Safe Streets, Rats and Central Park Discussed at Community Board Meeting

Board members listen to Borough President Gale Brewer.

By Renée Roden

The coronavirus was a big topic at a community board meeting held online on Tuesday, but it wasn’t the only one. Parks, transportation and that old UWS standby — rats  — also dominated the conversation.

The form of the meeting — an online Zoom conference — was one obvious impact of the virus. Panelists could be seen on the screen and could speak, attendees could raise their hands or ask to be called upon, but could not speak without host permission.

After discovering that Zoom had removed the “raise hand” function for attendee-level audience members, Board Chair Mark Diller encouraged members of the public to request the floor in the Zoom Q&A chat window.

Diller steered through Zoom’s technical challenges and kept the meeting moving at a fast clip. Three resolutions were brought forward to the board.

The first, a resolution for cosmetic changes to the 29th-floor level façade of 12 West 72nd Street, did not receive the quorum of votes to pass.

Second, a resolution approving changes to two famous Central Park landmarks did pass. The changes focused on improving ADA accessibility and restoring historic features to the walking paths.

Under plans discussed at the meeting, the Conservatory Garden’s French Garden section will become ADA accessible, with ramps added to the stairs leading down to the fountain. The resolution would also improve the ADA accessibility of Central Park’s historic Dairy visitor’s center, by re-grading the sloped sidewalk approaching the Dairy entrance and adding a railing.

Now paved with standard hex block pavers, the Dairy’s loggia would be repaved with the original design of herringbone brick and bluestone.

In addition to these improvements, the resolution proposed repairs to the Conservatory Garden’s iron wisteria pergola and walking paths.

The final resolution supported the city’s efforts to move vulnerable citizens into vacant hotel rooms — such as the Belleclaire — and required that seniors sheltering in place in hotels have nurses present, private bathrooms, and three meals a day. This resolution passed.

Board members took votes through Zoom’s “raise hand” function, which was difficult for members calling into the meeting via phone to access, so the Board Chair also accepted votes via text, in Zoom’s chat function, and physical hands raised in front of webcams.

At 7 pm, the Board paused to applaud essential workers and healthcare heroes.

After voting, the Board welcomed three new members, and then opened up the public section of the meeting with comments from elected officials.

The elected officials emphasized their work was addressing both crises caused by the current pandemic and the crises New Yorkers have been living in for years. Board member Madelyn Innocent echoed this sentiment in her public comments about the impact of this crisis on NYCHA residents. “We were in crisis before this coronavirus,” she pointed out.

Peter Arndtsen, District Manager of Columbus Amsterdam BID echoed the sense of crisis. He voiced concern about the discontinuance of the NYC Sanitation organics program. “I am seeing more rats on the streets, alive and dead, and that’s an issue that we’ve fought for years and it’s coming back in full force. I’d like to see the organics become mandatory,” Arndtsen said.

Winfred Armstrong, from State Senator Brian Benjamin’s office, spoke about Senate Bill S5615, which strengthens lead testing standards in the state. The bill was inspired by concerns about lead from parents at PS 163 on West 97th Street. “It’s a local issue here,” said Armstrong, but lead contamination threatens schools throughout the state and country. “It would be leadership for New York State to [pass this legislation],” said Armstrong.

Lisa Orman of nonprofit Streetopia UWS called for communal action to create more open street policies, bike lanes, and transit education. “As we start to emerge from this 2 month period of slowing down and focusing on our health and our families, we have choices to make. […] Do we want to be a polluted, congested city or do we want to embrace the opportunity to be innovative, forward-thinking, and build a city that supports our climate goals, health goals, and safety goals. The Upper West Side can really lead on this.”

“We can choose how our neighborhood looks,” she said. “Let’s not lose this opportunity.”

NEWS | 31 comments | permalink
    1. Al Fresco Dining says:

      Let’s not lose this opportunity to bring businesses back to the neighborhood by using street closures to afford outdoor seating for safely opening restaurants. Such as they are doing in other cities such as Tampa.

