City Council to Hold Hearing on Bill Meant to Help Stop Small Business Closings

By Carol Tannenhauser

On October 22nd, the City Council Committee on Small Business will hold a hearing on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA), a bill intended, in its own words, “to give small businesses rights in the commercial lease-renewal negotiation process.” The hearing will take place at 1 p.m., in the Council Chambers at City Hall, and is open to the public.

The SBJSA has the dubious honor of being “the longest-pending legislation in New York City Council history,” noted The Villager. Yet, it is still as relevant — and controversial — as it was when it was first introduced in 1986, by then Council Member Ruth Messinger. The bill begins:

The Council hereby finds that the City’s small business sector remains vulnerable at a time when New York City is more dependent than ever on small businesses for job growth and revenues. The New York City commercial rental market has been negatively influenced by speculators for such an extended period of time that the interest of small businesses and job creation, and the broader general economic interest of the City, are being harmed.

An unacceptable number of established small businesses are being forced out of business solely as a result of the commercial lease renewal process. The present commercial rental market provides no means for tenants to mediate disputes between tenants and landlords to arrive at fair and reasonable lease renewal terms. The absence of legal protection for the interests of commercial tenants in the lease renewal process has unnecessarily accelerated the closing of small businesses and resulted in lost jobs, tax revenues and community instability.

It is the intent of the City Council, through this legislation, to be known as the “Small Business Jobs Survival Act,” to give small businesses rights in the commercial lease renewal process, and therefore, a measure of predictability of future costs through a two-step procedure of mediation and, if necessary, arbitration for negotiating commercial lease renewals and rentals. This process would create a fair negotiating environment, which would result in more reasonable and fair lease terms to help small businesses survive and encourage job retention and growth in the City of New York.

Upper West Side Council Member Mark Levine, a co-sponsor of the bill, acknowledged in a telephone interview that lease renewals and rents are not the only reasons small businesses close.

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Save Central Park from tall building shadows, lawmaker says

By Lisa Colangelo

With the city’s skyline growing taller by the year, a Manhattan lawmaker is reviving his efforts to get the city to study the impact of its shadows on city parkland.

City Councilman Mark Levine is set to introduce a bill on Wednesday that would create an interagency task force to make recommendations on how to prevent buildings from blocking sunlight that is vital to the parks and the people who use them.

“We want to tackle this problem before the next boom on super-tall towers attacks Central Park,” Levine told amNewYork. “They cast shadows that can be a mile or longer in the park. If it was just one, you would wait for it to pass, but there are potentially seven more and that’s going to affect the ecosystem of the park.”

Levine introduced a similar bill in 2015 and it was the subject of a City Council hearing. But the bill was never approved.

In a 2015 report, the Real Estate Board of New York called concerns over the shadows “overblown.”

But Levine said, “Now is the right time to do it because the market has slowed down some.”

Levine pointed to six towers being constructed along the 57th Street corridor in Manhattan that measure over 1,000 feet tall.

According to shadow studies by the Municipal Art Society, new luxury towers will block sunlight in some areas of the park all day long,

“Currently, there is no process in the zoning resolution to assess, let alone mitigate, the impact of buildings on parks and open space,” Layla Law-Gisiko, chair of Community Board 5’s Central Park Sunshine Task Force, said in a statement. “As a result, we have seen numerous parks throughout the city plunged into shadows with no ability to protect the public's access to sunlight. We need to urgently equip ourselves with better zoning tools.”

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City Postpones Bike Lane Plan On Harlem's Amsterdam Ave: Report

By Brendan Krisel

HARLEM, NY — City officials are postponing the implementation of a traffic-calming plan that would add bike lanes to one of Harlem's most dangerous avenues, according to reports.

The city Department of Transportation will not make planned changes to Amsterdam Avenue between West 110th and 155th Streets because Community Board 9 will not hold a vote on the project, Streetsblog first reported. The board has refused to vote on the plan for 19 months because its transportation committee fears it will result in the slowing of traffic on the avenue, according to the report.

"Every time you say you're taking out a lane, you're slowing traffic down. I don't care what they're saying, it slows traffic down," CB 9 Transportation chair Carolyn Thompson said during a Monday night town hall, as reported by Streetsblog.

Board members are also concerned about the new street layout's possibility to increase the number of idling vehicles on the avenue and have called on a health study to be conducted before the board votes, CB9 vice chair Victor Edwards told Patch.

