“Two Bridges” Planning, Liquor Permit Applications Dominate Community Board 3’s September Calendar

247 Cherry St. (right) alongside Extell's One Manhattan Square. Rendering by SHoP Architects.

247 Cherry St. (right) alongside Extell’s One Manhattan Square. Rendering by SHoP Architects.

After a summer respite, it looks like a busy September for Community Board 3. You can look at all of the meeting agendas for yourself, but here are a few key dates you might want to make note of before taking off for the last blast of summer.

Wednesday, Sept. 7: The Lower East Side Partnership outlines its community engagement efforts leading up to a possible district expansion. We previewed the organization’s plans earlier this month.

Monday, Sept. 12: The State Liquor Authority Authority Committee meets to review 22 applications. Among the proposals to be considered: The Idea Distillery in the old Living Theatre space at 21 Clinton St.; a bar/restaurant from James Morrissey of the Late Late at 175 East Houston St. (formerly Preserve 24); The Hemlock, a new restaurant in the former Miller’s Near & Far space at 65 Rivington St.; a restaurant called The Clancey from industry vets Todd Birnbaum and Dennis Bogart in the old Yunnan Kitchen space at 79 Clinton St.; a bar named Invite Only at 105 Eldridge St., where Fontana’s Bar was previously located (the co-applicant is Edward Bilowich of nightlife spot Warren 77.)

Wednesday, Sept. 14: City officials will spell out the process for conducting an environmental review ahead of several large-scale development projects along the East River waterfront. You can read more about that here.

Thursday, Sept. 15: City officials will detail the next steps for a multi-million refurbishment of Seward Park.

Tuesday, Sept. 20: A meeting will be held to discuss plans for a rooftop bar at the Delancey Street Holiday Inn.

Monday, Sept. 26: A presentation is expected from JDS Development Group on its plans for a 77-story residential tower at 247 Cherry St.

Thursday, Sept. 29: A discussion about the Chinatown Working Group rezoning plan takes place.

Community Members Voice Concerns Regarding Beth Israel Downsizing

Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital.

Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital. Photo: Alex Gerald

Lower East Side residents will get another chance tonight to address Mount Sinai officials about their decision to close Beth Israel’s current facility and build a new hospital on 14th Street. It’s the second of two community board meetings co-hosted by Community Boards 3 and 6. This evening’s meeting takes place at 6:30 p.m. at the NYU School of Dentistry, Nursing & Architecture, Room 611, 345 East 24th St.

In the earlier session, held on June 9, Mount Sinai Health System executives Brad Korn and Brad Beckstrom took questions from local residents and listened to concerns about the upcoming changes. The number of inpatient beds slated for the new facility was a main concern for residents. Last month, Mount Sinai announced plans to close Beth Israel’s approximately 672-bed complex on 16th Street and build a new 70-bed facility a few blocks away. The 153-bed behavioral health hospital on Nathan D. Perlman Place will remain as is.

One retired nurse who has worked at Beth Israel wondered how the hospital would choose who gets in with so few inpatient beds. “If someone gets sick – has a seizure right now,” she said, the ambulance would take them straight to Beth Israel. “If you have a 70 bed unit, when they get to Beth Israel, what’s going to happen? What’s the criteria for admission?”

“I think we need a clinician to answer that question,” said the hospital officials, although they stressed that in general, “more and more conditions are able to be treated on an outpatient basis.”

Debra Glass, a CB3 member, asked about insurance: “Is there a possibility that the [downsizing] means some health care plans will no longer be accepted?” Another community board member asked specifically about Medicaid and EmblemHealth.

The representatives’ said they can’t guarantee “five years from now what the situation will be with a particular carrier,” because contracts are renewed and renegotiated every few years. But Medicaid will be accepted “without question,” and most other carriers should be accepted as well. “The hospital takes almost everybody,” the representatives said.

Another resident raised concerns about Beth Israel’s 5,000 employees. “You said services will not be affected, yet you will probably cut staff. I would like to know what number of staff you will be cutting, ‘cause that has an impact on the service. Give us a number.”

