Peter Stuyvesant Post Office opposite Stuyvesant Town on East 14th Street Photo by Sabina Mollot
By Sabina Mollot
On Wednesday, the union representing regional postal employees learned that the United States Postal Service had decided to proceed with a plan to relocate the Peter Stuyvesant Post Office on East 14th Street.
The news came by way of a letter to its president, Jonathan Miller, union rep Charles Zlotkin told Town & Village.
As previously announced at a raucous public meeting held on April 22, the new location is going to be 333 East 14th Street, a space that was last home to a Duane Reade between First and Second Avenues.
However, according to USPS spokesperson Congetta Chirichello, the decision is not final and the public will have a 30-day period to appeal. Ultimately, she told T&V, the decision is subject to review by the agency’s vice president of facilities.
Postal employees have also protested the move, noting that the closure of the space is part of an agency-wide trend of downsizing.
Chirichello said that any requests for an appeal of the decision to move must be in writing and identify the post office by name or location and state the reason for the objection to the move. The requests should be mailed to: Vice President, Facilities, c/o Facilities Implementation, 2 Congress Street, Room 8, Milford, Ma 01757.
Chirichello added, “USPS Facilities Services continue to be hands-on during relocation processes to ensure potential sites are available and can accommodate operational and customer needs should a final decision require relocation measures be taken.”
The plan has already been blasted by USPS watchdog blog Save the Post Office, whose author, Steve Hutkins, noted, “The Postal Service will have a hard time explaining how the community’s input can be meaningful if it has already made arrangements to move to 333 East 14th Street.”
At the April meeting, attendees were encouraged to fill out surveys to the USPS to give their feedback on the then-likely plan to relocate. When asked, Chirichello didn’t respond to say what it was the public had requested in their surveys.
The ST-PCV Tenants Association’s signs, like the one pictured, have been popping up at local stores.
By Sabina Mollot
Two weeks after CWCapital announced that mid-lease rent hikes would be issued to around 1,300 residents of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, the Tenants Association and local elected officials are still hoping to get the special servicer to change its mind.
On Tuesday, several East Side elected officials asked Andrew MacArthur, vice president of CWCapital Asset Management, for a sit-down aimed at “holding off on any increases until leases expire.” The request was made via letter signed by State Senator Charles Schumer, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill De Blasio, Council Member Dan Garodnick, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and Borough President Scott Stringer.
In the letter, the pols noted that leasing agents had been telling renters that it was highly unlikely CW would raise rents mid-lease.
“Since there is regular sharing of information within the community, it is very likely that many more residents believed they would be free of rent hikes mid-term,” they wrote.
The Tenants Association also continued to encourage neighbors to picket outside the leasing office. Though initially the intent was to have “sustained” protesting outside, the association was unable to have a continued presence mid-week, and has instead, since early this week, been focused on a flyer door dropoff campaign. Additionally, John Marsh, the president of the TA, said another plan has been to approach local businesses to ask if they’d agree to keep protest signs and flyers on sight. That way residents could drop by, pick up flyers, protest and then return the sign.
“Even if they can only give a half hour, if we can get 500 people to do a half hour, we’d be fully covered,” said Marsh. “To make it meaningful, you have to have a sustained effort, so now we have self-service protests.”
One volunteer, who didn’t want his name used, mentioned that he and his wife had already gotten a bunch of local retailers to participate. Those include Adam’s Deli and the Associated supermarket on East 14th Street and Duane Reade, CVS, Zeichner’s, Ess-A-Bagel and Nature’s First Pharmacy, Frank’s Trattoria, Duro Carpet and Johnny Mozzarella on First Avenue. The volunteer added that he was one of a handful of tenants who’d picketed over Memorial Day weekend, scaring off a few potential renters with tales of bedbugs and mid-lease rent hikes.
CWCapital increased the rents following the “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” settlement. Fine print in the leases had mentioned the rents could be raised, even mid-lease.
As reported by T&V last week, tenants had protested in front of the leasing office to tell prospective renters about the mid-lease increases as well as other problems such as continued lack of basic services in Sandy-battered buildings. Management responded by having leasing agents meet clients in the back of the leasing office or at the model apartments.
Additionally, in a newsletter emailed to residents last Wednesday, CWCapital said,
“In accordance with certain residents’ leases and in accordance with the court order approving the settlement agreement, some residents have received a rent adjustment. Some rents have gone down and some rents have gone up. If your rent has been adjusted, you already received a notice on May 14th.
“We respect the fact that adjusting rents mid-lease term is disruptive and can be confusing… We look forward to resolving these last uncertainties and restoring stability to our community.”
In related news, since Tuesday, the Tenants Association has also been hearing from residents who received unusually high June rent bills. Those were not the same tenants who received the mid-lease increases, who’ve all been members of the “Roberts” class action, but tenants living in “Roberts” affected apartments, said Marsh.
However, according to a CW spokesperson, this turned out to be a clerical error. There was no comment on the continued effort to overturn the mid-lease increases.
