I write to you about a case that came across your desk recently. It involves a building in our community that is partially collapsed, one that continues to destroy the building next door and, by extension, damages our entire community.
The owner of that building sued the City of New York to stop the demolition of his structure, which has not been repaired or mended since it collapsed nearly 500 days ago on April 12, 2013. You ruled in his favor, stopping the demolition, giving him yet more time to do what should have been done so long ago.
You were roundly criticized in this community for your decision, but I’m going to take an unpopular stance and say that you made the only decision you could. I think it was correct to act with an abundance of caution and make sure that the owner’s rights were being upheld. After all, we wouldn’t want the city to be able to easily demolish any building it wanted to just because people wanted it to be done.
So, my complaint isn’t with your decision, instead it is with the speed at which it reached your desk. In other words, the Department of Buildings (DOB) and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) should have acted more quickly so that this case reached your desk last summer instead of this one.
But the truth of the matter is that now that your decision has been made, and a timeline set, you are involved and in some way responsible for what happens next. And as the October “deadline” is very tight, you will likely find yourself having to make another decision pretty soon.So I hoped that you might want to better understand what is at stake.
The building directly next door to the collapsed building is the property of the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps, an organization that has volunteered to help people in need for nearly a half-century.
They have responded to emergency situations, sometimes putting themselves at risk. They have comforted accident victims and they have saved lives. They have provided these services for free, just as dozens of other volunteer EMS agencies around our city do.
And like other volunteer agencies, the story of their continued survival is remarkable. They have survived on very little funding and many small donations from the community. Quite often, the members were forced to reach into their own pockets just to keep their doors open.
But all the years of hard work and sacrifice is now very much at risk. Each day of inaction is another nail in the coffin of the ambulance corps. When it rains, it rains inside their building. The walls are now covered in mold. They still have expenses – the city still charges them taxes, though it failed to protect them.
And they still need to keep up their insurance payments, though the insurance company cannot settle because the damage is still ongoing.
And that ongoing damage and inaction has removed their only source of income, the senior center that was housed inside their building. If your expenses remain and your income is lost, well, you do the math, your Honor.
Simply put, they are being slowly crushed to death, virtually trapped beneath the rubble of the collapsed building next door.
With that in mind, the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association and our elected officials – Mike Miller, Joe Addabbo, Eric Ulrich, Elizabeth Crowley, and Nydia Velazquez – are holding a Pasta Dinner Fundraiser for the corps because that’s what we do here in Woodhaven; we look out for one another.
It’s scheduled for Saturday, September 20, starting at 5 p.m. in space generously donated by Emanuel United Church of Christ at 91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard. Tickets cost $20 and can be purchased online at projectwoodhaven.com (or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at 718-296-3735 for details). It’s going to be a 50’s themed party, with good music, food and fun.
Your Honor, we understand that justice is blind, but we also feel it’s easy to turn a blind eye to victims if you don’t see the big picture. So here’s what we’re going to do, we’re purchasing two tickets for the fundraiser in your name for you and a guest. We’ll leave them at the door for you.
We hope that you’ll come out and meet the good people of Woodhaven and Richmond Hill, and we promise that you’ll have a great evening. I think you’ll find that unlike others in this case that make promises to you, we’re good at keeping ours. And for everyone else reading this, we look forward to seeing you at the fundraiser to save the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps on the 20th.