BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC | The Midtown South Community Council’s cleanup crusade continues.
While the council, known as MSCC, did not have meetings in July or August, its president, John A. Mudd, and its board members were still busy working on improvements for the area, which spans 29th to 45th Sts., from Lexington to Ninth Aves.
“We’ve had a few successes over the summer,” Mudd said at the council’s most recent meeting on Thurs., Sept. 21. “We had garbage dumping that was going on quite a bit in the neighborhood. There [were] several different sites around Midtown.”
MSCC, with the help of the Midtown Community Court, recently did its fourth cleanup operation, picking up trash and other items that included rusted, derelict bikes and construction cones, he told the crowd gathered at the Midtown South Precinct at 357 W. 35th St.
Derelict bikes — attached to lampposts, railings, tree guards, scaffolds and other street furniture — have been a problem in the area, and Mudd said they are looking to install some type of bike rack to help mitigate it.
Additional bike racks are one of several proposed projects that the council hopes will get a slice of the $1 million Participatory Budgeting pie through Councilmember Corey Johnson’s office. The community gets the opportunity to vote on which projects should get funding, and the councilmember’s office hosted a kickoff event in late September.
At the meeting, Mudd discussed a project that has been long in the making: a rooftop garden on the top of the Midtown South Precinct. “We’ve got a rooftop garden proposal edited, sent out,” he said. “We’re still looking for answers.”
The council has partnered with Inner City Farmers, which has a rooftop garden at 205 W. 39th St., to grow vegetables, herbs, and fruits. Mudd said later in a phone interview that the NYPD is still considering the proposal. “We’re still trying to push them for that,” he said. “We’re looking at other options.”
Mudd went to the District 3 Participatory Budgeting event on Sat., Sept. 23, and met with Judith Dahill, a librarian from the High School of Fashion Industries on W. 24th St. Dahill’s interest in a green roof for the school “might be a perfect fit,” said Mudd. “The rooftop idea seemed to have a lot of interest,” he said, and noted he is hoping to get some funding for the rooftop garden project. Depending on how much funding is received, the garden may be able to provide a work opportunity for someone who is homeless, Mudd said.
Inner City Farmer gives the majority of its produce away to a women’s homeless shelter. Mudd said he wants the rooftop garden to be a self-sustaining enterprise with the hope there might be several in the neighborhood.
Other projects include getting the sidewalk repaired on a stretch of Eighth Ave. from W. 35th to 40th Sts. “It’s in shambles,” he said. “It’s horrific really.” And Eugene Sinigalliano, the council’s beautification director, is going to spearhead an effort to take “care of Port Authority’s trees along 40th St. between Eighth and Ninth,” Mudd said. “They’re planting new trees along… that street and we’re going to be taking care of that.”
Other proposals for Participatory Budgeting funding focus on resources for the homeless, including a day space where the homeless could gather, Mudd said. Homelessness has been on the council’s radar and it works with several nonprofits and outreach groups on the issue.
During the council’s summer hiatus, frustration mounted over quality-of-life concerns and the homeless. At the meeting, residents wanted to know what could be done. Several cited behavior — masturbating, having sex in the open, urinating and defecating, drug use and continuous inebriation, among others — that concerned them, with some parents saying their children had seen it as well.
At the council’s June meeting, Inspector Russell Green, commanding officer of the Midtown South Precinct, said the precinct had been selected for a pilot program with the city’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS). After the meeting, Green told this publication four teams twice during the day were going out to do homeless outreach.
Lt. Louis Marines said at the most recent meeting the team goes out on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and that, “We’ve made close to 600 contacts.” Often people will not accept services right away. Earlier this year, when a reporter from this publication accompanied an outreach team from the nonprofit Breaking Ground, which works to get the homeless inside and housed. Members of the team said a lot of outreach is about repeated contact and it could take years to get someone inside.
Matt Green, deputy chief of staff to Councilmember Johnson, said, “This is a very difficult issue… We want to be compassionate but we also want to make sure that our quality of life is not destroyed by people urinating and defecating and engaging in illegal activity.”
Mudd, who has worked on this issue for a some time, said he understood residents’ frustration, and encouraged people to get involved in any way they could. “As a community and as a police department, we have to really get our hands dirty and participate, find solutions,” he said.
Visit midtownsouthcc.org for more information about the Midtown South Community Council.