Thursday, July 24, 2008

My Homage to Stan Michels July 24th 2008

My Homage to Stan Michels

At 4:00PM today at Ft. Tyron Park the main promenade was named after former long time New York City Councilman Stanley E. Michels (1978-2001).

I first met the Councilman in 1993, at the time my housing cooperative had just bought the building from the City of New York and converted to an HDFC cooperative when one of the merchants occupying s commercial space on the Broadway side of the Building had refused to accept the authority of the co-op’s Board of Directors and had proceeded to sue the Board, the City and every Board member. The merchant was a Dominican, and although the building was in Stanley’s District, he went to newly elected Councilman Guillermo Linares to use political clout on the Board.

When a representative of Councilman Linares called me to interfere in the case I let him know in no uncertain terms where to get off.

Councilman Linares then asked Stanley to intervene and try to mediate. That is when I first met Martin Smith who at the time was Stanley’s Housing Coordinator.

Any way I arranged for a meeting with the Board and Councilmen Michels and Linares at which meeting it became clear that the merchant had misconstructed the facts and both Stanley and Guillermo decided to step out and let the case follow is course through the courts, eventually we won the case and evicted the merchant after recovering all the legal costs and back rents.

But in the meantime, Stanley approached me to see if I would be interested in serving in Community Board 9 which at the time was in a rather state of turmoil; Stanley’s idea was that a 6 footer, 275 Lbs former Marine would make an ideal “Sergeant at Arms” for CB9M.

I had had some contact with CB9M as the merchant had also approached them through a Latino member and a letter of support was being prepared which in my contacts with the Chairman at the time, Ted Kovaleff, resulted in the Support letter for the Merchant being denied. My Co-op Board urged me to accept the appointment to keep an "eye" on CB9M.

Stanley recommend to Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger my appointment to CB9M and I was appointed and have a member since except for one year that I my duties did not permit me time to participate but continued active as a Public Member and later Ruth reappointed me again on Stanley’s recommendation.

In April 1994 the “Dirty 30th” scandal made the news. Stanley called me for a meeting with the late Dr. Albert Bloomberg, Rev. Earl Kooperkamp, then at the Intercession Church and Rev. John Scott, pastor of St. John's Baptist. The idea was to establish a Community Coalition on Police (CCOP) the agenda was simple but, at the time “mission impossible” that is rally the community, reopen the civic dialogue between the police and the community and reestablish the trust needed between the police and the local residents.

Those were the darkest days for Hamilton Heights and Washington Heights, it was the height day of the Whole Sale of Cocaine, from West 135th Street to West 180th Street the NYPD estimate more than 5000 drug trafficker plus their, employees, relatives and supporters.

Our first meeting was with Police Commissioner William Bratton and his deputies and over 200 community residents.

One result of our meetings with Commissioner Bratton and Stanley’s frontal and behind the scenes efforts was the re-establishment of the Beat Officers and then many, many Beat residents meetings with the Beat Officers

There were many such meetings with Bratton and after he left with his successor Commissioner Howard Safir. At one meeting Safir promised to go to Washingto to General Murphy the Drug Tsar for assistance, he did and got $10 Million to start the Upper Manhattan Initiative a joint operation including not just the NYP but also the DEA, FBI, IRS and other Federal and State Agencies the rest is - well history.

These efforts and leadership by Stanley are probably forgotten or ignored by most of the area residents today. Hamilton Heights and West Harlem’s debt to Stan Michels is enormous

But Stanley had many other interests that benefited many people not only in West Harlem and Washington Heights but throughout the whole City.

For the HDFC cooperative community Stanley was “Our Man in City Hall”. As president of the HDFC Council the City-wide association of Housing Development Fund Cooperatives I had many extraordinary and private conversations with Stanley, He was always there for us.

Stanley pushed for a piece of legislation that benefits all HDFCs to be able to apply for J-51 Tax Abatement benefits when master metering the electricity and sub metering and got with Speaker Vallone to look into the legislation with became law when Mayor Giluliani signed in 1998. This results in large savings to the cooperative's total electric bill.

The last thing Stanley did before he vacated his seat in City Council in 2001 was to have Steve Simon, long time Chief of Staff, fax me a copy of the letter he wrote to the Commissioner of HPD in regards to the need to eliminate the 60/40 Security provisions from those HDFCs that had them, Stanley’s recommendation was not only realistically simple but elegant and easy for HPD to do; that is to issue an “Assignment of Proceeds” to each HDFC cooperative whereby HPD would assign the 40% of profits on resale from the City to the HDFC cooperative. Unfortunately we are still waiting for a positive way of removing the 60/40 from our deed other than waiting 25 years for the HPD restriction to expire by now most co-ops are near the 25 year expiration anyway so we will wait a few more years. Stanley's successor in City Council, Robert Jackson did present an Intro to accomplish that and other things but it has never been able to be acted upon at City Council.

The honor being bestow on Stan can never equal the magnitude of his many and great
accomplishments for the community nor equal the love that all of us who have known him all these years have for “Stan The Man”.

J. Reyes-Montblanc
A Friend of Stan
July 24th 2008

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