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Living Wage Tops CB4Topics
Chelsea Now
Winnie McCroy

December 14, 2011
View the Original Article

Members of Manhattan Community Board 4 (CB4) gathered on December 7 at Roosevelt Hospital for a full board meeting, and public hearings on issues including the NYC Living Wage Campaign and a parking garage project.

Deputy Inspector Elisa Cokkinos, of the NYPD’s Chelsea-based 10th Precinct (at 230 West 20th Street, between Seventh and Eight Avenues), opened the meeting with an update on crime in the area. “We’ve gotten burglaries and robberies under control. There was a seven percent decrease in crime last year,” with a slightly lower decrease this year,” she reported.

As reflected in Chelsea Now’s “Police Blotter” page, many of these crimes are due to people failing to secure their residence before leaving, noted Cokkinos. She invited all to attend 10th Precinct Community Council meetings (held at the precinct, 7pm, on last Wednesday of the month; the next meeting is December 28).

CB4 Board member Pamela Wolff asked Cokkinos about the impact of the Bowery Residents’ Committee shelter (at 127 West 25th Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues).

“We have seen a little more activity on Seventh and Eighth Avenues, but we are working with Muzzy Rosenblatt to be able to get in there when we need to,” said Cokkinos. “We had some problems at first, but now the individuals living there know they can’t walk around Chelsea causing trouble.”

The public hearing session followed, addressing two issues: the application for a special permit for a parking garage at 340 West 21st Street; and a letter indicating CB4’s support for Living Wage NYC (Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act), which mandates that companies receiving city contracts or subsidies and making annual profits in excess of $5 million must pay workers either $10 an hour with benefits, or $11.50 an hour without.

Of the 32 people who signed up to speak, 21 were in favor of the Living Wage campaign. A number shared stories of working long hours in retail or food service and still not being able to support their families. Others told of uninsured family members injured on the job, now relying upon them for support.

“The council is proposing to do what other cities, like L.A., does, which is bring in businesses that pay a living wage rather than ones who won’t,” said Paul Sonn, legal co-director of the National Employment Law Project. He noted that the legislation would press large corporations to create affordable housing and other carve-outs. He also warned to watch for large retailers trying to hide behind small businesses in opposing the campaign.

Ava Farkas of Living Wage NYC noted that, “It is not worth taxpayers money to create jobs that keep people in poverty. And now we’re building a whole new neighborhood for Related Companies to make money [Hudson Yards Project]. I encourage CB4 to join onto this legislation without conditions.” Farkas said they had the support of CB1 and CB12.

“I have many friends living in Manhattan Plaza who are unable to find jobs. Please put pressure on City Council to pass this legislation,” added Nico Boccio of the West Side Neighborhood Alliance.

Perhaps the most poignant tale came from Dr. Scott Stein, a senior medical resident at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital. He told of a security guard named Michael, who came to him in pain with shortness of breath. He was diagnosed with pericardial effusion — fluid around the heart. Stein said the man cried before surgery, fearful he wouldn’t wake up, and after, unsure as to how he would pay his medical bills.

“There are a thousand Michaels in the city,” said Dr. Stein. “These companies get millions in subsidies. The least we can do is provide the people who work there with health insurance.”