Archive for the tag 'waterfront'

IMG_0075

Swans on Webers Court. Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Legislation that would require more community input in the state’s plan to manage the population of mute swans across New York was given a stamp of approval by the state Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee, bringing it one step closer to becoming law.

The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz in February, following the release of a plan the month before by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation to eradicate the species’ presence statewide, including the dozens of iconic swans that live in Sheepshead Bay. The plan called for capturing and killing 2,200 swans, as well as the destruction of their eggs and nests. It also proposed limiting their sale in the state, release in the wild, and a public education campaign urging residents not to feed the fowl, which they claim destroy habitat for native species. Mute swans are not native to the area, and are considered an invasive species.

The legislation, a similar version of which is being pushed by Queens State Senator Tony Avella in the Senate, would require that the state agency hold at least two public hearings and respond to concerns before finalizing any population management plans regarding mute swans. It also puts a two-year moratorium on allowing the agency to declare the mute swan a “prohibited invasive species,” a label that marks it for death.

Additionally, the agency would be required to not only prioritize non-lethal management techniques, and back up their arguments with scientific evidence. According to the sponsors, scientists remain conflicted about whether or not the mute swan population poses a significant threat to the habitat or people.

“Wildlife experts and environmentalists are not unanimous in their belief that exterminating the mute swan population is justified, and there’s plenty of debate over whether eradicating mute swans will be even minimally beneficial to the ecosystem or our environment,” Cymbrowitz said in a press release. “It is incumbent on the Department of Environmental Conservation to illustrate the necessity of eradicating this non-native species by demonstrating the actual damage to the environment or other species caused by mute swans,” he said. “It is also critical that the people of our community have a say in what happens to our feathered neighbors.”

In Sheepshead Bay, residents of Webers Court off Emmons Avenue told Sheepshead Bites they’ve lived alongside the birds for decades and can’t recall a single instance of an attack, as the DEC claims could happen.

“I don’t see them destroying anything,” said Cliff Bruckenstein, who has lived on Webers Court for 25 years. Bruckenstein went on to challenge the DEC’s claim that the mute swan can be bellicose. “They’re really not an aggressive species. They only get protective around their nests.”

The bill may come for an Assembly vote soon, followed by the Senate.

However, the agency has already turned tail on the issue, announcing in late February that they would seek non-lethal methods of population management in regards to the swan. The reversal came after they received more than 1,500 comments from individuals and organizations, as well as 16,000 form letters and 30,000 petition signatures.

A new plan is being drawn up, and will be followed by a public comment period.

Source: Riverhead Foundation

Source: Riverhead Foundation

It was not too long ago that a baby harp seal was spotted on the sands of Coney Island last month. The seal had parasites and was underweight, but last Saturday it was released back into the Atlantic Ocean after receiving treatment from the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.

The foundation, a non-profit, was called in soon after the seal was discovered, and since then the organization has been working to restore the baby’s constitution after it was found to be dehydrated due to parasites. And, finally, this Saturday it was healthy enough to be released into the Shinnecock Bay off Long Island.

On top of receiving antibiotics and fluids through a tube to restore her weight, the seal also received the name Nellie. #FreeNellie.

Newsday reported,

Nearly 200 people watched as Nellie made her way 100 feet across sand and seaweed before splashing into the bay.

“She belongs back in the wild,” said Rob DiGiovanni, executive director of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, which nursed the seal back to health.

While Nellie is still a pup at only one year old, she will eventually grow to be 255 pounds and officials believe she originally came from Canada before gracing us with her cute presence.

Sheepshead Bay’s Randazzo’s after the flood.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced over the weekend that Build it Back payments were finally in the mail, and that some construction projects are now underway. The city’s new director of Housing Recovery, Amy Peterson, elaborated on the numbers at a hearing on Monday, saying only $100,000 in reimbursement checks have been mailed, and only six construction projects have begun.

That’s out of 20,000 applications.

The numbers came out during a hearing of the City Council Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, headed by Councilman Mark Treyger. The seven-hour long hearing was spent blasting the program, for which even its new leadership agreed needs a jumpstart.

Metro reports:

The city’s new Director of Housing Recovery Amy Peterson admitted to the Build it Back’s blunders and “overly complicated” process but promised to turn it around.

“Early missteps, unrealistic assumptions and overly complicated processes have hindered rebuilding,” she testified to the Council.

Peterson, who started her tenure on Monday as well, vowed to make up for the setbacks.

“We’re going to make sure the money gets out to people,” she said.

