UWS Residents Bring Concerns to Scott Stringer at Town Hall Forum
At a packed town hall meeting on the Upper West Side last night, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer fielded questions from concerned residents of the West 90s and 100s. The community came out in full force, pressing Stringer, City Council Member Gale Brewer and a panel of officials representing various city agencies to address their complaints and fears about various neighborhood issues. Between 100 and 150 residents attended the forum, and the line of people waiting to step up to the microphone to say their piece stretched to the back of the room for the entire two-hour meeting. Armed with literature and, sometimes, un-concealed anger, community members and self-identified local activists pressed their elected officials for answers and action. Stringer, a contender in the Democratic primary for the 2013 mayoral race, addressed concerns ranging from construction to hydrofracking to rat infestation. The most-discussed issue of the night was the proposed construction of a Jewish Home Lifecare center on West 97th Street. JHL, an organization that provides health care and support services for the elderly, seeks to build a new, 20-story high-rise nursing home next door to P.S. 163, an elementary school. Although the New York City Planning Commission approved the application, Community Board 7 and local activists have continued to fight against the project. Avery Brandon, who lives near the 97th Street site and whose kindergarten-aged daughter will be attending P.S. 163 for the next several years, spoke out vehemently against the new building at the meeting. "A huge construction project like this can have untold effects on the health of our children," Brandon said. "With the noise levels, and the mental stress that this construction will cause, how will our children be able to learn?" Brandon and various other residents also cited increased congestion, dust and debris and decreased access to the block for emergency responders as potential negative consequences of the project. Later, on the issue of fracking, the focus of the conversation centered around the contentious Spectra Pipeline, a proposed natural gas pipeline intended to expand the delivery of natural gas to areas in New York and New Jersey. The project, which was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in May, is slated to run along the coast of New Jersey and cross the Hudson River into Manhattan, bringing gas from the Marcellus Shale - acquired through the process of hydraulic fracturing - to New York City homes on the West Side. Residents at the meeting last night voiced opposition shared by many critics of the controversial method, citing in particular what they said are particularly high levels of radon and other radioactive material in Marcellus gas. They emphasized the dangers of using radon-infused gas in New York City kitchens, which tend to be small and often not well-ventilated, as well as the potential effects exposure to fracked gas could have on children in the neighborhood. Attendees also complained of a growing rat infestation on Upper West Side streets - a problem which Council Member Brewer assured would be tackled next month in a block-by-block effort conducted by the Department of Health - and the New York Police Department's ever-contentious Stop and Frisk policy, which NYPD representatives declined to discuss in detail last night.
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