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At CB4, Brrr! Outside and Ah! Inside

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC  |  As cold and chill invaded the city last week, the January 7 full board meeting of Community Board 4 (CB4) was held at the Fulton Senior Center Auditorium (119 Ninth Ave., btw. 17th & 18th Sts.). It started on an appropriate note with SayAh! — a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting health literacy (

Helene Fisher, co-founder and president, explained that SayAh! works with health care providers, businesses, schools, other nonprofits, health centers, libraries — you name it — to educate residents. Many people who are ill continue to work in order to stay insured, she said.

Chelsea is the testing ground for their new awareness campaign, which is being launched soon, and will last for two years, said Anna Allen, co-founder and vice president. The organization will be evaluating and tracking the efficacy of the initiative, which will then be scaled to other neighborhoods and, eventually, Allen hopes it will go nationally.

Allen urged the community to get involved and pass along their information to other residents and organizations.

“It’s going to be very exciting,” she said. “You are going to see a lot of posters and information around.”

In 2005, the owner of the building at 124 W. 24th St. (btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves.) sought a variance, or zoning wavier, from the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA). The case was made, the variance granted, and a part of the building — the second through sixth floors — was converted into residential use.

Fast forward ten years and ownership has changed hands. The new owners are asking that the variance be reopened in order to amend it. They would then be able to utilize the unused floor area ratio, or FAR, of the building with the intention to transfer them to another site on the block. Paul Selver, of the land use council for the owners from Kramer Levin, spoke during the public hearing.

Photo by Scott Stiffler Concerned that “conveyances of the development rights to a proposed hotel would be detrimental to the public welfare.” CB4 recommended the denial of a variance application for 124 W. 24th St.

Photo by Scott Stiffler
Concerned that “conveyances of the development rights to a proposed hotel would be detrimental to the public welfare.” CB4 recommended the denial of a variance application for 124 W. 24th St.

The board was not convinced, and recommended that the BSA deny the application. In its letter to BSA Chairperson Margery Perlmutter, it stated, “that the proposed amendment would violate the conditions in which the [original] variance was granted. The board also believes that the intended conveyances of the development rights to a proposed hotel would be detrimental to the public welfare.”

The BSA ultimately has the last word on the variance but it does consider community boards’ recommendations.

Councilmember Helen Rosenthal of the Sixth District dropped by the meeting. “I don’t usually come to these meetings. I don’t come enough,” she said. “I had a little bit of time tonight and I really wanted to say hello.”

After thanking CB4 members for their service and asking for more feedback from the board itself and the community, she discussed three issues. Rosenthal, who worked in the city’s budget office for seven years, said that the city council had just passed a “technical modification” for the budget. She voted no and said the budget needs to be released to the public in the name of transparency and needs to be more understandable.

In several major urban areas and in the combat military, ten to 15 percent are comprised of women, she explained. Compare that to 0.4 percent of women in the Fire Department of New York City.

“Plenty of women seem to be applying and passing many of the tests but not making it through the final rounds,” she said. “When we look at the numbers, it’s not clear that is because of lack of interest.”

She said she is working on trying to understand the disparity.

Last week, there was talk of a police slowdown and the gulf between the NYPD and Mayor Bill de Blasio seemed wide. Rosenthal called the killing of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in December “just a horrific, terrible attack on the police.” Afterwards, she set up a memorial in her office and has been attending roll calls at precincts.

However, she was “very disappointed by the lack of indictment in the Eric Garner case” and has been marching with peaceful protestors about the lack of justice for his family.

Board member J.D. Noland said that the antagonism between the mayor and the cops is something that the city doesn’t need.

“I want to speak very briefly about what is going on in the city right now. Frankly, I think our elected politicians have fallen down on this job. This is a terrible situation that we are in.”

State Senator Brad Hoylman spoke next.

He said he had just returned from Albany, where he said it was minus six degrees.

“This was our first day of session, it’s almost like God is doing it to punish anyone who goes to Albany,” he said to laughs.

Hoylman said they voted in the rules in the state senate, which is now controlled by the Republicans. There would be a lot of important issues this session, he explained, that they needed Republican support on, such as the extension of the rent laws. Hoylman is focused on a tax on luxury high-end second homes, reintroducing the bills that ban gay conversion therapy and public corruption, which he said is a bipartisan issue. There is currently a budget surplus and while Republicans were talking about tax cuts for the wealthy, Hoylman said he wanted to get more beds for homeless youth. There are 1600 kids on the street and only 300 beds.

He applauded Governor Andrew Cuomo for signing legislation that will extend the tax abatement for Penn South.

