CB8 September Full Board Meeting

  • 06:34 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Tonight is the month's CB8 full board meeting. Here is the agenda: https://www.printfriendly.com/p/g/zvLYEm The meeting starts with a report from Assemblymember Dan Quart, who gives an update on former Governor Cuomo. Quart reiterates that, at a minimum, "we owe the public a full reckoning" on what the impeachment committee has done so far.

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  • 06:35 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    First on the agenda are two informational presentations, one from the Hospital for Special Surgery on plans for the construction of the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Tower and another on redistricting. HSS is up first.

  • 06:49 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    HSS gives the board an overview of how they are a special neighbor in the district and their local impact. Next slide is called "Main Campus Evolution," which shows how they are moving offices to other buildings in order to modernize and center clinical work. The proposed Kellen Tower, a 12-story, 94,000 square foot building, will be built over the FDR at 71st street. The building will be a mix of inpatient beds, imaging, and increased space for their musculoskeletal care. Construction would require a temporary relocation of the pedestrian ramp to the esplanade at 71st. But until the esplanade work between 70th and 68th street on the esplanade is finished, the bridge won't be able to provide esplanade access, HSS says. This will bring up many questions from the board. Continuing on the esplanade, HSS says they will continue to collaborate on esplanade improvements. They have already completed improvements between 70th and 72nd and are working with the Parks department on work between 72nd and 78th street. The Kellen Tower timeline is presented as having a groundbreaking in October, building on either side of the FDR. In spring 2022, a barge and crane will deliver steel from the river to construct the platform. Building will be topped off on 2023 and opening in 2024, according to HSS. You can follow the project at www.hss.edu/hss-kellen-tower.asp And that wraps up HSS's presentation.

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  • 06:56 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Board member Tricia Shimamura, a fierce esplanade advocate, asks if HSS will address the sinkholes that continue to pop up on the area south of 72nd street, which HSS says they have successfully collaborated on improvements of. She also asks about the 71st street ramp, which she calls unpleasant and surrounded by trash. Asks if there will be improvements to the ramp and increased trash collection on the HSS-side approach. Shimamura asks more clarifying questions about the timeline and temporary approach. Michael Rawlings from HSS pledges to look into the sinkholes, which he seems to blame on the city's paving activities. He then says that HSS is committed to being a good neighbor and they will look into cleaning the pedestrian bridge, adding that nearby Belaire Plaza is well-lit and well kept. Shimamura feels Rawlings is deflecting a bit. The board moves on to the next questioner for time.

  • 07:03 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Board member Ed Hartzog starts off by saying the Parks Department is one of the most inefficient agencies, and is "not feeling too sanguine about access to the esplanade." Hartzog moves on to talk about contributions to the esplanade, noting that the last construction-based esplanade improvement agreement from Memorial Sloan-Kettering to undertake improvements at 74th street was "shameful." Harzog wants a dollar amount for improvements, which also take resiliency into account, from HSS. Rawlings says to the board that their commitment goes beyond a "little improvement." Their plans are "a full overhaul of the esplanade," he said. Hartzog again wants a dollar amount. Rawlings says the work they have planned for the esplanade is valued at $6.8 million.

  • 07:09 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Board member Craig Lader has the last question for HSS, asking about traffic impacts to FDR drive and what changes there may be on 71st street - namely if there had been traffic studies. HSS, says Rawlings, has a proven track record of partnering with the community when it comes to traffic, citing recent meetings that the hospital have attended to work on improving traffic and enforcement - especially when it comes to double parking and parking placard abuse. More load-ins will take place on 70th street to lessen the load on 71st street. There will be no new egress on the street, as Kellen Tower will be connected by skybridges to the existing buildings. There will be closures on the north bound lanes of the FDR for foundation work, as well as some weekend shut downs for building the steel platforms. 71st street will have some shut downs as well. Most deliveries, says Rawlings, will be brought by barge on the East River. He also adds that he hopes the DOT takes advantage of the weekend shutdowns to do some FDR resurfacing.

