Old movie theaters are hoping for a Hollywood ending

By Stuart Miller

Tragedy has held sway over comedy at the Metro, a beautiful, old, art deco movie house on the Upper West Side. The building, adorned with a glazed medallion of the Greek dramatic symbols, has sat empty on Broadway between 99th and 100th streets since 2006. In its heyday it showed Marx Brothers comedies and romances starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. At a low point in the 1970s, it became an adult-film theater. But for most of its 85 years, it has screened first-run, independent and foreign films. Down and even out for a time, it was never dark for this long.

In the past dozen years, plans have been announced, then abandoned, for the theater at 2626 Broadway to become an Urban Outfitters, the headquarters for an arts nonprofit, an Alamo Drafthouse movie theater, a Blink Fitness and, most recently, a Planet Fitness. The lack of follow-through has frustrated community leaders and infuriated residents who miss the movie theater and accuse the owner of being greedy and unreliable. Now, however, the Metro is once again on the verge of reclamation. Albert Bialek, who bought the theater in 1989, said he is close to signing a deal with a nonprofit to take over the partially landmarked building.

"It's just sad seeing the Metro slowly deteriorating when it could have an enormous impact on the neighborhood," said Gary Bornstein, founder of Wingspan Arts, the nonprofit that had a handshake deal to take over the theater in 2012.

In a city with 8.6 million residents packed within 303 square miles, aging movie theaters have become a preservation battleground that often pits developers looking to make a profit against elected officials eager to maintain quality of life and residents seeking communal and cultural gathering spaces. After notable failures in recent years such as the American Theater in the Bronx, which is now a Marshalls, and successes such as the Kings Theatre in Flatbush, now a live-performance venue, communities are hoping to find a road map for success with long-empty theaters such as the Metro, RKO Keith in Flushing and the Hamilton in Harlem, among several others.

"There's a desperate need for any space geared toward the community—something for young people and seniors," said Assemblyman Ron Kim, who is eyeing the RKO Keith in his Queens district. Demolition and plans for a large glass condo tower have apparently stalled, and Kim hopes a coming downturn in the Flushing condo market could give the site new life. "There's no place to meet and interact." 

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Year One of the NYC Tenant Right to Counsel Program

By Kelly Regan

Under a 2017 law, New York City provides free legal assistance for qualified tenants facing eviction in housing court. According to a new report released by the city’s Office of Civil Justice (OCJ), the “Universal Access” program has kept more than 21,000 renters in their homes during 2018.

The report, “Universal Access to Legal Services: A Report on Year One of Implementation in New York City,” states that during fiscal 2018, 21,955 city residents across 7,847 households who were threatened with eviction were able to remain in their homes after securing legal representation from OCJ-funded lawyers. Furthermore, in the last quarter of fiscal 2018, approximately 34 percent of tenants citywide who were in Housing Court for eviction proceedings were represented by counsel.

The report hails these numbers an essential step toward leveling the playing field for NYC’s low-income tenants, “not only saving thousands of tenancies but also promoting the preservation of affordable housing and neighborhood stability.”

As Next City has reported, after more than three years of community organizing in support of the bill, last year New York became the first U.S. city to pass a right-to-counsel law for housing court. The OCJ report analyzes Year One of what will be a five-year rollout of the plan across the city. As of late 2018, only 15 of the city’s 211 ZIP codes are now active in the program.

Gothamist reports that housing advocates have called the initial rollout promising, but uneven. According to the website, “Court-appointed lawyers have started to transform the predatory environment of housing court, resulting in fewer evictions, but some eligible tenants still slip through the cracks, and implementation has been more successful in some boroughs than others.”

Figures cited in the report underscore that point. Overall, in the 15 zip codes that have adopted tenant protections, approximately 56 percent of tenants in Housing Court received legal assistance. Breaking it down by borough, Staten Island claimed the highest legal representation rate, at 77 percent, followed by Brooklyn at 72 percent, Manhattan at 61 percent, The Bronx at 52 percent, and Queens at just 41 percent.

What’s next? According to WNYC, council members Vanessa Gibson and Mark Levine have introduced legislation that would raise the income threshold from 200 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty line, which would bring under the umbrella any tenants making the $15 NYC minimum wage.

