Residents win rent rebate in deal over Hurricane Sandy damage

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

14th Street between Avenues B and C during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 (Photographer unknown)

14th Street between Avenues B and C during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 (Photographer unknown)

CW Capital and the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association reached an agreement on Wednesday on the Rent Reduction Application that the Association filed as a result of the long-term service disruptions after Superstorm Sandy.

The deal give residents in 15 of the 21 buildings in Peter Cooper Village and two in Stuyvesant Town that were the most affected by Sandy a one-time reduction of 15 percent from the July 2013 rent bill.

The buildings in Peter Cooper Village receiving the higher rent reduction are 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Peter Cooper Road, 420, 440, 510, 530 East 23rd Street, 441, 511, 531, 541 and 601 East 20th Street. 319 Avenue C and 620 East 20th Street in Stuyvesant Town also got the 15 percent reduction. Application participants in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village buildings that were minimally affected by the storm will get a one-time reduction of seven percent.

The claim was originally filed for all 110 buildings in the complex since all lost the ability to contact security through a button in the lobby and lost trunk and storage service.

There were a total of 1,500 participants from throughout Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village in the application.

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Letters to the Editor, Jan. 30

Cartoon by Jim Meadows (website)

Cartoon by Jim Meadows (website)

Thoughtless foreign policy will lead to war

Re: “U.S. heading to another war?,” T&V, Jan. 23

To the editor:

I begin my letter with the reminder of something said a few years back by Israel’s current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The prime minister said, “We want to be known as the ‘Jewish State.’” My use of the term is governed by Netanyahu’s risky remark.

In his letter, J. Sicoransa wrote about a bill currently being formulated in the United States Senate, by Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), with co-sponsorship of Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). It is unfortunate that our political leaders, in particular the senior senator from New York, should place The United States of America at the service of “the Jewish State.” Israel developed its nuclear/germ warfare capacity and thereby introduced that sort of awfulness directly into the Middle East. For our part, here in the States, Israel’s possession of a nuclear capacity is something U.S. presidents, including Mr. Obama, have chosen to ignore. The demand that America support “the Jewish State” without regard to what it actually initiates runs counter to Jewish intellectual tradition. Mr. Schumer’s commitment to Israel would draw America into supporting it as a Jewish State rather than as a nation on its own merits, plain and simple.

Mr. Schumer has shown himself a hawk in matters other than those bound by his faith. In an email to me, dated Oct. 24, 2013, responding to my moral doubts about our drone practices, Senator Schumer wrote coolly, “These unmanned aircraft are most commonly known for their operations overseas in tracking down and killing suspected members of Al Qaeda and related terrorists organizations.” Here, in print, a United States Senator puts himself and our foreign policy on record that we kill over there on (mere) suspicion.

Does he imagine that if we kill people “over there,” those actions will not distort life here? To my query about the use of drones over our skies and the meaning of that action given our Constitution, the senator gave the now patented reply about the need for “balance between security and liberty in America.” How awful that we send our troops to other countries where many of them die believing they are protecting our way of life. Yet here on the home front, that way of life, that Constitution and those endowed rights, is the very life Mr. Schumer and others would reason away. “Balance” has become a symptom of severely detached reasoning.

John M. Giannone
Stuyvesant Town

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Dolan: Epiphany a ‘light in the world’

Cardinal Timothy Dolan with Epiphany students during a 125th anniversary event for the school (Photos by Mollie O'Mara)

Cardinal Timothy Dolan with Epiphany students during a 125th anniversary event for the school (Photos by Mollie O’Mara)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, made a special appearance at Epiphany Church last weekend to help celebrate the 125th anniversary of the parish’s school.

During a mass held on Saturday night, Dolan showered praise on the school, which has been doing well financially, unlike so many other Catholic institutions in New York City, which have seen attendance and interest dwindle.

For the last three years we have been going through the painful but necessary process of making painful decisions to close and merge schools,” Dolan said.

As we’re getting somber news, we’re here now talking about a school that works. (Epiphany) not only works but flourishes and prospers as a light in the world. It does my heart good to come here. I needed this.”

After the mass was a reception in which Dolan spent time greeting and hugging the students, parents and parishioners that wanted to meet him, while holding a beer in his hand. He also put his red skullcap on students’ heads when posing for pictures.

He’s a very warm and caring individual,” said Jim Hayes, who’s been the Epiphany School’s principal for more than 30 years. “He made sure that everyone who wanted to meet him got a chance to talk to him.”

He also called the service by Dolan “beautiful,” adding that it had always been part of plan to have the cardinal be part of the 125th anniversary celebration.

It was one of the nicest liturgies we’ve had here in a number of years,” said Hayes. “The church was packed and it was a wonderful experience for everybody.”

Monsignor Leslie Ivers with Cardinal Dolan at Epiphany Church

Monsignor Leslie Ivers with Cardinal Dolan at Epiphany Church

Hayes has known the cardinal for about four years but the principal said that this is the first time the archbishop has lead mass at the church.

Following the service, parishioners and parents attending a reception expressed their appreciation for the school and for Dolan.

He could open for Bruce Springsteen,” said Michael Gargiulo, who has been a parishioner at the church

for more than 50 years and whose now-grown children went to Epiphany School.

He’s got a common touch; he’s relatable to people.”

Gargiulo, who moved to the neighborhood when he got married, said he and his wife had initially planned to move again to the suburbs. They never made it out of the city though and both of their kids ended up at Epiphany.

This was the foundation to build on for a good education,” Gargiulo said. “The best aspect of this school is the involvement of parents and families with the school. That’s what makes it great.”