In other news, residents have also been concerned about CW’s recently begun campaign to inspect all apartments for “unsafe conditions, unregistered dogs and compliance with the 80 percent carpet rule.” Tenants have told Town & Village via Facebook that in some instances, inspectors have looked inside their closets and Marsh said he’s heard the same, “which is disconcerting.”
In light of the recent spate of no-forced-entry burglaries, the TA has advised residents to comply with the inspections but make sure they can be present.
Marsh said the TA was successful in getting management to agree to take requests for appointments for an inspection via email. Previously it had only been by phone, which Marsh said concerned some tenants who weren’t sure there would be follow-through after leaving a message. The notice period may also be getting extended to 7-10 days.
This article was updated from the print version to include a response from CWCapital on the June rent bills.
Re: Letter, “Rent hikes will destroy community,” T&V, May 23
To the Editor:
When the chair of the ST-PCV Tenants Association cries, “Where’s our mayor?” several times, we’re in trouble. Susan Steinberg concludes her letter with, “The silence is deafening.” But to me the answer to her question, “Where’s our mayor?” is loud and clear.
First of all, we tenants have not had a mayor we could call “ours” in over 20 years. During the Republican administrations of “their” mayors, Giuliani and Bloomberg, we have suffered rent hikes every year. Why? Because the Republican Mayor’s handpicked Rent Guidelines Board, which is stacked 5-4 against tenants, automatically votes in favor of the landlords every year.
If you want to find “their” mayor, go to a Republican fundraiser where you’ll see him surrounded by smiling landlords and developers. Years ago you could see him shaking hands with Republican Senate Majority Leader Bruno, no friend to tenants, who would travel to NYC from Albany using official state helicopters and official state-chauffeured cars to conduct “state business” with the Republican mayor, but only in person and only at the fundraiser.
I agree with Ms. Steinberg that rent hikes will destroy our community; they’ve been doing that for years. But the question should not be “Where’s our mayor?” but rather where’s an electable Democrat who supports affordable housing?
Surveying the current crop of candidates, that’s not going to be an easy question to answer, but only if we find one and elect him can we stop rent hikes every year and/or at the whim of the landlord.
Yesterday, the ST-PCV Tenants Association announced a meeting for “Roberts” class tenants on May 29. Read the notice below:
Invitation to Tenants Facing Mid-Lease Increases
The recent, outrageous mid-lease increases have left many Roberts-class tenants wondering whether the calculations on their individual apartments are correct, particularly since they can’t obtain their unit’s rent history from the department of Homes and Community Renewal on short notice. Even if the rent history is known, the formula for the increase is complex. What if those calculations were incorrect? Is there anyway, at this point, to mount a challenge?
Because of the ever-increasing number of questions along these lines, the ST/PCV Tenants Association inviting tenants facing mid-lease increases to a workshop on May 29th at IS 104, between 20th and 21st Street, starting at 8:00 PM. This directly follows our members-only annual meeting.
The TA’s attorney, Tim Collins, of Collins Dobkin & Miller, will speak with Roberts tenants who want to explore their options and to answer mid-lease increase-related questions from TA members and non-members, alike. It will also give affected tenants an opportunity to meet others with the same challenges, and exchange contact information.
Seating in the IS 104 auditorium is limited and on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors open at 7:45 PM.
Membership support makes these activities possible. Please consider joining the Tenants Association if you are not currently a member, or making a donation today. Visit http://stpcvta.org/donate
Young resident Karry Kane stands outside the leasing office on Saturday. Photo by Sabina Mollot
After Tishman Speyer’s disastrous four-year reign as landlord of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, the commonly held belief was that no one could possibly be worse for the community than that company, with its now infamous business model based around goals that were both greedy and delusional.
However, now it seems that the property’s occupying force, CWCapital, is more than willing to be known as the company that’s worse for tenants than the one that lost its investors billions and scared countless tenants out of their homes. By raising the rents at over a thousand units, in most cases by hundreds of dollars and in others more than a thousand or even two, the suits at CW make it clear that they have learned nothing from the historic mistakes of the past.
Never mind that the move is just plain cruel ― as noted by Council Member Dan Garodnick last week ― “a mid-lease rent increase of $900 is nothing less than an eviction notice” ― it is also, quite simply, bad business. By issuing these steep increases on such short notice (the extension of one additional month for tenants to decide whether to stay or go is still short notice), CW has essentially said it doesn’t care whether their tenants stay or go.
But at these newly inflated prices, who can afford to replace these people (who are already paying for the privilege of living in renovated apartments) other than those who are crammed into subdivided apartments or the very rich? And why would the very rich opt to move into a building without a doorman with an owner who feels entitled to raise the rents at any time?
In other words, CWCapital is prepared to deal with a very high vacancy rate, generating no income for a while until the place becomes, officially or unofficially, a hub for students and other transients. Who hopefully for the leasing office agents, don’t read the news.
In the past, the owner has offered $500 gift cards as incentives to residents who refer people to sign leases. Interestingly, last week, an offer made by Stuyvesant Town via its official Twitter page for new referrals was for $500-$2,500. So apparently, getting tenants to recommend the place to their friends and loved ones isn’t as easy as it used to be.
