By Jonah Allon While hydrofracking was not listed on the packed agenda for Upper West Side Community Board 7's first meeting of the new year last week, the contentious issue did receive a fair amount of attention during the public session of the meeting. The general consensus in the room was opposition to any fracking in upstate New York, which Gov. Cuomo appears on the verge of approving. New York State Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, who represents District 67, stated that there should be "no rush" to approve fracking, citing the inadequacy of the Department of Environmental Conservation health and safety reports and the potential costs to the climate. Her firm stance on the issue was met with applause from concerned community members who attended the forum and board members alike. Several politicians and their spokesmen echoed this call for caution. The board has taken the position that fracking should not be done unless the safety of the water supply for 8 million New Yorkers can be assured, CB7 Chair Mark Diller said in a phone interview after the meeting. Angela Fox, a concerned community member and head of an anti-fracking coalition called The Mothers Project, which emphasizes the danger to women and children who might be exposed to toxins, namely radon, in gas extracted by fracking. This danger exists whether or not New York State performs fracking itself, since the city pipes in fracked gas from other locales. "She painted the picture of a mother standing at the stove with a baby on her hip, cooking dinner on a gas stove using fracked gas and absorbing the toxins," Diller said. "Radon, a byproduct of fracking, is the second leading cause of lung cancer next to cigarettes," Fox pointed out. "If we get Marcellus Shale gas from nearby, it doesn't dissipate." She is also, notably, the mother of Josh Fox, a prominent environmental activist who directed Gasland, a documentary that exposed the dangers of fracking. It is questionable what CB7 can do to mitigate the damages imposed by fracking if Gov. Cuomo does decide to approve it in select areas upstate, but local legislators such as Rosenthal and newly sworn-in Sen. Brad Hoylman (who replaced Tom Duane) offered a few words on the issue. Both say they remain committed to continuing the legislative fight for their respective districts. Having reached a consensus on fracking, the board got down to business on issues that proved thornier to reach agreement on, including some lengthy discussion on the Manhattan Core Parking Amendment, which affects off-street parking regulations in Manhattan Community Districts 1-8, such as how many spaces parking garages must set aside for monthly versus transient parkers. "Our concern," said Diller, "is that we do not want to do anything that will encourage more driving to the Upper West Side." Additional reporting by Amy Zimmerman.
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