Ed Maher, who lives in the Lower East Side and currently has a daughter attending the school, said that he comes to Epiphany events for the sense of community.

We don’t really have a community in our neighborhood downtown so we come up here for that,” he said.

Chris McCartin, who also currently has a child enrolled and lives farther downtown, agreed that the school offers a more small-town experience within New York.

Coming here (to school events) reminds me of my little town on Long Island,” he said. “It’s a no-nonsense education with a lot of great people.”

Cardinal Dolan with Epiphany School teachers

Cardinal Dolan with Epiphany School teachers

 

Cops arrest 15-year-old they say committed string of robberies, attempted rape

Police have arrested 15-year-old Kalief Jackson of Brooklyn in connection with a series of robberies, including an attempted rape. One of the robberies took place in Stuyvesant Town. (Photo via NYPD)

Police have arrested 15-year-old Kalief Jackson of Brooklyn in connection with a series of robberies, including an attempted rape. One of the robberies took place in Stuyvesant Town. (Photo via NYPD)

By Sabina Mollot

Police have arrested a 15-year-old they say is responsible for a string of robberies, including one in Stuyvesant Town, and an attempted rape in East Harlem.

Kalief Jackson of Marcus Garvey Boulevard in Brooklyn was recognized in a photo on Wednesday, a rep for the NYPD said.

The alleged crimes took place over the span of a few days, January 15-19, and Jackson, who is six feet tall and has a distinctive afro hairstyle, is now facing a slew of charges including attempted rape, sex abuse, robbery and burglary.

In a report released today, police said:

On Wednesday, January 15, at Morningside Drive and West 116th Street, the victim, a 28-year-old woman, was walking through Morningside Park when she was approached by an unknown male who stated, “If you say anything, I’ll shoot you,” while simulating a gun in his shirt. The suspect then demanded — and got away with — the victim’s cell phone and money.

On Thursday, January 16, a woman was walking in the same area when an unknown male forcefully attempted to rob her. He fled in an unknown direction and there were no injuries reported.

Later that day, a 23-year-old woman went into a building on Saint Nicholas Avenue, and entered her apartment, while being followed. The intruder then simulated a weapon inside his jacket and demanded her iPhone, threatening “I swear to god I’ll shoot you,” if she didn’t give it to him. The victim handed over $50 in cash and her iPhone to the robber, who then fled.

Later that evening in front 164 West 136th Street, police said the same male crept up behind a 27-year-old woman and pushed her into an isolated area. He then pulled out a gun and took the victim’s iPhone, Canada Goose coat, debit card and a Metrocard.

On the evening of Friday, January 17, a 28-year-old woman was followed by an unknown male into a residential building on Grand Street. After walking behind her up the stairs, he put his hands inside his jacket to simulate a weapon and demanded cash. The victim handed $4 over to the robber, who then touched her genital area over her clothes, then forced her to do the same to him over his clothes. He then fled the scene and no injuries were reported.

Less than two hours later, around 8:30 p.m., a 24-year-old woman was standing in an elevator in a building on Stuyvesant Oval. (Police have not released the exact address.) She was waiting for the doors to close when an unknown male got into the elevator and demanded that she follow him, before simulating a gun in his waistband. He threatened to shoot her and then began counting down. When the woman screamed and began pressing all the elevator’s buttons, the would-be robber fled in an unknown direction. There were no injuries reported in this incident.

On Sunday, January 19, the gun-simulating suspect got an early start at 3:40 a.m., when police say he entered a building on East 116th Street and waited for a victim. He then attempted to rape a 34-year-old woman, telling her he had a gun, and putting his hand over her mouth. He took the victim to an isolated area in the building, where she was able to break free. He then fled east on East 116th Street. There were no injuries reported.

Later that evening at 5 West 102nd Street, a 24-year-old woman was walking up the stairs when she saw she was being followed. The unknown male simulated a weapon and threatened to shoot her if she didn’t turn over her money. The victim said she had no money, so the robber snatched her iPhone before fleeing in an unknown direction.

Letters to the Editor, Jan. 23

Jan23 Toon de Blasio

Cartoon by Jim Meadows (jimtoon.com)

The ST/PCV tournaments’ unsung hero

On October 1, 2013, I wrote to the Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village Recreation Department & Community Center suggesting that it recognize Steve Farhood for his many years of selfless and ongoing contributions to this community.

Mr. Farhood, a longtime resident of Peter Cooper Village, tirelessly, and without compensation, runs the annual paddle tennis tournaments, which often involve dozens of players, and always involves the painstaking logistics of planning, scheduling and supervising the events, and all the other details commensurate with the two-day tournaments. These matches have always been heartily enjoyed and well attended by ST/PCV tenants.

Until recently, ST/PCV supported its paddle tennis tournaments by providing trophies, and, at least twice in the past, with ST/PCV tee shirts for the winners, as well as bottled water and the banners that brightly hang around the paddle tennis playground during the competition.

This past fall, I learned that ST/PCV no longer provides the paddle tennis tournaments with trophies, bottled water or tee shirts. Nonetheless, Mr. Farhood still unselfishly runs these tournaments and even pays for the trophies out of his own pocket.

Given what must be the small investment needed to continue to sustain this well-liked activity, and the pleasure it gives to so many tenants, not to mention the enhanced good-will it gives ST/PCV in terms of its reputation for providing healthy physical activities for its tenants, I respectfully asked that ST/PCV reconsider investing the few dollars it takes to maintain these most popular tournaments.

