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MBP Brewer, CM Garodnick announce formation of East Midtown Steering Committee

Community, preservationists, and real estate industry to develop East Midtown Rezoning Plan

Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer and Council Member Daniel R. Garodnick on July 9 announced the formation of the East Midtown Steering Committee. Made up of stakeholders and chaired by the Borough President and Council Member Garodnick, this commences the second phase of the East Midtown rezoning proposal, with phase one focusing on the Vanderbilt Avenue corridor.

The East Midtown Steering Committee will conduct a ground-up process to study and identify the area’s needs and to develop a framework for the rezoning. The group will help define future policy changes and make recommendations to the City Planning Commission.

"I am pleased to be co-chairing this steering committee with Councilmember Garodnick in response to the process outlined by Mayor de Blasio," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. "The steering committee’s community-based planning process will be thorough and involve all stakeholders in as open and transparent a process as possible."

"East Midtown needs an upgrade, and we now have a chance to do it right," said Council Member Daniel R. Garodnick. "This steering committee will help us make sure that decisions are made in collaboration with all relevant stakeholders."

"The East Midtown Steering Committee, under the leadership of Borough President Brewer and Council Member Dan Garodnick, will bring together key stakeholders to advance a critical conversation on the future of East Midtown, ensuring that the multiple interests of this complex community are included in the formation of recommendations for zoning and other actions, including coordinating new development with appropriate infrastructure and city services," said City Planning Chairman Carl Weisbrod. "I congratulate the Borough President and Council Member for their leadership and look forward to providing the support of the Department of City Planning."

With the help of a facilitator hired for the purpose, the steering committee will begin meeting in September and hold meetings twice a month with the goal of delivering a final set of recommendations to the Department of City Planning by Spring 2015.

The committee will review a wide range of topics, including the need for updated commercial building stock in East Midtown, the appropriate density for the area, historic preservation, transit and other infrastructure priorities, and environmental concerns.

The steering committee membership will include one representative from each of the following:

  • Community Board 5
  • Community Board 6
  • The East Midtown Multi-Board Task Force
  • Municipal Art Society
  • Landmarks Conservancy and Historic District Council
  • Regional Plan Association
  • Real Estate Board of New York
  • Grand Central Partnership
  • East Midtown Partnership

The steering committee will also meet with other stakeholders who will be impacted by the rezoning including religious institutions and individual property owners.

The committee will have technical support as needed provided by relevant city and state agencies.

The conversation about rezoning East Midtown began in 2013, when Mayor Bloomberg’s administration offered its own plan for the area. That plan was thwarted by lack of support from the City Council, in hopes of restarting a more deliberative process under the new Mayor’s term. Mayor de Blasio, Council Member Garodnick, and Borough President Brewer announced the new two-part redevelopment approach for the area in March 2014.

Brewer statement on Mayor's expansion of arts education

"The arts are essential, and I applaud the Mayor and Council for adding $23 million for arts education to ensure more in-school programs for underserved schools. Key steps must include improving the Department of Education’s Annual Arts Survey to fix inaccuracies – so that we know what is really going on in our schools and can guarantee that schools have equal access to the resources they need. My report ‘Arts Forward’ looks at ways to close the gaps at the City’s public schools and improve funding formulas. In particular, we need to do more to raise the prominence of arts in middle schools as we have done with the sciences, and integrate arts education with English Language Learner (ELL) programming."


BP Brewer on Tuesday called for more and better arts education in City schools in a new report – while also announcing $20,000 in grants to help fund in-school arts partnerships and a series of arts mixers to connect the borough’s public schools with the City’s top museums, cultural institutions and programs.

Click here to see the full report.

Brewer statement on deaths of three Israeli boys

"For these past 18 heart-wrenching days, we have all held out in hope that Gilad, Naftali and Eyal would be brought back to their families speedily and without harm. Now that our worse fears have been confirmed, I wish comfort for all those who mourn – from all of us who share in this incredible loss."
Brewer points way to better arts education with new report, announces $20,000 in grants and series of arts mixers

Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer called for more and better arts education in City schools in a new report released June 30 – while also announcing $20,000 in grants to help fund in-school arts partnerships and a series of arts mixers to connect the borough’s public schools with the City’s top museums and cultural institutions.

The new report, "Arts Forward," calls into question the reliability of the Department of Education’s Annual Arts Survey, which is used to monitor compliance with mandated arts requirements. The report recommends ways to fix the survey’s inaccuracies and ensure that schools have equal access to the resources needed to enhance arts education.

The report further recommends putting added focus on middle school arts education, fixing arts education funding, implementing collaborative arts programming, providing new opportunities for teacher certification in the arts, and expanding arts education outreach.

"The degree to which the City’s immense cultural capital is reflected in schools varies considerably, and it’s essential for us to strengthen the tools for evaluation to formulate an accurate idea of what schools need – and then help our students receive integrated, sustainable arts education in their classrooms," Brewer said.

Click here to download the full report.

Brewer also announced $20,000 in grants to fund arts partnerships at two middle schools: MS 328 Manhattan Middle School for Scientific Inquiry in Washington Heights and MS 332 University Neighborhood Middle School on the Lower East Side. The grants of $10,000 each are for in-school arts education targeted for English Language Learner (ELL) and special education students – two underserved groups.

Brewer further announced a series of mixers, or meet-and-greets, for school administrators to connect with the City’s cultural institutions – one in the fall and one in the spring, one uptown and one downtown.

"I look forward to working in partnership with the Mayor and Chancellor to ensure that all the arts are for all our students, and I hope this report helps move that effort forward," she said.

Brewer statement on free airport wi-fi

Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer stated the following June 25 on the Port Authority’s vote approving an agreement for 30 minutes of free wireless internet at Kennedy, LaGuardia, and Newark airports:

"Today the Port Authority has taken a great first step in bringing our New York-area airports into the 21st Century. I passed a resolution in the NYC Council in 2013 calling for this action, and recently sent a letter with my fellow elected officials reiterating the need for free Wi-Fi in the three major airports. This vote is a recognition of the integral role of free Wi-Fi for traveler safety, convenience, and comfort, and will help New York remain a global hub for technological innovation and accessibility."

NOTICE: Manhattan Borough Board meets June 19

The Manhattan Borough Board will meet Thursday, June 19, 2014, at 8:30 A.M. in the Manhattan Borough President's Office, 1 Centre Street, 19th Floor South, New York, N.Y.
Resolution to let 16- and 17-year-olds serve on Community Boards passes NYC Council

City Council Resolution 115 to support allowing 16- and 17-year olds to serve on their local community boards passed through the City Council on June 11.

The successful vote for the resolution, introduced by Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer and co-sponsored by Council Members Ben Kallos, Ritchie Torres, Mark Levine and James Vacca, signals New York City’s support of Senate bill S04142, sponsored by Senator Andrew Lanza and Assembly bill A02448 sponsored by Assembly Member Nily Rozic, which would amend the Public Officers Law and City Charter to allow youth to serve.

The City Council resolution was also sponsored by Council Members Maria Del Carmen Arroyo, Andrew Cohen, Costa Constantinides, Andy King, Brad Lander, Antonio Reynoso, Deborah Rose, James Van Bramer, Rosie Mendez, Carlos Menchaca, Donovan Richards and James Vacca. It passed the City Council Committee on Governmental Operations on Monday.

"I have been working for years to ensure that young people have a greater voice in their communities. Allowing them to serve on Community Boards benefits communities by bringing a needed youth perspective to the forefront – and benefits youth by engaging them in civic activities at a young age. I join the Council in calling on Albany to pass legislation to make this happen," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer.

"There are 8.3 million people in our city, and 20 percent of them are under the age of 18. These New Yorkers deserve a voice on their local community boards," said City Council Member Ben Kallos. "When Scott Stringer was 16, he was appointed to his local board. He helped his community and laid the groundwork for a lifetime of public service. I believe we will see many more stories like this one when young people can serve on their boards, and call on Albany to pass legislation right away."

"Community boards play an important role in improving the quality of life for all New Yorkers and they are intended to represent a diverse range of perspectives on the issues that come before them," said Senator Andrew Lanza. "Sixteen and seventeen-year-olds should be encouraged to engage in civic discourse and serve their communities. This legislation would permit our youth to apply for community board membership and the opportunity to add their unique and fresh perspective which would undoubtedly benefit communities on Staten Island and across the City. I thank Assemblywoman Rozic, Manhattan Borough President Brewer and members of the City Council for their support on this important legislation."

"Getting young people involved is crucial to ensuring a true representation of our community at all levels. The earlier we involve young people in the political process, the better prepared they will be to serve as our future leaders," said Assemblywoman Nily Rozic.

The suggestion of lowering the age of eligibility to become a full voting member of the board was made by Borough President Brewer at a Governmental Operations Committee hearing on Community Board reform and was included in Council Member Ben Kallos’ report resulting from that hearing: "Improving Community Boards in New York City: Best Practices for Recruitment and Appointment to New York City’s 59 Community Boards." City Comptroller Scott Stringer served on a community board at age 16, his entry into public life.

Seaport Working Group’s packed Open House

I was delighted to see such a large crowd attend the Seaport Working Group’s Open House last night, June 2nd.

Over 150 attendees were given a brief introduction to the Working Group's process by the SWG's moderator, Jonathan Martin of Pratt Institute.

The principles were developed over 11 weeks of meetings by a group of stakeholders who brought a wide breadth of expertise and diverse opinions, and will inform future development in the Seaport area.

Each of the nine guiding principles were output on large sheets and posted around the Southbridge Towers Community Room, with space for comments (on post-its) from the audience. You can see the draft guideline here: http://on.nyc.gov/U9nBjD

Have some ideas about improving the South Street Seaport Historic District? Take a look at the presentation from last night’s event, and take the Survey about the principles: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/seaportworkinggroup

The Seaport Working Group will use this feedback to move ahead with a redevelopment plan that represents needs of the South Street Seaport community.

Brewer: Urgent reforms needed in City's summer food program for schoolchildren

Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer and children’s advocates are calling on the Department of Education to significantly improve outreach and delivery of its summer food program for schoolchildren as a way to combat hunger in New York.

.pdf of news release

"For too long, the City’s summer food program for school kids has been riddled with incomplete information, lack of comprehensive site planning, and without strong inter-agency coordination when it should be a front-line effort in combating hunger," Brewer said. "Logistics for locations are provided too late, especially for many parents and grandparents. Last year, sites and dates were announced on June 25 – just two days before the program began. New York must do better, and this summer presents the opportunity for a re-set on summer meals."

The City’s summer food program provides free and nutritious breakfasts and lunches to children at sites across the City and is a critical resource in the fight against hunger – especially for families who benefit from reduced price and free meals during the school year.

Yet, according to the Food Bank for New York City’s 2013 Hunger Safety Net report, only one-third of emergency food program participants reported that their children participated in the summer food program. The most commonly-cited reason for not participating was they did not know about it.

"The Amsterdam Houses Residents Association hosted the summer meal program in the past, but we closed due to low participation," said Margarita Curet, president of the NYCHA Amsterdam Houses Resident Association. "This year, I plan to apply for Amsterdam Houses to offer the program but we need the City’s help in reaching out to parents and grandparents: at home, at the local senior center, and in the classroom – PS 191 is located nearby, but notices need to be given to children now, before summer vacation."

"For years, New York City has been lagging in participation in vital child nutrition programs, including in summer meals," said Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. "We are greatly encouraged that the de Blasio Administration is committed to reversing those trends. Borough President Brewer has proposed practical, concrete ways to increase summer meals participation at little or low cost to the City. As always, she is combining common sense with a progressive vision. We hope that the City is able to implement some of these recommendations immediately and all of them in future summers. Child hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation, and neither should our efforts to end it."

"This underutilized federal food program meets only 15 percent of the eligible NYC children who need access to nutritious meals in the summer when school is out," said Liz Accles, executive director of Community Food Advocates.

Brewer was joined by advocates in calling for urgent reforms:1) By June 1, all confirmed locations and dates should be made publicly available and accessible via 311, NYCHA’s Customer Contact Center, nyc.gov, schools, after-school programs, libraries, and recreation centers.

The Department of Education has expressed concern with sharing incomplete information, as some sites and dates may change, but:

The DOE site currently says that the program will operate from June 27-August 29, with an asterisk that notes that these dates are subject to change. The same can be done with a list of locations and dates, and updated with the most current information.

Many programs run from the same locations each year, such as school cafeterias, NYCHA community rooms, parks and pools.

Site specific information in particular is needed so that partners, including teachers, parent associations, Community Education Councils, Community Boards, neighborhood nonprofits, advocates and electeds can further outreach and in multiple languages.

The Department for the Aging, Human Resources Administration and Department of Homeless Services should also be engaged in outreach efforts.2) The Office of School Food should work more closely with NYCHA to expand site participation and outreach.

2) The Office of School Food should work more closely with NYCHA to expand site participation and outreach.

NYCHA summer meal sites are open to all New Yorkers, starting July 8 – as such, the dates and hours of operation for each site should be available via the 311 and NYCHA Customer Contact Center systems.

Last year, approximately 80 sites were operated in NYCHA facilities citywide. According to NYCHA, their goal is to open and staff 80 sites this year and they have 32 confirmed sites, as of last week. If NYCHA is unable to open all 80 sites, DOE should expand capacity at existing sites.

Each site must meet specific criteria including having a bathroom on site, refrigeration, and a working sink, among others. Several Manhattan Tenant Association Presidents have told the Borough President’s Office that they applied to be a site, were deemed ineligible following an inspection – but were never provided with an explanation nor information on how they could meet the requirements.

NYCHA and the Office of School Food should send a targeted mailing to all families with children, listing the nearest Summer Meal sites in their area, dates and hours of operation.

3) By following these recommendations, together we can still make this summer a success; This summer is an opportunity to re-set the City’s summer meal program, through data collection, identifying best practices, early planning and outreach.

The Department of Education should collect site participation information over the course of the summer. In line with the Open Data Law that Brewer sponsored as a member of the City Council, DOE should then make this information publically available and easily accessible online.

In September, a Summer Meal Task Force should be convened including representatives of the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy, Department of Education, NYC Housing Authority and Tenant Associations, Human Resources Administration, Department of Homeless Services, Department of Parks and Recreation, Department of Health, the public library systems, community food and hunger advocates, Borough Presidents, and the New York City Council among others.

The Task Force will be charged with studying the previous summer meal program data and other factors including:

Where do "Food Deserts" Exist? For instance, in 2013, there were no open summer meal program sites located between West 93 Street and West 23 Street, in Manhattan (despite the presence of NYCHA developments, public libraries, parks department recreation center and other possible locations).

What Barriers Exist to Participation? In 2013, some school sites were reportedly restricted rather than open to all participants. The Task Force should look at what – if any – restrictions should be used for program sites and expand sites wherever possible.

What Creative Ways Can We Increase Participation?: SchoolFood already deploys three mobile food trucks which visit beaches, parks, and playgrounds throughout the city and we need to expand on these creative methods of connecting kids with summer meals.

How Can We Best Source from Local Ingredients? The summer meal programs feature salad, fruit and milk – all things that New York farms, whether upstate or downstate, produce. Locally grown food, which requires shorter farm-to-table transportation time, retains more of its nutritional values and supports our local economy.

Wall Street Journal feature spotlights NYC Community Boards

Great feature in the Wall Street Journal: "Original Members of New York City's Community Boards Enjoy Serving," including Doris Diether, who has been on her board in Greenwich Village for nearly 40 years! Click here to read, (may need subscription access).

Plus a sidebar: "5 Things About New York City Community Boards"

Brewer column in City & State on need for a monument to 9/11 Survivors and Responders

"9/11 is not just in the past. ...

"That is why I have formed a committee to create a monument to 9/11 Survivors and Responders."

Click here to read the full column on City & State.

Brewer to HPD: Stop downsizing vulnerable Section 8 tenants, convene working group

Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer is calling on the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to halt the downsizing of the City’s most vulnerable Section 8 residents and convene a working group to find alternate cost-saving solutions.

The letter was signed by 26 elected officials and follows months of communication with HPD over Section 8 downsizing.

"Downsizing as it is currently being carried out affects mostly the elderly and those with physical and mental health needs," the letter reads. It continues: "Now that we have a clearer understanding of HPD’s long-term sustainability plan and its current budgetary status until the end of 2015, we once again request HPD to place a hold on all downsizing resulting from the revised subsidy and payment standards. …

"During the time of the moratorium, we propose forming a working group to explore additional solutions for HPD to rebuild its reserves. From the April 9 hearing and your letter, it is clear that having a sufficient reserve is both a necessary and prudent decision. A working group would be an ideal mechanism for exploring ways to rebuild HPD’s reserves other than through downsizing."

Click here to view the full letter.

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