Storms and the tides are unearthing the long-hidden bones of Hart Island, creating eerie scenes of skulls, femurs and collarbones on this sliver of land where New York City's destitute dead have for 150 years been sent off to be unceremoniously buried and forgotten.
After photos of exposed bones began turning up in news reports, forensic anthropologists from the city medical examiner's office went out last week and collected 174 human bones that they carefully cataloged, including six skulls, six jawbones, 31 leg bones and 16 pelvises. Small red flags dotted spots along the rocky shoreline where some remains were found.
"When I hear about the erosion, I always think, 'Are the bones his? Could any of them be his?'" asked Carol DiMedio, whose grandfather Luigi Roma was buried on the island after dying of tuberculosis in 1933.
Advocates for Hart Island say the bones are a jarring sign that it's long past time for improvements. In addition to stepping up a $13.2 million federal project to repair erosion caused by 2012's Superstorm Sandy and other storms, they want the 101-acre island in Long Island Sound to be turned into a park and historic site, even if it continues to be used as a burial ground.
"These are New Yorkers," City Council member Mark Levine said. "These are human beings who were largely marginalized and forgotten in life, they were people who died homeless or destitute, victims of contagious disease, the AIDS crisis. And we're victimizing them again in their final resting place."Read more
Annette Gallo was 10 years old when her brother Peter sent her a letter, from his orphanage to hers: “Last Wednesday morning something bad happened to papa.”
Papa was Luigi Roma, their father, who had died from pneumonia and tuberculosis at Norwegian Hospital in Brooklyn. Their mother had died years earlier. No one bothered to tell his children when officials buried Roma in a trench in New York City’s potter's field.
Roma‘s descendants traced his burial to Hart Island, the potter's field in the Long Island Sound. It’s a mass grave for Roma and roughly 1 million New Yorkers, most of them poor, and New York City has allowed it to erode so badly that bones sometimes emerge from the soil. The site is still in use.
On April 23, forensic anthropologists from New York City’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner collected uncovered human remains from the shoreline, produced a bone inventory and shared it with the City Council, which shared it with POLITICO.Read more
Mayor Bill de Blasio made it perfectly clear to reporters, legislators, radio hosts and anyone else who asked about a feasibility study on supervised injection facilities that it would be released soon.
Everyone knows what soon means, the mayor said.
The City Council, which funded the $100,000 study in September 2016, wasn’t so certain what soon meant to a mayor who kept repeating it. So during budget hearings, members asked health commissioner Mary Bassett when they could see the study, which examines the controversial idea of allowing injection drug use under some form of medical supervision in designated areas in New York City.
It would be released in April, she said. She also agreed with Council Member Mark Levine, Health Committee chairman, that the public health literature was clear on the utility of supervised injection facilities.Read more
Bronx resident John Sattaur relies on city buses to go practically everywhere, including work. He takes three different buses to get to his job at the New York Public Library, which is less than four miles away from his apartment. On a bad day, his roundabout commute takes him an hour and fifteen minutes each way — not surprising, given that New York City buses are the slowest in the country.
“It’s a crapshoot. I don’t know what the day is going to hold,” Sattaur says of his unpredictable bus commutes.
New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has unveiled a plan for a complete overhaul of NYC’s ailing bus system — including a redesign of its approximately 300 routes — that promises to improve straphangers’ estimated two million rides each weekday. The multi-year bus plan features a wide-ranging set of initiatives intended to modernize the city’s bus fleet and ameliorate service across the five boroughs.Read more
The Second Avenue line of New York City’s famed subway system was approved by the city’s Board of Transportation in September 1929. The estimated cost was $100 million. The first leg of this ambitious project was passenger-ready on Jan. 1, 2017. The estimated cost of the whole thing is $17 billion.
This may be the king of all delayed projects -- short of efforts to achieve peace on earth. But as residents of most large cities can tell you, project delays are not exactly big news, even if they are a regular feature in the local press. To be sure, some of these delays are unavoidable. But many are self-inflicted wounds.Read more
Upper Manhattan residents who own cars aren’t just competing with their neighbors for parking. The area is also popular with New Jersey motorists who drive over the George Washington Bridge, dump their cars, and hop on the A train. Or New York suburbanites who come down 9A, lock their cars north of Dyckman Street, and get on the 1.
