Archive for the tag 'government'

The head of the New York City Office of Recovery and Resiliency is getting behind the Bloomberg-era plan to replace the Riegelmann Boardwalk’s wooden slats with concrete, saying that concrete fared better in Superstorm Sandy.

Recovery chief Daniel Zarrilli testified before the City Council last Thursday, telling them that the choice of concrete was a “sound” decision since it performs better in storms.

He added that the de Blasio administration will continue to replace the wooden boards with concrete going forward.

Bloomberg made the decision to replace the boardwalk with concrete after instituting a citywide ban on tropical hardwood in public projects, the material the boardwalk, as well as other fixtures like benches, have historically been made of. It has been fought for several years by locals who want to see the iconic wood stay, and they even filed suit against the city in 2012. Several compromises were sought, including using alternate wood materials, plastic and a combination of all three – although the city made clear its preference for concrete.

But the announcement that the new administration will stick with the plan because it performed well in Sandy is sure to be challenged by critics. In the wake of the storm, locals said that the concrete allowed sand to pile up on the boardwalk, and also served as a less effective buffer protecting the community from the flooding. They also say the concrete accelerates erosion and is less effective at drainage during storms.

The two councilmembers whose districts overlap the boardwalk, Chaim Deutsch and Mark Treyger, both support using wood.

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The sediment-filled waste coming out of a covered sewer overflow pipe. (Source: Pete Castro)

The city’s long-awaited solution to street flooding along the Coney Island peninsula has some locals wondering if the remedy isn’t worse than the disease.

West 33rd Street and Bayview Avenue (Source: Google Maps)

West 33rd Street and Bayview Avenue (Source: Google Maps) Click to enlarge.

The Department of Environmental Protection is in the midst of a massive clearing operation in western Coney Island, pumping years of sand, debris and residue out of long-jammed sewer lines, which neighbors say caused the streets to flood in even the slightest rain. But now the city is fielding a new set of complaints from residents who say the toxin-filled water is flowing into Coney Island Creek through a combined sewer overflow pipe at West 33rd Street and Bayview Avenue, adjacent to Kaiser Park beach.

“Yes, you’ve got to clean out the drain. But my logic, my god-given common sense, is that you don’t foul it up, you don’t create another foul condition when you solve that problem,” said Pete Castro, a resident of West 35th Street.

Castro has been on the beach almost daily for the past week and a half, filming and taking photos of the Department of Environmental Protection’s private contractor, National Water Main Cleaning Co., as they pump water into the sewer and it flows out of a nearby outfall pipe, onto the beach. The 30-year resident said the water is thick and black with sludge, oil and other contaminants, mucking up a habitat in the midst of a revival.

“I’ve been seeing wildlife come back to the beach, egrets, the occasional swan, ducks go over there. And they’re dumping that oil there and apparently DEP is okay with it,” he said.

The DEP confirmed that they’re clearing out the sewer lines, and that some debris was simply destined to enter the environment.

“We are working to clear out the sand-impacted storm sewers. This is in response to flooding complaints in the area. We have been cleaning out the sewers for weeks and we understand there have been complaints about pumping stuff into the sewer, but in reality this is what we have to do to clean the sewers,” a spokesperson told this outlet.

Despite years of flooding complaints on the Coney Island peninsula, the latest round of work began after a site visit by Superstorm Sandy recovery honchos Bill Goldstein and Amy Peterson. Led by Councilman Mark Treyger, the team visited P.S. 188, where the students and faculty shared the following video showing the extent of flooding outside of the school in even modest rain.

“This is not Sandy, it’s just an average rainstorm,” Treyger told this outlet about the video. “It is a eye-opening video that shows severe flooding that is so bad that a car floated from the street and crashed into the front of the school, that’s how bad the flooding is. We showed the video to Amy Peterson and Bill Goldstein and they were very alarmed by it.”

“It is a damning video that just absolutely validates and confirms portions of Southern Brooklyn had been neglected by the [Bloomberg] administration.”
- Treyger

The Sandy team put pressure on the Department of Environmental Protection to address the flooding immediately. After inspection, the DEP determined that the sewers were clogged near the outfall pipes that go into Coney Island Creek, and dispatched contractors to clear it out.

Treyger admitted that solving one problem for residents caused concern for others. Castro and neighbors made complaints to his office, and he forwarded the video and photos to the DEP for a response.

As a result, Treyger said, the DEP conducted a review, meeting with the contractor and also bringing in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which has jurisdiction over area waterways.

