Volume 79, Number 23 | November 11 - 17, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Progress Report

A special Villager supplement

Community board 2

Why what we do matters; Giving the community a voice

By Jo Hamilton

Community Board 2 covers the area between 14th and Canal Sts., and between the Bowery and the Hudson River. There are 50 appointed members who serve two-year terms. All 50 are volunteers.

C.B. 2 is one of the busiest boards in Manhattan, and this year has been no different. We passed 537 resolutions, weighing in on matters as simple as a change in parking regulations on a residential block to asking the governor to ban hydraulic fracturing in the New York City watershed.

Unfortunately, too many people do not know about the work of the community board.

The City Charter mandates that there are 59 community boards throughout the city, and that these boards have an advisory role in all land-use decisions, in the preparation of the city budget and in monitoring the delivery of city services. Many city and state agencies look to us for input on a regular basis.  It is up to us to advocate for solutions to problems that we have identified.

We work hard to give the community a voice in a variety of issues that impact the quality of life in our neighborhoods:

• This district has the most sidewalk cafes in the city. Our Sidewalks Committee carefully reviews each application. This year the committee is also actively addressing the need to balance public access and the proliferation of street furniture on our sidewalks.

• The Social Services Committee works hard to advocate for our senior, youth and L.G.B.T. communities. This past year they have been working closely with our elected officials and public school parents to find more school space.  Our schools are filled beyond capacity, and we think that converting 75 Morton St. is the perfect solution.

• C.B. 2 has one of the lowest ratios of open space to population in the city, so our Parks Committee is always looking for opportunities to expand or create more parks and playgrounds. The recently re-opened Petrosino Park is a great example of the board, Parks Department and Department of Transportation working together to double the size of the park by taking over an underused sidewalk and street. We are also advocating for new parks or playgrounds at what are currently the construction-staging sites for two City Water Tunnel access projects at Grand and Lafayette Sts. and Clarkson and Hudson Sts.

• Our Traffic and Transportation Committee has made it a priority to look for ways to reduce congestion, improve pedestrian safety and create more people-friendly streetscapes. The committee recently started a Bicycle Strategies Subcommittee to discuss how to promote safe cycling in the many new bike lanes in our district.

• We have more street fairs than any other board in Manhattan and we know that these fairs are often a great inconvenience to our residents and businesses. Our Street Activities Committee reviews every application and tries to ensure that the organization has legitimate ties to our community and that the fair operates in such a way as to minimize the impact on the neighborhoods.

• St. Vincent’s has proposed to build a new hospital building on the west side of 7th Ave. and replace their current hospital buildings with a residential development. It has approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the next step is ULURP (uniform land use review procedure). Our board will have a formal role in the review, and is waiting for the process to begin. In the meantime, we initiated a planning process, facilitated by Project for Public Spaces, to identify what the community would like to see included in the design for a new public open space proposed for the hospital’s triangle at Mulry Square. The process was a great success, and St. Vincent’s landscape architects came back to us with an innovative proposal, which will be officially reviewed in ULURP.

• Our State Liquor Authority Committee reviews every new on-premise liquor license application and any renewal where we know there is a problem. There is new leadership at the authority, and we are reaching out to them to talk about the areas in our district that are oversaturated with bars and clubs, and looking to improve enforcement to ensure that all establishments are operating legally.

• The Environment, Public Health and Public Safety Committee has been busy on many issues. We hosted a very informative meeting on rat abatement, were one of the first community board committees to address the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, worked with the Sixth Precinct Community Council to address the problems of crowds, drug dealing and prostitution around the Christopher St. area, and commented on changes in the CEQR (City Environmental Quality Review) process. Currently, the committee is addressing the issue of illegal vending on our sidewalks and streets.

• There are nine designated historic districts in our board area and we hope that in the very near future we will add two more. More than 60 percent of the buildings in our district are landmarked. We know how much the community values these buildings, so our Landmarks Committee meets twice a month to review and testify on every project that goes in front of the L.P.C. We will also continue to advocate for a new South Village Historic District.

• With the downturn in the economy, our Zoning Committee has not been as busy as it usually is.  This committee reviews every application that goes in front of the Department of City Planning and the Board of Standards and Appeals. They will play a big role in the ULURP for St. Vincent’s and in any land-use changes defined in the N.Y.U. 2031 plan.

• The Waterfront Committee represents our community and board in overseeing the operations and development of the Hudson River Park. We participate in the Hudson River Park Trust’s Advisory Committee, and rotate the chairperson position with Community Boards 1 and 4. At this time the committee is discussing the future of Pier 40. Although there is no specific process in front of us, this is a good time to talk about how the pier could be developed responsibly.

• Our Chinatown Committee was created three years ago to address the specific needs of the Chinatown community. Last year this committee’s work culminated in the creation of a new planning body called the Chinatown Working Group, which is now focused on developing a 197a plan for the area.

• The Arts and Institutions Committee is always busy. We have five universities in our district, many important libraries, the proposed Whitney Museum and many theaters and art galleries.  Most of the committee’s work, however, focuses on the expansion plans for N.Y.U. We will be working closely with the Borough President’s N.Y.U. Task Force and the community to oversee the university’s 2031 proposal.

Anyone who cares about their neighborhood should know about the community board and the work we do. Please visit our Web site at www.cb2manhattan.org . You will find a calendar of upcoming meetings and a list of the issues we will be considering each month. We also make special announcements about matters of concern, and host a community bulletin board where we invite community groups to post announcements.

If something is important to you, come to our meetings and let your voice be heard. If you have a question or notice a problem, call our office at 212-979-2272, and let us know. The more people participate, the better we can do our job. Community boards do make a difference.

Hamilton is chairperson, Community Board 2

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