December marks my last month as your City Council Member, our last monthly newsletter, and final First Friday. Representing you over the past 8 years has been the honor and opportunity of a lifetime. In the neighborhood we won pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds and 3-years-olds, secured half a billion to revitalize our parks, and cleaned up our streets with a new trash can on every corner. None of this would have been possible without your partnership and support. Our work has left an indelible mark on our city, on politics, on affordable housing, on our children, and on our skyline.
Over the years we took on the biggest industry in our city, real estate, who have run this town long before I was elected, and despite our fights, seem primed to continue to do so. We won a rezoning to stop Billionaire’s Row from expanding into our residential neighborhood and a boroughwide rezoning to block supertall towers propped up on empty spaces that gave billionaires helicopter views. This past month the fight over the Longfellow Commercial Tower proposed by the Blood Center came to a vote in the City Council. While our advocacy was able to reduce the height by 100 feet and secure $13 million for St. Catherine’s Park and Julia Richman Educational Complex, we did not have the votes to force the developer to limit the building height by cutting ceiling heights, and I kept my promise to vote NO.
During my time as your Council Member, funding and improving our schools and parks have been two of my top priorities. Last month we cut the ribbon on a $1.75 million green roof PS/IS 217 on Roosevelt Island, broke ground on a play roof for PS 151, announced funding for a maker space and dance studio at East Side Middle School.
As a new parent, I spend more time in parks than I ever thought possible, and I am so glad that we’ve invested nearly a billion in parks. Last month we broke ground on a $650,000 renovation at John Jay Park. This month we’ll be opening the “Girl Puzzle” monument to Nellie Bly on Roosevelt Island and hope you’ll visit.
In December, we celebrate Hannakuh and Christmas with many menorah and tree lightings for you to join. I wish for a safe and healthy holiday season for all. As the City Council administrative staff transitions 30+ offices over to new Council Members, they are closing our office for the last 10 days of the year. We will still be available by phone and email through December 31.
For our Final First Friday, we will be back in person this month at our District Office. Masks and proof of vaccination required.
Longfellow Commercial Tower Proposal by Blood Center
$5 MILLION STEM INVESTMENT IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS TAKES SHAPE
Ribbon Cutting on $1.75 Million P.S./I.S. 217 Green Roof
We celebrated the completion of the much anticipated Green Roof at PS/IS 217 on Roosevelt Island with a ceremonial planting. The project received $1 Million in funding from my office through participatory budgeting in 2015 and 2016 thanks to the Roosevelt Island community’s advocacy and organizing. Principal Mandana Beckman welcomed us and we were joined by Congresswoman Maloney, Borough President Brewer, Assembly Member Seawright, PTA leadership and community activists. Learn more in our release or in coverage in TAPInto and the Roosevelt Islander.
Breaking Ground on the $2.5 Million P.S. 151 Play Roof Groundbreaking
This month we announced the start of construction of Yorkville Community School’s (P.S. 151) play roof. The students at YCS do not have an outdoor play space at this time, but the play roof will soon allow them to get exercise and sunlight during the school day. Construction began during the pandemic and is expected to be completed next year. Learn more in our release or in coverage in Patch.
Announcing $1.4 Million Maker Space and Dance Studio for East Side Middle School
East Side Middle School Principal David Getz and I announced $1.4 Million in funding to convert part of the school’s library into a maker space and their basement to a dance studio. The students at East Side Middle School always amaze me and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish in these new spaces. Learn more in our release or in coverage in TAPInto.
INVESTING IN OUR PARKS
Breaking Ground on $650K Renovation to John Jay Park
The Parks Department, Borough President Gale Brewer, community activists and I celebrated the groundbreaking of renovations at John Jay Park. The $650,000 renovations include new benches, expanding plant beds, protecting trees, and removing unnecessary fencing. Thank you to the East 79th St Neighborhood Association for pushing this project forward. By this time next year, parts of the park will be brand new. Learn more in our release or from coverage in Patch.
The Girl Puzzle Monument Prepares to Open on Roosevelt Island
This month we will celebrate the opening of “The Girl Puzzle” monument on Roosevelt Island, which honors investigative journalist Nellie Bly. The monument depicts the faces of five women, Black, Asian American, young, old, and queer, and is meant to pay respect to the women who once suffered on the Island. I was happy to allocate $70,000 for accessible elements of the piece that make it approachable to those in the disability community and more interactive for all. I hope everyone will visit when it opens, and in the mean time you can read more about it in the The Washington Post's Lily.
AT CITY HALL
Establishing an Office of Urban Agriculture with Mayor-elect Eric Adams
During the pandemic we saw how the stress on our supply lines meant scarcity and price increases in everything from toilet paper to food. That's why New York needs a sustainable food supply, and that starts with urban agriculture. Working with Mayor-elect Eric Adams, I carried and passed Local Law 123 of 2021, to establish an Office of Urban Agriculture and an Agriculture Advisory Board.
