Apartment evictions are down, study says

There have been three evictions so far this year in Gramercy. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Residential evictions are down in New York City from last year, according to a study conducted by apartment listings website RentHop.

Overall there was a 9.6 percent drop throughout the city with evictions tapering off in each borough based on eviction information from January 1 to March 11 in 2018 and January 1 to March 11 in 2019.

The study also found that: both Brooklyn and The Bronx have a much higher eviction rate than Manhattan, but both also had sharp drops from 2018 to 2019. The Bronx went from 1,558 to 1,225 (a 21.4 percent decrease). Brooklyn went from 1,170 to 994 (a 15 percent decrease). Manhattan’s numbers, meanwhile, only decreased slightly from 518 to 486 (6.2 percent). Queens has a higher eviction rate than Manhattan, but it too only decreased slightly from 733 to 716 (2.3 percent). Staten Island easily has the fewest evictions, having gone from 127 to 97. Percentage-wise, this was the sharpest decrease at 23.6 percent.

Adrian McHale, who worked on the study, used numbers from the city’s open data portal, which includes information such as addresses but not the reason given for the eviction.

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Investigation finds no violations at Washington Irving construction site

The construction site outside the Washington Irving High School campus (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A report on the ongoing construction at the Washington Irving High School campus released by the Department of Investigation last Monday determined that the School Construction Authority has not violated city, state or federal regulations as a result of the work, contrary to complaints from neighbors regarding noise, dust and other safety issues.

The SCA’s Office of the Inspector General received numerous complaints about the project regarding noise and dust but said in the report that the testing of noise levels has not resulted in any violations from the Department of Environmental Protection or the Department of Buildings.

Although the DEP received more than 80 noise complaints between March 24, 2017, and December 17, 2018, and inspectors visited the site more than 80 times, the agency never issued a summons for a noise violation.

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Letters to the editor, Mar. 21

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

It’s time to pay the pied-a-piper

I Googled Peter Wunsch of Gramercy (author of letter, “Forget the tax, just cut spending,” T&V, Mar. 14), written in response to “Council pushing pied a terre tax,” T&V, Feb. 28.

It appears his family is a dynasty of “old money” wealth and has had quite a privileged life. I guess he doesn’t want to pay the tax on his continuing good fortune. He is also not informed of the facts – pied-a-terre taxes are not financing city workers retirement. Does he think that these folks should have free Police Department, Fire Department, ambulance, etc. services?

Be advised that city employees cannot retire at age 50; the minimum age is 57+ and the pension amount is based on number of qualified years worked. He should check the NYCERS website for details of the pension plan for city workers. City workers are required to contribute to their pension plan. The average city employee doesn’t get wealthy from their city salary (no annual bonuses, either) but civil servants do earn benefits in retirement (not financed by taxpayers).

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Opinion: Forget Amazon and help mom and pop

By Kirsten Theodos of Take Back NYC

After the big news that Amazon was canceling its plan to build its new headquarters “HQ2” in Long Island City, activists and local elected officials celebrated it as a victory while others viewed it as a tragic collapse. The biggest complaint has been the loss of 25,000 promised jobs over the next decade.

Meanwhile, on every Main Street in every neighborhood across the city, there are empty storefronts where once-thriving businesses existed. Are supporters of the Amazon deal aware that New York City courts evict 500 businesses every month and over 1,000 are estimated to close every month, mostly due to high rents? Eighty-nine percent of all small businesses in NYC are considered “very small,” meaning they employ less than 20 people. Conservatively using eight as the average, that means New York City loses at least 8,000 jobs every month.

There are people lamenting over potentially having lost 200 new Amazon jobs per month when our city already sheds over 8,000 per month, which the Amazon deal would have exacerbated. And while it is true that online shopping has altered the retail landscape (namely by Amazon itself), it is the unfair lease renewal process that is shuttering our long established small businesses. Just on my block a ramen restaurant, a bike repair shop and pizza place were all forced to close due to an exorbitant rent hike upon their lease renewal, and none of them competed with Amazon.

Small businesses employ more than half of NYC’s private sector workforce. They provide jobs that offer a path to social mobility and in New York City are predominantly immigrant owned. Unlike Amazon’s imported tech bros, small businesses employ actual New Yorkers who live in our communities.

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City talks shop as lawmakers move to help mom-and-pops

Ahead of a hearing on several small business bills, City Council members including Mark Levine and Helen Rosenthal (pictured with supporters), hold a rally at City Hall. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The City Council is mulling a package of legislation aimed at protecting mom-and-pops that ranges from creating a registry to track storefront vacancies to providing affordable retail spaces at developments where owners collect $1 million or more in subsidies.