Hoylman also noted that the passing of Mario Cuomo, the former governor, was a somber way to start the session.

On Jan. 6, Congressman Jerrold Nadler introduced the “Respect for Marriage Act,” to ensure that all legally married same-sex couples are treated equally under federal law, said Jackie Blank, a member of his staff.

The public comment portion of the evening was focused on the air rights sale of  Old Chelsea Station Post Office (for extensive coverage on the matter, see page 1).

The Manhattan Community Boathouse runs a free kayak program from mid-May to mid-October at 56th St. in the Hudson River Park and it is missing an essential piece of equipment — its dock. Kaitlin Peterson, the organization’s president, was first up in the public session. The nonprofit is staffed by volunteers and funded through donations, she explained, and helped 20,000 people kayak for free last year. Last October, the 20 by 20 ft. plastic dock was stolen, and they have been working with NYPD, the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers. Petersen said that she needed the community’s help. “With no dock, we have no program,” she said. To donate or for more information, go to

Olga Statz of Save St. Vincent de Paul, a church at 123 W. 23rd St., gave an update, as the group has been fighting to conserve it since 2007. She said that they have tried several options, including going to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which won’t put it on their calendar. However, she said, the community and CB4 have been very supportive. Recently a light appeared at the end of the tunnel, and the case has been taken to the Holy See at the Vatican. “It’s the only court system that’s giving us a shot at this point,” she said. There is now a chance that the church will not be knocked down.

Sonia Turner, a longtime Chelsea resident who lives at W. 23rd St. and Seventh Ave., talked about garbage piling up in the streets — an issue that she says is not new. The trash pileup was all the more striking after going to an event in the West Village, which seemed “pristine.” She wanted to know if there was any way to raise money to keep the neighborhood clean.

Carla Nordstrom, of the West 25th Street Project, talked about construction on her block and wanted to bring it to the board’s attention. There is a construction fence and temporary walkway in front of 119 W. 25th St., which takes up the sidewalk and two lanes of the street. “As many of you are aware, our situation on West 25th Street is fragile. The structure prevents line-of-sight…There are safety concerns because the sidewalk is not available to pedestrians.” She said that it will be in place until late 2015, or early 2016. There is also construction across the street, at 112 W. 25th St. She asked that the board look into the situation.

Chairperson Christine Berthet spoke about the attack on the offices of the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo, which happened the same day as the full board meeting. “I am personally invested in the cold-blooded assassination of 12 journalists who were shot at Charlie Hebdo today,” she said. She has read the magazine, which she said prided itself on using humor to illustrate our society’s pitfalls and took controversial topics head on. “Freedom of expression is crucial even if it is uncomfortable,” she said. “We should all be proud to do our small part by serving on the community board where everyone is always invited to speak his mind.”

Diana Howard, from Borough President Gale Brewer office’s reminded everyone of the deadline for community board applications, which is 5 p.m. on Fri., Jan. 30. Brewer wants to encourage 16- and 17-year-olds to serve on the community boards. Howard said that the City Council will soon hear a piece of legislation proposing term limits for community board service, elected for any role in 2016 or after. Brewer is against the legislation, said Howard. On Sun., Feb. 8 at 1:30 p.m. Brewer will give her State of the Borough address at Columbia University’s Lerner Hall.

CB4 wrote two letters about the proposed Pier 55 at the Hudson River Park funded by Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg, who have donated over $100 million to build “a world-class public park and performance space.” The first letter was addressed to Madelyn Wils, president of the Hudson River Park. While Pier 55 is just south of CB4’s district, in Community Board 2, the board is concerned that it will be affected. There are two main concerns: traffic in and around Pier 55, as well as noise, the letter stated.

The second letter was to elected officials about the lack of “public involvement throughout the planning process” of Pier 55. The second issue was the community’s need for green space. The board wrote that it is “also concerned about the inequity among green spaces throughout our city. [CB4] is known for fighting for affordable housing within our district that includes a mix of income bands, equal fixtures and availability throughout a development. In that same spirit, [CB4] believes parks in less affluent areas deserve improvements.”

CB4 serves Manhattan’s West Side neighborhoods of Chelsea and Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen. Its boundaries are 14th St. on the south, 59/60th St. on the north, the Hudson River on the west, 6th Ave. on the east (south of 26th St.) and 8th Ave. on the east (north of 26th St.). The monthly full board meeting, open to the public, takes place on the first Wed. of the month. The next meeting is Feb. 4, 6:30 p.m., at Roosevelt Hospital (2nd Fl. Conf. Rm. B, 1000 Tenth Ave. at 51st St.). Call212-736-4536, visit or email them at [email protected]

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