No New Jails in Chinatown

Dear GSD community,

The demolition of the Manhattan Detention Center (aka The Tombs) is imminent — to make way for an $8.3 billion borough-based jail project across four boroughs. To the best of our knowledge, $8.3 billion is only for the buildings to be built by 2028 and not for services needed now by the inmates and those who work on Rikers Island. 

In the interest of time, the Executive Committee drafted the letter below to be sent to Mayor Eric Adams for his attention via email, postal mail, social media, and this video:

Please help circulate this message.

We will vote on this as a club resolution at the next GSD meeting on March 21st.

Thank you for your attention.


The Executive Committee of Grand Street Democrats
Marion Riedel, President
Sandra Strother-Ribeiro, Vice President
Julie Huang, Vice President
Melissa Shiffman, Secretary
Kenny Wind, Treasurer
Lee Berman, District Leader
Caroline Laskow, District Leader


Grand Street Dems Resolves to Suspend ESCR Pending Independent Review

Adopted at regular meeting 1/27/21.

In a reply to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request, NYC’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC) stated that the City’s Value Engineering Study on the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) plan could not be sent because:

“DDC’s search of agency records revealed no responsive documents for [the FOIL] request.”

This means that the present massive $1.45 billion plan lacks the main justification for the change that doubled the cost and destruction.

According to a “Fact Sheet” from de Blasio’s office on Sept. 28, 2018, “The adoption of the new design follows a value engineering study performed earlier this year and a review of the project by a panel of experts with experience from around the nation.”

When an independent analyst from the Dutch firm, Deltares, hired by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, reviewed the present ESCR plan (Alternative 4) in 2019, he also requested this Value Engineering Report: “The ‘value engineering report’ leads to the conclusion that Alternative 4 can be completed faster and with a greater degree of certainty,” he wrote. However, he never saw the document. “This value engineering report is not publicly available,” he noted.

The Value Engineering Report was used by the City as justification for approving a plan that would:

  • completely raze the 46 acre East River Park;
  • kill approximately 1000 mature trees and all other vegetation in the 82-year-old park;
  • add a million tons of landfill over 1.2 miles of waterfront;
  • double the initial cost of the project plan; and
  • postpone even temporary flood protection for years.

If there is no Value Engineering Report, then there is no justification for the approved plan.

There has been a sustained outcry from community members and over 14,000 signers of petitions opposing the plan, including 2,000 NYCHA residents, who will be disproportionately affected. Advocates call for flood control that will not completely destroy the park as well as interim flood protection and robust alternate park spaces during the years of construction.

Due to this latest news, we demand the city suspend the ESCR project until it can be reviewed in full, including all documents used to support the conclusions in the City’s final environmental impact statement, by a panel of independent experts.

This position should be communicated to the Mayor and all City, State, and Federal elected officials who represent Grand Street Democrats.

GSD recommends NO vote on ESCRP

With a City Council vote imminent on the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project — the plan to add 8-10 feet of land fill to East River Park for flood protection from Montgomery to 23rd Street — Grand Street Dems voted at our fall meeting to recommend that our Council representatives vote “No” on the ULURP application.

At our spring meeting, GSD passed a resolution expressing many reservations about the City’s plan. With most of those reservations unresolved, club members voted to reject the City’s plan and push for a new community-driven design process that could produce a better plan.

How our representatives — Carlina Rivera and Margaret Chin — vote may determine how the entire City Council votes, since on most ULURP votes Council members defer to the wishes of the local representative.

Thank you to the organizing done over the past several months by East River Alliance and East River Park Action, including several GSD members, to shed light on the many problems with the City’s plan.

GSD recommends YES on all five Charter revision proposals

At our fall meeting on October 16, Grand Street Dems members voted to recommend “Yes” votes for all five City Charter revision proposals that will be on the ballot in November.

We were fortunate to have three members of City Council with us to give us the Charter revision highlights — Ben Kallos, Mark Levine, and Brad Lander.

Councilmembers Ben Kallos, Mark Levine, and Brad Lander speaking at GSD Fall Meeting.

There will be five revisions to the City Charter that need voter approval in November:

  1. Changes to NYC elections, including introducing ranked choice voting for primaries and special elections.
  2. Reforms to the Civilian Complaint Review Board that adjudicates alleged misconduct by NYPD officers.
  3. Changes to ethics and governance statutes.
  4. Modifications to City budgeting, including allowing a rainy-day fund for the first time.
  5. Additional transparency to approving land use changes (ULURP).

There are a few very useful documents you can find online:

Again, Grand Street Dems recommends voting YES for all five Charter revision proposals on November 5.

GSD Resolution on Party Registration Deadline

Adopted at regular meeting 5/16/19.

Grand Street Democrats supports New York State Committee Members in their efforts to move the deadline for Democratic party registration for voters to 25 days before any primary.

