Wednesday, December 31, 2008

MTA hearing on fares and service cuts

Wed. January 14, 6pm
1335 6th Ave,
The Hilton, Trianon Ballroom

Fares and service cuts (including the M8 bus).


Sunday, January 4, from 10 am - 4 pm
Union Square Park, North Plaza
17th Street & Broadway
See the Lower East Side Ecology Center FAQ page to learn more about what to bring:

Thanks to Councilmember Rosie Mendez and Parks for sponsoring the event

Upcoming local meetings

Of meetings in the new year, maybe the most important is the Chinatown Working Group's at which they will set their agenda for the future and elect their leadership. More urgent is the Chatham Square Redesign Task Force. It should bring a strong showing of community voices opposed to the plan the city is ready to implement.

Liquor license applications are down by about 30%, but there are still 20 applicants, many of them restaurants upgrading to a full liquor license, including European Union. See the complete list below.

CB3's Housing Committee will consider three properties south of Houston on Orchard and Rivington applying for construction renewals and extensions.

And CB3's zoning committee will revisit (?) the rezoning south of Houston (Essex to Chrystie), and will consider the Seward Park Renewal area.

1. Chinatown Working Group,
Mon Jan 5, 4-6, 191-193 Canal @ Mott.
2. CB3 Zoning Committee, Mon Jan 5, 6:30, 184 Eldridge.
3. CB3 Liquor Licensing Committee, Mon Jan 12, 6:30, 200 E 5.
4. CB3 Chatham Redesign Task Force, Mon Jan 12, 6:30, 33 Bowery @ Bayard
5. CB3 Housing Committee, Tues Jan 20, 6:30, 333 Bowery.

Agenda for the liquor licensing and sidewalk cafe licensing committee:
Renewal with Complaint History
1. Kaleidoscope Restaurant, 212 E 10th St (rw)
2. Winebar, 65 2nd Ave (sidewalk cafe)
Applications within Resolution Areas
3. European Union, 235 E 4th St (up/op)
4. Eat Pisode, 123 Ludlow St (rw)
5. 171 Ave A Food, 171 Ave A (rw)
6. Bruno Jamais, 179 Ludlow St (op)
7. Kuma Inn, 113 Ludlow St (rw)
8. Castleblade, 17 Clinton St (up/op)
9. NY Restaurant Supplies, 29 3rd Ave (alt/reduction of size of restaurant)
10. Ford Grey, 175 Ludlow St (trans/op)
11. Maradona, 188 Allen St (up/op)
12. Ballaro, 77 2nd Ave (trans/rw)
New Liquor License Applications
13. Eastville Comedy Club, 85 E 4th St (op)
14. Sun Shine 27, 46 Bowery (rw)
15. Noodle King, 19 Henry St (rw)
16. Ken's Asian Taste, 40 Bowery (rw)
17. Cafe Khufu, 61 E 3rd St (rw)
18. Upright Citizens Brigade, 155 E 3rd St (tw)
19. Saigon NYC, 85 Orchard St (rw)
20. Thai Bodhi Tree, 58 3rd Ave (rw)

Friday, December 19, 2008


The New School students' occupation of 65 Fifth Ave has ended with, as I understand, only one arrest, but considerable stir and excitement among activists, several letters of support including one from Mexico. All at their new blog of resistance:

Meanwhile, CB3 voted to reject the city's plan to reroute the Bowery at Chatham Square, in a bizarrely written resolution: the chair of the committee wrote pages and pages of 'whereas' clauses with the intention of justifying and supporting the city's unpopular plan, but the committee and later the full board insisted on standing with the community and the local councilmember and the local assemblymember and the local state senator-elect and the comptroller who all rejected the city's plan.

So the full board added a few 'whereas' clauses of its own and rewrote the "resolved" section as a rejection . The final resolution reads like a series of lengthy, deep and repeated bows to the city followed by an abrupt kick to the shin. Well, it's the resolved section that matters. Three cheers for CB3, at last!

Reopen Park Row!!

Full text (and even a bit of the discussion) available at CCRC.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What the city won't tell you

The city's plan for Chatham Square follows the current model of post-9/11, Giuliani-style control, restricting flow and personal options in public space. It narrows, diverts, shunts, closes and detours, requires labyrinthine crossings, leaves large, useless, vacant spaces and adds bottlenecks with lights closely spaced where traffic volume is thickest.

The continuation of heavy-flow east-bound Worth between Park Row and St. James has two crossings within five car lengths which will back-up traffic all along Worth.

To cross the south side of St. James, a narrow street of a few paces, pedestrians in the reconfiguration have to cross Oliver, north St. James and Worth just to get to the other side of the street.

All just to close Park Row permanently.

Check out CCRC's informational on their site.

Protests abound

Depression's downer is only money-deep. Protests rise aflight defiance.

Saturday, downtowners protest the Department of Transportation's many failures and its indifference to local communities. 40 Worth Street, 1pm

Yesterday, New School students occupied the 65 Fifth Avenue building, calling for the resignation of university President Bob Kerrey who has compromised the great radical legacy of the University in Exile by adopting a profit-generating corporate model for the university and its governance, by participating in the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which promoted the current invasion and occupation of Iraq and, most recently, by appointing himself as interim Provost.

