CouncilStat — where it’s at

To The Editor:

Last week at City Hall we unveiled CouncilStat, a new system that promises to dramatically improve both our ability to deliver constituent services and our approach to making policy. CouncilStat leverages technology to turn constituent concerns into data that we can analyze to identify the shared problems of a street, neighborhood or borough. Like 311 or the Police Department’s CompStat, CouncilStat has started a quiet revolution in how city services can be managed and delivered. 

The City Council is the part of New York City government that is closest to the people. While the mayor takes a top-down approach to government, it’s the Council’s job to govern from the bottom up. Council staff working in each of the 51 Council districts respond directly to thousands of constituent phone calls, e-mails and letters about community issues and problems. Collectively, these offices take in a tremendous amount of data: information about missing street signs, quality of life complaints and the delivery of city services, just to name a few examples.

In the past, this information has been trapped inside the walls of the district offices that take it in. Each office managed its own data, resulting in 51 different procedures for creating new cases, recording complaints, following up with constituents and conducting community outreach. Without a way of comparing complaints between districts, it was hard to tell which communities shared problems with trash collection, noise violations or zoning problems and which constituent problems were limited to just one neighborhood. 

CouncilStat changes this. By providing a uniform system that all 51 district offices can use, CouncilStat establishes streamlined procedures for collecting, recording and responding to constituent communications. With a clearer picture of which problems are citywide and which are local, the Council can more efficiently and effectively manage city services to ensure that the needs of our constituents are being met.  

Christine C. Quinn and Gale Brewer

Quinn is speaker, New York City Council, and Brewer is chairperson, City Council Technology in Government Committee

Let’s do it for Margot

To The Editor: 

Thank you for mentioning the proposal to expand the Soho-Cast Iron Historic District in “Scoopy’s Notebook” last week (“Soho district may grow,” Nov. 28). The Metropolitan Chapter of the Victorian Society in America has initiated a proposal to expand the district and has been advocating for this expansion for some time. We are looking to broaden community support for the district’s extension.

When the Soho historic district was designated in 1974, it left out many outstanding and clearly landmark-worthy buildings on the west side of West Broadway, on the east side of Crosby St. and along portions of Broome, Grand and Howard Sts. east of Broadway. Margot Gayle, the world’s leading expert on cast-iron architecture, fought hard in the 1960s and 1970s to preserve and protect Soho’s cast-iron buildings. No doubt that without Margot’s tireless efforts, Soho’s breathtaking collection of cast-iron and masonry loft buildings would not be here today.

Despite her success, Margot was never satisfied with the incomplete boundaries of the Soho-Cast Iron Historic District. Since the Victorian Society was founded in Margot’s kitchen at 44 W. Ninth St. in 1966, she turned to us to help lead the charge to expand the boundaries of the Soho historic district. 

Margot, whom we can also thank for helping to save Jefferson Market 40 years ago, will hopefully turn 100 years old on May 14, 2008. We believe that the best centennial birthday present for her would be an expanded Soho historic district, something she has long wanted. We are asking the Landmarks Preservation Commission to expand the Soho boundaries while Margot is still with us to see the culmination of her amazing lifetime of work.

We thank the Soho Alliance for allowing us to present our proposal last week to its membership. The response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the proposed expanded Soho Cast-Iron Historic District. However, we still have our work cut out for us. We hope that the residents of Soho and surrounding neighborhoods will join us in asking the Landmarks Preservation Commission to landmark the many outstanding buildings on the edge of the Soho historic district as a 100th birthday gift to Margot Gayle. Soho, the Village and New York City as a whole owe so much to Margot’s advocacy throughout the years, and the time has come to see her vision through.

Complete information on the history of all of the buildings in the proposed Soho historic district expansion and what people can do to help protect them can be found at www.metrovsa.org/SoHo.htm.

Jeffery Sholeen

Sholeen is president, Metropolitan Chapter of the Victorian Society in America

Ninth’s 1930s neighbor

To The Editor:

I have recently been in touch with Detective Hernandez at the Ninth Police Precinct on E. Fifth St., concerning a photograph I have of the precinct officers from the 1930s. My father grew up across the street from the precinct as a boy and was given a copy of that photo, with him in it. He passed away last year and as a dedication to him I am passing on that photo to the newly restored precinct, which is very interested in posting it on their “historical wall” for all to see. The announcement of the reopening of the Ninth Precinct was issued in September 2007, and I thought it might be a nice touch to come down from Montreal, where I live, with my husband and son to personally present this bit of history to the precinct the first week of January 2008. Perhaps you would be interested in being there to take a photo for your community newspaper.


Susan Leibowitz

His spin on bike lanes

To The Editor:

Re “Clowns are in stitches over safer-style bike lane” (news brief, Nov. 14):

I’m glad the new bike lane on Ninth Ave./Hudson St. has everyone connected with your paper so ecstatic. One major cause of traffic congestion has been the appearance of bike lanes all over the city. And with all the real estate development going on, many avenues have only one lane open for cars for several blocks running. Congestion pricing won’t solve these problems! So I ask — safer for whom? Surely not for pedestrians — who remain the majority of city residents — but who cares about that? Certainly not the clowns riding the bicycles!

You can count on one hand the number of bikes using these lanes in any given hour. Forget it. If Mayor Bloomberg is determined to make this city a cyclists’ paradise, it is time to license bike riders. And it is time to ticket them when they fail to use the bike lane, ride through red lights and stop signs, ride the wrong way on the avenues and ride on the sidewalks — especially delivery people too lazy to walk the bike 10 yards. It would also help if the crumbling cobblestone streets of the Village were repaired or disposed of; they are a menace to bikes, cars and pedestrians.

At 72, I am not about to take up bike riding. And nowadays crossing any street in the Village means taking your life in your hands. 

Lois C. Schwartz

What a distorted picture

To The Editor:

Forget about the pressing issues facing the citizens New York City, such as recovery from 9/11, energy shortages, pollution and lack of police and fire personnel. There is a real emergency facing us, and Councilmember Michael McMahon has his finger on the pulse of the issue. The real dangers facing New York City residents lie in the massive unregulated wedding industry. As you are aware, thousands of New York residents are badly harmed by those who improperly prepare our citizens for weddings and then photograph them with unregulated equipment.

This out-of-control practice causes massive burns over much of their bodies. … Wait. No it doesn’t. This industry causes huge sums of personal and family wealth to be stolen. … Wait. No it doesn’t. This causes a huge problem for law enforcement and our courts. … Wait. No it doesn’t. This causes… Hey, what does it cause? Hmm, can’t figure out if it causes anything at all. But what the heck? The new regulations will have Mr. McMahon’s name on them and that will be really cool, so let’s go with it.

Next we will regulate the feeling of joy. If anyone is seen in New York City experiencing joy without a license the fines will be massive. In fact, anyone causing joy in our city without a license will be put in jail. It is time that citizens respect authority just like they do in North Korea. Sanity may take a holiday but the law is at work every day. Thank you for warning us George Orwell.

Lawrence White

No point to park overhaul

To The Editor:

Re “Washington Square Park renovation: Fiction vs. fact” (talking point, by Elizabeth Butson, Judy Paul, Maria Passannante Derr, Anne-Marie Sumner and Rocio Sanz, Nov. 21):

Contrary to the assertion of the talking point writers that “no great park…has ever been designed by committee,” we — the people who actually use this park — have found that the park’s current design, done by a committee led by Bob Nichols, works beautifully. It was a different time, 1970, and the team listened and actually responded to the community. As admitted in the talking point by Butson et. al, there was a different approach this time around!

Project for Public Spaces, after a careful survey of the park, has lauded it as one of the 10 best in the world!

There seems to be an implication in this talking point that the criticisms of the design by the Emergency Coalition Organization to Save Washington Square Park, or ECO, are fabricated. The fact is, we went on a fact-finding mission when we obtained the bid contract documents. We had to stop relying on what we were told by the Parks Department, because often they left out facts or misrepresented important elements of the redesign of — as those who wrote the talking point call it — “a great park of such historical, cultural and aesthetic importance.” What would be the point in redesigning a great park? Whose vision is it? As their column states, it is the “experts’ ” (mostly political appointees) “vision they have created for our community,” not the community’s.

The only point to this pointless redesign that I can imagine is, if there are only needed repairs done, the designer’s name, the mayor’s and other politicians’ names will not be on the plaque. And certainly if the fountain is not moved — bought and paid for, $2.5 million, by the Tisches — the Tisch family will not have their bargain-priced advertising plaques — two of them, 2 feet by 2 feet each, in perpetuity — on our public park’s fountain. A Tisch fountain — the name so affiliated with N.Y.U. — will put N.Y.U. squarely in the middle of our park. At present, by the way, the fountain is in the middle of our “great park.”

P.S.: The most ominous aspect of their column: the “fact” that “currently nine trees are being removed.” Before the judge rules on the issue of an environmental impact study — which will finally force the Parks Department to justify purpose and need — this great park must not be touched! It would be a crime against our community to cut down trees before the judge has ruled, or before an appeal has been settled. Cutting down perfectly fine trees pointlessly should, in any case, be considered a crime against nature.

Sharon Woolums

Woolums is a public member, Community Board 2 and a member, ECO

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