Sunday, November 30, 2008

neighborhood in the news

In case you missed it, here is AM New York's recent profile
of Cobble Hill. According to the article,
"Sure, there are hipsters, but it's not Williamsburg," Baldaro said. "And too many strollers but it's not Park Slope, either."

But everyone can agree that Cobble Hill is one of Brooklyn’s most beautiful neighborhoods.
What do they mean one of?

Monday, November 24, 2008

e-recycling update: big haul

Dave 'Paco' Abraham, the CHA Green Czar, has the numbers on the recent CHA e-recycling day. In short, it was a great success. Here is his report:
I know I got to share the numbers at last week's CHA meeting, but thought you may want to add them to the blog as well. In the one-day span we had 192 people come and drop off electronics of all sorts, collectively weighing 9,054 pounds. That's all potentially hazardous material we thankfully diverted from landfills and properly disposed of. Compared to past events, my contacts at the Lower East Side Ecology Center said those were truly great results for a one-day event and if P.S. 29 is game again, perhaps we can do another drive in the spring.

Fix the Ditch update: study coming soon

As reported at our fall general meeting by Dan Wiley, on behalf of Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, there is progress on the BQE front. In 2006, Rep. Velazquez got federal money approved for a study on what to do about the trench section of the BQE: from Atlantic Avenue to Hamilton Avenue. The City's Economic Development Corporation agreed to be the local sponsor for the study, but they were required to have a local government match to put up additional funds. Dan reported to our members that the City's Department of Transporation has agreed to be the local match.

What does all this mean on the ground? It means that the study on the future of the trench can begin in 2009. The CHA's position has been clear all along and we will continue to fight for it: the one outcome that we will not accept is a deck on which new apartments can be built. Aside from that, we look forward to the creative possibilities. One plan that has already won awards is Susannah Drake's 'Reconnection Strategies'. (Go to, click 'Work', then click 'Public', then click 'BQE Trench Study'.)

CHA and LICH in the NYT

Yesterday's New York Times featured a column on LICH on the front page of the city section. Click here for the link.

Girl Guides information session: November 25

Jennifer Wiese, who helped organize the Cobble Hill Bike Ride, has asked us to announce a new scouting opportunity for girls. The organization is called Girl Guides, and they are organizing a new group of guides or, as they call it, a 'Company'. Jennifer is a volunteer with Girl Guides and says the following:

Girl Guides USA announces its inaugural Brooklyn Company! Come be a part of a unique Girl Guiding program, launched in Brooklyn.

Girl Guides USA is an exciting new Scouting organization for girls in grades 4 through 10, emphasizing youth empowerment, teamwork, and environmentalism. Girl Guides provides girls with an enlightening and empowering social education based on the principles of Scouting and Guiding. Girl Guides is a year-round program, with meetings during the school year that prepare Guides for a two-week camp in the summer. Girl Guides meet twice a month on weekends for afternoons, day trips and overnights. As long as the weather permits, meetings involve outdoor activities including games, hikes, canoeing, and more. The grand finale of the year is camp, where Girl Guides spend two weeks each summer living in nature together and having tons of fun. Girl Guides programs provide hands-on practice in using teamwork, cooperation, creativity and ingenuity to solve problems and achieve goals together.

Girl Guides USA is launching its first American program this December in Brooklyn. Come learn more about how to get your child (or yourself!) involved in the inaugural Company. Girls of all backgrounds are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Information Session:
Tuesday, November 25
6:30 p.m.
Park Slope Library
431 6th Avenue at 9th Street

For more information on Girl Guides USA, please go to

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fewer trucks on Henry Street thanks to smart thinking

We are very proud of the ingenuity of the CHA Green Committee for their success in getting commerical map maker Hagstrom to recolor Henry Street on its maps and atlases, used by truckers all across the country. Because of their work, starting next spring, fewer trucks will wind up on Henry Street. Our streets will be safer and our lungs healthier. Here is CHA Green Czar Dave 'Paco' Abraham's report:
Reducing Truck Traffic, One Map at a Time

Cobble Hill is a residential neighborhood whose adjacency to the congested Brooklyn Queens Expressway often brings about non-local truck traffic, in particular along Henry Street. Some truck drivers intentionally cut through Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens to avoid highway traffic, while others are simply lost, misdirected, and relying on a poorly designed map. Recognizing the latter as a danger to Henry Street's bike route, as well as a burden on neighborhood air quality, the Cobble Hill Green Committee aimed to cut the error off at its source.

