Oct. 24 Week In Review

Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal introduced legislation last year that would protect rent-regulated tenants filing for bankruptcy protection and would prevent a landlord from buying a rent-regulated tenant’s lease at a discounted price to satisfy a portion of the tenant’s debt in bankruptcy. In a recent trend, bankruptcy courts have been allowing bankruptcy trustees to count the value of a rent-regulated lease as an asset when the tenant files for bankruptcy.
The state provides an exemption for homeowners filing for bankruptcy so that they will not lose their homes and the intent of bankruptcy is not to destabilize families by making them homeless and the same should be true for rent-regulated tenants, Rosenthal argued, because their apartments are just as much of a home as a house or other owned property.
“Filing for bankruptcy won’t land you in debtor’s prison anymore, but if you’re a rent-regulated tenant, it could make you homeless, and that’s simply unfair,” Rosenthal said. “That’s why I introduced legislation to ensure that rent-regulated tenants are afforded the same protections as homeowners when filing for bankruptcy.”

A flood wall will soon be built to protect the VA Medical Center from future storms. (Rendering courtesy of VA Medical Center)

A flood wall will soon be built to protect the VA Medical Center from future storms. (Rendering courtesy of VA Medical Center)

There will soon be a temporary flood wall around the VA’s Manhattan Campus on East 23rd Street, the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System announced on Tuesday. The temporary wall will extend from Asser Levy Place, partially up East 23rd Street and to East 25th Street. The eight-foot flood wall, made of cellular structures filled with sand, is expected to take about six weeks to complete construction. Construction of a higher, more permanent wall to protect from future storms potentially stronger than Hurricane Sandy will be built over an 18-month period. The VA was closed for many months following Hurricane Sandy, opening partially in March and then fully over the summer.

Asser Levy Place will also be closed to traffic beginning October 28 in anticipation of a new park that will be in its place. The expansion of the park is due to funding from City Councilmember Dan Garodnick and the United Nations Development Corporation. Work is expected to be completed on the project within a year.
“Open space is sorely needed on the East Side of Manhattan, and this expansion will ultimately mean more open space not only at Asser Levy, but also for the whole East Side waterfront,” Garodnick said. “This is the first step in a plan that will increase the amount of active space East Siders get, and at no cost to the City.”

With the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy coming up next week, Con Edison has made numerous improvements to its energy-delivery systems as part of its plan to strengthen critical infrastructure and protect residents from major storms. The overhead equipment is now more resilient, substations have new walls and raised equipment and gas and steam infrastructure is protected with water-proofing measures. The next steps for post-Hurricane Sandy plans throughout the next few years include burying 30 miles of overhead lines, installing stronger aerial cable, redesigning lower Manhattan networks to de-energize customers in flood zones and replacing cast iron and steel gas pipes in flood-prone areas.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that a number of New York chefs and restaurants have taken the “Pride of New York Pledge” to support New York State’s agricultural products and local foods, increasing their usage by 10 percent or more. The program is designed to encourage the local culinary industry to take advantage of the food and beverage products that the state has to offer. A number of local restaurants will be participating, including Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe, Maialino and Blue Smoke.

The New York Daily News reported last Saturday that Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio is a supporter of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban on big sodas. “I’m not ever afraid to disagree with Mayor Bloomberg when I think he’s wrong. But I believe the mayor is right on this issue,” de Blasio said. “We are losing the war on obesity. It’s unacceptable. This is a case where we have to get aggressive.”

The Downtown Manhattan exit ramp will be closed for the weekend beginning on Friday at 7 p.m. Motorists are advised to use an alternate route into Manhattan and to expect delays. There will also be one tube closed for the weekend at the Queens Midtown Tunnel, beginning this Saturday at 1 a.m., through 5 a.m. next Monday, due to necessary construction.

Bill de Blasio failed to report the tens of thousands of dollars in income from renting out his second Brooklyn home in his Conflict of Interest Board filing, Crain’s New York Business reported on Monday. A campaign spokesperson told Crain’s that the rental proceeds didn’t need to be reported to the conflicts board because there was no net income, but the city’s administrative code says that lawmakers need to report any income of $1,000 or more from each source during the previous calendar year.

Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, chair of the Commission on Government Administration, co-hosted a roundtable discussion on cloud computing in government last Tuesday. Cloud computing technology creates opportunities to improve coordination and efficiency of government resources, as well as reshape the state government’s interactions with the general public, such as how the public can access important information. Kavanagh will also be hosting a roundtable discussion on open data next Tuesday.

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Letters to the Editor, Oct. 24

Hoylman: Santacon, please, curb your drunks

The following is an open letter from State Senator Brad Hoylman to the organizers of the annual pub crawl SantaCon.

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing to express my concerns regarding SantaCon and the effects it has on the  communities it visits. Each year local elected officials, community boards and local precincts are besieged by complaints as SantaCon passes through their neighborhoods.

While SantaCon may be a short-term boon to a select group of local businesses, the many adverse impacts it wreaks, such as vomiting in the streets, public urination, vandalism and littering, disrupt community members’ quality of life. I recognize that at any large event, a few bad actors may disrupt an otherwise orderly affair, but at previous SantaCons bad actors have hardly been the exception. As such, significantly more must be done to combat the neighborhood scourge SantaCon has become.

Further, no matter the behavior of the participants, the event has grown large enough to completely overwhelm sidewalks and public spaces, creating a public safety hazard for all.

I strongly urge you to work with the New York City Police Department in order to come up with a strong and effective plan to combat public intoxication and to ensure all participants are respectful of the neighborhoods they visit, as well as handling the overwhelming crowds associated with an event this size. In addition, I urge you make this plan available to the affected local Community Boards well in advance of your event so that they have time to comment and help shape it.
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Hurricane Sandy repairs still ongoing in Peter Cooper Village basements

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By Sabina Mollot

Close to a year after getting pummeled by Hurricane Sandy, Peter Cooper Village, much of which was flooded by a raging East River, is still the site of ongoing repairs in multiple buildings.

