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Produced by a bunch of smart, opinionated, dishy, nosy, funny New Yorkers
who love to run around Lower Manhattan eating, going to movies and plays, listening to music, taking pictures, and sharing all the dish

We Have Nice Cops Down Here

Sara Levin

Cops and Neighbors

National Night Out on Rutgers Street

Captain Frank Dwyer awarded Sister Diane Olmstead

The 7th Precinct's Explorers Club received a special award
lenching clear bags of newfound goldfish, children scurried around Rutgers Street August 1, enjoying the festivities at the 7th precinct's annual National Night Out. There was food, music, dances and raffles—not to mention demonstrations by the "Federation of Black Cowboys" and signed T-shirts from Regaton stars Alexis y Fido—to entertain mingling neighbors and local police officers.

Community Officer Valdie Lurch was the honoree of the evening, after announcing his upcoming January retirement. A cop of 20 years, all of which have been spent at the 7th precinct, Lurch was honored with a bronze trophy of an officer protecting a child for his service.

"When I first got here, I got off the train and saw all the abandoned buildings… And I told my commanding officer, 'I don't want to be here,'" Lurch said. "But I stayed and I'm glad that I did." Laughing while holding back tears, he joked that one of his finest moments as an officer was when he was standing on Delancey Street one day when a kid asked him for his autograph.

Officer Barbara Jew will succeed Lurch as Community Affairs Officer.

The Grand Street News' editor and publisher, Yori Yanover, was given a special award for covering police issues for the community. "Whenever we want to get information out about crime prevention, descriptions of criminals, tips on how to avoid crime, Yori publishes it," Captain Frank Dwyer said.

Plaques of honor were also bestowed upon local religious leaders, Rev. David Clements of the Trinity Assembly of God Church, Sister Diane Olmstead of St. Theresa's Roman Catholic Church, Dr. Nurur M. Rahman of the Assafa Islamic Center, and Rabbi Shmuel Speigel of the 1st Rumanian American Congregation. Olmstead spoke in English and Spanish.

Rabbi Speigel gave special thanks to Captain Dwyer for staying all night and extra hours at the site where his former synagogue collapsed earlier this year. It was the third year in a row that representatives from the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths shared the stage.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney showed up clad in a smart white suit to greet her constituents on one of the hottest days of the summer. Now in its 23rd year, National Night Out was started as a way to promote civic and police relations.

Saving Space

Is NYCHA warehousing Vladek Houses apartments?
ombing the streets for abandoned buildings and vacant lots, Borough President Scott Stringer and organization Picture the Homeless plan to have a "substantial" amount of data on undeveloped property available to the public this fall, according to Stringer representative Maibe Gonzalez-Fuentes.

Picture the Homeless was founded in 1999 by Lewis Haggins and Anthony Williams, two homeless men residing in Bellevue Men's Shelter. Today they boast a membership of more than 1,000 homeless New Yorkers living on the streets, and in the shelter system.

In July, about 100 volunteers began scanning for undeveloped space in Manhattan. Downtown they are raking through the Lower East Side, Chinatown, East Village and Greenwich Village, taking photos of every empty property they see.

"The data we gather will help us better understand why owners are choosing to leave their properties off the market and will put us in a position to work closely with the City, developers and local communities to promote sensible long term development for our neighborhoods," Stringer declared.

"We have a lot of people calling in curious about this count and we are getting emails about properties to add," Gonz?lez-Fuentes said. She added that once all unoccupied locations are identified, including lots in Upper Manhattan, Stringer's staff will go to the Department of Buildings to determine who owns the property and if there are any violations on it.

Ideally, the project will allow the City to communicate development and zoning options to owners that might help the neighborhood, while allowing community organizations to make proposals.

Gonzalez-Fuentes stressed that finding housing for the homeless is not the BP's only goal. The study is also meant to encourage any opportunities that are beneficial to the community.

Comptroller Whips NYCHA over Vladek

Scott Stringer
his summer, New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. released an audit, accusing the New York City Housing Authority of unreasonably stretching the length of time apartments were held vacant for capital renovations.

The audit studied a sample of six developments undergoing large-scale capital renovations: Marlboro and Whitman/Ingersoll in Brooklyn; Johnson, Randolph, and Vladeck in Manhattan; and Ocean Bay in Queens. The 2,107 units taken off the rent rolls at these developments were vacant for an average of 40 months, with 27 percent off the rent rolls for more than 60 months.

Vladek's 288 apartments which were vacated for capital improvements remained vacant, on average, 64 months, according to the comptroller's report.

Interviewed in this issue of GSN, Councilmember Rosie Mendez explained that the reason behind keeping NYCHA apartments empty longer has to do with maintaining community stability, by permitting the original tenants to return to their apartments after renovations are complete.

The July Comptroller's report scolding NYCHA for significant delays in City housing renovations came as no surprise for residents of the Vladek Houses.

But for Vladek Houses, it's been eight years of skirting construction for new bathrooms, boiler rooms, hot water tanks, a cleaner facade and now a new elevator. While grateful that these changes are being made—the building's infrastructure was as old as its opening date sixty years ago—some residents are skeptical of why it's taken so long.