Committee member Laura Herzenhorn, herself often behind an oversize vehicle for the American Museum of Natural History, pointed out that many truck drivers rely on the well-known Hagstrom Map books which identify Henry Street with a solid yellow line, properly indicating it as a through-street for regularly sized vehicles. While the Hagstrom Map does not condone trucks using car through-streets, it does falsely assume Henry Street's width. Unlike the Carroll Gardens segment of Henry Street, the Cobble Hill corridor has an extremely narrow width, which poses an extreme danger for trucks assuming they can pass safely. Committee chairperson Dave 'Paco' Abraham spoke with Hagstrom's research department and they have agreed to remove the yellow fill on Henry Street during the next map printing, expected in March of 2009.

Additionally, Hagstrom Maps is now working to publish a NYC map specifically for truck drivers to reduce the frequency of non-local traffic falsely assuming the roads highlighted yellow are wide enough for their oversize loads. A stronger police watch of traffic laws is the only surefire way to curb illegal truck driving, but fixing the Hagstrom Map error is at least one small interim step until major enforcement policy is overhauled.

House of Detention plans arrested

News is flying fast and furious regarding the Brooklyn House of Detention. The latest news is that a temporary restraining order has been issued against the City regarding its plans to reopen and expand the facility. The Cobble Hill Association signed on to this important lawsuit, Stop BHOD v. City of New York, earlier this month to stop the City from proceeding without a proper public process. That is the point of the legal action taken so far. We look forward to further consideration of the site's future.

LICH: send a letter to Governor Paterson

With the recent news that the NYS Department of Health has denied LICH's request to close its obstetrics and other services, now is the time to keep the heat on Albany. As explained in our earlier bulletins, the situation remains precarious and time is running out. When the powers that be reach consensus on one of the many proposed plans for LICH's future, there will still be considerable bureaucratic obstacles to its passage by the state. We call on Governor Paterson to stand ready to push through the redtape and inertia of government to guarantee LICH's future. Please send a letter to Governor Paterson.
Governor David A. Paterson
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Paterson,

We are pleased that the NYS Department of Health has denied permission to Long Island College Hospital to close its obstetrics, neonatal, pediatrics, and school-based services. With threats of bankruptcy and fears of closure in the air, we need you and your administration to stand ready to cut through bureaucratic obstacles and distractions and to provide the appropriate permissions if or when a viable plan for LICH's future is presented. If such a plan is not immediately forthcoming, we call on you to make available to LICH additional interest-free restructuring grants in the short term for as long as they prove necessary. We recognize that the state faces hard times economically, but, Governor, hospital closures are forever. The health of our communities depends on access to medical services. As the Department of Health's November 17, 2008 letter to LICH makes clear:

"Currently there is insufficient capacity in the hospitals immediately around LICH and in much of Brooklyn to clearly demonstrate that women will have appropriate access to obstetrical and maternity care if LICH closes these services. Until there is greater clarity on this issue the Department believes it is in the best interest of public health that obstetrical and neonatal services be retained at LICH."

Knowing the precarious state of medical services in Brooklyn obliges us all to commit our most focussed attention to solving the current crisis and putting LICH on a firm footing that insures its long-term success as a fully functioning hospital. We hope that you will stand with us to do whatever it takes to keep LICH open and fully functioning.

Brooklyn Bridge Park: send a letter soon

If you share our concerns about Brooklyn Bridge Park, we ask you to join us in sending a letter by November 26 to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. The letter addresses the berm, walkway, and wave attenuator features of the current park plan. It also calls for a more public process by reinstituting a Community Advisory Council. The DEC's comment period ends on November 26, so please act soon. Thanks to Judi Francis for adapting our more technical letter for individual use.
Harold J. Dickey
Project Manager, Division of Environmental Permits
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
One Hunters Point Plaza, 47-40 21st Street
Long Island City, NY 11101-5407

Re: Brooklyn Bridge Park, Natural and Marine Resources Permit 2-6101-01208/00001

Dear Mr. Dickey,

I live in Brooklyn, close to the planned development along the waterfront referred to as the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Project. I share the concerns outlined by the Cobble Hill Association regarding the wetlands permits for the park, as follows:

The wetlands application and permit do not reflect the true nature of the 30-foot berm and its impact on the park. The extreme sharp grade of the earth berm, which runs the length of Furman Street from Pier 1 to Joralemon Street, wastes precious flat parkland that is far more suitable for the recreational uses that have been eliminated: ball fields, a pool, a skating rink, and indoor recreational center. The community needs recreational facilities, not a 30-foot wall that blocks entrance to the park. Additionally, the berm will be very expensive to build given the 24/7 exposure to heavy BQE traffic, its steep slope, and the fact that one side will be in shadow during most daylight hours. The high cost to maintain any greenery on the berm belies good environmental practices, particularly when better, less expensive, and more desired uses for the land are available.