"The community above 125th ST. and Amsterdam Ave. is already impacted by two nycta bus depots and the North River Sewage Treatment plant," Edwards told Patch in an email. "We have called on several occasions for a health impact study prior to the implementation of this plan which has been ignored."

The city Department of Transportation has been pitching a plan to redesign the stretch since the beginning of 2017 that will add painted bike lanes, left turn bays and pedestrian safety islands to the 45-block stretch of Amsterdam Avenue. The redesign will also reduce the number of travel lanes from four to two on the two-way avenue and add loading zones to help businesses receive deliveries, according to the DOT's latest presentation of the plan.

Making the avenue narrower and adding turning bays will discourage speeding and create simpler and safer left turns for cars, according to the DOT.

Local City Councilman Mark Levine called the Amsterdam Avenue safety upgrades urgent during a September rally and said that the targeted stretch currently experiences nearly one collision per day. More than 750 people have been injured and three people have been killed in automobile collisions since 2012 on the stretch of Amsterdam Avenue, Levine said in September.

"What you're looking at here on Amsterdam Avenue is a street designed according to state-of-the-art principals from half a century ago. It's a street that is desparately need in modernization and we have learned a lot in the past half century about how to make our city streets safer and more efficient for everybody," Levine said during the September rally.

The city does not community board approval to implement projects such as the one planned for Amsterdam Avenue, but has decided to wait for a vote from Community Board 9, Streetsblog reported. With conditions in New York City getting colder, the window of opportunity to implement the plan is shrinking, according to the report.

Messages to the city Department of Transportation and City Councilman Mark Levine's office were not immediately returned. Patch will update this article when we hear back.

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Councilman Endorses West Harlem Ferry Landing

By Brendan Krisel

HARLEM, NY — A city councilman representing Harlem and the Upper West Side is calling on the city to extend ferry service to Manhattan's west side.

City Councilman Mark Levine wrote in a letter to the city Economic Development Corporation — the agency that operates city ferries — that a new ferry landing should be constructed on the West 125th Street pier. The pier re-opened in 2009 after "years of neglect" and could provide ferry service between Upper Manhattan and New Jersey as well as up and down Manhattan's west side.

The seven-minute ferry ride between West 125th Street and Edgewater, New Jersey, would bring uptown residents to jobs in Bergen County and would bring New Jerseyans to city businesses, Levine said. The councilman identified the West 39th Street Hudson Yards terminal, Inwood's Dyckman Marina and as far north as Yonkers as potential ferry destinations from West 125th Street.

"As residential and commercial growth continues up and down the west side, and with key infrastructure already in place at West 125th Street, investing in ferry service now is a sensible step to address the need for an additional transportation hub," Levine said in a statement. "As New York City embarks on a new phase of ferry expansion through the five boroughs, Northern Manhattan shouldn't be ignored again."

Levine also cited the expansion of Columbia University's Manhattanville Campus as a reason to bring ferry service to Manhattan's west side. With an influx of students, faculty and staff to the area, ferries could help relieve stresses on the already-overcrowded A and 1 train lines, Levine wrote in his letter.

The city Economic Development Corporation recently completed its 2018 Ferry Feasibility Study to determine where new ferry landings should be built throughout the five boroughs. The city recently opened two new routes servicing Soundview in the Bronx and the Lower East Side.

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Councilmember calls for NYC ferry from West Harlem to New Jersey

By Ameena Walker

Councilmember Mark Levine is calling for the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) to consider a feasibility study to establish a ferry service between West Harlem and New Jersey.

The EDC is in the process of finalizing its 2018 NYC Ferry feasibility study and in a letter penned to the corporation’s president, James Patchett, Levine argues that a landing at West 125th Street would “give uptown residents access to jobs in Bergen County and bring New Jersey customers to Northern Manhattan businesses. He also adds that commuters from New Jersey who drive across the George Washington Bridge, adding to traffic congestion, could opt to leave leave their vehicles at home if the ferry was an option.

“A ferry landing on the edge of West 125th Street could also provide for routes heading south as far as Wall Street through the newly developed West 39th Street Hudson Yards terminal, and north towards Inwood’s Dyckman Marina and Yonkers, NY,” said Levine in his letter.

Levine concludes his letter by stating that with Columbia University’s rapid expansion of its Manhattanville campus, investing in a new ferry landing now would be “the most sensible thing to do before the neighborhood’s 1 and A trains are stressed any further.”

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Town Hall to Cover Transportation, from Car-Sharing to Safer Amsterdam Avenue…to a West Side Ferry?

