Neighborhood activists gathered at Masaryk Towers (43-55 Columbia Street) with State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Friday on to celebrate a hard fought victory. After years of advocacy and protests, the crumbling sidewalk in front of the private cooperative has finally been repaired. In a statement, Silver said:
I am very pleased to have been able to direct much-needed resources for improvements at Masaryk Towers, including the repair of this sidewalk. Nobody, particularly the elderly, should have to live with the dangerous conditions that these residents faced, trying to walk around large craters and cracks in the sidewalk every day.
This project is the first of several to come here at Masaryk. The extensive improvements we make here at Masaryk will help preserve affordable housing for generations to come.
The sidewalk work was completed using a portion of an $8 million grant awarded to Masaryk by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. several years ago. This past summer, NY1 covered a protest staged by community organizers, who railed against Masaryk for failing to make the repairs more quickly. They complained that a number of people had fallen on the buckling cement, suffering serious injuries.
The offices of Silver, City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, State Senator Daniel Squadron, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez and the Public Advocate all worked to expedite the repairs. After indicating work was scheduled to begin last fall, there was apparently a problem with a contractor that forced Masaryk to begin the bidding process from scratch. The job was finally completed last month.
Longtime neighborhood Luther Stubblefield thanked the elected officials for their efforts, adding “our elderly will once again have peace of mind.” Another activist, Sammy Vasquez, said “this victory can only be described as a human miracle.”