Notes from the Neighborhood

| 16 Feb 2015 | 09:28

Changes Proposed to UWS Retail Rezoning Earlier this week, the Department of City Planning proposed several modifications to the Upper West Side retail rezoning plan that is currently making its way through the Uniform Land Use Review Process. The proposal will limit the frontages of banks and restrict other retail spaces along parts of Amsterdam, Columbus and Broadway on the Upper West Side. Many small business owners and residents as well as Community Board 7 and City Council Member Gale Brewer have praised the plan as a way to preserve mom-and-pop shops and keep big-box retailers out, while real estate groups and some BIDs have criticized the plan for limiting business and development. The proposed changes are intended to help maintain retail diversity and give building and business owners more flexibility, streamline expansion and grant concessions to existing businesses according to a City Planning spokesperson. One of the biggest changes is the introduction of a faster certification process that would let existing businesses apply to expand frontages to 60 feet without submitting an environmental review. It would also increase the maximum residential lobby frontage from 15 feet to 25, a recommendation made by Borough President Scott Stringer, and permanently grandfather stores larger than the proposed allowable frontage, where previously they would be forced to revert to smaller spaces if vacant for two years. Also, construction projects scheduled to be completed within six months will be exempt from any new regulations passed. Mel Wymore, a Community Board 7 member who has been supportive of the rezoning measure, said that the modifications seem fair and provide "real flexibility and accommodation for local businesses and landlords." He said that City Planning has been "extremely responsive" to the community's feedback. The City Planning Commission will be voting on the modifications within the next few weeks.   UWS School Goes Green Last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Department of Environmental Protection announced the winners of $4.6 million in grants to community-based green infrastructure projects that aim to improve the water quality of New York Harbor by reducing combined sewer overflows. The Ascension School, at 220 W. 108th St., was awarded $245,213 to create an educational green roof and vegetable garden. The garden will not only provide a learning environment for the students but will help reduce the amount of runoff that flows into the East River watershed by absorbing rainwater. "The Ascension School will now be able to house a state-of-the-art new green roof, reusing rainwater for growing fruits, vegetables and native plants, all while teaching our schoolchildren about local, sustainable agriculture," said project manager Will Travers. Each of the 11 projects that were awarded grants will help keep sewage runoff out of the harbor. When heavy storms hit the city and the sewer system exceeds its capacity, wastewater is released into the rivers in order to prevent it from backing up into buildings. The more water that is absorbed into the ground and permeable surfaces, the less overloaded the sewer systems will be, reducing the quantity and frequency of sewer overflows.   Take a Saunter Around Manhattan Next Saturday, May 5, the Shorewalkers will hold their 27th annual Great Saunter, a 32-mile walk around the perimeter of Manhattan. Pre-registration is closed, but participants can register in person on May 5. The cost is $20 for non-members; the walk is free for members. Registration will begin at Heartland Brewery, 93 South St. (at Fulton Street) at 7 a.m. The walk starts at 7:30 a.m. The route will take the group up the West Side, clockwise around the island, arriving back at the brewery at approximately 7 p.m. to rest weary leg muscles and toast the day's achievement. The tour will meander through 20 parks and provide views of the Statue of Liberty, New Jersey, the Palisades, each of the outer boroughs and all kinds of river sights. There is a stop for lunch in Inwood Park around 1 p.m, with a mid-morning break at River Bank State Park at West 138th Street and a mid-afternoon break at Carl Schurz Park at East 84th Street. Participants are advised to wear comfortable shoes and clothes and bring extra socks, water, snacks and blister treatment. The walk will take place as scheduled rain or shine. Visit for information and registration forms.   'Today' Host Raises Funds for Breast Cancer Last week, Today show co-host and breast cancer survivor Hoda Kotb delivered the keynote address at Beth Israel Medical Center & St. Luke's and Roosevelt Hospital's Breast Service Luncheon at the Pierre Hotel on the Upper East Side. Her speech was followed by an exclusive fashion show by designer Zang Toi. The event, now in its 21st year, raised $600,000 to benefit breast cancer programs.   Music to Stop Violence Against Women Classical pianist and composer Emir Gamsizoglu will give a benefit concert this Saturday, April 28, at 7:30 p.m. at the Fourth Universalist Society's Gothic Church, 160 Central Park West. Proceeds from the performance will go to the anti-violence groups Men Can Stop Rape, the Center Against Domestic Violence and VDay's campaign to stop violence against women in Haiti. Gamsizoglu, who was born in Turkey, was a basketball player until an injury forced him to change his focus to music. His mother, a ballet teacher, taught him to play Chopin's Waltz in C Sharp Minor on the piano at age 20, and he continued to study piano in Istanbul and Paris. He will be performing selections from Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and Prokofiev, as well as his own compositions. Tickets are $20 or $15 for students and seniors, available at the door.