Letters to the Editor, Feb. 5

Feb5 Toon coyote gray

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

If landlords’ costs are inflated, roll back the rents

Re: Bill would change how RGB calculates landlords’ costs,” T&V, Jan. 29

To the Editor:

Okay, let’s see if I got this right. Since the 1990s the Giuliani/Bloomberg/de Blasio administration’s hand-picked, nine-member Rent Guidelines Boards have voted 5-4 in favor of rent increases every year. Now in 2015 we learn that the method used to determine and calculate these rent increases, “the Price Index of Operations Costs (PIOC), does not accurately reflect the costs and revenues accrued by landlords, causing unfair increases for tenants” and “overestimates landlord’s expenses by as much as one third and doesn’t measure income” at all.

Does this mean that for over 20 years the mayor-appointed RGBs gave unfair annual rent increases to landlords based on overestimating their expenses by 33 percent and not including their income into the calculation at all? If so, the only honest thing for the city to do would be to roll back those unfair rent increases for the past 20 years. But “Honesty is the best policy” is not the policy of New York politicians so another way to correct this injustice is needed.

I’m not surprised that it took over 20 years for one lone City Council member out of hundreds to uncover this devious trickery, make it public and introduce a bill that “would change how RGB calculates landlords’ costs.” What were the other hundred Council members doing for the past 20 years? Perhaps writing “Thank You!” notes to their constituents in the real estate industry for campaign contributions? Certainly not working to make the dream of affordable housing for rent-stabilized tenants a reality.

T&V reports that one RGB member cheering “What do we want? Rent freeze!” has “urged the mayor to pass the legislation because of the need for accurate data for rent stabilized tenants.” I say NO! We don’t need no stinkin’ band aids! What we need is major surgery. Since tenants have been paying more rent than legally required for over 20 years due to the city RGB’s devious, landlord-friendly methods of calculation, don’t you think tenants deserve something to make up for over 20 years of injustice?

I suggest that the mayor appoint an RGB that will be as friendly to tenants as it has been to landlords, one that will vote 5-4 for a rent freeze every year. That’s the only just thing to do, since I doubt the city is going to roll back those increases. Anything less would make this news just another joke about the various ways that New York politicians pay back their campaign contributors.

“Please don’t be offended if I preach to you awhile/Tears are out of place in eyes that were meant to smile.” Now join me in singing, “Look for the Sheldon Silver lining!”

John Cappelletti, ST

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Police Watch: Man arrested for attempted murder, Men wanted for AuH2O robbery

Police arrested Brian Quattrocchi, 37, for attempted murder and assault inside Bellevue Hospital at 462 First Avenue last Tuesday at 10 a.m. On January 27 at 12:30 a.m., Quattrocchi allegedly stabbed a woman, who police said was his ex-girlfriend, three times with a knife, causing serious physical injury. The incident took place in the victim’s apartment in the Lower East Side and the New York Post reported that an officer shot Quattrocchi after using a stun gun, which had failed to stop him.
Police said that he also punched the victim in the face in a previous incident on January 17 at 2:40 p.m., causing a cut and redness to his lower lip.
Quattrocchi was also charged with possession of a weapon.

Feb5 police suspect 2 Feb5 police suspect 1POLICE LOOKING FOR ROBBERY SUSPECTS
Police are asking for the public’s assistance in identifying and locating two suspects (pictured to the right) who are wanted for robbing a store in the East Village on Wednesday, January 21. The two suspects entered the Goldwater thrift shop (AuH20) at 84 East 7th Street around 5:30 p.m. and demanded cash from an employee. The employee complied and handed one of the suspects $240 while the other suspect then waited outside the store. Both suspects fled the location and the victim was unharmed.
The suspects are described as two black men in their late 20’s, approximately 5’8” tall and weighing 180 lbs. One suspect was wearing a grey hoodie and had a knife, and the other suspect who remained outside was wearing a black jacket. Anyone with information in regard to this incident 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 nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting TIP577 and their tips to 274637 (CRIMES). All calls are strictly confidential.