Neither the floating walkways nor the wave attenuators are integral to the enjoyment of the water for boaters, according to boater-club testimony given during the original 2005 Environmental Review process, and continually reaffirmed by boaters since then. These wave attenuators also significantly increase the cost to build and maintain the park. Because key recreational features of the park are now on permanent hold, given insufficient funds to build the park, we strongly recommend that the DEC deny the use of expensive wave attenuators in favor of the low-environmental impact and low-cost ball courts on Pier 2 (that are now unfunded).

We believe that the DEC would be better informed if there were a true Community Advisory Council to offer review and advice regarding the park plan. Because such a Council no longer exists, we respectfully request a Level 1 DEC public hearing so that the DEC can be better informed by those most interested in achieving a real park. Our community has waited more than two decades for this park, and we care passionately about its utility for all residents. Brooklyn Bridge Park is one of the most important civic endeavors affecting Brooklyn, and we believe it is critical that you hear from those who have worked so hard, for so long, to achieve it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

DOH denies LICH permission to end services

There is major news on the LICH front: the NYS Department of Health has denied LICH permission to close their obstetrics, neonatal, and pediatric services. Permission was also denied for closing their school-based health programs. (DOH permission is required to open or close medical services.) From the DOH's November 17 letter to LICH:
'Currently there is insufficient capacity in the hospitals immediately around LICH and in much of Brooklyn to clearly demonstrate that women will have appropriate access to obstetrical and maternity care if LICH closes these services. Until there is greater clarity on this issue the Department believes it is in the best interest of public health that obstetrical and neonatal services be retained at LICH.'
This is a victory, but the community is not in the clear yet, not by a longshot. Stanley Brezenoff of Continuum has reportedly said that, if the state refused these closures, LICH would go into bankruptcy by year's end. Perhaps heading Continuum off at the pass, DOH has also approved LICH's request for 'a $3 million loan from the health care restructuring pool'. (Those of you at last week's CHA general meeting may recall my question to LICH CEO Dominick Stanzione about restructuring grants. This is what I was asking about.)

We are relieved that the state has denied LICH permission to close services, but now the pressure is even greater for an outcome. We are in the eleventh month of the year and at the eleventh hour. If LICH is going to avoid bankruptcy, the State has to be prepared to act decisively, as will the various negotiating parties of the various plans (the SUNY Downstate plan, the doctors' plan, etc.).

We will send a new letter to Governor Paterson and all our elected officials. We encourage you to do the same.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

194 Atlantic: anatomy of a scam defeated

Fellow residents, we are on the verge of a major victory regarding 194 Atlantic, the so-called 'cabana building' next to Trader Joe's. After a solid year of fighting the City and Two Trees Development, the rule of law has finally prevailed. (The building is alternatively known as 182, 194, and 200 Atlantic.)

First, a reminder of the issues at stake. Last year, Two Trees requested seven variances for their planned apartment building in what had been the Independence Bank's parking lot. We fought hard against many aspects of the project, but we drew the line in the sand at the seventh variance: the request for permission to exceed the fifty-foot height limit of the Cobble Hill Historic District's LH-1 zoning. This may sound esoteric or hair-splitting. I assure you, it is anything but. Our neighbourhood's LH-1 zoning and Historic District designation are the foundation of our quality of life here in Cobble Hill. Those legal facts are what keep the high-rises and the overcrowding away. And Two Trees was trying to undo all of that for the sake of building a few more luxury rentals. Not only was the future of Cobble Hill at stake, but so was every Historic District in the city because of the precedent that would have been set.

We thought we had won last November when the City Council voted to deny the height variance, but Two Trees pulled a fast one and very nearly got away with it: they submitted plans to the Department of Buildings and to City Planning that showed six rooftop structures labelled as 'stair bulkheads'. These structures were in fact sixth-floor penthouses fraudulently posing as bulkheads on official plans.

We never gave up, even after Two Trees went ahead and built the structures. Last month, we went to the building's open house and were given the marketing material below.