Of the 4,000 who have union jobs, the Mount Sinai officials said, “we believe over a four year period all those individuals will transition to other union jobs within the system.” And the non-union employees? “We believe most of those also will be able to transition.”

Vaylateena Jones, chair of CB3’s health committee, asked about mental health services in the neighborhood, citing a situation from a few years ago in which an elementary school student drowned in the East River. The student’s friends and family needed counseling. “The issue was, [they] couldn’t get an appointment for like three months, and they were sad right then,” Jones said.

The Mount Sinai officials offered a possible solution: The  Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center in East Harlem. “There’s wealth in having a system,” they said, referring to Mount Sinai’s network of New York City hospitals.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer wasn’t happy with the answer. “[The kids] need to go in their neighborhood,” she said. “We love Angela Diaz, but we need an Angela Diaz down here,” she added, referring to the adolescent health center’s lauded director.

The 2010 shuttering of Saint Vincent’s hospital in the West Village was also fresh on LES residents’ minds. CB3 member Alysha Lewis-Coleman was referred to Beth Israel when Saint Vincent’s closed. “It was very overcrowded. It took me months to get a doctors appointment for my children and myself,” she told the Mount Sinai reps. “Now that you’re downsizing, I’m concerned that there’s gonna be another issue with families that are gonna feel displaced.”

Another long-time resident agreed. “I think a lot of us are traumatized by what happened around the Saint Vincent’s situation and also around Cabrini that happened previous to that,” he said. “We’ve seen inpatient facilities that are available to our community disappear.”

“Saint Vincent’s was a stand alone hospital,” the Mount Sinai officials responded. “Why we are able to withstand what’s going on at Beth Israel is we’re part of a larger system.” If Beth Israel was a stand alone hospital, they added, it would go broke by the end of summer 2016.

One resident pushed back: “For 126 years, it’s been what it is and hasn’t gone broke. You can paint it how you want to paint it. Three years ago you merged with this institution, with the optics of the future that you were going to downsize it. It feels like you guys knew you were gonna do this, you knew how you were gonna do it,” he said, “and now you come to the community and you’re telling us we have to take it.”

One CB3 member voiced a general lack of faith in Mount Sinai’s downsizing process. “It doesn’t feel honest,” he said. “It also feels like my neighborhood, which is not as wealthy as where you’re moving – up toward Gramercy, up toward Midtown – is getting the short end of the stick.”

“The big issue is we’re leaving lower Manhattan without a large hospital,” said Luke Henry, also a CB3 member. ”That’s the bottom line.”

Community Board Three members address Mount Sinai officials on June 9. Photo: Alex Gerald.

Community Board 3 members address Mount Sinai officials on June 9. Photo: Alex Gerald.

Candidate Statements: Enrique Cruz, Jamie Rogers Compete to Lead CB3

Enrique Cruz (left), Jamie Rogers.

Enrique Cruz (left), Jamie Rogers.

Tomorrow evening, the 50 members of Community Board 3 will be choosing a new chairperson and other executive officers. After four years, Gigi Li is stepping down due to new term limits imposed by the board (she’s a candidate for Sheldon Silver’s former assembly seat).

There are two candidates for chairperson: Enrique Cruz and Jamie Rogers. Anne Johnson was also in the mix, but decided to withdraw her name from consideration. While members from the community at-large don’t get a vote, the outcome of the election will definitely be relevant to the greater Lower East Side. With this in mind, we’re providing space here for statements from the two contenders.

Jamie Rogers:

My name is Jamie Rogers, and I am running for Chair of Community Board 3. I’ve served on the Board for four years and during that time served as Assistant Secretary and on our Economic Development and Transportation Committees.

I joined the Board for the same reason I live in our community: I cherish the diversity and history of the neighborhood and the passion and creativity with which we fight to preserve it. As Community Board members, our principal mission is to take the voices of our neighbors and transform those voices into thoughtful resolutions. Those resolutions influence, guide and motivate our elected officials and agencies to help protect what makes our neighborhood unique.

I am a small business owner of community coffee shops and lawyer. I know firsthand the challenges of building a sustainable business that pays a living wage and meets the demands of ever-escalating commercial rents.

