Tuesday, December 30, 2008

get involved: police precinct council meetings

At our recent meeting with Deputy Inspector Michael Kemper, the commanding officer of the 76th Precinct, and other officers about public safety issues, we all thought it would be a good idea to remind the public that the 76th holds monthly Precinct Council meetings on the first Tuesday of every month.

I have attended meetings in the past, and I can tell you that these are information- and dialogue-rich occasions when the public and the police can share knowledge and concerns. Did you know that the police provide a free service of visiting people's homes to tell them what measures they can take to minimize the likelihood of burglary? It's true. Find out more by attending a meeting.

The next three meetings will be on these dates at the precinct house, 191 Union Street, at 7.30 p.m.:

January 6
February 3
March 3.

Christmas tree mulching: January 10 and 11

Please hold on to your Christmas trees until January 10 and 11. Our annual tree mulchign weekend will be held on January 10 and 11 in Cobble Hill Park from 9.30 a.m. to 2.00 p.m. Please be sure to remove all ornaments, garlands, and anything else that is not part of the tree. Bags of mulch will be given to community members who want one.

What: tree mulching
When: January 10 and 11
Where; Cobble Hill Park

memorial bicycle ride: January 4

The city has commendably added bicycle lanes around the city, but there is still plenty of room for improvement, particularly in matters of safety and enforcement. CHA Green Czar Paco Abraham writes in with sad news of a memorial bike ride:
With the holidays upon us and New Year just around the bend, its a time for reflection of all that has happened over the past 12 months. Unfortunately this includes the passing of our neighborhood's own Alexander Toulouse, an eight-year-old who attended P.S. 29, and was tragically struck while riding his bicycle just a few blocks away. He, along with all the other NYC pedestrians and cyclists fatally hit, will be honored on a memorial group bike ride on Sunday, January 4.

At approximately 2:45 p.m., we'll gather at the intersection where Alexander Toulouse was hit, Livingston and Boreum, sharing thoughts and prayers for him and his family. If you can join us, please do.
There will be a citywide bicycle ride to remember everyone killed while cycling in the past year. The whole day's schedule is available at Ghost Bikes. The 2.45 p.m. time is for the portion of the ride devoted to Alexander. Here is the entire Brooklyn portion of the ride:
Brooklyn/Lower Manhattan Ride
12:45-1:00 gather top of Sunset Park hill (6th ave btwn 41-44th sts)(subway: R to 45th st.)
1:15 Pedro Fernandez-Pacheco 54th st and 7th ave.
2:15 Jonathan Millstein President st. and 8th ave.
2:45 Alexander Toulouse Livingston and Boreum
3:30 Jian-Lan Zhang Hester and Allen sts
We look forward to a safer future for all cyclists.

Friday, December 19, 2008

HOD rally: January 6

The STOP BHOD folks have announced a rally for the occasion of the next court date in their suit to stop the City's plans for the House of Detention. From their blog:
Our lawsuit against the City has taken a big step forward, and we will have our day in State Supreme Court on January 6th. Stop by our rally to show your support that morning between 9 and 10 AM in Cadman Plaza Park, just in front of the courthouse. We will be joined by elected officials, local neighborhood associations, and urban justice organizations.

If you’d like to attend, please contact Jamie at jamieevansbutler@gmail.com so that we can get you involved and help us organize for this important event.
We will be there and we hope everyone in Cobble Hill will turn out. We can all agree on at least two things: opposing the City's plan to double the HOD's capacity and opposing the reopening of the facility without a proper public process.

What: HOD rally
When: January 6, 2009 at 9 a.m.
Where: Cadman Plaza Park

inside the HOD

For all of those who want to see the inside of the Brooklyn House of Detention without doing what it takes to be a detainee, there is a new self-published book of photographs. Here is a link to some of them.

The book is called The Brooklyn House: Inside the Brooklyn House of Detention by Cal Cary.

Fix the Ditch update: RFP coming soon

The study on how to remediate the problems caused by the BQE trench south of Atlantic Avenue—how to Fix the Ditch—is moving forward. EDC, the City's Economic Development Corporation, will launch its RFP (request for proposals) in early January 2009.

EDC and Dan Wiley of Representative Nydia Velázquez's office expect the study to take one year and to produce designs for unifying the neighborhoods divided by the trench, greening the area, and creating pedestrian and bicycle access. Stay tuned for announcements in 2009 of public 'visioning' sessions and charrettes.

what were they thinking?

At their December 10 meeting, the members of Community Board 6 voted me the board's second vice-chairman. As always, I will do whatever I can to make our part of Brooklyn as great a place to live and work as it can be.

400 yards from Brooklyn

Governors Island is only 400 yards from Brooklyn, yet the only way to get there is by ferry from Manhattan. That's not surprising when eleven of the twelve board members of GIPEC, the state development corporation overseeing the island, are from Manhattan.

Community Board 6 voted for a series of resolutions at its December 10 meeting to bring the island closer to Brooklyn administratively. One resolution called for ferry service to the island from Fulton Ferry Landing, Pier 6, and the Atlantic Basin. Another called for half of GIPEC's board to be from Brooklyn.

How can you help? The next time you see your elected officials, tell them you want Brooklyn to have its fair share of representation on the board, i.e., no less than half the seats. Half the board members are appointed by the mayor and half by the governor, but in real life the appointments are made in consultation with local legislators. 400 yards is too close for representation to be so far away.

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 dlandstudio.com, 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 www.girlguidesusa.org.

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: PS29BROOKLYN.org or PS29.blogspot.com.

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 iguerrero@brooklynbp.nyc.gov

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.