Police made three drug-related arrests in front of the McDonald’s at 39 Union Square West last Saturday at 6:06 p.m. Jason Hawk, 36, was arrested for intent to sell a controlled substance, burglar’s tools and possession of a controlled substance. Angela Adkins, also 36, was charged with possession of a controlled substance. Ivo Bogdamovic, 44, was arrested for sale of a controlled substance, resisting arrest and possession of a controlled substance.
Police said that Hawk was in possession of a controlled substance that he was intending to sell and after searching him found that he was allegedly in possession of controlled substances, including suboxone strips and Xanax pills, as well as burglar’s tools.
Bogdamovic was allegedly selling the drugs to someone who wasn’t arrested and when an officer approached him, police said that he flailed his arms to prevent being arrested. He also allegedly tried to get rid of the goods.
Adkins was allegedly in possession of a controlled substance but police did not specify what the substance was.

Police arrested 21-year-old Daniel Corrigan for criminal mischief and assault in front of 526 East 20th Street last Sunday at 3:52 a.m. The victim told police that she got into a fight with Corrigan and he allegedly threw her phone to the ground, causing it to break. Police said that he also pushed her.

William Rolon, 36, was arrested for theft of services and trespassing at the corner of First Avenue and East 14th Street last Wednesday at 1:15 p.m. Rolon allegedly crawled under the turnstile at the First Avenue L station without paying the fare. Police said that Rolon is on parole for attempted murder.

Police arrested Shaheem Brown, 49, for an unclassified misdemeanor in front of 109 East 16th Street last Thursday at 9:58 a.m. Brown was allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes.

Police arrested 54-year-old Thomas Kim for forgery in front of 27 West 27th Street last Thursday at 1:05 p.m. Police said that Kim was displaying 229 hats with the Gucci trademark for $2, which were determined to be counterfeit.

Police arrested 51-year-old Ronald Wilmore for petit larceny inside the Hotel Kenmore, an SRO building on East 23rd Street, last Wednesday at 10 a.m. Wilmore had allegedly swiped cash from a woman’s bag.

Police arrested 35-year-old Richard Ditommaso for intoxicated driving last Monday at 12:35 a.m. at the corner of East 25th Street and First Avenue. Police said that he was pulled over for a suspended registration and when the officer approached his car, Ditommasso allegedly smelled like alcohol and had bloodshot, watery eyes. There was also the scent of alleged marijuana coming from inside the car and from Ditommaso’s clothing. Police said that he was unsteady on his feet when he got out of the car and his face was flush. There was allegedly a Maker’s Mark whiskey bottle in the back seat of the vehicle. He blew a .082 on a Breathalyzer test, police said.

Police arrested 53-year-old Deborah Barksdale for possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a controlled substance last Thursday at 9:10 p.m. inside 14 East 28th Street. In pursuant to a search warrant, police said that Barksdale was in possession of a controlled substance and narcotic paraphernalia.

Police arrested 37-year-old Luis Martinez for assault and endangering the welfare of a child inside 224 East 28th Street last Thursday at 11:30 p.m. Police said that Martinez struck the victim with a belt, causing bruising and swelling to the legs and buttocks.

Police arrested Nickossi Cole for an unclassified violation of New York State laws inside the Union Square subway station last Friday at 10 a.m. Cole allegedly solicited at least eight people to swipe him into the subway system, using a hand gesture as well as blocking pedestrian traffic in the turnstile area.

Police arrested Nihar Oza, 49, for burglar’s tools, petit larceny, criminal mischief and possession of stolen property in front of 641 Sixth Avenue last Friday at 9:56 p.m. Oza was allegedly attempting to use a circular saw to cut a lock securing a bike that didn’t belong to him on a bicycle rack. When he saw the officer approaching him, he started to walk away. Oza was also allegedly in possession of bolt cutters.

Police on lookout for man who slashed victims with box-cutter in Union Square

Suspect behind attacks on subway and street

Suspect of attacks on subway and street

Police are looking for a box-cutter wielding thug who they say attacked four people on the subway and on the street early Wednesday morning.

The pattern began at around 1:20 a.m. when two men approached a 35-year-old man on a northbound 4 train at Broadway/Lafayette. One of them punched the straphanger in the face with the exposed blade of a box cutter in his hand, which cut the victim’s cheek, police said. The attacker and victim both stayed on the train until Union Square and 14th Street, where they both got out.

As the attacker, who’s described as black and heavyset, fled the station, he slapped a 20-year-old woman on the right side of her face.

He then made his way up the stairs near the Food Emporium, where a 46-year-old man was standing by the elevator. He then asked the other man for $2, and when he refused, the attacker slashed him on the right side of his face. He then crossed 14th Street where a 59-year-old man was waiting for the M14 bus. That man was then asked for a dollar, and when he refused, he was also slashed on the right side of his face, police said. The attacker then fled the location.