CW has pointed out, correctly, that it is perfectly legal to be doing this. But so what? Back when Tishman Speyer took over ST/PCV, market rate residents almost immediately began seeing double digit increases. Stabilized renters got primary residence challenges. Tishman did this believing a) that it was legal and b) that the sky was the limit and so what if tenants left, because there was more where that came from. But as we all know now, Tishman was dead wrong. It turned out that as desperate as New Yorkers are for housing, most people simply didn’t have the salaries that would allow them to agree to pay through the nose, nor did they want to live under a landlord who was well-known for giving high rent hikes.
Our recommendation: Instead of offering money to tenants to get their friends and families into these renovated units, CWCapital should tell the bondholders to hold their horses. They’ll be paid in full, even if it takes a while longer by charging tenants the rents they actually agreed to pay. It isn’t tenants’ fault that the bondholders signed on to become part of the biggest residential real estate flop in history and therefore, tenants are not who should be made to suffer here.
Not that they’re suffering in silence. Last weekend, the Tenants Association began organizing protests
Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg talks to a neighbor outside the leasing office on Saturday. Photo by Sabina Mollot
outside the leasing office, in which they shared with passersby and prospective renters, what problems they’ve faced after signing on the dotted line (noisy neighbors, broken elevators, etc.).
Tenants are also confronting management directly. On the Stuy Town Facebook page, a recent post cheered the reopening of the Oval lawn. The response? One comment seemed to sum things up.
One Facebook user wrote: “You want people to look through floored glasses we the tenants are being treated like dirt no services no laundry room elevators and intercoms that work half of the time and a 30% rent increase that you have fifteen days to comply with or get out shame on you.”
In a post promoting a carnival for kids on the Oval, Facebook user Carla Webb O’Connor had this to say.
“How about the kids that are being kicked out of their homes because their parents can’t afford the ridiculous rent increases?? Not doing anything for them, are you?”
(Those comments have since been deleted.)
The Tenants Association, local elected officials and now Town & Village are calling on CWCapital to reverse course on the rent hikes. CW should, at the very least, give tenants some warning that after ― and only after ― their leases expire, their rents will go up.
Then, CW should charge a rent that isn’t far higher than what’s currently being charged so tenants can actually consider staying.
Raising rents by thousands of dollars a year (some increases were as high as 35 percent) is beyond cruel. Hundreds of tenants will be unable to pay and unable to stay. Where’s our mayor?
This kind of price gouging is what happened in New York City in the early 70s. In one fell swoop, CW has turned the clock back to a dark era, when tenants faced greedy landlords and a housing crisis so bad, it ended only with the passage of the NYS Emergency Tenant Protection Act in 1974. Where’s our mayor?
CW Capital is destroying a community that has stood as an icon of middle class stability since its inception in 1947. Hundreds of tenants will be scrambling this summer to find suitable housing in a city with a very low vacancy rate, dislocating their children from their schools and friends. Where’s our mayor?
This heartless act on the part of CW is without precedence – but that is a distinction no company with any sense of decency would wish. Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village is a community, not a commodity. Its residents deserve to be treated with respect, not as garbage to be thrown out.
Is there a mayor out there? Where was he when our other elected representatives stood with us? Is he only the mayor of developers and the one percent, not everyday citizens? The silence is deafening.
Susan Steinberg, ST
The author is the chair of the ST-PCV Tenants Association.
Since last week, the ST-PCV Tenants Association said it has been getting complaints from tenants regarding a new round of apartment inspections being conducted by CWCapital. Residents have been told in some cases their units are being inspected for pressurized walls.
According to TA President John Marsh, in at least two cases there have been complaints from tenants that inspections were conducted while they weren’t home at times that were not the agreed upon scheduled date and time.
“They came in between (the original date and the rescheduled date),” said Marsh. “They
Tenants Association President John Marsh and residents Sandra Lynn and John Giannone outside the leasing office last Saturday Photo by Sabina Mollot
just popped in.” This has been of concern to the TA, considering the four burglaries in the complex that didn’t involve forced entry and were at buildings undergoing intercom repairs.
“We’ve been advising tenants to make sure someone can be with them,” said Kirstin Adaahl, a Tenants Association board member.
In response to the concerns, Brian Moriarty, a spokesperson for CWCapital, said all apartments in the complex would be inspected in the upcoming months.
“The inspections are to ensure compliance with the building code, lease terms and community rules,” he said. “Inspectors will be looking for issues such as unsafe conditions, unregistered dogs and compliance with the 80 percent carpet rule. Any unit that is out of compliance will be given a notice to correct whatever issues are found.”
There was no comment on the allegations of unauthorized entry.
Recently, the TA put a notice about the apartment inspections and what residents’ obligations and rights are on its website (stpcvta.org). The notice reads, in part:
The TA has consulted with its counsel and, while every situation is unique and may require individual legal counsel, in summary… (this) is what we were advised:
Necessary repairs, improvements required by law, and inspections are lawful and you must comply.
Landlords must give you proper notice and you have the right to be present in non-emergency cases.