Update: One of our State Committee Members, Chris Marte, let us know this morning that he will be voting for the “Let All Democrats Vote Amendment” at today’s State Committee meeting. He sent us a fuller explanation of the rules change, which is included below:

This amendment would change the “Primary Participation” section (Part Two, Section A, 2) of the NYSDC 2020 Delegate Selection Plan and would guarantee that all New York voters who apply to join the Democratic Party at least 25 days before the 2020 Presidential Primary get to vote in that Primary. As currently written, this section states that participation in the Presidential Primary will be limited to New York voters who have enrolled in the Democratic Party by October 11, 2019, which is over six months in advance of the Presidential Primary, and the longest waiting period in the entire nation. 

It is critical that we pass this amendment for several reasons:

  • The draft delegate selection plan does not comply with the DNC Delegate Selection Rules.
    • The “Primary Participation” section of our delegate selection plan does not meet the requirement that State Parties are to do everything in their power to guarantee a change of party enrollment deadline no earlier than the voter registration deadline of 25 days in New York.
    • DNC Rule 2, Section J requires State Parties to ensure “an open and inclusive process” in the selection of convention delegates by “revising State Party rules and encouraging administrative rules, legislation, or considering litigation to… allow voters to switch parties at least as late as the deadline for registering to vote.”
    • DNC Rule 2, Section C requires State Parties to take “all feasible steps” to eliminate excessively long waiting periods for voters to change their enrollment status, including revising Party rules.
  • If the State Committee does not amend its delegate plan and fix this problem, it could cost NY delegates and money.
    • DNC Rule 21, Section C(6) states that the DNC may take action against State Parties that have “failed or refused to comply” with the DNC rules by reducing the size of the NY Delegation to the National Convention, diminishing the voice of New York Democrats in the nomination process.
    • DNC Rule 22, Section C gives the DNC the power to force non-complying State Parties to pay for a private selection of delegates, which could cost the party millions of dollars.

The “Let All Democrats Vote Amendment” not only brings New York in compliance with the DNC, but also meets the national average time required to change Party enrollment and matches New York’s new-voter enrollment deadline (of 25 days before the Primary). For the 2020 Presidential Election, it is critical that we pass this amendment and not miss the opportunity to capitalize on the energy of the Primary to build Party enrollment and to demonstrate the Party’s commitment to fundamental democratic values and fairness.


GSD Resolution on East River Park Draft EIS

Adopted at regular meeting 5/16/19.

The East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) Project is “designed to reduce the risk of floods from coastal storm surges and/or flooding from high-intensity rainfall events.” (The full draft environmental impact statement prepared by the City is available here.)

The City’s $1.4 billion proposal would bulldoze three miles of shoreline parks from Montgomery to 25th St., add landfill, and raise the entire park 8-10 feet as a flood wall against the East River. Construction would start in March 2020 and last 3½ years, by the City’s estimate. Nearly seven years after Superstorm Sandy, the City has no plan for flood protection before the project is complete.

The City’s plan is problematic and needs to be reconsidered.

  1. The environmental impact of the construction project would be devastating, with all existing trees and other plant life destroyed and the loss of significant park components such as the Seal Park and the FDR-era amphitheater.
  2. Construction will close more than 60 acres of parkland along the East River without any plan to replace this vital recreation space during the time of construction.
  3. The City’s track record with large-scale construction projects, in particular those at East River Park, offer no assurances that construction (and loss of park use) will last only 3½ years.
  4. The City has provided no independent engineering review of the necessity of its proposed plan or comparative feasibility of other plans.
  5. After years of delay from the City, residents are now rushed to approve this plan based on an upcoming deadline of initial funding from the Federal government.
  6. Nearly seven years after Sandy, the City still has no plan for immediate flood protection.

We recommend the following:

  1. Commit to any East River Park construction in stages so that parts of the park are kept open and usable for the duration of the project.
  2. Work immediately with our Congressional representatives to extend the deadline to spend Federal funds, and delay the approval of this project, so that the ESCR review process is not rushed.
  3. Convene an independent panel of engineering specialists to review the City’s current plan and proposed alternatives like East River Alliance’s recommendation to extend the park over the FDR Drive. Expert panels have either reviewed or been proposed for large-scale construction projects on the L Train, BQE, and East Side Connector; the Lower East Side deserves the same consideration.
  4. Provide immediate flood protection, even if short-term. There are many types of deployable barriers that could be used to protect the Lower East Side from storm surges while a long-term solution is thoroughly explored.
  5. Commit to other plans to mitigate the impact of loss of park access, including providing transportation to alternate fields, investing in playgrounds and parks in the neighborhoods adjacent to East River Park, and designating alternate protected bike lanes as part of the East River Greenway
  6. Preserve and repurpose existing historical and landscape components of the park.

