Meet your local greenmarket farmers: Spotlight on Seatuck Fish Company

Ashley Edington of Seatuck Fish Company in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Kaley Pillinger)

Ashley Edington of Seatuck Fish Company in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Kaley Pillinger)

By Kaley Pillinger

It’s been nine years and Ashley Edington still gets seasick. Since she was 15, she has been working with her uncle at Seatuck Fish Company, and mornings on the fishing boat usher in rounds of queasiness.

Seatuck is a tried and true family business based in Moriches Bay, Long Island, and Edington understands the market like a second language. She knows when to get which fish; they migrate with seasons, and there are regulations by month — “You can’t touch a bass before June 1st.”

On weekdays, the Edingtons take their boat out for the day and are home by dinner. On weekends, they set up shop in one of their eight regular markets.

Each market has a unique personality: Customers at 175th Street and Broadway favor whole fish, crabs and chowders, whereas those at the Stuyvesant Town market prefer scallops. Only an hour after the market’s opening, Edington was already onto her second bucket of scallops. However, it’s not always easy determining which fish to bring.

“Some weeks they might buy a lot of calamari and the next week they won’t buy any. It’s always a guessing game.”

Missing the mark results in a waste of time and resources. Just the process of transportation alone is cumbersome. Edington commented that coolers can be one of the company’s biggest expenses: the company buys around twenty coolers annually.

In general, though, she has a sense of customers’ tastes. She has many customers for whom she can start bagging the fish as soon as she sees them approaching. Countless more customers ask for advice on opening shellfish or making a fish soup. She joked that she gives cooking instructions “about 300 times a day.”

One man, picking up mussels from the Seatuck stand, asked Edington who cleans all the fish and she told him it was she.

He incredulously responded, “There are too many for one person.”

She explained with a laugh: “I’m very talented.”

After ‘Big Ugly’ tenants focused on 2016 NY elections

Assembly Member Carl Heastie, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (Photo via Governor Cuomo Flickr)

Assembly Member Carl Heastie, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (Photo via Governor Cuomo Flickr)

By Sabina Mollot

Last week’s deal on the rent laws and other major issues, promptly dubbed the “Big Ugly,” was blasted by tenants even before it was finalized last Thursday, for including only minor changes in the rent laws, like raising the vacancy deregulation rent threshold from $2,500 to $2,700.

And while the newly slightly strengthened rent laws will remain in place until 2019, tenant activists are now more interested in 2016. The reason is that because it’s a presidential election year, on Election Day, that will mean more bodies at the polls than the amount that would normally show up for local races. At that time the goal will be to turn the Republican-controlled Senate into a Democratic one.

Mike McKee, treasurer of TenantsPAC, believes if this happens, tenant-friendly legislation could start getting passed as early as January, 2017.

“The legislators can amend the law at any time,” he said. “Even with a Republican governor like Andrew Cuomo, we can revisit this issue and repeal vacancy decontrol and other issues.”

There are 63 State Senate seats, and McKee said at this point, TenantsPAC is not sure which districts to focus its efforts on for supporting candidates. However, this will be a goal over the coming months.

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Fireworks viewing spots, street closures on July 4th

(Photo by Sabina Mollot)

(Photo by Sabina Mollot)

With the July 4th Macy’s fireworks show on the East Side this year, it may be viewed in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn from any area with an unobstructed view of the sky above the East River.

The public viewing sections for Manhattan will be the elevated portions of FDR Drive with the following entry points:

From Houston Street to midtown: Houston Street, 23rd Street, 34th Street and 42nd Street.

From Lower Manhattan: Broad Street ground level, Old Slip upper level, Pearl and Frankfort.

ADA /Special Needs Viewing Area:

FDR Drive southbound lane at 16th Street and Avenue C or 34th Street (top of ramp) and Vietnam Memorial Park

Stuy Town and Waterside alerts:

Waterside Plaza will be holding a party that’s closed to anyone who isn’t a resident or a guest with a wristband. Wristband access only times are 12 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Deadline to register for wristbands is 2 p.m. on July 2.

Additionally, the NYPD will be closing streets to traffic around Stuyvesant Town. CompassRock issued a notice to tenants saying 14th, 20th and 23rd Streets from First Avenue to Avenue C will be closed to vehicular traffic from 6 p.m. to midnight. Peter Cooper Road and Stuy Town’s Loop Roads will also be closed from 6 p.m. to midnight. Avenue C and the FDR Drive will also be closed from 5 p.m. to midnight. During this time, entrances to Stuy Town will be staffed by Public Safety officers so residents will need to have their ID ready. Gates to Peter Cooper entrances will also be closed from 6 p.m. to midnight but Public Safety officers will be on hand to allow residents access. Guests of residents will be asked which residents and apartments they are visiting. Garages will be inaccessible from 5 p.m. to midnight and playgrounds will be closed at 6 p.m.

