To The Editor:
We all celebrate the lessening of COVID-19 and its accompanying restrictions. But there is a bright—or at least, ironic—side to having so many aspects of our daily routine altered.
The pandemic created a multitude of unintended practices and policies that would enhance our lives: Open Streets, awareness of parking spots as public spaces, traffic reduction, absentee ballots, and virtual zoom events. Zoom opened the door for the participation of many previously unheard voices—people with health issues, disabilities, those fearful of public meetings, or with conflicting schedules. It gave participants a venue to express their concerns over issues that affect their lives.
West Side Rag, August 13, 2021, reporting on a similar concern, noted that a letter from CB7, “lauds the increased public participation that the virtual meetings engendered. ‘Indeed, several Community Boards have reported far greater numbers of public participants in virtual meetings than had ever attended in-person meetings prior to the pandemic–at least one Community Board reported participation by over 1,300 members of the public in a virtual meeting in 2020.’ “
Earlier this summer, the state of NY, by order of Governor Cuomo, reinstated the Open Meetings protocol, which compels entities like community boards to hold their meetings in brick and mortar locations, and open them up to the public.
After this happened, I reached out to various members of Community Board 4 for hybrid (simultaneous participatory in-person and virtual). Unfortunately, the CB4 full board meeting July 28 was NOT truly hybrid, but livestreamed on YouTube for listening only, not participation. The Transportation Planning Committee facilitator was reading a letter drafted for approval to Governor Cuomo on congestión pricing without including support for exemptions for people with disabilities, an issue important to me. I was shouting at home to my unresponsive computer screen at the omission. Fortunately someone at the in-person meeting raised this omission concern and it was added to the letter. I’m told CB4 will strive to bring the same sort of format they had during the pandemic (Zoom or something similar) to all committee meetings as well, starting in September. This is good news, since other recent meetings of CB4, prior to July 28, have excluded potential attendees. I advocate for all future meetings to be hybrid.
A similar situation has been in-person hearings of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). The last meeting, July 21,was only in-person, though open virtually to some Board Members, but not the public, as reported in The City and visible on the YouTube recording. A disability activist, Valerie Joseph, testified July 21, addressing this issue. Later, MTA Chairman Patrick Foye said that the hybrid model could be considered. (Foye’s recent departure from the MTA makes the possible consideration of the hybrid model unclear. At least at the time, the MTA listened.) I watched the meeting on YouTube, and saw only about five speakers, while at previous virtual meetings during the pandemic, there were often 30 or more.
The availability of hybrid meetings is an emerging issue that needs public awareness, to allow participation for all, and prevent exclusion of those who want to have a voice in their lives.
Miriam Fisher, Chelsea resident
Re: “Chorus of Critics Call for Closure of Hudson River Park’s Heliport for the Privileged” (News, Aug. 7, 2021)
To the Editor:
Winnie McCroy has laid out just about every issue provoked by the W. 30th St. VIP Heliport, which is leased from the Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) in our public park.
Our acquiescence to patronizing agencies like HRPT (appointed by the governor, the borough president, the mayor) is over, now that alarms are sounding all over the globe. Everything seems in peril. It is time for the HRPT to come out—time to lead with the public, through open dialogue, to find whatever answers we can muster in the face of our climate emergency.
Safeguarding our waterfront (if it’s even possible in the 11th hour) is our common task, not selling questionable leases to Forever Developers, royal follies like Diller’s Island, or VIP launching pads of wealth’s soaring privilege.
We don’t need that kind of loot. HRPT’s supposed founding “Premise of Self-Sufficiency” was never a Premise at all. It was a canard to develop the West Side for Wealth’s pointless pillage driving our climate train wreck.
HRPT: Cancel the embarrassing Galas and open the inner gates. Take off the finery of office and grab a shovel. Hudson River Park is wonderful, but the dikes are bursting. The Trust’s proclaimed Environmental Stewardship is not a mandate to govern the park like some silly Viceroy. The patrician tone and lawyered secrecy are plain creepy, archaic, and signal corruption.
Pick up the phone when the Public and Press call!
Addendum: The Trust feigns mere administration of government’s wishes, yet it wields plenty of executive power when writing leases and rules. Here is a recent publication by the HRPT that helps set its bunkered tone. What is this but an obsessive waste of lawyers’ fees? Most of the doc may be reasonable boilerplate park rules. However, within the twisted text is complex ambiguity around Rights of Free Speech that could be used to suppress and punish any public demonstration over HRPT leases, such as the Heliport.
Effective as of October 1, 2020:
Best to all of us,
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