Moreover, after all of his many years of dedicated service to this community, I also suggested that it would be a decent, and appropriate, and “the right thing to do,” for ST/PCV to recognize Mr. Farhood’s selfless and on-going contributions in some fitting manner.  Sadly, I never received a response to my October letter, nor to a follow-up email I sent to the Recreation Department in early December.

Well, I want to go on record publicly to thank Mr. Farhood for his generous, and valuable, and long-running contributions to this community.

I know I speak for many in this community when I say thanks, Steve.

Frank Zotto, PCV

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Leasing office building renovation

Stuyvesant Town leasing office (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Stuyvesant Town leasing office (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Along with the ongoing work to build a new management office and an office for the public safety department in Stuyvesant Town, another project is taking place at the building that’s home to the leasing office.

A resident at the building, 250 First Avenue, told Town & Village recently that he learned about a plan to extend the leasing office further into the building from onsite workers. However, the resident, who didn’t want his name printed, said he was less than thrilled about the work, because of all the noise from jackhammering and generators earlier in the month, which he called “deafening.” There were also vibrations in his apartment, he said, adding, “It’s seven hours a day they were jackhammering.”

He also noted that fliers placed in the building early in January alerting residents to the fact that the work would be taking longer than expected (past January 3) “due to unforeseen circumstances” didn’t mention what the project was.

It’s nothing to do with benefitting the general tenants. It’s being done to make more students move in,” he said.

When asked for details about the project, a rep for CWCapital wouldn’t divulge any, only saying that it would be completed by January 24. Fliers that were put up again more recently also noted the new completion date, while classifying the work as a renovation.

Meanwhile, since work began, the building was visited by an inspector from the Department of Environmental Protection. A spokesperson for the department confirmed to T&V that there was an inspection for asbestos. However, none was found.

The resident, however, said he observed that when an inspector came, workers were

Wokers put up a curtain to prevent dust from blowing around at the work site. (Photo by a resident)

Wokers put up a curtain to prevent dust from blowing around at the work site. (Photo by a resident)

made to put up a curtain after excessive amount of dirt from their workspace had managed to fly around the Terrace level and accumulate on floors, even getting into mailboxes. (He also snapped a couple of photos to prove the point.) Still, the rep for the DEP, Mercedes Padilla, told T&V there was no record of an official complaint about dirt. She also said all CWCapital’s necessary work permits were in place.

The construction in that building is a stone’s throw away from Playground 8, which is being upgraded as part of the work on the new management office. The area, including a walkway, around 274 First Avenue on the First Avenue Loop, is currently walled off. Last summer, CW said in an announcement that the new management office would be completed in April. However, there were no updates given on the date a meeting held last October about the project for tenants living in nearby buildings.

A spokesperson for the Department of Buildings did not respond to requests about the leasing office project.

 

January 21 is Squirrel Appreciation Day

Local animal rescuers share their tips on how

to help the little guys get through the winter

 

Squirrels frolick in Stuyvesant Town. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Squirrels frolic in Stuyvesant Town. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Just when everyone thought they were free of the holidays, at least until Valentine’s Day, another one is looming around the corner — this one in celebration of squirrels.

The bushy tailed critters are honored once a year on January 21 with Squirrel Appreciation Day, a holiday that began in 2001 as the pet project of wildlife rehabilitator Christy Hargrove.

Hargrove started the tradition, according to various online reports, on this particular date to draw attention to the animals during a time of year when their food supply starts running out.

Though such a thing might seem unthinkable in a neighborhood like Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, which is home to the most well-fed squirrels on the planet, winter is still a tough time for any animal. So in honor of the holiday, Town & Village spoke this week with three local animal rescuers and rehabilitators, Marilyn Pascarelli of Stuyvesant Town, Kathy Compitus of Peter Cooper and Bernie Goetz, a 14th Street resident, to ask for their tips on how to help squirrels make it through the colder months.

Animal rescuer and City Critters volunteer Marilyn Pascarelli (Photo courtesy of Marilyn Pascarelli)

Animal rescuer and City Critters volunteer Marilyn Pascarelli (Photo courtesy of Marilyn Pascarelli)

Pascarelli, a City Critters volunteer who once rescued two baby squirrels that had dropped down from a tree in Stuy Town along with numerous other animals in the area, said she still doesn’t consider herself an expert on squirrels. But after conferring with another more experienced rescuer, she had this to say: Don’t feed the squirrels.

“People shouldn’t really feed them at all,” she said. However, she quickly added that she knew no one was going to pay any attention to that advice, so she wanted to stress that there’s a responsible way to go about feeding them.

One is to not offer peanuts. “If you have to feed them, feed them walnuts, almonds or pecans,” she said. They’re more expensive, she noted, but healthier. Peanuts can cause skin problems, she warned. “You’ll see that they lose fur,” she said.

Additionally, people shouldn’t overfeed them. More than once, Pascarelli said she’s seen squirrels get fed in a particular spot in Stuy Town only to return to the area three hours later to see someone else feeding squirrels in the same place. Those who want to feed the squirrels should try to avoid overfeeding by coordinating spots to do so with other feeders and also by cleaning up any food that doesn’t immediately get eaten. This is especially true if feeders heed her next tip.

Buy dry food intended for pet rats as a supplement to nuts.

“It has a lot of nutrients squirrels need,” she said. Squirrels’ natural diet consists of tree roots, branches and bark, though, “they don’t bother eating roots because they’re waiting for their peanuts.”