As you can see, the marketing material clearly says 'PENTHOUSE'. And yes, the very same structure was called 'STAIR BULKEAD' on the plans. That means that Two Trees flat-out lied to the city by submitting a set of dummy official plans. Naturally, we sent the document to DOB.

I am pleased to report that on November 10, 2008 DOB sent Two Trees a notice of intent to revoke their permit for the building. Two Trees has ten days to reply. The letter from DOB says:

'Pursuant to AC 28-104.2.10, the Department may revoke the approval of construction documents for failure to comply with the provisions of the AC [Administrative Code], other applicable laws or rules, or a false statement or misrepresentation of material fact in the submittal documents upon the basis of which the permit was issued, or whenever any approval has been issued in error.
(Emphasis added in bold.)
In layman's terms, Two Trees has been caught red-handed, the penthouses will probably have to be demolished, the Cobble Hill Historic District has been preserved against a major attempt to undermine it, and the rule of law has been reaffirmed.

And we did it without spending a penny on lawyers. Developers take note: don't mess with Cobble Hill.

fall meeting produces LICH and BB Park news

Our fall general meeting, held on November 13, was well-attended and produced some noteworthy statements. Guests included Borough President Marty Markowitz, State Assemblywoman Joan Millman, State Senator-elect Daniel Squadron, and representatives of Nydia Velazquez, Yvette Clarke, and Bill de Blasio.

With the crisis at LICH as our main theme, the meeting was possibly the only occasion at which both LICH CEO Dominick Stanzione and representatives of the doctors' group spoke to the public and took questions. One criticism of the doctors' plan has been that they do not have the financing needed to put the plan into effect. Dr. John Romanelli and Dr. Steve Turner of the doctors' group announced at the meeting that they have secured financing for their plan. We look forward to hearing the details.

In other news, State Senator-elect Squadron made some important commitments regarding Brooklyn Bridge Park. The first is that he would seek an audit of the park's books. The other, equally important, is that he would seek to expand the neighbourhood diversity of the BBP Development Corporation's board as vacancies and reappointments arose. We look forward to these developments as we move forward to building a world-class waterfront park with year-round recreation.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

public statement on LICH

Murray Adams, our past president, delivered the CHA’s statement regarding LICH at the Borough President’s public hearing on November 10, 2008. I was in California for the weekend and not back in time for the hearing, so I am particularly grateful to Murray for the fine job he did. Here is the statement.

November 10, 2008

My name is Murray Adams, and I speak on behalf of the Cobble Hill Association, a civic association which represents the interests of the residents of Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, where The Long Island College Hospital has been providing medical care for 150 years. The people of our community believe that the real reason behind Continuum Health Partners’ announced plans to close LICH’s Obstetrics and in-patient Pediatrics services, its Dentistry program and its school based clinics program is to close LICH entirely so they can sell off LICH’s valuable real estate to benefit Continuum’s Manhattan hospitals. This must not be allowed to happen!

Late in August, 2008, the Medical Staff of LICH filed a plan with the New York State Department of Health to revitalize LICH without closing any of these services and by returning LICH’s management to an independent group of Brooklyn-based trustees. That plan is a good plan, but it must be supplemented because it does not provide working capital which LICH must have in order to finance the transition and the rebuilding of the Hospital. Although the Medical Staff leadership has retained an investment banking firm to help obtain financing, given the present collapse of the credit markets, we do not think it likely that they will obtain loans for the necessary working capital in the very short time remaining to save LICH. To make the Medical Staff plan feasible, in our opinion, it needs to be supplemented in three respects:

First, the Medical School at SUNY Downstate and the Department of Health must agree that the management of LICH must be moved to Downstate and LICH’s Obstetric beds must be moved under Downstate’s operating certificate. This would mean New York State would bear the losses and the malpractice premiums which now burden LICH. Continuum wants to close Obstetrics, because, according to Continuum’s figures, this would save LICH more than $13 million per year. It would cost the State about half that much because the State does not have to pay malpractice premiums. Obviously, if Downstate continues to operate the Obstetrics beds at LICH where they are, there will be no need to close inpatient Pediatrics or the school based clinics program or the Dentistry program.

Second, the Medical School at Downstate and the Department of Health must agree to Downstate’s entering into leases of several LICH buildings so that Downstate can move much of its medical school as well as its clinical practices over to LICH. These buildings are LICH’s Polhemus building, where until 1953 Downstate had its medical school; LICH’s Clinic Building; and much of LICH’s 97 Amity Street building. This would answer Downstate’s need to expand its medical school facilities. An annual lease rental of $15 million will offset $15 million of LICH’s annual debt service, and so take care of the second part of what Continuum’s “plan” says needs to be done to put LICH on a stable financial basis.