UPDATE: We didn’t hear from anyone in time to include this in this week’s issue of Town & Village, but Stuyvesant Cove Park will also be closed during the fireworks, according to a Solar 1 staffer, except for a ticketed event held by Zum Schneider at the north end of the park.

Supreme Court ruling celebrated at pride parade

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By Maria Rocha-Buschel

New York’s gay and LGBT pride march, held last Sunday, came at a particularly appropriate time this year as it was scheduled just two days after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on same-sex marriage.

State Senator Brad Hoylman, the state’s only openly-gay senator and a participant in the parade last weekend, cheered the ruling.

“As a gay husband and father, I’m extremely proud to be an American today,” Hoylman said. “LGBT couples everywhere will now enjoy the same basic civil right that New York State granted back in 2011. It’s exciting to think that one day my four-year old daughter will read about Obergefell v. Hodges in school and understand the transformative effect the case is bound to have on LGBT families in our country.”

In recognition of the decision and in honor of Pride Week, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed that the spire of One World Trade Center be lit up in rainbow hues on Sunday night. Cuomo, who signed same-sex marriage legislation in 2011, also marched in the parade and having recently been granted the authority to officiate marriages, conducted a ceremony at the Stonewall Inn on the morning before the march.

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Traffic safety improvements underway in Stuyvesant Town

Speed bumps are put into place near the daycare center. (Photo courtesy of Dan Garodnick)

Speed bumps are put into place near the daycare center. (Photo courtesy of Dan Garodnick)

By Sabina Mollot

Stuyvesant Town residents will soon see $100,000 worth of traffic and pedestrian safety improvements made to the neighborhood.

Funds for the project were allocated last week, as part of the city budget, at the request of Council Member Dan Garodnick.

What exact improvements are going to be made has not yet been determined with Garodnick saying he wanted to have the Department of Transportation make its own recommendations. The goal, however is to make the cityscape surrounding the property more child and senior-friendly with smoother curb cuts (the slopes from sidewalks to the street on corners) and other changes aimed at minimizing car and bike accidents.

Increasing crossing times at street lights is a possibility, as are changes to the service roads. Last month, a Town & Village reader asked Garodnick, via a letter to this newspaper, to make the service roads safer. This was after witnessing a pedestrian dart out into one to catch a bus, only to get hit by a car.

“Pedestrians treat the service road as a semi-sidewalk, while drivers drive at full speed,” observed the writer, Joseph Sanderson.

Garodnick said he’s been in touch with Sanderson. “We’re looking at the safety issue on the service road and that could be a part of this potentially,” he said.

He added that he’s also heard from residents that some curb cuts are difficult to manage by people using walkers or pushing strollers.

Meanwhile, other changes aimed at pedestrian safety are already afoot within Stuyvesant Town.

The Council member noted how the recent move of the onsite daycare center from East 14th Street to the old management office building on Avenue C has led to a higher concentration of kids on Avenue C near the southbound entrance to the FDR Drive. Due to concerns over their safety, CompassRock was asked to implement its own safety measures along the Avenue C Loop — and management agreed.

“They responded almost immediately, which we are very grateful for,” said Garodnick.

Improvements include putting two speedbumps along the C Loop, installing “Caution: Children at Play” signage and painting the street outside the center yellow to prevent double parking. The speed bumps were put into place on Tuesday morning, while the painting was already done last Thursday and earlier in the week, Garodnick said he spotted at least one sign.

The improvements inside Stuy Town are being paid for by CompassRock/CWCapital, not the city.

Police Watch: Drug, drunk driving arrests this week

MAN ARRESTED FOLLOWING THEFT
Nineteen-year-old Mahamood Davis was charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct at the corner of Second Avenue and East 24th Street last Tuesday at 1:13 a.m. Police said that Davis was seen walking away from the scene of a crime and fit the description of a man wanted for grand larceny. When Davis saw police approaching him, he allegedly became evasive by changing direction. As police approached him, Davis allegedly refused orders to stop and walked away. Police officers chased him and said that Davis ran for about two blocks with police in pursuit on foot and in cars. After catching him, police said physical force had to be used to bring Davis to the ground. Police said that he resisted being handcuffed by flailing his arms and legs and refusing to place his hands behind his back. Police did not have enough evidence to charge him with the initial grand larceny for which they were originally pursuing him.

‘RECKLESS’ MAN BUSTED FOR ‘DRUG SALE’ ON FIRST AVE.
Police arrested 27-year-old John Moses for intent to sell a controlled substance at the corner of First Avenue and East 18th Street last Friday at 6 p.m. Police said that Moses was seen exchanging an amount of a controlled substance for cash with another person then recklessly drove the wrong way on a one way street, disregarding the traffic lights, while allegedly attempting to flee. Police said that he also did not obey orders to stop and he then entered the FDR, recklessly changed lanes and almost caused multiple accidents. He was also charged with sale of a controlled substance, reckless endangerment and possession of a controlled substance.

