Wednesday, December 2, 2009
CB1 Live: Short vs. Abate Drag Race Part I
6:10 PM: I hobble into an 80 degree room of 211 Ainslie Street which cannot be good for my foot. The early birds are NAG's Ryan Kuonen who is here to speak about Rose Plaza and Ben Fried from StreetsBlog who wrote a piece about 14 blocks of bicycle lanes that are getting stripped from Bedford Avenue. It’s not on the agenda, but unless Fried or others are here to talk about it, it won’t come up. Fried also just heard about Teresa Toro’s resignation and was a little surprised. Expect A Short Story to get a little misty.
I’m getting a lot of questions from board members about my foot. Let’s settle it right here. I’m here to race Charmain Emeritus Vinny Abate. We're going to do it in the hallway. Mono a mono. Crutches a crutches. Mr. Chairman Emeritus, I'm coming for you.
"He’s going to beat you," says Greenpoint Gazette's Juliet Linderman.
6:25 PM Churches United for Fair Housing's Rob Solano comes in just before the meeting starts. I put my ankle next to him because he’s been so freaking politically radioactive lately. Hell, it's cheaper than Woodhull.
6:33 PM: District Manager Gerry Esposito takes roll call and Chairman Chris Olechowski takes the mic to talk about the Brooklyn Greenway's West Street stormwater study. Oh wow, a celebrity sighting! David Yassky comes in and talks with Christine Holowacz. She is giving him a piece of her mind or possibly inviting him to watch football. It's unclear and Christine is wayyyy over on the other side of the room and I only have one working leg.
"Why is he here?” says Linderman
“It’s his last meeting,” I say.
"It’s also his first meeting,” says Linderman
6:36 PM: Milton takes the mic and begins an introduction about the storm water study before passing it over to the Greenway's Meg Fellerath. This is a very technical presentation with the words global warming, high asthma counts, combined sewer overflows, sewage, and perennials getting tossed around a lot.
"Planters straddling sewer area with two sidewalks on either side draining into planters, sreet draining into right hand planters and bikeway draining into left hand planter. Originally the planting was in the middle," said Meg. "When completed it will be a full on connection between the parks, the sidestreets and West Street."
6:53 PM: CB 1 Public Safety Chair Mieszko Kalita has a question and so does CB1 member ang Greenline's Jose Leon, who asks about next steps, which leads Milton talks about the Greenway's 18 month process to begin preliminary designs. David Yassky is not on his blackberry right now and he looks interested. David is locked-in tonight.
"What we don’t want is sewage going in the water,"
Yup. We don’t want that.
While Barbara Vitell is questioning why this project is happening in Greenpoint, “Hines” Ward Dennis leans over to talk with Howard Weiss and the Rose Plaza people during the Q and A period. I try to get Ward to pose for a photo.
"This meeting is not about me," says Ward. Then I get the Ward glare. This look needs a name. Anyone?
7:02 PM: David Yassky gets introduced by Chairman Chris and he gives an emotional farewell. Let's tune in:
I just wanted to say thank you, my eight years as a city council member is coming to an end. I just wanted to say how deeply I appreciate all the work and support and constructive criticism and friendship that many of you have given me and genuine from the heart contructions you have given to me. I don’t want to do that, btu everybody here knows how much has happened. I’ll be the first to say good and bad. A lot of affordable housing, new units, a lot of people have had to leave, no question
We have had new parks, I think we are in the works headed for a new park, but we need more open space still. I think we’ve made real headway on the oil plume and the cleanup. Environmental problems have plagued Williamsburg and Greenpoint for decades.
We passed the solid waste mgmt plan which will ultimately mean fewer garbage trucks going through cb1. I’d like to think if you add it all up, the city has been a positive force for Greenpoint and Williamsburg in the past 8 years. I do say w/o hesitation that this community board has been a positive force. I overlap three community boards, and this is the one I feel most emotional about saying goodbye too. Every board approaches things different, this is a community board. The members take it seriously . This is a board that plays a role that won’t be played by politicians. On things we agree on and disagree on, you have approached your role with seriousness, conviction, and heart. I’m sure we will work will miss working with you as a group.
David mentions working with his colleague Diana Reyna, who enters near the end of his speech and then acknowledges the Chairman emeritus.
In particular of course, we had a ceremony at city hall, honoring Vinny, not with everything he deserves. Vinny you can watch comfortably from the side there, knowing that the board is in good hands. The dean in both tenure and skill and dedication, of all the district managers in the entire city, Gerry Esposito thank you.
Now we go to Diana Reyna for her thank-yous and holiday wishes, with one last jab about the Broadway Triangle.
I want to wish you a very special holiday this year. It’s been quite an honor to serve and even more of an honor to serve the community. Thank you for giving me the opportunity, privilege to serve you as a government representative. I hold this office with a lot of integrity. I try to deliver your voice, btu I have to express my frustration. There’s a project here before us, Rose Plaza.
A couple of months ago, we voted and debated what was considered to be a premier affordable housing project, the Broadway Triangle. This is 3.7 acres of land. We are not supporting at the land use committee level... but we do want to support giving away private owners opportunity to develop with zero mandate to develop aff housing. I find that to be a true contradiction.
I ask you to put your community before politics. I can’t do this job alone. It makes my job harder, We need better. We need better for Bway Tri yet it passed 20-13 and we sit here opposing affordable housing, demanding more. If we’re going to apply it to one, we’re going to apply it to all. Let’s not sit here and apply it to one and not apply it to all on the same merits. Representing our community comes with a lot of components, it is certainly difficult to balance the needs of everyone. We have to do it fairly. I ask you to vote your conscience and think about the cb as opposed to community needs. I have no more answers and I don’t know wher to hang my hat anymore. Your leadership means a lot. It has influence. Leave this room thinking how you will carve a future for this community.