“My sense was that they’re going to review and basically provide greater oversight of the work being done,” said Treyger. “For many years the infrastructure has been an issue here and as we move forward to fix it, we’re not looking to create more environmental disasters. This type of work has to be done in accordance with all environmental regulations and we’re going to make sure that that happens.”

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The vactor truck at work on West 33rd Street and Bayview Avenue. (Source: Pete Castro)

But Castro fears the agencies are being less than thorough in their review. Shortly after Treyger met with the DEP, officials from both the DEP and the DEC spoke directly to Castro about his concerns, assuring him they would investigate the spillage and make sure it was in compliance. But instead of investigation, Castro said he received a call from the DEC rep several hours later saying that they had reviewed the operation and concluded it was safe.

“According to his dubious investigation, some guy [from the DEC] just miraculously put his finger in the air and said it’s okay to put that foul oil onto the beach,” said Castro, adding that there was about six hours between the phone calls – four of which was during hours when the trucks were not pumping. “You can get chemical results like that, with a snap of the finger?”

The DEP spokesperson said she did not know of any specific involvement of the DEC in this matter, but said, “I’m sure we’ve been in touch with DEC at some point.” Asked over the course of multiple phone calls if there was knowledge of the contaminants flowing from the pipe, she said, “I have to double check, but don’t forget it’s the sewer system and it has to get out of the sewers. It can be anything.”

She did not have an answer about contamination when we followed up, instead pointing out that the city uses vactor trucks – essentially giant vacuum cleaners that suck out debris, suggesting that there should be no spillage into the waterway. When we noted that there was spillage, as evidenced by video, she reiterated, “We’re doing work out there.” She did not respond to further questions.

Treyger said he requested the DEP hold a meeting in the community in the upcoming weeks to discuss their operations and respond to potential concerns. He said it will be announced soon.

Until then, Castro said he’ll continue to document the filth and hopes to find someone’s help analyzing water samples. In addition to the wildlife and habitat, he’s also concerned about the numerous indigent locals who turn to Coney Island creek to fish for their meals.

“I can’t see it getting much worse. I’m just waiting for the dead fish to pile up,” he said.

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Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

New York State Department of Conservation “wildlife specialists” opened fire on a pair of mute swans in upstate New York last Tuesday, orphaning their four baby swans and defying a two-year moratorium on lethal population management techniques that had just passed the Senate and Assembly.

The incident took place in Black River Bay, when residents spotted an unmarked boat approaching a group of swans. Moments later, gunshots rang through the air and two of the swans were dead. Residents, thinking the gunmen poachers, chased them down to discover that they worked for the environmental agency.

“DEC was carrying out a long-standing protocol to manage this invasive species that threatens other species in this sensitive habitat,” the DEC said in a prepared statement to the local television station.

The news riled up two New York City legislators who led the fight to protect the swans.

“This is an outrage,” said Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz in a press release. “We’re doing everything we can do [to] safeguard the swan population in my own Sheepshead Bay community and elsewhere, but clearly DEC did not get the memo.”

“I am absolutely outraged at these horrific turn of events, which occurred almost simultaneously as the State Senate passed a two-year moratorium on your agency’s careless and controversial plan to eradicate all wild mute swans in the state by 2025,” State Senator Tony Avella of Queens. “What is even more troubling is that the shootings happened in broad daylight, in front of passerbys enjoying their day near the Bay.”

Cymbrowitz and Avella introduced the legislation creating the moratorium in the Assembly and Senate, respectively. Although it passed both houses, Cuomo has not yet signed it into law.

The moratorium came after the DEC revealed a draft plan in January to eliminate entirely the mute swan population across New York State. The plan was sharply criticized by animal advocates and those who see the swans – which have populated some areas in the state including Sheepshead Bay for more than a century – as a welcome part of the community. The agency announced in March that it would hold off using any lethal population management techniques until a new plan was made that was more sensitive to the community’s wishes.

The agency appears to have reversed course yet again, spurring criticism from the pols.

“Even without the moratorium being signed into law, the implication was that DEC would stand by its good-faith promise and keep the swans off death row until further notice,” said Cymbrowitz. “Instead, we’re getting a clear indication that DEC can’t be trusted and still plans to engage in the sanctioned killing of mute swans.”

Both pols have sent letters expressing their outrage to Joseph Martens, the commissioner of the DEC.