WOULD-BE BIKE ‘THIEF’ NABBED IN STUY TOWN
Police arrested 59-year-old Samuel Roberts at the corner of First Avenue and East 16th Street last Sunday at 10:31 p.m. Public Safety officers for Stuyvesant Town told police that Roberts was trying to cut the lock off a bicycle without permission to do so.

‘DRUNK’ DRIVING ARRESTS LAST WEEK
Police arrested 31-year-old Brian O’Neill for intoxicated driving in front of 1107 Broadway last Saturday at 2:55 a.m. O’Neill was driving south on Broadway at West 24th Street, where police then saw him stopped at a green light with the car running. An officer went up to the car and O’Neill had the window down. Police said that there was an odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle and O’Neill was allegedly slumped over inside the car and was incoherent. A check with PBT allegedly read .21 at the scene, and police said that at the precinct, O’Neill blew .16 on a Breathalyzer. O’Neill was also charged with harassment.
Calogera Narbone, 57, was arrested for impaired driving last Sunday at 1:23 a.m. in front of 167 West 23rd Street. Narbone was seen vomiting on the side of the road and police said that when they followed her, she failed to stay in the lane. After stopping her, they asked if she would consent to a BAC test and she allegedly refused.

MAN ARRESTED FOR BIKE ‘DAMAGE’
Forty-year-old Benny Mamedou was arrested for petit larceny and criminal mischief at the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 23rd Street last Wednesday at 8:50 p.m. Mamedou allegedly attempted to break a bicycle lock by kicking the bike with extreme force, causing scratches to the bike. Police said that he then looked around to see if he was being watched and then fled the scene. Mamedou was also charged with petit larceny, possession of stolen property and possession of a controlled substance because he allegedly removed property from a store at 184 Fifth Avenue and tried to leave without paying. Police said he was also in possession of a wax paper baggie with alleged heroin residue.

MULTIPLE ‘VENDORS’ BUSTED FOR NO LICENSE
Police arrested multiple people last week for selling merchandise without a Department of Consumer Affairs license and were charged with unclassified New York State law misdemeanors.
Mamadou Sylla, 41, was arrested at the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 28th Street last Monday for selling sunglasses.
Martha Yancha, 26, and Puelas Aqelina, 52, were arrested last Sunday morning around 11:30 a.m. near the corner of Fifth Avenue and East 16th Street. Police said that the two women were selling assorted necklaces, bracelets and hats.
Police arrested 35-year-old Heriberto Lecler in front of 5 West 19th Street last Sunday at 1:25 p.m. Lecler was allegedly selling more than five selfie sticks.
Eighteen-year-old Carlos Chan Perez was arrested at Fifth Avenue and West 28th Street last Sunday at 2:55 p.m. Perez was allegedly selling bubble guns.

MEN BUSTED FOR CRYSTAL METH ‘DEAL’
Police arrested 51-year-old Steven Baker and 25-year-old Leomar Rivas-Veras for an alleged drug deal that took place in front of 43 West 26th Street last Friday at 10 p.m. Baker was charged with possession of a controlled substance and Rivas-Veras was charged with intent to sell a glassine envelope of crystal meth.

MAN ARRESTED FOR LAPTOP ‘THEFTS’
Police arrested 25-year-old Julian Pomales inside the 13th Precinct last Saturday at noon for grand larceny. Police said that Pomales entered an apartment and helped himself to two MacBooks, totaling approximately $3,500. Information on the location of the theft was not available.

FIGHT ON EAST 19TH STREET
Gregory Bacchiano, 24, was arrested in front of 227 East 19th Street for criminal mischief last Saturday at 6:35 p.m. The victim told police that he got into a fight with Bacchiano, who allegedly slapped the victim’s cell phone out of his hand, causing it to fall to the ground. Police said that the incident caused the screen to crack and the phone wouldn’t work properly afterwards.

MAN NABBED FOR ‘DRUGS’
Police arrested 27-year-old Christopher Ortiz for intent to sell a controlled substance at Sixth Avenue and West 15th Street last Thursday at 6:19 p.m. Police said that Ortiz sold a quantity of a controlled substance to an undercover officer in exchange for cash. After police searched him, they found that he was allegedly in possession of marijuana and a controlled substance. He was also charged with sale of a controlled substance and marijuana possession.

MAN BUSTED FOR EYEGLASSES ‘THEFT’
Police arrested 61-year-old Richard Franklin for petit larceny in front of a Ricky’s shop 7 East 14th Street last Thursday at 2:59 p.m. Franklin allegedly took eyeglasses off a rack, put them in his jacket pocket and tried to leave without paying. Franklin was also charged with possession of stolen property.

PCV man pays it forward after getting mystery gift

 Jack Goldfarb

Jack Goldfarb

By Sabina Mollot

Peter Cooper Village resident Jack Goldfarb, who in the past several years, has done much in the way of activism to honor those who perished in the Holocaust, more recently found himself tasked with a much more light hearted and local mission.

It started, Goldfarb shared with Town & Village this week, with a routine trip on the M23 from his home to Madison Square Park.

