Still waiting for Andy Cohen


To the editor:

(re: “Councilman Andrew Cohen to street co-naming request: Forget about it,” Sept. 24)

I would like to add context to a recent story reporting on Councilman Andrew Cohen’s rejection of the street co-namings of Bradley Terrace and Palisade Avenue in honor of Villa Rosa Bonheur and John J. McKelvey Sr. These tributes were advanced to him by Community Board 8, upon the application of seven community groups, and publicly supported.

In June, I had been asked by Cohen’s constituent services director to call in September to reconvene on the co-namings due to the pandemic. Starting on Sept. 2, I made multiple attempts to do so, but received no response.

Finally, on Sept. 17 — after asking for assistance from the community board — I received a call from an aide. She informed me that Cohen had rejected the co-namings because he felt he did not have a “personal connection” to the “person.” He would not advance them to the city council. There was no other reason shared with me.

That day, I sent an email directly to Cohen’s government address, recounting the conversation. I asked him to “please confirm that this is an accurate characterization of your reasoning.” As of Sept. 25, I have received no returned communication.

His office did respond to The Riverdale Press. A representative stated that Cohen “does recognize Ms. Coggins and the advocacy and the community board’s support. He has taken a while to think through this proposal and give it serious thought and consideration.”

Otherwise, Cohen did not trouble himself to personally respond to me, or to the community board. No one in the public sphere knows why these particular co-namings are not a legislative priority for him because he has not expressed any objection at any time over the process, going back to January of this year.

This experience is a sad echo of one felt by the community in 2019 when Cohen refused to share his intentions on city planning’s proposed amendments to the Special Natural Area District, despite the community’s clear objections.

At the time, the editor of The Riverdale Press questioned the appropriateness of Cohen’s support for legislative changes to SNAD based on his own personal preferences (re: “Since when do laws come down to a single person,” June 6, 2019).

In my letter to the editor, co-authored by Sura Jeselsohn on Aug. 8, we queried why Cohen had stopped being transparent about his views on SNAD. In the end, it was only after sustained community outcry that he acquiesced to the will of the people.

Yes, I am disappointed that the co-namings I fought long and hard to champion will be delayed. But more importantly, in advance of the special election to fill Councilman Cohen’s vacant seat in March, I want candidates to know the community deserves better. We will not tolerate an elected official who makes unilateral decisions based on personal preferences, and which lack transparency.

Legislative priorities should be based on the community’s reasoned and evidenced will. An elected official’s discretion should not be used as a tool to evade that will.

I challenge the candidates to make public statements about this important election issue.

I don’t believe I will ever achieve clarity as to whether Councilman Cohen really took his time to think through the proposal and give it serious thought and consideration.

Because I haven’t heard from him, and I don’t expect that I will.

I do, however, welcome his call.

Stephanie Coggins

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Stephanie Coggins,