In addition to my time on CB3, I served as a Team Leader for Americorps, where I worked with non-profits and city agencies all around the country. Through that experience, I learned ways in which diverse communities work together to combat inequality.

As Chair, I will ensure that our board is a supportive, welcoming and dynamic body that fights for the community we all love.

I will run board meetings fairly and efficiently, allocating members’ valuable time to hearing community input, understanding the issues we face, respectfully voicing opinions of members and formulating strategy for action.

I will manage board resources and staff professionally, help all community members work with our staff to accomplish the community’s goals and provide constructive feedback to staff so they have the tools they need to do their best work for our board.

I will make leadership opportunities available and accessible to all members, make every leadership appointment a transparent process and support board members at all levels to give them the training, feedback and access to resources they need to succeed.

I will put infrastructure in place to increase our recruitment and outreach efforts in the community to ensure that every member of our community has a clear path for participation and understands board procedures.

Most importantly, I will work with each member to build and sustain a community board we are proud to be a part of and our neighbors are proud to be represented by.

In conclusion, I will work tirelessly to lead and serve the board. I am running for chair because I value the hard work and time we all put into representing this diverse community, and I want to do everything I can to transform our hard work into meaningful community benefits for everyone.

I look forward to working with everyone in the community to building a better board and a stronger resilient home.


Enrique Cruz:

Tomorrow there will be another Full Board meeting of our Community Board 3. Every last Tuesday of the month, Community Board 3 meets to discuss the issues and matters that affect our community. These meetings are open to all of the public and are important ways for the community board to hear from the community.

Community Boards are local representative bodies and there are 59 community boards throughout the city of NY. Each Community Board has up to 50 unsalaried members. The Borough President appoints the members of which half of them are nominated by the community’s Council Members. The Community Board members are mostly selected from community members who have applied and are active and involved in the community.

While Community Boards work in an advisory capacity, they deal with a wide range of issues including, land use and zoning, community’s needs assessment for city budget use, municipal facilities in the community, licensing, permits, and many more issues concerning our community.

My name is Enrique Cruz and I’m a Community Board 3 member and I’m running for the position of Chair. I’m a native of the Lower East Side, having been born here in the early 70s and a part of this community all my life I felt it was important to be a part of my community board as well.

At tomorrow’s Full Board meeting, the members of the Community Board will have an election to vote for all officers of the board. I chose to run for Chair of the Board so that I together with all of the members of the board can work on making our Community Board a better one.

If elected, I will commit to making it a priority that all of the board members are included in setting the board’s agenda. Every board member brings with them their own distinct perspective and experiences which should be utilized to widen and strengthen the board’s view of the issues facing our community. It will be a priority to work with the committee chairs that are appointed to ensure that the committees are open, transparent and inclusive of their members and the community.

Secondly, I will commit to working on creative and efficient ways of accessing the information that our members need to make the most informed decisions possible. If our board is not able to access the proper, relevant and thorough information it needs, it will not be in a position to make an informed decision. I will make it a priority that the board and district office work to gather the best and most relevant information possible so that our board can make more informed decisions.

Lastly, while our board receives issues and items that our thrust at us and we must react to them. I will commit on working to make our board more pro-active as a body. It is one of my priorities that we work on issues that we can see on the horizon and instead of waiting to react we instead deal with them mindfully and holistically.

I’ve witnessed for decades what our community has gone through and continues to experience. Whether it is the systemic displacement of our rent regulated neighbors, the exodus of our small neighborhood businesses that are unable to afford the rising rents, the lack of quality education for our children, the health institutions closing or “downsizing”, the massive developments being erected on numerous sites, the proliferation of nightlife establishments or the lack of services to our aging community; we have a lot of work ahead.

I look forward to facing these challenges together as a community and through the hard work of our Community Board. It is important that our Board continues to strengthen itself through the work of its members and the participation of our community.

Three Candidates Vye to Lead Community Board 3

cb3 board candidates

(L-R) Jamie Rogers, Enrique Cruz, Anne Johnson.

Members of Community Board 3 next month will be selecting new leadership.

