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Grand Street Settlement Negotiating with Masaryk Towers Over Gate Entry

 Locals who flock to Grand Street Settlement for services were shocked to find a closed gate blocking their pathway to the facilities.
Locals who flock to Grand Street Settlement for services were shocked to find a closed gate blocking their pathway to the facilities.
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Grand Street Settlement

LOWER EAST SIDE — A week after a housing complex abruptly shuttered a walkway that was heavily used by seniors and youths to access services at the nearby Grand Street Settlement facilities, the two parties are now in talks to determine the fate of the barred gate blocking the passage.

The Settlement is optimistic the ongoing negotiations will ultimately allow the hundreds of youth and seniors using its programs to use the walkway, which cuts through the Masaryk Towers complex on Rivington Street, providing passage to those living in the Baruch Houses and elsewhere near the East River.

"We feel like we’re likely to reach an agreement that accomplishes most of our goals and theirs also," said Clovis Thorn, the Settlement's director of development and communications.

The Settlement will host an "informational rally" Thursday at 9:30 a.m. in front of 80 Pitt St. to provide community members with the latest information.

The Settlement's executive director, Robert Cordero, has proposed limited access for staff and community members coming from the Baruch Houses for senior, early-childhood and youth programs, though access for seniors and disabled participants is being prioritized, according to settlement reps.

The discussion currently hinges on Masaryk's insurance concerns, as the complex's liability insurance covers the walkway. But the Grand Street Settlement has offered to extend its liability insurance coverage to the area, which is close enough to the facility to fall under its coverage, according to Settlement reps.

Masaryk's general manger, Mitch Magidson, is conferring with the complex's board, lawyers and insurance provider, according to the Settlement. 

Magidson and Masaryk board president Bernice McCallum did not immediately return requests for comment on the negotiations.

For decades, the walkway has provided safe passage for hundreds of program participants. Without it, kids and seniors have to make the trek to Delancey or Houston streets, whose routes are longer and more isolated, posing health and safety concerns. 

Masaryk had years ago told Grand Street Settlement it would eventually shutter the path and pledged advance notice, according to Cordero. But on May 4, an email was sent to Cordero notifying him that the gate would be closed within 24 hours, creating a chaotic scene in the following days as elderly clients clambered at the closed gates.

Since then, roughly 800 community members have signed a petition demanding the gate be reopened, according to the Settlement.