On Monday, the bills were debated at a hearing chaired by the City Council Small Businesses Committee Chair Mark Gjonaj, after a rally on the front steps of City Hall.

The piece of legislation that would require the city to maintain a vacancy registry is being sponsored by Council Members Helen Rosenthal, Carlina Rivera, Ben Kallos and Mark Levine as well as Speaker Corey Johnson. The registry would include the location of the property, the reasons for the vacancy, the owner’s name, contact information for the property and the day it became vacant. Property owners would be expected to register once a property is vacant for more than 90 days. Failure to register would result in a penalty of $1,000 for every week after that.

Another bill, sponsored by Rosenthal and Johnson, would require the city to maintain a database of commercial properties.

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Police Watch: Man arrested for Stuyvesant Town package theft, Suspect pleads guilty to burglar’s tools

THIRD MAN BUSTED FOR STUY TOWN PACKAGE THEFT
Police have arrested a third person in a connection with a string of package thefts that occurred on Christmas in Stuyvesant Town.

Thirty-year-old Norman Pope was arrested on Thursday, March 14 at 2:16 p.m. for six alleged burglaries that took place between 1 and 1:45 a.m. on December 25, 2018.

Rahul Cuya, 19, and 32-year-old Justin Irizarry were both arrested for the alleged burglaries within two days of the incidents.

Police said that Pope, along with Cuya and Irizarry, got inside 245 Avenue C around 1 a.m. and stole packages from the lobby, then allegedly broke into 277 Avenue C and stole packages from that building as well. The men allegedly got into 651 East 14th Street at 1:15 a.m. and stole packages, then broke into 271 Avenue C and took packages from that building as well. Police said that the three suspects broke into 281 Avenue C and 645 East 14th Street around 1:40 a.m. Continue reading

Man charged with robbery at Flatiron Coach

Robbery suspect

By Sabina Mollot and Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police arrested 34-year-old Justin Ponder for an alleged robbery at the Coach store at 79 Fifth Avenue as well as an alleged burglary inside 7 East 19th Street on Friday, March 8 at 1:05 p.m.

It was on Thursday, March 7 at 6:10 p.m., when a man later believed to be Ponder strolled into the store at East 16th Street and picked up a $295 bag and an $1,100 jacket. Police said when he tried to leave without paying, an employee confronted him. Ponder then allegedly shoved him out of his way and said, “Do you want to get punched or do you want to get stabbed?” He then fled out a rear door with the luxury label items.

Because of the alleged threat, the incident is being considered a robbery, rather than theft.

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Editorial: Transit transparency, please

L train neighbors finally got some good news this week with the announcement that work at the 14th Street construction zone will end significantly earlier each night. We thank the MTA (and the elected officials who’ve been working behind the scenes) for making this happen (finally).

However, as Town & Village has also been reporting, the MTA hasn’t committed to keeping the First and Third Avenue stations open for those looking to get onto a train during the L project slowdown. But what’s just as vexing is that the subject isn’t even being discussed unless riders or elected officials are the ones to bring it up.

The concerns have arisen after a story ran on Streetsblog earlier this year about the possible exit-only station plan based on a leaked internal MTA memo. Recently, the agency confirmed that it is reviewing the matter of station access.

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Editorial: Not so E-Z-victions

These days it’s impossible to have a conversation about small businesses without lapsing into how a heady, toxic mix of landlord greed, government fees and online shopping are slowly but surely destroying them all.

The biggest game changer we can think of, the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, is still very much in limbo. However, there are fortunately some lawmakers coming up with some other ideas in the meantime aimed at giving mom-and-pops a break. While not as far-reaching as the SBJSA, we do believe a few will help and they certainly seem to have more of a chance of getting passed in a timely fashion.

A new bill by Council Member Mark Levine of Upper Manhattan would help business owners fight evictions by guaranteeing them the right to counsel, as those facing criminal charges get when they’re poor, and poor tenants facing evictions from their homes get, too.

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How a New York City Irish gang raised over $1 million for charity

Members of The Kelly Gang, pictured in 2002, including founding member and Stuyvesant Town resident Keith Kelly, standing behind former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly (Photo courtesy of the NY Post)

By Sabina Mollot

What began with an annual get together by a group of media professionals with the last name Kelly has morphed over a period of 18 years into a charity that this week will have raised over $1 million for various notable causes.

