‘Roberts’ tenants on how settlement, court win impacted them

Jennifer Kops, pictured with daughter Kiki at a Peter Stuyvesant Little League Parade in 2013, has moved within ST/PCV three times in four years. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Jennifer Kops, pictured with daughter Kiki at a Peter Stuyvesant Little League Parade in 2013, has moved within ST/PCV three times in four years. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
Last week, residents and former residents of ST/PCV who were members of the “Roberts” class action finally received their long awaited damages checks.
As Town & Village first reported, over 5,000 of them received non-payment deductions and class members who were former residents were subject to retroactive MCI fees.
This week, T&V spoke with a few “Roberts” tenants to ask how the damages as well as the lawsuit itself, which led to lowered rents for many, changed their lives (or didn’t.)
Here’s what they had to say:

Jennifer Kops, a Stuyvesant Town mother of two who works as an administrative assistant, said she didn’t get anything in damages. She thought she’d be getting $434 but didn’t see a dime after legal fees, MCIs and nonpayment deductions. She grew up in Peter Cooper Village and after divorcing, returned over four years ago with children Jack and Kiki. In that time, she and her family have lived in two one-bedroom apartments in Peter Cooper and now a two-bedroom in Stuyvesant Town.
“We’re fine, but the suit didn’t do anything for me,” said Kops. She moved the last time since the upgrade to a two-bedroom was $3,350 a month, only $100 more than what she’d been paying at her last apartment. “Stuy Town is always a little cheaper,” she said.
Though making the rent has never been simple, “we wouldn’t want to leave,” Kops said.
Kops had been on the board of the Tenants Association for a few years, her kids are in the Peter Stuyvesant Little League and she is currently involved in the PTA at her daughter’s school, PS40. There she’s met other moms in similar situations to her own, tenants in Stuyvesant Town, who’ve turned living rooms into bedrooms with either pressurized walls or bookcases for their kids. This is what Kops had done in her last place, but found life in a one-bedroom too difficult.
“The kids are getting older and I needed more space myself. I don’t like sleeping in the living room.”
The new place is on the main floor and she often hears the conversations of the maintenance employees whose lounge is below her apartment, but that’s her only gripe.
“We hear their morning roll call and we can hear them yelling at each other,” said Kops, “but we overlook a garden area. It’s actually very quiet and peaceful.”

Maurice Owen-Michaane (right) and his husband Michael got a $13,000 payout.

Maurice Owen-Michaane (right) and his husband Michael got a $13,000 payout.

Former resident Maurice Owen-Michaane, who lived in Stuy Town for five years until September, 2012, said it wasn’t “Roberts” that changed things for him or his family, but other factors like constant construction that made him think the complex was going downhill and more importantly needing more space after having a baby.
So he moved to Washington Heights where he now lives with his husband and son, and apparently, many other families nearby.
“There are lots of families and kids and strollers,” he said. “It’s nice up here.”
This week, Owen-Michaane went straight to the bank after receiving his $13,000 in damages, which, he said, will be used to send his son to pre-school and pay some of the couple’s student loans, which total $200,000.
“We’re not going on some big vacation,” he said.
Additionally, out of the damages, $1,600 was taken out for retroactive MCI fees. Not having known about that, Owen-Michaane felt that a heads up from the attorneys or tenant leaders “would have been nice.”
Owen-Michaane, who works in real estate sales for the firm Maz Group NY, added, “No one told us anything.”
That said, overall, Owen-Michaane said the suit was definitely still a win for tenants.
“It was a victory for the little guy, the middle class, who usually get forgotten,” he said.

“Roberts” tenant Jill Pratzon, who owns an art restoration business, said after getting her check, she felt misled about the entire lawsuit.
Pratzon, who moved into Stuy Town with her son and husband, a high school teacher, towards the end of the Met Life era, said due to “Roberts,” she got a $90 rent reduction. This brought down the rent for her one-bedroom apartment on Avenue C to just over $3,000. In damages, after deductions, she and her husband each got checks for $37.50.
“I feel like a fool for staying,” said Pratzon, who got a $500 increase at the time of their first renewal when Tishman Speyer took over the property. The couple’ son had just come home from brain surgery, and they asked management to consider not increasing their rent. In response, it was lowered to a $400 increase. Pratzon said she was told at the time that the owner was planting a lot of trees and that she’d love living there because it would be like the Garden of Eden.
“I come home after dark,” she said. “I don’t have time to enjoy the f—ing greenery.”
When Pratzon moved in it was because the building had an elevator and her son was in a wheelchair. “Then he was out and this lawsuit happened and I thought it was going to mean something,” said Pratzon.
Pratzon, who’s 52, said she’s recently begun taking on more clients, working longer hours, six days a week. Now she and her husband are the oldest people on their floor. People in two other apartments moved out this week.
“Everyone is young and coming and going,” she said. “We introduce ourselves and then a few months later, they’re moving out. They’re professionals or about to be young professionals. I’ve got no grievances with them. It’s management.”
Pratzon also pointed out that in order to afford the rent, her family has no savings.
“We’re hanging on with our fingernails. I felt for years that New York doesn’t want us, me with my small business and my husband who helps at-risk kids in Brooklyn.”

