By Ed Hersh
Community Board 7 held its first meeting of the year on Tuesday night, presided over by its new chair, Beverly Donohue.
In hopes of making meetings more streamlined, Donohue instituted a three-minute time clock (visible on the Zoom screen) to limit speakers, which many seemed to ignore, especially some of the public officials who joined the meeting to give their legislative updates. Donohue also announced that she was changing the meeting format to move citizens’ comments further up on the agenda.
“We are very concerned and think this [new shelter] merits discussion,” said the first of several community speakers expressing trepidation about a homeless shelter slated to be built on West 59th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues. It will house 200 women experiencing homelessness, substance-abuse, and mental-illness issues.
The shelter will be operated by the nonprofit Project Renewal, which also ran the now-closed and controversial shelter at The Lucerne hotel, on West 79th Street. The Lucerne became a lightning rod for opposition when it took in homeless men during the pandemic.
Several people, including Board Member Courtney Clark Metakis, pointed out that the site is in a residential area, near schools and a popular playground, and voiced alarm about potential drugs, crime, and even secondhand smoke. But Board Member Sara Lind countered that “schools, playgrounds, and families are in EVERY neighborhood in the city.” Another community resident said that “Project Renewal has proven it cannot be trusted.”
City Council Member Gale Brewer later reported that she has “had about 20 meetings on the shelter issue” with city officials, trying to persuade them that — rather than a shelter — 60 permanent apartments for the formerly homeless should be built instead, attracting a more stable population. “But the city was just adamant,” Brewer said, admitting, “other than going to court there’s not anything we can do.”
The site is located on the border of Community Boards 4 and 7. CB7 Board member Sheldon Fine suggested that CB7 and CB4 talk to Project Renewal before the shelter opens and any issues arise, to establish lines of communications — perhaps creating a community advisory board.
Citizen commenters also made statements about the proliferation of illegal smoke shops and concerns about the construction of new 5G poles that can provide wireless internet to homes.
The board took several actions, among them:
- Renewing the West 97th Street Greenmarket (between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues) on Fridays.
- Urging city officials to expedite delayed DOE Funding and Reimbursements to Early Childhood and Education Program Providers.
- Approving the applications for several liquor licenses, including one for a new, still-unnamed indoor restaurant at 144 West 65th Street (by Film at Lincoln Center and Fireman Hospitality Group), and for a new restaurant at the American Museum of Natural History.
The board also rejected an application for a liquor license for a new building – The Apsley — at 2330 Broadway (W. 84th and 85th), which sought to have a private restaurant for residents only that utilized the public sidewalk. The board cited as its reasons for its rejection the idea of a private restaurant utlizing a municipal space, along with its location and proximity to several other sidewalk restaurants on 85th Street.
You can watch the entire meeting here at MCB7 Full Board Meeting | January 3, 2023 – YouTube