A failure to provide access as demanded does not result in immediate eviction; you have many opportunities to cure.
Unlawful alterations to the apartment, fire safety issues, and hoarding could put you at risk for eviction, but you have multiple opportunities to cure these conditions.
Tenants protest outside the leasing office on Saturday. Photo by Sabina Mollot
By Sabina Mollot
Following the discovery last week that close to 1,300 residents were being hit with mid-lease rent hikes that have been as high as $2,200, the Tenants Association, along with a handful of other tenants, have taken their grievances to the leasing office.
The plan has been to have “sustained” picketing, with sign-holding tenants warning potential renters and passersby on First Avenue about the increases as well as various quality of life issues like the lack of laundry rooms in some buildings and bedbug sightings in others.
On Saturday alone, TA members said they spoke with with around 50 people outside the leasing office.
John Marsh, president of the Tenants Association, said protesters were telling anyone thinking of renting not to accept verbal representations by leasing agents. “Have everything in writing.”
Most people they spoke with, added Marsh, ending up being concerned about how mid-lease hikes and other issues like broken elevators could affect them. Others, however, simply ignored protesters as they went in and out of the leasing office.
After being asked by a reporter if he’d be moving in, one person in a small group of people leaving the leasing office, would only say, “We read our lease.”
Additionally, CWCapital fired back at the TA by having its leasing agents escort
Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg talks to a neighbor outside the leasing office on Saturday. Photo by Sabina Mollot
prospective renters to model apartments after meeting them at the back of the leasing office. ST/PCV security also, on Saturday morning, called the cops on protesters, asking officers to force protesters to stand behind barriers that were put up over six feet away from the leasing office, close to the curb. However, according to protesters, the cops said the tenants were fine where they were, as long as they remained peaceful and didn’t block traffic. A couple of security officers remained outside the leasing office though for as long as the picketing continued.
As for those who were there on Saturday, around a dozen residents were participating, most of whom were longtime tenants, unaffected by the rent hikes that have been issued to “Roberts” class members.
“My heart’s breaking for the community,” said Susan Kasloff, a 17-year resident as she handed out flyers by the First Avenue Loop.
Marsh and TA Chair Susan Steinberg were also on the scene, as was TA Board Members Steven Newmark and Kirstin Aadahl. Both Aadahl and Newmark are “Roberts” class members, though she got a mid-lease increase and he didn’t. Aadahl said she’s been telling people who enter the leasing office to ask questions such as whether there have been bedbugs in the building. “Because we’re finding out that some tenants are being told after they sign their lease.”
She also said despite the hike she got, she’ll be sticking around. The increase was for $550, but this follows another increase of $200 when she last renewed her lease in February.
“We love living in Stuyvesant Town, but it’s going to be very hard,” said Aadahl.
According to Marsh, the TA is exploring its options, and there has been talk among tenants about a rent strike. However, Marsh said if anything, it would be a rent slowdown, and this would only be done as a last-ditch option since “Roberts” class tenants have a clause in their leases that would allow the owner to hit them with a $50 fee for not paying their rent on time. More longterm tenants however could technically participate in a rent slowdown and not pay their rent for three months before CWCapital could try to evict them, said Marsh. At this time, however, the TA is not recommending that anyone withhold or delay paying rent.
Tenants Association President John Marsh and residents Sandra Lynn and John Giannone Photo by Sabina Mollot
In response to the protesting, Brian Moriarty, a spokesperson for CW, said that the special servicer was acting within its rights following the settlement.
“The rent adjustments were negotiated as part of the settlement and approved by the nine tenant representatives, their attorneys, and the court,” he said. “We intend to implement the agreement in accordance with its terms.”
The rent hikes came on the first day that CWCapital was legally allowed to issue them, which, tenants were warned back in January, the special servicer could do following the “Roberts” settlement. What kind of increase tenants got varied from $100 to $2,200 with most impacted tenants getting increases of hundreds of dollars. Residents were also initially told they’d have two weeks to decide whether they’d be staying or moving. However, the next day CW announced residents would get an extra month.
Residents T&V spoke with on Saturday, though, didn’t seem impressed by the concession.
Two residents protesting outside the leasing office on Saturday, Sandra Lynn and John Giannone, said they hadn’t gotten increases, but have been hearing horror stories from neighbors who did. Giannone said he found out about them when neighbors knocked on the door to ask if they’d gotten one. “They got a statement under their door that said their rent was going up $1,100 with no explanation,” he said.
Another resident who approached the protesters said she was unaware of exactly what her rent hike was, though it wasn’t for her lack of trying. The woman, who didn’t want her name printed, said she was listed one new price somewhere in her lease renewal document and another elsewhere in the paperwork, and said she’s been unable to reach anyone in the leasing office to ask what she’s supposed to be paying. It’s either $600 or $800 more. After going in, she was told that no one in there could answer her questions and was referred to the property’s legal department. However, when she tried to negotiate the rent increase with an attorney, she said he wouldn’t budge. Interestingly, when she later walked into the leasing office with her boyfriend and the two posed as would-be tenants, they were given the impression that there was some wiggle room in price for new tenants.
