Neighborhood Chatter

Written by Marissa Maier on . Posted in Notes From the Neighborhood west side spirit, West Side Spirit.


Neighborhood Tradition

Harry Goldberg Jr. encourages the crowd to buy shoes during the grand re-opening of Harry’s Shoes on the Upper West Side. It’s all smiles in the background from onlookers including Council Member Gale A. Brewer and a photo of the the founder’s son and Harry Jr.’s grandfather, Joseph Goldberg.

Community Board  Rejects Shelter Placements
In the latest move of the ongoing and heated battle between Upper West Side residents and the Department of Homeless Services, Community Board 7 voted unanimously to adopt a resolution opposing the placement of two emergency shelters on West 95th Street in buildings that were designed for Single Room Occupancy (SRO) use. The full board meeting was dominated by talk of the shelters, which opened in August and have the capacity for 400 homeless individuals, as board members, elected officials’ representatives and over 100 residents expressed their outrage over DHS’s handling of the placement in an area they say is already oversaturated with special services and homeless shelters.

Parents wanted to know what protections DHS has in place in and around the shelters for children playing in the neighborhood and walking to and from school. One resident, Andrew Rubin, said that he moved his family to the Upper West Side from Chelsea several years ago because the opening of a methadone clinic near their previous apartment had changed the neighborhood for the worse. “I was shocked like everyone else when all the sudden a homeless shelter opened across the street,” he said. He described problems that others echoed, including urine smells, lack of security around the facilities, litter and people loitering around the entrances.

Another resident, Gwen Rivers, said that she and her neighbors felt ambushed.

“We feel like a bomb went off. This happened during the summer when no one was around to complain,” she said.

The board also pointed out that there are currently 71 permanent residents living in these two SROs at 316 and 330 W. 95th St. who are not being properly accommodated, and that the city is paying an exceedingly high price—roughly $3,000 per unit per month—to the landlord and contracted operator of the shelters. The resolution passed also listed a myriad other objections, especially focusing on the lack of transparency and short-sightedness of the entire placement process.

Raccoons Rampant in
Last month, Upper West Side Council Member Gale Brewer wrote to the Parks Department to get some answers to a curious concern her office had been hearing about—the raccoon population in Central Park. Apparently the critters had been spotted at several playgrounds throughout park, including the Rudin Playground near West 96th Street, and parents were concerned that the rascals might pose a danger to little ones.

The Central Park Conservancy responded, assuring the public that the raccoons are a natural part of the park’s ecosystem and not to be automatically feared, though the raccoon population hovers around 500.

Doug Blonsky, the CEO of the Conservancy and the Central Park administrator, assured Brewer in a letter that there haven’t been any confirmed reports of rabies in the raccoon population, and that seeing them out in the daytime is likely more a symptom of bad habits of the people who feed them than of a disease.

“We are also at a time of year when young raccoons are being extricated from nests by parents, so we are seeing an increasing number of raccoons during the day right now who are looking for homes,” Blonsky said in the letter. “Food is probably more important than shelter in these warm months, so they will go the easiest route to a snack.”

He said that while odd behavior—irregular gait, lethargy, looking disoriented—in raccoons should be reported to a Park worker on sight, the best way to handle raccoons is to give them a wide berth and don’t feed them, even if they stand with their adorable little paws outstretched.

Gottfried Hosts Event for Immigrants
Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, along with East Side state Sen. Liz Krueger, is sponsoring an event called “Immigrants Connect” on Monday, Sept. 16, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the American Red Cross, 520 W. 49th St. The event will provide information on services available for immigrants who own or are interested in starting their own businesses, citizenship and naturalization processes, and health and government resources available. The event is also sponsored by the Housing Conservation Coordinators and the New York State Department of Labor.

New Play at  West-Park Church
A Festival of Fools theater company is presenting an original play, The Zeal of the Zealot: Being the Tale in Which Impostor Finds his Faith, at the at West-Park Presbyterian Church, 165 West 86th Street. The play, written in verse and set to original music, follows the character the Indomitable Impostor as he swordfights and soliloquizes his way from false faith to true madness, surrounded by imaginary heralds and a chorus of nuns. The play is set on a classical thrust stage that was previously home to the Riverside Shakespeare Company, inside the individually landmarked church. Sept. 13, 14, 15, 20, 21 and 22 at 8 p.m. Tickets $10, $8 for students/seniors. Visit www.afestivaloffools.com for tickets and information.

UWS Historic District Extension Official
The City Planning Commission voted last week to approve an expansion of the Upper West Side’s historic districts with the addition of the Riverside-West End Historic District Extension 1. The extension stretches from West 79th to West 87th Streets between West End Avenue and Broadway.

“West End Avenue is one of the world’s most important ensembles of residential buildings, as architecturally harmonious and perfectly scaled to its spacious boulevard as Park Avenue,” said Council Member Gale Brewer in a statement praising the designation. “Regrettably, West End’s buildings are being demolished one by one. Unless we act, it will become just another hodge-podge of highrise warehouses, occupied by people who think of New York as a motel on the way to somewhere else.”

There are two other historic district extensions on the Upper West Side that are expected to pass the CPC later this year.

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