SUMMARY OF HHOC MEETING FEBRUARY 25, 2002
The meeting took place in the lobby alcove of 720 Ft. Washington Avenue and began at 7:20 p.m. In attendance were the following individuals: Howard Aaron, Julia Attaway, Michael Augenblick, Marcella Calabi, Howard Dillon, Suwineetha Gunasekera, Frank Hess, Gwendolyn Kingsberry, Barbara Mercado, Tina Molinari, Sarah Morgridge, Peggy Morrissey, Rosa Naparstek, Anne-Marie O’Keeffe, Perry Payne, Clifton Poole, David Purdy, Helen Sokolsky, and Mike Zamm. The following member buildings had residents present: 66 Overlook Terrace Corporation, 255 Cabrini Condominium, 350 Cabrini Owners Corporation, 371 Fort Washington Owners Corporation, 720 - 730 Fort Washington Avenue Owners Corp., Cabrini Terrace Owners Corp., Castle Village Owners Corporation, Chittenden House Inc., Hudson View Gardens, and Overlook Towers Corp. The following Community Associate Members (CAMs) and related neighborhood groups were represented: Friends of Bennett Park, Friends of Ft. Tryon Park, Hudson Cliffs Theatre Arts Program, Quality of Life Committee, Washington Heights Neighborhood Association. The following elected officials were represented: Assemblyman Denny Farrell, Councilman Robert Jackson, and State Senator Eric Schneiderman.
The meeting summary from January was agreed to with minor changes.
It was approved that HHOC will buy a journal ad to support Ivy League/Uptown WINS, a girls’ sports league in the neighborhood.
Marcella distributed fliers published by the New York City Dept of Design and Construction explaining about the renovation of the steps between 181st and Pinehurst. It refers the reader to www.nyc.gov/buildnyc for other information.
Participants were reminded of the upcoming Coogans 5K Race that takes place between 168th and Ft. Tryon Park on March 3rd between roughly 9 a.m. and 11:30. Plan ahead if you need to drive on or across Ft. Washington Avenue or Cabrini Blvd.
Re graffiti removal on 187th Street: Mike A. is working with the super on the north side of the street to have the job completed. As to the south side, it seemed easier to do it ourselves; Marcella has obtained the name of the paint and will purchase a small amount from Geo. Tina and Julia offered to help do the job.
Sarah announced a then-upcoming City Council hearing re: school governance, to which parents of children in the schools are particularly invited.
Sarah distributed information obtained by Robert Jackson’s office from the MTA concerning the shutdown of the elevators at the 184th Street end of the 181st Street A-train station. Due to the structural nature of the work it is necessary to close the elevators completely; work is scheduled in double shifts so as to open them again as soon as possible, before 3/18 at the latest. There was a discussion of the impact on the neighborhood -- the Quality of Life Committee had expressed a wish for more notice and asked for assistance in shuttling residents such as elderly from down the hill to the top of the hill; the latter use of the station elevators does not actually have to do with use of the subway trains and this request is not really practicable to fulfill.
Re: Police and Security Issues: Mike Zamm reported that Elizabeth sent Inspector Monahan the follow-up letter agreed to at the last meeting, but that Insp. Monahan has left the Precinct (having probably received the letter shortly before departing). Next step is to write to the new inspector, who has not yet arrived, to welcome him and request a meeting to obtain follow-up. Frank reported that in his conversations with the 34th he has been assured that the precinct remains committed to the plan to have a scooter cop between Bennett and Fort Tryon Parks. Mike reported on a call from Olga Tello adding two more buildings to the "hot spot" list. Frank recommended talking to the Port Authority as well as the precinct about areas around the bridge. Car theft appears to be up citywide, and according to Frank the precinct is making grand larceny a priority issue. He reminded us to report all incidents and insist on a report receipt so that all crimes are included in the statistical analysis on which deployment of manpower is based. A resident of the building passing the meeting noted that the security gate on the Bennett side of the 190th Street station area, near the volleyball courts, has been open recently. Sarah will investigate the situation. Perry reported that the 33rd Precinct has been successful in improving conditions around 177th between Ft. Washington & Pinehurst and near J. Hood Wright Park, and praised P.O. Ayoung, the night beat cop.
Julia asked about a proposed Ethical Community Charter School; she will forward the information she already has to Sarah.
