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Friday, April 27, 2018

Popping up on Parkside Place

Major changes have been announced for Norwood with new construction planned for a rocky slope that residents had always believed was parkland. This has raised concerns.

The site is a long, narrow rock outcropping that separates Parkside Place from Webster Avenue in The Bronx. It is near my home and I know it well. Almost nobody ever climbs up on the rocks above Webster Avenue. There's no reason they would. I am one of the few who has. I was curious about a stair that extended from 207th Street down to Webster Avenue on old maps. It was unclear if it was merely planned or if had actually been built and then removed at some point long forgotten. I went looking for any remnants under the vegetation. There is some concrete that might have been part of a stair, although I can't be sure, as well as some mortar used to stabilize the rock outcropping to avoid a collapse onto the street below.

A stair location is indicated on the Borough President's street title map
Parkside Place is a short, three-block-long street that climbs over and back down those rocks. It splits off from Webster Avenue, climbs the hill to 209th Street, continues to 207th Street, and then drops back down to merge back with Webster. It takes its name from the tree-covered rock outcrop that it climbs over, which has never been a real park, but is park-like as a visual resource.

Recently, somebody started clearing the trees off the rocks. Local residents became alarmed. It was commonly believed this was City parkland (in no small part because the Department of Parks and Recreation showed it as parkland on their interactive parks map), and now it was being clearcut without warning. 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Chronicles of Stolen Space: Fake Enforcement

After closing the Privately-Owned Public Space for months of reconstruction to fix subsurface problems, the Millennium Hilton is now reopening its POPS with the same non-compliant design and illegal operations that degrade our public realm. And as before, despite some pretense that they are responding to complaints, the enforcement agencies empowered and entrusted to safeguard our public space are allowing the owners to shirk their responsibilities and steal space from the public:
  • Required public seating and other features were not installed
  • The parking garage has resumed using an area that is supposed to be public seating to temporarily park vehicles
  • The parking garage continues to illegally encroach on the sidewalk and park an extra vehicle that blocks an egress door.
The Department of Buildings, after an insanely prolonged battle, did finally issue a violation for the missing public space amenities. That turned out that was only a token gesture. They listed a demerit and issued a small one-time fine. Then they let the building's owners continue with business as usual. If the Department of Buildings were serious, they would require the owners to meet their obligations under the Special Permit or revoke their Certificate of Occupancy. By all appearances, the Department of Buildings is still siding with unscrupulous building owners against the public.

Meanwhile, the New York Police Department is still letting the parking garage operator break the law and possibly endanger lives. In response to 311 complaints, they have claimed to go out in an attempt to take care of the problem, but those responses are obvious falsifications.

The result is a poor pedestrian experience for the city's residents, workers, and visitors due to wealthy business owners abusing our public space and possibly even putting the lives of their own paying guests in danger.

Previous chronicles in this saga: