Council Member Corey Johnson is term-limited and out-of- office in 2021. It will be an open race. Already, there appears to be one candidate circulating: Village dad and active Community Board 2 (CB2) member, Richard Caccappolo, whom Deborah Glick had encouraged to run when Johnson and Yetta Kurland were battling it out. Caccappolo declined then but seems to be seriously considering a run this time. Will Kurland try a third time? Already the City Council race has one smart and ambitious candidate, when and if he makes it official. We will watch this race closely.
As for the AIDS Memorial Park, I am still awaiting the results of my FOIL request to see the exact contract language for the transfer of the land, and the park Rudin had built, to the City. I am looking for information about the maintenance fund, etc. As the use of the park increases, it is becoming more obvious why the Rudins refused to follow the rules of the transfer. State Senator Brad Hoylman was then the CB2 Chair and no state senator was more responsible for the transfer. Brad was on a first-name-basis with the Rudins because he worked as in-house counsel for the Association for a Better New York, a quasi-real estate lobby group.
One mother came up to me and asked why there is no bathroom for her kids and all the seniors who hang out in the park. If Rudin had turned it over to the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation (Parks Department) when he received the height variance, there would have been public hearings to discuss what the public wanted. But Rudin held on to the land so he could control the use of the land and the design of the park without real public input.
Some nannies seem to be taking the little ones to this park rather than to the two world-class children’s playgrounds, Abingdon Square Park and Washington Square Park, both of which have designated areas limited to children and the adults accompanying them. At the AIDS Memorial Park, the kids run free. I have personally viewed several young kids running gleefully out of the park while their nanny was on her cell phone. The drug dealers seem to be gone, but the Amazon bike delivery crew has arrived, taking over one side of the Park and leaving debris to be cleaned up. Either Amazon or the police told them to congregate outside the park. So now, they are taking the park furniture and setting it up on the perimeter, outside the fence.
Then there is the maintenance issue: I find that when I walk through the park, I am picking up debris and moving chairs and tables back in place. I have yet to find any supervision in the park. My own experience of calling the police was not helpful. Hopefully, I will have the FOIL response by next month and find out what happened to the maintenance fund set up by the Rudins, etc.
It appears that the tiny eyesore “park” at the southeast corner of 7th Avenue South and Greenwich Avenue has been turned over to the Parks Department, or has it? The MTA building which the “park” land was a part of has been called the ugliest building in the West Village. The so-called ‘brutalist’ building contains a fence, on which primitive tiles have been hung, surrounding the first floor. This only exacerbates the ugliness and exploits people’s feelings concerning 9/11. While St. Vincent’s Hospital was on high alert that day, not one injured person was brought to the Trauma I Emergency Room during the 9/11 disaster. The staff and community and every media outlet imaginable were present. However, that day and night, no injured person from the 9/11 site arrived despite Mayor Giuliani giving people false hope that those crushed in the collapsed buildings would survive.
A project called ‘The Love Seat’ has installed signage asking for support and funding. But who is responsible for handling the tiles? Who is raising funds and for what? Who put up an oversized Parks Department sign on this miniscule piece of land with three benches? Who put an American flag on a pole that appears to violate the proper use of the flag? Personally, I find the MTA building ugly. The fence, which holds the tiles and the weeds and dead flowers strewn in front of it, only adds to its ugliness.
I write about these parks because I’m using them as a template to demonstrate how the real estate industry does whatever it wants despite any community input or suggestions from the community board or elected officials.
But there is some good news. I like sitting in the park. I meet old friends and make new ones. Many early mornings, when I am walking, I see Mr. Butter (one of my neighbors), who happens to be a well-known film director, actor, Tony Award-winner, and playwright, sitting at a table and typing away on his computer. Knowing the etiquette of a true Villager, I don’t go over and chat him up. We may smile at each other, and that’s it. He is working.
The skateboarders who used 12th Street between Greenwich Avenue and 7th Avenue South during construction as a speedway are looking on with blazing lust in their eyes. Sometimes they fall in and out of the AIDS Memorial Park but, for the most part, they’re pretty good about not going inside the park’s parameters.
I received a number of angry emails about how the new Mount Sinai doctors’ offices on 23rd Street (at 8th Avenue) were not accepting medicaid. So, I visited those offices. I had scheduled an appointment and had a referral from the doctor I had been seeing at Beth Israel’s Center for Health and Healing. (She had moved to 23rd Street after the Department of Integrative Medicine was shut down by Mount Sinai.)
When I arrived, I was asked the same questions about insurance. I answered: “Medicare” and “Medicaid.” I was told that they do not accept Medicaid and that I could only see my doctor if I paid the co-pay upfront. I finally got to see my physician after I texted her. She told me that this was not her doing but that it was a policy of Mount Sinai. No doctor in practice there was allowed to take Medicaid.
What is really shocking is that this office is located three blocks away from public housing and a block away from the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union co-ops. Many people on Medicaid live in public housing and seniors on fixed incomes live in the co-ops. Those on Medicaid cannot go to these Mount Sinai doctors. Instead, they will be directed to the Mount Sinai/Beth Israel offices in Union Square, which are not close if you are old or have mobility issues. Also, if you’re sick, that’s quite a journey on public transportation. I am reaching out to Council Member Johnson, who is also the Chair of the Committee on Health. I am eager to find out his reaction.
Events over the last month give me a great deal of concern about the ability of the local Democratic Party to clean up its act now. Two meetings of the County Committee displayed the type of throwback to machine politics that leaves out the public in any kind of actual discourse.
The Village Independent Democrats’ (VID’s) Tony Hoffman, a long-time Democrat insider, was overseeing the submission of petitions for Keen Berger, the female Democratic District Leader of Greenwich Village. It turns out that Hoffman had made mistakes and some of Berger’s signatures were thrown out, making her ineligible for the November ballot. Hoffman then had a County Committee meeting called for District 66A. He packed the meeting with his “people” and refused to let newly appointed members be seated before a vote took place. This is the kind of machine power play that 60 years ago gave birth to the formerly progressive VID. Boss Hoffman is an embarrassment to the new, young President of the VID, Erik Coler. Hoffman refused to take responsibility for his mistakes in filing and managed to offend the people who had shown up at the meeting, those who were to be appointed.
A few days later, I attended the All-Manhattan County Committee meeting which attempted to address the fact that Keith Wright, who lost his re-election race for the State Legislature, had taken a job as a lobbyist. Many committee members felt that this conflicted with his role as the Chair of the County Committee. An attempt by Paul Newell to introduce a motion addressing this conflict of interest (if any officer were a paid lobbyist) was not allowed to be discussed nor voted on. The scene was ugly and contained racial overtones. I was disgusted. I felt like I was in Rome while it was burning; the fiddles were playing as if nothing was wrong.
Lastly, I joined a small but committed group that held a demonstration at the Beth Israel Hospital entrance on 1st Avenue, demanding that the hospital be saved and that condos not be built. Arthur Schwartz told of how, just months ago, Beth Israel had saved his life when he was having a heart attack.
See you in the streets.
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