SUMMARY OF HHOC MEETING JANUARY 22, 2001
The meeting took place at 180 Cabrini Blvd.#89 and began at 7:30 p.m. In attendance were the following individuals: Julia Attaway, Lynn and Michael Augenblick, Jim Berlin, Neil Blumstein, Errika Burke, Marcella Calabi, Howard Dillon, Martha Ellington, Suwineetha Gunasekera, Amy and J.R. Havlan, Geri Hopkins, Michael Klein, Erica Lindenstraus, Christina Molinari, Peggy Morrissey, Rosa Naparstek, Peter Perez, Sonia Reynoso, Elizabeth Lorris Ritter, Simone Yen Song, and Mike Zamm. The following member buildings had residents present: 66 Overlook Terrace Corp., 255 Cabrini Condominium, 350 Cabrini Owners Corp., 720-730 Fort Washington Avenue Owners Corp., 854 West 181 Corp., Cabrini Terrace Owners Corp., Castle Village Owners Corp., Ft. Tryon Corp., Hudson View Gardens, and Overlook Towers Corp. The following Community Associate Members (CAMs) and related neighborhood groups were represented: Simone Song Properties; Friends of Fort Tryon Park; Friends of Bennett Park; Washington Heights Neighborhood Association; Beth Am, The People’s Temple; Fenwick-Keats North Real Estate; Hudson Cliffs Theatre Arts Program. Also represented was: 875 West 181st St. Guests were: James Renner as the official Historian of Community District 12; Commanding Officer Inspector Terence Monahan, Executive Officer Captain Mike Hurley, Detective Billy Hughes and Detective Tony Trinidad of the 34th Precinct.
In an unprecedented visit, 34th Precinct Commanding Officer Inspector Monahan, with Executive Officer Captain Hurley and both Community Affairs Officers Hughes and Trinidad, spoke to HHOC about the two recent homicides in our neighborhood. The purpose of his visit was to spread the word about what actually happened so as to dispel the more frightening rumors that have been going around. In the first instance one of our local young men had the bad fortune to have a fatal run-in with a pair of criminals, neither of whom was a resident of the neighborhood. After the shooting, friends of the victim pursued the killer and his associate, attracting the attention of police who chased and caught the perpetrators. The associate turned out to be wanted elsewhere in another homicide. Both confessed to their crimes and Inspector Monahan describes them as "put away and not coming back". The second, unrelated, homicide was a professional hit within the high-level drug trade; the victim was a former drug dealer turned government witness who made the mistake of attempting to resume dealing in an area where he was known by people against whom he had testified. The victim was visiting the area, not a resident; the perpetrator was probably not local either. This case is still under investigation.
Neither of these cases had anything to do with gang activity. Police have been looking into rumors of Mexican gang activity and have not found it to be present in this neighborhood, in terms of infiltration from outside groups into the neighborhood, the use of specific gang colors, etc. by neighborhood youth.
Two police officers made matters worse by destroying the shrine erected in memory of the first victim on 181st Street, deeply angering the community. Inspector Monahan went to some length to make clear that the Police Department, up to and including the Commissioner, absolutely does not condone this action. The two officers were heavily disciplined, relieved of their guns and shields and sent off duty to desk work far outside of the neighborhood; they also face possible dismissal. In the meantime police have spoken with friends of the victim and wish to assure the community that rumors of planned reprisals are false.
Inspector Monahan also took queries about other issues such as noise and vandalism especially in and around Fort Tryon Park, and music at late hours on the 187th Street steps in the warmer months. In his response he reiterated that while there are a couple of groups of youngsters that cause mischief, they are not gangs in the formal sense.
In addition Inspector Monahan announced that in the spring he is planning to assign a police officer with a scooter to full-time surveillance of Ft. Tryon and Bennett Parks. This news was enthusiastically welcomed by HHOC, as it will help a lot with some of the issues we have been pursuing over the years.
James Renner, our official Historian of Community District 12, gave a brief talk pointing out that this year is the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and also of the November 16th, 1776 Battle of Fort Washington that took place on the site of the Bennett Park. He described this event as "the Alamo of the Revolution" because 2800 revolutionaries were badly defeated by a force of 9000 British and Hessians. He is working with Friends of Bennett Park and WHNA to create a commemorative event, such as a rededication of the plaque placed there one hundred years ago by the Sons of the American Revolution. Volunteers will be needed. HHOC offered to establish an email link for those who are interested, operational as of this publication: BattleOfFortWashington@hhoc.org. If you do not have email and wish to be put in touch with Mr. Renner you can call (212) 795-7830. He also explained the role of the Community Historian and pointed out that Manhattan is the only NYC Borough to enjoy these services.