  • 07:15 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Next, the presentation from the New York State Independent Redistricting Commission from Ashia Badi, director of public engagement. Badi provides updates from their summer listening tours. She is asking for community members to provide more feedback. Board member Hartzog asks about where NYS will lose that one congressional district. Badi replies that upstate had lost more population than upstate, and refers to the two maps that the commission have already drawn up at their website:

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  • 07:29 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Public Session: Courtney Bond of UES Ice Cream Parlor speaks first. Her shop was the site of an attempted rape on one of her employees Sunday night. Bond recounts the events and is visibly upset and shaken. She says robberies are to be expected, but "this was something else." Talking about how the UES is changing, Bond says the shop used to be open until 4am, but now closes at 1am. "Business are really really struggling, and then to add something like this on top," said Bond, "just when does it stop?" Board chair Russell Squire says the 19th precinct has an image and a potential suspect who they are looking for. The CB8 Small Business Committee is having a meeting soon to talk further about these issues in the district.

  • 07:36 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Gale Brewer gives an update. She says she is so sorry to hear Bond's story, and that on the UWS, at CB3, the local precincts are providing security for local anchor stores. Open meeting laws are providing more virtual opportunities, says Brewer, and that will continue. Brewer gives a small business rent control bill update, hoping that something can be passed this year. She also says they are looking for a bank to open on Rosevelt Island after Chase said no. More updates on climate, congestion pricing and the blood center, mostly noting upcoming city council hearings. Brewer adds that she got an opening night ticket to 'Wicked.' She made her video appearance from her phone, walking presumably somewhere on the other side of the park.

  • 07:38 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Back to public session: Matt Bauer, from Madison Avenue BID announces some upcoming events, including Shop With Your Dog Day, an upcoming benefit for the humane society. The event will include talks from vets, dogs for adoption, a photo booth and a dog illustrator. Bauer adds that two new stores have also opened on Madison Avenue.

  • 07:41 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Marty Bell is up next, to talk about the Blood Center. He says that the City Planning office has just today approved plans for the controversial center, but that those opposed "should not be daunted," and that they are already holding meeting with elected officials and are planning another rally.

  • 07:43 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Ben Wetzler is up next, to talk about a later agenda item about the construction of a self-storage building above a school on east 90th. He thinks that it should be a residential building and not commercial.

  • 07:45 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Aaron Weinstein is up next, noting that this is the first time he has been to one of these meetings, and he calls it "fascinating." He also lives by the 90th street site and says there has already been so much construction, especially after hours, and questions the need for the proposed project.

  • 07:47 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Next public comment is in favor of rejecting the zoning amendment regarding sidewalk dining, saying that sidewalk accessibility is very difficult where she lives by 73rd and 2nd avenue.

  • 07:50 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Another public comment calls for CB8 to impose a 210 foot height cap for the district, citing impacts on humans and the environment.

  • 07:53 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    The next comment reiterates the previous call for a height cap, citing climate impacts of tall buildings and claims that congestions pricing has nothing to do with climate change but more to do with helping out the MTA.

  • 08:22 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Next agenda item: land use issue at a private/public space at 200 east 64th street, with representative Fayanne Betan speaking. The proposal modifies some landscape issues and opening hours. The board's issues with the space regard accessibility, as it is located five feet above the sidewalk. Board member Barbra Rudder opens the comments asking if Tony's Di Napoli has actually removed their tables. Rudder notes that there were tables blocking the entrance which is more accessible recently and that there were dining picnic tables set up at the space still. A manager told her that the restaurant made a deal with the landlord and Rudder accuses Betan of lying. Betan says she was under the impression that management had told Tony's to remove the tables. Rudder says it was a total mess and she doesn't approve of the changes, mostly because of the ADA issues. Hartzog says he disapproves the zoning changes because he feels the building has not taken their concerns into account. Board member Alida Camp also disapproves, saying that because they haven't kicked Tony's out of the space it reflects their intent to not make good on the board's concerns. Another board member, Marco Tamayo, goes deeper into the history of the space, saying that their proposal doesn't line up with the archived records with the city, hinting that they are already in breech of their variance. He cites the ADA compliance also as the main reason he wants to deny the approval. Board member Elaine Walsh questions why they need limited hours, since it is on a wide street, and why city planning hasn't weighed in. Betan replies that they are not under city planning but BSA, and that they are allowed to alter their hours. She also says that according to photos at 6:30 pm, Tony's has removed their tables. The rat problem, cited by the building as a reason for the landscape change, is not from the planters, says board member David Helpern, but from the restaurant. He says his building has numerous planters and never a rat problem, and that the original planters at the site was much nicer. He says the proposal should be disapproved on aesthetic grounds. Another board member says they cannot approve of the plan due to ADA non-compliance, and that "maybe some of these business need to be sued for non-compliance."