Pascarelli added that this time of year is when squirrels tend to get pregnant and in March and April, they have babies. As she’s seen, it isn’t unusual to find an abandoned squirrel if the mother has had too many babies. This could be blamed on overfeeding though. “If you overfeed them, they start to multiply like crazy,” she said.

Meanwhile, Goetz had a differing point of view.

Squirrel rehabilitator Bernie Goetz with a fluffy-tailed friend in Union Square Park (Photo courtesy of Bernie Goetz)

Squirrel rehabilitator Bernie Goetz with a fluffy-tailed friend in Union Square Park (Photo courtesy of Bernie Goetz)

Goetz, an entrepreneur who’s been known as the “subway vigilante” for his shooting of several robbers on a train three decades ago, is better known these days for being an advocate for squirrels.

Though not a licensed rehabilitator, he has nursed over 100 injured squirrels back to health over the years. Usually, they’re brought to Goetz by people who find them around the city or he finds them himself in Union Square Park or in ST/PCV, where he frequently goes to feed the little guys. Usually, he said, when a squirrel is hurt, it’s the result of an attack from another squirrel. However, Goetz did once encounter a squirrel who’d gotten caught in the spokes of a bicycle wheel.

In his view, the squirrels should be fed this time of year, because “there’s no nutrition on the trees, anymore.”

He also doesn’t believe peanuts are a problem, though he knows many rehabilitators have the view that they are.

“What squirrels need in the winter is calories,” he said. “Peanuts are cheap and they have a lot of calories.”

Compitus, who often feeds the birds and squirrels in Peter Cooper Village when not at work at the dog daycare center she owns, Wiggly Pups, echoed Goetz’s sentiment that squirrels need a helping human hand during the winter months. This is especially true in ST/PCV, she said, since squirrels have gotten used to humans providing food for them over a period of decades.

“Squirrels have nests and they find places to keep warm, but it’s hard for them to feed themselves,” she said. “The winters can be so harsh in the city.”

While Compitus agreed with Pascarelli that other nuts are more nutritious for squirrels than peanuts, she also suggested that feeders give squirrels fresh veggies like collard greens and fruit, especially cherries. “They love cherries and they’re great for them,” she said.

Animal rehabilitator and dog daycare center owner Kathy Compitus (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Animal rehabilitator and dog daycare center owner Kathy Compitus (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

While Compitus has found herself being scolded by ST/PCV security in the past for feeding the pigeons on the property, she said lately that hasn’t happened. She also said she thought that residents’ feeding of the local wildlife was “what makes Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village so unique.

“You don’t have wildlife on the Upper East Side walking around outside your window, so I think we have to take care of them so that we can continue to enjoy them,” she said.

Meanwhile, a rep for CWCapital didn’t get back to us on what ST/PCV policy currently is when it comes to squirrel feeding, but the truth is it hardly matters. Former owner Met Life had a no-feeding rule, which went completely ignored and Tishman Speyer, when owner, never bothered to say if there was still a rule in place. However, there have been times over the years, including during CW’s reign, when management has indicated that people who leave food out for the squirrels end up attracting rats. This is possible, though judging by the girth of many of the local squirrels, it’s also just as likely that the rats’ fluffy-tailed cousins are in fact managing to eat every treat thrown their way by well-meaning humans.

Fun fact: The squirrels that overrun Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village and have black fur and copper fur as well as the more common gray fur, are all known as Eastern Gray squirrels.

Gunman ties up Third Avenue Starbucks workers during robbery

Photos of robbery suspect

Photos of robbery suspect

Police are on the lookout for a robber who held up two workers at gunpoint at a Third Avenue Starbucks.

The robber, police said, entered the coffee joint at 145 Third Avenue and 15th Street on Thursday, January 16 at around 9:30 p.m. He then allegedly pulled a gun and demanded cash from the two baristas who were working. The two employees, a 21-year-old woman, the other a 22-year-old man, were ordered to lie down on the floor, where he tied their hands with zip ties. He then swiped about $3,000 in cash from the register and fled.

The victims were not hurt, police said.

The gunman is described as Hispanic, 35-40 years old, 5 ft. 7 ins.-5 ft. 9 ins. and 200 lbs., with a light colored complexion and facial hair. He was last seen wearing square framed eyeglasses, a dark colored sweatshirt with an “ecko” logo on the front, a black nylon jacket over the sweatshirt and black gloves.

Anyone with information in regards to this suspect is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).  The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website at www.crimestoppers.com or texting  tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then entering TIP577. All call are strictly confidential.

Program offers $20 tickets to shows at local theaters

Tickets to "La Soiree," now running at the Union Square Theatre, will be $20 through 20at20. (Photo by Max Gordon)

Tickets to “La Soiree,” now running at the Union Square Theatre, will be $20 through 20at20. (Photo by Max Gordon)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

As part of an annual promotion, a number of local theaters will be participating in the Off-Broadway Alliance’s 20at20 ticket promotion starting next week. For 20 days, starting next Tuesday on January 21 through Sunday, February 9, various off-Broadway show tickets will be offered for $20.

Tickets for the shows will be available 20 minutes before curtain and can be purchased with cash, with a limit of one ticket per person. Four local theaters will be offering shows participating this year, including Classic Stage Company at 36 East 13th Street, 13th Street Repertory Theater at 50 West 13th Street, Union Square Theatre at 100 East 17th Street and the Irish Repertory Theatre at 132 West 22nd Street. A full list of the participating theaters is available at 20at20.com and includes a number of venues and shows farther uptown.

