City sues over $20M Airbnb scheme

Three buildings in Kips Bay, including 207-215 East 27th Street, were named in a lawsuit against a Manhattan brokerage firm, with the city alleging they were being marketed as short-term rentals. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Monday, the city sued a Manhattan brokerage firm, Metropolitan Property Group, as well as real estate agents and entities currently or formerly associated with Metropolitan, accusing them of running a $20 million illegal short-term rental scheme.

The rentals, arranged mostly through Airbnb, were spread across 130 apartments in 35 buildings, the city said. Five of the buildings were listed in the lawsuit, three of them located in Kips Bay at 207-215 East 27th Street, 230 East 30th Street and 218 Third Avenue. Another was in Midtown East at 123 East 54th Street and another building in Harlem, 200 East 116th Street, was completely transformed into an illegal hotel, according to the lawsuit filed by the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement (OSE).

OSE said it was also able to determine that 18 entities affiliated with MPG and its employees received at least $20.7 million for short-term rental transactions made through Airbnb alone from 2015 to 2018. Named in the suit were Metropolitan CEO Sami Katri, his wife Shely Katri, Maxim Beckman, Simon Itah and Alon Karasenty.

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Woman raped, tied up in E. 14th St. apt.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

An East Village woman was raped and tied up inside her East 14th Street apartment over the weekend, police said.

Police said a 20-year-old woman woke up in her apartment between First and Second Avenues on Saturday around 2:30 a.m. to a man standing over her demanding money. According to the New York Post, the man was masked and dressed in black and said, “Shut up and do what I say or I’ll point something at you,” then sexually assaulted her.

The woman said that after he raped her, he demanded to know how much money was in her bank account because he needed $1,000 and when she said that she didn’t have that much, he reportedly bound her with duct tape, the Post said.

Police said that he took her iPhone, laptop and credit card before fleeing her apartment. According to the cops, the woman was able to free herself from the tape and when she couldn’t find her phone, ran into the nearby Papaya Dog at the northwest corner of East 14th Street and First Avenue to call the police around 3 a.m.

She was treated at nearby Beth Israel Hospital and has since stopped cooperating with police in the investigation. No arrests have been made.

Man robbed at gunpoint on East 13th Street

Robbery suspect

By Sabina Mollot

Cops are looking for a gunman who robbed a 28-year-old man in the East Village at around 5:45 a.m. on Thursday.

The victim was in front of 201 Second Avenue and East 13th Street when a man turned a gun on him and demanded his phone. The victim refused and kept walking and the mugger hit him several times on his head before fleeing emptyhanded. The victim was treated for multiple cuts at Bellevue Hospital.

The suspect is described as black and 20-30 years old and was last seen wearing a yellow/blue hooded jacket, black pants and gray sneakers.

 Anyone with information in regard to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the CrimeStoppers website at nypdcrimestoppers.com on Twitter @NYPDTips or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

Whose subway line is it, anyway?

MTA board meets on new L train plan, with mixed reviews

Some of the crowd at the L train meeting on Tuesday (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday, as Governor Cuomo gave his state of the state address, which mentioned his eleventh hour L train shutdown alternative, the Metropolitan Transit Authority did as the governor’s been demanding, holding an emergency board meeting on the state of the L train.

At this meeting, which drew a crowd of over 100 people, a mix of members of the public and media professionals as well as at least a couple of elected officials, over a dozen MTA board members took turns asking questions about Cuomo’s alternative to the shutdown. There was no vote on whether to approve it or not.

Meanwhile, a few board members, including Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, were confused about what they were there for since the alternative repair plan to the Canarsie tubes has already been spoken about as if it’s a done deal.

“Is the decision made?” asked Trottenberg. “Do we have any actual role here? I’m not hearing that we do.”

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Letters to the editor, Jan. 17

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

You don’t have to drive to hate 20th St.

Dear Editors:

Well, I’ve just about seen it all in my six decades here living in ST/PCV… mostly good, some great, some questionable, but now I have seen it all! The asinine idea by some “brainiac” in NYC government that decided to totally screw up East 20th Street between First Avenue and Avenue C!

No, I’m not a car owner that lost one of the few precious parking spaces; just a good ol’ fashioned resident that cares about his neighbors and most importantly, our safety. Over the last few years we went from the normal two east and westbound lanes, to one more narrow lane to appease all the Bloomberg/Big Bird bike riders.

And now we have the narrowest east/westbound lanes for traffic so that a two-way bike lane could be constructed on the north or Peter Cooper side… not to mention that those bike lanes must be crossed to get to a parked car, the two new bus stop islands or to simply cross the street to go to Lenz’s Deli, Mount Sinai or Oval Fitness. Bozos!

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ST/PCV management warns recent crimes due to ‘piggybacking’

jan17 pcv burglary suspect

Peter Cooper Village burglary suspect

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Stuyvesant Town management sent a newsletter around to residents earlier this week warning about an increase in building break-ins throughout the complex and warning against allowing non-residents to “piggy-back” inside.

