Community Notice June 20, 2017

Dear Cobble Hill Community:

Thank you to all who attended the Annual Spring Meeting on May 31st.  We had a very enthusiastic crowd and are grateful to those who came out.  Below is an update on what we covered at the meeting, plus some late-breaking developments.
MEMBERSHIP:
The CHA reached the highest level of membership in memory during the 2016-2017 year.  Thanks to all of you for supporting our mission and our volunteer work.
If you haven’t already done so, please renew your membership for the 2017-2018 year, which began on May 1, 2017.  http://cobblehill.nyc/support/

SHOP LOCAL: The Membership Committee has come up with an exciting new way to promote local businesses, and provide benefits to CHA members at the same time.

  • Once you join or renew your membership, you will receive a CHA membership card in the mail.  Please fill in the address field when signing up.
  • CHA Business Members will have stickers on their windows identifying them.
  • Each month, starting July 1, special deals available to CHA members from our SHOP LOCAL business partners will be posted on CobbleHill.nyc and on our CHA Facebook page.

Early SHOP LOCAL businesses include restaurants La Vara and Watty & Meg, as well as Staubitz Market, our community’s outstanding butcher, which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.  Visit our SHOP LOCAL retail neighbors and help preserve our community’s quality of life. Help spread the word by asking your neighbors and friends to join.

COBBLE HILL ASSOCIATION MISSION:
Many new members and new community members ask: “What is the CHA?” and “What do you do?”

According to our by-laws, we are a neighborhood civic organization whose purposes are:

  1. The improvement of our neighborhood in accordance with its best traditions
  2. The development of a sense of individual responsibility to the community
  3. The dissemination of information and stimulation of action with respect to services and regulations of New York City departments
  4. The stimulation of pleasant and friendly relations among our neighbors.

ADVANCING THE MISSION:

In each Community Update we strive to communicate how we are advancing our mission by broadening and increasing our reach and effect. Your membership is very important to accomplishing our mission.

A big “Thank You” to my fellow CHA Officers. They are all community members volunteering their time, who have been serving together now for the past year. They are listening to the concerns of the community and have done a tremendous job working as board members and liaisons to our dozen or so ad hoc and standing committees.  I too am very thankful for such a great group to work alongside.

  • Michael Epstein – First VP
  • George Sanchez – Second VP
  • Bennette Kramer – Recording Secretary
  • Susan Mulcahy – Corresponding Secretary
  • Leslie Cohen – Membership Secretary
  • Charles “Chip” McEnhill – Treasurer

CHA officers and committees work to advance and execute our mission on two levels.  One level is the NOW – issues that are current and affect our daily lives.  The other level is the FUTURE – looking forward to what we will need to do in the next several years.  Longer term planning is extremely important given the huge challenges our neighborhood faces.

The NOW:

CHA Website:  CobbleHill.nyc
Visit our website for information about Cobble Hill and the CHA as well as about neighboring communities.  Go to the NEWS tab and the CALENDAR tab to see what is happening.

If you are a writer, photographer or if you have archival materials and you are interested in contributing to the site, please let us know. We need volunteer content creators! We could also use some ongoing IT assistance as well. So, if that is your area of expertise and you would like to volunteer we would love to hear from you.

CHA History Committee:
Check out the informative and enjoyable info the History Committee has compiled over the last year.  The committee has collected archival information for the website and produced some new content.  Explore the articles, maps and fun facts at CobbleHill.nyc/History. Recent articles include:

  1. “Cobble Hill’s Tower and Home Buildings–An Initial Step in Brooklyn’s 19th Century Housing Reforms,” by Eileen Minnefor

A brief history of Alfred Tredway White’s Tower and Home Buildings on Hicks Street, now known as Cobble Hill Towers, one of the first “social housing” apartment complexes built in Brooklyn in response to the housing crisis faced by the city’s poor in the mid 19th century.

  1. “The Rise and Fall of the Long Island College Hospital,” by Susan K. Harris

As LICH disappears, this piece looks back at its history, a bit of our collective “memory” of a substantial piece of Cobble Hill’s past.

If you have a passion for the history of Cobble Hill and you want to get involved, the history committee is doing great work and is also seeking additional content creators.

Two DOT Issues
Trucks and Buses on residential streets:
The ongoing saga of commercial trucks continues, with the addition of tour and charter buses passing through our residential streets.  The CHA has been meeting with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the NYPD on this issue and are investigating new and better signage and increased enforcement. We’ll keep you posted.

A piece of great news comes via State Senator Squadron’s office.  His office followed up with Big Bus New York, a company whose tour buses were coming down Henry Street on their way to refueling.

Senator Squadron wrote, “We contacted the General Manager of Big Bus New York and requested the company no longer use Henry St when heading to the gas station. The company has agreed and is directing its drivers to no longer use Henry Street.

