City Council Speaker
Christine Quinn stopped in Sunnyside Tuesday night to discuss some general and
some very local issues with members of the Phipps Garden Apartments Tenants
She stressed the importance
of government listening to individual citizen’s concerns, telling residents
that the government relies on them to keep it aware of what is important.
"When government really is
focused," she said, "it can really make people’s lives better."
Quinn discussed city wide
housing initiatives, such as the Tenant Protection Bill, which she hopes will
soon be law.
The bill aims to protect
tenants in rent controlled apartments. Often these tenants are harassed by
landlords hoping to force them to move, which would allow the landlord to raise
the rent, Quinn said.
The bill would allow tenants
to charge their landlord with harassment, rather than having to file individual
complaints for each violation.
Quinn also spoke about the
Safe Housing Law,** which she said ensures that the 200 worst rated
buildings in the city will be thoroughly inspected by the city each year.
If the landlord does not
promptly make the necessary repairs, the city will pay for the work and then
sue for reimbursement. If the landlord does not repay the city, the building
will be seized and given to a non-profit organization to run.
Tenants asked Quinn about
specific concerns in their neighborhood, such as the condition of Barnett Avenue,
which is part of a landmarked district and which residents said is poorly lit,
with no sidewalks, making it unsafe.
Quinn responded that she is
aware of the issue and would be returning Feb. 1, to show the street and other
problem areas to the Department of Transportation commissioner.
"You know your home is
diminished if your neighborhoods or roads aren’t safe," she said.
Councilman Eric Gioia also
attended the meeting to discuss local issues. He informed residents that Con
Edison is attempting another rate increase. Citing blackouts and other
shortcomings, he encouraged tenants to attend an upcoming hearing and speak in
opposition of the increase.
Quinn took a walking tour of Sunnyside Gardens last year, during the effort to
designate the area as a protected historic district. She and Gioia were both
proponents of the movement and the area was officially landmarked by the City
Council last October.
The district includes 624
buildings in a 16-block area, with borders at 43rd Street to the west, 52nd Street to the east,
to the south and Barnett Avenue
to the north.
Landmarking is meant to
protect the character of the neighborhood, which was built between 1924 and
1928. It was designed by Henry Wright and Clarence Stein, with six acres of
shared open space and buildings comprising less than 30 percent of the
Most of the neighborhood’s
residents were in favor of the designation, but there was some outspoken
opposition. The biggest cause for opposition was fear that landmarking would
drive up property values, thereby increasing taxes and maintenance costs.
"This decision ensures that
the Gardens will be preserved," Gioia said after it was made official, "and
continue to be for our children what it is for us a green jewel in the middle
of New York City."
** Legislation spearheaded by Make the Road New York