Jill Campbell at her new apartment in Williamsburg

Jill Campbell at her new apartment in Williamsburg

Jill Campbell, a documentary maker, moved into Stuyvesant Town in 2008. The following year, with the “Roberts” case being won by tenants, she was attending tenant meetings and hearing about how the apartments were re-regulated and later, about the Tenants Association’s hope of going condo. At one point, she recalled her rent going down slightly as a result of the case, but just last month, after the most recent increase, she felt she couldn’t afford it anymore. And this was after haggling and getting a significant amount shaved off the bill. Campbell asked that the amount of her rent and what she received in damages not be published. However, she noted that due to legal fees, the damages were less than what she thought she’d be getting.
Overall, Campbell, who now lives in Williamsburg, said she doesn’t feel like the lawsuit impacted her, other than if she hadn’t gotten her hopes up for lower rent similar to what those in unrenovated units were paying, she would have moved out sooner.
But that wasn’t the only reason for leaving.
“It felt like we were living in a dorm,” she said. “Especially on weekends when they would leave pizza boxes scattered on the hallway floors.  The door badge system particularly felt like an invasion of privacy as I had to register any guest that I wanted to provide a key for. The price tag was way to high to live in a dorm. All the ‘Roberts’ expectations and the town meetings surrounding the case did was to raise false expectations that my rent would be lower and that one day I might buy the place at an inside price. When both of those did not materialize we had no choice but to leave.”
While she doesn’t feel the suit did much for “Roberts” tenants, Campbell said she believes it did help the older residents in that it stopped the wave of primary residence challenges aimed at getting them out.
“I think it was good for the old-timers who now have peace of mind,” she said.

Software writer Nick Furness, a resident since 2001, said he first lived in Stuyvesant Town in a two-bedroom, then moved into a one-bedroom in 2003 when the rent got higher than he could afford. He and his wife, a handbag designer, were okay until the rent there got to be around $3500. They then started looking around at other places and though they found other places in the East Village that were slightly cheaper, “they were horrible.” Plus, Stuy Town rent at least included utilities and the large windows offered a lot of light.
After the market crashed, in 2008 or 2009, Furness said he was able to negotiate a significantly lower rent. He wasn’t aware of the “Roberts” litigation at the time and now wonders if it was the reason he was able to get Tishman Speyer to agree to reduce his rent to around $2600. Since then it’s been slowly “creeping back up,” said Furness and he now pays a little over $3,000.
“We’re happy to pay it because it’s the going rate for apartments in this neighborhood.”
In damages, the Furnesses were due $17,000. After fees, the amount was around $11,000. He was a bit surprised by the amount, admitting he hadn’t read all the fine print of the settlement. “It’s like how no one ever reads the iTunes contract.”
At the end of the day, while Furness said he wished attorneys had done more to protect tenants from high fees, he believes he’s better off with a rent regulated home.
“With the rules in place,” said Furness, “I feel happier staying here than I would being in the free market. When the market went up stupidly, our rent went up 30 to 40 percent. That would have been hard to bear.”

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Op-Ed: Anti Freeze

Submitted by former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

New York City tenants were hoping for a freeze in June.

When the Rent Guidelines Board met earlier this week to set rent increases for leases due to expire during the 12 month period beginning on October 1, there was great anticipation that for the first time in history the board with its newly minted de Blasio appointments would vote for a zero percent increase. After all, the new mayor was supporting that position and legions of tenants and neighborhood groups were rallying around a rent freeze.

It did not happen. Instead the board voted for the lowest increases in history… a one percent increase for a one-year lease and a 2.75 percent increase for a two-year lease. That’s not bad. In other words for rent stabilized apartments currently renting for $2,000 per month the rent will rise by $20 a month for a one year lease renewal, and by $55 for a two year renewal. And of course if the rent for an apartment is lower than that the rent increase too will be lower. And while that is “not nothing” it’s not the triple digit dollar increases of past years that drove rents to an unaffordable level for many.

The purists will condemn this vote as a betrayal, but the truth is that a one percent rent increase for a one-year lease is a big victory for tenants. It is below the inflation rate and it is next to nothing. Even the two-year lease option which would lock in a 2.75 percent increase over a 24-month period of time will prove to be below the inflation rate for the next two years. Never before have tenants seen such miniscule adjustments, and it bodes well for the next three years of the de Blasio administration.

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‘Roberts’ attorney responds to tenants’ concerns on checks

Alex Schmidt

Alex Schmidt

By Sabina Mollot

Many “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” tenants, who received their payouts from the class action suit last week were unpleasantly surprised last week when they saw numbers that were smaller than what they were expecting, in some cases due to money CWCapital believed was owed in back rent. Then there were the legal fees and expenses (roughly 30-32 percent of the damages for current tenants). Former residents meanwhile also had money taken out for retroactive MCIs (major capital improvements). Attorneys have previously said that payments would be 100 percent of what tenants overpaid according to the complicated settlement formula that was recently finalized minus legal fees and expenses. They also warned about the possibility of non-payment deductions. However, some tenants told Town & Village they were still surprised, thinking that the figures they saw on the Berdon Claims Administration website as their payouts were what they’d end up with.

Alex Schmidt, the lead attorney representing tenants in “Roberts,” said the fact that the legal fees were 27.5 percent of the $68.5 million cash to be paid to tenants, and possibly up to $5 million in additional fees if there were sufficient unclaimed funds, was shared with tenants on the Berdon site as well as in court orders. Due to how many files were claimed, attorneys got paid an additional $3 million instead of $5 million. As for the money CW believes it is owed in back rent and has withheld as non-payment deductions, Schmidt said his firm has gotten some calls from people who want to file objections. The MCIs, however, Schmidt said, CW can legally charge to former tenants. The Roberts settlement permitted CW to add all MCIs that were approved by the Division of Housing and Community Renewal to the base rent covering periods before December 31, 2011.

“Thus, the MCI Orders that DHCR approved in late October or early November of 2013 covering improvements made in 2008-2009 are chargeable to all class members under the settlement,” Schmidt said.

Current tenants were covered by a settlement recently negotiated by the Tenants Association that either eliminated or reduced MCIs. However, Schmidt said it is possible that a “Roberts” class member could be paid from the current tenants’ “pool” but still be charged retroactive MCIs if they moved out between May 15, 2013 and the date the MCI settlement was finalized in early April, 2014.