All victims were taken to Bellevue Hospital in stable condition. The investigation in ongoing.

The suspected attacker was wearing a white hooded sweatshirt, black vest, blue jeans and red sneakers.

VA Medical Center building flood wall

Rendering of the sea wall, designed by HDR

Rendering of the sea wall, designed by HDR

By Sabina Mollot

When the wrath of Hurricane Sandy sent 14 feet of river water gushing through the streets on Manhattan’s East Side, one of the buildings to get damaged the most heavily was the VA Medical Center. As a result of the water damage, the federal facility remained closed for the next six months.

But soon, as part of a $207 million hurricane repair and restoration project, the building will be protected from future flooding thanks to a wall that will be 14.5 feet tall at its highest point.

Preparations for the project have already begun with the placement of temporary fencing on the east side of the building by the new Asser Levy Playground and the closing of a parking lane on the north side of the property at 25th Street.

Cement safety barriers will be going up this week to protect anyone in the vicinity of construction, with the heavy equipment for digging expected to be brought to the site in several weeks.

Temporary fence where sea wall will be built (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Temporary fence on hospital’s east side where flood wall will be built (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The sea wall or “floodwall protection system,” as the hospital is referring to it, is expected to be completed in October, according to Mike Bozeman, the program manager of major projects at the VA’s Manhattan campus. It will include floodgates, a secant wall providing seepage cutoff, internal stormwater piping and storage, utility modifications and internal drainage area pump stations. There will be some demolition required for the project which will include the removal of fencing, paving, sidewalks, utilities, landscaping walls and “other designated site features.”

Bozeman mentioned these details and others in an email to Janet Handal, the president of the Waterside Tenants Association, last week. This was after she reached out to the hospital with a host of questions when curious neighbors began noticing that areas were being fenced off. Seeing an official looking sign at 25th Street that declared there was no parking allowed, Handal at first contacted the DOT, where initially, “Nobody knew anything about it.” With a bit more digging though, she learned that it was all for the VA’s flood wall.

Naturally, Handal’s concerns, along with the initial lack of communication from the hospital, were the usual neighborhood worries related to any major construction project, specifically excess noise and debris. Handal said she also wondered about the aesthetics of the wall, which she described as “fortress-like” after seeing the rendering, along with the expected removal of trees.

The height of the wall, which was designed by a firm called HDR, will vary with the highest point being at the Asser Levy Playground. Although the wall will be 14.5 feet high it will appear to be 11.5 feet high due to the ground there being three feet elevated from the hospital. The wall will stretch around the hospital’s east side and go west three quarters of the block towards First Avenue on 23rd Street and the entire length of the block towards First Avenue on the 25th Street side. The wall will slope downwards towards First Avenue to about eight feet from the ground. At 23rd Street it will vary from 11 feet high to about four feet high at the hospital entrance to match the existing wall.

The wall will also vary in thickness from eight inches to one foot and two inches though since it’s on VA property, it’s not expected to reduce the width of the surrounding sidewalk, Bozeman said.

Funding for the wall was provided by federal allocations, the VA’s associate director of finance and information management, Jodie Jackson, said on Monday. Out of the $207 million that was given to the hospital, $23,830,000 is going towards the wall.

Other restoration and improvement projects either ongoing or planned include moving the hospital’s generators to a higher floor, renovation of the entire ground floor and the building of a new sterilization processing area. Currently, the sterilization unit sits in a structure on the parking lot that’s connected to the hospital.

“It’s not convenient,” said Jackson of the parking lot location. “We’re anxious to get the renovations done so we can go back to normal. It’s been difficult, but our staff has adjusted and pulled through to be able to provide for our veterans.”

As for the flood wall in particular, Jackson said the hospital’s administration, still smarting from the months-long closure, is “very anxious” to see that work get started.

In the meantime, the hospital is finalizing details such as a contract for temporary nearby parking for its employees and figuring out what impacts there may be on anyone using the neighboring playground.

“I do feel it’s going to have some effect on that area,” said Jackson. “I don’t know how much or when. But I do suspect it will impact that park.”

Jackson admitted that at this time, she doesn’t know how much noise the project will create but doesn’t expect that any after-hours variances will be requested, with the bulk of the work being done during the day.