Each local theater has one show participating in the program. “A Man’s A Man,” showing at the Classic Stage Company, is based on a Bertolt Brecht play about a dockworker who is enlisted in the armed forces. The participating show at the Irish Repertory Theatre is “Juno and the Paycock,” a comedy about the chaos in 1924 Dublin after the Irish Civil War. “The Accidental Pervert,” in its fourth year off-Broadway, is playing at the 13th Street Repertory Theater and tells the story of a boy’s journey into manhood after he finds his father’s X-rated videotapes hidden in a closet. “La Soirée” at the Union Square Theatre is a live entertainment show that is a combination of cabaret, circus sideshow and new burlesque.

The promotion has been successful for local theaters in the past, especially in attracting new patrons who have never gone to the venues for a show. Edith O’Hara, artistic director and founder of the 13th Street Repertory Theater, said that they have participated in the promotion for the past few years and it’s always been popular.

Irish Repertory Theatre marketing director Jessica Layman said that the theater has participated in the program every time in the past four years and has helped the venue bring in new customers.

“On average, we generally have five to 10 patrons using the 20at20 promotion per performance,” Layman said. “About 75 percent of them are people who have never been to Irish Rep.”

 

 

 

Letters to the Editor, Jan. 16

Cartoon by Jim Meadows (jimtoon.com)

Cartoon by Jim Meadows (jimtoon.com)

Why Mee is not for me

With the Mee Noodles having been closed due to the demolition of its 13th Street building years ago, while in Kips Bay a week ago I went to that Mee Noodles for takeout. It was my first time there. I ordered spicy chicken with peanuts. They handed me a brown bag without stapling a menu on to the bag. The check didn’t have their restaurant’s name or my order, just the price, $9.75 plus tax.

When I got home and opened the brown bag I felt ripped off. The dish was all celery with some peanuts and a few pieces of chicken.

So I walked in to the new Mee Noodles, assuming they were the same company. According to an Internet search there are five Mee Noodles in Manhattan. The woman behind the counter said that the 13th Street Mee is unrelated to Kips Bay. So I called Kips Bay and asked for the manager.

The woman who answered the phone asked who I was. I gave them my name. She asked what I wanted. I said that they had wronged me. If I had ordered it at the restaurant I could have sent it back. But I can’t when handed a brown bag. The woman screamed: “We can’t write all of the ingredients in our dishes on the menu.”

I replied: “But celery was the predominant ingredient. This wasn’t a chicken dish. It was a celery dish.” She hung up on me.

So I write because I grew up in a small business. Sternberg’s never treated our customers’ complaints as indifferently as this woman did me. Yet with so many of us keen to defend small business, if I went to McDonald’s and politely said that the fries I got were soggy, I would get fresh fries. We’ve passed a tipping point: Big box stores are willing, ready and able to provide customer satisfactions that many small businesses can’t afford to anymore.

More important, can two Mee Noodles, using the same logo and color scheme, not be related? The spicy chicken with peanuts is $9.95 at 13th Street, a sliver more than the $9.75 at Kips Bay. But until the 13th Street menu says whether it includes celery, I’ll be wary of both.

Billy Sternberg, ST

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Epiphany School celebrates 125 years, Cardinal Dolan will attend anniversary event on Jan. 18

Epiphany School's principal of 35 years, Jim Hayes, at a 125th anniversary event for alumni in November (Photo courtesy of Epiphany School)

Epiphany School’s principal of 35 years, Jim Hayes, at a 125th anniversary event for alumni in November (Photo courtesy of Epiphany School)

By Sabina Mollot

In a day and age when many Catholic institutions, in particular churches and schools are disappearing, one has managed to not only remain financially secure but thrive, and is now celebrating its 125th anniversary.

That institution would be the Epiphany School, where enrollment recently increased by 5 percent and

Cardinal Dolan, pictured during a visit to Immaculate Conception Church in 2010, will be visiting Epiphany. (Photo by Andrew Park)

Cardinal Dolan, pictured during a visit to Immaculate Conception Church in 2010, will be visiting Epiphany. (Photo by Andrew Park)

where Cardinal Timothy Dolan will help celebrate the landmark anniversary with a special mass and reception later this month.

Jim Hayes, the school’s principal of 35 years, told Town & Village that he credits the school’s continued growth to a few factors.

One is a foundation that holds frequent fundraisers for parents and alumni. Another has been a steady level of support, financially and otherwise from parents, in part possible due to the school’s lower than average tuition for a parochial school — $7,000. Then there’s the recent launch of a program for three and four-year-olds at the school’s 28th Street building, which also houses grades 4-8. Students in grades K-3 learn at the 22nd Street facility near the church. The new program, meanwhile, has attracted more students, so much so that there’s a waiting list. In total, Epiphany has around 600 students, up from 250 in 1980.

This has meant, said Hayes, that the school is financially independent from the church, other than the fact that the church owns the school’s buildings.

Previously, the school’s student population had mostly come from Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village but at this time, kids from the ST/PCV community make up only about 40 percent of the student body. A small percentage of the students come from the outer boroughs, but most are still walking distance from school, and the new program for younger kids has attracted more families from the Murray Hill, Kips Bay and Turtle Bay neighborhoods.

“There are more and more kids from the East Side up to the 40s and 50s,” said Hayes. As for those in ST/PCV, the dwindling enrollment from there has mainly to do with rising rents, a pattern school officials first noticed a decade ago. “The writing on the wall has been there for a while,” said Hayes. “Those guys are getting priced out.”