Monday, October 27, 2008

revised LICH petition

If you have not signed the petition to save LICH, please do so. In its revised form, it reflects the community's consensus that the hospital must be saved by any means necessary. There have been two plans widely talked about: one devised by the doctors' group and one that would involve a new partnership with another health care entity. The Cobble Hill Association would be happy to see either plan take effect. Our main concern is to keep the hospital open and fully functioning. Brooklyn deserves the best health care in the city. If you feel the same way, there are three steps you can take:

1. Add your name to the petition.

2. Send your own letter to Governor Paterson.

3. Contact your elected officials and keep them focussed on the issue.

Thanks for standing up for Brooklyn.

Friday, October 17, 2008

new shows at the Irondale

Brooklyn's Irondale Ensemble Project has announced its fall lineup. Joe McCarthy, Cobble Hill neighbour and Irondale's development director, writes in to say:
Last weekend we opened the new Irondale Center in Fort Greene, three blocks up Lafayette Avenue from BAM. 450 people stopped by at our open house, and 200 stayed for dinner followed by five entertainment sketches. The "house warming" was sponsored by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and Brooklyn Brewery, and 22 restaurants and other merchants provided vast quantities of very tasty food and treats.

Now, beginning next Friday, October 24 (previews 10/22 & 23), we will be reviving our "somewhat dark" version of J.M. Barrie's novel, Peter Pan. D.J.R. Bruckner described it in the New York Times in November 2001 as, "a bit unnerving but also very good fun." This not the original play, nor remotely like its animated Disnification. It is a child's story told for adults with strong psychological undercurrents. It will run through November 8, Wednesday through Saturday, with a Saturday matinee.

more on the BQE reconstruction

Peter King of the state Department of Transportation appeared before Community Board 6's transportation committee last night, October 16, and discussed the steps in the long process that will lead to the rehabilitation and possibly the complete reconstruction of the triple-cantilever structure of the BQE. That is the portion that runs from Sand Street to Atlantic Avenue and supports two roadways and the Brooklyn Promenade on three different levels. Its length is 0.4 miles and it serves 160,000 vehicles per day.

Of primary interest to the CHA is its possible impacts on the future Brooklyn Bridge Park. We were pleased to learn that DOT and the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation are now actively communicating about their future needs and plans. At this point, there is still a range of construction alternatives that DOT will consider. Much of King's presentation was devoted to describing the public process, (scoping, environmental impact statement, etc.) that will occur.

During the Q & A, he noted what he called 'opportunities for interference' between the park and the roadwork. If the DOT winds up entirely replacing the triple-cantilever with a new triple-cantilever or an entirely new covered roadway, two options that will be considered, how will the materials be delivered other than by barge and through the park? King said he did not know. Stay tuned.

e-recycling day: November 1

Thanks to the efforts of Dave 'Paco' Abraham, the Cobble Hill Association will host its first electronics recycling day with the Lower East Side Ecology Center, P.S. 29, and Councilmember Bill de Blasio. Here are the details:

What: Electronics recycling
When: Saturday, November 1, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Schoolyard at P.S. 29, 425 Henry Street, entrance on Baltic between Henry and Clinton

All of the following will be accepted in either working or non-working condition:

-Computers and monitors
-Printers, scanners, fax machines, copiers
-Network devices (routers, hubs, modems, etc.)
-Peripherals (keyboards, mice, cables, etc.)
-PC components (hard drives, cd-roms, circuit boards, power supplies, etc.)
-Television sets, VHS and DVD players
-Radios and stereos
-Phones of all sorts, answering machines, pagers
-PDAs and games
-Media (floppy disks, cd's, VHS tapes)

I'm sure that many of you, like me, have been holding on to a lot of junk and waiting for an opportunity to dispose of it properly. Now is the time to clean out all your old electronics responsibly.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Reconstruction of the BQE

Concerns have been raised by CHA members and others about the effects of the coming reconstruction of the BQE and the Promenade and what effect that work will have on the future Brooklyn Bridge Park. In a worst-case scenario, the park could be built and then colonized as a staging area for the rebuilding of the triple-cantilever structure that supports the two lanes of the highway and the Promenade above it. Remember: the BQE is an interstate highway and New York State, which is responsible for it, can supersede local decisions and priorities.

If you are as concerned about these issues as we are, then you should come out for a very important public forum with representatives of the New York State Department of Transportation and their consultants. Here are the details:

What: CB6 Transportation Committee Meeting with DOT officials regarding the BQE
When: Thursday, October 16 at 6.30 p.m.
Where: LICH conference rooms

Halloween parade: volunteers needed

Halloween is just two and a half weeks away. Volunteers are still needed to help Melissa Glass, our Minister of Halloween, decorate Cobble Hill Park on October 31 starting at 11 a.m. and also to help clean up the park later. Please e-mail us if you are able to help out.

Parade: 4 p.m.
Setup: 11 a.m.
Cleanup: 8 p.m.

We would also like to try something new with this year's parade: percussion. Please bring drums and other percussive instruments, if you have them.

LICH rally Tuesday

We hope everyone in the community will turn out on Tuesday for a LICH rally and press conference led by Borough President Marty Markowitz, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, and the doctors' group. Here are the details.

What: Rally to save LICH
When: Tuesday, October 14 at 1 p.m.
Where: outside LICH on Hicks Street between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street

From Borough Hall's press release:
On Tuesday, October 14, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez and Special Assistant to the Borough President Yvonne Graham will join other elected officials, community leaders and members of the medical community at a press conference and rally outside Long Island College Hospital (LICH). The borough president will call for immediate action in saving essential services at the hospital.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

last week's LICH forum

In lieu of a CHA report on last week's public forum on Long Island College Hospital (LICH), here is a link to a very thorough report by Homer Fink at Brooklyn Heights Blog.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Twilight Becomes Night: neighborhood documentary

We are pleased to share the following announcement.