Gigi Li is relinquishing her position as board chairperson after four years (new rules prevent her from running for a fifth one-year term).  Last night, three candidates were nominated for chairperson.

They are: Jamie Rogers, currently CB3’s assistant secretary and owner of Pushcart Coffee; Enrique Cruz, founder of ALBOR (The Association of Latino Business Owners and Residents); and Anne Johnson, one of the longest serving members of CB3, a former board chairperson in the late 198os and a tax accountant.

The lead-up to the nominations was a bit confusing.  In the past month, a number of board members considered running for chairperson. There was a good deal of back-and-forth before one candidate, Alysha Lewis Coleman (CB3’s second vice chair), emerged as a leading contender. But she withdrew her name last night. In a phone conversation today, Coleman told us she decided against running for personal reasons.

The election will take place next month at CB3’s full board meeting. While Gigi Li’s tenure as board chairperson is coming to an end, she’ll be keeping a high profile. Li is one of several candidates running in the upcoming Democratic Primary to replace Sheldon Silver in the New York State Assembly’s 65th District.

In other board news, Li announced the appointments of two new committee chairpersons. Trever Holland, an activist in the Two Bridges area, is now head of the Parks Committee. David Ford, who works in healthcare marketing, is in charge of the economic development committee.


Seven New Members Join Community Board 3

Alan van Cappelle.

Alan van Cappelle.

Usually at about this time, the Manhattan Borough President’s Office puts out a master list of annual community board appointments. We haven’t seen this year’s version, but the new appointees have been added to Community Board 3’s website. So here you go:

Alan van Cappelle has been president and CEO of Education Alliance since 2014. Previously, he headed the Empire State Pride Agenda and Bend the Arc, a Jewish organization dedicated to social justice. Van Cappelle lives in the Grand Street cooperatives with his husband and two children.

Christian De Leon is a program coordinator for the YMCA and a former Community Board 3 intern. He’s an urban studies major at CUNY Hunter.

Veronica Leventhal is a Beacon program director at University Settlement, based at East Side Community High School.

Wilda Escarfuller is a writer who graduated from Columbia University with a master’s degree in Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

Robin Schatell is director of public programs at the Madison Park Conservancy. She’s also an occasional arts contributor to The Lo-Down. Schatell lives on Grand Street.

Joyce Ravitz is a longtime community activist who previously served on CB3, and is now rejoining the board.

Sameh Jacob is a former owner of Le Souk, a controversial restaurant that was first located on Avenue B, and is now on LaGuardia Place. His name was invoked during a liquor committee meeting earlier this week.

It’s going to be a year of change at Community Board 3. Chairperson Gigi Li is stepping down after leading the board for four years. She’ll be a candidate in the Democratic Primary coming up in September in the 65th Assembly District. The 50 members of CB3 will elect a new chair this summer.

Locals Suspect Newly Appointed CB3 Member Is Linked to Avenue B Restaurant Project

45 Avenue B/Google images.

45 Avenue B/Google images.

Community Board 3’s liquor permit committee last night balked at supporting a wine and beer license for a new restaurant at 45 Avenue B, citing the operator’s ties to an infamous night club. Much of the conversation centered on the man who wasn’t there, Sameh Jacob, former co-owner of Le Souk. While no one mentioned it last night, Jacob was just appointed as a member of Community Board 3.

The applicant is Lamia Funti, manager of Le Souk, now located at 510 LaGuardia Place. She outlined plans to open Lamia’s Fish Market, a restaurant and retail fish store with seating for 160 people. It would be located in Le Souk’s former Avenue B space, which has been vacant for the past seven years. The State Liquor Authority canceled the club’s permit in 2009, citing overcrowding and other “health and safety issues.” Funti is married to to Marcus Andrews, Sameh Jacobs’ brother and business partner.

Members of the East 4th Street Avenue A to B Block Association spoke out against the application. Funti said her husband and brother-in-law have absolutely nothing to do with the new business, although Marcus Andrews owns the building. The local residents weren’t buying it.