Third, we need our elected officials’ help in getting the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to defer for a reasonable period LICH’s debt service payments of about $2.5 million per month in order to provide LICH with working capital essential to LICH’s effort to restore itself. Also, LICH needs time to reconstitute and expand its primary care clinics, as the Medical Staff plan contemplates, and thereby rebuild LICH’s volume and its cash flow, which will probably take up to two years.

For the better health of all Brooklyn residents, Long Island College Hospital must be saved and restored as a premier Brooklyn health care institution. Brooklyn’s public health care standing is below New York City standards in almost every category, such as infant mortality per 1000 births, prevalence of asthma in children, incidence of heart disease, strokes, etc. The State would save money by setting up a Borough wide system of primary care clinics which would treat asthma, high blood pressure, breast cancer, high cholesterol conditions, nutrition problems, substance abuse and other common medical conditions that early intervention can treat much less expensively than if the patient arrives months or years later in a hospital emergency room and requires inpatient treatment because the untreated condition has become a major threat. We believe that what Brooklyn needs, as the Medical Staff Plan contemplates, is the establishment of a chain of Primary Care Clinics in the medically underserved areas of Brooklyn, such as Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Mill Basin and East New York, and the linking up of existing clinics in those and other underserved areas, such as the BHS Clinic in East New York and the Red Hook Health Center in Red Hook, with the combined tertiary care capabilities of Downstate/University Hospital and LICH. We believe federal funds can be obtained to help establish this network of clinics.

We understand that Continuum and Downstate are in negotiations which we hope will result in LICH’s management being returned to Brooklyn under Downstate’s management and supervised by a new Brooklyn-based Board of Regents. We urge the Borough President and all our local elected officials to take every step in their power to make this come about and save our hospital for the entire Brooklyn community.

Thank you.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Benefit for P.S. 29 at Bocca Lupo

The community is invited to a benefit for P.S. 29:

A Benefit for PS 29
Bocca Lupo
391 Henry Street
Tuesday, November 18
6:00 to 10:00 p.m.

Jeff Lederman of Bocca Lupo will generously donate all proceeds from the evening. This is a great event for the community at large, with wonderful food and wine.

Tickets are $30 in advance and can be at purchased online.

For more information, please visit: or

CHA Halloween Parade at CNN

This year's Halloween Parade was the greatest ever. Again, many thanks from the whole community to CHA Minister of Halloween Melissa Glass. The steel drum band was a delightful addition. Pictures from the parade have been posted at a CNN website.

LICH public hearing: November 10

We are pleased to share the following hearing notice regarding LICH. We hope everyone in the community will turn out for this event and testify to the necessity of keeping a fully functioning LICH open.

As many of you know, there are two plans that have been publicly discussed: a partnership with SUNY Downstate and the Doctors' Plan. The Cobble Hill Association's position is that the hospital must be kept open by any means necessary. Please make yourselves heard in Brooklyn and all the way to Albany.
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Special Assistant to the Borough President Yvonne Graham
invite you to a PUBLIC HEARING on Long Island College Hospital and the Ongoing Health-Care Crisis in Brooklyn.

Monday, November 10, 2008
6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Brooklyn Borough Hall
209 Joralemon Street

RSVP: 718-802-4032 or

Please limit testimony to 3 minutes.
Please bring 10 copies of your testimony.

Brooklyn Bridge Park real estate watch: tough sell

Bloomberg reports two-thirds of the 449 units at One Brooklyn Bridge Park remain unsold. We can't imagine why people would not want to pay triple the average Brooklyn price to live next to a highway that serves 160,000 vehicles a day.

CHA fall general meeting: November 13

The Cobble Hill Association invites the entire community to our annual fall general meeting. We will provide updates on all our various projects and neighbourhood concerns, including Brooklyn Bridge Park, 182-194 Atlantic Avenue, and our upcoming fifttieth-anniversary dinner. The main theme of the meeting will be 'LICH: Hospital in Crisis'. Our featured guests will be State Senator-Elect Daniel Squadron, Arnold Licht and Toomas Sorra of the LICH doctors' group, and Dominick Stanzione, the president and CEO of LICH.

What: CHA fall general meeting.
When: Thursday, November 13, 2008 at 7.30 p.m.
Where: 339 Hicks Street, LICH conference rooms A and B.