Here's their statement:

Dear Friends,

On 17 December 2008, students, staff, faculty, and supporters held protests and
occupied the 65 Fifth Avenue building of the New School. About 100 people have
remained in the building throughout the night. This is a call for solidarity
and support. Protests and support will continue on Thursday, December 18th, at
65 Fifth Avenue and other New School buildings.

As you may know, the full-time faculty of the New School, have taken a nearly
unanimous vote of no confidence [269 to 8 (with 10 abstentions)] in the
leadership of President Bob Kerrey and Executive Vice President Jim Murtha.
This followed the sudden departure of Provost Joe Westphal, the chief academic
officer of the university, after which the President appointed himself acting
Provost. (He has since admitted this was an error.)

It is UNACCEPTABLE for President Kerrey to appoint himself interim Provost. With
various budgetary and building changes, students face a serious lack of
resources, both technological and academic, directly due to Kerrey's leadership
and his attempt to make the New School a profit-making venture. There is also a
fundamental lack of democratic transparency concerning both the activities of
Bob Kerrey and the Board of Trustees, and not enough input from students,
staff, and faculty.

Bob Kerrey has consistently been completely out of alignment over the past seven
years as President with the history, community, and philosophy upon which the
New School was founded. Amongst other activities, he was a member of the
Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which promoted the current invasion and
occupation of Irag. His participation is the committee was highly contested by
the student, staff, and faculty.

Those protesting are calling for the resignation of Bob Kerrey and the
institution of a direct, democratic participation of the students, staff, and
faculty, in order to guarantee that decisions are made in our best interests
and so that we can once again live up to the legacy of the University in Exile.

Our grievances include:

· Five Provosts in less than eight years is a sign of no institutional
transparency, stability, and accountability. We need an institutional politics
with a system of checks and balances, not one that works at the whim of one

· Kerrey's unilateral appointment of himself as "chief academic officer" is
unacceptable and emblematic of his inability to foster cooperative education.

· The university is being treated as a profit-making venture at whose altar the
requirements of scholarship are routinely sacrificed. We have been
systematically stripped of the most basic resources necessary for academic
excellence, including adequate funding, spaces in which to study and engage
with each other, and a working library. We demand more opportunities for
student funding, and we are willing to work for them. We need public spaces in
which to foster a public sphere and an academic community. The absence of a
serious library and its related resources for research is absolutely
unacceptable and should not even be an issue of contention in an academic

· Academic planning and budgeting should be directed by individuals with a deep
understanding and commitment to academic excellence and free inquiry.

· We have no hand and no say in our fates or the collective fate of our

Please come support the protests at the New School (65 Fifth Avenue) to put an
end to Kerrey's and the other administrator's autocratic approach and
bureaucratic, business model for education. Their activities have been becoming
commonplace at all of our educational institutions. Let's end it now!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Don't tred on me

Last week, at a Town Hall meeting in Chinatown, the Department of Transportation presented its plan for rerouting traffic at Chatham Square in the heart of Chinatown. In the course of the Q & A, DoT asserted that their plans would go ahead regardless what the community says, wants or does; the DoT will respond only to the "city administration." The DoT interprets "city adminstration" to mean the Mayor alone, not the City Council nor any Community Board, as was clear from the meeting: the City Councilmember who represents Chinatown, Alan Gerson, spoke out plainly critical of the plan and the process, as did the CB1 and CB2 members present.

The plan will close Park Row permanently. The community has been pressing the city to reopen Park Row, which was initially closed in the wake of 9/11. But when it comes to Chinatown, the "city administration" does not appear to care for community wants or needs.

Also last week, CB1 voted to reject the DoT plan. Residents of Chinatown have now drawn up a resolution which they will present to CB3. Here's the notice, thanks to Jan Lee of CCRC, with the text of the resolution, which is also available here at the CCRC blog:

Community organizers are collecting signatures in support of this community authored resolution to submit before CB3's full board on Dec. 16th at P.S. 20 at 166 Essex Street near East Houston and Stanton at 6:30 pm.

Please attend the CB3 hearing this Tues.! Let your voice be heard and voice your opinions on the Chatham Square

Here is the document:

We, as members of the Chinatown Community, respectfully request that the following resolution be passed by Community Boards One, Two and Three with regard to the Mayor’s and DOT’s proposed Chatham Square Reconfiguration Plan in order to:

1. Give the community time to access and review all details of the proposed Chatham Square reconfiguration, with special attention to pedestrian safety, potential negative economic impacts upon local businesses and cost-benefit analysis,

2. Allow full community input; and,
3. Mitigate the effects of any construction on the local economy and its character.
4. Ultimately have the City work with the community to develop a plan that works for the community.