By West Sider

Council Member Mark Levine, who represents sections of the Upper West Side, West Harlem and Washington Heights, is holding a town hall meeting on Monday night covering transportation issues.

“Have questions about the new car sharing programs on our streets? Tired of long waits for packed subways and slow buses? Want to see a safer Amsterdam Avenue? My office is holding a Transportation Town Hall to talk about these issues and more with an incredible panel that includes New York City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, in addition to representatives from Riders Alliance, Transit Center, and Transportation Alternatives. The Town Hall will take place on Monday, October 15th at 6:30 pm at the Manhattan School of Music, 120 Claremont Avenue.”

Levine has also started advocating for a ferry on the West Side that could dock at 125th Street and offer service to and from New Jersey. “We’ve already built the pier — this is a $30 million investment to build a wonderful, modern West Harlem pier,” he told Metro NY.

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Harlem Day Care Center Playground In 'Disrepair': Councilman

By Brendan Krisel

HARLEM, NY — City officials are calling on the New York City Housing Authority to make repairs at a playground that services a day care center and pre-k facility.

Conditions at the playground next to the Grant Day Care Center, located within the General Grant Houses development on West 125th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, are so bad that some of the play structures are held together by tape, day care parent Natasha Hemmingway told Patch.

"These are two-to-five-year-old kids who use that playground," Hemmingway said. "Some of the structures are falling apart, the paint is peeling, it's just very abysmal and does not look like a children's playground."

In addition to a slide held together by tape, current conditions at the playground include cracked rubber protective tiles, stone fixtures with chipping paint and grass and weeds growing through the concrete.

Hemmingway decided to send her 3-year-old daughter to pre-k at the Grant Day Care Center in September because she liked the curriculum and could tell that the teachers were invested in the students. The playground wasn't on Hemmingway's mind when she made the decision, but now that her daughter uses the facility every day it prompted her to demand improvements from NYCHA.

"In my opinion I just don't think that's an appropriate playground for kids," Hemmingway said. "Really for anyone."

Hemmingway told Patch that she received a response from NYCHA saying that the playground's slide would be fixed, but that there was "no budget" for long-term upgrades at the facility.

City Councilman Mark Levine called for repairs at the neglected playground in a letter sent this week to NYCHA Chairman Stanley Brezenoff. The councilman described conditions at the playground as a "hazardous state of disrepair," and urged the NYCHA chairman to commit "substantial resources" for long-term improvements.

"Beyond simply fixing the current conditions, I ask that NYCHA commit substantial resources towards remodeling and improving the playground, which is one of the few accessible outdoor play spaces in our community," Levine wrote in the letter.

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CM Levine makes a pitch for NYC Ferry route in Harlem

The last day to give input on the next NYC Ferry route is Monday and “125th Street is crying out for ferry service,” CM Mark Levine said.

Monday is the last day for New Yorkers to give their input on where the next NYC Ferry route should be, and one elected official is making a case for West Harlem.

“125th Street is crying out for ferry service,” 7th District Council Member Mark Levine told Metro Friday. “We’ve already built the pier — this is a $30 million investment to build a wonderful, modern West Harlem pier.”

From the early 1800s until it was demolished in 1965, the West Harlem pier was a hotbed of transportation activity, including a regular ferry that crossed the Hudson River to Palisades Amusement Park in Edgewater, New Jersey. The pier reopened in 2009 as part of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway and “included infrastructure for a new ferry landing — making this site an ideal location for NYC Ferry service,” Levine wrote in a letter to the NYC Economic Development Corporation Friday, which he shared exclusively with Metro.

In addition to providing shortened commutes and more transit options for New Yorkers as it’s done along the East River from Soundview, Bronx, and to Rockaway, a Harlem NYC Ferry route would also reconnect Manhattan and New Jersey via a seven-minute commute across the Hudson, Levine said.

“New Jersey commuters who now drive across the George Washington Bridge and add to our already congested streets, would be able to commute by ferry and leave their cars at home,” he wrote.

While Levine does not have exact numbers of how many uptown residents commute to New Jersey, “I do know the new GWB bus terminal is a 50-50 commuting pattern with as many people going to New Jersey as is coming in due to job growth in Bergen County,” he said.

Levine’s proposed West Harlem NYC Ferry route is near the 125th Street stop on the 1 train and several Citi Bike docking stations with the 125th Street ABCD station a 15-minute walk away.

