SUMMARY OF HHOC MEETING NOVEMBER 7, 2005
The meeting took place at the Castle Village Community Room, 110 Cabrini Blvd., and got under way at about 7:20 p.m. In attendance were the following individuals: Julia Attaway, Michael Augenblick, Caroline Brown, Marcella Calabi, Michelle Churchill, Susan Daplian, Susan DeVries, Peter Grover, Mary Kim, Gwendolyn Kingsberry, Doreen Mangan, William J. McBurney, Jr., Sarah Morgridge, Rosa Naparstek, Helen Sokolsky, Marlynn Snyder, Henry Stern, and Mike Zamm. The following member buildings had residents present: 255 Cabrini Condominium, 350 Cabrini Owners Corporation, 360 Cabrini Owners Corporation, 720-730 Fort Washington Avenue Owners Corp., Cabrini Terrace Owners Corp., Castle Village Owners Corporation, Chittenden House Inc., and Hudson View Gardens. The following Community Associate Members (CAMs) and other neighborhood groups were represented: Douglas Elliman, Dyckman Farmhouse, Friends of Bennett Park, Friends of Fort Tryon Park, Hudson Cliffs Theatre Arts Program, Quality of Life Committee, Simone Song Properties, 1825 Riverside Drive, 1995 Broadway, The following elected official had a representative present: Councilman Robert Jackson.
The September meeting summary was reviewed and typos corrected.
A resolution was passed unanimously authorizing Elizabeth Lorris Ritter and Michael Augenblick to sign contracts and amendments to contracts, and to review claims, on behalf of HHOC. This was necessary to administer the DYCD (New York City’s Department of Youth and Community Development) contract and funds through Councilman Robert Jackson’s office referred to in last month’s meeting summary.
Roundtable (Co-op issues): Julia brought up the ever-present problem of heating costs, which is expected to be significantly higher this winter, and the fact that providing adequate heat for all apartments almost always means wastefully overheating some. People end up opening windows because the steam valves cannot be in an intermediate position and frequently leak if they are turned too much or too little. She mentioned that devices exist to remedy this situation. A J-51 abatement may be obtainable for these; also they would need to be installed only in the overheated apartments, not throughout the buildings. Other measures that buildings can take to cut costs might include offering to install plastic sheeting over drafty windows free of charge, and providing safe space heaters for the coldest apartments rather than turning up the heat unnecessarily for everyone else.
There was extensive discussion about multiple issues related to security and policing:
Julia reported that representatives of the Auxiliary Police were present at the Harvest Festival, and discussed with her other ways of spreading the word. People who volunteer for the Auxiliary Police are trained, given uniforms, and placed on patrol within their precinct but not necessarily in their immediate neighborhood. If you see an Auxiliary Police person on patrol, thank them for their efforts. Our immediate area (west of Broadway) gets more than its share of service and could do better at providing volunteers as well. The idea of a Volunteer Fair highlighting this and other opportunities to give back to the neighborhood was floated. Instead, Julia will offer to
work with the Manhattan Times on (an) article(s) or column(s) identifying volunteer opportunities in the community of which the Auxiliary Police would be one.
Sarah pointed out that another way to assist the 34th Precinct in particular might be to support the Community Council, which seems to be having trouble with such administrative matters as notifying the public and elected officials about its meetings, etc. One individual working effectively to expand the Council’s reach (e.g. by maintaining a contact list, etc.) might make a big difference, assuming a willingness on the Precinct’s part to accept such a collaboration.
Michele noted that there are also renewed efforts to establish or expand a Neighborhood Watch and the Safe Haven program in the area. Neighborhood Watch is a volunteer citizens’ patrol; in the Safe Haven program, storefronts and doorman buildings identify themselves as places that a person can go if they are feeling unsafe. She will network between the HHOC-ers and others who are interested in these.
Mike Z. passed on Deputy Inspector Kehoe’s report that crime is down 2% over a year ago in the 34th Pcnt. as a whole, but 24% in what is roughly our main catchment area, 179th to Ft. Tryon, Broadway to the Hudson. Also: the mugger who was preying on senior citizens locally last summer was not apprehended but seems to have moved on, not having struck here since late August. (Michele said she saw his picture downtown.) There has been more enforcement in the Parks.
Sarah noted that both Inspector Wilcox and Deputy Inspector Kehoe are due to be rotated out of the Precinct. It was agreed that Marcella should draft a letter not only appreciating their service but asking Commissioner Kelly to have them stay here if they are willing to do so. Our community officer Billy Hughes has retired, and we wish him well.