    2. Nevets K says:

      Since the West Side Rag quoted Lisa Orman of the so-called “non-profit Streetopia UWS,” this means the war on the middle-class Upper West Side car owner has started up again.
      Allow me to heat it up with the following questions:
      Does Howard Yaruss, Chair of the Community Board 7 Transportation Community, own a car in the city? If so, does he park it on the street or in a garage?
      Even more importantly, does he own or rent a country home where he keeps a car on the property or has ready access to a car at his convenience?
      And how about Helen Rosenthall, our council member and strong advocate of “protected electric bike lanes”?
      How does she answer the questions posed above?
      Car in the city? Street parker or garage? Second home
      in the country? Car on the premises there or easy access to a car?
      And Tranportation Committee Members Andrew Albert, Elizabeth Caputo, Ken Coughlin, Doug Kleiman, Sara Lind, Richard Robbins, Meg Schmidt. Would all of you publicly answer the above questions? Have you all truly rid yourselves of private cars – they are garaged or kept nowhere in your lives – or do you simply desire that for us?
      And Lisa Orman, because you work for a so-called “non-profit,” I imagine you only “rent a car when you really need one.” Or do you have a friend who owns one, who takes you out of the city from time to time?
      Responses from all of the above-mentioned men and women would shed a lot of light. I suggest all of use this forum. Honest answers from all of you might help
      advance your cause – or destroy it.

      • Kevin says:

        Good luck buddy – only 24% of households in the Upper West Side own cars, so you will be outvoted every time! Sorry! I don’t see why the rest of us should provide you with free on-street storage of your personal property. I have a lot of things I would love to store curbside for free if I could.

        • Paul says:

          No matter the number of households with cars (and it’s a bit higher than 24%) what makes you think that people who don’t own cars are anti car? (By the way, the number of residents IN the households with cars is 35%).

          The fact is this neighborhood is full of people, such as the elderly, who welcome the fact that their friends and family can drive in to see them, pick them up to take them places, etc. Carless “households” that routinely host gatherings of friends for dinners, card games, etc., welcome the fact that these gatherings aren’t limited to people with ready access to direct mass transit (try getting to a poker game on W 72 St from Chpappaqua, and getting home at 11 PM without a car. Easy for me, but I want the people from Chappaqua and other ‘burbs in the game).

          There have been surveys showing that under 10% of us are interested in biking for more than recreational purposes. The hike from 10% to a 50%+ majority is a lot greater than the hike from 35% to 50.

          So no, you don’t speak for a majority.

        • Nevets K says:

          And charge for dog owners using the sidewalks too – what a mess some of their dogs leave; plus, the dogs take up “valuable public sidewalk space” – and charge for bike riders on the streets; they also take up “valuable public space”… — and charge for school kids walking to school; and charge for…

          By the way, I have no problem paying a few hundred dollars a month to street park if the money is dedicated to improving public transit, which I imagine even the most dedicated bike riders use in the rain and snow. This of course is in addition to all the fees and taxes that car owners already pay to help support many necessary and important projects and services, including transit.

          And, please, “free on-street storage of your personal property”? Did all of you guys attend the same Transportation Alternatives propaganda session, which emphasized the repeated use of the word “storage” in your communications with the public?
          I suppose if the car just sat on the street for months on end, and if I weren’t already paying all those fees and taxes, and I didn’t need it daily (until recently) to drive to my teaching job twenty miles away – Sorry, folks, public transportation would take me two and a half hours each way – why then you could properly employ that TA propaganda word of “storage”!

          • Boris says:

            Car owners like you always claim that they pay enough already. You don’t actually pay much in additional fees & taxes for owning a car. Almost everyone has a license or non-driver ID just like you. Your registration & inspections fees are not that much.

            • Nevets K says:

              OK, Boris!
              Let’s forget about the big ideas here and just talk about two people, you and me.
              I live on the UWS. I assume you do too.
              I need my car to get to my teaching job twenty miles away. (Yes, that is my PARTICULAR situation. We all have them; so do you.) Taking public transportation would be a two and a half hour commute each way.
              In your imagined world, am I supposed to give up my livelihood that depends on my owning a car, move out of the city where my children now have their friends and go to school, or pay $9600 a year for a private garage, which I can’t afford, so that – and tell me about yourself here, cards on the table — so that you can enjoy the privilege of riding your bicycle to work in the nice weather along routes which are already served by bus and subway lines?
              In brief, stop hiding behind your “reasoning” and tell us something about yourself! What is your PARTICULAR situation?