“Given the rapid expansion of Columbia University’s Manhattanville campus, there will very soon be a massive influx of students, staff and traffic to the area,” he added. “Investing in ferry service now would be the most sensible thing to do before the neighborhood’s already overcrowded 1 and A trains are stressed any further. As New York City continues to make the dream of a truly citywide ferry network a reality, I strongly urge you not to leave Northern Manhattan behind.”

Constituents have been “universally positive,” Levine said, and “local business owners think it would bring new customers and employers think it would be important to their workforce.”

Carin Sarafian of Delmonico’s in the Financial District knows first-hand how impactful an NYC Ferry route can be.

“We’ve seen a very big uptick with the new routes — it’s opened up a demographic that may not have dined with us,” she told Metro recently. “And I think that’s going to continue with the new routes.”

The EDC told Metro Friday it’s received nearly 3,000 suggestions for the next NYC Ferry route. 

Read the full story here.


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1 Dead In Washington Heights Legionnaires' Outbreak

NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) -- One person has died in the latest outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Washington Heights.

The person’s name has not been released.

New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said the outbreak has made a total of 16 people sick, and seven of them are still hospitalized.

Legionnaires’ outbreaks have often been associated with cooling towers. The Health Department emphasized that New York City has the strongest enforcement on cooling towers in the nation and is working to prevent more people from getting sick.

“The Health Department has investigated every cooling tower in the area, ordering landlords to remediate where necessary and has provided information to residents,” Barbot said in a statement. “The risk to residents of contracting Legionnaire’s disease remains very low; however, adults with flu-like symptoms, like fever, cough, or difficulty breathing should seek immediate medical attention so a doctor can determine whether Legionella testing is needed.”

Legionnaires' disease is contracted by breathing in water droplets contaminated with the bacterium Legionella. Symptoms can include fever, chills and muscle aches.

Councilmember Mark Levine (D-7th) says those who have spent time in the neighborhood and have symptoms should go to a doctor.

More than 20 people were also infected with Legionnaires’ in Washington Heights in July.

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Officials: Amtrak 'Catastrophically' Damaged Harlem Garden

By Brendan Krisel

HARLEM, NY — Elected officials are calling on Amtrak to meet with a Harlem community garden that claims the transit company has poisoned its crops and caused thousands of dollars in property damage.

City Councilman Mark Levine and Borough President Gale Brewer accused Amtrak of spreading "toxic chemicals in our community, catastrophically damaging at least one community garden and potentially affecting the health of the surrounding neighborhood," in a letter addressed to the company's President and CEO Richard H. Anderson.

Volunteer gardeners at the Riverside Valley Community Garden — located on West 138th Street and Riverside Drive near the Amtrak tracks — reported the contamination of peach, pear, apple, and fig trees, fruit-bearing plants, multiple flowerbeds and vegetables ready for harvest, according to the letter. The contamination occurred after Amtrak sprayed a "highly toxic, broad-spectrum herbicide" on a railroad right-of-way near the garden — which is also known as "Jenny's Garden."

Replacements for the damaged trees may take years to bear fruit, the elected officials said.

"Residents and garden members are rightly furious, and fearful of a repeat incident," Levine and Brewer's joint letter reads.

Volunteers told AM New York in September that many of the contaminated crops were meant to be donated to the Broadway Presbyterian Church.

"The majority of the stuff we were going to donate — eggplant, okra, beans, collards, tomatoes, Swiss chard, cucumbers — is all contaminated," volunteer Laurie Brown Kindred told the newspaper.

A composting program in the garden's greenhouse may have also been compromised by the herbicide, elected officials said.

An Amtrak spokesman said that company officials toured the garden with a landscaping contractor after receiving notice of the claims.

"Amtrak assured Jenny's Garden and the Parks and Recreation Department that Amtrak will work with its contractor to take care of the garden and leaf damage to some of the plants. The contractor turned over the documents to the Parks and Recreation Department on the types of chemicals it used and would further asses any damage to the garden. We will continue to work with Jenny's Garden and other partners to investigate the claim and work on a resolution," an Amtrak spokesman said in a statement.

Levine and Brewer called on Amtrak to provide the community 30 days notice before the next spraying and to work with the Riverside Valley Community Garden to discuss compensation for damages.

The elected officials also urged Amtrak and community members affected by the herbicide spraying to establish an agreement that would allow community members and groups to be responsible for manually maintaining their own properties and eliminating the need for Amtrak to spray herbicides.

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