Since New York’s law took effect, in August 2017, San Francisco voters approved a similar measure, Proposition F, earlier this year.

Read the full story here.

Add your reaction Share

Buscan enfrentar aumento de crímenes de odio en NYC

By Jose Martinez

Tras una semana de un brutal ataque racial en Brooklyn que dejó a una mujer inmigrante internada en un hospital por varios días, el Comité de Seguridad Pública del Concejo Municipal realizó una audiencia para estudiar formas de prevenir el incremento de este tipo de hechos en NYC.

De acuerdo con el Departamento de Policía de la Ciudad de Nueva York (NYPD), Ann Marie Washington, una mujer originaria de Trinidad que fue golpeada y apuñalada por un hombre blanco que le gritó insultos raciales en la estación Church Avenue del Subway en Brooklyn, hace parte de un número creciente de crímenes de odio que asciende a 309 en lo que va corrido del año, un aumento del 44% en comparación con el 2017.

Estas cifras tienen sumamente preocupados a varios concejales, especialmente a los miembros de este Comité, liderado por el concejal Donovan Richards, quienes tuvieron la oportunidad de conocer de mano del director ejecutivo de Asuntos Legislativos, Oleg Chernyavsky y el comandante en jefe de la Fuerza de Tarea contra los Crímenes de Odio del NYPD, el Inspector Adjunto Mark Molinari, como esta una unidad especial investiga crímenes de odio e incidentes relacionados.

Según Richards, el incremento en crímenes de odio en NYC ha tenido efecto en algunas comunidades en particular, creando miedo y preocupación sobre seguridad, especialmente tras las elecciones presidenciales de 2016.

Por esta razón, la audiencia también sirvió de escenario para presentar dos proyectos de ley que buscan enfrentar el creciente clima de odio que afecta a la Gran Manzana.

Por un lado, la Int 1234, presentada por los concejales Mark Levine y Laurie A. Cumbo, busca crear una oficina para la prevención de delitos de odio para así coordinar respuestas y divulgación entre las agencias de la ciudad.

De acuerdo con el documento, la oficina estaría liderada por un coordinador que asesoraría y ayudaría al Alcalde en la planificación e implementación de planes de coordinación y cooperación entre agencias bajo la jurisdicción de la Alcaldía que están involucradas en la prevención, concientización, investigación y enjuiciamiento e impacto en las comunidades de delitos de odio.

Por otro lado, la T2018, promovida por los concejales Chaim M. Deutsch y Donovan J. Richards, requeriría que la oficina para la prevención de crímenes de odio lleve a cabo actividades de educación y capacitación.

Además de incluir la coordinación con agencias municipales pertinentes, organizaciones interreligiosas, grupos comunitarios y grupos de derechos humanos y civiles, la legislación permitiría que la oficina trabaje en cooperación con el Departamento de Educación para crear un plan de estudios K-12 que aborde los problemas relacionados con los delitos de odio.

Read the full story here.

Add your reaction Share

Uptown Landlord Harasses Tenants By Withholding Keys: Reports

By Brendan Krisel

UPPER MANHATTAN, NY — Tenants of an Upper Manhattan building claim that their landlord's efforts to modernize the apartment complex's security system are a thinly-veiled attempt at harassment, according to reports and local officials.

Building managers at 765 Riverside Drive, a six-story building located near West 155th Street, installed an electronic key fob system to access the apartment complex's lobby door but are making residents jump through hoops to use it, CBS2 first reported.

Only residents with their names on an apartment lease are approved for a key fob, and residents are being forced to put down a $50 security deposit for the elecronic key, according to the report.

Resident Kazu Hano told CBS2 that he's been living in the building for 50 years, but his wife's name is not on the lease. In order to get her a key fob, Hano had to show a marriage certificate.

"We have one, but they said 'you gotta make a copy and send it to management' and they'll decide whether to give me a key," Hano told CBS2.

City Councilman Mark Levine said that the landlord's key fob policy is in clear violation of city regulations. Rules state that landlords are obligated to provide two keys per apartment and that they are not allowed to charge residents to use them.

"It's part of the playbook of landlords who are trying to push people out," Levine told CBS2.

A spokesman for Levine told Patch that the councilman has connected the building's residents with tenant advocates from the group Pa'Lante Harlem.