As for why the former tenants stuck with MCIs hadn’t been warned about them, Schmidt pointed out that the five MCIs had only been issued last fall. “It was the timing; no one really foresaw that DHCR would grant in October 2013 MCIs for 2008 and 2009 and allow CW to recoup them retroactively,” the attorney said.

Despite the deductions, Schmidt noted that overall the suit still preserves significantly more affordability in ST/PCV than if there had been no legal challenge at all.

“All one has to do initially is to remember how Tishman Speyer was pushing people out before we filed suit and, had we not won, would likely have succeeded over the past six years to convert most of the 11,250 units into market apartments,” said Schmidt. “The 7,000 units that remained rent regulated are now part of the DeBlasio/Garodnick 6000-unit pledge from Fannie and Freddie to keep those units affordable, which I think would have been much harder if not impossible to obtain had we not won. Then, of course, there’s the $173 million in combined damages and past rent savings that the class realized, and the future rent savings many current tenants will continue to realize.” Schmidt noted that former tenants got 110 percent of their estimated damages (before MCIs or deductions). This, he explained, is because about 40 percent of the dollars from the former tenants “pool” was not claimed so those funds paid all the fees for that pool.

Attorneys also answered some of tenants’ questions via an email blast sent by the ST-PCV Tenants Association. In the email, attorneys reiterated that the one third in legal fees and expenses was due to how many class members filed for damages. If not too many people had filed, tenants could have gotten up to 100 percent or even up to 110 percent of their damages. However, following an outreach effort to class members a year ago, nearly 100 percent of eligible current tenants filed for damages, along with 64 percent of eligible former tenants.

Another question was why former and current tenants were in different pools, which meant they could only collect damages from their own pool, even if there was more money remaining in another pool. This one didn’t get an answer with attorneys citing a confidentiality agreement.

“The attorneys cannot comment on them except to say that the issue of dividing the damages from the Tishman Speyer/CWCapital period of ownership into two pools was one of many involved in the give-and-take of the settlement negotiations,” the firm, Wolf Haldenstein, said. Meanwhile, in the end it wouldn’t have made a difference if the rules were different, because all the money in the former tenants’ pool already went to claimants or attorneys.

East Village senior missing

 

Carlos Pena

Carlos Pena

Police are looking for an East Village senior who’s been missing since Tuesday evening.

Sixty-one-year-old Carlos Pena of 620 East 13th Street was last seen on Tuesday at 9 p.m. at home. He is described as 5’8″, 185 lbs. with a stocky build, Hispanic with a light complexion, brown eyes and gray hair. He was last seen wearing tan colored pants with a white belt and a tan button down shirt.

Anyone with information in regards to this missing is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS or submit tips online at www.nypdcrimestoppers.com.

 

Letters to the Editor, June 26

Union Square playground isn’t for everyone

Re: Former Council Member Carol Greitzer’s letter, “No place to play for the disabled,” T&V, June 19

Ms. Greitzer is on to something about the lack of facilities in Union Square Park’s playground of children with disabilities. In fact, there are no facilities or space in the park for people with disabilities, seniors or teenagers. Nor is there appropriate play equipment for every child in the playground.

Since 2004, all planning for the playground and pavilion (at final cost of $20M dollars) merely privileged arrangements for a commercial restaurant in the pavilion disregarding needs of residents, young and old. Yet, Union Square Community Coalition’s (USCC) ten-year campaign and litigations helped to achieve a maximum-size playground (15,000 square feet — double the original plan of only 8,000 square feet). But our hard-fought efforts to reclaim the pavilion for its traditional use by the community were ignored in favor of a seasonal restaurant.

USCC recognizes the unequal access to park facilities suffered by certain residents. Now it’s time for the mayor to justify the taxpayers’ enormous investment in our pavilion as a public good. He has the power to act to ensure free access to and use of the pavilion as a year-round community center with programs and activities for our under-served teenagers, seniors and people with disabilities. Attention must be paid to their needs. They cannot continue to be deprived of public space in their park.

Eadie Shanker,
Union Square Community Coalition member

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Police Watch: ‘Purse snatcher’ nabbed in Stuy Town, Men busted for ‘gambling’ on E. 22nd St.

‘PURSE SNATCHER’ NABBED IN STUY TOWN
Police arrested 44-year-old Mark Gallop for grand larceny at the 13th Precinct last Monday at 10:45 a.m. Gallop was allegedly on surveillance video of 1 Stuyvesant Oval and was seen in the lobby of the building taking a woman’s purse.

WOMAN ARRESTED FOR ASSAULT OF OFFICER
Police arrested 27-year-old Rushelle Exeter for assault of a peace officer last Thursday at 3:07 a.m. While in front of the Bellevue Hospital building at 462 First Avenue, Exeter allegedly bit a police officer on the left forearm, breaking the skin and causing pain. Exeter then spit in the face of another officer, causing irritation and pain, police said.

MEN BUSTED FOR ‘GAMBLING’ ON E. 22ND
Police arrested three men for promoting gambling inside 12 East 22nd Street last Friday at 6:15 p.m. Thirty-eight-year-old Shawn Chaconas, 30-year-old Jason Lee and 26-year-year-old Andrew Chaconas were arrested for promoting an illegal poker game at the location.

TWO CAMERA ‘PERVS’ BUSTED IN UNION SQUARE
Police arrested two men for sexual abuse in the Union Square subway station in unrelated incidents.
Forty-two-year-old Adrian Macareno was arrested last Wednesday at 11:08 a.m. Macareno was allegedly using his cell phone in video mode to record under a girl’s shorts. The girl told police that she didn’t know Macareno and didn’t give him permission to film her.
Fifty-four-year-old Karl Coelho was arrested last Wednesday at 3:47 p.m. Coelho was allegedly walking behind a woman with his cell phone lens facing up and in video mode, filming her private parts while she was walking up the stairs to the street. Coelho failed to appear for his court date on a previous summons and also is on the sexual monitoring list.