7:18 PM: OSA's Stephanie Thayer has three big parks announcements. Seriously. She invites everyone to a groundbreaking ceremony for McCarren Park Pool. The ceremony will take place Monday Dec 7, at 10:30 AM. Also OSA is holding an online auction with an opening ceremony Friday night on Dec 4th at 30 Nassau Avenue. Lastly, the mayor’s office is inviting the community to a public information session about the EPA's proposal to designate Newtown Creek a superfund site on December 8 at 6 PM at Automotive High School. Stephanie always has the goods.
*Barbara Vitell calls on the community board to "Look into the background of the people who are doing this. We need to look into what is this. Google the people who are doing this, and I want to remind you that sometimes people do things without the benefit to the community," because she is concerned about the West Street stormwater project.
Philip Zabrowski and Ryan Kuonen, tenant organizers working as part of the Greenpoint Williamsburg Collaborative Against Tenant Displacement talk about why they are opposing the Rose Plaza development project.
We strongly urge the community board require future waterfront development projects contribute to a fund to sustain neighborhood development services, specifically the Rose Plaza project. Tons of residents have been displaced, if this project gets built more will be displaced. We need to do better, this project is not better, it’s worse.
Streetsblog's Ben Fried talks about Bedford Avenue.
I want to speak about what happened on Bedford Ave. The DOT sandblasted away 14 blocks of bike lane on Flushing Avenue. It all happened very abruptly. As someone who uses this bike lane, I think it’s going to make a pretty critical connection more unsafe for people who get around by bike. We’re going to end up with vehicles moving faster than before. A shame that it happened the way it did. Not everyone was in favor of the bike lane. Bedford is a direct connection that makes sense. It’s going to be less safe for me and other people who ride on it.
A resident named Ben Savage is talking about the bike lanes. Wait a minute. This guy's name is Ben Savage? Roll it!
Finally, Howard Weiss the Rose Plaza developer's representative has a statement:
I read the land use committee's resolution. Putting aside what I know is an important call, I was really very heartened on the resolution of affordable housing what is an optimal solution for this site...It does provide housing for up and coming families and families. Density and scale is less than what was developed to the north... Rather than voting no with conditions, I would plead with you, vote yes, subject to the conditions moving forward.
7:36 PM: Second roll call and Chairman Chris asks for approval for the agenda. Chairman Chris came back from a meeting Future of Community Boards in general and he has a few things to share. This turns out to be the best speech of his career.
After this year, mayor will form a commission to revise the city charter and there’s a sense from CB chairs that the mayor may move to close the community boards. What do they lack? They strive to be independent! One of our most important roles is to have an advisory capacity for Land Use. If we lose that, we have nothing. Will that happen? We don’t know, but there’s concern about the way that the mayor is moving. If you look at the trend in the last couple of years (education, health, etc), things are moving in a more centralized way. The community board is a diverse voice for elected officials, doesn’t always agree with one way of thinking. Reminds us with some kinds of societies from using an autocratic form of government. Hopefully I’m wrong in my presumptions and we come up with some kind of dialogue. There's going to be a subcommittee formed in Brooklyn’s office, community groups. I know Scott Stringer is working passionately with community groups. Galvanizing community boards to begin to act, because if we don’t we don’t know what’s going to hit us. We’re going to prepare for a fight, maybe next year.
Gerry adds his brief district manager report: "We have a job opportunity in the office part-time. Yoselis de la Cruz has moved on to HRA and we will be hiring a part-time position. We may expand the position to full-time."
7:48 PM: Rabbi Joseph Webber talks about his bylaws report and Chairman Chris begins explaining the new attendance policy, which encourages members to attend more committee meetings. Ugh, bylaws. This always deflates my Community Board Boner.
“They should go to a minimum of three committee meetings. Just complete attendance for board meetings itself will not give you perfect attendance,” says Chairman Chris.
Esteban is upset.
“You’re further diluting what we tried to institute in august. Committee meetings are important. It’s not fair to community that has to deal with decisions made by the committee from people who barely show up to committee meetings," says Esteban.
Chairman Chris answers a question about the voting process before the vote.
"That’s the thing. We take a vote. Count it. And see what happens."
What happens is the board votes down the bylaws change. Rami “Nu” Metal gets his coat and leaves.
“It’s getting exciting,” says Rob Solano.
8:02 PM: Ward has his Land Use report. My Community Board Love Package starts expanding again. It's a summary of the Rose Plaza LLC development project.
801 units housing 160 affordable, 29 percent retail space
496 parking spaces
33000 sq feet open space along the esplanade
36000 private open space
A visual corridor on S. 11th Street that is publicly accessible
Three towers: 25 stories, 18 stories, and 28 stories
Affordable housing in the A and B towers
Minimum, obtaining 421a tax abatements, offering 20 percent affordable housing.
"I would say we had some big problems with the EIS, particularly references to the navy yard.
Open space, we like the open space, we'd like to see buildout on division avenue completed.
Transportation. We would like to have a role in reviewing future work there. All of that leads to the resolution which we disapprove with modifications," and Ward reads the proposed modifications.
Jeff Mann enteres the room. Hey Jeff, long time no see.
“He smells good,” says Solano.
"Wait a second, is someone smoking?" says Linderman
Tune in tomorrow for Part II!