Wednesday, July 18, 2012
By Jacob Anderson
The Manhattan Borough President addressed many issues at the town hall meeting last night at the Tompkins Square Park library branch, but did not once mention his bid for Mayor. He told the standing room-only-crowd of more than 100 people that he had no agenda for the evening.
“Basically this is open mic night in the Village,” Stringer said.
Several residents complained about the neighborhood bus routes that were cut two years ago. Stringer said he supports getting more money for public transit by bringing back the pre-1999 commuter tax for people traveling into the city to work. He said there has been resistance to that around the tri-state area.
“My name-recognition has gone up in New Jersey,” Stringer said.
“Just leave a couple of dollars so we can protect you and clean up after you,” he added. “It makes sense, Governor Christie, to help us here.”
Stringer said the effect of MTA cuts in the East Village was something that stood out to him.
“I learned more about the lack of bus service on multiple routes that I don’t think I fully engaged prior to tonight’s meeting,” he told me after the meeting.
The MTA will be restoring some bus lines, but Marcus Book of the Department of Transportation said they don’t yet know which routes will come back. (The M9 will return, according to a statement made by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver this week.)
Resident Brian Cooper and others said they are concerned about rent increases. Cooper said his mother lives in public housing, and that some people can’t afford to pay more than they already are. Another resident said rent was raised in 2008 under the auspices of oil costing $150 a barrel, and asked why, when oil prices dropped back down again, rent didn’t.
“To this day I am totally befuddled as to how they calculate what a reasonable rent increase could be,” Stringer said. He added that he wants a better rent guidelines system, and a “true, independent body” to oversee it.
Stringer was flanked by about a dozen representatives from various city government departments —NYPD, housing, transportation, etc. — who would chime in on specific issues, as well as by State Senator Daniel Squadron, City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, and new Community Board 3 chairwoman Gigi Li.
Several gardeners apparently took a break from their weeding to show up. One asked about getting community gardens permanently protected. Both Stringer and Mendez said that they support permanent protection. Stringer added his support for people who grow their own food on neighborhood farms. He said he wants to create an agency to oversee agriculture and farmers markets for the city.
Some people expressed frustration over slow or no responses from Stringer’s office and other departments, like the NYCHA and the 9th Precinct. Stringer stayed upbeat, and told pretty much everyone with a specific complaint that his office would follow up with them. Afterwards, one man said to a member of Stringer’s staff, “Tell him he’s a nice guy. I like him.”
Other notes from the meeting:
• Anthony Donovan, who lives in an East 4th Street building owned by not-so-popular landlord Ben Shaoul, said that he’s being taken advantage of. Stringer’s response: “We’ve got to do better getting the bad actors to stand down.”
• Several people came out to oppose the Spectra pipeline, which is scheduled to be built in the West Village. They warned of dangerously high levels of radon gas. Stringer called himself “an intervener” on the pipeline, and said he’s working with scientists on the radon issue. When he was pushed to take a position: “I’m not going to say I oppose something that we know is going to happen.”
• Stringer said he has allocated $3 million for solar panels on school roofs.
• The award for biggest applause went to Judith Zaborowski, the co-chair of the 9th Street A-1 Block Association, who said to the panel of city employees who had occasionally fielded questions throughout the evening: “I’m not sure that you’ve even walked around this neighborhood, or have any idea about the transportation, and the bars, and the noise, and the NYU students that stay here for a year, and have no respect for those of us who are here.”
• Community gardeners will not be given a wrench to open fire hydrants to water their gardens. They can call the fire department for that.
Jacob Anderson is a freelance reporter in the East Village.