Kane Street Synagogue and 2 Spot Digital invite you to a screening of

Twilight Becomes Night

A 36-minute documentary by Virginie-Alvine Perrette, followed by a Q & A session with the filmmaker.

November 6, 2008 from 7.00 to 8.30 p.m.
At the Kane Street Synagogue, 236 Kane Street

From the press kit:
Each time a neighborhood shop closes its doors for good, something vital is lost forever. Twilight Becomes Night examines the pivotal role of neighborhood stores in our individual lives, our communities, and in our society as a whole. Using the streets and shops of New York City as a backdrop, the film moves beyond nostalgic regret to reveal a high-stakes transformation and its potential to affect us all.

Twilight Becomes Night is an intimate and emotional portrait of the struggle of small businesses today. It also explores the issues that are threatening neighborhood stores—the large chains, high rents, and public policy, among others. And yet, in the end, it reminds us of the power of individual commitment and community activism in preserving local business. You can save your neighborhood store. Twilight Becomes Night warns: Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

public LICH forum

Are you concerned about the news coming out of LICH? Now is your chance to be heard. Community Board 6 has organized a public forum with the CEO of LICH and the CEO of Continuum Health Partners, the company that owns LICH.

What: discussion with Stanley Brezenoff, President & CEO of Continuum Health Partners, and Dominick Stanzione, Interim CEO of Long Island College Hospital.
When: Monday, September 22 at 6.30 p.m. at LICH.
Where: LICH ground floor, conference rooms A & B, 339 Hicks Street.

Please come out and show the community's support.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

new street cleaning regulations

More traffic news: the New York Times reports that new parking rules will go into effect in Cobble Hill on September 15. Many three-hour, alternate-side prohibitions have been reduced to ninety minutes. Click here for the story.

Monday, September 8, 2008

new bicycle lanes

The Department of Transportation is planning to add new bicycle lanes in Cobble Hill. The purpose of the additional lanes is to enhance the existing grid and to improve connections for bicyclists to the waterfront. The plans were presented to the public last month at the CB6 Transportation Committee meeting by Christopher Hrones, Downtown Brooklyn Transportation Coordinator.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

join the Cobble Hill Bike Ride

Dave 'Paco' Abraham, the Cobble Hill Association's green czar, has organized the first ever Cobble Hill Bike Ride. We hope everyone with a bike will join this free, fun event. Come out and meet your neighbors.
Come join the Cobble Hill Association and Brooklyn Greenway Initiative for the first ever...


When: September 14, 2008 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Where: Cobble Hill Park
Cost: FREE, simply rsvp to cobblehillbikeride@gmail.com.

The Cobble Hill Association and Brooklyn Greenway Initiative are hosting a 12-mile casual bike ride that will start at Cobble Hill Park and pass through the Columbia Waterfront District, Red Hook, Park Slope, Prospect Park, and Gowanus, and loop back to Cobble Hill.

There will be several scenic rest stops as we ride along mostly calm streets with some light vehicular traffic. Several Bike Marshals will travel alongside as well as a mechanic for any urgent bike repairs needed. Light snacks and water will be provided, but riders should be prepared with sunblock, plenty of water, and ready for a light pace that will include some cobblestone streets in Red Hook and the 9th Street hill in Park Slope, with an option to also ride hill within Prospect Park's car-free loop.

save LICH website

The LICH Medical Staff website has information and documents of the campaign to save the hospital. Our own CHA letter to our elected officials is there, too. (They actually have an earlier draft of it somehow, but we are trying to get the right version posted.) Here is the link.

street regulations suspended

We have the following good news to report from CB6 about parking in the neighborhood:
As reported at the May 14, 2008 general meeting, the new Street Cleaning Regulation plan for the CB6 district that was announced in September 2007 is going into effect. The project is now more than halfway done!

Beginning on Monday, August 25, 2008, Street Cleaning Regulations in Area 2(Gowanus/Carroll Gardens East) are going into effect and will be enforced.

Also on August 18, 2008, Street Cleaning Regulations in Area 3 (Carroll Gardens West/Cobble Hill/Columbia Street District) will be suspended while the City changes the signs. Street Cleaning in Area 3 will be suspended for roughly 3 to 5 weeks.

All other traffic regulations (i.e., parking meter regulations, "No Parking" regulations, "No Standing" regulations, etc.) remain in effect.

Friday, August 15, 2008

potluck dinner postponed

We have decided to at least postpone the potluck dinner announced for September 10 in Cobble Hill Park due to concerns about lack of volunteers. We will try to reimagine a park dinner for the spring, one that may be better suited to changing times. A catered dinner in the park for ten to fifteen dollars perhaps? Let us know your thoughts.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

LICH statement

Murray Adams, our former president and a former trustee of LICH, spoke at today's rally on behalf of the CHA. Here is his statement:
I am Murray Adams. Until recently, I was president of the Cobble Hill Association, and I have been asked to speak on the Association’s behalf. For about 18 years I was a trustee of Long Island College Hospital, including being Chairman of its Board for two and a half years before I became its in-house lawyer in 1991. I retired in 1998 and have held no position with the Hospital since, but as you can imagine I have a strong concern that LICH survive and prosper for the next 150 years as it has for the past 150, and a strong belief that it can and will do so.

My advice to Dominick Stanzione as he begins the restructuring of LICH is that his first priority must be to reverse the public perception that LICH will continue to shrink, may be forced to close, and suffers from inadequate services and antiquated equipment. Unfortunately, the recent closing of four off-site clinics and the so-called "Doctors' Committee"'s repeated statements that Continuum has been siphoning money from LICH and wishes to close the hospital have greatly increased this perception. The inevitable result has been a large decline in patient volume, and a flight of doctors to other hospitals. In order to survive, as Messrs. Stanzione and Brezenoff have indicated, increasing patient volume is essential.