Peterson added that another $800,000 worth of checks will be mailed this week.

Treyger and others used the opportunity of the first public hearing on Build it Back to detail the program’s shortcomings.

“Poor communication, endless bureaucracy, inadequate resources, and other problems have thwarted the building of even a single home,” he said, according to Brooklyn Daily.

The new chief attributed the problems to a lack of resources, and burdensome bureaucracy, according to the Daily report.

“This process includes multiple different steps in which customers interface with variety of different contractors and specialists,” she said. “From a process standpoint, the continued passing of responsibility from one contractor to another has had the effect of diminishing accountability.”

… Other problems were the result of federal requirements, Peterson said. The program was designed to not repeat the sins of past disaster relief programs, which were rife with contractor fraud and shoddy construction.

“The intent was for clients of the program to feel assured that construction would be done correctly, to the resilient building standards, and that they would bear no risk that funds would be reclaimed or extorted,” she said.

The Sheepshead Bay – Plumb Beach Civic Association, at their meeting last night, said that after a long silence neighbors have started receiving calls from the program. Officials are setting up appointments to discuss the options for which the victims qualify, and compensation packages are being drawn up.

But the group also said that too many questions about the process remain unanswered.

“There are still a lot of things we don’t know about it,” said civic president Kathy Flynn. “We’re getting a lot of questions … we don’t have the answers. And every time they send out another e-mail,” it seems the terms have changed.

Flynn said that although the signs of movement are positive, she’s not optimistic.

“I’m not counting on them to give me anything. If I count on it, it’ll be another five years. Or forever,” she said.

Photo by Erica Sherman

Four months after taking office, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced over the weekend that he is renewing the push to help victims of Superstorm Sandy, including reallocating $100 million in funds specifically targeted to residential rebuilding.

The mayor also repeated his vow to cut through the red tape that has long plagued recovery efforts, and has made three appointments he says will be key in moving the efforts along.

The New York Times reports:

Bill Goldstein, most recently the executive vice president of the MTA Capital Construction Company, will be a senior adviser to the mayor, overseeing all recovery programs.

Amy Peterson, the president of Nontraditional Employment for Women, which offers training for women in industries like construction, will direct the city’s Housing Recovery Office. Daniel A. Zarrilli, the acting director of the city’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, will lead the newly formed Office of Recovery and Resiliency.

The $100 million in aid will fill a critical gap. Previous aid money was first distributed to assist poorer hurricane victims deemed “priority one” by the city. Victims labeled “priority two” and “priority three” had been told they would have to wait. Many of these lower-priority homeowners are city employees — police officers, teachers, firefighters — with limited incomes or savings.

This money, the mayor’s office said, will ensure that all homeowners with destroyed homes can build new ones, regardless of the homeowner’s priority level.

The funds are expected to cover the cost of approximately 500 homes.

Additionally, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Housing Recovery office, which oversees the Build it Back program, will have a staffing boost of 35 percent, bringing the total number to more than 100 employees.

The announcement follows headlines critical of the Build it Back program, which has so far failed at distributing any of the $648 million in aid.  As of February, none of the nearly 20,000 single family homes (defined as homes with between one and four residential units) registered for the program have started construction, and only 154 of those registrants have had their awards selected.

However, the city has ramped up the process in recent week. The city’s own Sandy Tracker website, last updated in mid-March, shows that the number of registrants with their awards selected has more than tripled. Although not reflected on the tracker website, de Blasio claims the agency has recently sent out the first batch of reimbursement checks, and that some construction projects are already underway.

Photo by Erica Sherman

With new reports every week about the growing frustration New York City’s Superstorm Sandy victims feel towards recovery programs, Mayor Bill de Blasio has acknowledged that the city “needs to do better,” and said his administration will find a new approach.

Wall Street Journal reports:

“Some of [the inefficiencies in relief] is in the way that the federal law was written that made this very complicated,” Mr. de Blasio said Sunday in response to a question at a news conference.

“Some of it was on the implementation side, and New York City needs to do better,” he said.

He said he agreed with Mr. Bloomberg’s focus on resiliency and fortifying the city for future storms.

But he said he didn’t think “the effort to respond to the needs of a lot of folks affected by Sandy was as strong as it should have been.”

“We intend to come in with a different approach,” he said.

It’s being seen as a rebuke of the approach of his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, whose administration was instrumental to the rollout of the programs now confounding residents – including Build it Back, which has distributed only $9.7 million of the $648 million allocated for it.