Though a couple of buildings in Stuyvesant Town also saw significant damage, it was PCV that saw the lion’s share of damage, in particular destroyed basements that housed laundry and storage facilities.

This week, a T&V reporter took a stroll through a few buildings’ basements to get an idea of the progress of the repair work, which, at least, at the addresses of 601 East 20th Street and 420, 440 and 510 East 23rd Street, appear to be months away from completion.

However, at each of the buildings, during a recent afternoon, bunches of workers were onsite in various basement rooms, focusing on walls on floors.

In those buildings, where for months basements were verboten, now, due to the availability of temporary laundry rooms, residents can sneak peeks at the progress, which includes newly built concrete cinderblock walls in the old laundry rooms, cleared out bike rooms with, in some cases, new hooks on the walls to hold the bikes, new fire sprinkler systems overhead and the beginning of construction of new recycling stations. Additionally, at 601 East 20th Street, there were gleaming new, light-colored floors for the laundry, bike and storage rooms. There were also signs of the beginning of installation of new wiring by basement doors and new overhead pipes in certain rooms in the buildings.

Additionally, in 420, a resident noted that pipes in the temporary laundry room that had previously had a dripping problem, had been wrapped up.

That resident, who didn’t want her name used, also weighed in on the ongoing work.

“This is definitely progress,” she said, “but it’s coming up on a year.”

The resident, who said she refuses to use the temporary, free washers and dryers, and also didn’t care for two fly paper traps that loomed a few feet above them, observed how there are also no longer any laundry carts. There was however a folding table, put in by management, and next to it was a card table likely put there by a resident. The woman added that there’s been no word on what’s to become of building’s paid storage unit room, destroyed by the superstorm. “They haven’t said a word. There’s been no timetable.”

As for the temporary washers and dryers, word is the machines, which are smaller than the commercial grade ones that preceded them, came from an army base in the south.

Meanwhile, outside the buildings, a recent round of landscaping has been restoring Peter Cooper Village’s green spaces to their former glory. All except for a couple of garden areas, now all fenced off, have fresh grass and plantings. A couple of areas that are still bare soil were being worked on by landscapers and on Tuesday were marked with flags.

A heavily tree-lined area, which previously had a cow path through it due to people taking shortcuts on the grass, is now completely green.

Something of an eyesore though is the boarded up basement windows in the buildings that had been flooded. Some basements also currently have what appear to be wooden paths trailing from the windows across the lawns, which are what’s housing temporary power feeds.

510 is one of the buildings with a power feed, where inside on Tuesday it looked like new electrical wiring was being installed and a recycling station was in the early process of being built. Nearby walls yet to be repaired appeared Swiss-cheese-like due to being covered with holes. Other walls however had already had their water-damaged plaster stripped, leaving the rough concrete underneath exposed.

A resident at 440 also commented on the progress on his building to note that activity had stopped for a while and then picked up again in mid-September.

“They’re nowhere near done,” he observed. “It looks the same as it did a month ago.”

The resident, Jonathan Turkel, added that since repairs had started again, it had been pretty noisy, including on a recent Saturday morning. But that didn’t bother him, he said. What did bother him was when on Wednesday morning, he was awoken by the smell of gasoline in the building, which, it turned out, was due to a worker accidentally spilling some in the basement. Turkel said he’d initially asked workers what was up only to have them say they hadn’t done anything. Still concerned over the smell, Turkel then called 911 and firefighters responded. It was the firefighter, Turkel, said who learned from a worker that gas had been spilled, despite his initially telling Turkel and the FDNY otherwise.

Brian Moriarty, a spokesperson for CWCapital, did not respond by T&V’s deadline when asked about the gas incident and also didn’t respond to a request for comment on the status of the Sandy repairs.

However, last month, Moriarty told Town & Village work was expected to be completed later this fall.

This was in response to Council Member Dan Garodnick’s calling on CWCapital to speed up the work on the basements, noting that management had previously given a timetable of September for their reopening.

“This has taken far longer than anyone could have reasonably expected,” Garodnick said at the time, “and residents deserve an explanation and compensation.”

But according to CW, the delay was due to the frustratingly lengthy process of acquiring approvals from numerous agencies.

“As we’ve said,” said Moriarty in September, “rebuilding the 17 basements that were damaged during Hurricane Sandy is a complex project that, beyond the physical work and procurement of materials with long lead times, involves numerous agencies that must review and approve plans for every aspect of each basement’s infrastructure and careful scheduling and staging of contractors to ensure the work is completed as quickly and safely as possible with the minimum disruption for our residents.”

He added that “although some residents may not yet see physical work being done in their basement, we assure you that significant progress has been made in all basements. We are making every effort to finish this work as soon as possible, and expect it will be done later this fall.”

Meanwhile, John Marsh, the president of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, said he had no complaints this week about the fact that the repairs weren’t complete. In fact, Marsh, who lives in Peter Cooper, said that overall he thought CW was doing the best it could under the circumstances.

“Given the amount of devastation, they’re really working hard,” he said. “There’s a lot of remediation they had to do first and a lot of manufacturing was customized for their needs and there’s the fact that they were competing with every other Sandy-impacted area as well.”

He also said he thought the special servicer had done well with mold prevention, treating the issue “aggressively.”

At this time, added Marsh, though the basements aren’t close to being completed, he thought residents had bigger worries, in particular two recently issued major capital improvement rent increases for video intercoms in Stuy Town and other security upgrades in Stuy Town and Peter Cooper