“Additionally, Big Bus has informed me it has created a “geo-fence” on the GPS its buses use. When a bus goes on Henry Street it triggers an email to management, which will talk to individual drivers who violate the new policy. Big Bus said they have had 2 occurrences on 6/10, one on 6/11, None on 6/12 and one on 6/13. Big Bus believes it may take a few days to reach all of its drivers, but they expect a noticeable improvement.”

Thank you, Senator Squadron, for helping with this quality of life and safety issue.
If any resident sees a Big Bus tour bus on Henry Street, please let us know and we will follow up.

http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/2017/6/19/cobble-hills-tour-bus-problem-solved-gps-geo-fence

Street Crossings:

We have received many complaints from community members about the pedestrian crossing at Atlantic Avenue and Court Street.  The timing of the lights for vehicular traffic was recently changed, forcing pedestrians to scramble for safety.  The DOT is investigating this crossing and the CHA is following up.

Community Life

The Community Life Committee has put together the Summer Concert Series and is starting to plan for the Halloween Parade and other activities in the neighborhood.  Please volunteer for this really fun committee.

CHA Summer Concert Series

Tuesdays in July at 6pm at Cobble Hill Park
July 11- Jose Conde Project
July 18- Sweetcane
July 25- Audra Rox

NYPD Neighborhood Coordination Officers (NCOs)
We are pleased to introduce the two Police Officers who will be serving our neighborhood;
P.O. Lauren Maragni
P.O. Shingru Wang
Officer Wang spoke at our Annual Meeting. Our NCOs are committed to listening to and addressing the concerns of the community.  Issues raised at the meeting included property safety, commercial trucks on residential streets, bike safety, and vehicular traffic safety.  The CHA will meet and communicate with the NCOs on a regular basis. Please send your concerns and observations to us.

Cobble Hill Park
We are sad to report that Barbara Krongel has resigned as chair of the CHA’s Cobble Hill Parks Committee.  Barbara has worked for decades to upgrade and maintain our Cobble Hill gem — NYC’s first vest pocket park.  We thank Barbara and her husband, E.C. Hamilton, for the substantial effort they have expended. Please offer your own thanks when you see them.  The CHA has named Liz Velikonja as co-chair of the committee, responsible for the park’s landscaping. A search is underway for another co-chair, to handle programming.  The CHA board is also reviewing and renewing our critical commitment to the park and our longstanding relationship with the NYC Parks Department.

Committees:

Many thanks to the dozens of committee members who have worked throughout the year. We look forward to another great year and more good stuff to come.

  • URBAN PLANNING COMMITTEE: Susan and Ben Baxt, Co-chairs
  • HISTORY COMMITTEE: Susan K. Harris, Chair
  • COMMUNICATIONS COMMITTEE: Rebecca Johnson, Chair
  • LANDMARKS PRESERVATION COMMITTEE: Laurie and Stan Maurer, Co-Chairs
  • COMMUNITY LIFE COMMITTEE:  Amanda Sue Nichols and Katharine Earnhardt, Co-chairs
  • CH PARK COMMITTEE: Liz Velikonja, Co- Chair, open search, Co-chair
  • SAFETY AND 76 PRECINCT: Jerry Armer, Chair
  • TREE COMMITTEE: Georgia Willett and Tom Synnott, Co-chairs
  • SCHOOLS COMMITTEE: Margaret Kelly, Chair
  • FUNDRAISING COMMITTEE: Open Search, Co-chairs
  • MEMBERSHIP COMMITTEE: Leslie Cohen, Chair
  • ADVISORY COMMITTEE: Amy Breedlove, Chair

The NOW and the FUTURE:

The Matter of Fortis:

Just before the CHA Annual Fall Meeting in November, Fortis announced that they were proceeding with an As-of-Right (AOR) development on the LICH site.  The CHA’s position on the development is:

  • Fortis’s development of the LICH site as an As-of-Right development means that they have the right to develop the property in any manner that conforms to the law.
  • The CHA does not believe that the Fortis development can necessarily be stopped. However, we dobelieve that there is much we can do to mitigate potential negative effects on Cobble Hill, and to protect our neighborhood.

Toward that end — mitigating the impact of the development on Cobble Hill – the CHA:

  • Has hired a zoning expert to scrutinize plans approved by the Department of Buildings (DOB) for all properties on the site, and to call attention to anything questionable. Should any zoning issues warrant litigation, we will take action to press our case.
  • Is exploring any and all options to bring the east side of Henry Street (349 Henry Street) into conformity with the historic district.
  • Has retained a prominent attorney who is available to pursue legal action should the need arise.
  • Is raising money through outreach, communication, a growing membership, and donations to the general fund.

