Organizing to save the east end My Story

| 08 Aug 2016 | 05:00

Maybe the Older Women’s League didn’t invent this mantra, “Don’t Agonize- Organize!,” but I first heard it there.

And this column is not about ageism, except we wish The First Lady had said “ 55 years OLD” and not “55 years YOUNG” when wishing the leader of the free world a happy birthday. We wish she and the First Daughters hadn’t kidded him about his graying hair. And say, why do we so rarely see or hear about the Grandmother in the White House who so importantly looks after the First Daughters?

But this column is about something countless New Yorkers long for, leaders and wanabees, on the left and right, to start saving small neighborhood businesses which meet everyday needs. These places bring people together in an ever more impersonal, divided society, and replaced by “gated community” luxury condo towers which ruthlessly displace affordable rental homes as well as the so needed neighborhood places.

While we’ve been dwelling on East End Avenue’s critical loss of a very longtime Gristedes market, the beloved East End Kitchen restaurant, as well as 29 rental apartments. They’re being replaced of course by a luxury condo tower, but these devastating losses are citywide, with no end in sight. If ever organizing were needed. Ah, but there is good news, too; about a group which will monitor and thus minimize the several years of what some call “environmental contamination construction attacks,”

And thank you DNAinfo online story “Amid Development Boom, UES Residents Want to Form a Construction Task Force.” The task force is being formed by East End’s SereneGreen 84 group, which organized to reduce the Chapin School’s years of night and weekend structural renovation noise. The group leaders, Cynthia Kramer and Lisa Paule, have now sent this message to local elected officials: “We would like to set up a group to get ahead of the colossal disruption and make sure safeguards are in place (for East End Avenue). We want to set up a community task force to get ahead of the issues and begin work to maintain the special nature of this residential area. As we enlist help from our neighbors, we appreciate your involvement.”

The letter goes on to describe what these women so rightly also call the “massive disruption” of East End Avenue, because of not one but three construction sites in a three short block area. The one this column has been agonizing about -- the razing of 40 East End, a six-story building with 29 rental apartments and Gristedes and East End Kitchen restaurant, to be replaced by an 18-story luxury condo tower. The Chapin School renovation continues and continues. The Brearley School will replace “three townhouses,” said the message. Perhaps they meant affordable rental buildings which once had stores and a restaurant. Indeed, East End Avenue was once that veritable “village it takes,” and with even a hospital replaced in 2004 by what else. but a luxury condo tower.

But East Enders will be so inordinately blessed to have this group which will make builders more accountable to the massive noise and dust wreaked on the neighbors who rarely publicly protest, let alone organize against something so damaging - not only to the quality- but the health of their lives.

And surely every East Ender will join this group – and by rights, developers should provide Bose noise canceling headphones and pay electric bills so much higher when AC’s must be on more often to shut out the noise and the dust. Radical? Not when you consider the overall damage inflicted on residents’ lives and the neighborhood.

But ‘til the revolution, do join this group to help minimize the forthcoming literally years of “colossal disruption.” (The group needs replication citywide.) Yes, losing the places we need and subsequent onslaught of construction are something to agonize about, and we wish we’d organized sooner to save these buildings, but now organize we must to minimize years of construction-caused environmental contaminants.

Ah, about those elections, not only local officials should be in the vanguard of saving the neighborhoods which meet everyday needs and pocketbooks and bring people together. Or else. To be continued, of course. It can be done if enough of us try – if enough of us try.