Resident town hall gets heated

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

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.

10 thoughts on “Resident town hall gets heated

  1. As a resident of 7 Peter Cooper Road I echo the concerns of my neighbors. Like many in Peter Cooper we are without a basement with the result that we have no laundry room and our recyclables have to be placed in bins outside our building. The laundry situation is simply a nightmare. The recyclable situation is an eyesore. To spend money on landscaping when the entryways of so many Peter Cooper buildings are marred with big, ugly plastic bins chained together, is inconceivable. Aside: Kudos to Tony, our building porter, for maintaining our building, both inside and out, as well as he does; without his hard work and “can do” attitude this place would be unlivable.

    My building has only had one elevator post-Sandy. I believe 8 Peter Cooper Road is in the same predicament. As you can imagine this is a real issue for tenants, particularly when someone is moving in/out of the building. Supposedly, the repairs to or rebuilding of the other elevator are to be completed shortly. Great news… except that the building “buzz” is that the moment the broken elevator has been returned to service the other elevator has to be taken out of service for repairs. Who knows how long that will take? We have been given no news/updates on the matter. It is our sincere hope it is not another seven months!

    Recently, our building got a working intercom. Unfortunately, not all the tenants’ names appear on the intercom list. I emailed the Management Office about this issue, but I never heard back. Also, I called service. I am awaiting resolution of this matter. As to the quality of the lobby intercom, friends visiting from Stuyvesant Town asked me when the permanent intercom would be installed? I told them I thought that the intercom in the lobby was the permanent intercom. They replied that it looked cheap and appeared to poorly manufactured.

    As to the transient nature of many of our newer neighbors, that is just one more affront to those of us who view Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village as a community. Simply put, it is sad.

    In closing, I would like to ask Management to share an actual timeline on the post-Sandy repairs with those tenants in buildings still experiencing issues caused by the storm. Moreover, I would like to suggest that perhaps one of the many elected officials charged with representing this community actually do something to get the ball moving. Your constituents will remember what you did/didn’t do come Election Day.

    Mary Carroll French

    • “To spend money on landscaping when the entryways of so many Peter Cooper buildings are marred with big, ugly plastic bins chained together, is inconceivable.”

      The bins are outside because it’s a fire hazard to have them on the individual floors. The situation should be tolerable as long as tenants recycle neatly. Management did increase the number of times the bins are emptied to make the situation more bearable. The grounds, however, are a disaster and an eyesore and should be dealt with immediately. One thing has nothing to do with the other. We have dirt, we have swampy areas that are ripe for breeding all sorts of mosquitoes, and dead plants need to go. There’s no reason why the grounds can’t be restored while we’re waiting for the interiors to be fixed. There’s an end date for the repairs, admittedly not soon enough for all our liking, but I’d like to have some decent landscaping in the meantime, especially since different staff (including an outside gardener) works on that.

      • Why are the basements still unusable? They were dried out months ago. The drying machines are long gone. Maybe the management company can’t get the laundry rooms up and running until September but why can’t they make the recycling center available to tenants? How about spending some of that landscaping or renovating money on repairing the damage done by the storm? Are they doing work in your building? If so, you are lucky. There does not seem to be anything happening here. We just have a security guard posted on the Main level posted to prevent people from going downstairs to the Lower Level. My understanding is that the reason they don’t simply close off the basement entirely is that by law the landlord must have two usable exits for tenants in case of fire.

    • In reply to your reply: Sean Sullivan said work was still going on in the basements, although he was vague about details. Yesterday a notice went up in my lobby that asbestos abatement is starting. Basements need to be completely reconstructed–walls were taken down. Money to repair the basements should be coming from insurance and/or FEMA. Landscaping comes from a different pot. Buildings need to have two means of egress in case of emergency, but to make sure tenants don’t go wandering around in a large, open, and potentially unsafe space, guards are posted on Main.