            • Jay says:

              If you have to have a car. You should pay for the needs of that car, like gas, license, registration, parking, etc.

              If your lifestyle can’t afford that, then you should move. Just like people do every day. You are not special just because you have a car.

        • Great Scott says:

          The by-laws state the following:
          Members Serve As Individuals: Members serve in their individual capacity.
          In their Board actions they must remain independent. They shall not be instructed by, or responsible to, any other organization with which they may be affiliated or to any elected official.


          A member may not vote on any
          matter that could result in a personal and direct economic gain to the
          member or to anyone associated with the member. “Associated” as defined in
          the New York City Charter Section 2601 (5) includes the community board
          member’s spouse, domestic partner, child, parent or sibling; and any person
          with whom the member has a business or other financial relationship and
          each firm in which the member has a present or potential interest.

          What I would like to understand is, who on the transportation committee is also a member of any TA, Streetopia, etc.. group and how is it that they are not in conflict when voting on any issue be it bike lanes or other wise….

          Would love to know how they have addressed this and by what process and where the documentation of this having been addressed????

          • Nevets K says:

            I didn’t know I had a “lifestyle”!
            I just thought I was making a living!
            So now I have to move out of the city!
            Sounds fair to me – but only if I can claw back the taxes I paid to help fund “protected electric bike lanes,” the traffic signals for bikers along some bike routes, and important education campaigns to make drivers more aware of bikers on our streets. But maybe you want to pay out of pocket for all of these yourself, as you suggest for me, as these rank among “the needs ” of a biker.
            The street parker is receiving parking (some evenings).
            The bike rider is receiving more space and increased efforts at protection.
            It’s from the taxes we all pay as part of a community.
            (And of course, except in the case of suicide, a bike rider has never been killed by a parked car. Indeed, it is the various speeds and differing agendas of drivers of trucks, vans, buses, and cars that kill the bike rider.
            A parked car on the UWS has yet to do it.)
            “Protected electric bike lines”? Last year’s statistics are not promising.

            • Quiet Cars says:

              Love parked cars. They are so quiet. Keep out noisy dirty trucks. It has been lovely lately.

      • K.S. says:

        Sorry, but all of us who live on the UWS have a right to an opinion about how our streets look, so your questions aren’t relevant. Any of us who leave our apartments have a stake, and we should all demand our streets are safe for us to move around. It’s not a war on car-owners- it’s common sense.

        • Paul says:

          Yes, we all have a right to speak for what we want the City to look like going forward.

          But there are two problem here.

          First is the fact that a literal conglomerate of commonly founded and funded groups have taken over the Board’s transportation committee. Orman is a board member of the group and is paid to come to meetings and speak, ironically to Community Board members who are also affiliates of the group. Thus, the creation a loop of “news” and “feedback” similar to the astroturfed “movements” funded by Koch Brothers. After 15 years of this, some of us are now beginning to object.

          Second is more important: We’re in the midst of a crisis and some measures must be taken, inclusive of slowing streets.

          But the fact is that nobody knows what we’re headed for in the long run and long term planning now is useless. If, and when will Lincloln Center, theaters, restaurants reopen? When will any kinds of gatherings of friends and family resume?
          And car use? Who will return to the subway, and who will want to opt for a car? Will companies and governments promote car pooling as an alternative for people who don’t want to ride crowded trains? Will our neighbors choose to find offices in the northern suburbs or New Jersey and reverse commute (many already do)? Will we return to offices at all?

          The advocates are seeking to exploit the crisis to further long term goals first announced over 15 years ago. It would be foolish to do anything long term when we have no idea where we’ll be in the next several months, let alone for that long term.

        • Nevets K says:

          Of course the above questions to whether members of the CB 7 Transportation Committee and Helen Rosenthal own or have access to cars here in the city and/or at their country homes are RELEVANT.
          What could more relevant than revealing their hypocrisy?

    3. RS says:

      Any serious attempt at addressing the city rat problem must consider making organics recycling mandatory. The DSNY issued vermin proof bins are impenetrable to critters when closed properly compared to plastic bags easily chewed through and that leak improperly disposed of leftover food. Just the kind of meals that sustain, strengthen and embolden rats in the city.
      Our current Mayor has talked a big game about city recycling and Zero Waste, yet just when he should be doubling down and keeping our city clean he cuts this program. This is going to set back the re-education and conditioning of New Yorkers who were just beginning to do what is right for the environment. (and can be profitable for the city)
      Call your local politician and remind them that not only is mandatory organics recycling the right thing for our planet and our city, but it is the prudent course to keep rats and their families from getting quick and easy meals.