In other “Roberts” related news, the case’s attorney for tenants, Alex Schmidt, said on Monday that an effort to extend the deadline for class members to file for their damages has been successful. The original deadline was May 15 and the new date is May 31. However, if residents don’t file their paperwork by then, their share of the nearly $69 million in rent overcharge returns will go back to CWCapital and MetLife.
The extension will likely be seen as good news by a member of the class action suit who approached Steinberg on Saturday to ask what it was all about. The resident wanted to know if he was entitled to anything even though he thought he may have gotten someone else’s paperwork. No one in the apartment, he explained, is named Roberts. However, after getting filled in on what Roberts meant, he said he’d be filing.
Police are asking for the public’s assistance in locating a missing resident of Waterside Plaza, who was last seen on Thursday, May 16.
Ingrid Pilari, 68, who lives at 10 Waterside Plaza, was last seen in her building.
She is 5 ft 3 ins., 160 lbs and was wearing a grey hooded jacket and black pants, with her hair up in a clip.
Standing or sitting in one place at a Limited bus stop on 3rd Ave. enables me to choose whichever bus comes first…. one that can drop me close to my destination or a Limited which will require more walking. I choose according to how much time and strength I have.
This has become one of life’s little luxuries when compared to the Select Bus System on 1st and 2nd Aves. where the local and Select stops are half a block apart or, in the case of 1st and “23rd” St., where they are a block apart, i.e. the local is at 24th St. and the express (Select) is at 25th. (When your knees hurt, you have a walker, etc. you need the first door of the Select bus, which is lowered and is at 25th St.)
With the blue lights Select buses were visible about 8 blocks away… time to walk from the local stop and buy a ticket or vice-versa. The Select bus signage is rather small and readable only when it is pulling in… but you can still see people dashing to get a bus… any bus.
Beginning with NY Eye and Ear at 14th and 2nd and ending with NYU, which now extends to 38th on 1st, I count seven major hospitals/clinics. Ride the local buses in this area and see the many who have physical limitations or are carrying children and are clearly visiting the hospitals/clinics.
In my experience there are two Select buses to every local bus on 1st and 2nd. I believe the MTA has deemed this system a success because it has shortened the ride from the Upper East Side to City Hall or Wall St. areas on the Select buses. (I suspect the MTA was tired of maintaining the blue lights anyway.)
It appears the local rider…even along this hospital corridor…has never mattered to the MTA.
By all means one can complain directly to the MTA, but this is mayoral election year. I haven’t chosen a candidate but Bill de Blasio has formulated a message of “Two Cities” to describe how many of our problems have been addressed.
The other day, I was going out a back bus door in the rain and struggling with umbrella and cane when the door shut on me. After yelling, etc. I was told it shuts automatically after a set period of time. I have a big bruise on one arm where the door slammed into me. Seems to me the MTA is focused on time tables and efficiencies which leaves me in the less fortunate, easily overlooked part of the “two cities.”
Council Member Dan Garodnick (at podium) blasts the latest round of rent hikes. Pictured with him are: Steven Newmark, Tenants Association board member; Kevin Burke, an impacted resident; Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh; State Senator Brad Hoylman (behind Garodnick); Tenants Association President John Marsh and Council Member Jessica Lappin Photo by Sabina Mollot
By Sabina Mollot
On Tuesday night, well over a thousand residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village were shocked to see notices slipped under their doors alerting them to the fact that their rents would be raised mid-lease. Additionally, in most cases the hikes were for hundreds of dollars and in at least one known case, went as high as over two thousand. Residents were also told that they’d have 60 days to figure out whether they’d be staying (paying the higher rent in two weeks time) or going.
The notices were immediately blasted by local elected officials and the Tenants Association, who at an impromptu rally the next morning, called CWCapital’s actions “crass” and “destructive.”
“A mid-lease rent increase of $900 is nothing less than an eviction notice,” said a livid Council Member Dan Garodnick, who lives in Peter Cooper Village. “Have you ever heard of such a thing from any decent landlord? Or any landlord?”
Garodnick also noted that he believes there have been deceptive business practices on the part of CWCapital’s leasing agents who’ve given tenants the impression that their rents wouldn’t be increased mid-lease. He added that he’s bringing the matter to the attention of the attorney general. “Leasing agents were telling people not to worry,” he said.
Other elected officials at the event, saying they were supporting tenants, were State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and Council Member Jessica Lappin, who’s running for borough president.
John Marsh, president of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, said he was concerned the hikes would make living in the complex unaffordable to anyone except “groups of transients” packing into apartments with pressurized walls. “Who will replace these families? The woo-hoo generation,” he said.
He added that if this is being done so CWCapital can sell soon, the TA has approached the special servicer more than once with an offer to buy. “We’re ready to make their bondholders whole, yet they ignore us.”
TA Chair Susan Steinberg added that she thought “This is the most ruthless action in the history of ruthless landlords. They want to eject as many tenants as they can.”
