By Carol Tannenhauser
Trash baskets are disappearing from corners on the Upper West Side, part of a larger trend throughout the city of people “stealing them to sell as scrap because the price of metal is high right now,” explained Ignazio ‘Iggy’ Terranova, of the Department of Sanitation. That curious fact was among many issues discussed at City Council Member Helen Rosenthal’s town hall meeting, held last week at the Center at West Park on West 86th Street.
Rosenthal and representatives from more than a dozen city agencies and other service providers fielded questions and complaints from community members, as politicians have from constituents at town halls for centuries. This is an election year for Rosenthal, who so far faces two challengers, Mel Wymore and Cary Goodman, in the September Democratic primary for the Council seat from District 6.
She began the town hall by announcing the winners of the 2017 Participatory Budgeting balloting, listed here, then moved on to pre-submitted questions, before opening the microphone to community members.
A video of the entire town hall is posted on Rosenthal’s website. Here’s a sampling:
Why does it take so long between the time a suspected gas leak is reported and the customer gets their gas service restored?
Caroline Kretz, Con Edison: “When there’s a complaint of a gas smell in a building, we respond to it. If it’s a leak we can’t fix right away, we shut off the gas to the building. Con Ed maintains the system of gas pipes from the street up to the building. If the problem is in the building – and it usually is – it’s the landlord’s responsibility to repair it. Con Ed cannot go back until the work is done.”
Patrick Wehle, Department of Buildings: “A licensed master plumber must seek a permit from the Department of Buildings, do the work, and request an inspection by us. The average time it takes to get an inspection is two days. I’m not here to tell you the department is infallible, but all too often the delay is because the plumber hasn’t gotten a permit, the plumber hasn’t completed the work, or the plumber hasn’t requested an inspection.”
The plumber was unavailable for comment.
Other questions addressed included:
– The overflowing of (remaining) trash baskets – “No, we did not decrease service,” Iggy Terranova from the DOS said. “The basket service is done seven days a week, on Monday through Saturday, once every shift, and on Sunday, once during daylight. In terms of increasing basket service, that’s not a Department of Sanitation decision, that’s a city government decision. It will take an increase in our budget to make that happen.” The baskets that are swiped by thieves “are replaced as quickly as possible.”
– Waitlists for affordable housing – 100,000 people for 100 apartments at 40 Riverside… 250,000 for 4,000 NYCHA units…Section 8 is closed. “It’s symptomatic of the housing crisis,” said Jordan Press, of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
– Mosquitoes on West 84th Street – the Department of Health recently gained state approval to treat individual sewer lines within buildings, which it has never done before.
– Early-morning construction noise – “The hours to do construction work are set in law,” said Wehle, of DOT. “Monday through Friday, between the hours of seven in the morning and six in the evening, construction can be performed throughout the city.”
– And many more, including….Environmentally unfriendly trucks; repair delays, air quality, trash collection, and lack of accessibility in NYCHA buildings; the “lake” that forms after it rains at West 81st Street inside Riverside Park; the IDC; the West End Avenue and 96th Street intersection; the Brandon Residence on West 85th Street; bicycle deliverymen; busing for PS 452 students to their new building; crosstown bus waits; school wait lists; moving beyond the metro card; congestion caused by the Amsterdam Avenue bike lane; abusive landlords; legislation to prevent small-business bleed-out; homelessness; all that and much more were discussed, explained, cheered, complained and shouted about, including Public Advocate Letitia James’ speech, which got too political for one elderly woman, who calls herself just “Onsberg.”
“I didn’t come for a political meeting,” she said, standing up and loudly interrupting James. “I came for a town hall.”
It was a night for everyone to be heard.