GSD Resolution on M14 Service Cuts

Adopted at regular meeting 5/16/19.

In March, the MTA surprised our local Community Board with a plan to cut 40% of the M14A and M14D stops below 14th Street — 50% of the M14A stops below Delancey Street.

In the two months since then, Grand Street Democrats engaged diverse community groups, participated in protests, collected petition signatures from our neighbors, spoke out on TV, plastered social media, showed up at community meetings, rallied our local elected officials, and won significant improvements to the MTA’s plan for seniors, students, and people with disabilities.

In addition to the work of our own District Leaders and members, there is credit to go around:

  • All of our elected officials — from City Council up to Congress — rallied against the MTA’s proposed cuts and supported community members’ demands to restore all local stops to the M14 bus route.
  • Jose Ortiz and the members of The Senior Advocacy Leadership Team (SALT), who started a petition that collected 5000 signatures and organized a successful May Day rally and march for seniors on Grand Street to protest the bus service cuts.
  • Daisy Paez, our next-door-neighbor District Leader, who rallied neighbors on the streets and online, stood up at community meetings, and led the May Day rally on Grand Street.

There is also still a lot to keep fighting to change:

  • The MTA made no attempt to reach out to the community before announcing its proposed service cuts.
  • The MTA “open house” meetings were designed not to encourage but to stifle community input.
  • Proposed service cuts were based on agenda-driven metrics, not community needs.
  • Our neighborhood is still losing two stops south of Delancey. Those most in need of convenient public transportation have to settle for a compromise victory.
  • While the purported goal of service cuts was to speed up M14 buses, NYC Department of Transportation still has no plan to mitigate traffic on Grand Street, which is the biggest factor in slow bus speeds below Delancey.
  • Our neighbors above Delancey have lost even more local stops on the M14A and M14D bus routes because of the MTA’s misguided approach to transit policy in the East Village and Lower East Side.

Proposed letter to elected officials regarding air quality during L Train shutdown

At our fall meeting on Thursday, Grand Street Dems will have a chance to approve the following letter to our elected officials urging them to make sure air quality tests are conducted before and during the L Train shutdown to monitor the air quality in neighborhoods like ours that will see a significant increase in diesel bus traffic.

Read the proposed letter below.

Update: The letter below was approved by Grand Street Dems at our meeting on 10/4/18. The letter has also been signed by many other neighborhood groups and local officials. The final letter can be viewed here:

Update 2: In a big victory, the MTA has agreed to monitor air quality all along the bus route during the L Train shutdown. 

Grand Street Democrats urges formal review of MTA/DOT mitigation plan for L Train shutdown

At last night’s regular meeting, Grand Street Democrats approved the following resolution:

The L Train East River Tunnel requires extensive repairs that will disrupt the commute of thousands of New Yorkers for 18 months or more. These repairs are necessary, and the disruption is unavoidable. However, the current MTA contingency plans fail to adequately address the challenge. For example, with the current plan, non-HOV cars will be forced off Delancey onto smaller streets that already suffer from congestion and unsafe conditions for pedestrians. We urge the MTA to consider several important changes to its plans and approach.

  1. Fully review the impact on residential streets surrounding the 14th Street and Delancey Street corridors, particularly along Grand Street and Clinton Street.
  2. Assign electric buses, not diesel, to the Delancey and 14th Street corridors. The sheer volume of additional bus traffic on these routes as part of the mitigation plan makes diesel a disastrous choice for air quality.
  3. Provide long-overdue access for people with disabilities and elderly to all subway stations undergoing renovation.
  4. Vet mitigation plans through a formal and collaborative environmental review and impact study and commit to getting approval from Community Boards in the affected neighborhoods before work begins.

We support the lawsuit brought by community groups, individuals, and organizations representing the disabled which would require the MTA and NYC DOT to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and prepare an environmental impact statement.

We urge our city council members and state representatives to officially support these efforts to improve the existing L Train contingency plan.

Executive committee authorized to negotiate full slate of delegates with GSD nominees

At last night’s regular meeting, GSD members initiated the process for determining this year’s slate of judicial delegates and alternates from Assembly District 65. Four members were nominated to join the slate of delegates, and the executive committee was authorized to negotiate the final make-up of the slate with other Democratic District Leaders from AD65.

The GSD nominees are Ian Rosenberg, Diego Segalini, Hariette Skidelski, and Peter Herb. Since members ranked nominees when voting, these nominees will be considered for the final slate in this order.

GSD members also approved a resolution to give the executive committee authorized to negotiate a full slate of judicial delegates (5) and alternates (5) with the other Democratic District Leaders from AD 65. The delegates endorsed last night by GSD members will make up AD65 Part A’s contribution to that slate.