The increases came on the heels of the final approval of the “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” settlement, in which it was mentioned that CWCapital did have the right to issue the increases, even mid-lease. The TA and Garodnick, who’ve cheered “Roberts” as a historic win for tenants, have also refrained from fully endorsing the settlement due to concerns of possible rent hikes.
In response to the concerns, CWCapital issued the following statement:
“CW Capital took over Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town in October 2010, nearly four years after the class action suit was originally filed. Almost immediately we began to work with the plaintiffs to reach a settlement. Last fall, we agreed to a historic settlement with the impacted residents.
“Those tenants who are affected by these increases participated in a $173 million settlement agreement that was approved by the court and every one of these residents received notice several months ago with respect to the terms of the settlement, including the ability of the landlord to increase the rent mid-lease term.
“They were represented by counsel in that process and their counsel was directed by a group of nine tenant representatives. The attorneys and tenant representatives were fully aware of these terms and concluded that they preferred this outcome to others that were available to them during the negotiations. These terms were widely publicized and the tenant attorneys specifically addressed the issue of midterm rent increases during their information sessions in January. Nonetheless, there were no objections made to the court with respect to these terms.
“Despite these facts, we recognize that the timing of these increases may pose logistical challenges for some residents. In recognition of this, we are extending the date on which increases will go into effect by 30 days. Rent increases will now go into effect on July 1st and not June 1st as allowed for in the Settlement. Additionally, the Settlement give residents receiving the mid-term adjustment the option to terminate their lease by providing notice to the landlord within 30 days. We are also extending this deadline. Anyone who gives notice of their intent to terminate their lease by July 1 will have until August 1 to vacate and will not receive an increase during that time. New notices will be distributed confirming these dates.”
Tenants’ “Roberts” attorney Alex Schmidt said that the rent hikes were not a result of the settlement, but language CWCapital had included into new leases after it took over operations of the property. Schmidt said because attorneys became aware of language that would allow the special servicer to raise rents mid-lease, they negotiated to include some protections for tenants should they end up getting the hikes. Had it not been for the settlement, said Schmidt, CW could even sue tenants if they choose to break the lease and leave. But because of the settlement, a tenant can break the lease, penalty-free. He also noted that while around 30 percent of the units in ST/PCV are being hit with rent hikes, “up to 10 percent are getting rent reductions.”
However, this didn’t come as much comfort to tenants who attended Wednesday’s event in front of the leasing office.
Carla Massey, a 28-year-resident and a psychologist, carried a homemade sign expressing her concern that she was going to become homeless as a result of the 21 percent rent increase she received.
She declined to share what she’s currently paying, but said, “I have no place to go.” She hasn’t yet told her two children that they’ll be moving. “I think it’s a little traumatizing,” she said.
Another resident, who’s currently paying $3,900 for a two-bedroom apartment in Peter Cooper, said his rent will be going up by $1,000.
“To add insult to injury, I live in one of the buildings affected by hurricane Sandy and my wife has to do laundry a quarter mile away. There’s no use of the basement.”
The resident, John Beasely, said he does plan to stick out another year in the apartment since he works for Con Ed, but after that, he’s gone. “I’m going back to Oregon. I’m done with New York and I’ve been here five years.”
Kevin Burke, another resident socked with a rent hike, said after he saw the notice under the door he went to the leasing office, demanding answers. But he didn’t get any. “They said, ‘We’re clueless.’ Damn right you’re clueless,” he said. Burke added that he and his wife had spent three months trying to figure out where to send their children to school and were now given “two weeks to figure out where we’re going to live. This is not something New Yorkers should tolerate.”
Arlynne Miller, who was at the rally, said she was there because, “My entire community is being destroyed. It’s like a never ending tsunami of destruction around here. They’re boosting rents and they don’t care if it’s unrealistic or unsustainable. They want to roll rents as high as they can so they can go to potential sellers and get what they can get.”
Mitchell Posilkin, general counsel for the Rent Stabilization Association, a group that represents apartment owners, said the rent move shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
“There were some tenants in Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village who were paying less as free market tenants than they would have been paying as stabilized tenants,” said Posilkin. “These notices are intended to increase their rents pursuant to the formulas that were agreed under the terms of the settlement.”
The landlord lawyer, who was not involved in the settlement discussions, added, “The settlement was agreed to between the tenants and their attorneys, the owners and their attorneys and, ultimately was reviewed and approved by the court, so it was no secret that there was a potential for rents to go up.”
A burglar or burglars has hit three apartments in Stuyvesant Town recently, each time at a building undergoing intercom repairs and with no forced entry to the unit. In each incident, jewelry was removed and in the most recent incident, reported late Tuesday, $40,000 worth of jewelry was taken, according to the ST-PCV Tenants Association.
Another victim reported losing $6,000 worth of jewelry and in the other case, $10,000 in jewelry was said to be taken. The buildings are 610 East 20th Street, 319 Avenue C and most recently 620 East 20th Street.
The TA sent an emailed alert to residents on Tuesday night about the burglaries as well as its concerns about unauthorized entry into apartments by employees of the property for non-emergency-related work. In two cases, tenants returned home to find their doors ajar.