When he got off the bus, he was approached by a young woman who handed him three twenty dollar bills. She then told him, “This is from the bank.” Naturally, Goldfarb had questions about what this was all about — and if he was being scammed somehow — but before he could ask anything of his mysterious benefactor, she had already vanished into the crowd. However, he recalled that the woman was black, about 25 years old and had “a mischievous smile.”

Although she hadn’t given him any hint on how to spend it, Goldfarb said he felt that since the cash was given to him, he should give it to someone too, specifically someone who looked like they could use it.

But first he took it to the bank, where a teller confirmed it was in fact real money. After that the sixty dollars just sat on his dresser for a few weeks.

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Why NY needs the Export-Import Bank

By Congress Member Carolyn Maloney and Council Member Dan Garodnick

In the last eight years, nearly 350 exporters, including 200 small businesses in New York have created or sustained jobs by exporting $11 billion worth of their products with the assistance of the Export-Import Bank. The bank is a little-known but important part of our country’s efforts to help businesses sell everything from peanut butter to airplanes abroad.

Even though the bank is operating at no cost to taxpayers and provided a $1 billion profit in 2013 alone, for a second year in a row Congress is threatening to shut it down. And as the clock ticks, New Yorkers’ jobs are hanging in the balance.

In April, the New York City Council Committee on Economic Development held a hearing to examine what would happen if Congress failed to extend the bank. The findings were alarming. The bank has created an estimated $4 billion in export value for New York City alone — and we know that every $1 billion in new exports creates nearly 5,000 new jobs. Nationwide, the bank created or sustained more than 164,000 jobs last year.

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Tenants finally get that rent freeze

Tenants packed the Cooper Union auditorium on Monday for a brief vote that resulted in a historic rent freeze. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Tenants packed the Cooper Union auditorium on Monday for a brief vote that resulted in a historic rent freeze. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Rent Guidelines Board voted for a rent freeze for the first time since the board was established in 1969 on Monday night. However, the historic freeze is only a partial victory for tenants since it applies only to one-year leases. Two-year leases will see a two percent increase.

This was the first year that all nine members of the board were appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who last year echoed tenant calls for a rent freeze. This year he refrained from making any comments on the rollback advocated for by tenants, although he praised the board’s decision following the vote.

“This was the right call,” de Blasio said. “We know tenants have been forced to make painful choices that pitted ever-rising rent against necessities like groceries, childcare and medical bills. Today’s decision means relief.”

Despite the jubilant atmosphere in the auditorium of the Cooper Union directly following the vote, some tenant advocates felt that a freeze only on one-year leases was not far enough.

“I knew they wouldn’t vote for zero and zero but in my mind, a rent freeze isn’t zero and two,” TenantsPAC treasurer Mike McKee said. “Anyone who just signed a two-year lease (before the vote) won’t get a chance to take advantage of the zero percent increase. The fix was in as usual. The tenant members realized they couldn’t get anything better so they just settled for what passed.”

ST-PCV Tenants Association members attended the vote, including new president Susan Steinberg.

ST-PCV Tenants Association members attended the vote, including new president Susan Steinberg.

Susan Steinberg, who was elected as the new president for the STPCV Tenants Association last week, was also cautiously optimistic.

“It’s a partial victory,” she said. “It was certainly historic. Tenants will breathe easier tonight, but I just wish the increase for the two-year leases was a little less.”

Marietta Hawkes, a 38-year resident of Stuyvesant Town, was more disappointed by Albany’s failure to strengthen the rent laws than she was excited about the rent freeze.

“It’s the MCIs that really kill us,” she said. “I’ll never vote for Cuomo again. He and (Assembly Speaker Carl) Heastie are not sticking up for tenants.”

Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh was enthusiastic about the vote, noting that the increase for two-year leases shouldn’t belittle the achievement of a zero percent increase on one-year leases.

“It’s a great victory for tenants,” Kavanagh said. “We had a tough setback last week. We fight these battles on many fronts and we’ll continue to fight for affordable housing in Stuyvesant Town and all over the city. It’s a big thing that tenants can renew their leases with no increases. I think it’s fair to say that we got a rent freeze.”

Tenant representatives Harvey Epstein and Sheila Garcia had originally proposed a rollback of up to -4 and -2 percent for one and two-year leases at the preliminary vote in April. RGB Chair Rachel Godsil had rejected that proposal, saying that there were landlords also struggling, but she also rejected the owner’s suggested increases of up to 4.2 and 6.7 percent.

Epstein and Garcia, who offered their proposal first on Monday night, seemed resigned that their final proposal of zero percent for one-year leases and two percent for two-year leases was the best they were going to get for the moment.

Tenants at the rally call for a rollback.

Tenants at the rally call for a rollback.

“The data supports a rent rollback but we don’t have the votes to make that happen tonight so I am proposing what I think is the best option,” Garcia said. “Think about what kind of city we want to live in.”

