The MHNA’s first virtual Annual General Meeting had a great turnout!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Annual General Meeting of The Murray Hill Neighborhood Association took place on October 1, 2020. Due to the pandemic, this was a live Zoom meeting, a first for the Association. The meeting was attended by 170 people.

MHNA President Diane Bartow opened the meeting. She began by sharing the statistic that there have been 49 COVID-19 deaths in Murray Hill, while expressing condolences to the families. Bartow explained that the MHNA has been conducting its meetings via Zoom during the pandemic. She invited everyone to the December 6th Tree Lighting event with Santa on Park Avenue (a safe outdoors event). Bartow then introduced the agenda, which focused on topics that are of most concern for the neighborhood:  the homeless, crime, neighborhood cleanliness, support for neighborhood businesses and construction issues. 

The speakers are summarized below.

NYC Councilmember Keith Powers (District 4) spoke about how his office has been helping to provide food deliveries and PPE during the pandemic. He noted that this is a difficult moment with some tough decisions ahead about the budget. He summarized the issue with the Harmonia, a homeless shelter for adult families that has neighborhood support, and how he and others rallied to prevent residents from being relocated to make way for homeless single men. Powers also talked about the construction accidents in the neighborhood, and what is being done to ensure safe sites. He described legislation that has been passed to help small businesses. Powers concluded by talking about a program called ACE that provides work for the homeless, including jobs to pick up litter. This program will be used to help keep Murray Hill clean. He invited neighborhood constituents to contact his office if they need help.

NYC Councilwoman Carlina Rivera (District 2) spoke about the importance of completing the Census survey and voting in the 2020 elections. She discussed the issue of street cleanliness and the reductions in the Department of Sanitation budget. She explained that  homelessness is a result of the housing crisis, and about actions being taken to prevent evictions as well as provide services to homeless people with substance use disorders and mental health problems. Rivera also described legislation she introduced to protect personal assets of small business owners and discussed services to help negotiate commercial leases. She is actively involved with promoting safer streets for people and bikes.  

NYS Assembly Member Harvey Epstein (Assembly District 74) spoke about a bill he is working on for rent forgiveness. He stated that the state budget has a large gap and that layoffs of government workers may be necessary.

NYS Senator Brad Hoylman (27th Senate District) began by mentioning that many of his constituents are contacting him regarding NYPD who are not wearing masks. He is asking the Commissioner to address this issue. He is also concerned with cars racing on the streets, and has introduced legislation to combat it, as well as asking for speed cameras. He has also introduced legislation to help small businesses. 

Stein Berre, co-chair of the Clean & Green Committee, introduced the new Keep Murray Hill Clean program which will support volunteers who adopt a block to keep clean. He also asked everyone to report problems to 311. 

Matt Roberts, chair of the Quality of Life Committee, updated us on the homeless in the neighborhood. He also asked everyone to call 311 to report non-emergency homeless issues. Call 911 if there is immediate danger. He pointed out that since July, the NYPD is no longer handling the homeless; the Department of Homeless Services has taken over that responsibility. Moving to the issue of crime, Roberts mentioned that there has been an increased number of car and motorcycle thefts in recent months. 

Lilli Seidman Davis, co-chair of the Business Committee and Discount Program, spoke about the ways the MHNA is helping to support local businesses and nonprofits. In July, The Business Forum had a live Zoom meeting featuring Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and a representative from NYC Small Business Services to discuss reopening issues. Future virtual meetings will be scheduled. In addition, the Discount Program offers a way for businesses to increase their visibility and bring customers to their locations or websites.

Susan Demmet , co-chair of the Preservation & Design Committee, explained how the P&D has reimagined their programs during the pandemic. During the first months while the city was on lock-down, a free streaming video of the new Walking Tour of Historic Murray Hill was posted on the website and on social media. Following that, the Scavenger Hunt of Historic Murray Hill contest was open to the public from July 4-September 27. See the Scavenger Hunt article for more details, including the winners. A Zoom author talk and discussion, Louisa May Alcott’s Murray Hill with Lorraine Tosiello took place on October 20, and an in-person walking tour of Murray Hill took place on November 8 with tour guide Robin Garr. The new Walking Tour pay-per-view video is now available on the MHNA website catalog

Victoria Spagnola, co-chair of the Patrons of Park Avenue, the group that maintains the landscaping along the Park Avenue malls, invited everyone to the Park Avenue Tree Lighting with Santa on December 6th. She also explained that an exhibit of sculptures that was scheduled to be displayed along the Murray Hill malls was delayed due to the pandemic. 

Ashley Petrylak, Membership chair, urged everyone whose membership has expired to renew. If you are not sure about your membership status, please email info@murrayhillnyc.org.  

The meeting concluded with a fun trivia quiz about Murray Hill, prepared and conducted by Jon Harari. Congratulations to those who knew the answers!

If anyone has concerns that were not covered at the meeting, please email info@murrayhillnyc.org.

You can watch the recorded  annual meeting on the MHNA YouTube page youtube.com/watch?v=0c_llFdS6Hk&ab_channel=MurrayHillNeighborhoodAssociation.