The Office of Urban Agriculture will work with existing commercial urban farms, expand them, and remove barriers to entry across agencies through the lens of social and economic justice. The office will work with NYCHA’s building health communities to build farms on public housing land to offer our lowest income New Yorkers access to healthy food and economic opportunity. The Urban Agriculture Advisory Board will consist of thirteen members and will advise the Office of Urban Agriculture, the Mayor and the Council on issues relating to urban agriculture. You can learn more from my statement.
Scrutinizing $380 Million in No-Bid Software Contracts
Taxpayers are on the hook for $380 million for two software contracts that will run through 2023. On November 29, 2021, I chaired a Committee on Contracts oversight hearing on these contracts, one of which was $43 million last year, but quintupled in June to $193 million, without a single competing bid, on the basis that despite the vaccine and everyone returning to work it was still somehow an emergency.
During the hearing we exposed the fact that the city was paying more than $300,000 a year for technicians through a vendor while advertising those same positions for $58,700 to $130,000. We asked questions about $500,000 spent on having a technology vendor prepare five Word documents and one Excel sheet. We also questioned another invoice that paid the vendor $1.3 million just to bill the city, something that one would think would be covered as overhead in existing contracts. We learned that the City would be seeking reimbursement from COVID relief dollars earmarked to cover expenses related to COVID-19. When asked about $14 million in work orders for 311, which included changes to deal with parking placards and the Asian Long-horned Beetle, I counseled the City against perjury or defrauding the federal government of these vital funds reserved for COVID-19.
As I said at the hearing, I want the City to bid out these contracts and even bring the work in house to save taxpayers hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars.
Studying Building Electrification to Transition Away from Fossil
Final First Friday (In Person)
Final First Friday
December 3, 8am–10am.
244 E 93rd Street
First Friday remains one of my favorite parts of my job, representing you as your Council Member. As this is my last First Friday as your Council Member, we will be hosting in person. Proof of vaccination and masks are required. Join me starting at 8 am on Friday, December 3rd for a conversation with friends and neighbors.
Fresh Food Box
Thursdays through December 16th
3:30pm – 6:30pm
93rd St & 2nd Ave
Through a partnership with my office, GrowNYC’s Fresh Food Box program has been providing affordable, healthy food since 2016. We are happy to announce that the Fresh Food Box has returned to District 5 for the 2021 season from now through December 16th, every Thursday from 3:30 pm to 6:30 pm outside of my district office!
To purchase a Fresh Food Box, complete the registration form, then come to the site in person to sign up and pay for the Box at least one week before you’d like to pick it up. For more information, or if you have any questions, visit grownyc.org/foodbox/district5.
AROUND THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Thanksgiving week we distributed turkeys at the Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center with Executive Director Greg Morris and Council Member Elect Julie Menin. We also distributed turkeys to Lexington Houses and Robbins Plaza Residents. This year we distributed more turkeys than ever before! Read more about it in Upper East Site.
Roosevelt Island Traffic Safety Town Hall
Together with the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, Congresswoman Maloney, Senator Serrano, and a representative from Assembly Member Seawright’s Office, we discussed ways to improve traffic safety on Roosevelt Island.
I attended the Anime NYC Conference at the Javits Center and had the honor of speaking at their opening ceremony about reopening NYC, the importance of tourism to the City’s economy, and more. The event was a blast!
The Blue Dahlia Concert
The Blue Dahlia jazz concert at Ruppert Park was a hit! I’m glad to be able to bring these events to the district with the Parks Department.
Sutton Area Community Tree Lighting
The Sutton Area Community is hosting their annual Christmas Tree Lighting on Wednesday, December 1st at 5:45pm. The event takes place at the 57th St. Cul-de-sac and includes activities for the whole family.
15th Annual Chanukah in the Park
Join Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun for their 15th Annual Chanukah in the Park at Carl Schurz Park on Thursday, December 2nd at 6pm.
Roosevelt Island Holiday Trail
Join the Roosevelt Island Holiday Trail on Friday December 3rd, 5pm – 7pm.
The Roosevelt Island Holiday Trail is a festive collection of stops where RIOC, along with community groups, businesses, and partners will offer holiday-themed activities, music, treats, information, and more.
The Holiday Trail will take revelers to various island locations, from Tram Plaza (300 Main St.) to the RISA Holiday Village at Good Shepherd Plaza (543 Street).
Community Vaccination Event at Stanley Isaacs
Join the Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center to get your Covid vaccine (including booster) on December 4th between 10am and 4pm. Register in advance.
Sutton Chabad Chanukah Lighting
Join Chabad at Beekman Sutton for their 15th Annual Grand Menorah lighting. The Chanukah Bright Lights Big Menorah celebration will take place on Sunday, December 5th, 3:30pm at Sutton Place Park.
Hanukkah at the Jewish Museum
On Sunday, December 5th from 10:30am to 5pm, the Jewish Museum is hosting their Hanukkah Hunt. Families can explore Hanukkah menorahs from around the world. Free with museum admission. Children 18 and under are free. Advanced timed ticket purchase required.