Local drivers say they're sick of endlessly circling the block searching for parking because these interlopers are using Washington Heights and Inwood as their free parking lot. Now some local legislators think they have a solution: residential parking permits.
“Commuters from other parts of the region do not have a God-given right to park for free on our residential streets,” said City Council member Mark Levine at a press conference this week.Read more
Will New York City move to reserve parking spots exclusively for residents?
One bill, introduced by four Manhattan Council members on Wednesday afternoon, would require the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) to create and implement a residential parking permit (RPP) system in northern Manhattan, covering all areas north of 60th Street through Inwood as bounded by the intersection of Spuyten Duyvill Creek and Harlem River. Residents would have to pay a fee for the permit, which would be credited to the city’s general fund.
The legislation’s sponsors—Manhattan Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, Upper Manhattan Councilman Mark Levine, Manhattan Councilman Keith Powers and Upper Manhattan Councilwoman Diana Ayala—said the program is designed to prioritize local residents for on-street parking in residential areas and to fend off park-and-ride commuters.
“For too long, suburban commuters have taken advantage of free street parking in Northern Manhattan and crowded out the people who actually live in our neighborhoods,” Levine said in a statement. “Whether you live in Washington Heights or the Upper East Side, parking in our borough is an incredible challenge for so many who live here. Manhattan is already facing a suffocating congestion crisis that is hurting our economy, threatening the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, and poses a danger to our environment.”Read more
Residential parking permits may soon become a reality on certain Manhattan streets -- and New Yorkers, as with most things, have mixed feelings about it.
City Council members Mark Levine, Helen Rosenthal, Keith Powers and Diana Ayala, as well as co-chairs of the Manhattan Delegation, introduced the bill Wednesday.
The proposed legislation would require the city’s Department of Transportation to create a residential parking permit system for Northern Manhattan, including all areas north of 60th street through Inwood bounded by the intersection of Spuyten Duyvill Creek and Harlem River.
According to officials, neighborhoods in the northern half of Manhattan face issues related to crowding and congestion due to commuters leaving their cars on local streets in order to travel by subway increasingly face the crowding — a problem, they say, would be severely exacerbated should congestion pricing ever be implemented.Read more
Residential parking permit bills to address ‘suffocating congestion crisis’ introduced in City Council
Two separate bills that would require the city to create a residential parking permit system were introduced in the City Council Wednesday.
One proposal — co-sponsored by council members Mark Levine, Helen Rosenthal, Keith Powers and Diana Ayala — would require the city Department of Transportation to implement a parking permit system for residents who live north of 60th Street in Manhattan. A second bill, sponsored by Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, would institute a citywide residential parking permit system.
Northern Manhattan residents, according to the lawmakers, face a constant struggle for parking because of suburban commuters who drive into the city, park their cars and then take the subway downtown.
“Manhattan is already facing a suffocating congestion crisis that is hurting our economy, threatening the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, and poses a danger to our environment,” said Levine, who represents several neighborhoods in the area. “We can’t afford to continue as one of the only big cities in America that doesn’t have a residential parking permit system — this policy is long overdue.”Read more
The New York City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a plan to replace three city-owned parking garages on the Upper West Side with affordable housing developments.
The council voted 50 to zero with no abstentions to approve land use applications filed by the West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing (WSFSSH), which will develop and manage the new housing buildings. The applications cede the city-owned site to the organization, upzone the site to increase the size of the new development and apply Mandatory Inclusionary Housing regulations on the site.
The West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing's development on West 108th Street — located between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues — will create a total of 279 permanently affordable housing units for low-income seniors and families.
Of the new housing units, 119 will be supportive housing, 79 will be set aside for families earning less than 60 percent of the area median income and 81 will be set aside for senior citizens, according to a press release from City Councilman Mark Levine's office.Read more