Community Board 15 is meeting tomorrow, June 24, at 7:00 p.m. at Kingsborough Community College (2001 Oriental Boulavard) in the faculty dining room. It will be the final meeting of the season, and will be preceded by a 6:00 p.m. collation, featuring light refreshments.

The following zoning item is on the agenda.

  • 1112 Gilmore Court – An application for a special permit to allow the enlargement of a single family dwelling.

Additionally, there will be a presentation by a representative from the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, and a presentation by the City Planning Commission.

The board’s chairperson and district manager and various committee heads will deliver their monthly reports. There will also be time to hear residents’ concerns and discuss the reports, and elected officials may be in attendance.

This will be the last meeting before summer recess. Meetings will resume in September.

Source: formulanone/Flickr

Mayor Bill de Blasio won a victory in Albany early this morning when both houses of the state legislature gave the green light to lowering the New York City speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour.

After concerns earlier this week that Senate Republicans could prevent the bill from coming to a vote, it passed overwhelmingly in both houses and has been sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo for his signature.

The measure is a key item of de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, which seeks to make streets safer and eliminate traffic deaths citywide. Several of the initiative’s proposals require approval from state lawmakers, including speed limits and the installation of speed cameras.

The idea was first floated by the mayor earlier this year, but received a tepid response from lawmakers. It became increasingly politicized, with Senate Republicans threatening to block it from coming to a vote as retribution for de Blasio’s calls for returning that legislative body to Democratic control. Senator Andrew Lanza, a Republican representing Staten Island, suggested as recently as yesterday afternoon that he would oppose the measure if it did not fold in his proposal to require stop signs be installed around all city schools.

Ultimately, de Blasio and traffic safety advocates won out in a down-to-the-wire vote during the season’s final legislative session in the capital. The bill was passed 106-13 by the Assembly in a late night session, while the Senate took it up early in the morning, passing it 58-2.

An earlier version of the bill called for the speed limit to be reduced to 20 miles per hour, but was quickly squashed by legislative leaders.

treyger-office

Council Member Mark Treyger (center) and his office staff including (left to right) Deputy Chief of Staff Igor Vaysberg, Community Liaison Angel Fung; Community Liaison Jeannine Cherichetti and Constituent Services Supervisor Dilyora Rahimova.

The following is a press release from the offices of Councilman Mark Treyger:

As part of his efforts to serve and represent residents of the 47th Council District, Council Member Mark Treyger has announced the opening of a second district office to better connect all constituents of Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Coney Island and Sea Gate with local government and services.

The new office, located at 2015 Stillwell Avenue, is in addition to the office at the Warbasse Houses on Neptune Avenue serving the southern portion of the district including Coney Island that Council Member Treyger opened immediately upon taking office in January. The new Stillwell Avenue office is intended to provide much greater convenience to any residents who need help with issues related to city government and agencies. Council Member Treyger made constituent services and addressing neighborhood issues a top priority during his campaign and since taking office, and this new location is a major step towards fulfilling that pledge.

“My top priority is to assist every resident of my district with issues regarding city government and to deliver the services our community deserves. This new office will help ensure that my staff is convenient and accessible for all residents of Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Coney Island and Sea Gate, not matter which area of the district they live in. My great staff is ready to assist the public, so I urge everyone to call or stop in for help with local issues,” said Council Member Treyger.

The new office has been open for several weeks assisting district residents with government issues. It is open from noon to 8 p.m. on Mondays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and 9 a.m. to noon on Fridays. Residents can reach Council Member Treyger’s Stillwell Avenue staff, which includes multilingual speakers, by phone at (718) 307-7151 or by stopping by the office, which is accessible via the B1 and B4 buses and the D train.

Council Member Treyger will host a community open house and ribbon cutting ceremony at the Stillwell Avenue office on Sunday, June 22nd from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. All residents are invited to stop by and meet the Council Member and his staff and visit the new office space.

boats

More than 18 months after the storm, 10 twisted, tattered vessels were finally removed from a city-owned Knapp Street lot after being dumped ashore by Superstorm Sandy and abandoned by their owners.

Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein’s office tipped us off to the removal operations, which took place on Tuesday. Here’s the statement from their office:

Assemblywoman Weinstein, after months of exhaustive communication with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Sanitation, is ecstatic that the agencies were able to collaborate in order to remove ten (10) derelict boats in the empty lot at 2501 Knapp Street.

