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Community Board Reform

CB12 Derails Greenmarket, Approves Parking Request Unanimously

10:33 AM EDT on September 25, 2008

More parking means more cars, congestion and noise for Dyckman Street. Says CB12: "Bring it."

Citing fears that it would disrupt the neighborhood and rouse illegally parked motorists from their beds on Sunday mornings, Community Board 12 Tuesday night tabled a recommendation for a new Greenmarket in Washington Heights. Minutes later, without discussion, the board unanimously approved a feasibility study for additional parking on Dyckman Street in Inwood.

About a dozen residents turned out in support of the 185th Street Greenmarket resolution, which was the product of a citizen-generated petition with 1,000 signatures. But since the petition was circulated at a time when Bennett Park was thought to be the top choice for the market location, rather than adjacent 185th Street, CB12's Traffic and Transportation Committee dismissed it, and declined to issue a recommendation earlier this month. Still, the chair of the board's parks committee, Elizabeth Lorris Ritter, said a new petition had 42 signatures from those in favor of a 185th Street market, in addition to 32 e-mails indicating support.

But the three residents who spoke against the market carried the night, conjuring visions of 6 a.m. tow truck sweeps, vendor vehicles snapping tree limbs, and rats descending on 185th to feed on discarded produce. The market would hurt nearby businesses, they said, disturb nearby apartment-dwellers, and force motorists who chose not to obey "No Parking" fliers to get up early to move their cars from 185th Street's 19 parking spots. One was "offended" that the market would operate on the Christian sabbath, while another said that, though "chic and trendy," the market would, in reality, "not serve anybody."

Though Ritter and Greenmarket staffer Cathy Chambers had an answer for each of those claims (the market could start at 9 a.m., the day could be switched from Sunday to Friday, vendors don't use street trash bins, shops near Greenmarkets normally see an increase in business, etc.), board members would have none of it. Jim Berlin, the most outspoken critic on the CB12 transportation committee, characterized Ritter's rebuttals as "inexcusable," and accused Chambers of trying to deceive the board. Other locations -- involving the sacrifice of fewer, or no, parking spaces -- were suggested, but the board ultimately tabled the resolution on the grounds that more time should be devoted to fleshing out the proposal. The parks committee has been working on the Greenmarket issue since February.

In contrast, a resolution calling for a DOT study on adding angled parking to the west end of Dyckman Street passed unanimously. Dyckman Street, particularly west of Broadway, has been a primary source of "tons" of recent noise complaints, according to CB12 District Manager Ebenezer Smith. In addition, plans to revive the now-shuttered Dyckman Marina, including three food venues with combined seating for 300, have not taken into account the potential subsequent increase in car traffic. At a recent hearing, according to neighborhood newspaper Manhattan Times, would-be marina developers said it is up to the police and DOT to handle congestion caused by their project. For their part, they plan to use car services to ferry customers to and from area garages. 

CB12 members asked no questions before approving the Dyckman Street parking resolution.

Photo: Brad Aaron

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