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.

Helen Rosenthal speaks with a constituent.

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.

NEWS | 19 comments | permalink
    1. UWS Dept. of Comment says:

      “I didn’t come for a political meeting,” she said, standing up and loudly interrupting James. “I came for a town hall.”

      huh? How can you have a “town hall” without discussing politics?


      • Walter Clinch says:

        Simple … you discuss what’s going on in the area and how to fix it. THAT doesn’t need to get political. Good for Onsberg!

    2. Cato says:

      “… Public Advocate Letitia James’ speech, which got too political for one elderly woman, who calls herself just “Onsberg.””

      Thank you for an overall excellent report. But why must Ms Onsberg be identified as an “elderly” woman? Is her age — or apparent age, unless you actually asked her — of any relevance?

      If her age is somehow relevant, perhaps you should report the age of each of the other people mentioned, including that of the reporter. And then classify them as, what, “middle aged”? “Early middle aged”? “Advancing middle aged, but hanging on”? What guidelines do you use to decide that someone is “elderly”?

      Or is categorizing her as “elderly” a subtle way of minimizing what she had to say, in the same way that people prefer to ignore older people to whom they aren’t related?

      A good report, but please don’t label people for no good purpose. If Ms Onsberg was worth listening to, then why cut back on that by classifying her? You wouldn’t do that by race or ethnic origin; why classify by age?

      Please keep up the good work, and thank you for the useful and detailed report.

      • Response to Cato says:

        Cato , , , you need to chill and take a time out. You’re reading way to much into these posts. Give yourself a break from the WSR.

        • Chrigid says:

          Response to Cato–that’s a classic response from someone who wants to be ageist–and any other ist–without repercussions.

        • Cato says:

          Great way to respond to a substantive point — attack the poster without addressing the point itself.

          Are you planning to run for President??

      • kaylord says:

        So glad you pointed this out. Ageism is real and rampant.

      • bob says:

        Striking, because Letitia James addressed her as a “young lady.” and then continued on her political stump speech.

      • Carol Tannenhauser says:

        I thought long and hard about using the word “elderly” to describe Onsberg. Ultimately, I decided to include it because I felt that hers was such a brave and bold act, so as to render her anything but “invisible.” I was sitting next to her; she was regal. That said, in retrospect, I’m not sure I made the right decision and I am sorry if anyone was offended. For the record, the “reporter” is old enough to remember typewriters and whiteout.

        • Ted says:

          While it could be argued that a reporter should only include a persons age in years without comment that might not always be possible. It might also be argued that reporters should only describe persons at a meeting such as this one as attendees.

          Gender irrelevant. Age irrelevant. Ethnicity irrelevant.

          Perhaps we should be satisfied with “a person in a red shirt” or an attendee in plaid slacks” to paint a journalistic picture. On the other hand, the elderly have somewhat different concerns than new parents, or young professionals. They may all be different than the concerns of a young African American man. So it is possible to label and identify personal characteristics not as a pejorative or any particular “ism” but instead add clarity to the story for a reader.

        • Julia says:

          It seems to me that your reason for calling her elderly is related to how people use the word “feisty”–a feisty person is not expected to be outspoken–a child, a woman, an elderly person, a dwarf. Here is someone, an elderly woman, whom you do not expect to be bold….

        • Jeremy says:

          Thank you for the reply, Carol. Appreciate you providing that insight.

      • Julia says:


    3. ST says:

      I think the lady wanted to stick to local issues. Jamed made a mistake to hijacknthe Town Hall.

    4. “I came for a town hall.”
      yeah, right 😀

    5. B.B. says:

      Ms. James as wont with NYC elections is almost certain to win re-election in November. However due to term limits that second term would be her last as PA. Hence you notice a more strident political tone of late from the dear lady. Obviously casting her eyes about for her next political gig.

    6. UWS says:

      Lets not forget in this area is the alleged Columbus avenue bid and Amsterdam bid. They are responsible for the clean streets and they call themselves a business improvement district yet we all see no improvement with all the empty store fronts. Emails to discuss this with NYC SBS ignored and Mayors office of alleged community affairs is NOT responsive