Linda Rosenthal, the assemblymember representing the 67th district consisting of the Upper West Side and parts of Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen, hosted a mini-town hall for residents of the West 70’s.
The meeting was the first of three that will take place this month in the West 40’s/50’s, 60’s and 80’s/90’s to address the more specific characteristics of and challenges facing each micro community. After her brief intro, the floor opened up to allow the roughly 40 attendees, mostly senior citizens, to ask questions and air their concerns.
The issues raised covered a wide range, from overflowing trash to a parking dispute at the Manhattan Day School to the amount of outside income made by state representatives. “I can’t believe that this neighborhood is so filled with trash [and] filthy sidewalks,” one resident said. “Building owners are not complying with the law in keeping the sidewalks clean, and it’s very, very disturbing.” The resident described a time when she and a friend took matters into their own hands and asked the Lincoln Square Business Improvement District if they could help out. Because the Lincoln Square BID doesn’t technically cover the resident’s neighborhood -- they only cover Broadway between W. 60th to W. 70th Streets -- the resident wanted to know if a new BID could be formed to take responsibility for some of the territory north of that. In response, Rosenthal agreed that the trash situation had gotten out of hand and suggested they ask the sanitation department to do a “blitz.”
The hour-and-a-half “hyper-local town hall” idea is a new one for Rosenthal, though she has hosted many longer town halls and sessions on various topics throughout her career. “People have different concerns in different parts of the district … so I wanted to hear specific issues within 10-block areas,” Rosenthal said. “If you have a smaller group you can go into more detail and speak more personally with everyone.” Though she was already aware of most of the issues that were raised, hearing about them in a closer setting “intensified” her desire to help.
Dee Rieber, who has been president of the W. 75th Street Neighborhood Association since 2009, praised Rosenthal’s work for the community. “I think Linda’s terrific,” she said. “I’ll definitely vote for her and I think most of my constituents will.”
At the town hall last week, she raised the issue of a homelessness conditions program that once existed at the 20th Precinct to help the homeless find shelter and keep them off the streets. “I was concerned that that needs to be an integral part of the 20th Precinct and it seems to have gone by the wayside with the new leadership there,” she said. “The person that was running it left, but that shouldn’t constitute a complete throwing out of the entire program.” Though she’s not sure the problem has necessarily worsened since the police department’s program went away, Rieber thinks the community benefited greatly from it. “The woman that headed up that conditions unit knew every single homeless person on the street,” she said. “She made a point of getting to know who they were … and that made a difference.”
Rosenthal said after the meeting that she would be speaking to the 20th Precinct’s captain about reinstating the homeless conditions program.
Rieber was also the only person to mention Theodore Roosevelt Park and the American Museum of Natural History’s planned expansion, which is perhaps surprising given the vehement outcry from Upper West Side residents against the project. “I really feel in my heart they’re not going to be satisfied until [the museum] takes that entire plot of land,” she said. “Certainly to lose any [green] space is just unconscionable.”
As of this year, Rosenthal has been representing the 67th district for a decade. In that time, she has passed 65 laws and fought for her constituents in Albany. Though the issues pressing on the minds of Upper West Siders have changed in those ten years, several main themes have remained constant. “I think what people are concerned about is overdevelopment,” she said. “I get a lot of emails on the noise, the construction, the quality of life disruption that people on the West Side feel.” Rosenthal herself was inspired to get into politics after she and her grandmother were threatened with eviction years ago. “Something I’m very proud of here in the district is that we have not had one eviction,” she said. “Of all the constituents who come here about to be evicted, we’ve stopped them all.”
Rosenthal is up for re-election this year and plans to keep standing up for her community. Her next mini-town hall for the W. 80’s/90’s will be held Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Goddard Riverside Community Center.