City exploring options to maintain affordability in Stuyvesant Town

Senator Chuck Schumer with other elected officials at a rally in Stuyvesant Town in 2010 (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Senator Chuck Schumer with other elected officials at a rally in Stuyvesant Town in 2010 (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
One month after CWCapital’s beginning of the foreclosure process of Stuyvesant Town, city officials as well as U.S. Senator Charles Schumer have announced ways they were trying to help tenants in maintaining affordability.
One possibility is offering a tax exemption in which the owner would commit to a 40-year agreement for affordability. That possibility, first reported in the New York Times, could preserve as many as 6,000 apartments for families of four earning between $65,000 and $135,000 a year. This is just one option, however.
A city official confirmed today that there are other government programs that could be explored and there have been good faith discussions with CWCapital as well as Council Member Dan Garodnick in an effort to create more transparency going forward. CWCapital’s decision last week to take ownership of the property is being seen as an opportunity to take the time to explore options in maintaining affordability. More specifically, the idea is to avoid a repeat situation of the 2006 sale to Tishman Speyer when tenant affordability wasn’t even a factor. Because any transaction would be considered private, the city has some but not limitless sway on the outcome and currently, the administration is trying to gauge what tenants’ rents and income levels are to determine what their needs are.
Meanwhile, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who provided crucial mortgage financing in the Tishman Speyer sale have committed to not financing a deal that would be “unacceptable to tenants and the city,” the Times quoted Schumer as saying.
In response, Mayor de Blasio called this a “positive step.”
In a written statement, he added, “We are aggressively using all the levers we have at our disposal to protect affordability at Stuy Town. Senator Schumer has been a forceful leader in pushing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make sure the city and tenants have a better shot at shaping this outcome and protecting this community for middle class New Yorkers.”
The administration has also been quick to note, however, that while most buyers would require help from Fannie and Freddie for such a large transaction, there are others that could possibly make a deal without those agencies’ financing.
Still, the news of their cooperation has been greeted with enthusiasm by the Tenants Association, which still plans to hold a rally in front of City Hall on Friday at 10 a.m. The rally will be attended by elected officials, including Schumer.
Susan Steinberg, chair of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, said the news left the TA “very encouraged. Our voices have been heard and our advocacy on behalf of STPCV tenants is bearing fruit. The need to maintain STPCV as a place where ‘families of moderate means might live in health, comfort and dignity’ is important to New York City, and beyond. Middle class affordability can’t become a thing of the past. We welcome the support and participation of our state and local electeds in helping us protect our homes.”
Garodnick, along with dozens of other local city, state and federal politicians had sent a letter to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Finance Agency and Housing and Urban Development (HID) on June 10 in an effort to get Fannie and Freddie to not invest in deals that put affordable housing at risk.
Today, he praised the commitment made by Fannie and Freddie.
“This commitment from Fannie and Freddie will help us cut off the oxygen to another predatory deal here,” said Garodnick.

Opinion: In praise of Roy Goodman

Submitted By Former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

Thinking of Senator Roy Goodman makes me smile. This in spite of the sadness I feel at his passing at age 84.

Roy Goodman was truly the last of his kind. A New York State Republican with moderate social leanings and a sense of humor! He was exceedingly intelligent, funny and ready with a wry quip. He was always a gentleman and interested in getting things done for this community more than grandstanding. He was my partner in the state legislature for 25 years of his 34 years in the State Senate. He was a great storyteller and was known to break out in song at political functions or social gatherings.

But what I remember most about Roy Goodman was the serious work we did together. Although He a Republican and I a Democrat we worked cooperatively in common purpose for all but a few weeks before an election. Then we pursued our partisan battles. But when the smoke cleared from the campaign season, we were back to work attending to our shared responsibility… the community of Manhattan’s East Side.

Roy Goodman’s efforts and imprints are permanent. They survive his life. If you need a tranquil moment take a walk along the East River water front park called Stuy Cove. The gargantuan luxury housing towers that were proposed for that very same location would have blighted this community. But they never were built, in part because of Roy Goodman’s efforts. Instead we have a wonderful open airy space to enjoy and find rest and relaxation instead of dense fortress like buildings blocking out sunlight. We can enjoy the natural beauty and contours of the shoreline and its magnificent view. When you stroll along the way, occasionally think of Roy Goodman.

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Editorial: The silence is deafening

UPDATE: Following Town & Village’s Wednesday afternoon press time, the de Blasio administration has discussed options being explored in the effort to keep Stuyvesant Town affordable with the press.

Following weeks of silence regarding a reported $4.7 billion bid being prepared by Fortress, CWCapital made a decision to take ownership of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village itself. This was a defensive move, and it remains to be seen how long this arrangement will last. (The company did not respond to a request for comment on that one.)

Council Member Dan Garodnick said last week he’s seeing this as an opportunity for tenants to buy some time to consider the next moves, but so far CW hasn’t even given a hint as to whether a tenant-led bid is something that will ever be considered. Also mum is the mayor who, while still a candidate, crowed at Stuy Town that “over my dead body will this place be privatized.”

The de Blasio administration has since ignored multiple requests by T&V on what the mayor’s thoughts are on the now-canceled foreclosure sale as well as the Tenants Association’s plan to rally on Friday, the 13th of June, over concerns about the future. While Garodnick has said he’s gotten the sense the mayor’s office is trying to be helpful to tenants, considering de Blasio’s declarations on the campaign trail, there really shouldn’t be any question as to whether or not he should get involved in the fight for continued affordability in the complex. Lip service isn’t enough and yet right now there isn’t even any of that. The silence is deafening.

