Bill Morris in Board Operations on May 27, 2021
In the latest show of New York City co-ops flexing their political muscle, a group called the Park Row Alliance, representing more than 1,300 residents, is pushing back against the New York Police Department’s “militarization” of their neighborhood on the edge of Chinatown in Lower Manhattan.
“What’s happening on Park Row is another example of the police acting with impunity to take over public and private space,” says Nick Stabile, a co-founder of the Park Row Alliance, which represents the residents of the Chatham Green and Chatham Towers co-ops. “During last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, the NYPD placed snipers on the roof of Chatham Green without the co-op’s consent.”
The Park Row Alliance had already succeeded in getting the city’s Department of Transportation to improve its plan to re-open parts of Park Row to bicycles and pedestrians. The alliance had pushed back successfully against the de Blasio administration’s plan to build a new high-rise jail in the neighborhood. Instead, the city is modernizing the Manhattan Detention Center, known as the Tombs.
But changes made to the neighborhood in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks linger. A large “secured zone,” which includes nearby One Police Plaza, is still surrounded by barricades and police checkpoints. Many streets remain blocked off – or serve as impromptu parking lots for police vehicles. Residents entering the 150-space parking lot at Chatham Green must pass through a police checkpoint. Sometimes residents of Chatham Green have to show ID before entering their homes. Delivery trucks must be inspected by a bomb-sniffing dog, which is on duty only between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Police floodlights occasionally turn the night into high noon.
In an effort to reverse these practices, the Park Row Alliance has sent a letter to all candidates running for mayor and Manhattan borough president. It states: “Since choosing to join our neighborhood (in 1973), the NYPD has continually taken over public space on Park Row and the surrounding areas and unacceptably militarized our close-knit community… This cannot stand.”
The alliance has worked with Margaret Chin of the City Council to open a dialog with the upper echelon of the NYPD. The alliance has also met with seven of the nine candidates vying to succeed Chin, who will leave the council at the end of the year because of term limits. Meanwhile, the alliance is disseminating the candidates’ stances to all co-op shareholders and will soon meet with candidates for mayor and borough president and hold a rally on Park Row in June.
“Having a mayor who’s not going to roll over for the police commissioner is vital,” says Stabile, 36, an attorney who co-founded the Park Row Alliance with Nancy Kong, board president at Chatham Towers.
The alliance’s activism follows a noteworthy push by the Presidents Co-op and Condo Council, which represents more than 100,000 units of housing in the city. The council, along with the Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums, forged alliances with national groups last year and successfully lobbied Congress to make housing cooperatives eligible for forgivable loans under the Paycheck Protection Program. U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer and numerous members of the City Council and New York congressional delegation joined in that successful fight.
Whether the stage is the nation or the neighborhood, Stabile believes co-ops can become a power to be reckoned with. “That first victory with the bike lanes showed people what was possible if we acted together,” he says. “I think co-ops have significant political power. There are 1,300 residents in our two co-ops, and as we’ve seen across the country, when people come together they have the power to enact change.”
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