LOWER EAST SIDE — A heavily trafficked pathway through a housing complex that for years had been used by seniors and youths to access services and programs at Grand Street Settlement will remain shuttered despite a collective outcry from locals, according to a letter shared with DNAinfo New York.
Weeks after coming under fire for abruptly closing the Rivington Street walkway that cuts through its property, leaving the community center scrambling to ensure safe access to elderly and adolescent program participants flocking to its facilities, the Masaryk Towers board of directors on Monday released a letter indicating the walkway will remain barred due to rampant problems with criminal activity and speeding bikes.
"For many years, Masaryk has had serious problems with criminal activities, including the proliferation of illicit drug usage and distribution, alcohol and vandalism, largely attributable to non-residents," reads the letter.
"The quality of life has declined, with litter and garbage left by passerby, rowdy groups hanging out on the benches, in the halls and stairways, with beer cans, bottles and trash left everywhere."
The letter goes on to say many of those problems spiked when NYCHA pulled benches from the nearby Gompers and Baruch Houses.
The pathway has also been "terrorized" by rampant bikes, mopeds and electric bikes "speeding through," in some cases seriously injuring elderly residents, according to the letter. Passerby also bring their pets through, sometimes unleashed, and allow them to defecate on the pavement and grass, the letter said.
After struggling to wrangle these problems through other methods, the gate closure has significantly cut down on or altogether eliminated these activities, according to the letter.
Finally, says the letter, the pathway must be closed to cut down on the complex's liability if someone trips and falls.
But none of the problems listed have anything to do with Grand Street Settlement, said a representative of the organization, noting the settlement had simply been vying for access for the elderly and younger program participants who use the pathway and had offered to extend its insurance to the path.
"We have done as much as we can do address concerns about Grand Street participants who use the pathway by extending our liability insurance an acre from our door that covers them," said Clovis Thorn, the settlement's director of development and communications, adding no one from the organization has ever sued Masaryk.
"The other concerns they raised, while valid for their residents, were not caused by Grand Street participants. The solution we proposed of giving our participants at least some access to the pathway would not increase the things they see decreased now."
Masaryk did offer in the letter to possibly open a pathway along Stanton Street to outsiders, but Thorn said that walkway was hardly a viable alternative, as it is more isolated and poorly lit — raising the same safety concerns currently faced by seniors and youth forced to trek to either Delancey or Houston Street to get to the Settlement facilities.
"It's not as public, it's darker, and we feel it wouldn’t be as safe for our participants unless significant improvements were made," said Thorn.
Masaryk Towers did not immediately return a request for comment.
The letter can be read in full below.