StuyTown Property Services CEO Rick Hayduk told Town & Village that none of the incidents mentioned in the email were new and had all been reported in the last six months. The incidents included the assault of a woman who had been hired by residents and was attacked after security buzzed her into the Stuyvesant Town building and a man followed her inside, in addition to a teenager who was mugged in a Peter Cooper Village vestibule last fall.

One incident that Town & Village did not learn of at the time was an apartment break-in that occurred within the last few months where a man followed a resident into the building and started checking for open doors. Finding one, he began taking things from an apartment and was leaving as a teenage resident was returning. The resident wasn’t harmed and the suspect hasn’t been arrested.

This incident wasn’t publicized at the time because the resident requested that it not be made public, although Hayduk noted that it was reported to the NYPD.

Deputy Inspector Steven Hellman also noted at the 13th Precinct community council’s most recent meeting on Tuesday evening that package thefts have been up in the neighborhood, with two suspects being arrested for a string of six incidents in Stuyvesant Town on Christmas after they managed to get into multiple buildings. Hayduk noted in the email that package thefts have increased on the property and often occur when non-residents manage to piggy-back into the buildings.
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Police Watch: Man charged with assaulting officers, Office burglary in Flatiron

MAN CHARGED WITH ASSAULTING TWO OFFICERS AT BELLEVUE
Police arrested 20-year-old Abdul Sweleh for allegedly assaulting officers inside Bellevue Hospital on Monday, January 7 at 9:25 p.m. Police said that Sweleh punched two peace officers who were attempting to subdue him. Sweleh allegedly punched one of the victims in the face, causing pain and swelling, and caused a possible bone fracture after allegedly punching the other officer in the face.

MAN ALLEGEDLY BURGLARIZED OFFICE IN FLATIRON
Police arrested 32-year-old Isaac Logan for alleged burglaries inside 79 Fifth Avenue that took place last year.

Police said that Logan entered the offices of Fahrenheit 212 at the location while the business was closed and allegedly stole a MacBook on August 11, 2018 around 5 p.m. Police said that Logan could be seen on surveillance video removing two MacBooks from the office on November 22, 2018 at 4:16 p.m.

Logan was also charged with criminal trespass because he was allegedly inside the office on November 14, 2018 at 5 p.m. without permission.

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Opinion: The Cuomo watch

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

Last week Andrew Cuomo began his third term as governor of New York State. This week the clock starts ticking on whether he will shortly seek a new job…president of the United States.

It’s not as if Governor Cuomo doesn’t have enough to occupy his time in Albany.

In fact, he and the state legislature have a full plate of issues to contend with. Rent laws for New York City, health insurance, MTA funding, repairing an aged infrastructure, ethics and election reform, passage of a new state budget by April 1, and much more.

To be accurate, Mr. Cuomo has said repeatedly that under no circumstances will he run for president in 2020. Yet the rumors persist. To a large extent, they have been fueled by his recently amped up talk about the conditions in Washington, D.C. and the failures of the Trump presidency with comparisons to his own leadership in New York. Andrew Cuomo would surely not be the first politician to say one thing and proceed to do another especially as it relates to a run for higher office. Some call that lying, some politicians call it strategy.

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Nanny gets 15 years for shoving baby wipe down an infant’s throat at Waterside

Waterside Plaza

By Sabina Mollot

On Monday, a nanny who was found guilty last month of trying to kill an eight-week-old boy in his family’s Waterside apartment was sentenced to 15 years behind bars.

Apparently fed up with the baby’s crying and her salary, Marianne Benjamin-Williams, 47, had shoved a baby wipe down the infant’s throat on May 18, 2017. Despite arguing that the baby’s toddler sister had done it, the jury found her guilty on all charges, including attempted murder, assault and strangulation.

It hadn’t helped her case that she’d lied about her employment history to the family she worked for, including past work and references and had doctored her IDs.

Following the sentencing, District Attorney Cyrus Vance called the former nanny’s actions “gruesome.”

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Man allegedly stole from Walgreens since summer

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police arrested a man last week for allegedly swiping shampoo and toothpaste from the Walgreens in Stuyvesant Town on more than a dozen occasions since last July. Sam Lee, 32, was arrested on Wednesday, January 3 at 5:30 a.m. for 16 alleged thefts from the Walgreens at 298 First Avenue.

Lee’s alleged spree began on July 8, 2018 around 7 a.m. when he allegedly took shampoo bottles that he stuck in a backpack before leaving without paying. Police said that he returned to the store on July 16, 2018 at 11:15 a.m. when he took shampoo and conditioner that he concealed in a backpack before leaving without paying.

The next time he returned to the store on August 29, police said that he stole multiple Crest toothpaste products.

Police said that he went back to the store almost a month later on September 25 at 2:35 p.m. and took shampoo, allegedly hiding it in a green bag before leaving.