Meanwhile, being situated near Gramercy Park, the school has always had a steady stream of Gramercy students. Gramercy Park itself hasn’t changed much though all the recent development of condo buildings in Gramercy has brought more families to the area.

For them, despite the crowding and other challenges faced by local public schools, the biggest draw to Epiphany is still the religious curriculum, said Hayes.

“We haven’t given up our Catholic identity,” he said. “We teach religion every day.”

Interestingly, at this time, ten percent of the school’s students aren’t even Catholic, but are, among other faiths, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist. Those students, said Hayes, “learn about the Catholic faith as a subject the same way they’d learn about literature. We’re not trying to convert them.”

And the diversity hasn’t seemed to hurt the school’s fundraising efforts.

A recent walkathon raised over $100,000 for the school’s foundation. A 125th anniversary reception for alumni in November attracted 350 people with many tickets priced at $125. For the past few years, there’s also been a car raffle. For this revenue earner, the foundation has managed to get a Mercedes at cost and then make money through the sale of $100 raffle tickets. Last time, 700 tickets were sold. Through these and other various fundraising efforts, which include golf games and basketball games, the school’s foundation has been pulling in $750,000-$900,000 a year.

Guests, mainly alumni, pack a reception for the 125th anniversary of the school, held in November. (Photo courtesy of Epiphany School)

Guests, mainly alumni, pack a reception for the 125th anniversary of the school, held in November. (Photo courtesy of Epiphany School)

John Link is the director of development for Epiphany’s foundation, which was launched in 1999. Since then, he said the foundation has held different types of fundraisers in the hopes of attracting supporters who are newer to Epiphany and the area and tend to give more as well as the more longterm supporters like parents and alumni who have less money but tend to give small amounts consistently. The latter group also tends to be helpful in the volunteering department, noted Link.

“They want to volunteer and they’re just very passionate individuals,” he said.

As for the money that gets raised, Hayes said Epiphany’s been able to provide educational tools for students, like iPads to do their work on as well as Smartboards in every classroom — items that are normally reserved for much pricier private schools. At Epiphany, all sixth, seventh and eighth graders get their own iPads to use, while for those in the younger grades, it’s one iPad for every two kids.

“So we’re really pushing the envelope with technology,” said Hayes.

The only challenge the school is currently facing, he said, is that more space is needed for more would-be students. For parents looking to get their kids to the top of the waiting list, it helps, said Hayes, to have some ties with the parish, or if they’re new to the area, ties to the parish where they’re from.

Epiphany kids, noted Hayes, tend to be involved in programs beyond their classes, like basketball on Saturdays or mass on Sundays.

“It’s a seven day week with basketball and mass,” he said, explaining what he feels the school’s identity has to separate it from other religious schools. “Other schools might not be so community based. Maybe they’re more transient-based. We’re like a suburban school in Manhattan.”

Epiphany students at a food drop event (Photo courtesy of Epiphany School)

Epiphany students at a food drop event (Photo courtesy of Epiphany School)

Anyone interested in attending the mass and reception to be attended by Cardinal Dolan, which will be held on January 18 at 5:30 p.m. at the Church of the Epiphany at 375 Second Avenue and 22nd Street, should call the school’s Office of Development at (212) 473-6158. Tickets are $60. Those looking to attend the mass only with Dolan should contact the church at (212) 475-1966 ahead of time.

This will be the last of the school’s 125th anniversary events, with the main one being the alumni reception in November, held at the Yale Club. (The Church of the Epiphany this year is celebrating its 146th anniversary.)

Epiphany School first opened its doors on September 10 of 1888 by principal Sister Mary Verena Fitzpatrick. On that first day of school, there were 84 girls and 60 boys.

 

 

CWCapital to market ST for sale soon: report

ST-PCV Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg, pictured at a a rally against mid-lease rent increases in May (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

ST-PCV Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg, pictured at a a rally against mid-lease rent increases in May (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

CWCapital is expect to market Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village in the middle of this year, according to a report on Globest.com. However, the article goes on to say a sale is not expected to be completed in 2014.

CWCapital did not respond to a request for comment on the story, and has not spoken about the possibility of a sale for some time, explaining to the ST-PCV Tenants Association, a would-be buyer with partner Brookfield Asset Management, that talks could not happen until the resolution of “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer.” That could happen soon though, since according to the “Roberts” attorney for tenants, Alex Schmidt, checks for rent overpayments as a result of the class action lawsuit, could be headed tenants’ way from CW in January or February. Payments from former owner Met Life were sent out to affected tenants in late December.

However, the company could also be waiting to resolve the ongoing negotiations over five major capital improvement (MCI) rent increases with the Tenants Association. The TA said this week that talks were still ongoing over the MCIs, which were charged on tenants’ rent bills this month after being approved late last year by the state housing agency.

Meanwhile, Susan Steinberg, chair of the Tenants Association, said on Wednesday that the fact that CW could be marketing the property for a sale soon was not a new development.

“We had seen this statement in a similar report several months ago, so this does not come as a surprise,” she said. “CW doesn’t have to go far to ‘start marketing the asset,’ since all along the TA/Brookfield partnership has been ready, willing and able to start the conversation about a tenant-led purchase that would satisfy the bondholders. We would like to think such a conversation will happen before too long.”

Roaring into the New Year at The Players

The Minsky Sisters perform a tap dancing routine at The Salon, a 1920s-themed New Year’s party that took place at The Players. The Salon events are organized by Stuyvesant Town native Patrick Soluri. (Photo by Jane Kratochvil)

The Minsky Sisters perform a tap dancing routine at The Salon, a 1920s-themed New Year’s party that took place at The Players. The Salon events are organized by Stuyvesant Town native Patrick Soluri. (Photo by Jane Kratochvil)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest party nights of the year, but The Players club on Gramercy Park made the one before that a night to remember as well. The New Year’s Eve Eve event at the club was hosted by The Salon, which organizes parties inspired by European salons that brought people together to perform jazz music, dance, share their art and enjoy each other’s company.

Advance tickets for the event were sold out and while a limited number of door tickets were made

Bassist Brandi Disterhelft plays with Svetlana and the Delancey Five at the Players' Kinstler Room. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Bassist Brandi Disterhelft plays with Svetlana and the Delancey Five at the Players’ Kinstler Room. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

available, founder of The Salon, Patrick Soluri, said that within 15 minutes of the club opening its doors at 7 p.m., those were sold out as well.

The New Year’s Eve Eve party was the first time The Salon hosted an event at the Players since 2009. Joe Canela, a bartender and union rep for employees at the social club, said it was just one of several events the club used to host that have returned since the departure of the club’s former executive director, John Martello, last spring. Martello had come under fire for turning down events from groups that paid rental fees for the space, instead giving space away free for events held by his associates.

Soluri, a classical musician who grew up in Stuyvesant Town, said he originally started organizing the events in his apartment in 2001 and did them for a few years wherever he happened to be living. In 2006, The Salon had to be moved to a public venue because it got too crowded for Soluri’s home. The 2013 party was the sixth time it took place and although the venue has changed over the years, he wants The Salon to be based at the Players.

“I’m planning on hosting all my main events, about six a year, at the Players,” he said. “I’m hoping that it will be a kind of home and that’s what I’ve been working on.”

Saxophone player Patience Higgins plays with Queen Esther and the Hot Five in the Library Lounge. (Photo by Jane Kratochvil)

Saxophone player Patience Higgins plays with Queen Esther and the Hot Five in the Library Lounge. (Photo by Jane Kratochvil)

The Salon’s most recent  party featured performances from 40 musicians and dancers, with classic burlesque, tap dancing and even a free swing dancing lesson and attendees were dressed to the nines in 1920s attire. Performances took place in rooms throughout the club, with big band music, jazz and blues performed in the library and on the stage at the main dance floor. The Card Room and the Booth Room, which is normally closed to the public, were open to a select few with VIP tickets and those visitors were treated to music from accordionist Benjamin Ickies and card tricks from a magician.

There were also a number of men at the party wearing radishes on their lapel and Soluri explained the unusual tradition.

“(It was) instigated by longtime dancer Michael Ingbar many years ago,” he said. “Those gents that dressed like gents get a radish as their boutonniere.”

The next big event he has in the works is a Mardi Gras party. The date is already set for Fat Tuesday, on March 4 this year, although Soluri said that tickets aren’t on sale just yet. But he hosted a Mardi Gras party last year at a venue in the Lower East Side and he said that the event this year will be true to the music and style of the era. Tickets for the event are open to the public and Soluri said that he tries to keep the prices low. General admission advance tickets for the New Year’s Eve Eve event were $30.

Attendees enjoy the party on the main dance floor. (Photo by Jane Kratochvil)

Attendees enjoy the party on the main dance floor. (Photo by Jane Kratochvil)

Tenants Association: ‘Roberts’ and recent tenants should pay MCI increase — for now

Tenants Association attorney Tim Collins speaks to residents, while Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, State Senator Brad Hoylman and TA Chair Susan Steinberg listen. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Tenants Association attorney Tim Collins speaks to residents at a meeting in November, while Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, State Senator Brad Hoylman and TA Chair Susan Steinberg listen. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

After five MCIs (major capital improvement rent increases) were approved by the state housing agency last fall, residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village had their rents raised this month.

Though the ST-PCV Tenants Association has entered into talks with CWCapital and the state housing agency, NYS Homes and Community Renewal, over those rent hikes, in the meantime, the Association is advising “Roberts” class action members as well as those who moved in after the “Roberts” suit was settled to pay their MCIs. At least for now.

Previously, an attorney for the TA had told a resident at a public meeting held in November, who said she’d never gotten a notice about a pending MCI, that she wouldn’t have to pay it. This is because notice must be given to tenants when owners apply for an MCI. However, since the MCIs were for work done on the property by Tishman Speyer in 2009, before the Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” suit determined that apartments in ST/PCV were illegally deregulated, tenants in market rate apartments (“Roberts” class members) never got the notices. MCIs are only applicable to rent-stabilized tenants.

“Most if not all of the Roberts and preferential rent tenants never received a notice,” the Tenants Association said in an email blast to neighbors on Friday afternoon. The email, which is also on the TA website (stpcvta.org), went on to note that preferential rent is a rent that is lower than the legal rent-regulated rent for an apartment and the amount a tenant actually agrees to pay. “Roberts” and post-“Roberts” tenants pay preferential rents.

Despite the lack of warning for those tenants, the TA said in its email that while the negotiations with CW continue, tenants should pay the MCIs.

“The TA is in negotiations over the MCIs with management, hoping to resolve them to the benefit of all tenants,” the Tenants Association said. “In the meantime you should pay them as billed. Doing so will not prejudice any of your rights. We will continue to keep you posted as the situation unfolds. Please read the joint statement from counsel for the TA, Management, and the Roberts tenants below:

“The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Tenants Association (ST/PCV-TA), Owner (PCV/ST) and New York State DHCR have been engaged in discussions attempting to reach a negotiated resolution to the recently issued MCI orders. The parties are hopeful that the matter will, in fact, be resolved in the near future.

