City Council Committee Assignments: Chin Heads Aging, Mendez Loses Public Housing Post

A New Speaker, New Roles For Lower East Side Council Members

Mendez, Del Rio Battle For District 2 Council Seat; Anti-Gay Marriage Group Enters Fray

We’ve spent a lot of time covering the District 1 City Council race, but the District 2 contest between Council member Rosie Mendez and challenger Rick Del Rio is also heating up.

Mendez: Talk of Racism in 106 Rivington Controversy “Needs to Stop”

106 Rivington Street.

At last night’s Community Board 3 meeting, City Council member Rosie Mendez took a few moments to address the controversy surrounding a new restaurant coming to 106 Rivington Street.  The State Liquor Authority will soon rule on an application from operators Jose Rodriguez and Robert Payne for a full bar.  Members of the LES Dwellers neighborhood group oppose the permit, saying Rivington Street is already overburdened with nightlife establishments. In a close vote, CB3 chose not to support the application, although it did sign off on a beer/wine permit for the Latin-style restaurant.

Mendez Defends NYCHA, Says Security Cameras Are Coming Soon

At City Hall yesterday, City Council member Rosie Mendez, along with fellow lawmakers and public housing residents, blasted the New York Daily News for a series of articles critical of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).

In the past, many of those gathered before TV cameras and microphones have themselves been highly critical of NYCHA red tape and incompetence. But during the midday news conference, Mendez and others defended the agency, saying Chairman John Rhea had made major strides during his short tenure.  They said there’s real concern that continued bad press will jeopardize federal funding for public housing, which has been decimated in the past decade.

Mendez: Security Cameras Coming to Campos Plaza

Campos Plaza housing complex on East 12th Street.

Yesterday we were at the Campos Plaza Housing public housing complex, where elected officials announced the creation of an after-school recreational program.  Community activists, who have repeatedly called for more programs aimed at keeping kids off the streets, were clearly pleased.

During a news conference, they also praised the police department for stepping up patrols in the aftermath of the murder of teenager Keith Salgado in the housing project’s courtyard back in October.  “It’s sad to say it took a murder, but I’m glad there’s better security,” said Dereese Huff, Campos Plaza’s tenant association president.

For many years, residents have urged the New York City Housing Authority to install security cameras at Campos.  In this year’s city budget, Councilmember Rosie Mendez allocated $400,000 for cameras at the development. Huff has said she’s convinced the cameras would be a strong deterrent to crime and drug dealing — and she’s expressed frustration that it’s taking so long to complete the project.

City Council Cash – How the LES Stacks UP

Borough President Scott Stringer spoke during the ribbon cutting at the LES Jewish Conservancy's Visitor's Center this past spring.

Earlier this week, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer called on the City Council to reform the way it awards grants to community organizations.  The grants, known as “member items,” are seen by many as pork-barrel spending, tools elected officials use to repay political supporters. Others view the “discretionary” fund as an essential lifeline to the city’s many non-profit social service and cultural institutions.

Stringer released a report detailing which Council districts get the most money.  The unsurprising conclusion?

The analysis, the most comprehensive study to date, reveals deep inequities within the current system over the last four fiscal years and recommends that these taxpayer dollars—totaling $49.6 million in this year’s budget—should be transferred to mayoral agencies for distribution, to take politics out of the process… Under the current system, some districts receive more than four times the amount of discretionary member items than others. The Borough President’s report notes that the adoption of a uniform, across-the-board distribution of member items would have given added funding to 32 districts across the city.

Chin, Mendez Visit LES School Participating in Anti-Bullying Program

We stopped by a special event this past Friday at University Neighborhood High School on Gouverneur Street. Students and teachers gathered for a little “role playing,” as part of an anti-bullying campaign, “Respect For All Week.”  City Councilmembers Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez (seated, left) were on hand for the program. By the way, we’ve been taking a look at another anti-bullying initiative the Henry Street Settlement is piloting. We’ll have a story about that next month.

Rosie Mendez Releases Statement on SPURA

Councilwoman Rosie Mendez has released this statement regarding last night’s vote to approve the Seward Park redevelopment guidelines:

“Although the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area is not in my Council District, I want to add my voice to the many others in praise of a process that has resulted in guidelines for the land’s redevelopment.  Anyone who has been involved in the Lower East Side community during almost half a century was aware of the controversy that left a huge parcel of highly valuable land standing idle for far too long.  Over the years, very disparate opinions have sometimes been expressed with anger and a lack of respect, and it was not easy for all of that to be overcome.  But the process which Community Board #3 began and which was open to broad participation by all aspects of the community, and was aided by City agencies and facilitated by a skilled urban planner, has resulted in a compromise.  I join with many others who wish we could get even more affordable housing from the site, but salute all who were able to agree to find a middle ground to move a process forward.