Tenants initially jeered at the proposal, reacting to the two percent increases for two-year leases. Epstein himself had criticized Godsil’s proposal at the preliminary vote that called for up to 3.5 percent increases for two-year leases, but in response to the negative reaction of the crowd at the final vote, explained that while it wasn’t what they had been hoping for, it was a small step in the right direction.

“Tonight let’s realize this is a marathon, not a sprint,” he said. “Today we have the opportunity to have a historic rent freeze. There have been 46 years of landlords getting increases, of not following their responsibilities. We take a stand that a zero is a huge victory. If we don’t get a rollback, a freeze is a start so we’ll be back next year to get what we want.”

When asked to cast her vote, owner member Sara Williams Willard called the entire process “biased” and “myopic” before voting “absolutely resounding no.”

The mood in the auditorium was triumphant after six of the nine members cast “yes” votes, with tenants almost drowning out Godsil when it became clear that the vote was in favor of the tenant representatives’ proposal. Godsil called for a lull in the cheers long enough so she could provide an explanation for her affirmative vote.

“The majority of owners are faring well but half of rent stabilized tenants are considered to be rent burdened,” she said. “Rent stabilized housing remains unaffordable for majority of tenants living in these units. Increasing rent burdens lead to increasing numbers of people who can’t stay in their apartment while owners have several other sources of income. In light of this year’s current data, a zero percent increase is appropriate. The two percent increase is to protect owners for costs that may arise. We need a careful balance.”

The Rent Stabilization Association, which represents landlords, was less enthusiastic about the vote. RSA President Joseph Strasburg criticized the decision, saying that the board was pandering to the mayor’s political agenda at the expense of tenants.

“It is despicable that politics prevailed over common sense. There is no basis for a rent freeze. Previous mayors let this independent board do what was necessary to preserve the city’s largest source of affordable housing,” Strasburg said. “Ironically, de Blasio’s mantra has been the preservation of affordable housing, but his support of a rent freeze, coupled with last year’s one percent rent increase, will have the opposite effect, spurring the deterioration and eventual eradication of affordable housing.”

The vote itself was surprisingly short, lasting only half an hour and only requiring the board members to vote once because the first proposal presented was the one that passed. Despite the quick vote, the meeting didn’t start until 7 p.m., an hour after the scheduled time. McKee theorized that this was because the board members were negotiating on a deal, although a representative from the RGB said that the delay was to ensure that everyone who wanted to get in had a chance to see the vote.

The event, attended by about 900 tenants, took place at the Great Hall as it typically does but due to construction taking place at the entrance of the building, the usual place for pre-vote demonstrations was relocated to a too-small spot on Cooper Square next to Bahr Che wine bar, resulting in the group spilling over into the street and cops having to nudge tenants back towards the sidewalk to keep them out of oncoming traffic.

ESU detective aims to educate New York on what state Constitution actually means

Detective James Coll of Emergency Service Unit #1 and ChangeNYS (Photo by Marc DeGeorge)

Detective James Coll of Emergency Service Unit #1 and ChangeNYS (Photo by Marc DeGeorge)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

All members of the NYPD are required to swear an oath to the New York State Constitution when they begin their service, but Detective James Coll said that it wasn’t until after he swore his oath that he actually took the time to read it. Since he felt like he wasn’t the only one who was unfamiliar with the document, he started a non-partisan and non-profit organization called ChangeNYS that aims to educate New Yorkers about the contents of the state’s constitution.

Coll, who is one of the detectives that was honored with the Cop of the Year award in 2009 for rescuing passengers from the US Airways flight that landed in the Hudson River, has been a member of the NYPD since 1997 and since 2002 has been a member of the Emergency Squad Unit 1, which is directly adjacent to the 13th Precinct on East 21st Street.

Coll has been an adjunct professor of American history at Nassau Community College since 2001 but he said that he started thinking about the state’s constitution when he decided to go to graduate school shortly after joining the NYPD. He started ChangeNYS about two years ago as an educational program and to offer a forum for discussion to anyone who wanted to learn about the government.

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Rent Guidelines Board vote postponed to June 29

By Sabina Mollot

The final vote of the Rent Guidelines Board has been postponed by five days due to the failure of Albany officials to renew rent regulations last week.

The vote, originally scheduled for June 24, will now take place today at the Cooper Union Great Hall, 7 East 7th Street and Third Avenue, at 6 p.m.

A spokesperson for the RGB explained that the decision was directly tied with Albany’s ongoing negotiations. In the meantime, said the spokesperson, the board has concluded its process of conducting four public hearings.

“They were crowded, well attended,” he said, with over 200 tenant speakers, 50 owners and a handful of elected officials.

The announcement about the postponement was made last weekend, and the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association sent an email blast to alert neighbors.

In April, the board made a preliminary vote of increases ranging from 0-2 percent for one-year leases and 0.5-3.5 percent for two-year leases.

