Journal-News: Running the meter on Albany politicians

By Phil Reisman, 9/21/16

There’s good reason why state legislators get re-elected over and over again, despite the never-ending stream of well-publicized indictments, convictions and perp walks.

The permanence falls under the Incumbents Protection Act, a rigged game of maps, money and member items.

Maps are the gerrymandered districts, the crazy-quilt drawing of lines designed to favor one party over another. Money is the filthy lucre supplied by special interests in the form of campaign donations. Member items, or earmarks, are the slabs of bacon the legislator brings home to fund local projects like putting a new roof on the community senior center.

Village Voice: How the West Side Was Won: Will Port Authority Truce Yield a Better Bus Terminal?

By Stephen Miller, 9/21/16

After a standoff lasting months, elected officials and the Port Authority announced a peace accord yesterday over plans to replace the authority’s aging West Side bus terminal. The Port Authority has promised to include local representatives and the public as it studies all potential sites for a new terminal, backing away (for now) from its previous goal of building a replacement west of Ninth Avenue.

Politicians had spent all summer blasting the bi-state body for an insular process that, they said, prematurely jumped to conclusions about relocating Manhattan’s second-busiest transit hub. While hitting “reset” could lead to a more transparent process, there’s no guarantee it will include the large-scale thinking needed to find a better way of handling the crushing cross-Hudson commute.

Chelsea Now: A Shaken Chelsea Quickly Finds Its Footing

By Eileen Stukane, 9/22/16

BY EILEEN STUKANE | The windows were still missing on every floor of the building whose street level space houses the King David Gallery. Next door at the St. Vincent de Paul Church, shuttered since 2013, there was similar damage above. Below, shattered glass was strewn on the ground and wedged into the sidewalk cracks as far as the eye could see. Across the street, the tall windows normally affording passersby a clear view into the intense goings-on at Orangetheory Fitness sported the top-to-bottom duct-taped “X” mark familiar to anyone who’s ever prepped for a hurricane.

Three days after Ahmad Khan Rahami’s homemade bomb exploded near 131 W. 23rd St., a shaken Chelsea had weathered the storm and was standing tall, albeit on new footing.

Barricades lifted, traffic and pedestrians had returned to this block of W. 23rd St., between Sixth and Seventh Aves., which had a stronger NYPD presence. It was a time for attention and assurances from Mayor Bill de Blasio, and other elected officials, that life could return to normal. And so they came.

Damage to the King David Gallery was underway on the morning of Tues., Sept. 20. Photo by Scott Stiffler.

Damage to the King David Gallery was underway on the morning of Tues., Sept. 20. Photo by Scott Stiffler.

Chelsea Now: Fate of Hopper-Gibbons House Still in Flux

By Sean Egan, 9/22/16

L to R: Fern Luskin, State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, Public Advocate Letitia James, and Julie Finch spoke out against the fifth-floor addition to the Hopper-Gibbons House. Photo by Sean Egan.

L to R: Fern Luskin, State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, Public Advocate Letitia James, and Julie Finch spoke out against the fifth-floor addition to the Hopper-Gibbons House. Photo by Sean Egan.

BY SEAN EGAN | Preservationists who’ve rallied for years around the Hopper-Gibbons House (339 W. 29th St., btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.) — the only documented Underground Railroad site in Manhattan — were left frustrated after the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), at its Tues., Sept. 20 hearing, decided not to take any action regarding the building. At this hearing, the LPC could have required the owner to remove a contentious fifth-floor addition from the row house and restore it to its previous four-story height — the ultimate goal of advocates.

Controversy has surrounded the house because its owner, Tony Mamounas, has been trying to legitimize a fifth-floor penthouse he began building when in possession of erroneously issued permits from the Department of Buildings.

The building was landmarked in 2009 as part of the Lamartine Historic District, just after those permits were revoked and Stop Work Orders were issued — though work on the addition continued, according to locals. Court decisions in 2013 and 2015 upheld that Mamounas must gain approval from the LPC before continuing construction.

Daily News: Activists fight to stop Chelsea building owner from adding penthouse suite to Underground Railroad landmark

By Laura Dimon & Leonard Greene, September 20

Activists trying to save the last spot in New York where slaves were given shelter urged the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to block the building’s owner from adding a penthouse suite.

Chelsea’s Hopper-Gibbons House is the city’s last link to the Underground Railroad, and to the abolitionists who pushed to end slavery in 19th century America.

A building owner’s bid to add a fifth-floor, rooftop apartment to the renovated structure at 339 W. 29th St. would desecrate a piece of important history, opponents of the addition said.

The building received landmark status in 2010.

(Left-right) NYC Public Advocate Letitia James and State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried at a press conference discuss the fundamentals of maintaining Chelsea’s Hopper-Gibbons House

Niagara Gazette: Hoosick Falls’ water woes lead to scrutiny for health officials

By Joe Mahoney,9/19

ALBANY — Residents of Hoosick Falls compare the water contamination in their village of 3,500 people with the crisis in Flint, Michigan, where lead-laced drinking water created a public health emergency.

State health officials say they’re doing all they can to help the village on the Vermont border deal with toxic chemicals in the groundwater. But residents and several state lawmakers are steamed, saying more people could have been sickened in the time it took the state to react.

“The lesson for all Americans here is that people need to know what’s in their drinking water, and know what state officials are doing to keep it safe,” said Michele Baker, an organizer of a grassroots group focused on the contamination. “New York state knew what was in our water and allowed us to keep drinking water with contaminants for months.”

 Baker said the pollution is the result of years of dumping harmful chemicals used in manufacturing — complicated by government inertia.

NY Post: State admits staff knew Hoosick Falls water was dangerous

By Kirstan Conley, September 7

ALBANY — Under intense grilling at a legislative hearing, state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker admitted Wednesday he and his staff knew for years that a chemical in the water in Hoosick Falls was a danger to residents, but didn’t sound the alarm.

“Yes,” Zucker relented when asked repeatedly by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) if his agency was aware of information “it took [resident] Mike Hickey five minutes on Google to find.”

Gottfried pointed to a fact sheet issued by the Health Department in December 2015 stating residents of the upstate village had nothing to fear.

Politico: Hoosick Falls hearing turns into 5-hour grilling for state officials

By Scott Waldman, September 7

ALBANY— Wednesday’s hearing on Hoosick Falls and water pollution issues turned into a five-hour grilling of state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and other officials who organized the state’s response to the crisis.

The hearings were intended to take a broad look at water quality issues across the state. And while they touched on Hudson River water quality, road salt runoff in waterways and fracking waste, they largely centered on the state’s response to Hoosick Falls, the Rensselaer County village where water was found to be contaminated by an industrial chemical, perflurooctanoic acid, or PFOA.

Chelsea Now – DHS Ducks Capacity Crowd as CB5 Cuts Shelter Info Session Short

By Alex Ellefson, September 7

BY ALEX ELLEFSON | Plans to discuss the use of an infamous Flatiron hotel as a months-long refuge for homeless single men and women awaiting long-term housing stalled last week when a conference room was unable to accommodate scores of irate residents intent on voicing their objections.

Neighbors packed shoulder-to-shoulder — with a line of people out into the hall — to hear a presentation on the proposed shelter at the Community Board 5 (CB5) Budget, Education & City Services Committee meeting.

Capital Pressroom (Audio) – Previewing Legislative Water Hearings

Interview on Capital Pressroom with Susan Arbetter, posted by Alyssa Plock, September 7.