MHCC Fall 2019 Update

Health and Safety Committee

After documenting serious health, safety, and environmental concerns with over 2000 photos and videos, the MHCC Health and Safety Committee has successfully confronted owners, developers and contractors, seeking that they change their practices.  With an active Facebook page and Twitter account, the Committee continues to research, document, and communicate our concerns to the community.  Now in our third year, we have developed the MHCC Health and Safety Corps, which Borough President Gale Brewer has described as “…an important model for all NYC community groups,” to assist our neighbors in documenting these construction issues.  We are now monitoring new construction all around our community (especially at the northwest corner of the Union Theological Seminary (UTS) campus). We urge others to join our growing network of advocates as we collect evidence to successfully engage developers and owners in our Morningside Heights community. In addition to this work, we continue sharing our collection of documentation of dangerous and unhealthy construction practices with public officials, so they can advocate on our behalf. For more information, please email us at MHCCSafety@gmail.com

Saving Local Stores: Barnard Buys Goldsmith Hall—Local Stores Saved

When in 2016 Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) sold the Goldsmith Hall dormitory, at the corner of 122ndt and Broadway, to a private developer with a history of displacing tenants and small businesses, MHCC feared that it would become a luxury apartment building and that four beloved neighborhood stores would be displaced. Two of the four stores, Broadway Au Lait and Columbia Barber Shop, had leases that expired at the end of July 2019 and were prepared to close. However, in early July, we learned that Barnard College had bought Goldsmith and planned to maintain it as a dorm with a different name. Responding to an urgent request from MHCC, Barnard announced that it would renew the leases of all four stores. Thanks to Barnard for responding to our plea and for being a good neighbor!

State Legislature Passes Law to Protect New York Tenants

In June the New York State Legislature passed the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act, which closes many of the loopholes in the Rent Stabilization Law that created incentives for landlords to displace tenants. The law also provides other important protections for all New York State tenants. These changes, supported by MHCC, have already led many landlords to drop eviction proceedings and will help keep our neighbors in their homes.

Thanks are owed to the organizers and activists who elected a new State Senate and pressured the legislature to pass the bill. Thanks also to our State legislators for their hard work in passing the new law. For more information, see link

New Luxury Construction

 Overdevelopment is a real threat to Morningside Heights.  It has been underway for years and the results are obvious.  Almost complete are two projects: the Vandewater on 122nd St, with luxury condos priced as high as $4 million, and 30 Morningside Drive, with rents as high as $16,000. Each of these buildings is being marketed as an insular and exclusive residence, with luxury amenities, sequestered from the community. Our neighborhood can do better than this. In order to manage this disruption and preserve our neighborhood’s authenticity, affordability, and diversity, we will continue engaging with local officials, institutions, landlords, and real estate developers. The most important part of this effort is our long struggle for contextual rezoning.

Filling Empty Storefronts

MHCC is concerned about the numerous empty storefronts on some blocks of Broadway in Morningside Heights. We support filling these vacancies with stores that provide jobs and supply goods and services that our community needs. Look for MHCC’s Vacant Storefront Survey coming to you soon.

Tabling on Broadway

During the Spring, members of the Coalition were out tabling on Broadway at 112th Street on five Saturdays. Many volunteers talked to hundreds of neighbors about overdevelopment, retail vacancies, affordable housing and other local issues that MHCC works on. Many neighbors signed petitions for rezoning and an expanded Historic District. If you would like to help with our Fall tabling contact harryschwartz23@gmail.com

Grants for Neighborhood Programs from Community Benefit Agreements

With an initial contribution of $200,000 from Union Theological Seminary (UTS) under a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), the MHCC has established the Morningside Heights Community Fund at the New York Community Trust. An MHCC Committee will recommend organizations to receive grants from the Fund for programs in the Heights.  The initial grants are expected to be made in the Spring of 2020.

MHCC is now discussing CBAs with Jewish Theological Seminary and the developers of housing at the former St. Luke’s Hospital buildings on Morningside Drive.

Columbia 125th Street Construction Plans Raise Alarms

Columbia University recently announced plans to construct a 36-story residence hall for faculty and graduate students, as well as a hotel and conference center, on West 125th Street west of Broadway. The Coalition is alarmed by this proposal and is meeting with local stakeholders to develop an effective response.

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