Car ban on Prospect Park’s West Drive officially in effect
by Holly Bieler
Jul 07, 2015 | 32 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The permanent ban on traffic in Prospect Park took effect yesterday, with West Drive officially cordoned off from the city’s motorists. Cars can now no longer travel on the park’s West Drive, which runs between Grand Army Plaza and Park Circle. Before, cars could only travel along the route for two peak hours during weekday rush hour. Cars will still be permitted along the park’s East Drive from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on weekdays. Monday marked the first time in more than a century that Prospect Park will have streets solely dedicated to recreation. “Prospect Park added a unique, natural and emotional element to New York City’s landscape,” said Brooklyn Parks Borough Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey at a press conference on the ban’s first day. “New York City and our partners are still guided by this genius of space. By closing the drives, we are making our parks greener and much safer.” The closure comes after Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement in the park last month of traffic bans at both West Drive and in Central Park north of 72nd Street. That ban took effect on June 29. “Making the loop drives in Central and Prospect parks permanently car-free for the first time in more than a century will make these great spaces safer, healthier and more accessible to the million who flock to them,” the mayor said during the announcement. The two bans are a major victory in the generations-long campaign to limit traffic traveling through the city’s parks while reclaiming space for pedestrians. Weekend and holiday car-free hours were first implemented in Central and Prospect Parks in 1967, with various entrance closures and increasingly limited hours for travel over the last decades inching the city towards a more comprehensive ban. “It’s an exciting morning to be in the park,” said Prospect Park Alliance President Sue Donoghue. “We’re thrilled to see this reduction. It’s an important step.” Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said DOT studies seemed to indicate that increasingly restrictive limits on car travel oftentimes translated to less cars on the road. “As we’ve closed off more and more entrances to Prospect and Central parks, traffic has continued to go down,” she said. Commissioner Trottenberg said traffic studies had indicated West Drive made the most sense to close, with about 200 cars traveling the streets during peak travel hours, as oppose to the 400 which generally pass along East Drive. And while the Commissioner has yet to publicly acknowledge any plans for a complete ban on cars in the park, she indicated on Monday that a ban on East Drive traffic could be a possibility in the near future. “We’ve done this in stages and we might be back for the final phase at some point,” she said.
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The moment that inspired action
by Emily Gallagher
Jul 03, 2015 | 507 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
What inspires you to act? Every activist and political person I know has a moment that flipped the switch for them. In casual interviews, friends have cited enormous moments like the Iraq war and more local moments, like anger over inadequate public facilities for their child. Books that made advocacy seem accessible, mentors who encourage, corruption that infuriated. The reality is, if our eyes are open, we should be reawakened every day to act. Too many moments, though, can make us completely overwhelmed and shut down to our own potential power. For me, looking back, it was an odd moment that pushed me to the brink of involvement. Yes I had met many people suffering from fear of displacement or in the midst of it, but I didn't know what that had to do with me. I had read books, but they seemed far away and I felt very small and powerless. I felt in many ways that I didn't have the skills, the insight or the experience to be truly helpful. I fantasized that in 10 or 20 years, I would have an awakening that would signal "my turn." But then I opened up the Greenpoint Star on my lunch break. Seriously, it was this very newspaper! The year was 2007, and I was shocked to find a young man's photo on the front page under the headline "cyclist killed." I was 23, and this young man, whose name was Craig Murphey, was only three years older than me. I read the article with horror as his eulogy asserted what a good and righteous person this man was. Craig was an activist. He did anti-hunger work and volunteered in his free time providing safe walks home for women and LGBTQ people, the article told me. Friends spoke of a warm and generous spirit. I had never met him, but In reading about him, I admired him and wanted to be his friend. And as I read of his death, I started to cry. Deep inside me, I had a revelation. I had been afraid to start. I had used my youth and ignorance as an excuse. But the reality was, I already had the only skills I needed. The skill to listen with empathy, learn, and ask questions. I was usually afraid to speak my own opinions in that period, but I knew how to grow them. And there was Craig Murphey, who had lost a life he was using generously and well. And here was I, still alive, who had something still undiscovered to give. I vowed to start asking questions and listening to the answers. And I vowed to stop excusing myself for what was really my duty as a person who loved and cared. It is hard to stay motivated, especially since this city requires so much struggle. People can be mean, greedy and short sighted. But there are so many around us who aren't that way. Who are giving and concerned for all of us. And I, well though I often stumble, I am finding that voice inside me more and more every year. Not a month goes by that I don't remember that man I have now outlived, who I never knew but loved this community as I do. I hope I am doing him justice. I am thankful that he woke me up to my own power, and my own responsibility to serve others, and I'm sorry we couldn't do this work alongside each other.
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Audit finds hundreds of NYCHA apartments vacant
by Holly Bieler
Jul 03, 2015 | 193 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Comptroller Stringer's audit found some NYCHA apartments had been vacant for more than a decade.