Whereas, the Department of Transportation has stated a desire of improved pedestrian safety yet has proposed a plan that appears to decrease pedestrian safety; and

Whereas, the Department of Transportation has not done adequate research regarding the economic impact of three plus years of reconstruction at Chatham Square, nor has the D.O.T. provided a business mitigation plan to the Chinatown community prior to the reconstruction of Chatham Square; and

Whereas, the Department of Transportation did not give the public opportunity to view detailed plans of Chatham Square’s reconstruction until 6 days before the public hearing of December 2, 2008 ; and

Whereas, the Chinatown community has not had ample time to caucus and present alternative plans for the reconstruction with alternative construction schedule; and

Whereas, the unanimous opposition expressed at the December 2, 2008 public hearing regarding Chatham Square reconfiguration accurately reflects the vast majority of Chinatown groups comprised of residents, businesses, and nonprofits; and

Whereas, Councilman Alan J. Gerson testified on December 2nd that “I believe it is way too premature for this community and this community board to take a position. I believe it is even too premature for the City to, at this stage, to ask the community board to reach a position or to approve this plan at this stage.”, thereby reflecting the opinions of his constituents; and

Whereas, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver submitted a letter to the December 2nd hearing in support of the community’s efforts to have a voice in the details of the plan; and

Whereas, the DOT’s plan currently does not provide details of the Park Row improvement portion of the plan. In particular, the artists images of the proposed pedestrian walkway does not even include provision for the current driveway of the Chatham Green Cooperative; nor does it address the existing problem of handicap ramp access at Chatham Towers. Despite many requests by Chatham Tower’s Board, it remains off limits to this day causing a great hardship to residents and visitors of that co-op.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Community Board will reject the most recent plan for Chatham Square’s reconstruction as presented by the Department of Transportation, and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Community Board will call for a moratorium on all construction work at Chatham Square pending further examination of the plans by concerned stakeholders and input from Community Boards 1, 2 and 3.

Respectfully submitted,
Jan Lee - Sinotique 19 Mott St. NYC 10013, Hamilton Madison House Board
Jeanie Chin , CCRC, Chatham Towers Board
Danny Chen Chatham Green, Board
Toby Turkel, Pres. of Chatham Towers

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Chinatown Working Group

The Chinatown Working Group met last night. I attended with qualms but left mostly encouraged.

Rather than narrow its focus and hand-pick its membership to speed the process along, the CWG has opted for principles of openness, inclusion and breadth. Narrow focus and selectivity are conducive to speed but also to controversy, as we saw in the EV/LES rezoning. So far, the CWG has not been unwieldy or slow.

The Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the LES, the group that led the opposition to the EV/LES rezoning, is not attending the CWG meetings, but its influence is felt in the mission statement and the orientation of the Group and even the fact of its existence: I doubt this Working Group would have been convened at this time and in this way were it not for the Coalition's vigorous, organized and highly public opposition to the EV/LES rezoning.

Judging by their proposed mission and governance structure, the Chinatown Working Group is characterized by

All Chinatown groups are asked to participate. Organizations alone will be allowed a vote in the Group, but individuals are being encouraged to form organizations of their own in order to broaden the voting membership and representation at the ground level. My initial concern that developers' interests would insinuate themselves into the proceedings are somewhat allayed by this structure. And encouraging the formation of local grassroots organizations is a good idea in itself.

Such openness requires broad and equitable outreach, which appears to be a Group priority. CB1 and CB2 have been advertising meetings for some time. I expect CB3 will soon join CB1 and CB2 in announcing the meetings, since most of Chinatown is in CB3.

Inclusive vision
The Group is looking at the broadest implications of its work. Whatever the final boundaries of the area of study, the Group is already looking beyond the narrowest confines of current Chinatown both geographically and temporally with a long-sighted view towards the future.

Breadth of scope
The Group will not confine itself to zoning alone, but will consider comprehensive planning. From their draft mission statement: "truly affordable housing, cultural and historic preservation, economic revitalization, open space. public infrastructure, residential and business displacement, and zoning."

(I expressed my concern that "economic revitalization" not be made a cover for outside commercial or development interests to displace Chinatown's existing commerce and residents. The words "commercial stability" may be added to the mission alongside "economic revitalization." The desire to bring manufacturing into Chinatown -- an important basis for community sustainability unfortunately disappearing from the city -- may also find more explicit expression in the mission statement.)

So far, I see a well-run Group with plenty of talent. All the local electeds have been participating even though they will not have a vote under the proposed governance structure. Community groups are being offered a voting voice in order to encourage broad and regular participation. But participation is a political commitment and many attending are still wary. I imagine they will want to see the Group's direction before throwing in their lot with this initiative. They may prefer to attend as critics than participate only to become targets of criticism. It'll be a challenge.

The Group leadership wants to begin working on real issues as soon as it can, attracting participation as it demonstrates is goals and effectiveness. It also hopes to attract participation by its openness. Both strategies are well taken.

The Group meets again Jan 5 to vote on its mission statement and governance structure. Meanwhile it is considering the boundaries of its "study area."

They are looking for a regular meeting place that can seat at least sixty. If you have any leads, let me know and I'll pass it on. Meetings are held on the first Monday of the month, 4-6pm.