News

Families of 251 West Street

(MSCC) Bill Ottersen, August 2, 2021

We moved to 251 West 30th Street when we were all young adults. It was 1979 – Carter was President, Ed Koch was Mayor, and we were full of hope for our future. Over the next 41 years, our six families, our apartments – our community – saw our triumphs and disappointments. This building became our home and our families became lifelong friends. 

As senior citizens we consider ourselves incredibly fortunate to live in rent-stabilized apartments in New York. Like many New Yorkers who’ve seen the dark times – and later the rebirth – of our city, but we were never tempted to leave. We stayed and worked with our neighbors to build a stronger, better New York. Our apartment and our community allowed that to happen, and we can’t imagine having chosen a different path.

But we may soon not have a choice. Governor Cuomo’s Empire State Complex plan would seize our building and raze it to build two office buildings. Gone – our 41 years of memories. The homes of our neighbors, many of whom we’ve known for decades. A community destroyed overnight for another developer-backed vanity project. 

We’ve lived in this city long enough to know that change can be a good thing. But the Governor’s single-minded drive to destroy our neighborhood to build more office space we don’t need is filled with problems. The pandemic saw Midtown Manhattan lose hundreds of commercial tenants, leaving empty skyscrapers with millions of square feet of empty office space behind – the highest office vacancy rate since 1994. At the same time, New York continues to suffer from an affordable housing crisis, with millions of families behind on rent they already couldn’t afford when times were good. So why does it make sense to bulldoze housing units to build new commercial space that no one needs? 

The short answer: it doesn’t. But reason has never been a sufficient excuse for corporate greed and excess. And it’s clear that the Governor is intent on pushing this unnecessary project through no matter what the community thinks.

Our families have loved living in Midtown, and we would  do whatever we could to give back and make our community a safer and more vibrant place to live. We are the history, fabric, heart and soul of New York and we are not disposable. 

Bill Otterson serves as the Vice president and Eugene Sinigalliano serves as the Beautification Director for a neighborhood organization, where we do community cleanups, care for our city’s trees (Eugene is a licensed Citizen Pruner), organize and fund laundry service for homeless school children, and much more. Lawrence Wheatman and Vivianne Twilling spent decades as volunteer mentors to at risk high school students through the NY Department of Education. Lisa Mackie and Craig Barnes have spent a lifetime creating and supporting art, eductating artists and helped build our neighborhood into part of the thriving Chelsea art scene. For many years Stan Skardinsky mentored publishing students and helped protect his neigbors and community as an active member of the 251 West 30th Street Tenants Association. Bill Farmer also created and supported art, was active in fighting discrimination and as a nurse volunteered care to sick and dying New Yorkers for many years during the Aids epidemic. 

We all know how privileged we are to live in an incredible city like New York. We want to live here for the rest of our lives – but the Empire Station Complex development plan would cost us our homes and the community we’ve been a part of for decades. We are begging the Governor to reconsider.

Sincerely,

William Otterson, Lisa Mackie, Craig Barnes, Stan Skardinski, Lawrence Wheatman, Vivianne Twilling, Eugene Sinigalliano, Anita DeMatteo, William Farmer and Stuart Rahtz