Taxi Commissioner David Yassky talks at CB4 about legalizing street pick-ups for car services in outer boroughs. Photo by Aaron Short for BushwickBK
6:30 PM The Hope Gardens Community Center is festively decorated with emerald-green streamers and glitter — which means it’s either St. Patrick’s Day or the budget just passed.
At this time Community Board members are lining up to dine on catered fare — which is thankfully not St. Patrick’s Day themed. Instead, it’s a solid lineup of chicken cacciatore, meatballs in gravy, Spanish-style rice, and sautéed vegetables.
Also, representatives from several elected offices are present with the notable exception of a staffer from Assemblyman William Boyland Jr.’s office — presumably because his boss is about to get indicted on multiple counts of public corruption for allegedly taking bribes.
6:48 PM Chairwoman Julie Dent calls the meeting to order and asks if a representative from the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission is here to begin a presentation. Apparently they’re running a little late because taxi cabs don’t come to Bushwick.
District Manager Nadine Whitted begins to give the presentation herself — but a silver-haired man named Guy Palumbo, Executive Director of the Livery Round Table, walks in a few minutes later and asks for the microphone, and immediately hands it over to TLC Commissioner David Yassky, who just arrived.
6:52 PM: Yassky says he’s a little late because he was talking with Diana Reyna outside for ten minutes and hadn’t seen her for a while, before launching into his plan to make livery car street pick-ups legal.
Yassky asks, "Do you know how much a yellow taxi medallion goes for?
A board member guesses $250,000. Nope.
"It’s $900,000!" says Yassky. "That’s for one car. It doesn’t even come with the car! It’s just the right to operate a taxi cab!"
"If we’re going to have decent service in Brooklyn, they only way to do that is to let livery drivers pick up off the street legally. Look around here. Do you see a yellow taxi? They’re not serving here anyway."
Under the mayor’s proposal, they’d only be able to pick up in the outer boroughs and drivers wouldn’t have to pay for an expensive medallion but would need to apply for a new license.
But the most interesting part of this is the liveries could have a meter — meaning that instead of negotiating for your fare or paying a flat fee, passengers would pay by the mile.
David takes questions and Parks Chairman Austen Martinez has a question.
"It’s all about money. The government likes money. Anything Bloomberg does is about money," said Martinez.
That’s not really a question — so let’s see how David handles this one.
"Our goal is to take what the liveries are doing now and make it legit. Make it legal. Right now it’s illegal. Right now we’re in the position of enforcing a law that doesn’t make sense. Or turning a blind eye."
7:30 PM: Whitted takes the roll call and Dent asks elected representatives to introduce themselves. And there are a few announcements:
Schools Chancellor Cathie Black is coming to PS 274 on DeKalb and Bushwick Avenues on April 7 at 6 pm. So, that’ll be interesting.
Manny Burgos and Roy Sawyer from Assemblyman Darryl Towns announce that Towns is expected to begin his new job running the Division of State Housing and Community Renewal Apr. 4 instead of today.
Evelyn Cruz from Rep. Nydia Velázquez’s office says that the Congresswoman has a letter to Gov. Cuomo opposing the senior center cuts.
7:42 PM: Dent gives her report, asking for members to join the board’s executive committee. Don’t all get up at once.
She also notes that there are widespread early childhood cuts and senior center cuts, including at Hope Gardens. But she’s heard from reliable sources that the centers may not close. Both houses in the state legislature just introduced bills calling for the funding to be restored. She instructs everyone to "start clapping."
7:57: PM Whitted gives her report, beginning with a new city housing program called the "Proactive Preservation Initiative."
It is supposed to step up enforcement of dilapidated buildings but Whitted is worried that previous programs have unfairly punished building owners in the past.
The Parks Department is leading volunteer anti-litter park cleaning initiative and Whitted will coordinate one this spring at Irving Square Park.
"Who’s going to help me?" Lots of hands are raised. "Are you all serious? Mmmmm-hmmm."
Soccer league updates. A youth soccer league, the Real Guadalupe Corp, is requesting a permit to use a field at Putnam Avenue, but another soccer league, the Andres Gomez Soccer League, could be bounced from the Bushwick Ball Field if the city receives more complaints about "public urination," "lewd behavior," or "public drinking."
8:16 PM: Laura Braslow with the arts committee addresses the clash between police officers and Bushwick art galleries.
"The message I took from this is try to work with the 83rd Precinct. They want to be on your side and try not to have your event get out of hand," Braslow says.
Braslow circulates a notice for groups holding special events. Let’s summarize:
*Let 83rd’s Community Affairs officers know about the event
*If you’re serving beer or wine, you can get a one-day $35 permit
*If you’re doing an outdoor event, it should close at 10 pm.
*If an event is "newsworthy," with 75 people there, give the police 72 hours’ notice.
*If you have more than 75 people there, you should have a security guard.
8:42 PM Announcements. Let’s keep it short:
*A rep from SCO Family of Services is asking the city to not cut its Advantage program, which subsidizes rent payments for residents moving out of shelters.
*Bennett Baruch of Diana Reyna’s office is circulating a petition to Gov. Cuomo to save neighborhood senior centers and working with students at the Academy of Urban Planning and Columbia University to plan a historic district in Bushwick.
*Luis Ramos, who works at a community garden on Wilson Avenue, says that the city planted two trees in front of a community garden — attracting dogs who defecate in or around the pits, creating a big mess. He’s not happy about that.
*Austen Martinez announces that he has his own youth baseball organization, but it’s different than the other ones because it’s a travel league. They will apparently play in other parts of New York State and maybe even Connecticut and Rhode Island.
"If you know anyone who wants to play serious baseball, I mean serious. It’s like being professional, but in a little league."
*And Parliamentarian Odolph Wright notes that his miniature golf range will open at Cornelia and Broadway on weekends beginning in April. Maybe David, Guy Palumbo, Austen and I can try it out.
Bushwick’s Community Board 4 meets on the third Wednesday of every month (except July and August) at Hope Gardens Community Center, 195 Linden Street at Wilson Avenue. To contact the office any other time, call 718-628-8400 or visit 315 Wyckoff Avenue, 2nd Floor.