Stuyvesant Town resident and New York Post columnist Keith Kelly, who’s one of the founding members of this group, spoke with Town & Village this week about The Kelly Gang and how its supporters have included former top cop Ray Kelly and even Donald Trump.

Ahead of its annual corned beef and cabbage dinner, which was held on Tuesday night at midtown restaurant Michael’s, Keith Kelly said the gang began with an informal Christmas meal in 2000. At first it was Keith, Ed Kelly, who was then CEO of American Express Publishing, Mike Kelly, then the publisher of Entertainment Weekly, Jim Kelly, editor in chief of Time magazine, and author Tom Kelly. At the time, it was for a news story on various media Kellys who’d gotten promotions and they met up at The Four Seasons.

“Ed Koch saw us and sent over a round of drinks,” Keith recalled. One day, when spotting the group at the pub Langan’s, Post columnist Steve Dunleavy dubbed them The Kelly Gang.

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P.S. 40 holds Maker Faire

Finalists in the Junior Chef Competition for the best vegetarian salad with Chef Jenny Ecclestone (Photo by Ashley Naomi)

By Sabina Mollot

On Saturday, hundreds of families headed to P.S. 40 for the school’s first Maker Faire, organized by the PTA. The event, done in coordination with Salk School and MS 104, included a Junior Chef competition and activities for children like robot building, Battle Bots racing and stuffed animal making.

The event was open to the community and free, with organizer and PTA board member Benjy Kile remarking it was nice to be holding an event that wasn’t a fundraiser for a change. That said, some items, including food, were for sale, with vendors kicking back a portion to the school, but, said Kile, “It’s meant to be more of a community event.”

The Junior Chef event proved to be a big hit among event goers, who crowded the school’s auditorium for judging.

A chef who works with the school on a wellness committee, “Chef Jenny” Ecclestone, said the contestants, who’d already made it to a finalist round, had presented vegetarian salads. The winning entry, a kale salad, was prepared by Leyli Colley.

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New renovation plan for Bellevue South Park gets support from Community Board 6

Bellevue South Park (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Parks committee for Community Board 6 voted to support a new plan to renovate Bellevue South Park in a meeting last Tuesday.

Representatives for the Parks Department returned to the community board multiple times with revisions to the plans for the park, which the Borough Commissioner’s Chief of Staff Steve Simon said in a previous meeting was an unprecedented move since the agency usually only presents to community boards once for such projects before moving forward.

Residents and park advocates had requested that the Parks Department return for revisions to the plan due to what they perceived as safety issues that the original design did not adequately address.

While many attendees mostly approved of the plan presented by the agency, some dog owners at the meeting still had objections to the department’s unwillingness to use the temporary dog run space as part of the permanent dog run.

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Letters to the editor, Mar. 14

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Forget the tax, just cut spending

Re: “Council pushes pied-à-terre tax,” T&V, Feb. 28

After reading the piece on pied-à-terre taxes, I couldn’t help but wonder when I might read a story about State Senators, City Council members, or the mayor suggesting we actually cut back on certain types of expenses to help pay the bills that come due.

Rather we live in an era where spending more, increasing benefits paid for and entitlements is the annual plan and the solution is always another, or an increased, tax.

Slowly read the story about this proposed tax. It is a tax on people who “are not subject to city or state income taxes” because they are not permanent residents. They pay real estate taxes, maintenance of their homes, employ people and pay our generous sales taxes when they spend money here. But we want to tax them so we can have enough capital to offer early retirement at 50 percent of the final year’s wages to city employees.

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Stuyvesant Town residents tell cops the biggest problem is Hell on two wheels

Traffic Safety Officer Javier Alvarez and NCO officers Peter Rodriguez and Manuel Rodriguez address Stuyvesant Town residents’ bike-related concerns. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Electric bikes as well as the old-fashioned variety of two-wheelers wound up being the hot topic at the first meeting of the 13th Precinct’s Neighborhood Coordinating Officer program for residents of Stuyvesant Town.

Officers from the 13th Precinct were at the Stuyvesant Town Community Center last Thursday evening for the new NCO program and addressed the bike operations being conducted in the area.

In particular, the NYPD has been cracking down on delivery people who use e-bikes and 13th Precinct Traffic Safety Officer Javier Alvarez said that the precinct conducted over 20 separate operations last year. During that time, 135 e-bikes were confiscated and summonses were given. All the while, officers, perhaps as a warning, would post photos of the confiscated bikes on the precinct’s Twitter feed.

Alvarez said that there is some confusion among residents about what’s legal and what’s not regarding e-bikes, which are a frequent topic of discussion at the regular precinct community council meetings.