“Both of these ‘door left ajar’ reports were from buildings receiving the new intercoms,” the TA said. “One of the reports was from the same building and same time frame as one of the burglaries.”
The commanding officer of the 13th Precinct, Deputy Inspector David Ehrenberg, said the
Stuyvesant Town Security Chief Bill McClellan and General Manager Sean Sullivan address residents at a town hall meeting on Tuesday. Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel
case is being investigated by the detective squad.
“The standout thing is that there was no forced entry,” said Ehrenberg, who added that there was no way to determine yet if the crimes were committed by an employee or contractor. Stuy Town management has been fully cooperative though, he said. Meanwhile, ST/PCV now has a beefed up police presence.
A spokesperson for CWCapital declined to comment on the incidents to Town & Village, citing the ongoing investigation.
However, numerous tenants who’d heard about onsite burglaries demanded answers from management at a town hall meeting held at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Community Center.
At that time, management only knew of two incidents. (The report of a third came later in the evening). Residents were also concerned that contractors were being let into apartments to do maintenance when the tenants weren’t home, especially in light of the recent burglaries.
“(The incidents) all seemed to coincide with maintenance work taking place,” said Tenants Association board member Kirstin Aadahl.
In response, Sean Sullivan, general manager of ST/PCV, who was hosting the meeting, said that, “Public Safety escorts contractors to apartments. That’s the way it should happen.”
ST/PCV’s head of security, Bill McClellan, added that while at that time, a third burglary had been rumored, in one of the incidents, the woman later found the things she thought were missing.
John Marsh, president of the TA, later said that this was the first of the four burglary reports to come in, ironically occurring a few days before the other, confirmed incidents. In that case, the Peter Cooper Village resident who reported it later discovered jewelry she thought was stolen in the back of her safe deposit box.
Marsh added that although the next two incidents were reported on May 2 and 3, they’re believed to have occurred in April. He also said he’s heard rumors about a fourth incident, this one again at 620 East 20th Street.
The resident who was burglarized at 610 told T&V she was the one to lose $6,000 worth of jewelry, all of it gold and most of it family heirlooms.
The resident, who didn’t want her name published, also said while she doesn’t know exactly when it happened, she also lives in an apartment where an employee entered to fix the intercom without asking. At that time, her sister, who she shares an apartment with, was home. They don’t know if any maintenance visits were made since then and said after asking, were told there were no records of any such visits.
The woman also said flyers she posted around the building to alert neighbors were taken down, and that she later heard that flyers she’d slipped under neighbors’ doors were actually pulled out by security.
As for the incidents of workers entering apartments without tenants’ permission, according to the TA’s alert, several complaints were from residents who were at home in another room when workers entered “and were terrified to find strangers in their living rooms.”
Marsh also said that while an officer is assigned to stand in the building hallway while work is being done in an apartment, that based on what he’s heard, the presence of an officer is “not consistent.” The TA also said it’s received reports of workers entering apartments despite the resident’s refusal to allow them to do so.
“I remember a time when one could allow owner-employed maintenance personnel into one’s apartment without fear of losing valuables,” TA Chair Susan Steinberg said. “And I remember a time when schedules were always negotiated with Resident Services, who would never dream of forcing an entry, except for an emergency such as water overflow, fire or serious gas leak. Tenants have the right to limit unannounced, unauthorized entries to actual emergency conditions and should insist that management respect these limits.”
In response to the concerns about unauthorized entry, Brian Moriarty, a spokesperson for CW said management was only aware of one such report from a resident.
“In that case, apartment entry was correctly scheduled with the resident but management mistakenly entered one day too early. Management apologized directly to the resident No other claims have been received. Per the lease, management has the right to enter a unit. In emergency situations, management may enter a unit without notice. In non-emergency situations, management’s practice is to provide notice to residents and provide them the option to reschedule for a more convenient time if desired.
Maria Rocha-Buschel contributed reporting to this article.
This article was updated from the print version published on Thursday, May 9 to include a comment from CWCapital.
Stuyvesant Town Security Chief Bill McClellan and General Manager Sean Sullivan address residents at a town hall meeting on Tuesday. Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
General Manager Sean Sullivan hosted a town hall meeting for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents last Tuesday, the first such meeting in a number of years. Sullivan noted at the beginning of the meeting that its purpose was an informal gathering to talk with seniors about residential programming and the community center, but it quickly became clear that residents had other things on their minds. Security issues, Sandy-related problems and the rising student population were some of the main concerns of tenants at the meeting.
In light of the keycard failures during Sandy, one resident asked Sullivan at the beginning of the meeting if it would be possible to put regular cylinders with physical keys back on apartment doors.
“You may not like some of my responses but I’m going to try to be straight with you tonight,” Sullivan said. “The short answer is no. It’s a system that we put in place and it works. (Sandy) was an extraordinary moment in time and we took extraordinary measures.” Residents responded to this, frustrated, saying the system obviously does not work if it failed for so long after the storm, but Sullivan noted that Sandy was not a typical scenario. “Battery backup for the keycard system will work in a typical outage,” he said.