Ed Garcia, who was Vladek's president during several years of the renovations, said he thinks that under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani the City chose the cheapest contractor to carry out the renovations, while residents ended up paying the higher price.

"Since it was HUD (the Department of Housing and Urban Development) money that was supposed to be paying, why would [City officials] use the cheapest contractor?" Garcia said. Timeframes for the finish date were always vague, he explained, and then residents began to complain that workers had broken things in tenants' homes, like air conditioners, ceiling fans and telephone connections. "Hot and cold faucets were put in upside down, medicine cabinets came falling down," Garcia said.

According to the former Vladek president, one of those contractors was cited twice for violations, defaulted and then allowed to return under a different name. Garcia added, however, that the new elevator renovations in practice are going more smoothly. Although residents of the top floors had to be relocated, the elevators will hopefully be done within a year.

Maloney, Local Officials, Decry Failed Policies at Town Hall Meeting

Congresswoman Maloney (at LES National Night Out): "So fed up I can hardly breathe."
on't worry, things are not gonna' change," assured Assemblywoman Sylvia Friedman at the East Side town hall meeting Aug 2. Easing the panic surrounding MetLife's intention to sell Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, Friedman maintained that even when sold, the complexes will remain rent regulated for already regulated tenants.

Housing was a small slice of what lay on the night's agenda, organized by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. Loosely titled, a "Town Hall on Legislative Priorities for America's Future," local politicians and residents raised concern over everything from Medicare, to sex trafficking, to Iraqi veterans. The local Democrats also used the evening as a fighting cry against Republican majority leadership in the New York Senate.

"Tonight this is about us understanding we are together," said Borough President Scott Stringer. "There are some people out there who are against helping New York City," he said referring to Governor George Pataki.

"I am so fed up I can hardly breathe," Maloney said, describing why she decided to organize the meeting. "I think Mr. Bush will go down in history as America's worst president. The gas prices are an illustration that we have no energy policy in this country. In education, the tuition is up 57% at public universities and $12 billion were cut from college aid. Healthcare costs have six million additional people uninsured…"

One of the most compelling starting places for reform raised at the meeting was Medicare Part D. A victim of high Medicare prices herself, Assemblywoman Friedman said she had introduced a law to make the federal program cover all co-payments after a participant has spent $200 or more in one year. She said when she switched to Medicare, prices for her medications more than quadrupled.

Describing Friedman's law, Maloney said "Buyers of drugs can't negotiate a lower price, so it's corrupt." In addition, drug companies are allowed to change the brand of drug they give out without patients having a say, she added. "We (Democrats) want to expand medical coverage, but we don't have enough votes to pass it."

Echoing the evening's sentiment, Councilman Dan Garodnick encouraged Democratic unity: "We need to stand with Congresswoman Maloney to try and bring a new moral authority to the U.S.," Garodnick said.

500 in Bialystoker Vigil for Israel

ewish tradition stresses that the proper response to crisis is prayer and introspection, and so, as Israeli civilians were being targeted daily by the terrorist Hezbollah organization's Katyusha rockets last month, more than five hundred members of the LES Jewish community responded to a last-minute call to prayer at the Bialystoker Synagogue, on behalf of Israel.

Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, dean of the Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem Yeshiva and the senior figure in the Lower East Side rabbinate, who called for the gathering, spoke for twenty minutes on the need to improve spiritually in light of the critical situation. For the next hour-anda- half, the enthusiastic crowd recited verses from the Book of Psalms.

Rabbi Feinstein's recommendations for spiritual improvement can be viewed online at www.bialystoker.org. In conjunction with the gathering, close to $10 thousand have already been raised to provide for Israelis displaced from their homes by the shelling in Northern Israel. Contributions can be made to either American Friends of Meir Panim or to Agudath Israel – Israel Emergency Fund, and mailed to the Bialystoker Synagogue.

Gouverneur Announces Annual Dinner, Ambitious Project

Gouverneur Executive Director Mendel Hagler receiving a donation from Leung Kwok Choi Chairman, Kwok Choi Leung
ehind a cavern of clanking dim sum carts, Gouverneur Health Center announced its annual benefit dinner for Sept. 14, at a lunch with many of its Chinatown sponsors, in a private room of the bustling Golden Bridge Restaurant. The benefit itself will be held at Jing Fong restaurant on Elizabeth Street.

In an ivory suite, Kwok Choi Leung, Chairman of the Leung Kwok Choi Charitable Foundation gave Mendel Hagler, Gouverneur's Executive Director, a $10,000 check.

"We know that these funds will be used for our residents in our community," said Eric Ng, president of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association. While Ng spoke in English, most of the sponsors who flanked Hagler spoke solely in Chinese. Other sponsors there included the Lin Suj Association, the Fukien American Association and Aji Ichiban, the popular snack brand.

Of his Chinatown sponsors, Hagler said "They have a great sense of community and respect for what we do as an organization. They also give us practical advice, not just monetary support."

