In an Op Ed in the New York Daily News (May 4, 2016) Mayor Bill de Blasio referenced the venerated 1960s city activist Jane Jacobs, and wrote:
“Jacobs argued that no one knows a neighborhood better than the people who live there, and so residents should always play a major role in deciding its future.” The mayor added, “These ideas seem obvious now but at the time they were revolutionary.”
Manhattan Valley is a working class neighborhood that runs from 96th to 110th Street, Broadway to Central Park West.
Save Manhattan Valley (SMV) is a rapidly growing coalition of neighborhood groups, housing activists, residents of Manhattan Valley, car owners, parents of students at nearby schools and concerned individuals. We joined forces in March 2016 after we attended a Community Board 7 meeting where the plans for a housing development on West 108th Street were described in detail and we agreed they were dangerous and unnecessary.
Our coalition has the support of local groups, each representing an area of the Manhattan Valley landscape.
The Duke Ellington Boulevard Neighborhood Association
SMV opposes the City’s current plan to demolish the West 108th Street garages that have been serving the community for more than 30 years, and replace them with a large housing complex for seniors and low income tenants. We believe this plan is poorly conceived and does not take into account the needs of residents in the neighborhood.
Please sign our online petition, follow our social media campaigns, see our ‘Take Action’ page to find out what you can do, and most importantly, go to our ‘Donation’ page and help us continue our efforts.
Impact of Proposed 108th St. Development
The proposal by WSFSSH for an 11-story building violates the R8B protective zoning law, which limits all new construction to seven stories on small side streets north of W 96th St.. That law, which Manhattan Valley’s then City Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito fully endorsed, has not been violated since it passed City Council in 2007. If the zoning variance is granted, it sets a dangerous precedent for all future construction in our community.
Manhattan Valley is already home to more than 40% of the affordable housing on the Upper West Side (and that percentage does not include all the transitional shelters, supportive special needs housing, and social service facilities for the homeless, drug addicted, MICA and other needy populations.) Yes, the Manhattan Valley community has been welcoming, but we are saturated by these populations. We have more than our Fair Share requirements of affordable housing.
Booker T Washington and large playing fields are directly across the street from the proposed construction, exposing the children and staff to all manner of hazardous toxins 24/7. Bill 420, which provides protection from all such hazards (and may advance from a distance of 75 feet to 200 feet) is in the works, but not yet passed. Before the City Planning Department certifies the project, a full environmental review should be made available to the Manhattan Valley community, including the schools’ parents and educators, for study and review.
Parking (Loss of Garages)
The three City-owned parking garages currently provide affordable parking for some 800 cars. They offer 725 monthly spaces and 100+ daily spaces to residents, neighborhood merchants, St. Luke's Hospital workers, the Central Park Ambulance Volunteer Unit, Columbia University staff, and many others. They have been serving Manhattan Valley’s lower-income and middle-class families, local merchants and surrounding businesses for over 30 years. The price of these garage spaces have remained appropriate to the economic profile of Manhattan Valley. With little street parking, the prohibitive costs at non-City owned garages, these lower income garage tenants, families and business owners will be hit especially hard.
On top of that, a recently commissioned parking survey of garages and parking options within a 12 block radius of 108th Street, has revealed that there are only 150 monthly spaces available at other garages, at highly inflated costs. They do not offer a viable solution for the number of spaces that will be lost if the 108th Street garages are vaporized.
Quality of Life
The loss of 800 parking spaces will be devastating to not only garage tenants, but to those who currently park their cars on the neighborhood streets. Competition for these spaces is already increased due to new bike lanes and CitiBike ports.
Even worse, neither the City nor WSFFSSH has analyzed the likely and significant adverse environmental impact
that the conversion of the 108th Street space would have on the neighborhood, and the effects on both parkers, pedestrians, and residents. These would include: increased traffic, more traffic accidents as distracted drivers scour the streets for available parking spaces, air pollution from idling, double-parked cars, population impacts, shadow impacts from the new facility on the school yards and playgrounds, noise pollution, and the potential release of lead and other ambient particulates into the air during the years of construction.
For decades, the Columbus Avenue Commercial Corridor stretching from 104th to 110th Streets has been a retail 'dead' zone. There is a documented higher vacancy rate than in surrounding communities. Many storefronts when shuttered have gates that are defaced with graffiti and portray a streetscape of neglect. This leads to diminished foot traffic and invites public safety concerns. It reinforces the feeling of a commercial backwater, a prescription for failure. Manhattan Valley’s impaired business community may be a direct result of the low income levels of the community, which has more affordable/low income housing than its fair share. For several decades new housing opportunities in Manhattan Valley have excluded the working or middle-class. The result is a community that is deprived of economic-socio diversity, and an environment where businesses are not likely to bloom and flourish.
It is a reasonable conclusion that the diminishing availability of parking in the immediate vicinity of the West 108 garages and the restrictive parking regulations along Columbus Avenue are already a deterrent to the struggling business community. The 108th Street garages provide parking for workers to come and go, offer the one parking opportunity for local businesses to bring in supplies and work at all times of the day. The intensity of losing a vast amount of on-street parking compounded by the possible loss of 800 parking spaces in the West 108 Street garages can only contribute to an already 'at-risk' business community.
This project demonstrates a lack of concern and understanding of the needs of Manhattan Valley residents, and will further compromise an impoverished community of future opportunities for commercial growth. It will hinder any opportunity for a Manhattan Valley shopping district to get a ‘jump start’ to be a real functioning destination.