Prisoners of Riverdale Avenue


There are some universal truths for people living in New York City: Pizza always will cost about the same as a trip on the subway. You only ever forget to move your car for alternate side parking on the one day tickets are handed out.  And always avoid Times Square. 

But perhaps none of these truths for New Yorkers is truer than this: Finding a new place to live is about the most difficult task ever. 

That is certainly the case for Community Board 8 which — after 30 years on the ground floor of 5676 Riverdale Ave.— is trying to find a new space to call home. And boy is it hard. 

The problem isn’t that the board can’t find a place where they’d like to be, CB8 chair Rosemary Ginty said, but rather they can’t get the city’s approval to even look. 

“They turned us down twice,” she said of the city’s administrative services department, which is tasked with approving any request to open a new lease with taxpayer money. 

Moving is a two-step process, Ginty said, starting with an application just to start looking for a place, and then a second application and approval if and when the board finds someplace where they’d want to be long-term. 

But city officials aren’t signing any new leases at all, Ginty told a general meeting of the community board this month. That’s not stopping her, however — Ginty said she’s making it her personal mission as chair to move the board to a newer, more central location. 

She’s sending letters to local elected officials to garner support for the move, but Ginty admits it can be hard to feel optimistic when dealing with city agencies.

“We haven’t gotten them to the point where they say, ‘We agree, you need a new space,’” she said. 

But that’s probably because they haven’t taken a visit to the current offices, Ginty added, where she can’t come up with enough reasons to move out.  

“You know our office space, it is disgraceful,” she said. “We go to the other side of the Jerome Reservoir (as a community board), and we have an office where if you walk outside, you are two blocks from the Hudson River, and to the north you can see Yonkers.”

An ideal location, Ginty said, would be somewhere along the Broadway corridor between West 225th and West 242nd streets. That’s where the heart of the district is — both geographically and commercially.

“It is just mass transportation heaven,” Ginty said. “It is really almost like dead center.”

One potential spot could, of all places, be just across the street and elevated tracks from 5731 Broadway, where the city’s homeless services department has proposed to operate a transitional housing facility for families.

That location would provide plenty of space to work, and even to hold meetings. And there’s something there not readily available on Riverdale Avenue or other parts of the community board area — parking.

The current office is made up mostly of a dimly lit lobby where the board’s secretaries and district manager have their desks. That’s adjacent to a long hallway with a few small offices and a conference room, all of which is too small for Ginty, who would like to hold more committee meetings in-house instead of looking for local schools and businesses to host them.

While many of those locations are free or charge minimal rents, getting to them may not be the easiest for those wanting to participate in the governmental process. But then again, Ginty can’t necessarily invite crowds to the Riverdale Avenue location either.

Getting a new lease in a very cost-conscious Bill de Blasio administration has been difficult. During a Sept. 13 general board meeting, Ginty revealed she would have to get both the first deputy mayor Anthony Shorris and budget director Dean Fuleihan to approve it. That, she said, was about as unlikely as convincing a landlord to lease to a college student without a hefty deposit.

“Our facility is grossly inadequate,” Ginty said at the meeting. “It is actually inhumane for people who have to work in that space.”

Ginty will likely have an update on the search when CB8’s executive committee meets Oct. 4 in the offices she wants to vacate.