Broadway Writer Found Dead Early on Monday morning, DNAinfo and other news outlets reported, writer Mark O'Donnell was found dead outside his home on Riverside Drive. Authorities at first did not identify the man who had collapsed outside 202 Riverside Dr. but pronounced him dead at the scene, apparently having suffered cardiac arrest. O'Donnell was best known for his work on the popular musical Hairspray, for which he won a Tony Award. UWS Residents Want Their Trees Skirted As New York enters the lazy days of the end of the summer, Upper West Side residents have not been idle. Recently, Council Member Gale Brewer has received so many calls about tree skirts that she was compelled to take action. Brewer heard from constituents on Columbus Avenue that several trees and lampposts had been summarily stripped of their coverings. According to a letter that Brewer sent to Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, demanding answers to the perplexing case, the tree skirts and lamppost collars have been removed from the four corners of West 75th Street and Columbus Avenue, as well as from two corners of West 74th Street and Columbus Avenue. The Upper West Side community is normally quite vigilant about maintaining pleasant and historically correct streetscapes, so it should come as no surprise to the DOT that locals are calling for answers. Brewer politely asked the DOT to return the swiped skirts as well as inform the community why they disappeared in the first place. Free Summer Concerts Continue The Lincoln Square Business Improvement District is hosting free outdoor concerts for the lunch crowd every Wednesday in August, from 12-2 p.m., in Richard Tucker Park. On Aug. 15, the Opera Collective will be bringing some classical fare to the park with an Opera in the Square afternoon. The Aug. 22 concert will be "Pop to Beatlemania" with Andy Suzuki & The Method and The Meetles, and the series will wrap up Aug. 29 with The Brotherhood of the Jug Band Blue and the Ukuladies playing early American tunes. The park is on West 66th Street from Broadway to Columbus Avenue. Music lovers are encouraged to bring their lunch and something to sit on to watch the show. Locals Rally Against Homeless Shelters The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) is plowing ahead with its plan to house 200 homeless families in single room occupancy (SRO) buildings on the Upper West Side. Despite the strident objections of the community board, City Council Member Gale Brewer, Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, State Sen. Adriano Espaillat and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, DHS announced earlier this week that they will begin moving homeless residents into the buildings at 316 and 330 W. 95th St. The buildings are serving as emergency shelters, meaning that DHS doesn't have to adhere to normal regulations governing where shelters can be placed. The buildings operated as illegal hotels until recently and the owners were fined $600,000 by the city. Instead of returning the SRO units to their originally intended uses, to house low-income residents in small, cheap apartments, the landlords have turned to DHS to offer the buildings as emergency shelters. In return, DHS pays $111.99 per unit per day. Residents and local pols aren't happy with this choice. "New Yorkers understand that all neighborhoods share in the responsibility to provide housing to those in need," said Stringer. "But abruptly moving a 400-person shelter into a residential neighborhood in the dead of summer with no community consultation, no contract and no long-term plan only creates bad will and sets back the cause of fighting homelessness." Officials have repeatedly asked DHS to address the neighborhood's concerns-chiefly that the sudden influx of residents who may have substance abuse or mental health problems will tax the local police and safety resources to the breaking point-but say that they haven't gotten any satisfactory answers. "While we all support helping those seeking shelter, it is unjust and unwise to oversaturate one neighborhood through these emergency provisions, especially when it already has its fair share," said Espaillat. "From the beginning of this process, DHS has failed to communicate with community leaders, enable a public process and notify neighbors." One of the biggest criticisms has been of the secrecy of the plan. "The process should have included a substantive planning discussion with Community Board 7, elected officials, current residents of the two buildings and responsible neighborhood leaders to find a solution to the need for shelter for homeless individuals," said Brewer. On Tuesday, residents and politicians came out to protest the move and ask the city to halt the process, but so far there has been no indication that DHS will be heeding those calls.
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