“In the interim, Owner commenced billing the permanent portion of the MCI rent increase with January 2014 bills. If a negotiated settlement is reached, to the extent agreed upon, there will be an appropriate retroactive adjustment in the rent. Payment at this time will not prejudice any party’s rights or claims. Hence, counsel for all parties have agreed that the increases should be paid while negotiations continue.”

A spokesperson for CWCapital declined to comment beyond the statement.

 

Susan Steinberg, chair for the Tenants Association, said the TA has heard from between 15 and 20 “Roberts” tenants who said they received the charges.

 

However, when asked about how the negotiations were going, Steinberg said she couldn’t say anything beyond the fact that they’re “ongoing.”

 

TA, Hoylman to SCRIE/DRIE tenants: Avoid MCIs by filing for tax abatement

Collins Garodnick Kavanagh Hoylman

At a Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association meeting held on MCIs in November, State Senator Brad Hoylman (right) spoke to tenants about SCRIE. Pictured with Hoylman are Tenants Association attorney Tim Collins, Council Member Dan Garodnick and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Though residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village were hit in recent months with a total of five MCIs (major capital improvement rent increases), individuals on SCRIE or DRIE are exempt from having to pay them. However, the Tenants Association noted this week, the exemption is not automatic and those tenants have to file for Tax Abatement Credit Applications (TACs) for each of the MCIs they’ve received.

The MCIs went into effect this month, but as of December 27, 2013, the TA said it learned that 59 percent of SCRIE/DRIE tenants in Peter Cooper Village and 77 percent of Stuy Town residents in the programs had not filed for the abatements. Additionally, some of those tenants only filed one application. There are currently between 250 and 300 tenants using SCRIE (senior citizen rent increase exemption) and DRIE (disability rent increase exemption). The programs keep rent-stabilized or rent-controlled residents earning under a certain amount paying the rents they paid when they first signed their leases. This is actually one rent increase behind what they would have paid when signing the lease if not in the program, according to a rep for State Senator Brad Holman. For SCRIE, participants have to be 62 or older and have a household income of no more than $29,000 in the previous calendar year. Additionally, one third of that income must be spent on rent. For DRIE, that amount is $29,484 for a household income in the previous calendar year, $20,412 for single member household in the previous calendar year. One third of the participant’s income must go to rent and the person must be a recipient of government disability benefits.

In an official statement, the TA said it is currently working with CWCapital and CompassRock to make sure SCRIE and DRIE tenants will be covered by the TACS.

But, the Association warned, until tenants file properly, they will have to pay the MCIs. Hoylman, who spoke about the tax abatements at a recent Tenants Association meeting, has also been working with the TA, other local elected officials and the New York City Department of Finance to help tenants file.

“These MCI charges are an unfair burden on the ST-PCV community,” said Hoylman. “My office is reaching out to CWCapital encouraging them to preemptively file applications for adjustment on behalf of all SCRIE and DRIE recipients, who are some of the community’s most vulnerable residents.” At the meeting in November, Hoylman also noted that tenants, if not yet participating in SCRIE or DRIE, would have 90 days to apply within an MCI being issued in order for that MCI to be covered.

This week, Susan Steinberg, chair of the TA, noted that there’s been a lot of confusion among tenants, SCRIE/DRIE and others, when it comes to the MCIs, which the TA has been trying to fight.

“MCIs are definitely a confusing issue, even to those of us who have lived with them for decades,” said Steinberg. She said the TA has gotten about 50 calls and emails on the subject since the January rent bills went out.

Last month, the TA started meeting with CWCapital and the state housing agency in the hopes of reaching some sort of settlement. This is after objecting to an earlier proposal by CW to tenants to reduce the amount of tenants’ retroactive payments in exchange for not joining the TA in its pledge to challenge to the MCIs altogether. Those talks took a break for the holidays, but the effort is still ongoing.

It was in recent months that tenants got MCIs for work done by Tishman Speyer in 2009 on security upgrades, water valves and tanks, doors and resurfacing. There are two MCIs for Peter Cooper and three for Stuyvesant Town.

Meanwhile, the TA has been trying to help tenants who are DRIE/SCRIE understand their responsibilities for exemption.

“We recognize the needs of our SCRIE/DRIE population, many of whom do not have Internet access,” said John Marsh, president of the Tenants Association. “Many have called the TA about receiving MCI charges, thinking they were exempt. We are doing everything we can to assist tenants; many clearly are not aware of the filing requirements.”

According to the TA, filing can be done online as well as by mail.

To get the tax abatement forms online, SCRIE tenants should visit http://www.nyc.gov/html/dof/downloads/pdf/scrie/scrie_tax_adjustment_tenant.pdf.

DRIE tenants should visit http://www.nyc.gov/html/dof/downloads/pdf/drie/drie_adjustment_to_abatement.pdf.

Tenants can also request forms be mailed to them by calling 311 or they can pick one up at Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh’s district office, weekdays from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at 237 First Avenue at 14th Street in Room 407. The SCRIE/DRIE program also has a walk-in office, open 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at 66 John Street, third floor.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from its original version to add that according to Hoylman’s office, with SCRIE, a tenant’s rent is kept at what it was when signing a lease, which is what the previous rent would have been before the last legal rent increase was applied. Additionally, the word “not” was omitted in an original version when mentioning the percentage of SCRIE/DRIE tenants who’d not filed for the abatement.