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Letter to the Editor, June 12

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Gashouse Gang requests your presence

Re: “Remembering another Gashouse Gang,” letter, T&V, June 5, by Richard Kronish

Dear Richard Kronish,

I also enjoyed the T&V’s article on our PSLL Junior team Gashouse Gang (May 29). It was timely, locally relevant, and best of all about youth baseball.

Reading your letter I sensed it stirred your passion for the game as well. Anybody who can recall the St. Louis Cardinal team who won the 1934 World Series nicknamed “The Gashouse Gang” it is huge baseball fan in my book.

With that said, my team would like you to invite you to come sit on our bench and help coach the team for one game.

The game we have in mind is: Monday, June 16th 5:30 p.m. at Con Ed Field Avenue C and 16th Street. It is our final game of the regular season vs. the Lightning, our interleague rival.

Hope to see you at the game!

Tim McCann
Manager
Gashouse Gang

Union Square Park, a place to play

Children’s yoga classes are part of the Summer in the Square free event series that begins on Thursday, June 12. (Photo courtesy of the Union Square Partnership)

Children’s yoga classes are part of the Summer in the Square free event series that begins on Thursday, June 12. (Photo courtesy of the Union Square Partnership)

Playground repaired, WiFi increased and restaurant opened

By Sabina Mollot

Fitness classes are part of the Summer in the Square program. (Photo courtesy of Union Square Partnership)

Fitness classes are part of the Summer in the Square program. (Photo courtesy of the Union Square Partnership)

Recently, the playground at the north end of Union Square Park, known as “Evelyn’s Playground,” got a bit of a makeover. A new soft surface replaced the one that had been there since it opened and had undergone much wear and tear. Along with heavy use, another destructive factor, which turned the spongy ground covering into Swiss cheese was high heeled shoes. At the newly opened playground, there are no heels allowed.
Other recent improvements to the park include increasing the free public WiFi network capacity eight-fold to accommodate more users and the return of solar-powered cell phone charging stations at three of the sitting areas. Then of course, there’s the controversial restaurant inside the park’s pavilion, fittingly named The Pavilion. It finally opened for business on May 1 after community activists lost a court battle arguing such a commercial enterprise didn’t belong on park grounds.
Jennifer Falk, the executive director of the Union Square Partnership, recently spoke with Town & Village about the restaurant, the playground improvements and other springtime work aimed at improving the Union Square district.

Evelyn’s Playground as it appeared when the surface was recently repaired (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Evelyn’s Playground as it appeared when the surface was recently repaired (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

On the new surface for Evelyn’s Playground, Falk said since the 15,000 square foot play space opened in December, 2009, replacing two smaller ones, “We’ve had an enormous amount of foot traffic.”
The former playgrounds, she pointed out, only totaled 5,000 square feet and these days more of the playground’s visitors come from further away just to enjoy it. It wasn’t just the size but the improved rides that have brought in more kids and the new safety surface, instead of the old asphalt, has been a hit with parents.
The funds to make the recent round of improvements, which had a pricetag of $175,000, were raised by the USP. In total, close to $350,000 was raised and some of that money will also go towards the park’s annual series of free programming, Summer in the Square.
As always the Thursday series, kicking off this year today, June 12, will include kids’ events, fitness and dance classes and low-key lunchtime jazz concerts. On June 12, things start early with “Wake up Yoga” at 7 a.m. Yoga storytime for kids starts at 10 a.m. With the Gazillion Bubble Show at 10:30 a.m. Things will wind down at 1 p.m. after jazz with students from The New School until the evening. (In response to feedback from a recent survey, the USP has expanded the SITS schedule to offer additional fitness classes in the evenings.) There will be a return of past years’ boot camp, running club and evening yoga.
As far as the new restaurant is concerned, Falk declined to comment on the controversy that’s surrounded its opening for close to a decade, other than to say she didn’t think the fact that alcohol is now served there was inappropriate for the setting. Because, she reasoned, “the food is much more of what’s focused on.”

The Pavilion restaurant (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The Pavilion restaurant (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Currently, the restaurant is just open for dinner but hours are expected to expand soon to include lunch and eventually breakfast. Price wise, it’s not the Tavern on the Green activists feared, but it’s no Shake Shack either. The menu now includes dishes such as hanger steak ($23.50), kale caesar salad ($11.95), short rib ravioli ($17.50) and oysters ($3 a piece) with ingredients bought from the park’s greenmarket.
Also among the arguments against the restaurant by the Union Square Community Coalition and other critics was that the Pavilion should be used for events, preferably for children, rather than a commercial enterprise. However, even with a business in the space, the kiddies haven’t been forgotten completely as now there’s Tuesdays @ The Pavilion, a free, weekly crafts and story time event from 3-5 p.m. Veterans also had their day at The Pavilion recently when the restaurant and the USP sponsored a luncheon for former servicemen and women in celebration of Memorial Day. The event was also in recognition of the one-year anniversary of the Manhattan VA Medical Center reopening after Hurricane Sandy. “The Partnership hopes to make this an annual event to continue to connect our local businesses with community organizations,” the USP wrote in a recent blog post.
The park has also recently undergone landscaping work, with the lawns reopening for picnickers and sunbathers.
For a schedule of events taking place throughout the summer, visit unionsquarenyc.org.