Friday, June 06, 2008

Does Mayor Bloomberg Want Construction Deaths on East 93th Street?

Tonight, in addition to learning that the city's chief crane inspector has been arrested on suspicion of taking bribes, I received a long email from Susan Hefti, who is fighting to create Marx Brothers Place on East 93rd Street, that some shoddy practices are going on over there as well. Perhaps the title for this blog post is a bit alarmist, but haven't we had enough death in this city lately?

Here's the email Susan sent out:

As everybody can see from the attached email alert and photos, sent by the 93rd Street Beautification Association's Mark Giller, historic Marx Brothers Place in Carnegie Hill is, once again, under assault from dangerous construction practices at the site now known as 180 East 93rd Street.

Before the City finally issued a STOP WORK ORDER for this site on April 28, 2008, residents had logged in countless complaints to 311 about these sort of shoddy and dangerous construction practices over the course of several months.

Now that the City has seen fit to lift the STOP WORK ORDER, despite the fact that neither the City, nor the Developer, has yet to compile an Environmental Impact Study of the proposed development as required by State and City law (and thus, exposing both the city & the developer to protracted and expensive litigation), the Developer, Greystone Development, has now taken to invading our tiny historic neighborhood in the middle of the night.

As you will read in Mr. Giller's forwarded urgent email, residents were shocked that dangerous construction equipment was being moved on and off the property in the middle of the night, taking out a tree limb in the process, along with smashing a sign and generating an unprecedented level of noise in our quiet little neighborhood. These dangerous and unacceptable practices must STOP immediately.

While the Mayor reminds us all that it is important for the NYC economy that development continue, it is unacceptable to voters for that development to be unplanned, careless, haphazard and thoughtless to the character of neighborhoods, the city's history and the city's fragile ecosystem. That is not the sort of development that any city can afford, and the residents of Carnegie Hill expect much more from our city officials and agencies all of whom are charged with the duty of protecting our lives, our city, our neighborhoods, our history and our environment.

See these links for the facts about the necessity for an Environmental Impact Statement for 180 East 93rd Street:

As most of you know, for over a century this site had been home to three beautiful side-by-side 19th century houses with adjoining contiguous gardens taking up more space than the square footage of the homes themselves, and serving as vital nesting, resting and feeding places for a variety of migratory bird species.

Sadly, and quite erroneously, the City not only allowed the developer to demolish these three irreplaceable sister houses, but also the vital species habitats and flyways nestled behind their historic facades. And while neither the City, nor the developer, can bring back these wonderful houses so rich in cultural and architectural history, they both can, and should, bring back the green spaces so important to our fragile urban ecosystem.

The best way to accomplish that which serves the neighborhood and the NYC environment is for the developer, Greystone Development, to donate the properties (now known as 180 East 93rd Street) to the Trust for Public Land, and officially dedicate these properties in perpetuity as a public green space known as Carnegie Hill Gardens.

This is exactly what happened in the 1980s when a Developer sought to destroy the lovely green space in Tudor City. In that case, the developer & the City saw the infinite wisdom of dedicating the green space back to a neighborhood most unhappy with the developer's wrongheaded intentions. Please click on this link for the Tudor City Greens story:

The 93rd Street Beautification Association strongly urges the city council, the Manhattan Borough President and the Mayor's office (and frankly, anyone else who cares about the future of NYC's few remaining historic neighborhoods) to negotiate a deal with the developer, Greystone Development, whereby it abandons its wrongheaded proposal to build CONDOS mid-block on historic Marx Brothers Place (a proposal which also seeks to increase the residential density of Marx Brothers Place exponentially) and, instead, offer practical consolation as redress to a historic neighborhood, and its environment, still roiling from the fact that it should never have been subjected to demolition (historic houses & gardens) in the first place.

The best, and most practicable, resolution to this devastating neighborhood scar (which languishes as a daily reminder of the city's & the developer's failure to abide by city & state environmental laws) is for the developer, Greystone Development, to graciously dedicate the property as Carnegie Hill Gardens for the health and well being of Carnegie Hill residents as well as future generations of New Yorkers. The tax benefits and good will that will accrue to the developer from such an agreement should more than satisfy Greystone's hunger to continue to do business in our beloved city.

In the meantime, the shocking & dangerous construction practices memorialized by Mr. Giller's eye witness account (see forwarded message below) must be rejoined by the City of New York's Department of Buildings.

Thank you for you continued interest in the 93rd Street Beautification Association's efforts to help protect historic Marx Brothers Place - an incomparable chapter in NYC's history !

best regards,

Susan Kathryn Hefti
Co-Chair, 93rd Street Beautification Association

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