Hagler hopes the September dinner will raise funds surpassing last year's mark of $200,000. The new building the center has been planning these past few years is a $160 million project, and so far the organization has raised $105 million. The project should break ground in the late summer/early fall of next year, Hagler said. It is a 400,000 sq. ft. building planned to house some 300 beds, new bone density services, on-site dialysis and cat scans.

Officer Valdie Lurch Ends 20 years of Stellar Community Service

Officer Valdi Lurch saying good bye to the community at last month's National Night Out
ommunity Affairs Officer Valdie Lurch insists "walkin' the beat" was always his favorite part of the job.

"When you have a cop walkin' the beat, you have more interactions with the public, and I loved that," Lurch said, remembering the earlier days of his 20-year career at the 7th Precinct, as his January retirement is looming.

Even on one of his first foot posts, strolling the drug-ridden block of Pitt Street between Delancey and Houston, residents began giving Lurch tips on drug activity. Now on the verge of moving down south, he's proud to be receiving drug and prostitution complaints in the area, but still hawkish on finding ways to better police/community relations.

"Like today, we had an incident where this guy's tires got slashed twice in different incidents, and he called me," Lurch said while taking a break in the precinct conference room. "I mean, I knew the guy for years from being in the community and I was able to go over and meet with him. At both locations there were cameras from buildings that missed the [perpetrator], so I asked the owners of the buildings to direct the lenses to show a little bit more of the public street and they were willing to do it."

Cameras have become major tools for solving crimes, Lurch contends, bringing up how actress Nicole duFresne's murder on Clinton Street was solved last year. But you can't just go up to business owners and yell "hey, change your cameras," he laughed. "You have to approach people in all cases with a professional demeanor and with respect."

When Tony Marano's T+J Auto Repair shop was broken into and graffitied, Lurch got a special graffiti squad to identify the tags, Marano described. "From day One he's been a conscientious cop," he said.

Of course, acting as the face of the police to the community hasn't always been easy. "A lot of people perceive police officers like machines that are supposed to solve all their problems, forgetting that police officers are humans also," Lurch said. But his experiences on patrol—like when a kid puffed up his chest at him and said Yo, man, if you drop that belt we can roll—have prepared him to know how to deal with people.

"I can't believe that Valdie's leaving us," said CB3 District Manager Susan Stetzer. "At the Seventh Precinct he is the most responsive and cooperative officer."

As for the future, Lurch said he is glad Barbara Jew is taking over because she will be able to form a stronger bridge to the Asian community in the area. Jew, who speaks Chinese, is already the Asian community liaison.

Flowers Cafe Owner Opens Flower Shop

Bill's Flowers
fter operating for years below ground level, Bill Frazer's Flowers comes up to sea level with the opening of his charming, new, full service Flower Shop at 39 Essex, open 7 days a week.

Flowers celebrated its Grand Opening, treating the community to food and drinks, on August 16. It specializes in event planning and weddings, as well as all corporate and individual needs.

Walking into the shop, a lovely aroma engulfs you, and the soft lighting and artistically displayed flora is very appealing. Flowers is Frazer's second endeavor on this block of Essex Street, the other one being the Flowers Caf? at the corner of Grand.

Flowers on Essex, 39 Essex St, 212-529- 6653 Mon. – Fri. 8 am – 8 pm, Sat. 9 am – 6 pm, Sun. 9 am – 5 pm.

Casualties of Summer

Etronics' former manager Isaac Meir came to say good bye to the old place
hree local businesses closed down last month, two of them on Essex Street. The Sunshine Factory, a quaint breakfast and lunch restaurant near the corner of Essex and Canal Street East was first to go, having struggled for a year after it had been sold by its original owner, Marcy Kamer. King Size, a bar on the same block, agreed to host the gallery shows by promising local artists which made Sunshine popular, but, obviously, not successful.

Etronics, an electronics Mecca which began its life on Essex Street as Foto Electric in the 1950's, closed down in the early '90's and was resurrected at 37 Essex, a few doorways away from its original location a few years ago. In its heyday, Foto Electric was packed on Sundays with Israelis and other tourists, eager for 220 volt appliances, the store's specialty. The sudden illness of its gifted manager, Isaac Meir, and the shift the Etronics corporation has made to online commerce brought down the gates in August.

Finally, the Village Crown, a Middle Eastern, kosher restaurant located for more than 15 years at 96 Third Avenue, between 12th & 13th Streets, is also closing. Owner Ellen Vaknine said, "You can go only so long when the rent gets tripled." Ms. Vaknine says their complete menu will be available as a to go fare from their mid-town catering location, in addition to the company continuing its very large and successful catering business.

Synagogue Parading With New Scroll

or the first time in many decades, the Young Israel synagogue at 229 East Broadway is taking into its holy ark a brand-new Torah scroll, written especially for its congregation. The project was sponsored by the Young Israel Synagogue of Manhattan Sisterhood. The ceremony, slated to begin on Sunday, September 17, 10:30 AM, at the community room of Amalgamated Housing, 504 Grand Street, will offer an opportunity for locals to observe a scribe completing the writing of the scroll. A procession, with live music, will then march down to the synagogue, which, when founded in 1912, was the very first Young Israel in America.

A buffet dinner will be served after the service. Make your reservations at 212.732.0966.


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