To do this, Continuum must be willing to grant to Mr. Stanzione a substantial marketing budget and that he must advertise LICH extensively in the local Brooklyn papers and must market to the surrounding community its many excellent services, such as its newly equipped, state-of-the-art radiology department and its new Women’s Center. Neither LICH nor Continuum has ever put together and followed through with an effective advertising and marketing program to show its community the many fine medical programs LICH operates.

In addition, it is important for Mr. Stanzione to meet with the top officials of Downstate Medical school, of which LICH is the principal teaching affiliate, and see what can be done to publicize the many academic programs run by Downstate, as well as LICH, at LICH and get Downstate’s help in publicizing LICH’s importance as a teaching institution. Many of LICH's departments and their teaching programs are top-notch, and they need to be marketed as such.

Lastly, I do not see how Mr. Stanzione will be able to turn LICH around without controlling his own finances here at LICH. Rita Battles, until recently LICH’s President, once told me that if she hired her own accounting people and brought in a much simpler billing system than the Cadillac system that Continuum has developed for their 1500-bed hospitals, she could save LICH at least $1 million per month. This is nearly as much as Continuum is proposing to save by closing OBGYN. Maybe Rita was wrong, but I and many others believe LICH is unfairly burdened by Continuum’s present method of allocating overhead costs among its member hospitals.

In the end, the key to the restoration of LICH’s fiscal health is to restore and then increase the volume of patients coming through LICH. This will require enlarging the medical staff, but until the perception that LICH is a troubled hospital which is about to close is changed, it will be almost impossible to increase patient volume or to recruit more good doctors to LICH.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

LICH rally on Wednesday

As you probably know by now, LICH is planning to close more of its units and sell more of its property. You can read all about in the New York Times for July 31, 2008.

Meanwhile, City Councilman Bill de Blasio has organized a rally at LICH for this Wednesday at noon. Here is the announcement:
Councilmember de Blasio to Call on LICH to Reverse Decision to Cut Vital Community Services

Councilmember Bill de Blasio will join local elected officials and community activists at a rally tomorrow urging Long Island College Hospital (LICH) to reverse its reckless decision to shut down the maternity ward and end its rape crisis intervention program.

De Blasio is calling on LICH to stop taking services away from Brooklyn families and to work with the community to create a long-term plan for combating its financial problems. Without a sound financial plan for LICH's future and community involvement in this process, Brooklynites have no way of knowing how much longer LICH's doors will remain open.

LICH is run by Continuum Health Partners, which also manages Beth Israel Medical Center and St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in Manhattan.

Who: Councilmember de Blasio, State Senator Marty Connor, Councilmembers Sara Gonzalez and Tish James, and others.

When: Noon ­ Wednesday, August 6, 2008
[at noon].

Where: 339 Hicks Street, Between Atlantic and Pacific Streets.

We hope to see you there.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

CHHC update: meetings next week

The renovation of the Cobble Hill Health Center is back on the schedule. After a very constructive meeting with them in June, they have revised their plans and wish to meet with interested members of the CHA and the community again next week. All are invited. Here are the details:
What: CHHC renovation plans.
Where: CHHC, 380 Henry Street.
When: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 6 p.m.
After their meeting with us on Tuesday, they have a hearing scheduled with the CB6 Landmarks Committee on Thursday, July 24. Here are the details for that event:
[Check the CB6 online calendar for details.]

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

the concert series begins




The seventh annual Cobble Hill Park Summer Concert Series kicks off tomorrow night with Sufferin' Succotash, featuring a rich, flavorful gumbo of old-time country breakdowns and heart songs, down-home blues, rags, hokum favorites, Louisiana Cajun and Black Creole "Bal d'Maison" dance tunes, Jazz Age pop "novelty" rarities, and more.

Sufferin' Succotash's repertoire comes mostly from scratchy 78 rpm records from the 1920s and '30s—"The Golden Age of American Vernacular Music"—as well as field recordings of folk tradition-bearers. Their sources range from such old-time country performers as Charlie Poole & The North Carolina Ramblers; Gid Tanner & The Skillet Lickers; blues string and jug bands like The Mississippi Sheiks and Gus Cannon & His Jug Stompers; early Louisiana French recording artists such as Black Creole accordionist Amedé Ardoin and the Cajun fiddle and accordion duo of Leo Soileau & Mayuse Lafleur; rural tradition-bearers like Appalachian fiddler/banjoist Tommy Jarrell; and African-American fiddler Butch Cage.

True to the spirit and tradition of their sources, Sufferin' Succotash performs these musical gems of a bygone era with all the fiery vitality of a sweaty Saturday night house party on the fiddle, harmonica, button accordion, guitar, banjo, mandolin, single-string bass, and other traditional acoustic instruments. As a modern-day band in the Big Apple, Sufferin' Succotash's unique renditions of these classic music forms feature hot, tasty licks with a rockin' "downtown" backbeat, like the pulsating rhythm of the subways rumbling beneath the City's streets.

SHLOMO PESTCOE (vocals, fiddle, button accordion, mandolin, banjo, guitar, ukulele)
PETER "TRIP" HENDERSON (vocals, harmonicas, tenor ukulele)
BOB "DR. FRETS" JONES (vocals, guitar, bass)
PETER STUART KOHMAN (vocals, guitar, banjo-ukulele, mandolin, bass)
PETER FORD (vocals, single-string 'Box Bass', guitar)

This year's series will feature seven Thursday evening concerts in Cobble Hill Park (on Clinton Street between Verandah Place and Congress Street). All concerts are free and open to the public. They start at 7:00 p.m. on Thursdays. In the event of rain, the concerts will be held on Friday evenings.