In addition to the keycard failures, other residents noted that the emergency lights in the stairwells failed as well. Sullivan said that there is a battery backup for these as well but they did not last as long as the outage because they were only meant to be used for hours at a time, not days. When tenants specified that there were cases in which the lighting did not even last for hours after the blackout, Sullivan said that he wasn’t aware of this issue and would look into it.
Many Peter Cooper Village residents were on hand at the meeting to express frustrations about the lack of laundry services, as well as the partial elevator service that still exists in some of the buildings.
“My husband is in a wheelchair. We waited two and a half hours because the one elevator was out (a couple weeks ago),” one resident said. “You can keep your memos about the landscaping. Restoring elevator service should be your number one priority. All we’ve got is reassurances and no definitive information.”
After heckling from other meeting attendees about the lack of a concrete date, Sullivan said the hope is that all elevator service will be restored by the end of this month, and attempted to explain why the process has been so lengthy.
“They’re not broken, they’re gone,” he said. “The workers are rebuilding the elevators in the shaft from scratch. We were fortunate to get in the queue. There were a lot of manufacturers that stopped taking orders because the need was just so high (after Sandy). There is no profit for us to move any slower on this.”
As for laundry, service for residents without it in Peter Cooper Village will still have a few months to wait.
“We’ve said that laundry service would be fully restored by September of this year. I’m not changing their timeline but we are trying to do better than that,” he said. “We’re focused on restoring these services. We don’t want you to be frustrated, but the damage was significant and severe. I understand the level of frustration and I don’t want to diminish it for a moment. We’re working on it. It’s not a great solution but we’re doing our best.”
Although noise and late-night rowdiness from the community’s younger population has been a recent complaint of many residents in this newspaper’s letters to the editor, residents at the meeting were more bothered by the transient nature of students in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. The constant moving in and out of short-term tenants was a point of concern for those at the meeting. Some residents noted that it even becomes a frustrating security issue because building doors have been propped open while people are moving. “It happens every month, sometimes in the middle of the month as well,” one resident said at the meeting. “When I bring it up to them, security says, ‘oh it’s fine.’ But it’s not fine. It’s a safety issue.”
ST/PCV Security Chief Bill McClellan said that alarms are set to go off if a door has been propped open for three minutes. They’ve also sent people to close doors and tell movers that they can’t prop the doors open, but residents at the meeting were frustrated that this was not helping, one noting that she had told movers herself not to prop the door open and the mover cursed at her.
A resident of 541 East 20th Street said that she was concerned about safety issues as well after maintenance had entered her apartment to install an intercom without notice or permission, and was especially disturbed after hearing about the reports of burglaries in the community.
Sullivan said that maintenance is supposed to reach out to tenants beforehand and for tenants that don’t respond, maintenance may come back multiple times to deal with these exceptions. After not specifically addressing the resident’s situation, other attendees at the meeting became frustrated, yelling while Sullivan attempted to move on to another question.
In response to concerns about the thefts possibly being related to recent maintenance work, Sullivan added that public safety is supposed to escort outside contractors to the apartments to supervise but otherwise had no information about why this incident occurred at the building on East 20th Street.
In some of the less contentious moments of the evening, Sullivan did announce that the gym is expected to reopen in just a few weeks.
He also noted, to the appreciation of the tenants at the meeting, that the doors in the community center would be replaced by automatic sliding doors, similar to those in supermarkets, because there have been issues with seniors walking into the doors or having difficult getting them open.
The so-called Blueway is shaping up to be a monstrosity. Could it be our Westway East? We should seriously question subsidizing and spending $770,000,000 to finance environmentally damaging work in and along the East River. Are our political leaders really proposing the phony solution to shoreline protection with man-made wetlands that will be washed away in the first half-Sandy?
Does it make sense to further subsidize Con Ed to do the work it was supposed to have done in the first place? The East River is in line to become one massive tax-supported destruction of a critical habitat with extraordinary national significance!
Evidence some of the segmented developments now proposed: the Diamond Sugar development, the Gowanus Canal plan, the Newtown Creek highrises, the Long Island City riverfront plans, the 38th Street/Big Alice replacement projects, and the continued push for the Solar 2 building.
We should see these plans for what they are: disaster capitalism. The so-called Blueway is just a piling on, put together by a planner who seems to have gotten caught short when Sandy hit and rushed out a half-thought out proposal that makes little sense.
Many of those projects would violate Clean Water Act goals and New York-specific federal court decisions designed to protect natural aquatic habitats by placing non-essential fills and/or structures in public waterways, and/or by siting non-water-dependent real estate development in near-shore waters.
We should oppose additional spending for building on, along and out into the East River not only to prevent adverse habitat and fisheries impacts, but to preserve views of open water, prevent unnecessary storm and hurricane damage, avoid the high construction and maintenance costs for anything built in and along the river, and uphold Clean Water Act requirements which discourage building non-water-dependent projects in the water.
What makes sense is for our politicians to demand a comprehensive federal review of all these projects taken together, and what effect they will have on a river habitat that is fighting back from centuries of pollution.
And, by the way, what is the social effect on a still-traumatized community not used to ten feet of water flowing up against our apartment buildings?