‘PERV’ NABBED ON ‘L’ PLATFORM
Police arrested 36-year-old Manuel Zambrano for public lewdness at the Union Square subway station last Saturday at 2:15 p.m. Zambrano was allegedly masturbating with both of his hands inside his jogging pants pocket while on the L platform. He was standing by the staircase on the platform and looking up women’s skirts, police said.

‘PURSE SNATCHER’ NABBED ON E. 15TH
Police arrested 53-year-old Darryl Andrews in front of 118 East 15th Street for grand larceny last Friday at 12:04 a.m. The victim told police that Andrews allegedly grabbed her handbag containing her credit card, money and her cell phone without permission.

WOMAN ARRESTED FOR PURSE ‘THEFT’ IN HOSPITAL BATHROOM
Police arrested 46-year-old Mildred Peralta for possession of stolen property last Monday at 12:27 a.m. inside the Hospital for Joint Diseases at 301 East 17th Street. Peralta allegedly told police that she stole someone’s property from a bathroom stall but was going to return it. When the phone was retrieved, it was powered off and the MetroCard that was with it had been removed. Peralta had removed the phone and MetroCard from the victim’s pocketbook, police said.

WOMEN ‘ASSAULT’ CABBIE ON AVE. C
Police arrested 21-year-old Rashyra Autry and 22-year-old Dawnice Cheatham for assault at the corner of Avenue C and East 23rd Street last Sunday at 5:22 a.m. A taxi driver told police that he got into an argument with the two women over a cab ride to New Rochelle and Autry allegedly punched the driver in the face. She also kicked the cab, causing a previous repair of the car’s quarter panel to crack off.

‘TRESPASSING’ NEAR FDR DRIVE
Police arrested 61-year-old Michael Diaz for criminal trespassing in a fenced in area at the FDR and Avenue C last Tuesday at 8:07 a.m. Diaz was allegedly at the location without permission.

MAN BUSTED FOR GIFT CARD ‘THEFT’
Police arrested 46-year-old Anthony Donelson in front of 25 West 14th Street for grand larceny last Wednesday. The address is home to a few retailers, including Guitar Center. Donelson allegedly confessed to a loss prevention officer at the business that over the course of several months, he was making fraudulent gift cards in the amount of $5,039, which were given to unknown people and used at the above location.

‘MENACE’ ARRESTED AT HAO WEI
Police arrested 29-year-old Xian Lin for menacing at the 13th Precinct last Sunday at 4:45 p.m. Lin allegedly entered the Hao Wei restaurant at 493 Second Avenue and punched the victim several times in the face. He also pulled out a knife and threatened the victim, police said.

TWO BUSTED IN DRUG ‘DEAL’ ON EAST 24TH
Police arrested 52-year-old Charles McAtee for possession of a controlled substance in front of 168 East 24th Street last Friday at 9:25 a.m. McAtee allegedly bought eight Xanax tablets from 49-year-old Jose Rivera, who was also arrested for sale of a controlled substance.

MAN BUSTED FOR FAKE PLASTIC
Police arrested 28-year-old George Pauls for forgery inside the Gap at 122 Fifth Avenue last Monday at 2:48 p.m. Pauls allegedly tried to use a forged credit card at the store and was told by the cashier that the card wasn’t valid. Pauls then fled the location, running north on Fifth Avenue, police said. A loss prevention officer followed him and called the police. Pauls was then arrested in front of the store and when he was brought to the precinct, he confessed to using a fraudulent credit card, police said.

UNLICENSED ROCK SALESMAN BUSTED
Police arrested 31-year-old Anwar Knight for violating New York State law in front of 1 Union Square East last Sunday at 2 p.m. Knight was displaying rocks for sale to the public on a folding table without a Department of Consumer Affairs license.

FOOD VENDOR REFUSES TO LEAVE
Police arrested 28-year-old Ahmad Shaker for disorderly conduct at the corner of Fifth Avenue and East 23rd Street last Tuesday at 3:17 p.m. Shaker allegedly refused to move his food cart from the corner, which he was asked to do because it presented a hazard at that location. Police said that Shaker was asked to move the cart numerous times and he refused, then engaged in violent and threatening behavior, saying, “F— that, I’m not moving, I don’t care what you gotta say.”

TEENS BUSTED FOR ‘FAKE’ $100’S
Police arrested two teens for forgery in front of 863 Broadway last Tuesday at 6:06 p.m. Eighteen-year-olds Joshua Faust-Gadsden and Quentya Hawkins allegedly tried to purchase items by passing a counterfeit $100 bill to the cashier. The cashier called the police and the teens were stopped nearby. When police searched them, they were allegedly in possession of fake $100 bills.

MAN ARRESTED FOR SELLING SMOKES
Police arrested 53-year-old Richard Zanetti for violating tax law in front of 490 Second Avenue last Tuesday at 10:10 a.m. Zanetti was allegedly on the sidewalk at the location selling a cigarette carton to another unapprehended person. The tax stamp on the carton was from Virginia, police said.

RGB votes for lowest increases ever

Madeline Mendez, one of many tenants gathered outside the Cooper Union building holds a sign prior to the Rent Guidelines Board vote on Monday. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Madeline Mendez, one of many tenants gathered outside the Cooper Union building holds a sign prior to the Rent Guidelines Board vote on Monday. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Although the rent freeze that stabilized tenants were desperately seeking did not pass at the Rent Guidelines Board final vote on Monday evening, the board still made history with its lowest ever increases of one percent for one­-year leases and 2.75 percent for two­-year leases.

The vote took place as it usually does in a packed Great Hall at Cooper Union but with some new faces on the nine­-member board. Unlike in previous years, the vote did not go in favor of the chair, Mayor de Blasio appointee Rachel Godsil, who was urging the board to vote for a rent freeze.