Neighbors still feel ‘steamrolled’ by plans for sanitation garage

Attendees at Monday’s meeting, including Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal (above right) expressed their concerns about the sanitation garage that’s expected to be be built at the CUNY Brookdale site. Photo by Daryl Baurer

Attendees at Monday’s meeting expressed their concerns about the sanitation garage that’s expected to be be built at the CUNY Brookdale site. (Photo by Daryl Baurer)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Almost 200 residents living in the area around the Brookdale Campus where a sanitation garage has been proposed expressed their frustration on Monday night when the Department of Sanitation and the Economic Development Corporation continued to move forward with the plans, hosting a public scoping hearing on the draft Environmental Impact Statement.

While some of the aggravation stemmed from the lack of notice for the recent hearing, as well as the location on East 17th Street and Second Avenue, an inconvenient venue for the many Waterside Plaza residents who wanted to attend, many residents were primarily concerned that plans for the garage were going ahead with little consideration for the community’s objections.

Terence O’Neal, who is chair of the Community Board 6 Land Use and Waterfront committee but who submitted his testimony at the hearing as an individual and not a representative of CB6, said he was frustrated that the draft EIS failed to mention any of the work the community board has done in looking at alternate sites and alternative solutions.

“While the working group from EDC is prominently mentioned, the city planner that the community board hired is glaringly left out,” he said. “When a community takes its time and energy and its own funding, it’s telling that the city agency doesn’t even mention the study. One would hope this oversight doesn’t reflect their opinion of the study and we hope our comments given tonight are taken seriously.”

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Adriatic closes, space to become pizzeria/lounge

Adriatic has closed after over 25 years on First Avenue. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Adriatic has closed after over 25 years on First Avenue. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

 

By Sabina Mollot

On Friday, Adriatic pizzeria and restaurant, which had been across First Avenue from Stuyvesant Town for over a quarter century, closed, to the surprise of the community.

A board member of the ST-PCV Tenants Association learned about the imminent closure in the morning when she went to check out a Tenants Association dropbox that was at the location.

Town & Village attempted to reach the owner at around 2 p.m. but it was too late, with no one picking up the phone. A visit there shortly afterwards also produced no luck with a metal grate closed around the restaurant, located at 321 First Avenue between 18th and 19th Streets.

The restaurant switched ownership three years ago and also renovated the space. Like many businesses along First Avenue near the VA Medical Center, owner Nino Geni told T&V in the months after Hurricane Sandy, there had been a drop in business. Customers said recently the place never seemed busy.

Susan Steinberg, the chair of the Tenants Association as well as a member of Community Board 6, said she’d first gotten wind of the closure last December when another company tried to get the board’s blessing for a liquor license at the address. The new business was to be a pizzeria and lounge.

However, Steinberg said when the owners of Adriatic were asked about it, they denied that they were closing.

“All the small retailers are disappearing; the bagel shop, the (Cooper) laundromat,” said Steinberg. “They’re falling one by one.”

On the upside, Steinberg noted, “At least it’s not another bank or a pharmacy.”

Reached on the phone on Monday, David Jaffee, the co-owner of the new pizzeria/lounge, said it will be called Visana.

The front will be a pizzeria with both regular and gluten-free options, separated in order to avoid cross-contamination. The back area will be a bar and lounge with a focus on after work cocktails and events. The problem at Adriatic, Jaffee added, was that the owners “couldn’t make money on the restaurant portion.”

The menu at Visana will feature organic spirits and ingredients as much as possible, but not exclusively.

“It’s a balance between cost, reasonable selling price to our customers, spoilage,” explained Jaffee. “Some fruits and vegetables don’t need to be organic because they have a low pesticide load or are protected by their coverings, such as pineapple. Others should always be organic, such as strawberries and blueberries.”

Jaffee, who moved to Stuyvesant Town three months ago, added that he is “very committed to the community and I hope they will embrace us.” This is the first business venture for him as well as his partner Ross Rachlin. There is no set date for the opening since there is going to be some renovation work needed first. However, a note that’s been taped to the door does state the place will open at some point in August.

When going before CB6’s Business Affairs and Streets Activities Committee, Jaffee and Rachlin of Pure Hospitality LLC had pitched a pizza restaurant/lounge that would focus on organic food and beverages. The owners had hoped to stay open until 4 a.m., but CB6 prefers establishments to commit to closing at 2 a.m. In January, CB6 authored a resolution opposing the application, citing concerns from neighbors about a growing nightlife scene in the district and concerns from the Gramercy Park Block Association over having a lounge open until 4 a.m.

Jaffee said the board told him it would have no problem with his concept if he agreed to close at 2 a.m. for the first year. However, he didn’t want to commit to that time frame.

“We didn’t sign their stipulation because we felt confident that we could do better at the SLA level, which we did,” he said.

Last week, he got the business’s liquor license approved and liquor can be served until 3 a.m. for the first six months. Then after that he’s allowed to return and request permission to serve alcohol until 4 a.m. He’d requested permission to remain open until 4 a.m. but the SLA cited the community board’s concerns and the fact that Jaffee is a first-time operator as reason for the one less hour when he can serve alcohol. He doesn’t have to close at 3 a.m. though so from 3-4 a.m., Jaffee told Town & Village the plan is to make this a “detox hour,” when coconut water and healthy juices are served.