"The next steps would be to communicate with management to find a solution and/or file a complaint with the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR)," Levine told Patch.

Read the full story.

Add your reaction Share

NYC's Legal Assistance Program For Tenants Is Saving Thousands From Eviction

By Jake Bittle

For almost a year now, New York tenants who live in select ZIP codes have been entitled to a free lawyer if their landlord tries to evict them, thanks to a law passed by the City Council in 2017. But you might not know it from walking into the Bronx Housing Court on the date of your court appearance. Only one sign on each of the building’s five floors lists the ZIP codes that are currently covered as the five-year rollout of the law continues. These signs are handwritten in marker, and two of them were inaccurate on a recent November afternoon.

If you went straight into the courtroom and waited for your case to be called, you still might not know: the two judges assigned to the covered ZIP codes in the Bronx only announce the existence of the right-to-counsel program once a day.

Today, the city will hold the first public hearing on the the right-to-counsel law, which took effect in January after a broad coalition of organizers spent years pushing for its passage. Lawyers, tenants, and advocates who spoke with Gothamist ahead of the hearing said the implementation of the program thus far has been promising, but uneven. Court-appointed lawyers have started to transform the predatory environment of housing court, resulting in fewer evictions, but some eligible tenants still slip through the cracks, and implementation has been more successful in some boroughs than others.

Before the hearing, the city’s Human Resources Administration released a report showing that nearly one third of tenants who appeared for eviction cases this year were represented by lawyers, up from only 1% of tenants in 2013. According to the city’s analysis, this new representation prevented over 22,000 evictions across the five boroughs. By 2022, legal services will be available to anyone in New York who makes up to double the federal poverty level— $30,000 for an individual, or $50,000 for a family of four.

For a Bronx tenant named Pamela, who asked that we withhold her full name due to her ongoing legal proceedings, the mere fact of having a lawyer on her side made all the difference. Her landlord took her to court claiming she didn’t send rent checks that she says were cashed. With the help of her Legal Aid lawyer, she pushed for an adjournment, and the court subpoenaed the landlord’s financial records in order to investigate who cashed the checks and when.

“If I didn’t have a lawyer, I don’t know what I would have done,” she said. “I would have been stressed out, headaching, trying to figure out what I can do to get the truth out. And you know, I’m a fighter, but that doesn’t mean I can do it all on my own.”

“The climate in these courtrooms has changed significantly,” said Andrew Scherer, a lawyer who co-chairs the New York City Bar Association’s civil justice task force, which formed earlier this year to evaluate the rollout of the right-to-counsel law. “People are more aware of their rights, and there’s a lot more actual litigation going on.”

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Key Fob Fight Brewing Between Tenants, Landlord Of Upper Manhattan Apartment Building

By Valerie Castro

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Traditional keys are being replaced with a new key fob system at a building in upper Manhattan, and one city leader says it’s an illegal way to force tenants out.

It’s out with the old and in with the new for the building on Riverside Drive. Tenants say they were notified by management through letters that the lobby door will soon only be operated by an electronic key fob system.

The problem, according to some tenants, is in the letters fine print which reads, “Fobs will only be given to those who are signed on the lease.”

In Kazu Hano’s case, even though he and his wife have lived in the building for more than 50 years, only his name is on the lease.

“He said ‘you have to show a marriage certificate’,” Hano said. “We have one, but they said ‘you gotta make a copy and send it to management’ and they’ll decide whether to give me a key.”

Even if the application is approved, tenants say they’re being charged a $50 security deposit. It’s a big problem for families with children, and tenants who rely on home health aides like Fred Armstrong.

“I don’t feel great because it’s just another thing I have to worry about,” he said.

Tenants say they’ve also been asked to sign a form that appears to be a lease amendment.

“The rules are clear,” City Councilman Mark Levine (D-7th) said. “There must be two fobs for apartments, and the landlord cannot charge for them.”

Levine says such a charge would be an illegal addition to rent.

“Unfortunately it’s not unique,” he said. “It’s part of the playbook of landlords who are trying to push people out.”

CBS2 reached out to JK Management Corporation, the landlord for the building.

A day after this story aired and after repeated requests for an interview, they sent  a statement to CBS New York saying in part several tenants have informed them of attempted break ins to the building and the key fob system will address those security concerns.  It will also help prevent illegal Airbnb rentals.