The boats, which washed ashore during Superstorm Sandy, were never claimed by their owners and have since become a dumping site and a persistent eyesore. After constituents complained, the Assemblywoman observed the boats, which sat on city owned property, and immediately started negotiations to ascertain who was responsible. The Sanitation Department was able to visit and clear the site on June 10th.

parkingAfter the Department of Transportation erroneously posted a sign on a residential stretch of Nostrand Avenue indicating two-hour metered parking, several nearby residents received wrongful summonses. Now Councilman Chaim Deutsch is leading the fight to get those tickets thrown out.

Deutsch announced the agency’s error at last night’s Sheepshead Bay – Plumb Beach Civic Association meeting. He told Sheepshead Bites that a constituent alerted him to the signage late last week, saying that he received a summons. The sign was between Avenue P and Quentin Road, in front of 3032 Nostrand Avenue, an apartment complex. Deutsch’s office contacted the Department of Transportation, which admitted the error and ripped down the sign within 24 hours, he said.

Still, several residents of the apartment building have reported receiving similar summonses, said Deutsch.

“There’s more than one. We’re going to be hanging up some fliers in front of the buildings,” said Deutsch. “But it’s not just [residents], it could be people who came in and went shopping in the area, but there’s several people from the building that I know of that have received summonses

The agency is sending his office a letter for constituents to use to appeal the tickets, and staffers will be sending out e-mail blasts saying that the violations can be fought and, if already paid, potentially reimbursed.

Anyone who received a parking violation can get a copy of the letter and help filing an appeal by calling Deutsch’s district office at (718) 368-9176.

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Photo by Ned Berke

Residents took to Emmons Avenue this past Sunday for the 11th Annual Lena Cymbrowitz Community Health Fair, offering free health screening, giveaways and health-related information from local organizations and businesses.

Held on the waterfront between East 16th Street and Ocean Avenue, the fair was sponsored by Assemblyman Cymbrowitz in conjunction with Maimonides Medical Center, Mount Sinai Beth Israel Brooklyn, Kiwanis International, Net Cost market, All Car Rent-a-Car and MJHS. Local businesses focused on nutrition and well-being, like UFC Gym and area medical practitioners, set up tables to give out information, while musical performances from P.S. 255 and Bay Academy and balloon sculptures from Zippy the Clown drew crowds over.

“I was pleased to see so many members of the community take advantage of the free screenings, giveaways and health-related information available at the fair,” said Cymbrowitz. “It was great to meet so many residents and to be able to bring all these great organizations and sponsors together in one place for the benefit of the community.”

The event raised funds for Dynamic Youth Community, a local drug rehabilitation organization.

 

Weinstein

A new report co-authored by Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein and State Senator Jeff Klein indicates that nearly 30,000 homeowners in New York City are at risk of losing their properties to foreclosure, and the pair are now demanding their colleagues pick up the fight to extend a slew of homeowner protections slated to expire next year.

The homes suffering foreclosures – disproportionately located in minority communities, like those in the Flatlands section of Weinstein’s district – represent a continuing uptick in New York City’s foreclosure rates while the national rate continues its recovery from the 2007 housing crisis, according to the report.

The battles that ensue when homeowners fall behind on their mortgage payments, sometimes because of extenuating circumstances like loss of a job or unexpected medical bills, can see a resident’s assets ripped away by unmovable, monolithic banks.

But legislation first passed in 2009 gave some protection. The bill requires banks sit down with clients and try to hammer out a settlement before any foreclosure actions are taken. It also requires lenders provide notice of foreclosure, and other foreclosure mitigation efforts. The protections aren’t just a salve for that particular homeowner, but for entire communities that see property values plummet amid high foreclosure rates.

“For far too long homeowners have fallen victim to lenders who exploit loopholes and evade our state’s foreclosure filing laws, leaving homeowners stranded with fees and interest racking up and little hope of modifying their loans,” said Weinstein in a press release. “The mandatory settlement conference and 90-day notice provisions for all home loans along with the requirement for banks to negotiate in good faith are critical protections for borrowers at risk of losing their homes.”

That bill, though, is slated to expire in February 2015.

Weinstein is working with Klein, part of the Senate’s leadership coalition, to extend the protections. The bill must pass before the end of the legislative session this month. It passed the Assembly last week, and is now before the State Senate’s Judiciary Committee.

“Extending these expiring provisions is essential to allow homeowners regain their footing and to give them a fair chance at negotiating mortgage loan modifications so they may stay in their homes,” Weinstein said.

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