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Police Watch: Man charged with slashing coworker, Patient accused of sexual abuse at MSBI

MAN CHARGED WITH SLASHING COWORKER AT ELEVEN MADISON PARK
Police arrested 65-year-old Nigel McClean for an alleged assault inside Eleven Madison Park at 11 Madison Avenue on Tuesday, March 5 at 8:50 a.m. The victim told police that he and McClean, who are coworkers, got into an argument inside the restaurant. McClean allegedly picked up a chef’s knife and pointed it at the victim and the victim said that in an act of self-defense, he punched McClean in the face. Police said that during the fight, McClean slashed the victim in the back, cutting him. McClean was also charged with menacing.

PATIENT ACCUSED OF SEX ABUSE OF BETH ISRAEL EMPLOYEE
Police arrested 52-year-old Frankie Serrano for alleged sexual abuse inside Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital at 281 First Avenue on Sunday, March 10 at 11:52 a.m. The victim told police that she was leaning over while tending to another patient when she felt something hard on her buttocks. When she turned around, she saw Serrano standing behind her and he allegedly had his penis exposed from his hospital gown.

MAN CHARGED WITH PHONE THEFT AT KIPS BAY SHELTER
Police arrested 58-year-old Tony Roman for an alleged theft inside the men’s shelter at 400 East 30th Street on Monday, March 4 at 7:45 p.m. The victim told police that while he was sleeping, Roman ripped open his pants and took his cell phone from his pocket.

After he was arrested, Roman was also charged in connection with a robbery that took place on Thursday, February 28 at 10:50 p.m. Police said that he pulled out a knife and mugged the victim inside the lobby of 148 East 30th Street. He was also charged with weapons possession. Roman was charged with grand larceny for the alleged theft at the shelter.

TWO BUSTED FOR ASSAULT OUTSIDE DELI
Police arrested two people for an alleged assault in front of the deli at 353 East 14th Street on Thursday, March 7 at 4:40 p.m. A teenager and 20-year-old Luis Rios allegedly punched the victim in the head and back while the victim was on the ground. Rios was caught in front of 309 East 14th Street and the teen was busted at the corner of Second Avenue and East 14th Street. Police said that the suspects and the victim did not know each other.

TEEN NABBED FOR WALLET THEFT AT UNION SQUARE MOVIE THEATER
Police arrested a teenager last Thursday for a theft that took place in a movie theater near Union Square earlier this year. The victim told police that he went to the theater at 890 Broadway on January 22 and while he was watching a movie between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m., his wallet went missing. As Town & Village previously reported, 18-year-old Noel Carr was also arrested in connection with this alleged theft. Carr was charged with grand larceny on February 12. The name of the teen arrested most recently is being withheld due to his young age.

MAN ARRESTED FOR SWITCHBLADE IN KIPS BAY
Police arrested 21-year-old Javier Hernandez for alleged weapons possession at the corner of East 26th Street and Second Avenue on Thursday, March 7 at 7:17 p.m.

Police saw Hernandez driving south on Second Avenue with excessively tinted windows and when he was stopped, he allegedly had a switchblade in plain view in the center cup holder of the car. When police searched his vehicle, they also found that he had a small bag of alleged marijuana and a partially smoked alleged marijuana cigarette from the driver’s side air conditioner vent.

MAN ARRESTED FOR DUANE READE THEFT, ROBBERY
Police arrested 46-year-old Martin Negron for alleged possession of a controlled substance at the corner of Second Avenue and East 27th Street on Wednesday, March 6 at 1 a.m. Police recognized Negron at the intersection because he fit the description from a previous alleged theft in which he reportedly stole items from the Duane Reade at 777 Sixth Avenue on Wednesday, February 27 at 10:17 p.m. When he was stopped, police found that he was in possession of an alleged controlled substance.

Upon further investigation, police found that he was a suspect in a previous robbery that took place inside the same Duane Reade on February 23 at 4:13 a.m. Police said that Negron and two other people who weren’t arrested removed beer from the store without paying and caused an injury to the store employee as a result of the alleged theft.

SUSPECT ARRESTED FOR RESTAURANT BURGLARY
Police arrested 26-year-old Ibrahim Jalloh for an alleged burglary that took place at PN Wood Fired Pizza inside 2 West 28th Street on December 23, 2018, at 9:30 p.m. Police said that the front door of the business was damaged and the glass had been cracked. Jalloh allegedly broke into the restaurant while the business was closed and took electronics. Jalloh was arrested on Tuesday, March 5 at 8:45 a.m. inside the 13th Precinct.