      • John says:

        RS the program cost money the city is not going to have any for a long time. The city will look like it did in the 1970’s As real estate prices collapse and tax revenues slashed say by 20-30% everything will be on the chopping block

    4. Marcia says:

      Rats!! Remember the Lisa Kava article on rats over running West 89th Street? They’re still in the city owned tree bed in full force! Road needs to be dug up and fixed to eliminate a massive rat home! Rats the size of cats! Got pictures of them digging in the dirt right in front of my home in daylight!! This is not about garbage pick up. This is about a street and sidewalk cave in that needs to be dug up and fixed

    5. John says:

      How about the garbage trucks picking up on residential streets at 2am which they would disallow this practice as in the past. Bloomberg brought this back to us. I would say no Garbage pickup between Midnight and 6 am on residential streets.

    6. K.S. says:

      Glad to hear our CB7 is thinking about more open street policies- the UWS needs more of this- especially now that social distancing is needed to protect our seniors, people with underlying conditions and the vulnerable essential workers! Cities around the world, the Mayor, and other CBs in NYC are tackling this- the UWS is shamefully behind.

      It’s time to step it up CB7 and NYC gov- open up streets to pedestrians and stop cramming us into tiny sidewalks where we can’t safely distance! If you support NYC’s recovery from this epidemic, you’ll need to support more open street policies, temporary bike lanes, and similar measures.

      • Chris says:

        Agree KS close all the streets
        WE would have to take train to take garbage to Dump.
        Go upstate or NJ or CT to shop and eat out
        Sell apartment furnished or carry couch on back to train
        OR better get rid of all buildings and people make Manhattan a large park for NJ residents

    7. Rat A. Tooey says:

      Youse writ ‘I am seeing more rats on the streets, alive and dead,—-‘

      Dat’s ME youse been seein…I’se been out day-and-nite searchin fer food cause wit none of youse tail-less critters workin da trash cans n subway trax are bear.

      One a uouse tell dat guvnor guy dat he needs to get you ‘youmens’ back to work cause us poor mousies is starvin…dats why yer seein so many of me bruvvers dead.

      Dis is a real trajadee. Please drop more food!

      Like dat sign says:
      ‘only U can preevent rat x-term-innashun!’

    8. js says:

      The discussions about “open streets” consistently and incredibly ignore bus transportation – impact on bus riders, bus routes, bus stops etc. (nor Access a Ride)

      While it is true that the covid crisis has devastated subway and bus mass transit on all levels, there should be no actions that further reduce bus service.

      No street closures for pedestrians or bicycles.

    9. NYC4ME says:

      Re: “Do we want to be a polluted, congested city….”

      NO to “polluted”
      YES to “congested” if it refers to DENSITY (of people and even of traffic). The current emptiness of our sidewalks and avenues is, to say the least, eerie, surreal,frightening).

      The pre-Covid vehicular and pedestrian DENSITY (yes, even in tourist-choked Times Square) made Manhattan as wonderfully-exciting as those other world-class cities (London, Paris, Rome).

      The Museum of the City of New York’s excellent “NY at Its Core” permanent exhibit (available online) focuses on these four qualities that helped create NYC: “DENSITY, Diversity, Creativity, and Money”.

      Without its former density Manhattan just feels wrong.

      May the Covid-19 nightmare end so that we all can safely continue to experience the wonderful, (and, yes, sometimes maddening) DENSITY of this island we call home.

      • Paul says:

        There is absolutely nothing to be said for a City that’s quiet because it’s in a depression.

    10. DD says:

      I’m noticing that more pigeons getting aggressive and flying closely over my head spreading dust, particles and God knows what (maybe virus particles in the dirt)? I saw them most on West 72nd Street Bet. Broadway & West End and on Broadway West 71st and 73rd Streets. They zoom out of the blue very close over passers-by. It’s worrisome…..

    11. Kevin says:

      Just looking at the pic of the Zoom screen…

      There’s a 14-year-old boy on the Board? (see right-most “column”)