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Drop-In Center Battle Continues
BY BRUCE A. SILBERBLATT

The Turtle Bay Association and the Coalition for the Sensible Location of Grand Central Social Services (Coalition) remain committed in their opposition to the proposed relocation of the Grand Central Neighborhood Homeless Drop-In Center to 302 East 45th Street. The Drop-In Center had negotiated an option to buy the small four-story structure into which it desires to settle for the above-market price of $2,450,000, fully intending to displace the site's current occupant, Alonzo's Restaurant, in the process. Not surprisingly, they were unable to come up with this kind of money, but in a somewhat unusual move they allowed the option to lapse instead of seeking to extend it. Now the Center is attempting to lease the entire property (having surreptitiously moved into the two top floors last April) for an also above-market $30,000 a month. Since the Center does not have resources even remotely approaching this amount to pay its own way, it needs to find money elsewhere - the most likely source could be the City of New York. Whether or not the city, given its present fiscal outlook, will be so extravagant is another matter.

Despite opposition from the Coalition, TBA, and every elected representative except the Mayor, the Department of Homeless Services still looks kindly upon putting the Center at 302 East 45th Street. Whether it will maintain this posture under the Bloomberg mayoralty is, of course, uncertain. A key player is present Deputy Mayor Lhota, a Center supporter and transition team member, whose position appears unchanged.

The International Pre-School and the parents of its youngsters have made common cause with the Coalition and TBA. Their school, with its outdoor streetfront playground, is less than 300 feet away from the proposed site. They are concerned about exposing pre-kindergarten children to several hundred homeless people congregating a short distance down the block each day.

Another critical factor against relocating the Center to 302 East 45th Street is United Nations security. Since September 11, First Avenue between 42nd and 46th Streets, and 44th, 45th, and at times, 46th Streets west to Second Avenue, have been closed to all traffic. Due to terrorist denunciations directed against the U.N., it continues to be considered a prime target and thus present security measures could easily remain in place for the foreseeable future. The Drop-In Center, which needs to transport homeless individuals (most of whom lack proper identification papers) to its facility daily from elsewhere in Manhattan, has chosen a site that is presently inaccessible. It may very well continue to be so, or could easily become so again at some future date. The U.N.'s high security needs and high profile will always have the potential to make access to the proposed location problematic.

In the meantime, the Coalition staged an SRO Town Hall meeting on October 18, as well as two demonstrations near 302 East 45th Street. It has gotten extensive - and favorable - coverage from the media. The Coalition has presented three alternative sites to the city, none in residential Turtle Bay or Tudor City. Assemblyman Ravitz, Councilmember Moskowitz, and Representative Maloney are actively involved in the fight. As of this writing, the city has not granted final approval, let alone its funding, to the proposed move to East 45th Street.

Other Land Use News
The Instituto Cervantes has begun its long-anticipated conversion of Amster Yard into a cultural institution that will become a welcome asset to the Turtle Bay community. It will have classrooms, a library, an auditorium, and, above all, the Instituto will restore - for all to use - the distinctive gardens for which the landmarked Yard is so well-known.

The 49th-50th Street crosstown bus has become a casualty of the current U.N. security measures. Due to the closure of First Avenue and certain side streets near the U.N., the MTA has, in its vast wisdom, decided to have the buses "temporarily" turn south at 50th Street and Second Avenue and, at 49th Street, head west. Service to First Avenue is no more. TBA has not forgotten that, during the heated arguments about shifting this vital transit link to accommodate Dag Hammarskjold Plaza Park, the MTA floated the proposition of abandoning First Avenue service then and there. That trial balloon was swiftly punctured by vehement community opposition. Our neighborhood must make certain that U.N. security does not become an MTA pretext for quietly turning a "temporary" inconvenience into a permanent rerouting.

Economic uncertainty, exacerbated by September 11, may put two building projects on hold. One is on the southeast corner of Second Avenue and 53rd Street, where site clearance continues, and the other is at the SE corner of First Avenue and 51st Street, where foundation work is slowly moving ahead. In all likelihood, any other large residential projects in Turtle Bay, and quite possibly in the entire city, will be postponed until the economy rebounds.

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The Turtle Bay Association is a nonprofit (501c3) community organization.

224 East 47th Street, New York City 10017
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