Instead, the 5-4 vote was in favor of a proposal submitted by public member Steven Flax, also newly appointed by de Blasio, which the owner members adopted as their own. Flax ultimately decided to go in favor of his own proposal but he said that he had struggled with his vote.

“I heard what you’re saying and I know what you’re going through. I’ve developed and managed affordable housing — and you’re not going to like what I have to say,” he said as the crowd cheered him on, “but the takeaway is that it costs money to run buildings.”

Before the vote, Godsil recognized that Flax’s proposal was a historic low but argued that it was not low enough.

“I don’t think it’s supported by the data,” she said. “It doesn’t acknowledge the assumptions from previous years of expenses that did not occur. It is our goal to make sure that the tenants and owners are balanced and I don’t think this proposal does that.”

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Two bodies found in the East River

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police found two bodies in the East River within the 13th Precinct on Thursday night and Friday morning.

Paul Bauer, a 50-year-old homeless man, was found last night in the East River near East 14th Street after a 911 call alerted police to a man in the water at 11:52 p.m. The NYPD Harbor Unit responded to the scene and EMS pronounced the man DOA.

Another man of an unknown age was pulled out of the East River at East 23rd Street on Friday morning after police received a 911 call at 6:52 a.m. EMS pronounced the unidentified man dead at 7:02 a.m.

Police said that both bodies were decomposing and had likely been in the river for a while and the incidents are not considered connected. The Medical Examiner has not yet determined the causes of death and the investigation is ongoing.

Late on Friday, police said they were looking for someone in connection with the 23rd Street case.
The unidentified male is dark skinned and was wearing a polo shirt with dark and light stripes, Levis blue jeans, black warm-up jacket and black Nike sneakers. He also had a close cut beard with no mustache.

Anyone with information about his identity is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS.
The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or texting their tips to 274637(CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

Note: This post was updated to reflect that a second body has been recovered and that police are looking for someone.

 

Editorial: Defining affordability

Tenants hold signs on the steps of City Hall. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Tenants hold signs on the steps of City Hall. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Even for Stuyvesant Town, this past week has been an eventful one, with the mayor’s office stepping in to work with the community’s tenants and ownership in an effort to maintain affordability. Though there’s a tight, two-month deadline to work with and discussions about the outcome of said talks have been vague so far, the city’s involvement is still a very significant step.
More local elected officials have also chimed in with the usual promises to not allow a repeat of the 2006 sale, which made ST/PCV the poster child for predatory equity. Tenants have heard it all before of course (since it’s repeated at every Stuy Town and housing related press conference). Still, it never hurts for the rest of the city, including any would-be owners, to hear it too.
What hasn’t really been determined, but hopefully will be, in the next couple of months, is what exactly “affordable” means in the eyes of the owner and the city.
Many of the tenants in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village’s renovated apartments are no more wealthy than their counterparts in unrenovated units, who pay significantly less in rent. So simply “maintaining” or rather keeping the rents around what their current levels are doesn’t necessarily translate into affordability for close to half the population.
Council Member Garodnick has said the de Blasio administration has been made aware of this fact. Ultimately, whatever plan the talks wind up leading to, whether it’s a commitment to longterm rentals or a conversion of some sort, we believe the end result should be that those who live in the community shouldn’t live — or continue to live — in constant fear of getting priced out of their apartments or the city. Isn’t that the only real definition of affordable?

Throwback Thursday: This week in T&V history

1964 Little League champs

1964 Little League champs

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Town & Village newspaper has been providing news for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village for over 65 years and we’ve decided to start taking a look back to see what was going on in the community 50 years ago. Here are a couple of snapshots from the June 18, 1964 issue of Town & Village.

Met Life’s battle over pet dog
Dogs weren’t allowed in the complex in 1964 and as a result, a Stuyvesant Town family found themselves in a court battle with property owner Metropolitan Life over their pooch. A cover story in the June 18 issue said that the dog was a 15-pound French poodle and had been living at 16 Stuyvesant Oval with the family for the past eight months. The story noted that it wasn’t Met Life’s intention to evict the tenants but to evict the dog, and it went on to say that the pooch’s owner, a lawyer by the name of Murray Leonard, intended to represent her in court.

The owner based his case on recent court decisions that held in similar circumstances that residents could house a dog if it could be proven that the canine was not a nuisance to others. The Leonards had been living in Stuyvesant Town since 1948 and Leonard’s wife said that the dog was a gift and it was not their intention to purposely violate their lease.

Alleged Nazi found guilty of rioting
A police blotter item in this 1964 issue of the paper noted that a Peter Cooper Village resident was found guilty of inciting a riot in connection with a civil rights demonstration the previous July. The story said that PCV resident Anthony Wells, 23, who was an alleged member of the neo-Nazi National Resistance Party, was one of eight men accused of seeking to incite violence against black people who were demonstrating at a White Castle diner in the Bronx. Police found a cross-bow, guns and knives in the alleged Nazi’s station wagon.

PSLL team champs
Members of the Peter Cooper-Stuyvesant Little League team, the First Federal Savings & Loan Indians, gathered at home plate after beating the Village & Towne Sweet Shoppe Cubs and being named the World Series champions in a close game the previous Saturday.

Letters to the Editor, June 19

Tenants want details, not vague statements

To the editor:

Ok… so we applaud our political representatives before we hear what they have to say … Ok… so we applaud repeatedly while they speak without knowing the implications of what we hear. Ok… so we leave the rally at our City Hall with the thought that perhaps in unity we are getting closer to our wishes.

We were, after all, assured that Fannie and Freddie will not finance a deal unless the deal guarantees long-term affordability. We hear, in one way or another, that the mayor’s folks are working a deal with CWCapital that would a) satisfy the bondholders and b) guarantee that some apartments would remain affordable.

I hope that I am wrong on all accounts, but does any of that have the sound of what we want? A deal?