A leader of the block association, Frank Macken, said, “Personally, I don’t see how we could possibly support this application, given the history of the family involved.” Mark Hannay, the association’s co-chair, cited violent incidents at the new location in the West Village. They include an episode last summer in which a man was stabbed in the face with a “sharp object” during a late night altercation.

In a memo to the board, Hannay mentioned another restaurant owned by Marcus Andrews, Falucka on Bleecker Street. He said Community Board 2 had voted to deny a liquor license renewal for the location, because the venue was being run contrary to its “approved method of operation.” Other residents talked about the lengthy struggle against Le Souk on Avenue B, which infuriated neighbors with its loud, unruly and sometimes violent crowds.

Committee Chairperson Alex Militano went into detail regarding Sameh Jacob’s legal troubles. News reports and court records show he was sentenced in 2014 to two years in prison for using “structured account transfers” from his restaurants to purchase real estate. Federal prosecutors accused Jacob of making cash deposits in small batches to illegally circumvent bank reporting laws. “Once he was convicted,” said Militano, “he clearly changed the ownership of 45-51 Avenue B LLC.”

During questioning from Militano, Funti said Jacob isn’t involved in the new venture in any way. “He doesn’t even know the menu or the concept or anything,” she explained. As for her husband, Marcus Andrews, Funti said he’s simply her landlord on Avenue B and has no involvement in the new project. Asked if Andrews owns Falucka, Funti said, “No.” [His name is listed on the liquor permit on file with the State Liquor Authority].

The Manhattan Borough President’s office has not yet released the names of this year’s community board appointees. But during a Community Board 3 meeting last week, Chairperson Gigi Li named the new members. They included Sameh Jacob. The borough president selects board members and oversees the screening process.

As for the current permit application, Militano acknowledged that the State Liquor Authority typically approves wine and beer permits, even when local communities object. But in this case, she told Funti, “I think (there’s) a sufficient history for the SLA to not grant you a beer/wine license.” Committee members agreed, voting to deny the application.

Two Key Community Meetings: Zoning Proposal, Grand Street Ferry Plan

CB3 Member Ayo Harrington Calls Decision Not to Reappoint Her a “Shameful Outcome”

Responding to Diversity Concerns, Community Board 3 Makes Leadership Changes

Gigi Li Re-elected CB3 Chair, Promises “Structural and Leadership Changes”

Op/Ed: Community Board 3’s Race Debate

Editor’s note: The following opinion piece was submitted by K Webster, a new member of Community Board 3 and a longtime community activist.  The Lo-Down accepts unsolicited op/ed articles.  Submissions should be emailed to: tips@thelodownny.com. 

Race & Politics: CB3 Chairperson Gigi Li’s Leadership Appointments Criticized (Updated 2:40 p.m.)

“Dear Dwellers:” Community Board 3’s Letter to Suspended Neighborhood Group

There’s a lot of interest in CB 3’s decision to suspend the LES Dwellers neighborhood group for three months. Here’s the full text of the letter sent by Chairperson Gigi Li to the Dwellers on October 1. 

Eight New Members Appointed to Community Board 3

Teresa Pedroza, Dashane Santana's grandmother, looks on as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver praises Delancey Street safety improvements last year.

Teresa Pedroza, Dashane Santana’s grandmother, looks on as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver praises Delancey Street safety improvements last year.

The Manhattan Borough President’s office announced the appointment of 76 new community board members today.  There are eight new members on Community Board 3, which covers the East Village, the Lower East Side and most of Chinatown.

Among the appointees: Teresa Pedroza (pictured above), the grandmother of Dashane Santana, the 12-year old girl who was killed on Delancey Street last year.  New safety measures were implemented on the dangerous thoroughfare after her death.  Pedroza is a resident of the Baruch Houses and a member of Good Old Lower East Side.  City Council member Rosie Mendez recommended her appointment.

Community Board 3 Posts April Liquor License Agenda

Alias, 76 Clinton St. Photo via Facebook.

Alias, 76 Clinton St. Photo via Facebook.

Community Board 3 is out with the agenda for its April 8th liquor licensing hearing.  There are some potentially interesting items here, including a new proposal for the Alias space at 76 Clinton St.  More details as full applications are posted online.