Moving forward, the CHA needs to step up its fundraising program.  We thank those generous community members who donated after our November meeting.  Your donations have allowed us to hire our prominent zoning expert, who will review the three parcels currently at the DOB.  We need to continue to raise funds to hire any experts we may need.  You can help by:

  • Renewing your membership
  • Joining, if you are not yet a member
  • Asking your neighbors to join
  • Donating above and beyond your dues level
  • Hosting a fundraiser, or organizing a fundraising event.  (A new member has stepped forward to investigate a 5K run!)
  • By joining to lead our efforts if you are a fundraising professional. We really need an experienced fundraiser to lead this effort!

The CHA advocates on a daily basis for our community.  Our community members are very valuable partners in this work. Thank you:

  • For your emails and stops on the sidewalk to tell us your concerns.
  • For calling 311, taking photographs, and documenting complaints. That is the evidence we need to pursue Fortis-related problems with city agencies.
  • To the newly formed special committee of Amity/Clinton/Pacific/Henry Block for your vigilance.

Our strength as a community comes from working together!

In this perilous time, the CHA is fortunate to have two talented and committed elected officials, Council Member Brad Lander and State Senator Daniel Squadron, who support us on a nearly daily basis.  Our other elected officials have shown unwavering support as well: Comptroller Scott Stringer; Public Advocate Letitia James; Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez; and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon.

In addition, City Hall contacted us recently to inform us that they have alerted City agencies to our concerns, and that those agencies will respond to our needs. We are extremely LUCKY and GRATEFUL to have such relationships and support.

Here are the issues we have been working on with four City agencies:
DOB – No more After Hours Variances (AHV) – Work is permitted M-F 7-6pmonly.
DEP – Inspectors have been sent out to investigate noise and airborne debris complaints.  Over eighty (80) complaints have been lodged since December.
DOT – CHA is working with DOT to get parking spots returned to the community.  More significantly, CHA is working with DOT to require a comprehensive Logistics Plan to provide a full-site review of demolition and construction on all parcels of the LICH site.  Fortis still denies any wrongdoing on their part and their contractor’s part for placing “No Parking – Construction Zone” signs illegally on Henry Street between Pacific and Amity Streets, even after inspectors served violations. This speaks volumes to Fortis’ unwillingness to take responsibility for the effect their work is having on our community.  And more recently warnings were issued for personal construction vehicles parked in the “No Parking – Construction Zone” areas around several sites including the north side of Amity between Hicks and Henry Streets.
https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20170525/cobble-hill/lich-fortis-cobble-hill-association-traffic

NYC Parks Department– By legal agreement, Fortis must maintain the Henry Street playgrounds and sitting park clean and safe at all times, to specifications spelled out in that agreement.  Neighbors have complained about the playgrounds retaining water, being dirty, and having broken equipment and unsafe conditions.  Please call 311 and document with photos any of these or other issues relating to these parks.  They are public parks with NYC Parks Department oversight and Fortis is bound to maintain them to strict standards.

The FUTURE:

Urban Planning Committee update:

The CHA Urban Planning Committee (UPC) has been working for over a year to assess the AOR and the LICH campus.  We have no legal means to influence the design of the buildings. BUT we CAN exert influence on the parks, playgrounds, and public areas around and within the development.  The Urban Planning Committee is looking to create a single community with a vibrant public life.  They are investigating:

  • A unified public place on Henry Street from Atlantic Avenue to Amity Street that encompasses the three Henry Street parks, the Pacific Street easement, adjacent sidewalks, and the roadbed.
  • A safer, more appealing, and easier way to access Upper Van Voorhees park, including via the Pacific Street easement (between Hicks and Henry Streets), and the recreational spaces on the waterfront.

Envisioning our Future:
DOT Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Keith Bray informed the CHA, our UPC, Council Member Lander and State Senator Squadron that DOT will organize envisioning meetings to discuss issues that will arise once LICH site development is complete.  We will discuss the UPC’s ideas for public access, parks and playgrounds as well as traffic, parking and other DOT-related issues, as well as ways to engage the entire community in the conversation.

NYC Parks Department:

Fortis’s marketing materials and press releases rebrand their project as River Park, and make reference to re-envisioned parks. The referenced parks include Upper Van Voorhees Park on Hicks Street (next door to the garage site) and the three Henry Street parks. Any “re-envisioning” of, or changes to, a public park must be done by the City with input from the public, not by the developer acting unilaterally. There are additional legal constraints on any changes to the three Henry Street parks.

Council Member Lander wrote two letters, one to the NYC Parks Department and the other to Fortis, about Fortis’s proposed actions on the parks. CM Lander shared these letters with the audience at our May 31 Annual Meeting and released them to the press.  See an article here and a link to the signed letters.

https://patch.com/new-york/carrollgardens/lich-developer-touting-upgrades-public-parks-dont-exist-electeds- say

It has been a pleasure to serve this great community over the past year.  Thank you for your support and your continuing efforts to assist in this work.  If you’ve been thinking about getting more involved, please send us a note.
We will report back to you in our next Community Update in August.  Enjoy your summer.  Have fun and be safe.

Warmly,
Amy Breedlove
President, CHA