All that said, there was a recent spate of windshield smashing on the northern reaches of Cabrini Blvd. and Fort Washington Avenue, where oversight by residential properties becomes sparser. This topic generated discussion about video cameras as a deterrent. Many of the buildings along that stretch already have cameras. It was agreed that: Henry will pursue the addition to his building’s equipment of one more camera on the roof (funds could be applied for via Councilman Robert Jackson’s office, but not until the spring and it would be better to act more quickly if possible); Julia will call the Mother Cabrini School and Shrine to see what their camera situation is; Marcella will contact the 689 building with the same question; and Marcella will work with Sarah to get the DOT to post signs saying "This street is under constant video surveillance." It was pointed out that everyone needs to know they’re being watched, not just the bad guys.
An up-tick in vandalism along this road is just one of several symptoms that bear watching as typical indicators of potential future trouble, the Police Department’s counterbalancing statistics notwithstanding. Others are increased shoplifting, as noted by local store-owners; increased graffiti; and deviant behavior such as flashing, which was reported recently in the area as well. It is important that all these things are noted and tracked even if it seems like "there’s nothing to be done about it" in the moment. If nothing else, the collected data is important in the deployment of enforcement resources. Call 911, 311, or the local precinct (34th 212-927-9712; 33rd 212-927-3200) according to the emergent or non-emergent nature of the problem. The flasher incident, for example, appropriately was treated as an emergency via 911 by the police who responded within an impressive 12 minutes.
Sarah noted that the early batches of mandatory drug sentences 12-15 years ago are now being completed, with a wave of released offenders returning to communities that have little or no resources for them. Ironically there are more re-entry programs in poorer parts of the city than there are here – something for the community and our elected officials to grapple with.
Chittenden Avenue has been a hot spot for illegal and/or peace-disturbing activity since last summer, possibly worsened by the crack-down on dealing and sexual activity in the Park. Marcella offered HHOC’s backing to collaboration by Chittenden residents in dealing with this.
Turning from security issues, there were several announcements and short topics:
- Get-out-the-vote. HHOC cannot endorse any specific candidate but hopes everyone exercises their right and carries out their civic duty to vote. Consider carefully Proposition #2, which was endorsed by the Straphangers Campaign.
- Upcoming event in honor of the Battle of Fort Washington, 11/13, 12-3 p.m., Ft. Tryon Park, Café Lawn. A Revolutionary War campsite featuring costumed re-enactors, blacksmith, crafts, musket demonstration, etc. Co-sponsored by Wash Heights Neighborhood Assoc., Friends of Ft. Tryon Park, and Friends of Bennett Park.
- The Dyckman Farmhouse Museum is re-opening to the public after renovations, with a special exhibition as part of an event called Five Dutch Days Five Boroughs: Dutch Art and Culture Past and Present. The opening reception at the Dyckman Farmhouse will be at 7 p.m. on 11/16 (ticket required), with public open hours from then on Wed-Sat 11-4 and Sun 12-4. See www.5dutchdaysnyc.org
- Concert 11/13 at 2 p.m., free at the YM&YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood, the Karen Hudson River Band, classic country and honky-tonk.
The situation faced by Geomart Hardware on Fort Washington Avenue near 187th Street came up for discussion. With declining business and rising rents the proprietor, Geovani Espinal, is on the verge of losing his lease. The health of all our local businesses is of interest to HHOC; in addition, Geo has been a deeply engaged member of our community for a very long time. Marcella reported that she and Rosa had met with Geo to help him devise a proposal that might help him negotiate with the landlord; a letter intended to help him make that proposal went to the landlord on HHOC letterhead; Rosa collected about 80 signatures of support at the recent public Community Meeting; the situation is ongoing.
There was no time for the planned discussion of revision to HHOC’s mode of communicating and meeting schedule. It was agreed to skip the holiday season (as in the past) for general meetings but to distribute this summary within one month and to convene a subcommittee of interested members to brainstorm the topic in the meantime.
Thinking ahead to the holidays, two topics came up:
- Last year’s Home-Baked Cookie Drive for the Washington Heights Inwood Food Pantry will be repeated this year, watch for announcements.
- Marcella mentioned that as a conflict resolution professional she had been asked to advise a co-op on how to avoid controversy over holiday decorations (the "crèche-vs.-menorah-vs.-both-vs.-nothing" arguments. Anyone wishing to tap into those ideas can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-928-4798.
The next meeting was set for Monday 1/9/06, 7:15 p.m., location TBA