This year's series will feature:

June 26 - Sufferin Succotash with Shlomo Pesko
Blues and Folk for the whole family

July 3 - The Beatnix
Old Time Rock n' Roll

July 10 - Linda Ipanema and the Dixie Cats
The Best of New Orleans Jazz

July 17 - Bobby Harden New York City Soul Trio
Singing the Blues

July 24 - Bustmenti
Mexican Music

July 31 - So-Nu
Klezmer and Balkan Music

August 7 - Lara Ewen, Story-Telling Songs
and Jeff Jacobsen, Singer Songwriter

The Summer concert series is sponsored with the generous support of Long Island College Hospital, the Brooklyn Heights Press, and Ridgewood Savings Bank.

We hope to see you there.

CHHC: hearing postponed

The Cobble Hill Health Center is such a good neighbor that they have decided to defer their upcoming CB6 and LPC hearings in order to have more time to revise their plans pursuant to the advice of community members. I have no doubt that taking the time now to get it right will save everyone time, money, and effort in the long run. Wouldn't it be great if everyone conducted business that way?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

CHHC: hearing on Thursday

We had a meeting last night with the Cobble Hill Health Center about their plans to renovate the building. Because they are within the Cobble Hill Historic District, their plans must be reviewed by Community Board 6 and the Landmarks Preservation Commission. They were kind enough to sit down with the community before their official hearings begin.

As Donny Tuchman of CHHC explained, the interior of the building needs to be renovated to create larger rooms and more handicapped accessibility. From a landmarks perspective, the problem is that their air flow plans involve adding four rooftop mechanical units that would be visible from the street.

We advised them and their architect to find a way to disguise the units or make them less visually obtrusive. Baffling, fencing, and different colors of paint were all suggested, but clearly their approach to the rooftop units will have to be reimagined if they want LPC to approve their renovation. They agreed to try to do that and to keep the community updated during the twenty-month construction, set to begin later this year.

The next event is their appearance before the CB6 Landmarks Committee. Here are the details:
Thursday, June 26, 2008
6:00 p.m.
P.S. 32 Auditorium
317 Hoyt Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231.
After that, their LPC hearing is scheduled for July 22. We will keep you updated as the matter moves forward.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cobble Hill concert series

The Cobble Hill Association Announces the start of the

The Cobble Hill Association is pleased to announce the schedule for its seventh annual "Music in the Park" series of free concerts. This year's series will feature seven Thursday evening concerts in Cobble Hill Park (on Clinton Street between Verandah Place and Congress Street). All concerts are free, open to the public, and scheduled for Thursdays at 7:00 p.m. (The rain date for each concert is the following day, i.e. Friday).

"This year we have a wonderful group of talented musicians excited to make Thursday evenings in Cobble Hill Park a very pleasant experience. I love the opportunity to hear the music and see friends gather in our own little oasis, Cobble Hill Park," says W. Rudy Kamuf, organizer of the series.

This year's series will feature:

June 26 - Sufferin Succotash with Shlomo Pesko
Blues and Folk for the whole family

July 3 - The Beatnix
Old Time Rock n' Roll

July 10 - Linda Ipanema and the Dixie Cats
The Best of New Orleans Jazz

July 17 - Bobby Harden New York City Soul Trio
Singing the Blues

July 24 - Bustmenti
Mexican Music

July 31 - So-Nu
Klezmer and Balkan Music

August 7 - Lara Ewen, Story-Telling Songs
and Jeff Jacobsen, Singer/Songwriter

The summer concert series is sponsored by the generous support of Long Island College Hospital, Ridgewood Savings Bank, and the Brooklyn Heights Press & Cobble Hill News.

More information about some of our newest performers:

Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Lara Ewen combines the lyrical focus of classic storytelling songs with an acoustic-driven sound familiar to fans of today's alternative country and Americana music. During 2007, she travelled throughout the U.S. to support the release of "Ghosts and Gasoline," which the editors of CDBaby.com described as "the kind of album which sticks with you long-term, leaving an emotional imprint in the same league with your first kiss, your first road trip and your first heartbreak." Lara's music appeals to fans of Townes Van Zandt, Patty Griffin, and Lucinda Williams, and the editors of Encore magazine describe her as "Emmylou Harris singing Neil Young songs."

Jeff Jacobson is a folk-pop singer/songwriter whose self-titled debut album was released in May 2007. He has received numerous songwriting awards and was voted one of the "14 Best Singer/Songwriters of Greenwich Village" by Underground Music Online three years in a row. Critics have favorably compared him to Paul Simon and Lindsey Buckingham, and Amie Street calls Jeff "one of the most accomplished musicians in New York." He is also one of the co-founders of NYC indie favorites The Undisputed Heavyweights. "Poignant, polished, well-executed pop songs full of memorable hooks and exquisite guitar lines."—Urban Folk

Friday, June 20, 2008

Landmarks: CHHC renovation meeting

The Cobble Hill Health Center is planning a major renovation which requires approval by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. They have agreed to meet with the community to show us their plans and receive feedback before they proceed (as the developer for 110 Amity Street recently did). Please come out and be heard.

What: CHHC renovation plans.
When: Monday, June 23 at 7 p.m.
Where: CHHC, 380 Henry Street.

The matter will likely be added to the CB6 Landmarks agenda for Thursday, June 26, and their LPC hearing is scheduled for July 22.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

update: LICH to shut down rape crisis program

There is bad news from LICH. The Cobble Hill Association has learned that LICH is terminating its Rape Crisis Intervention/Victims of Violence Program, effective June 30, 2008. The rape crisis program is run in coordination with the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, the Criminal Justice Coordinator's Office, and the Kings County District Attorney Office.