Comptroller Stringer's audit found some NYCHA apartments had been vacant for more than a decade.
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While more than 270,000 New Yorkers languish on months-long waiting lists for public housing, hundreds of NYCHA apartments sit vacant, oftentimes for years, according to an audit released by the City Comptroller’s office last week. “These are real apartments that could have been given to real New Yorkers who are in real need,” said Comptroller Scott Stringer during a press conference releasing the findings at Fort Greene’s Ingersoll Houses last week. “It’s shameful they’ve been empty for so long. The audit found that in many cases repairs contributed to protracted vacancies, both because the repairs themselves took so long, but also because the agency failed to re-enter fixed units onto the market after repairs had been completed. The audit found that apartments made vacant by elevator maintenance, for instance, remained empty for an average of 288 days after renovations had been finished. On average, the audit found that NYCHA apartments undergoing major repairs stayed off-market for seven years, siphoning nearly $8 million in potential rent over a three-year period, no chump change for an agency currently bogged down with $16 billion in unfunded capital needs across its portfolio. Indeed, the audit contends, ludicrously long renovation times can in part be attributed to NYCHA’s record deficits, which have left much of its aging infrastructure in rapidly worsening states of disrepair. In a statement, NYCHA said underfunding greatly contributed to the problems outlined in the audit. It also said that many of the issues were already being addressed through NextGen NYCHA, the city’s sweeping 10-year plan to revitalize the agency. However the audit found that in many cases apartments stayed off-market for years even while funds had already been allocated for its repairs. Of the 80 apartments that were vacant and off-market for more than a decade as of September 2014, 55 already had funds allotted for those repairs. The audit also found that NYCHA fell far short of its aim to fill newly-vacant units within 40 days. The audit found on average units remained vacant for 116 days. “At some point we have to say enough is enough,” Stringer said. “We have to break the cycle of ineffectiveness and deliver housing to New Yorkers in need.” Anthony Sosa, Resident Association president of Ingersoll Houses, was particularly troubled by the audit’s evidence that numerous NYCHA units had been overtaken by squatters, with investigators in some cases finding evidence as blatant as graffiti on the walls and empty liquor bottles strewn across the floor. “We are very disguised with NYCHA, how they’re treating our residents,” he said. “We’re a connected group, and we won’t stand for this.”
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Mt. Sinai Queens celebrates Sweet 16
by Patrick Kearns
Jul 03, 2015 | 174 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Caryn Schwab, executive director of the hospital, celebrates the achievements of the past few years.
Caryn Schwab, executive director of the hospital, celebrates the achievements of the past few years.
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Mt. Sinai Hospital in Astoria celebrated its “Sweet 16” with a special anniversary celebration on June 25. Awards were presented to employees for outstanding service and the weather held out, making it a great afternoon. The celebration was well attended by the hospital's top doctors, nurses, employees and representatives from the offices of a multitude of elected officials. “I know with all of your support, we’re going to be really successful in making Mt. Sinai Queens the hospital of choice for Queens,” said Caryn Schwab, executive director of the hospital. “I truly believe this is Mt. Sinai Queens’ moment.” Schwab celebrated some of the big moments and achievements for the hospital in recent memory. “Our milestones are coming fast and furious,” she said. “The fact that we’ve accomplished so much over the past two years is absolutely extraordinary.” It started with EPIC, a technology program that transported all of the hospital’s records to an electronic database. According to Schwab, it instilled confidence in the staff that they could compete in service with any other hospital. EPIC was an innovative program that made records more easily accessible and cut down on human error significantly. A big point of pride for hospital officials at the celebration was that last August they achieved Magnet status, something only eight hospitals hold nationwide. Mt. Sinai Queens is the only facility in Queens to have achieved that level of status. “We have to keep celebrating these events because they are not insignificant,” Schwab said. In December, the hospital upgraded its cancer services and built a new infusion center. It also became a member of the world-renowned Tisch network for cancer treatment after the upgrades. “We’re committed to bringing to Queens the services that people with cancer need, so that they no longer need to cross the bridge,” Schwab said. President and Chief Operating Officer David Reich spoke about the hospital’s deep commitment to the community of Astoria and Long Island City. “This hospital and its past are firmly rooted in this community of Astoria,” Reich said. “Everyone is so tied-in in this community to this hospital.” Reich said, when the hospital struggled with patient satisfaction three years ago, there was no doubt in his mind that because of those deep connections they would rebound and improve with the right encouragement. Today, they have some of the highest patient satisfaction scores in the entire Mt. Sinai hospital system. At the celebration, various awards were presented to hospital employees that have gone above and beyond the call of duty to provide unheralded service. Awards were given out for manager of the year, team of the year, physician of the year, service excellence, employee of the year and various FDNY EMS awards were presented.
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