With regards to debris, an air assessment test was done in 2013, and according to Bozeman, no significant effect on the environment is expected. He added that the contractors, of Bronx-based firm Civetta, are expected to implement a dust control plan and “meet all federal, state, and local regulations with regard to dust and noise control.”

Claudie Benjamin, a hospital spokesperson, added that “every effort will be made to minimize the impact on the community and to have the work done during daytime hours.”

A representative from the hospital was scheduled to speak about the project at a Community Board 6 Transportation Committee meeting on Monday evening, but that was postponed due to weather. The meeting will instead take place on Monday, February 9 at 7 p.m. at NYU Langone Medical Center, 550 First Avenue, Room 109.

Sandro Sherrod, chair of CB6, said the board will be “working closely” with the VA on the project’s development.

“Resiliency has become a major priority for our community and we are pleased that the VA Medical Center, an institution that is so important to our city’s veterans, is taking the important steps needed to harden the facility from adverse weather,” Sherrod said. ” This is also a site that abuts our newly opened Asser Levy Park and Hunter College’s Brookdale campus that will soon undergo a transformation. We are committed to working closely with the VA to make sure that any flood mitigation doesn’t detract from all the effort in improvements to this area to make it better looking and more usable for all.”

The Soapbox: Polystyrene food ware can cause serious health risks

Town & Village is proud to present “The Soapbox,” a column featuring a different voice from the neighborhood each week (space providing). All are welcome to submit columns on the topic of the author’s choice, preferably not longer than 800 words, to editor@townvillage.net.

By Michelle Deal Winfield

After reading that New York City has decided to ban polystyrene, I decided to lend my voice to the discussion. I will focus on the impact of polystyrene on human health.

Years ago, my husband was provided a polystyrene cup with hot tea and lemon. As the lemon wedge rested on the side of the cup, a hole visibly appeared. That was the first time my family and I became aware of the possible hazards of polystyrene products. That was in 1984.

Migration of Styrene occurs when foods containing acids, fat and/or alcohol, leech into the foods, more quickly when foods or drinks are hot.

Hospitals use polystyrene products. Inpatients in hospitals do not have a choice. Some of the patients are our most vulnerable populations in our community. When food is served on polystyrene products, the hazardous chemicals may cause the following health problems:

Lack of concentration
Difficulty sleeping
Mucous membrane and eye irritation
Hearing loss

These symptoms are often attributed to seniors.

Styrene is a volatile organic compound (VOC). The damage is cumulative.

In June 11, 2011, the U.S. federal government placed polystyrene on their “Cancer Risk list.” Similarly, in the 1990s hospitals stopped using latex gloves because irritations to people were discovered. Hospital boards moved ahead of the curve to protect their patients.

Therefore, I am calling on all hospitals, nursing facilities and senior centers to stand tall and immediately initiate policies to rid their closets and storerooms of polystyrene food service ware. Furthermore, I urge New York City not to grant hospitals, nursing facilities and senior centers exemptions from the policy to ban polystyrene products. I too, welcome the ban on foam.

Michelle Deal Winfield, is a community activist and resident of East Midtown Plaza.

Bill would change how RGB calculates landlords’ costs

Rent Guidelines Board tenant members Sheila Garcia and Harvey Epstein (at podium) with Council Member Corey Johnson (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Rent Guidelines Board tenant members Sheila Garcia and Harvey Epstein (at podium) with Council Member Corey Johnson (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The City Council member representing Greenwich Village, Corey Johnson, has called on the mayor to reform the Rent Guidelines Board and eliminate the price index from the calculations used to determine the annual rent adjustments for stabilized tenants. Elected officials and tenant advocates joined Johnson at City Hall last Thursday to support his legislation on the matter because they say that the Price Index of Operating Costs (PIOC) does not accurately reflect the costs and revenues accrued by landlords, causing unfair increases for tenants.

The price index doesn’t measure what owners actually spend running buildings but instead estimates their costs based on changes in prices for goods and services, like utilities, without taking changes into account, like the weather. The price index also doesn’t measure any of the income received on the properties.

“The PIOC overestimates landlords’ expenses by as much as one third and doesn’t measure income,” Johnson said. “Tenants deserve a fair shot. The 2.5 million rent-stabilized tenants in New York deserve a metric that accounts for actual income and expenses.”

Mike McKee of TenantsPAC said that the price index study is “an enormous amount of work” and that there is nothing in the law that requires the board to use the data from the study in their decision.

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