The bulk of the meeting was occupied with brainstorming about how HHOC can respond to the current realities of the budget cuts city- and state-wide, calling on the representatives of Schneiderman’s, Farrell’s, and Jackson’s offices for help in directing us to doable propositions. A number of key themes emerged out of the gap between needed services and available revenues, reported here in no particular order:
We can participate in demands for greater efficiency from the bureaucracy. Demands for efficiency have historically been sporadic and issue-specific; in the current climate it becomes a broader and longer-term necessity. For example, Frank suggested that HHOC poll the residents of its member buildings to identify waste in city services that they witness in the course of their day; we could direct specific concerns about specific agencies to those agencies and to the press.
On the services side: the projected cuts go dangerously deep into life and quality-of-life issues for our residents (for example, the elimination of rat exterminators, the elimination of weekend Meals on Wheels deliveries, and reduced immunization schedules for children are all possibilities). HHOC could identify particular areas of concern, for example contact people at Presbyterian and our other local health-care providers, to identify our neighborhood’s particular vulnerabilities and direct our efforts in the most needed way. Grants for educational, after-school and cultural programs are also vanishing. HHOC needs to identify its highest priorities and work to help support those programs and local independent institutions that are most at risk. As just an example, we could work with STAR and the Y, this area’s largest Meals on Wheels contractors, to fill in the gaps for our neighborhood’s elderly. This fits in with last month’s discussion of supporting the Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities in our member buildings. (This reminded Marcella to pass around a book from Elizabeth, referenced at last month’s meeting, called On the Go: A Guide to New York City Culture at a Discount for Seniors. Additional copies are available through the Community Board: 212-568-8500)
On the income side there are multiple political issues. On the State level, Pataki is up for re-election and is therefore resisting steps that would increase income (such as freezing tax cuts and reinstating the commuter tax); meanwhile in spite of the success of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit the City continues not to receive its due in educational funds; in the City, Mayor Bloomberg is refusing certain federal aid to show progress on welfare reform, and continuing to offer corporate tax breaks that may not be needed to keep corporations in the city. HHOC needs to consider what role it can play in supporting changes to the tax code and/or the application of sound fiscal policy that does not violate its charter as a nonpolitical organization.
In particular, there is a long-standing inequity between the tax rates for private homes and for co-ops. This has been a subject of effort by coop organizations for many years, attempting to reduce the gap by lowering the coop rate. Perhaps now is the time to shift the focus of the same argument: raising the private home rate to match the co-op rate would bring income into the city’s coffers fairly. Perry agreed to contact the NYCouncil of Coops to learn their current stance and activities on this issue. The METCouncil is another organization to contact, and our Councilman Jackson sits on the housing committee of the City Council; this would be a topic that resonates with HHOC as a co-op/condo organization.
Money is not the only thing in short supply. A related topic of concern is the drought and the loss of water from illegally opened hydrants in the summer. This is of particular interest to our neighborhood because we are at the highest elevation in the city and pressure can be a problem. The only agencies who have the special wrenches required to shut off illegally opened hydrants are the DEP and the Fire Department. The Police precincts should have wrenches too. Working to make that happen could be an HHOC project as well; AnneMarie will contact Frank for more direction on how to accomplish this.
In response to the topic of vandalism at Bennett Park, mentioned at the last meeting, Sarah asked Jane Schachat to compile information about whether other parks in other areas have similar issues and if so how do they deal with them. Representatives of Friends of Bennett Park will contact Ms. Schachat for that information.
A discussion arose as to the role HHOC can play in such topics. Marcella presented a proposal from Elizabeth Ritter in her absence. The proposal is for HHOC to encourage each of its member buildings to take an active role in ameliorating quality of life "hot spots" nearest to that building; HHOC can act as a networking hub for how to do this while supporting independent action by each building. This proposal was met with enthusiasm; next step is to draft a letter to member buildings; Marcella and Julia will work with Elizabeth on this. Perry pointed out that local real estate agencies are aware of who the current board members are and offered assistance in identifying addressees.
[After the meeting broke up Julia put forth another idea that we should consider: HHOC can organize a volunteer fair, where the institutions in the neighborhood that need volunteers could make themselves known to neighborhood residents who are willing to give time.]
The next meeting will be held on MONDAY MARCH 18th, location TBA.