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Pick-pockets preying on customers at local Trader Joe’s markets

Trader Joe’s market on Sixth Avenue (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The NYPD wants help from Trader Joe’s to stop pickpocketing in their stores but the California-based grocer reportedly does not want to spare the expense. Thirteenth Precinct Deputy Inspector Steven Hellman said that the company has been unwilling to install security cameras in their stores to aid the police department in catching sticky-fingered suspects who have reportedly been stealing from other customers in the store.

“They’ve been targeting Trader Joe’s because they know they can get away with it,” Hellman told Town & Village of the suspects. “When we don’t have video, it’s almost impossible to make any arrests on these cases. The lack of cooperation from Trader Joe’s shows a lack of empathy for the victims and the people shopping at their stores.”

Police said that after a handful of unattended property thefts this summer, the NYPD was able to convince the company to install security cameras but the cameras were ultimately removed before officers were even able to get access to the footage through a warrant for one of the recent cases.

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Cabbie punched and robbed in Gramercy

jan17 taxi robbery suspect1

First robbery suspect

By Sabina Mollot

Police are looking for two men who stiffed a cabbie, stole his phone and punched him in the face on a street in Gramercy.

Cops said that on Wednesday, January 9 at 7:10 p.m., the 31-year-old driver was dropping off the men at Park Avenue South and East 22nd Street, after they’d hailed the cab at 96th Street and Broadway. However, the passengers didn’t pay the fare before getting out and when the driver asked for the money, one of them reached into his window and stole his cell phone. When the driver got out of his car to get it back, one of the two men punched him before they both fled.

jan17 taxi robbery suspect2

Second robbery suspect

The victim refused medical attention at the scene.

The two suspects are described as being black and about 18-20.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). All calls are strictly confidential.

 

Kips Bay residents say planned renovation of Bellevue South Park won’t make it more inviting

The renovation plan was discussed at a Community Board 6 meeting last Wednesday. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A plan to renovate Bellevue South Park that city officials presented to the Community Board 6 Parks committee last Wednesday left neighborhood residents feeling like they hadn’t been listened to.

“I don’t see much of what we talked about in the focus groups,” said Aaron Humphrey, a resident of Straus Houses and a longtime advocate for the park. “We have quality of life and safety issues. In the southeastern part of the park, we have a lot of homeless who sit on the benches there and smoke marijuana. The trees block all of it. We wanted the gate removed to make it more community friendly, and we wanted to maximize the space.”

Community organizers have been pushing the city to make changes to Bellevue South Park in Kips Bay to create an Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible dog run and separate the adult exercise equipment from the children’s play equipment, primarily to discourage residents from the nearby shelters from congregating near where children play. But residents also said that the amount of tree cover in some areas of the park encourages shady behavior and had been hoping that the design would take more of this into account, possibly by opening up the park and removing some of the fences.

“I recall a conversation that one of the goals was to keep it more open so that the transient population wouldn’t stay there,” Kips Bay resident Karen Keavey said. “I know we have limited funds but I don’t see any changes to how the park is now. What we’ve been talking about is the entire ethos and vibe of the park so it’s more user-friendly and safe.”

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Editorial: We’re keeping our fingers crossed that this will work. How about you?

We will freely admit that the governor’s slamming the brakes on a plan that would have made 250,000 straphangers miserable for 15 months (instead proposing significantly less misery for that time or perhaps five months longer) felt like a white knight rescue.

But.

Andrew Cuomo is no knight. Nor is he, for that matter, an engineer.

Andrew Cuomo is a politician, and the experts he’s relying on for all this newfound information also have no experience with the subway they’re proposing to fix. So please forgive us if we’re not phone banking for Cuomo’s 2020 presidential campaign just yet. Especially since it’s still curious as to why the famously calculating governor would take such an incredible risk. The election against his formidable primary challenger is over, after all. NYC Transit President Andy Byford believes he is the one who would be on the hook if this plan fails spectacularly and he is of course right, but so would Cuomo since we all know he’s the one strong-arming all of this.

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Stuyvesant Town residents hope for less chaos on 14th St., old layout on 20th St.

Workers remove signs surrounding the L train construction zone on East 14th Street after Governor Cuomo’s announcement for an alternative plan to the shutdown. (Photo by Hermann Reiner)

By Sabina Mollot

With the dreaded L train shutdown no longer in the works, residents along the East 14th Street construction zone are now wondering if this means they can finally get a break from the endless construction, at least on Saturdays, while others are hoping the city will undo the recent reconfiguration of East 20th Street that’s led to a slew of parking tickets and towed cars.

Susan Steinberg, president of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, is among those wondering about both.

“What effect will the change have on the construction on East 14th Street?” she asked. “Did the relevant agencies just spend two years doing work they didn’t have to? Will East 14th Street still be a staging area? Will there be impacts on noise, dust and debris? Does that mean the East 20th Street redesign was not required? Can 20th Street be restored to what it was originally?”

Until those questions are answered, Steinberg said the TA has no position on the new plan.

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