  2. First of all, Sean Sullivan announced that the Town Hall was about Seniors and the Senior Center AFTER he was unable (or unwilling or just plain incapable) of answering the questions that he was being asked.

    The materials inviting tenants – at a GROSSLY inconvenient time – said nothing of the event being a fact- finding mission on ways to make the Senior Center more pleasant.

    If that were the case no one under 65 would have been there – they CERTAINLY would not have re-arranged their schedules to attend.

    Sullivan was NOT “heckled” btw – He was called out, eventually LOUDLY, for not answering direct questions and attempting to change the topic when cornered.

    We all know what we were there for.

    So did Sean.

    He was disappointed that tenants with something to say and legitimate concerns showed up. It is so much more convenient to rhythmically schmooze into a microphone than to actually do one’s job.

    I wonder how many calories Sullivan burned by back pedaling and side-stepping. He must be the fittest man in STPCV. Who needs a gym???

  3. Sean Sullivan did a wonderful impersonation of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson as he tap-danced his way around the questions the tenants put to him. It would have been funny if it hadn’t been so exasperatingly insulting!

  4. Alas, this item doesn’t fully capture the disdain that Sean Sullivan showed for paying tenants and the very real distress of the attendees, all of whom brought up issues of substance, only to be ignored or slapped down or told that what they were saying couldn’t be true. This week a group of tenants in my building has been targeted for an apartment inspection–and none of them is an inconsiderate noise maker (if you need to change the appointment, the inspection hotline message says they’ll contact you in 24 hours. Didn’t happen). Is this another effort to harass longtime tenants? Today a notice about asbestos removal from the basement went up in the lobby display case–yet at the meeting Sean Sullivan didn’t see fit to say that this was going to happen in the basements that flooded in Sandy, which would have helped us understand why we won’t get our laundry and bike rooms back before September. I’m sure he’s feeling aggrieved at what he no doubt perceives as mistreatment by ungrateful tenants, but that’s because he showed himself unable to hear what people were saying and incapable of considering other, better ways of doing things here. Back to Communications 101 and Residential Real Estate Management 101 for you, Sean.

  5. Anyone who read Charles Bagli’s book, “Other People’s Money – Inside the Housing Crisis and the Demise of the Greatest Real Estate Deal Ever Made” about the 2006 Tishman Speyer led purchase of Stuyvesant Town was made abundantly and painfully aware over and over again that the tenants in STPCV were simply trash to be disposed off by Tishman et al so they could drive rents higher in order to make their mortgage payments and meet their absurd income projections for the property. Their lack of any speck of human feeling for the tenants here was and still is staggering and disturbing.

    Unfortunately, we have fared no better under Special Servicer CWCapital and their Management team of Sean Sullivan and Compass Rock. The tenants here have no more value to them now than they did to Tishman Speyer in 2006.

    The incredibly sad fact is that when Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village eventually gets sold again, it will undoubtedly go to exactly the same kind of real estate bad guys who brought it to its knees in the first place. Different faces and names, same sharks.

    I would say shame on the Tishman Speyers of the world, but they have no shame or they wouldn’t be in the business of trying to toss people out of their homes in the first place. A plague on all of them.

  6. @E.D. Brown, the primary villain in this mess was Met Life, who exhibited nothing but pure greed when pushed by their stockholders to maximize return on their real estate assets. I’ve little doubt that if Mr. Ecker was around, he would have dropped Mr. Benmosche out the window of his corner office. The Speyer’s were certainly complicit in this, but if it wasn’t them, it would have been Apollo, or some other real estate entity, in debt up to their ears.

  7. For all his shortcomings, Sean Sullivan is not the worst property manager we have ever had. That distinction goes to Steve Stadmeyer, the guy who cut down all the beautiful shade trees in the Oval to open it up for commercial activity. He is also the guy who implemented the much-hated key card system and sneeringly told tenants that they could accept it or be locked out. Wherever he is now, I hope he is miserable. He deserves to be. He really treated the tenants like dirt.

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