By Ed Hersh
In its first public full meeting since June, Community Board 7 met on Tuesday, Sept 6th to tackle a whole range of issues and agenda items including school construction delays, street improvements, new liquor licenses, and the approval (and disapproval) of some landmarked construction projects. The board also heard from several UWS elected officials, all of whom expressed frustration and concern with the growing number of “smoke shops” on seemingly every block. The meeting — via zoom — lasted for more than three and a half hours, with some community members attending and asking questions as well.
Among the highlights, the board….
• Passed a resolution calling on the schools chancellor, mayor and the Department of Education to provide greater oversight and accountability on long-term projects by the School Construction Authority (SCA), sparked by ongoing construction at M165 on (109th between Broadway and Amsterdam) that has taken more than 7 years, and the Joan of Arc complex on West 92nd that has been underway for more than 10 years. The resolution calls for more transparency, including regular meetings with parents, neighbors, and bi-weekly email updates to the community and community board.
• Passed a resolution directing the Department of Transportation to explore the feasibility of expanding the same “traffic-calming” features of curb-extensions and bricking or other textures on other crosstown streets — such as 103rd Street — that one currently finds on West 94th Street. By all accounts, transportation committee members said it has had a tremendous impact on slowing speeding drivers and making intersections safer.
• Approved several liquor license renewals, and some new applications, including for “Friend of a Farmer” at 68 West 71st Street, a new restaurant at 206 West 79th (between Amsterdam and Columbus), “Emmy Squared Pizza” at 60th and Amsterdam, and a restaurant TBD at 206 West 79th Street.
Later, several elected officials joined the meeting to give updates from their offices, including Borough President Mark Levine, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, and Council Member Gale Brewer. All agreed that the explosive growth of “smoke shops” and weed trucks — about which we’ve reported extensively and many of which are known to be selling marijuana illegally — were of great concern to them. “This is a big problem,” Borough President Levine said. “They are not licensed. There are no licenses in effect for the sale of cannabis in New York State. So, every single seller, whether they are in a truck or a storefront, is unlicensed.” He said anyone who wants to report a truck or storefront illegally selling marijuana can contact his office.
“Let me reiterate: everyone of them is illegal,” added State Sen. Brad Hoylman. “Why isn’t the city taking action against them? They can, and they aren’t.” He’s concerned that tourists or young people will get sick or even die from tainted, unregulated drugs. “It is of grave concern,” he said. “Forget about the quality of life, I’m worried about the impact on the unknowing consumer.”
It’s also a concern for Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal. “Right around my office on West 72nd street there are a lot of smoke shops… I got some of them inspected; aside from the cannabis, they are selling to underage people,” she said.
Next week, the state’s office of cannabis management will update CB7s Business and Consumer Issues committee, so it’s another opportunity to bring those concerns to the fore.
Later, the board approved applications to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for several preservation and construction projects, including new windows at the B’nai Jeshurun Community House on West 89th and a new entrance at the Fortune Society’s residence that will house the formerly homeless at 258 West 97th Street. It also voted to disapprove a proposal for a rooftop addition and elevator machinery to a townhouse at 86 Riverside Drive as “inappropriate to the character of this townhouse….and the Historic District.”
You can watch this meeting in its entirety on YouTube here.
The next full meeting of CB7 will take place on Monday, October 4th, both online and, for the first time since the pandemic began, in person. That’s when new board officers, including a new chair, will be chosen.