This year is also the 70th anniversary of the opening of the George Washington Bridge. This led to a discussion of the toll hikes that the Port Authority is considering, and it was agreed that HHOC would communicate its opposition to the PA. Also discussed was the thrilling new lighting design on the bridge towers; HHOC will weigh in by letter on the debate over how often to light the tower, favoring weekends and holidays but not every day (so as to save on power and retain the quality of "specialness").
A list of Department of Transportation issues was discussed including some new signage that competes for the Idiot of the Year Award. Our meeting had some unusually hilarious comic relief over the No Left Turn sign that sprouted recently at Cabrini and 181st Street ? (obliging east-bound cars on 181st Street to make a 14-block detour around Bennett Park in order to arrive at the same spot oriented west-bound for a right-hand turn) and the new Hospital sign at 190th Street (presumably referring to the former hospital building that became a condominium complex several years ago). The No Left Turn sign in particular has got to go; Elizabeth will follow up with the Community Board office and Jim Berlin will call Stanley Michel's office ASAP. Rosa will compile a list of other such problems around the neighborhood to be brought to the CB's attention, including bus shelters missing where they are needed and installed where they are questionable.
J.R. and Neil outlined plans for a postcard campaign to elected officials and the FAA about the extraordinary burden of airplane noise suffered by this neighborhood due to routing patterns from the NY airports. HHOC agreed to foot up to $200 of copying expense and volunteers came forward to help with the drive.
Sanitation issues were discussed including the ongoing campaign to get more attention paid to inadequate street-litter containers and collection by the City, and the problems caused by the dumping of private household garbage. If you see egregious situations that call for immediate collection, or for enforcement/ticketing by Sanitation Inspectors, call the Community Board at 568-8500.
In this context, HHOC discussed the failure of a few merchants on 187th Street to maintain their storefront areas as legally required. Elizabeth proposed tying this in with the recent discussions by/about the 181st St. Business Improvement District, which cannot be expanded to include 187th Street because the two commercial areas are not contiguous. She will ask the BID for any useful information they may have regarding sanitation rights/responsibilities for commercial tenants, with an eye toward HHOC distributing it to the 187th St. merchants. Marcella reported that she has been communicating with Chase Manhattan Bank about their taking over maintenance of the 187th St. Steps as a community service. Given that Chase is now merging with J.P.Morgan, they are unlikely to focus on this issue in the foreseeable future. Tina proposed a new idea for investigation: whether people sentenced to Community Service could be deployed in this neighborhood for street-cleaning.
Because of a report and letter in the Riverdale Press calling on Hudson Heights to take action, HHOC has learned that the borough of Alpine, NJ had tentatively agreed to accept $90,000 per year from Omnipoint, Sprint and Verizon for space to build a 135-foot cell phone microwave tower. This would not only spoil our area's Palisades view, it is also in violation of the Rockefeller bequest that ensures the view because the proposed location is within the protected 200 yard buffer zone of the Palisades Parkway. HHOC will respond by letter to Alpine, the Riverdale Press, the Manhattan Times, the Rockefeller Foundation, et al.
Elizabeth reported that the replacement of the water main underneath the Pinehurst Steps threatened the community garden there, and that prompt action by the 181st Street Beautification Project triggered an extraordinarily positive reaction: the City amended the plans to accommodate all the concerns raised by the Project. HHOC applauds both the Project and the City for this unusual lesson in how civic action can actually work!
The Federal Bureau of Prisons sent follow-up correspondence to HHOC’s letters last Fall, stating that approval of a the halfway house for federal offenders on 182nd Street has been denied, and moreover that they will require appropriate community input on any subsequent RFP Reponses.
More good news: The Campaign for Fiscal Equity has won its landmark court case against the State Government concerning the unfair distribution of tax dollars for education, amounting to about $2000 additional per NYC schoolchild. As the plaintiff in that action, this neighborhood's own Robert Jackson was instrumental in the effort; at a Community School Board meeting last week, Elizabeth presented him with a Community Contributor Award on behalf of HHOC. It was also agreed to send a letter thanking the law firm of Simpson Thacher Bartlett, which performed $12 million worth of pro bono legal work to the case. (Another contender for the Government Not Supporting its Own Award: Albany spent $11 million of our tax dollars fighting this suit, and is now appealing the judgement, using a law firm in Georgia. Never mind spending tax money to prevent tax money from being equitably distributed among the state's schoolkids ? there aren't enough lawyers in New York?)
Lauren Zarambo, designer of the 187th St. frieze, has modified the design to be used as HHOC letterhead. Several possible versions were circulated for discussion at the next meeting.
It was pointed out that www.simonesong.com has photo portraits and accompanying interview text of interesting neighborhood folk based on their successful photo exhibit (click on "who is Hudson Heights" on their website); Friends of Ft. Tryon Park is having a gathering [before this publication comes out]; and other suchlike announcements.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:30 p.m. and the next meeting was set for February 26th at Simone Song Properties, 241 Cabrini Blvd., at 7:15 sharp.