[The rest is a substantial revision of an earlier account.]

I spoke to LICH's public affairs person this afternoon, June 18, for further information. They emphasized that their emergency room will still be prepared to receive rape victims and to use rape kits. They also described the Rape Crisis Intervention/Victims of Violence Program, which they have had for twenty years and which they are now shutting down, as a social work outpatient program. As they see it, shutting it down will allow them to concentrate on medical services.

However they describe the termination of the program, there is no benefit to the community in losing a program that served rape victims. They had already shut down their birthing center in 2006, as reported by the Daily News.

Cobble Hill needs a full-service hospital run by people who are committed to serving the community first and foremost. If more programs are shut down and more properties sold off, hard questions will have to be asked about the relationship between LICH and Continuum Health Partners.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

hospital emergency?

Doctors at Long Island College Hospital held a press conference yesterday, covered in today's New York Times, where they raised allegations about Continuum's recent sales of property. From the article:
'The doctors contend that the parent company, Continuum Health Partners, has been downsizing the institution where they work, Long Island College Hospital, in the Cobble Hill neighborhood, and diverting resources to its more prestigious hospitals in Manhattan, primarily Beth Israel Medical Center.'
What does it mean? Let us know what you think.

110 Amity: good government at work

Today's hearing at the Landmarks Preservation Commission regarding 110 Amity Street was largely uneventful. Nadezhda Williams of the Historic Districts Council, Amy Breedlove of Cobble Hill, and I were the only people there to testify. We each saluted the cooperation of the developer, Jonathan Wachtel of Lucky Boy Development, and pointed out the few remaining features in dispute: the asymmetrical rail/wall design of the stoops, the height and design of the rear, and the doorways.

Only when the public testimony was over did the occasion become interesting as the commissioners went even further than the three of us and the statement from the CB6 Landmarks Committee. The commissioners objected to the flatness and material of the cornices, the lintels, and other details that they felt made the design's 'conversation' between traditional and modern 'confused'.

The outcome: the plan for the Lamm Building was approved, but the townhouse plans were set aside for further consultation between the developer and LPC staff. It's nice to see government go the extra mile without being beaten with a stick.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

110 Amity: LPC hearing Tuesday

110 Amity Street will have its next hearing at the Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday, June 10 at 9.30 a.m. The location is the LPC hearing room at 1 Centre Street. Mercifully, 110 Amity will be the first item on the agenda, so it will be important to get there for the start of the hearing.

People who intend to testify may want to mention of how little notice was given of the hearing. The meeting was only added to the LPC agenda on Friday afternoon, less than two full business days before the hearing.

The developer, Jonathan Wachtel, has genuinely listened to community output. His example should be emulated by others in his line of work.

Outstanding issues of concern to the community include the asymmetrical railings on the stoops, the design of the rear, and the height of the rear. We will mention all of these in our official CHA letter/testimony to LPC. If there is anything that we have forgotten, please let us know either by e-mail or by blog comment. Thanks.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

rethink the clink

Laurie Maurer of the CHA attended Thursday's meeting of the Brooklyn House of Detention Community Stakeholders Group and files this report.

On Thursday, May 29, a community meeting was held to discuss the future of the Brooklyn House of Detention (HOD), located on Atlantic Avenue between the Adams Expressway and Smith Street. The meeting was convened by the Stakeholders' Group, which consists of several neighborhood associations (including CHA) as well as adjacent residential associations.

The facility has been closed for five years and the Department of Corrections' current plan for the site is to double the inmate population from the current 750 to 1500. The Stakeholders' Group is adamantly opposed to this proposed expansion. The purpose of the meeting was to bring the community up to date on the project and to discuss alternatives uses for the site as well as alternatives to actual incarceration.

Main speakers included Stanley Richards, COO of the Fortune Society, and Abby Hamlin of Hamlin Ventures. Mr. Richards explained some of the numerous activities of his organization with respect to assisting people who have been released from prison, and which includes court-appointment custodial care of people in lieu of incarceration.

Ms. Hamlin presented her organization's proposal for the site (prepared for the RFEI requested by the City), which included demolition of the present building and constructing an assemblage of mixed use buildings—support services for released prisoners, including job training and counseling; temporary housing with support services for those coming out of prison; affordable and market rate housing units. There were no inmate beds provided in the scheme.

In addition to these speakers, representatives from various elected officials—Millman, Connor, the Comptroller's office, Yassky, de Blasio and the Mayor's office—offered brief comments.

The Stakeholders' Group would like to see a great deal more open discussion with all concerned parties regarding the future of this key site before the enormous amount of public funds are allocated for the project. They would like to see the discussion include issues of public policy and law, in addition to those involving the actual real estate in question.

The group urges all interested residents to get involved with this issue. Their website has more information, including the Hamlin proposal.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Atlantic & Court: scorecard

On May 13, we reported that Thomas Fariello, the Deputy Brooklyn Borough Commissioner for the Department of Buildings, had told us that the permission to build the duplex penthouses, a.k.a. the cabanas, at Atlantic & Court had come from City Planning. Both Brooklyn DOB and Brooklyn City Planning have been helpful, informative, and frank when we have reached out to them this month. The proof of their help is that the site is still under a partial stop work order that prevents Two Trees from working on the dubious rooftop structures.

We are going to follow up with DOB next week. In the meanwhile, I ran into Purnima Kapur, the Director of City Planning's Brooklyn Office, at last night's CB6 committee meeting and asked her about City Planning's responsibility for the permit. She said in no uncertain terms that the responsibility was wholly DOB's and that she would accompany me to DOB's Brooklyn office if necessary to tell them in person. We may just take her up on that.