According to the city’s own Sandy Tracker website, none of the nearly 20,000 single family homes (defined as homes with between one and four residential units) registered for the program have started construction, and only 154 of those registrants have had their awards selected.

By comparison, the state received $838 million for housing recovery from the federal government, and has already written $573 million in checks to more than 7,000 homeowners.

While de Blasio implied criticism of Bloomberg’s approach, the new mayor has not yet appointed a head of Build it Back. City Councilman Mark Treyger of Coney Island has called for the appointment of a Sandy recovery czar to help hold the city accountable.

De Blasio did not elaborate on the “different approach” he intends to pursue.

Has the neighborhood started to wear on you? The hustle-and-bustle, the strange smells, the endless parade of curmudgeonly weirdness?

I hear you. It’s time to fall back in love with the neighborhood again. Click play on the video above.

Max Bayarsky put this together. You may remember a similar video he made for Coney Island back in January. I think we should start buying up time on the airwaves for this, and watch the stream of new visitors arrive in search of a little peace, quiet and beauty.

And then we’ll sell stuff to them. It’ll be great.

Source: Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, there are a lot of talk about how to help Sheepshead Bay bounce back economically. A key question to most is how to make the area more appealing to visitors; a getaway for city-dwellers, and an off-the-beaten-path destination for out of towners.

One of the more promising initiatives is the Capstone project we told you about a few weeks ago, which is working on a plan to strengthen our commercial corridors and bring tourists to the area. At a workshop earlier this month, attendees were told that no idea was too big, too outlandish to be considered, and that they should run wild with their dreams.

Well, one resident just wrote in to Sheepshead Bites with his own big idea: bring Citi Bike to Southern Brooklyn’s waterfront communities. The reader, Gary, writes:

Dear Ned,
As a new transplant to Sheepshead Bay (I lived in the neighborhood 20 years ago but that’s another story) I am thinking it would be super cool if the neighborhood had Citi-bikes.

There’s probably no other neighborhood better suited for the program –so much to see and, yet we are just far enough from Brighton and Coney Island and Kings Highway and Midwood to make it a pain to walk; but on a bike – a piece of cake. Get a Nathan’s hot dog, check out Plumb beach, get a guitar pick at Norm’s, see a Cyclones game – all under 10 minutes.

I wrote to Citi-bikes and quickly got a response (below) . I’ll follow their initial advice but figured maybe ‘Sheepshead Bites’ can publicize the idea.
Citi-Bikes – not just for hipster neighborhoods.

Thanks in advance, Gary.

 

Dear Gary,
Thank you for contacting NYC Bike Share, operator of Citi Bike.

Please be advised, NYC Department of Transportation and local community boards play a major role in deciding where bike share stations will be located. Any suggestions you have concerning Citi Bike’s station locations should be submitted to NYC DOT via the community outreach and siting form, which you can find on the DOT website. Or, you may call 311 with your comments.
In time we look forward to expanding bike share to neighborhoods across New York City.

Regards,
KeAndrea R
Customer Service Representative
NYC Bicycle Share, LLC

What do you think? Should Citi Bike become a cornerstone of a plan to turbocharge business and tourism in the area?

Update: Reader Lenny M. pipes in to remind me that he called for an Emmons Avenue bike lane back in 2011, arguing in part that it would help fuel commerce in the area.

loehmanns

ONLY ON SHEEPSHEAD BITES: The owners of Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza (2027 Emmons Avenue) have submitted plans to the Department of Building to construct a new extension to the controversial building, leaving those who fought its initial construction nearly 20 years ago in a state of shock.

The proposed extension would add a new story of commercial offices, totaling 10,000 square feet. The plans are in violation of zoning and the property’s current variance, and will soon be considered by Community Board 15 and the Board of Standards and Appeals.

One of the property’s owners, Alex Levin, confirmed the expansion.

“We’re looking to expand office space,” he said. “We’re going to bring the elevator up to [a new third] floor. We have our reasons.”

The project’s architect, Robert Palermo, declined to discuss the plans.

“It’s privileged information. When it comes before the board, it’ll be public,” he said.

There is no date set yet for a public hearing at Community Board 15, the first step to obtaining any variance. Chairperson Theresa Scavo said she had not yet been notified by the Board of Standards Appeals.

As a resident, though, she was shocked to learn of the plan.

“Speaking personally, it was against the special Sheepshead zoning district to begin with, and to add a floor is a slap in the face to the people of Sheepshead Bay,” she said. “I cannot believe that adding another floor is going to give the Bay a better look with that monstrosity there.”