Made by whom? Representing whose interests? Long-term affordability? For whom? Affordable apartments? Of those… how many, and for whom? So CWCapital gets to keep the place? “Keep” is rather a firm thing. There is nothing ambiguous or equivocal about “keep”… and we get… what? Well, right now, whatever it is, it is heavy on ambiguity and equivocation (wrapped in emphatic assurances).

As I see it, we really have not squared off against the principle that we are mere tenants living on someone’s property at, quite close to, their pleasure. We haven’t squared off against the prevailing grip that government has no real right to interfere in the running of business. Business is, after all, private.

Nowhere along the line has our side insisted that the private exists within the public, through the will of the public, with the financial (socialism) support of the public. That form of restraint, along with civility has been our self-imposed handicap.

So perhaps, just perhaps, the next time a political leader speaks, we consider holding applause until, by answering our questions, we are shown to what non-generalities that leader is committed. In that way, over time, political leaders may come to speak to us with a focused demonstration of acknowledgement and respect, and we, for our part, more than placards and background to a center that is not us.

John M. Giannone, ST

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Crime down for year, burglaries up for the month in 13th Precinct

Lt. Kenneth Perez, special operations at the 13th Precinct, and Lt. Vincent Collins at a Tuesday meeting of the 13th Precinct Community Council (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Lt. Kenneth Perez, special operations at the 13th Precinct, and Lt. Vincent Collins at a Tuesday meeting of the 13th Precinct Community Council (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Crime is down overall for the year in the 13th Precinct, though it’s up for the month, mainly due to a spike in burglaries, police said on Tuesday.
Community residents got the latest stats on local crime from Lieutenant Vincent Collins, who took over the most recent Community Council meeting at the 13th Precinct. The precinct’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector David Ehrenberg, usually gives leads the meetings, but was stuck in midtown on President Obama’s detail.
Collins said that Ehrenberg was hoping to make it back downtown before the meeting ended but he didn’t make it in time for the crime report, in which Collins noted that the precinct is still on the right track.
However, crime was up 2.8 percent for the past month with the major problems due to burglaries, which shot up by 63.6 percent for the month compared to last month. Collins noted that while grand larceny is still a frequent problem in the area, it usually drives the crime in the precinct and is down for the year by 8.2 percent. He added, as Ehrenberg has emphasized in the past, that the most prevalent crime in the neighborhood is also one of the most preventable.
“A forum like this one is so important because we can tell people, keep an eye on your property,” he said. “Car break-ins are also a problem and in this day and age, we shouldn’t have to tell people, don’t leave your $1,800 laptop sitting on the front seat. Not everyone is as honorable as we are.”
Residents often attend the community council meetings to voice concerns or complaints about noise in their neighborhood and with so many bars in the area, noise issues are a common problem. Peter Cooper Village residents Anne Greenberg and Joan Greene were at the meeting on Tuesday to voice a concern about a more seasonal noise problem: the drunken rowdiness of party-goers disembarking from boats on the East River at all hours of the night.
“They come off the boats incredibly drunk and noisy, walking in the middle of cars and walking down the middle of 23rd Street,” Greenberg said. “At this point, I’m more concerned about the drivers because they wouldn’t even know that there are people right in the street.”
She added that while it is a seasonal occurrence starting when the weather gets warmer, it’s been going on for a number of years and isn’t just once a night. “It’s a sudden uproar and it’ll go on at midnight and sometimes again at 3 a.m. I’ve never seen any police presence controlling it.”
Detective Ray Dorrian said that the precinct does have cops stationed at the boats for crowd control right when people get off but that they would send people over to check out the area.
Anthony Solomito of the Manhattan CERT was also at the meeting to raise awareness about emergency preparedness as hurricane season starts up again. He emphasized that there is a new hurricane map and said that there is a push for residents to know their zones since the system has changed. The mapped zones have changed but the zones are also numbered now, from one to six, instead of lettered.
“All the stuff they send out about evacuating doesn’t do any good if you don’t know your zone,” he said. “And you don’t want to be on your own. If they say you should get up and go, get up and go.”
Cissy Stamm, a co-founder of New York Area Assistance Dogs and a resident of East 14th Street, was also at the meeting to raise awareness for business owners on how to recognize and react to individuals with service dogs, and what to expect from emotional support dogs.
“You have the right to ask what services the dog performs,” she said. “You can’t ask what the disability is.”
She added that a special vest isn’t required for service dogs and since those can be easily purchased online, aren’t always the best way to determine if it is a service dog. “You go by the behavior of the dog and the questions that the person answers,” she said.
In addition to assisting a blind person, Stamm said that some of the answers one might expect to the question of what tasks a service dog or emotional support dog performs is for hearing impairment, diabetes alert, seizure alert, mobility alert and general medical alert.
The 13th Precinct Community Council usually meets on the third Tuesday of every month but there are no meetings in July and August. The next time the community council will gather is at National Night Out Against Crime on August 5 at the Simon Baruch Middle School playground.

 

Many ‘Roberts’ tenants getting less money than expected

Alex Schmidt

Alex Schmidt

By Sabina Mollot
Many current and former residents of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village who are members of the “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” class action are getting less in damages than they were expecting.
Specifically, over 5,000 of them have had non-payment deductions taken out of their damages, as well as close to a third taken out for legal fees and expenses, and in some cases, with money also taken out for retroactive MCIs.

On Thursday, June 12, the overcharge payments from CWCapital were sent out, and those who received non-payment deductions will have 45 days to dispute those charges.
Tenants’ “Roberts” attorney Alex Schmidt said he plans to challenge the “NPD” claims for tenants who don’t think they’re accurate.
As for the reasons tenants got the non-payment deductions, he said he didn’t know since CW wouldn’t provide that information.
“We don’t have access to underlying evidence, so people who believe they’re wrong have to contact us,” said Schmidt.