In case you're keeping track at home, the ball has now been passed from LPC to DOB to City Planning and back to DOB. We'll let you know where the ball gets passed next. I think the only place left to go is to order the demolition of the penthouses.

110 Amity: drama-free vote

Last night the CB6 Landmarks Committee voted unanimously to approve with conditions the developer's latest plans. It must be said that the developer, Jonathan Wachtel, truly listened to community input and adapted his plans accordingly. The zinc siding is totally gone, replaced by brick. The committee only objected to three features:

-The material for the penthouses was not specified in the plans. The committee asked that it be wood or a non-shiny metal already in use in the neighborhood.
-The rear was deemed too modern.
-The rear should have a setback of at least one story.

The full board of CB6 will vote on it at its June 11 meeting. We will let you know when the item is calendared for a hearing at the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

110 Amity: more sequels than a horror movie

They're back. The developer and architects of 110 Amity Street will appear before the CB6 Landmarks Committee again this week.

Event details:
Thursday, May 29, 2008 at 6 p.m.
P.S 32 Auditorium
317 Hoyt Street
at Union and Hoyt Streets
Brooklyn, NY 11231

Since the developer is the rare sort who appears to be actually listening, it's important for people to come out and make their opinions and advice known. Penthouses, four-story rears, zinc siding? Now is your chance to be heard.

Monday, May 26, 2008

double the inmates, double the fun?

Not many people realize it, but the City is planning to re-open the House of Detention on Atlantic Avenue and to double the capacity to over 1,500 inmates. Perhaps the Corrections Department has caught the overdevelopment bug that has been sweeping Brooklyn.

The community group most concerned with the issue is the Brooklyn HOD Community Stakeholders Group. They will hold a community forum on the future of the jail this coming Thursday. Here are the details:
WHAT: More Vision, Less Prison: A Community Forum on the future of the Brooklyn House of Detention
WHERE: St. Cyril’s Belarusian Cathedral, at Atlantic and Bond
WHEN: Thursday, May 29, 2008 at 7 p.m.
WHO: Elected officials, architects, community members.

Friday, May 23, 2008

110 Amity: new CB6 committee vote

Because I ate some bad food (a wrap from Pacific Green) and wound up in the emergency room at LICH this week, I was unable to attend last night's meeting of the CB6 Land Use/Landmarks Committee. Roy Sloane was there and files this report:

The meeting was well attended by CH community residents (8-10). After the presentation by the architects and after considerable discussion by committee members and community residents, Jerry Armer made a motion to reject the four proposed infill buildings for the following reasons:

1) The extensive use of zinc on the sides, rear facades and penthouses is inconsistent with the character of the CH Historic District.

2) The committee was not convinced that the penthouses would not be visible from the street.

3) The full height (four story) extensions were too high and needed to be reduced to no more than three stories.

He did thank the architects and the developer for moving the project so far in the right direction and for listening to the community's concerns.

No action was taken on the proposed changes to the loggia on the roof of the LAMM building as the architect did not bring drawings and plans sufficient to facilitate a consideration by the committee. They will return to the next Land Use/Landmarks committee meeting to re-present.

Monday, May 19, 2008

110 Amity Street: first impressions

Earlier this evening, the Cobble Hill Association hosted a presentation of the new plans for 110 Amity Street by the developer, Jonathan Wachtel, and his two teams of architects—RKT+B for the Lamm Building, and BKSK for the townhouses. The plans for the Lamm Building remain the same: seven apartments with a glass-enclosed loggia on the roof. The townhouses have been redesigned from scratch since the last set of plans was shot down by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The tale of the tape:
-Four townhouses, one on Amity Street and three on Henry. The Amity townhouse will be 8 feet from the Lamm Building; the Henry townhouses will be 15 feet.
-Each townhouse will be occupied by a single family.
-The townhouses are 16 to 18 feet wide with heights of 50 feet and chimneys at 53 feet.
-The rears of the townhouses are flush with the one-floor rear-yard additions of the adjacent neighboring homes.
-The top floor of each townhouse is a penthouse set roughly in the east-west middle of the building. The penthouses are thus the fifth floor.

And the æsthetic features:
-The windows and facade of the Henry Street townhouses will be in line with those of the neighboring buildings and the streetwall.
-The front surface will be a combination of brownstone on the ground and parlor floors and brick on the upper floors.
-Each townhouse will have a traditional townhouse stoop but with an asymmetic feature: one side will have a rail and the other a solid face.
-The front lintels will be flush with the building. The lintel above the door will be a bronze plate with a light fixture behind it.
-Most of the side walls and all of the rear will be covered in zinc siding.
-The rear will have large bay windows.

The feature that provoked the most questions from the audience was the zinc siding, something not found in abundance, if at all, in Cobble Hill.

This Thursday, May 22, the CB6 Land Use/Landmarks committee will hold a public meeting and vote on the plans. Details:

PAL Miccio Center
110 West 9th Street
(between Clinton and Henry Streets)
Brooklyn, NY 11231
6:00 p.m.

All members of the public are entitled to attend and comment on the plans.

Meanwhile, feel free to post your comments here so that we can share thoughts about the plans and continue the conversation.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

stop the presses: new stop work order at Atlantic & Court

It looks like our meeting with the Department of Buildings on Tuesday has had some effect. DOB and City Planning have put their heads together, and a stop work order has been issued for the illegal duplexes at Atlantic and Court.

As I understand it, the subject of the order is whether the obviously habitable structures on the roof, as shown on the drawings, satisfy the defintion and the square footage requirements for 'bulkheads'. The only possible answer in a society governed by law is, Aw hell no!