The company says it is prepared to add additional tenants to lease agreements to get them a key fob at no extra charge.

As for the claim that the building needs more security in the first place, the local NYPD precinct says only two crimes have been reported in the area so far in 2018.

Levine’s office says they’re connecting tenants with legal experts to fight the alleged harassment.

Read the full story.

Add your reaction Share

Cooling tower eyed in Legionnaires’ outbreak in Manhattan

By Carl Campanile

A cooling tower at the same housing complex in Washington Heights has been identified as the likely source of two Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks within a few months, city Health Department officials said Friday.

The culprit is the Sugar Hill Project at 898 St. Nicholas Avenue and 155th Street.

Officials said the cooling tower at the complex tested for Legionella bacteria following an outbreak in the neighborhood in October as well as in July.

“After a comprehensive investigation, the Health Department has identified the cooling tower at the Sugar Hill Project as the likely source of this cluster,” said Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot.

“Sampling conducted at the start of the investigation revealed that Legionella bacteria had returned quickly despite a comprehensive remediation, suggesting that there was potentially something unique in this cooling tower system. “

Barbot said the the Sugar Hill project turned its cooling tower off on October 18 to stem the health crisis, including disassembling components, and it remains turned off.

“The tower remains off, and is under a Commissioner’s Order to remain shut off until Sugar Hill management demonstrates that it has remediated it and can operate the tower safely. When the cooling tower begins operation again, Sugar Hill management will be required to provide sample results on a weekly basis under a heightened monitoring and enforcement program,” the commissioner said.

Thirty two people were sickened with Legionnaires’ Disease last month. Thirty patients were hospitalized and one died.

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia that is caused by the bacteria Legionella, which grows in warm water. Symptoms resemble other types of pneumonia and can include fever, chills, muscle aches and cough.

Most cases of Legionnaires’ disease can be traced to plumbing systems where conditions are favorable for Legionella growth, such as cooling towers like Sugar Hill, whirlpool spas, hot tubs, humidifiers, hot water tanks and condensers for large air-conditioning systems.

The Health Department said it had been closely monitoring the Sugar Hill Project since the first Legionnaires’ disease cluster hit the same area of north Manhattan on July 11.

The same cooling tower at Sugar was “remediated” following the first Legionella outbreak on July 11, health officials said.

But Councilman Member Mark Levine, who represents the area and also chairs the Council Health Committee, complained that the Health Department dropped the ball.

“DOHMH needs to move immediately to put in place better protocols to prevent this kind of repeat contamination,” Levine said in a statement.

“From the moment we learned of a second Legionnaires cluster at the same location in upper Manhattan, I began asking pressing questions: are there defects in cooling tower equipment which make them vulnerable to repeat contamination? How long does intense monitoring last after a tower is found to be contaminated once? Five weeks–and one oversight hearing–after lower Washington Heights was hit with a second deadly cluster, we still don’t have adequate answers to these questions,” added Levine.

It’s the first time that one city cooling tower in one complex has been linked to two Legionnaires’ disease clusters, health officials said.

The Health Department said it will be tightening rules on cooling towers and examining the design of Sugar Hill and other cooling towers linked to Legionella cases to prevent outbreaks in the future.

The Sugar Hill project is a 13-story, 124-unit building that provides subsidized housing to low and moderate income families. Mayor de Blasio attended the ribbon cutting in 2014.

Read the full story here.

Add your reaction Share

Same Harlem Building Source Of 2 Deadly Legionnaires' Outbreaks

By Brendan Krisel

UPPER MANHATTAN, NY — A Harlem high-rise apartment complex is once again the source of a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease in Upper Manhattan, city officials announced Friday.

A Department of Health investigation revealed that cooling towers at the Sugar Hill Project on St. Nicholas Avenue near West 155th Street were the likely source of a Legionnaires' outbreak that sickened 32 people, with one fatal case. The building was the source of an outbreak that sickened 27 people, again with one fatal case, in July.

"Sampling conducted at the start of the investigation revealed that Legionella bacteria had returned quickly despite a comprehensive remediation, suggesting that there was potentially something unique in this cooling tower system.," Acting Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot.