However, out of the 5,000 non-payment deductions, more than half are for amounts under $100. Those cases may have been attributed to things like late fees or lost key charges, Schmidt guessed. “Collectively those things add up,” he said. “It’s up to the tenant if they feel $25, $50 or $100 is worth fighting for.”
A spokesperson for CWCapital declined to comment on the deductions.As for the major capital improvements (MCIs), it was former tenants who’ve been hit with those since the recent MCI settlement between CWCapital and the Tenants Association only includes reductions or eliminations of fees for current tenants.
“It doesn’t do anything for the former tenants,” noted Schmidt.

One former resident, Steven Zecca, commented on the Town & Village Blog about how he received a rather hefty MCI deduction.
“I received my check on Saturday, June 14th,” he said, “along with a third cut from the original damages amount, a non-payment deduction for back rent of $118 and over $1500 for retroactive MCIs…Stuytown resident from May 2010 through August 2013… Anyone have any idea how these retroactive MCIs work and what I was charged for?”

Schmidt said that attorneys investigated and learned that the law does permit CW to charge retroactive MCIs to former tenants.

Out of a $173 million settlement for tenants in apartments that were illegally deregulated by former owners Met Life and Tishman Speyer, $68.75 million is being paid out to tenants. The rest of the money is in the form of rent savings. “Roberts” tenants and former tenants who were owed money from when Met Life was the owner of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village were paid at the end of 2013.
Damages range per person with some getting a minimal payout of $150 and others getting thousands.
The payments are being made from different pools out of the $68.75 million, with the pool of former tenants owed money by CW being the biggest. Schmidt has said tenants could expect to see 100 percent of what they overpaid as calculated by the settlement formula minus legal fees (around 30 percent).

In response to receiving a number of complaints from confused tenants, Council Member Dan Garodnick said he’d asked Schmidt’s firm, Wolf Haldenstein, to send tenants “a complete explanation to address these issues” and soon. And, he added, the firm has agreed.
“It’s apparent that a significant number of people got a deduction that didn’t expect it,” said Garodnick, “and they deserve clarification on what’s going on.”

Correction: The article was changed to reflect the fact that the pool of former tenants is the biggest, not the current tenants, and current tenants could see up to 100 percent of their damages.

New preschool opens at Gustavus Adolphus Church

Open Arms Director Misa Anderson in one of the new preschool’s classroom spaces (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Open Arms Director Misa Anderson in one of the new preschool’s classroom spaces (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel
With the number of young families on the rise in the city, Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church on East 22nd Street has opened its doors to Open Arms Preschool, a new ministry at the church, which is now accepting enrollment for a summer program for children 18 to 29 months.
The church previously had a senior center, which had offered programming for the last 40 years, but when the Stein Center opened on East 23rd Street in its new, permanent home, the administrators at Gustavus Adolphus saw less of a need for the services their center provided.
“The generation before us recognized that care for seniors was vital for the community and provided those services,” Pastor Chris Mietlowski said. “In the process of discerning the next step for our congregation, we noticed that families were not leaving the city and were instead staying here to raise their families so there is a growing need for early child care.”
The program in the summer is a playgroup-type experience targeting a younger age group than the usual preschool age, so the children are there for only a couple of days a week and the parents can stay throughout the classes. “We’re creating a place where parents or caregivers have a gentle separation to get kids ready for a real preschool setting so parents don’t feel like they’re ripping the band-aid off,” said Open Arms director Misa Anderson, who has more than 20 years of preschool teaching experience. “We want to create a lifelong love of learning so we want kids to have a positive first school experience with things like story time and music.”

A classroom at Open Arms (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

A classroom at Open Arms (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

The only religion in the curriculum is based around the holidays like Christmas and Easter and there are some Christian-based decorations up like a Noah’s Ark hanging in one of the classrooms, but most of the class time is focused on playgroups and other non-religious activities.
Mietlowski said that the space that used to be allocated for the seniors has been converted to modern classroom spaces with brand new equipment and furnishings. The renovations included a smaller and bigger classroom, which hold about six and 10 students, respectively.
Open Arms is currently open for enrollment for the summer program, which runs six weeks from June 30 to August 8. Mietlowski said that the dates have flexibility, though, since families aren’t always around for the whole summer, and families can instead sign up for the program for three weeks of their choosing. Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday schedule options are available.
He added that there’s also a plan for a program in the fall for slightly older children, ages two and three. The program will include enrichment classes such as cooking, music, yoga and sign language, which would be available to both the younger and older children.
Tuition for the full six weeks is $625 and for a three-week period, it’s $325.
The school is at 155 East 22nd Street and more information is available by contacting Anderson at openarmspreschool@gmail.com or (914) 806-3949.

Remembering Roy Goodman and more civilized days in Albany

Roy Goodman in a photo that ran in Town & Village in 1977

Roy Goodman in a photo that ran in Town & Village in 1977

By Sabina Mollot
On June 3, 2014, Roy Goodman, the Republican New York State senator who represented part of the East Side of Manhattan, including Stuyvesant Town, for 33 years, died at the age of 84.
According to his daughter Claire Pellegrini-Cloud, Goodman’s death at a hospital in Danbury, Connecticut, was most likely caused by pneumonia.
He had also, for around a decade, been battling Parkinson’s and relied on a wheelchair to get around. His death came as a surprise however, since he’d been active and was just returning home to Manhattan from a trip to see one of his six grandchildren graduate from Harvard. He also attended a number of other events at Harvard, his alma mater, recently, including an awards dinner. On the way home from the graduation trip, an aide noticed that Goodman’s hands were turning blue and called 911. Goodman was admitted to Danbury Hospital on Thursday night, but wound up taking a turn for the worse over the weekend.
“He was surrounded by family up until the last moment,” Pellegrini-Cloud said. “It was a peaceful death.”
Throughout his lengthy political career, Goodman was known for his socially liberal views. He was a supporter of women’s rights, from protection against domestic violence to the right to choose, as well as of LGBT rights and services for people with HIV/AIDS when the disease was just coming into public awareness. He also fought for tenant rights and affordability and was instrumental in the prevention of Riverwalk, a towering luxury development that would have cut off ST/PCV residents’ access to the waterfront and blocked their views of the river. While tackling the city’s fiscal crisis during the 1970s, he still pushed for continued funding of the arts. He also worked on city charter revision and ran the State Senate’s committee on investigations.
Though he left office over a decade ago, with his passing, former colleagues have been wistfully noting the official end to an era when Republicans and Democrats enjoyed a far less contentious — and far more productive — working relationship.
Since his departure from office in 2002, when he was succeeded by Liz Krueger, there have been no Republicans elected anywhere in Manhattan.