Politics & Tidbits: Playing chess in Albany

By Steven Sanders,

former Assembly member, 74th District

Steven Sanders

Steven Sanders

To begin to understand the machination of Albany politics especially with the state legislature, a basic understanding of chess is necessary. For they are based on the very same principles.

Chess is a game of strategy. Unlike other games, the moves made in chess are often times disguised and not always what they appear to be. First of all, in chess each player starts with 16 pieces. The pieces are of different values and are capable of making different moves across the 64 squared checkerboard. The goal in chess is to navigate across the board using your pieces in different ways to ultimately capture the opposing player’s “King.” Each player knows that in spite of starting out with 16 pieces they will lose some pieces along the way and even sacrifice some pieces in order to position themselves for victory.

To some extent that explains why Senator John Flanagan, the newly minted Senate (Republican) Majority Leader from Long Island, is so interested in New York City rent regulations. There are many more important local issues to Senator Flanagan’s constituents and fellow legislators from Nassau, Suffolk or upstate districts. But Flanagan is deftly holding on to the rent regulation issue near and dear to virtually every city legislator in the hopes of trading it or sacrificing it for something more important to his constituents and colleagues in the Senate. Each issue is like a chess piece. Each has a relative importance and each has a value if it is to be given up for something else.

No issue stands alone in Albany. Each issue is part of the bigger picture of what can be gained or lost in negotiations. This is probably also true of New York City mayoral control of the public schools which like New York City rent regulations must be renewed. It is very important to New York City politicians. But Flanagan and his mostly suburban and rural colleagues are holding on to both of those issues like a dog and its favorite bone.

Senator Flanagan cares much more about upstate property taxes and even some changes to the state’s restrictive gun laws (although that may now be a nonstarter following yet another gun tragedy, this time in a church in South Carolina). Flanagan also cares about upstate economic revitalization issues and even tax cuts to underwrite private and parochial school costs for parents who send their children to those schools or individuals who donate funds to those schools.

So the leaders in the Democratic Assembly led by Speaker Carl Heastie and the Senate leaders will move those issues along the checkerboard of negotiations knowing that to achieve their ultimate goals they will sacrifice some of those less important issue to gain more important issues for each of them. As for the governor, He will try to broker a deal that satisfies his political priorities by cobbling together issues that are of importance to the Assembly and the Senate that satisfies his political needs. In this case the governor is using the rent

regulation issue as leverage to procure approval from the Assembly on issues that it is less interested in, but ones that the governor has a great interest.

This is the traditional horse trading that has always been part of the Albany legislative culture of getting things done. But this gamesmanship causes great anxiety to ordinary citizens who feel like pawns in the game, especially one million New York City tenants.

Rent regulations and protections against eviction or huge increases in rents is a matter of life and death for many apartment dwellers.

So my advice to the leadership of Albany is to get this done this week and allow the people of the State of New York to proceed with their lives without the uncertainty and intrigue of Albany machinations.

Really, Mr. Cuomo, Mr. Heastie and Mr. Flanagan… this is not a game!

 

Tenants blast ‘framework’ deal for rent regulations

Assembly Member Carl Heastie, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (Photo via Governor Andrew Cuomo Flickr)

Assembly Member Carl Heastie, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (Photo via Governor Andrew Cuomo Flickr)

By Sabina Mollot
On Tuesday afternoon, the rent regulations, over a week after their expiration, were discussed in what was called “the framework of an agreement” that was immediately blasted by tenant advocates for not repealing vacancy decontrol or reforming preferential rents. The plan was announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan in an Albany press conference.

The plan, which, as of Town & Village’s press time, was still being discussed by both legislative houses in conference, calls for a four-year extension of the rent laws, reforming major capital improvements (MCIs) so that tenants’ payments are lower though they will still have to be paid in perpetuity. Other changes include increasing penalties on landlords who harass tenants and raising the threshold at which an apartment can be subject to vacancy deregulation. Additionally, according to a press release put out by Cuomo, the state housing agency’s Tenants Protection Unit will be put into statute and vacancy bonuses and will be limited for tenants paying preferential rent, although how much or in what way it would be limited wasn’t explained. Cuomo’s office did not respond to a request for clarification by Town & Village’s deadline.

The rough draft of the plan also includes an extension of the 421-a tax credit for developers for six months, though that could be increased to four years if developers and labor can come to an agreement on wages, funding for nonpublic schools to compensate them for mandated services and extending property tax caps along with a one-year extension of mayoral control of schools.

Cuomo, with Flanagan and Heastie at his side, said it was a “great deal” that had been accomplished despite all the “tumult” in Albany. This was in reference to the two former house leaders stepping down amidst scandal.

