Joan of Arc Park Restoration Kicks Off; Group Opposes Synagogue Demolition For Condos ;Public Safety Updates

What’s going on? Facelifts on Riverside Dr. – the sidewalk and the whole historic Joan of Arc Island; Neighbors Fight Plans To Demolish Historic Synagogue On W. 93rd; Authorities close a popular Hardware Store on W. 96th on Bway, while a coffee shop with “everything $2 – Limited Time” wasn’t kidding, they were shut down; the M5 bus gets chopped in half as MTA sets a schedule we hope they’ll keep; and new Street Fair rules could mean fewer fairs.

Photo by Nicole Brostoff, Riverside Park Conservancy



City Council Member Helen Rosenthal joined members of the Joan of Arc Statue Committee (JOA), Neighborhood In The Nineties and Park Tenders to announce $400,000 in funding from the Particpatory Budgeting program for the restoration of Joan of Arc Island (West 91st to West 95th Streets) as the historic site approaches its 100th Anniversary in 2019. At the statue are, left to right: Amanda Larrick (JOA); Jacqueline Distelman, park tender; James Panero (JOA), Randy Hugill, JOA chair; Council Member Rosenthal; Aaron Biller, president of Neighborhood In The Nineties; Lisa Linden (JOA), and Maria Figueroa, park tender. Mr. Hugill presented Ms. Rosenthal with a commemorative mug marking the occasion and thanking her for supporting the spirit of Joan of Arc.

Formed less than a year ago, the Joan of Arc Statue Committee has raised more then $460,000 to fund the restoration of the park, which includes such capital improvements as restoring the plaza around the statue plaza, restoration of paths, fencing, erosion control and the West 93rd Street stairway entrance. The next steps include creating an architectural vision for the restoration, public review and additional fundraising.

The original dedication of the Joan of Arc Island in 1919 was marked by a huge public gathering featuring a 21-gun salute by the US Navy. The battleships USS Utah and Pennsylvania, parked along the Hudson River Shore at 95th and 89th Streets on January 6, 1919 (Joan’s birthday), and crossed their high beam searchlights at the statue’s sword, from 8:15 to 8:40 PM that night, according to a commemorative medal struck to honor the occasion.

The statue’s Mohegan-granite base has “panels within the Gothic arches…from the Chateau de Bouvreuil in Rouen where Joan of Arc was imprisoned. One cylindrical stone from the Cathedral of Rheims, acquired after a World War I bombardment in 1915, was inserted as part of the base after the statue’s dedication. A small copper box was placed inside the base containing letters from President Woodrow Wilson to George Kunz; a letter from the Governor of New York, Charles Whitman; one from the vicar of Rheims Cathedral and from the Cardinal of New York; several French and American coins, bronze medals and plaques; and a “fairy stone” that symbolized the tears of Saint Joan,” writes blogger Tom Miller.
See: Riverside Park, Joan of Arc Memorial

See: NYTimes “Joan and the City” 8/26/16

See: The New Criterion “On the Joan of Arc Memorial in Riverside Park” 

At Long Last…

The restoration of the Riverside Park sidewalk along the western border of Riverside Drive, 91st to 95th Streets, is now set for this month (October). Funded by a previous City Participatory Budgeting program, which allows neighbors to vote for capital improvement projects in their local City Council district, restoration was delayed a few months because contract bids were higher than anticipated.

Going, Going, Gone!

Neighborhood In The Nineties shares the shock and dismay of our neighbors in losing Espresso Matto on Broadway and 95th Street, which closed suddenly, along with Metro Hardware near 96th Street and Broadway. Both places had issues forcing their abrupt shut down by City Marshals a few days ago. Espresso Matto, which was planning another store on Columbus near 85th, is plastered with sheriff”s notices. The family behind Metro Hardware has been operating stores in the 94th-96th Street and Broadway blocks for about 25 years. A banner offering space for rent, from Time Equities, now covers the old Metro awning. Both retailers will be missed by the neighborhood.

M5 Riverside Bus: New Timetable for Improvements

We have learned from a source at the MTA that the M5 route will have a new southern terminus, West 31st Street and Fifth Avenue, starting January 8, 2017. Presently, the M5 terminates at South Ferry, and the service has been unacceptably slow and unreliable. Riders who wish to travel further south will receive a free transfer to a new line, the M55, which will operate from 45th Street to South Ferry, starting January 8th. The buses operate on Avenue of the Americas in midtown northbound, with a 14-block overlap.

New Street Fair Rules
…Have Unintended Consequences

A well-intended proposal by the de Blasio Administration to improve street fairs, may have some unintended consequences — it may eliminate many of them. By raising the cost per block of street fairs, it may make it difficult for fair operators to afford giving away space to community groups. The West Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, for example, which produces it own fairs, the Amsterdam Avenue Festival and the Columbus Avenue Festival in Spring and Fall, has been donating two blocks of its fair to the local green market.

If the City raises costs, as now proposed, it might make such generosity more difficult. The demand for half the space dedicated to businesses that operate along the fair venue, is also a good idea, but some organizers maintain that not all businesses may want to have a presence at the fair. If the 50% level is unattainable, then this might result in canceling the fair. The solution may lie in scaling back the proposal, and the City perhaps addressing problems based on what local community residents want.

Will 14-Story Mid-Block Tower Replace Shaare Zedek Synagogue Building?

The 180-year-old Congregation Shaare Zedek, 212 West 93rd Street, is locked in a battle with neighbors over the future of its neoclassical Granite-facade building. The Congregation has an agreement with Ornstein Leyton to demolish the circa-1923 building, replacing it with a 14-story mixed use facility with three floors for the congregation and the upper floors for luxury residences.

The plans have drawn opposition from neighbors, preservation groups and Community Board 7, with many questioning whether the financially-distressed congregation can save the building by developing other revenue streams. The Landmarks Preservation Commission has put off requests to landmark the building at this time. A group calling itself the “West Nineties Neighborhood Coalition” has been coordinating efforts to prevent development.

We encourage neighbors to weigh in with their concerns. Contact: Council Member Helen Rosenthal,, and Borough President Gale Brewer,

Beware IRS Scam – They Don’t Use Social Media

The Internal Revenue Service is warning residents to be on the lookout for emails from scammers pretending to be from the IRS and attaching a fake tax bill related to the Affordable Care Act. The IRS has received numerous reports of scammers sending a fraudulent version of a notice- labeled CP2000 – for tax year 2015 that usually request a check made out to “I.R.S.” and mailed to the “Austin Processing Center” at a Post Office Box address. This is in addition to a “payment” link within the email itself.

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