  • 08:24 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    The resolution passes, which means the application is denied.

  • 08:40 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Next issue is the variance requested for the Spence School on east 90th, which seeks to sell air rights above the school. Shelly Friedman is speaking on behalf of the Spence School. Friedman says the owner of the Avis garage next door approached them on a new venture for high-end self storage. They seek to purchase 13,700 square feet of air rights for their new building on the adjacent lot, which will be constructed as-of-right. He says even with those air rights, the two buildings will still be much smaller than what is allowed at the two sites. First question from board member asks some clarifying questions and says that the project seems to fit within what is allowed and says she approves the project. Ed Hartzog has some questions for Friedman: - What is left in the air-rights bank for the Spence school? > Friedman says there would be as much as 43k sqft of air rights remaining for a community space, but only around 20k more for commercial. There is no opportunity on either site for residential because of the zoning, he adds to address an earlier comment. It would need to have a remapped zoning district or prove a hardship before the board of standards and appeals.. - What does the building look like? > It will be a 10-story building, says Friedman.

  • 08:42 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Next question is from board member Alida Camp, who starts off by saying this sounds like an example of being"lifted by one's own petard." She says there's some trouble she's having with this based on the way the school sought permission to build.

  • 08:47 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Lader asks Friedman to define "high-end storage." Friedman says it means a building that will accommodate an upscale community as a marketing factor. The building will be "well-designed and contextual," says Friedman. Friedman addresses Camp, by saying if they had to stay within the lot envelope, they would be blocking numerous lot-line windows, and with this variance they will only block one lot-line. Lader talks about how he thinks the board should remap this block which is one commercial block from historical uses and will vote to disaprove. Friedman notes that there are still numerous commercial uses on that block, that it is not just a historical vestige.

  • 08:58 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Next question from board member Michele Birnbaum gets the meeting back on track, asking what does the Spence school need to do to ensure they are upholding their contract. Friedman says it is all about zoning lot calculations for the BSA, ensuring that the drawings and information is accurate and up to date.

  • 09:00 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Board member Anthony Cohn says to Friedman "our beef is with the zoning, not with your good-faith rule following," saying that it is a shame there will be a storage facility when the neighborhood really needs a housing tower.

  • 09:02 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Board member Tamayo says the Spence School is taking advantage of the variance they were already permitted.

  • 09:12 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Elaine Walsh wants to know what's the pice of those air rights, and what does the community get. "They've gone to the well twice," she said, "and we see nothing from them," adding that she will vote against. She asks for clarity about the property taxes. Friedman says there will be a single zoning lot, but two tax lots. Spence will not transfer their non-profit tax benefits to the new developer. Walsh says she wants to know how much they're getting for air rights and feels that since they already got $5 million for a hardship variance, this is still a double dip.

  • 09:15 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    A board member, David Helpern, speaks out in favor of the variance. Zoning is good, the building will be attractive and contextual, and self-storage is a need for the area. Also cites the tax revenues that will be created.

  • 09:39 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Now to vote on the motion to approve the Spence School's sale of air rights. It doesn't pass, by a close margin. But the board also doesn't pass the resolution affirming their disapproval. Hartzog says this is silly and looks bad. He wants Friedman to answer the question if it it legally possible for the co-owners of the combined zoning lot to buy out the other owner. His concern is that Spence could be bought in the future. Friedman says Spence will retain exclusive control of remaining air rights unless another sale takes place. Chair Squire clarifies - "we did not pass a resolution to approve the application and we did not pass a resolution to not approve the application...it's as if we hadn't met about it." Says this has happened before. "The vote is the vote," and there is not much more to do about the proposal, he says.

  • 09:42 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Now for the chair report: - CPC did approve the Blood Center, but the fight is not over - A new play reading at put on by the arts committee went well

  • 10:16 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Now for the Transportation Committee report: - New senate bill introduced by Sen. Liz Kruger that imposes similar penalties for e-bikes leaving a scene of an accident as cars. -Three locations on Lexington Ave are sought as new bus stops for the Hampton Jitney, who is taking over an old route from a competitor. The board already approved this.

  • 10:23 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    Housing Committee report: - The focus has been on finding new strategies to help find new affordable housing - Eviction concerns are still present as rental relief is about to run out. The committee wants to find new ways to help district member know how to get resources and getting in touch with agencies.

  • 10:25 PM ET - 9/22/2021
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    And the meeting continues to approve resolutions from past meetings. That's all for tonight.