But don't take my word for it. Below are the definitions of 'bulkhead' and 'habitable room' from the Building Code (i.e. the code currently in effect, as opposed to the new code which will go into effect later this year).

The Building Code says:
§[C26-201.0] 27-232 Definitions.-Words that are capitalized are defined in this section.

BULKHEAD.-An enclosed structure on or above the roof of any part of a building, enclosing a shaft, stairway, tank, or service equipment, or other space not designed or used for human occupancy. (See PENTHOUSE and ROOF STRUCTURE.)

**HABITABLE ROOM.-A residential room or space, having the minimum dimensions required by section 27-751 of article six of subchapter twelve of this chapter in which the ordinary functions of domestic life are carried on, and which includes bedrooms, living rooms, studies, recreation rooms, kitchens, dining rooms and other similar spaces, but does not include closets, halls, stairs, laundry rooms, or bathrooms.

PENTHOUSE.-An enclosed structure on or above the
roof of any part of a building, which is designed or used
for human occupancy

§[C26-1205.2] 27-746 Habitable rooms.- All habitable
rooms shall be provided with natural ventilation
complying with the provisions of this subchapter except
as provided in section 27-750 of this article.

**§[C26-1205.7] 27-751 Minimum dimensions of
habitable rooms.- Habitable rooms shall have a minimum
clear width of eight feet in any part; a minimum clear
area of eighty square feet and a minimum clear ceiling
height of eight feet for the minimum area [...]

The six penthouses, which is what they are, measure approximately 245 square feet each, i.e. they are bigger than the living rooms immediately beneath them. Each one has several windows and a door opening out onto that duplex apartment's private rooftop terrace.

Those sure sound like habitable rooms to me. And if they are, then they will have to be demolished.

news roundup for May 14, 2008


'The 100 Most Powerful People in New York Real Estate' [New York Observer]
'Breaking Bricks on Columbia' [Lost City]
Takashi Murakami at the Brooklyn Museum through July 13 [Brooklyn Museum]

And look, a waterfront park plan with recreation, without housing, and with the land being acquired by the Parks Department. What do they know in Williamsburg that we don't?
'Trying to Jumpstart Bushwick Inlet Park' [Gowanus Lounge]
'Fall Start for Work on First Part of Bushwick Inlet Park' [Gowanus Lounge]

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Amity Street horror redux?

110 Amity Street is back. Developer Jonathan Wachtel and his team will make a new presentation to the community this coming Monday.

Here are the details.
EVENT: Meeting with the developer and architects for 110 Amity Street (Lamm Building) to review the proposed plans.
DATE: Monday, May 19
TIME: 7.00 to 9.00 p.m.
PLACE: Long Island College Hospital, Conference Room C
The main entrance is on Hicks Street.
110 Amity Street is Block 296, Lot 5.
In our last encounter with this matter, the Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously sided with us on January 8, 2008 and rejected the developer's plans for a mews with a row of townhouses or, as I called them, 'caves'. This will be the developer's second attempt to win us over. Let's hope he has learned from his experience.

what about those illegal duplexes at Atlantic & Court?

Laurie Maurer of the CHA, Nadezhda Williams of the Historic Districts Council, and I had a meeting earlier this afternoon with Thomas Fariello, the Deputy Brooklyn Borough Commissioner for the Department of Buildings, regarding the six illegal duplexes currently being built at 182-194 Atlantic Avenue.

The six duplexes are illegal because they violate the fifty-foot height limit of the Cobble Hill Historic District's LH-1 zoning. Two Trees is calling the penthouse portions of the duplexes 'bulkheads', but these are no bulkheads. They are sixth-floor rooms of 245 square feet, and they are even bigger than the fifth-floor living rooms that they are connected to.

What's most galling about this case is that the City Council denied Two Trees' request for the height variance, yet City agencies have allowed the illegal duplexes anyway.

Here is the argument that we made to Deputy Commissioner Fariello:
Re: 182-194 Atlantic Avenue (Project 56114-A, Block 286, Lot 17)


That the six enclosed spaces on the roof of 182-194 Atlantic Avenue, other than the one enclosed space legitimately devoted to the elevator shaft and mechanicals room, are not bulkheads and therefore not permitted obstructions under Zoning Resolution 23-62;

That the aforesaid six enclosed spaces are not exits of any sort;

That the aforesaid six enclosed spaces are habitable rooms, as defined by the Building Code, by virtue of their dimensions, their windows and doors, their connections to fifth-floor living rooms via staircases, and the exclusive use of them enjoyed by the owners of the fifth-floor apartments to which they are attached;

That, because of the preceding claims, the aforesaid six enclosed spaces violate the fifty-foot height limit of the site’s LH-1 zoning and Historic District designation;

That, because of the preceding claims, the aforesaid six enclosed spaces violate the City Council’s Resolution 1169, passed on November 15, 2007, which denied the developer’s request for a variance from the fifty-foot height limit of the site’s LH-1 zoning;

That, because of the preceding claims, the aforesaid six enclosed spaces must be demolished immediately.
We were pleased to find that Fariello disputed none of our claims. In fact, he was as reasonable as one could wish a City official to be. But he then said that we had to convince City Planning that the permit that they issued—before the City Council's November 15, 2007 vote—to build these large rooftop spaces violates the City Council's Resolution 1169, which denied the variance to build them. That seems to be a fairly elementary matter of fact. Even so, I have no doubt that the runaround is not over yet.

LPC had passed the ball to DOB. DOB has now passed the ball to City Planning. The City will run out of places to pass the ball before we run out of zeal in the defense of our neighbourhood. Next stop: City Planning.