The building sits within the Sheepshead Bay special zoning district, which limits the size and use of structures along the Emmons Avenue waterfront. The area is limited to waterfront and tourist-related activities, and special density and height limits govern development.

Many longtime Sheepshead Bay activists credit the development of Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza in the 1990s as the death of the special district, having won a variance that, according to those who fought it, resulted in it being 800 percent larger than legal limits. The exception was won due to the promise of the retail giant Loehmann’s as an anchor tenant, justifying jobs and commercial draw in exchange for its waiver.

Loehmann’s went bankrupt and vacated the property last month.

Bay Improvement Group Steve Barrison, one of the development’s most vocal opponents, said the new application is history repeating itself.

“It’s the same thing all over again. The use exceeds the zoning by 800 percent. It was granted specifically for Loehmann’s and Loehmann’s went out. So that’s it. Unbelievable,” he said. “We’re talking about a special district. We’re talking about the waterfront. We’re not talking about any where else in the community. It’s disgusting.”

Barrison added that there’s little legal justification to allow the variance simply for office space. According to the law, a developer must show that they suffer from certain hardships, as found in section 72-21 of New York’s Zoning Resolution.

“It’s insensitive to the whole community after Sandy,” said Barrison. “All of the people who haven’t moved in or are still rebuilding and trying to get their lives together. Now [this developer] wants to go and build and increase zoning some more when people can’t speak up.”

If Bay Improvement Group decides to fight the variance, they’ll be fighting a different developer than they did in the 1990s. The building was sold to Levin in 2008 for $24 million, a local real estate record at the time.

Source: Riverhead Foundation

Source: Riverhead Foundation

A baby harp seal was spotted on the shores of Brighton Beach on Saturday morning sunning himself.

The seal was seen at approximately 8:30 a.m. Police were called to the scene as a precaution, and they closed off the area using crime-scene tape for the animal’s safety, according to the Daily News.

The Riverhead Foundation, an advocacy organization that studies, rescues and rehabilitates marine mammals, was summoned to the scene. They transported the seal to a laboratory for medical evaluation where, according to Gothamist, they determined it was dehydrated due to parasites.

Harp seal and dolphin sightings in New York’s waterways have been on the rise in recent years as their population appears to boom amid cleaner waters and increased food stock.

Seals have been spotted in Jamaica Bay, the Sheepshead Bay marina and Brighton Beach, and one area cruise boat has launched occasional seal spotting trips.

Over the summer, pods of humpback whales and dolphins off the coast of the Rockaways made headlines. With the boom has also come some concern: dead and dying dolphins have washed up in Coney Island creek, the Gowanus canal and elsewhere.

Photo by Brian Hoo

In a rare victory for Southern Brooklyn wildlife, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced on Friday that it will revise its plan to eradicate the state’s 2,200 mute swans and consider non-lethal methods to keep numbers down.

The reversal came on the heels of community outrage at their initial plan, which called for rounding up and euthanizing thousands of the birds across the state in an attempt to eliminate the population entirely.

According to the agency, the DEC received more than 1,500 comments from individuals and organizations, as well as more than 16,000 form letters and 30,000 signatures on various petitions. Several lawmakers also spoke out against  the proposal.

“We appreciate the strong response that the draft plan received, and it’s clear that New Yorkers recognize the importance of a comprehensive mute swan management plan that balances the interests of a diversity of stakeholders,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in a press release. “The revised plan will seek to balance the conflicting views about management of mute swans in New York.”

The agency will release new plans and reopen the commenting period, which originally closed on February 21. In what may be a nod to areas like Sheepshead Bay, where the mute swan is considered an iconic part of the waterfront environment, the agency conceded that deploying one plan statewide did not respect the differing statuses the birds have in their respective communities.

In the DEC press release, the agency pushed a new approach:

In revising the plan, DEC likely will acknowledge regional differences in status, potential impacts and desired population goals by setting varying goals for different regions of the state.

The new plan is expected to be released in the spring, and a 30-day comment period will follow.

“This is hopeful news and a sign that things are moving in the right direction,” said Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, who sought to protect the swans  by introducing legislation that would put a two-year moratorium on the DEC’s original proposal. “Sheepshead Bay wouldn’t be the same without the mute swans. They’re synonymous with grace and beauty. Yes, they may hiss sometimes, but this is New York, so they’re entitled.”

« Prev - Next »