By Former Assemblyman Steven Sanders
With all the bombastic declarations of the many candidates running for President, and the electorate seemingly infatuated with political novices with little or no experience in government, we are reminded just this week why an experienced, practiced and steady hand in government is important.
The matter of the sale of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village as reported in the New York Times and Town & Village is very instructive as it is very significant.
After the unwise sale by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company to Tishman Speyer nearly ten years ago, which quickly unraveled and ultimately imploded, this community has been roiled in uncertainty and instability. At times there was near panic on the part of many tenants who were being threatened with eviction and attempts by outside suitors to convince tenants to buy their apartments at prices that were either unknown or unreliable.
The agreement announced by the city with the Blackstone Group for it to take ownership of this community is a deal that will both preserve the status of all currently rent-stabilized tenants and reserve nearly half of the total apartments at affordable housing levels for the foreseeable future. The deal also precludes any new building on the expansive green areas of Stuyvesant Town which makes this community so unique in our urban setting.
I would argue that given the realities of the housing market and the proclivities of developers, this is about as good an agreement, imperfect as it may be, for current and prospective tenants that could have been achieved.
But without the steady hand of City Councilman Dan Garodnick as well as other public officials, and the tenacious efforts of the Tenants Association led for so many years by Al Doyle, John Marsh and now Susan Steinberg, such a good plan for the future would not have been possible. These people are not novices. Dan Garodnick is among the most capable public officials in all of the City. He calmly and expertly helped to navigate this community through the ups and downs of the past ten years. He resisted quick fixes and brought an intelligence and understanding to the negotiations with the city and the array of temporary owners. He has been rock solid. A maturity that only comes from experience in government.
And our tenant leaders were veterans of so many housing battles that they were prepared to deal with what seemed to be an endless procession of crisis. They held countless community forums and distributed hundreds of flyers to tenants throughout the years to provide information and to organize. There were some prospective buyers that wanted to divide and conquer our community pitting market rate tenants against the remaining rent stabilized ones. But the Tenants Association kept the community together, understanding that in unity there is strength. Once again experience really mattered.
The news of this week may not be the last chapter in the saga of the Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper community. More issues undoubtedly lie ahead. I don’t know what they will be, but I am sure they will arise. I am also certain that it will be the experienced leaders of our community that will successfully meet those challenges.
Those in the national electorate who are so disenchanted with government and yearn for non-politicians to lead our country through its troubled waters should take note of what only dedicated and experienced men and women in government can do.
If New York’s own Donald Trump, a developer himself, did not have the imagination, interest or experience to create this plan to save housing affordability right in his own backyard, what makes anyone think that he can successfully tackle the intricate and complex problems of the world with his untried governing experience?
What else does he and other such novice candidates have to offer besides their outrageous rhetoric and outlandish promises? Would anyone hire a surgeon or pilot with such credentials? Think about it.