The apartment complex shut down its cooling systems on Oct. 18 and will remain inactive until "Sugar Hill management demonstrates that it has remediated it and can operate the tower safely," Barbot said in a statement. Once the towers are re-activated, building management will be required to provide weekly samples to the city.

This is the first time that one cooling tower has been linked to two separate Legionnaires' Disease outbreaks in the city, health officials said. Moving forward, the city plans to examine the design of the tower, convene a panel of water system engineers to advise building owners on properly designing safer towers and introduce stricter cooling tower regulations, officials said.

City Councilman Mark Levine, who represents areas of Harlem and Washington Heights, called on the Department of Health to "immediately" put in place stronger safeguards to prevent another case of repeat contamination.

"From the moment we learned of a second legionnaires cluster at the same location in upper Manhattan, I began asking pressing questions: are there defects in cooling tower equipment which make them vulnerable to repeat contamination? How long does intense monitoring last after a tower is found to be contaminated once?" Levine said in a statement.

"Five weeks — and one oversight hearing — after Lower Washington Heights was hit with a second deadly cluster, we still don't have adequate answers to these questions. DOHMH needs to move immediately to put in place better protocols to prevent this kind of repeat contamination."

Read the full story here.

Add your reaction Share

Anti-Semetic Graffiti Plagues Upper West Side: Reports

By Brendan Krisel

UPPER WEST SIDE, NY — Vandals have painted swastikas at multiple locations on the Upper West Side amid a city-wide increase in anti-Semitic crimes, according to multiple reports.

The latest act of vandalism occurred Thursday morning near the Hudson River Greenway and West 72nd Street, Gothamist first reported. A tipster sent the publication photos of two spray-painted swastikas on a concrete platform near the river.

One day before the graffiti appeared, NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea warned of "an increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes, particularly swastikas, on buildings in part of the city," Gothamist reported.

An addition to the swastikas seen near the Hudson, a newspaper box on West 100th Street and Central Park West was defaced with swastika symbols and "KKK" this week, the West Side Rag reported.

City Councilman Mark Levine called attention to the problem a week ago when he posted a photo of a police/fire call box at West 104th Street and Columbus that was vandalized with "KKK" and swastikas in black marker.

After Thursday's reports, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer denounced the rising tide of hateful vandalism.

"Hate has absolutely no place in New York City. It's our duty to stand with our neighbors and root out anti-Semitism wherever we see it," Brewer said in a statement posted to Twitter.

The rise of anti-Semitism isn't just being felt on the Upper West Side. "Broad City" actress Ilana Glazer was forced to cancel a speaking event Thursday at a Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, synagogue after vandals scrawled messages such as "Die Jew rats, we are here," inside the building.

Read the full story here.

Add your reaction Share

More Swastikas Found on the UWS, as Hate Symbols Proliferate in the City

By West Sider

Someone or some group of people painted or drew swastikas in at least two locations in the neighborhood, part of what the NYPD says is an uptick in hateful symbols around the city.

On Thursday morning, a bicyclist told police about two swastikas spray-painted on a stretch of concrete next to the Hudson River around 72nd Street, according to Capt. Timothy Malin of the 20th precinct. There were no witnesses to the incident and no surveillance video, Malin said. Gothamist published an image of the swastikas.

In addition, one of our tipsters sent the photo above of a series of swastikas and KKK symbols she found drawn on a newspaper box on 100th and Central Park West. The tipster said she also saw “a swastika and a KKK pyramid (two k’s in the bottom with a k on top in a triangle) two weeks ago in a phone booth on 105th and Columbus.”

We did not hear back from NYPD about the swastika on 100th Street. Gothamist reports that there’s been an uptick in anti-Semitic symbols in the city.

During a briefing on Wednesday morning, Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said police had received a wave of similar reports in recent weeks. “We’ve seen in the last month an increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes, particularly swastikas, on buildings in part of the city,” he noted. “In last 28 days particularly, which is a little troublesome, we have seen an uptick in that category.”

Data provided by the city shows that there were a total of 142 anti-Semitic hate crimes reported through October 28th of this year—up from 126 in the same period last year, which was almost double the number reported in New York City in 2016.

Council Member Mark Levine has also pointed out racist graffiti throughout the neighborhood lately.

Read the full story here.

Add your reaction Share

Sign up for our mailing list!

Report a Problem Participatory Budgeting Events