State Senator Roy Goodman (left) with Vincent Albano, chairman of the New York County Republican Committee, in a 1979 Town & Village photo

State Senator Roy Goodman (left) with Vincent Albano, chairman of the New York County Republican Committee, in a 1979 Town & Village photo

At that time, noted Pellegrini-Cloud, Goodman was disappointed at the sharp right turn his party had taken, and that “people couldn’t rise above personal vendettas to work together. He was very solution oriented.”
She added that this attitude extended to Goodman’s family life. When she was growing up, Goodman would make sure each of his three children, Claire, Randolph and Leslie, got equal airtime at the dinner table. When there were disagreements, “He would say, ‘Let’s not be so quick to judge that person. Let’s see it from their point of view,’” said Pellegrini-Cloud.
Meanwhile, she disagreed with a detail in a recent story in the New York Times, which first reported on Goodman’s passing, that said her father was seen by some as a snob.
“He was known for mixing it up with anyone,” she said. “Yeah he used flowery language, but he was a great believer that the average person could understand that. Why dumb it down?”
Steven Sanders, the Assemblyman who represented the ST/PCV area for 28 years (25 of those alongside Goodman) recalled working with the senator to fight Riverwalk as well of another development farther north in Tudor City. That Harry Helmsley project would have destroyed residents’ park space. Sanders, on the morning of his wedding day, heard that a bulldozer had come to the site, and promptly headed over there to join the tenants in forming a human chain. Goodman, meanwhile, managed to secure an order from a judge to stop work despite it being a weekend.
He also recalled how due to legislation sponsored by Goodman in the Senate and Sanders in the Assembly, the cost of major capital improvement rent increases (MCIs) for tenants was reduced.
“Since MCIs as we know are paid in perpetuity, the cumulative savings for tenants became hundreds of dollars in each year,” Sanders said. They also worked together with the owner of Waterside Plaza, Richard Ravitch, and the Waterside Tenants Association to create an affordable housing contract for tenants at the complex when its Mitchell-Lama contract expired in 2001.
He also recalled how back in the 1980s, he and Goodman, along with then Town & Village Publisher Charles Hagedorn and Bill Potter, then the general manager of Stuyvesant Town, would meet for lunch every few months. The spot was usually Capucines, a restaurant on Second Avenue at 19th Street that recently closed.
“It was social and an occasional discussion of some community issues,” said Sanders, who is now the only surviving member of that group. “Imagine that… Republicans and Democrats, and the representative of the landlord Met life along with the publisher of the Town & Village joining together as colleagues.”
But, added the former assemblyman, who left office eight years ago, “Roy and I come from a different time. That notion of governing seems to have been lost. Politics has been exceedingly contentious. It’s all about winning and losing. We had our tussles every two years when I supported my candidates and he supported his, but then we’d have a drink or lunch and we would do community work for our district. We will not see his like again.”
Krueger, whose first run for office was against Goodman, said she remembered her opponent’s humor when he ultimately defeated her.
“His graciousness and good humor were on full display from that campaign’s beginning to its end, when, victorious after a six-week recount, he jokingly dubbed himself ‘Landslide Goodman,’” she shared in a written statement last week.
According to a Times article, he had a similar attitude when he lost a mayoral race in 1977 to Ed Koch.

Roy Goodman (right) with Frank Scala in a 2006 campaign  flier for Scala’s Assembly run

Roy Goodman (right) with Frank Scala in a 2006 campaign flier for Scala’s Assembly run

Frank Scala, the president of the Vincent Albano Republican Club, was a friend of Goodman’s and had his endorsement when he ran an unsuccessful campaign for Assembly in 2006 during a special election.
This week, Scala pointed out that most people living in ST/PCV are unaware of Goodman’s involvement in the creation of Stuyvesant Cove Park a decade ago.
While still in office, he’d allocated $1.2 million for its construction. “If it wasn’t for Roy Goodman the park wouldn’t have been built,” said Scala.
Goodman had also encouraged Scala to revive the Albano Club after it had been inactive for years.
In 1981, Goodman became the Republican New York County Committee chair and remained in that position for 20 years.
After leaving office, he served as CEO for the United Nations Development Corporation and was a participant in a handful of organizations supporting the arts. Up until the time of his death he lived on the Upper East Side, where he grew up, the grandson of Israel Matz, founder of Ex-Lax.
In an interesting coincidence, Goodman’s death occurred within 24 hours of the time his wife of over 50 years, Barbara, died eight years ago.
On both days, Pellegrini-Cloud remembered there being loud, violent thunderstorms, and only after the more recent one, she spotted a rainbow.
“I like to think it was my dad’s stairway to heaven, going to join Mom,” she said. “It was incredible.”
Condolence visitation for Goodman was held on Sunday, June 15 from 6-8 p.m. at Frank E. Campbell, 1076 Madison Avenue at 81st Street. The funeral service was on Monday, June 16 at Temple Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue and 65th Street. The burial was private.