-use (the most likely buyers for this would be NYU or the New School). A developer intending to demolish the present structure to replace it with something else would be unable to build as high as the existing buildings without obtaining a variance. The money the Hospital receives from that sale would help finance the building of the new facility. In order to gain community support for this project St. Vincent’s has convened a New Hospital Community Working Group to advise on the planning, design and construction of the new St. Vincent’s Hospital. The group includes our local elected officials or their representatives and various neighborhood leaders, including myself. The hospital believes it has no choice but to move its in-patient facility because its equipment and physical plant is outdated and inefficient and the cost of updating the present structure would be enormous. A sale of several buildings would bring the Hospital much of the necessary cash to build the modern facility necessary to meet the medical needs of our community. Extensive fund-raising will also be essential. St. Vincent’s is to be admired for including the community in this process, but its motives are not, to this observer, strictly altruistic. The new structure will necessarily exceed the height restrictions in this landmark district and the Hospital will need a variance in order to build. Therefore, in its own best interests, St. Vincent’s must maintain and nurture good relations with its neighbors and should plan on building an edifice which will be, as much as feasible, in harmony with its surroundings.
The market for coops, condos and townhouses below 34th Street is currently showing healthy price increases. Year-end bonuses in the financial sector continue to fuel rising prices and interest rates are holding steady. Activity in the luxury market showed a 25% increases in sales last quarter 2006, compared to 4th quarter 2005. On our block, from October ’06 to now, three studios sold in doorman buildings ranging from mid$300K’s to mid-$500K’s (a large studio with great outdoor space). Currently, 3 large loft units are in contract at prices from $1M to nearly $2M. One bedrooms in contract range from mid to high $600K’s and available coop studios range from the high $300K’s to mid-$400K’s. A five room loft on our block is available for well over $1M and a six room penthouse coop is asking over $3M. A 4--story, single family townhouse is currently on the market, asking $9,995,000. Recent rentals include a 1-bedroom in a doorman building for $3,200/mo. and a 6-room duplex in a townhouse for $6,500/mo.
City Finds Evidence Nearby
In response to a letter from assn. president Gary Tomei, City Health Dept. Pest Control officers inspected our block for rodents in January. This initial inspection was negative, but a follow-up in February that took in properties adjoining our block on 14th St. discovered “fresh rat excreta on the pavement ... rat burrows, exposed garbage, scattered food and an overflowing dumpster” at No. 154, all health code violations. In a letter to Gary, Pest Control Services director Rick Simeone promised to send “a warning letter” to the building’s owner, and to “perform a compliance inspection to assess whether conditions have been satisfactorily abated.” If not, the owner will receive a summons and the city “may exterminate and/or clean the property as necessary.”
W. 13th St. Gazette
Block Assn. Board Ponders Tree Guards, Homeless, Parking
The executive board of the West 13th St. Block Association met at the Markle Residence on Thursday, Feb. 22, to review a number of issues. These included the impending conclusion of the Big Dig; block association plans to install new tree pit guards along our block; construction planned by St. Vincent’s Hospital (see President’s Message, p.1); new parking regulations imposed on our block; increased graffiti, and the unruly homeless camp outside the Church of the Village on 7th Avenue. Attending: officers Alan Jacobs (who chaired the meeting in the absence of association president Gary Tomei), Mary Perica, Judy Pesin and Robert Kittine, along with Naomi Usher and Dorothy Graham of the Beautification Committee, Gazette editor Bruce Meyer and members at large Lisa McKeon, Michael Anastasio and Kitty Sorrel. The longest discussion, led by Naomi, involved the tree pit guards. The board has decided the block association should take on the cost and effort of removing the current battered “iron loop” guards and replace them with a new design – similar but not identical to those recently installed th th th by our neighbors to the east on the 5 -6 Ave. block of 13 St. It was decided to seek a somewhat simpler design. (One possible design is pictured.) Judy, the treasurer, reported that approximately $8,000 has been received in contributions for this project, largely from brownstone owners on the block, along with some businesses. The association has about $12,000 in the bank, but more will be needed to complete this ambitious project. It is time for a new membership drive, and a call for renewal of current memberships with dues payments. Regarding the homeless on 7th Ave., Lisa reported that she is pressing the church to illuminate its sidewalk spotlights (which make it an uncomfortable place to camp) every night, not just on the night before morning services, which is the church’s current practice. Lisa reported observing drug dealing and noisy disturbances. (For more on this, see Daphne Uviller’s report, p.2) There were varied opinions on the city’s removal of Alternative Side parking on our block to allow daily parking on both sides of the street. Car owners who do not garage their vehicles consider this a positive. But the board concurred that the block has become a traffic bottleneck. With six restaurants, two schools and a number of other businesses, and parking on both sides, delivery vans and cars frequently double park, leaving little or no room for the passage of ambulances and other emergency vehicles. It was decided to seek restoration of the Alternative Side parking regulation that was in effect before the change. The board’s next meeting was set for April 19.
IT’S YOUR BLOCK ASSOCIATION: JOIN OR RENEW YOUR MEMBERSHIP NOW!
Block Association dues for calendar year 2007 should be paid now. Make checks to “W. 13 St. 100 Block Assn.” Mail to: W. 13th St. 100 Block Association, 155 W. 13th St., New York, N.Y. 10011
[ ] Resident ($10 per individual) Number of individuals:____ [ ] Brownstone owner ($50) [ ] Business ($100) [ ] Cooperative board ($100) [ ] Addl. contribution (any amount) ________ TOTAL ENCLOSED: ________ [ ] This is a renewal. Name or names: ___________________________________________________________ Address: Name of business (if applicable): Home phone: Work phone: E-mail: I am interested in the following issues (circle one or more):Traffic [ ] / Crime Prevention [ ] / Beautification [ ] / Community Affairs [ ] / Other:______________________
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