Cuomo said that they wouldn’t be getting into details until both houses were able to discuss the deal in conference. On the rent regulations, Cuomo called it “an unprecedented package that protects tenants.” He then noted that property taxes are the top reason people leave New York State.

On Flanagan and Heastie, Cuomo said, “These new leaders were brought it in at the seventh inning and handed the ball and told to pitch.” He added, “Both leaders stepped up and performed.”

Flanagan and Heastie then spoke on the topic of compromise, with Heastie saying, “We stake out our position early on and you try to work from there. We did the best we could in trying to get that done. It gives homeowners some relief, it gives renters some relief.”

Shortly after the announcement, Mike McKee, treasurer of TenantsPAC, blasted the plan. “This is a disastrous deal,” he said, adding that he immediately emailed Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh to ask him to oppose it in conference.

“It really preserves the status quo for four years, which is exactly what we were hoping to avoid,” McKee added. “We’re going to lose 80,000 to 100,000 apartments over the next four years through various forms of deregulation.”

With Kavanagh and local State Senator Brad Hoyman both in conference as of Town & Village’s Wednesday afternoon press time, neither could be reached for comment.

McKee continued, “They raised the threshold of which an apartment can be deregulated from $2,500 to $2,700, which means nothing. There’s been some tinkering around with MCIs, but they’re going to leave MCIs as permanent increases compounded with the base rent. They’re going to make the increases somewhat less but it leaves the rent laws in tact with all of their weakness. It’s just unacceptable. It only renews mayoral control of schools for one year, so they city’s getting screwed and renters are getting screwed.”

The deal that was announced was different from a second Assembly bill that was introduced on Friday. The original bill had called for stronger tenant protections including repeal of vacancy decontrol, reform of preferential rents and MCIs so that MCIs would become temporary surcharges and for the reduction of vacancy bonuses from 20 percent to 7.5 percent.

But on Friday, the Assembly made a rather surprising move, pushing an amended version of the rent law bill that simply called for a straight extender for two years.

According to McKee, this was done with the purpose of throwing the governor and the Senate off guard — and it succeeded, at least for a while.

This revised, albeit unpassed Assembly bill, McKee explained, didn’t call for a continuation of 421-a. Meanwhile, he stressed that he has never been in favor of a straight extender, but didn’t expect that the bill would be passed without the continuation of 421-a.

This was after the Senate pushed its own rent regulations bill which would have called for the creation of a database in which tenants would have to verify their incomes. Tenant friendly measures were the codification of the Tenant Protection Unit and stiffer penalties against landlords who harass tenants.

“I thought the Assembly bill on Friday was a brilliant tactical move, but now they’ve caved,” McKee said.

McKee, who’s quite possibly the most critical tenant activist when it comes to Cuomo, even got a call from the governor after the bill was introduced, with the governor insisting he was doing everything he could to strengthen the rent regulations.

In the phone call, which was first reported in Capital New York, Cuomo spoke to McKee “like we were old friends reconnecting,” McKee said.
The call, which he added, seemed “surreal,” opened with a cheery Cuomo asking him how he’d been. “I said, I’m fine and how about you?” It was the men’s first conversation with one another in four years when the rent laws last expired.

But, McKee, reflected, “He did not persuade me and I told him no one in the tenant movement believes he’s working on our behalf. If he wants stronger rent laws, he can introduce a bill. Who does he think he’s fooling? You couldn’t convince me that he couldn’t do this if he set his mind to it.”

Until the rent laws are settled formally, though, following conference, McKee advised tenants to continue to call the governor’s office. “Tell him, ‘If you don’t deliver on rent laws, I’ll never vote for you again.’”

Following strong statements recently made by Heastie about how he wouldn’t compromise on getting stronger rent laws, McKee added, “I can’t believe Heastie agreed to this. I don’t have any delusions about what’s going to happen (in both houses.) Most of them are sheep.”

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association was also left fuming about the deal, which they alerted neighbors to in an email.

Last week, Susan Steinberg, chair of the Tenants Association, attended numerous rent law rallies along with neighbors. At one, outside a fundraiser for Cuomo at the Plaza, tenants had shared a chuckle about the fact that while the legislature was incapable of passing the rent laws, other bills, like one naming the wood frog as the state’s official amphibian, got through.

“We were all talking about the important bill that passed about the state amphibian,” said Steinberg. “Clearly frogs have it over tenants.”

On Tuesday, though, she wasn’t laughing.
“This is no victory,” said Steinberg. “It’s very discouraging that with all the hard work we put in, that this is how it ends up. He’s not as interested in the people who vote for him as he is in his real estate development friends.”

In particular she was unimpressed by the MCI revisions. “We’re still going to have to pay for it the rest of our lives,” she said.

City Council Housing Committee Chair Jumaane Williams also issued a statement about the deal, expressing his concern about tenants paying preferential rent.

“Due to unresolved loopholes with preferential rent, estimates show that up to 250,000 tenants could see their rent go up by thousands of dollars, regardless of what the Rent Guidelines Board says and without advance notice,” he said.