There have been some tense moments outside the Masaryk Towers apartment complex this afternoon. The cooperative today carried out a long-expected and controversial plan — closing gates on a de-mapped section of Rivington Street, between Columbia and Pitt streets. The closure cuts off a main passageway used by the neighborhood-at-large to travel throughout the community.
We’re told by people in the area, including District Leader Paul Newell, that the decision is already prompting a big reaction. Newell says the feedback from Masaryk residents is mixed, while sentiment from the larger community is resoundingly negative.
Months ago, Grand Street Settlement expressed serious concerns about the closure. The entrance of the non-profit organization’s senior center is located just beyond the gates, near Pitt Street. Executive Director Robert Cordero was promised by the co-op’s leadership that the community would be advised of the changes well in advance of the closure. There was almost no warning before the gates were shut today. Here’s part of a petition Grand Street Settlement is circulating:
This closure places undo burden on the 4,000+ children, youth, families, and seniors who visit our center (including those who reside in Masaryk Towers). We are especially worried about our seniors who live in Baruch Houses on the East River and have limited mobility. On May 4th, Grand St. Settlement received the following notice that the gates will be closed from Bernice McCallum, Chair of Masaryk Board of Directors: “This is an update regarding the closing of the gates. The Board of Masaryk Towers decided to close the gates. The gate closure is one of the many measures Masaryk has taken to ensure the safety and security of its residents; and while it will take some time getting used to, we trust that our neighbors will understand Masaryk’s decision. Thanks. “ Unfortunately, this is all of the information we have. We do not know when the gates will close. Grand St. Settlement’s Executive Director has been promised multiple times that Masaryk leadership will provide clear communication and coordination regarding the gates, and we are very disappointed that this was not the case.
The petition asks Masaryk Towers to provide access to seniors and children and to fully communicate with the community about its plans.
We have a call into Masaryk Towers’ management office. We’ll let you know when the co-op responds. In late 2015, Masaryk Board President Bernice McCallum told us that, when the gates close, “the walkway will be available to the surrounding residents at designed times.” The board, she said, decided to close the gates because there have been, “a considerable amount of trips and falls.” This, she indicated, put the cooperative “at risk for not getting insurance or paying at a higher rate.” McCallum added, “we would like to continue to be good neighbors and assist wherever possible.”
UPDATE 5/8/2017 See Masaryk Towers’ response here.