Mendez Sponsors Information Sessions on Bed Bugs

From City Councilmember Rosie Mendez:

Rosie Hosts Forums on Bed Bugs in Private Housing on Tues. January 18th and on Bed Bugs in Public Housing on Wed. January 19th: On January 18th, Rosie, along with co-sponsors Community Boards 2, 3, 5, and 6 invite community members to an informational forum on how to prevent and combat bed bugs in your home. The Department of Housing, Preservation, and Development (HPD) will be present and provide materials to residents who live in private housing throughout District 2. The forum will be held at the Health Professions High School Auditorium, 345 East 15th street between First and Second Avenues from 6-8pm.

Sidewalk Story: the Long Wait For Repairs to Begin on Columbia Street

What does it take to fix a sidewalk in New York City? Quite a lot, it seems. For the past several years, local residents have been complaining about large holes in the crumbling sidewalk on Columbia Street, in front of Masaryk Towers.  The privately-owned affordable housing complex received $8 million in government money (from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.) to fix the problem and make other exterior improvements to the buildings. Residents were promised the work would be done last year. But still, no repairs are underway.

Councilmember Rosie Mendez’s 2011 Funding Choices

Yesterday, we posted the list of community-based projects City Councilmember Margaret Chin has decided to fund this year. Today, we’ll take a look at Councilmember Rosie Mendez’s funding choices. Last week,  the city’s $63 billion budget was approved, including about $50 million in “discretionary spending” controlled by individual Council members.

Three Rosies and The Lower East Side Girls Club

Rosario Dawson and Tina Huang flanked by Girls Club members at 2008 gala. Photos by Jamie Chiu via guestofaguest.com

Actress Rosario Dawson will direct a special benefit reading of selections of Eve Ensler‘s new book, “I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World,” on Monday evening at P.S. 122 at 6:30pm.  The performance will feature 20 girls who are members of the LES Girls Club and will be introduced by Councilwoman Rosie Mendez.

Gerson’s “Lame” Amendment, Little Steven on SPURA, Bike Lane Wars and More

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District 2 City Council member Rosie Mendez plans on making an endorsement in the First District City Council race soon. But she doesn't seem to be too pleased with the incumbent, Alan Gerson. Speaking of Gerson's failed amendment to hold a referendum on extending term limits, Mendez says, “Alan…all I can say about that amendment is it was lame — and everyone knew it.” After the proposal failed in the Council, Gerson voted to extend the limits. Mendez voted "no."  Some good news for Gerson: he'll be endorsed by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer this afternoon.

SPURA update via The Villager: "Steven Van Zandt, a.k.a. Little Steven of the E Street Band,
a.k.a. Silvio Dante of “The Sopranos” fame, recently toured part of the
site, specifically the old market buildings along Essex St. south of
Delancey St. (City Council member Alan) Gerson said Van Zandt was interested in creating a 'recording-studio complex' at the location, but then the stock market
crashed, and everything got put on hold. Gerson said, in addition to
eying the renewal area for cultural uses, he’s pitched the area to the
garment industry as a place for fashion manufacturing, design and
retail…"

A man died in the aftermath of a fight that broke out at a homeless shelter on the Bowery.

Work is progressing on the Allen Street Mall. This from Curbed: "Yes, friends, that's a brand spanking new protected bike lane that's coming to life… a bike lane that's going to reduce Allen Street to a mere two lanes, a move planners hope
will curb excessive driver speed through Chinatown and the LES. To
follow: "higher curbs, permanent planting beds, and post and chain
fencing."

NYC's non-profits are continuing to struggle, even as there are new signs of life in other parts of the city's economy. Danny Rosenthal of the Educational Alliance says its hasn't been easy absorbing cuts in the organization's city contract to provide childcare services.

The New York Post takes a look at the Howl Festival.

GOLES Sponsors SummerFest

This past weekend we checked in on the "open mic & local talent" day, sponsored by GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side) at the Generation X Garden on East 4th Street. It was part of SummerFest, a series GOLES is starting up to engage the community. Since 1977, the organization has been "dedicated to tenants’ rights, homelessness prevention, economic development and community revitalization." You can find out more about their services and mission here. There were some great performances on Saturday. but also important messages from City Council member Rosie Mendez and GOLES community organizers: embracing the neighborhood's traditional culture and fighting displacement due to gentrification have never been more important. Take a look: