Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Our Representatives Tell American Stevedoring: Move the Salt Pile

Councilmember Brad Lander's office sent CoWNA a copy of a letter to American Stevedoring, the operators of the Red Hook Piers and one of the companies behind the massive salt pile near Columbia and Kane Sts. The message: Covering the salt isn't enough; it's time to move the pile. The letter is signed by Councilmembers Lander and Stephen Levin, Assemblywoman Joan Millman, and State Senators Daniel Squadron and Velmanette Montgomery. Here it is:

May 12, 2010

Sal Catucci, C.E.O.

American Stevedoring, Inc

70 Hamilton Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11231-1305

Dear Mr. Catucci:

We are writing to urge that you address the large nuisance presented by the extremely large salt pile located close to the street on Columbia, between Kane & Degraw Streets. It is clear that operations are currently active and the tarp which covers the salt frequently comes off due to wind.

The salt pile has been a source of frustration for the residents of the Columbia Street Waterfront neighborhood for many months. Operations occur very close to your neighbors' homes across Columbia Street, and have led to complaints about salt caking on windshields, accumulating in gardens, and making it irritating to breathe.

Though we appreciated ASI’s efforts to meet with the community in February, communication has been intermittent at best. When operations began anew in the early spring, no warning or notice was given to our offices or members of the community. The salt pile grew significantly, and it was not until days later, after trucks had gone and salt was no longer being added that we heard anything from ASI.

While we appreciate your efforts to address the problem through “salt pile management,” we have come to believe as the result of persistent issues that the location itself is a problem. We ask that you move the pile to a different location within the port which is not so close to people’s homes. In addition, we ask that you agree to a lower height for the pile, which has now grown to be a large, nearly 5-story structure and therefore substantially alters the relationship of the port to its neighbors.

We hope to remain supportive of operations at the port in the coming years. We ask that you respect the community’s needs, move the salt to a more internal location on the pier, and keep it at a reasonable height. We look forward to discussing this matter with you.

Brad Lander

Councilmember, 39th District

Stephen Levin

Councilmember, 33rd District

Daniel Squadron

State Senator, 25th District

Joan Millman

Assemblywoman, 52 District

Velmanette Montgomery

State Senator, 18 District

Come Hear Pratt Grads' Plan for Columbia Waterfront

Over the past year, students from Pratt Institute's graduate programs in planning and historic preservation have studied the Columbia Waterfront District. They interviewed residents and stakeholders. They researched local land use, economic and quality of life issues. And with their interviews and research, they developed a land-use plan that proposes near- and far-term economic, cultural and environmental improvements.

The students already presented their ideas earlier this month at LICH. But in case you missed it--and even if you didn't--they're coming back to this neighborhood this Friday night for a repeat performance. Don't miss it!

When: Friday, May 28
Time: 7:00 p.m.

BQE Enhancement Project Update

The EDC has a new page dedicated to the BQE Enhancement Project which includes links to the original presentation by lead consultant Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and to a summary of the first workshop results.

Have a look and get ready for the next workshop to be held in July where the design team will present preliminary ideas for comment by the community.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Beautiful Earth Block Party Cancelled

Just got word from Beautiful Earth Group that they're canceling the green-themed block party planned for Degraw St. on Sunday. Unfortunately, the weatherman is predicting a rainy, chilly, miserable day.

Beautiful Earth Group is a sustainable energy company that recently moved to the Columbia Waterfront. They're the folks behind the solar-charging station on Degraw between Columbia and Van Brunt. BEG says they plan to throw a party at the station sometime in June. We'll keep you posted.

Your Weekly Public Services News Roundup


NY Daily News: Gov. Paterson delays doling out $1.5B in school aid so cash-strapped state can pay its bills

NY Times: Education Secretary Steps Into a Minefield in Brooklyn

Gotham Gazette: Poor Preparation, Confusion Lead Many to Fail GED Test


Crain’s: White House: NYC transit security funds actually up

AP: Bloomberg says NY shortchanged on terror funding

NY Daily News: Mayor Bloomberg giving 20 FDNY companies a reprieve – for now

NY Post: NY pols slam Bam over $700M terror-cash delay

NY Post: Senior pedestrian peril


Brooklyn Paper: This stinks! City admits that it is no longer picking up street garbage


am NY: Drivers actually win out in MTA’s latest budget cuts

NY Post: Officials question whether MTA does work during weekend track closures

NY Daily News: New MTA plan would shut each subway line until it’s fixed

NY Post: Trolley good news for Red Hook rail plan

am New York: Lights are on in closed parts of the subways, a potential money loser

NY Daily News: Critics fear MTA’s tech, safety fail: $21.3M will be wasted on subway cameras that don’t even record

NY Post: Posh nabes get bus-ted

NY Daily News: TWU head John Samuelsen: MTA boss Jay Walder ‘raking in the dough’ amid big job cuts

NY Times: Use of Mob-Linked Firm Shows M.T.A. Problem Vetting Subcontractors

NY Post: It’s lights out on risky NYC highways


NY Daily News: Con Edison announces two percent hikes over each of the next three years

Brooklyn Eagle: ‘High Water Bills Soaking Us Dry’ is Message to City

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Worried about the B61?

Next month, MTA plans to merge the B61 and the B77. The new B61 will still run through the Columbia Waterfront. But instead of ending at Ikea, it will continue to Park Slope and Windsor Terrace. And this has our friends in Red Hook Economic Development worried about:
  • Overcrowding from fitting the riders of two bus lines into one line
  • Slower travel times to accommodate longer boarding times from increased usage
  • Schedule delays because of traffic conditions miles from Red Hook and the Columbia Waterfront.
If you're worried too, make your worries heard by filling out RHED's new survey:

Then clear your schedule for Thursday night, because MTA representatives are coming to a meeting of Community Board 6's Transportation Committee, and they deserve to hear an earful. The details:

When: Thursday, May 20
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Long Island College Hospital

Monday, May 17, 2010

Land Use Committee Meeting

Our next meeting will be Thursday, May 20, 6:30p at 78 Union Street. Agenda will include:
  • Report on the 1st BQE Enhancement Study workshop.
  • Report on the Pratt Institute Graduate Preservation & Planning Studio presentation.
  • Salt Pile update.

Shore Power for Cruise Ships

Local resident Diana Schneider alerted us to this excellent posting in A View From the Hook about the effort to get shore power to cruise ships.

The topic was also addressed at last week's general meeting where Daniel Squadron and Brad Lander filled us in on their efforts to convince the PSC to set a 'standby' rate that the ship operator can live with. Word is that Carnival lines has agreed to pay a rate higher than that charged in other ports, but their offer is still lower than what was proposed.

We can let the PSC know that this is a critical issue to us. Write to them care of

Hon. Jaclyn A. Brilling
Secretary to the Commission
New York State Public Service Commission
Empire State Plaza Agency
Building 3
Albany, NY 12223-1350

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Help Plan the City's Waterfront

The Department of City Planning is currently preparing Vision 2020: The NYC Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, and they want your help. This plan will establish the city's long-range vision for the waterfront. The Brooklyn workshop is next week:

Monday, May 17
6:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Brooklyn Technical High School
Enter on Dekalb Ave. and S. Elliot Pl.

What to expect? According to City Planning:
We want to hear your suggestions for how to improve your waterfront. At the workshops, the Department will start with a short presentation of the findings off our assessment of resources of Brooklyn's waterfront -- what public access exists today, where there are industrial activities, the natural areas, etc. We'll then break into small groups to discuss particular segments of the Borough's waterfront, what we refer to as Reaches. In these small group discussions, we want to hear from you and hear your suggestions for how you envision improving the waterfront.
The Vision 2020 report will be submitted to the City Council and the public by the end of 2010.

Must be something in the air

At last night's meeting, someone asked, apropos a discussion of port trucking and pollution: Just how polluted is the air around here? Michael Freedman-Schnapp -- Councilman Lander's policy director -- was ready with the answer: It's not the worst in the city, but it's not great, either. Today, Mike sent a map to prove it (go to page 18).

Your Weekly Public Services News Roundup


NY Times: Putting Blame on Albany, Mayor Unveils Budget with Heavy Cuts

NY Times: Charter Schools’ New Cheerleaders: Financiers

NY Times: Agreement Will Alter Teacher Evaluations


City Limits: Hate Crimes By the Numbers

NY Times: New York Minorities More Likely to Be Frisked

NY Post: Transit security lax: pols

NY Daily News: White House slashes NY anti-terrorism funds amid buzz Obama will meet with NYPD Times Square heroes


NY Post: ‘Trash and smash’ trucks smack taxpayers for $17M


NY Times: Transit Cuts Announced; Among Them, Announcers

Brooklyn Paper: Fix the ditch! Locals uniting to solve the BQE divide

Streetsblog: Transit Check: Most New Yorkers Take Green Modes to Work

Brooklyn Eagle: Many Brooklyn Subway Booths Are Still At Risk

Daily News: Despite a union lawsuit, MTA transit execs derail 250 clerks to fill $800M budget hole

Community Volunteer Fair

Meet with representatives from over 80 local organizations that depend on volunteers and find a group that can use your help. The meeting is tonight at the Park Slope Armory.

When: May 13, 2010 from 6:00p - 8:30p
Where: Park Slope Armory, 15th Street between 7th & 8th Avenues

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

CoWNA Meeting Tonight @ 29 Tiffany

What a miserable day, right?

Because of the rain, the wind and the fact it's only 47 degrees outside right now, tonight's CoWNA meeting is at the Community Room at 29 Tiffany Place, instead of the Urban Garden.

The time hasn't changed, however -- we're still starting at 6:45 p.m.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Please join us for our spring General Meeting of the Columbia Waterfront Neighborhood Association. Our agenda will include:
  • A presentation by Ana Baptiste of the Ironbound Community Corp. on behalf of the Coalition for Healthy Ports.
  • A review of progress in our efforts to improve safety on Columbia Street.
  • Status of the Columbia Street Reconstruction Project.
  • Report on the BQE Enhancement Study workshop.
  • Report on the salt pile.
  • Announcement of an effort to obtain bike racks for the neighborhood.
  • Committee updates.
Location: The Urban Meadow (President Street at Van Brunt)

In case of rain: 29 Tiffany Place, Penthouse Community Room

Time: 6:45pm (please come on time so we can make use of daylight)

Please spread the word!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Update on Salt Pile

Just received this email from Michael Curtin, the community liaison for Councilman Brad Lander:

Since our community meeting in February, the problems surrounding the salt pile on the pier have persisted and grown. Not only has the pile nearly tripled in size, but communicating with American Stevedoring has been frustrating. Thanks to all those who contacted our office to keep us informed of the problems and to all of those who tried to get in touch with ASI.

After many attempts by our office, Brad was finally able to get in touch with Matt Yates, our contact there. I spoke to him about these problems and asked for an explanation of the unexpected changes in programming on the pier.

We learned that the timeframe for importing salt was extended considerably into the early spring. According to Matt, operations regarding the salt have stopped for the season. I made it clear to ASI that this failure to communicate was not what we agreed to at our meeting and that continuing to operate the salt pile at its current size and proximity to residence would not be accepted. If operations haven’t stopped or there are continued problems with noise or the pile being uncovered, please let us know.

Brad is working on a letter to American Stevedoring, in which he will request that they move the salt further out on the pier as to minimize its effect on the community in the future. That letter should be sent out this week, and I will e-copy you all on it when it does.

Matt agreed that communication with the community had to improve. As such, I set up a list serve, where Matt, the offices of other elected officials and members of the community can send out updates via e-mail regarding the salt pile. Please look for the invitation to this group in an e-mail to follow. I invite you to continue contacting our office, either directly or via the list serve. And to help our case please provide us with any evidence you may have of the salt’s effect, be it photographs, doctors notes or the salt from your backyard or windshields.

We realize that this is not a total fix, but hope it can make it easier to communicate with one another, and with ASI, on this important issue as it progresses.

To get in touch with Michael about this or any other issue, email mcurtin@council.nyc.gov.

No F Train this Weekend

In case you missed the posters in the subway station this morning, here's the news: F train service between Jay Street and Church Avenue is suspended this weekend. Shuttle buses will be available instead. This, of course, is thanks to the rehabilitation of the Culver Viaduct.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Affordable Rentals in Our Neighborhood

Applications are now being accepted for the Columbia Hicks Apartments, the 94-unit building now being built on the east side of Hicks between Baltic and Warren.

These are so-called affordable rentals, so income restrictions apply. Interestingly, current residents of Brooklyn Community Board 6 will receive preference for 50 percent of the units. Preference will also be given to persons with hearing, mobility and visual impairments and municipal employees.

You can get an application, and learn more about the requirements, here. Applications must be postmarked by June 25, so act fast!

Van Brunt Reconstruction Starts May 10th

Craig Hammerman, the district manager of of Community Board 6, lit a fire under the Department of Design and Construction regarding the long-delayed reconstruction of Van Brunt Street -- and it worked! DDC wrote to Mr. Hammerman:
As you are aware, during construction we encountered some unanticipated subsurface conditions on Van Brunt Street that necessitated a complete redesign of the sewers and water mains. This resulted in additional work costing more than $2 million that was not in the project budget. The funding was finally made available late last year and work will resume in early May of this year.


Currently, all preliminary designs for the additional work have been approved, and the contractor, Trocom Construction Corporation, is engaged in securing permits, seeking out soil-disposal facilities, and making submittals which are essential prerequisites for resumption of work. The contractor plans to start work on May 10, 2010. The remaining work is expected to have a duration of six months. [Emphasis mine.]
Thanks, Mr. Hammerman!