Editorial: The virtues of experience

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.

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3 thoughts on “Editorial: The virtues of experience

  1. Assemblyman Sanders,

    I think you congratulate people in your column far too much. 10 years ago, ST/PCV offered about 11K units which were affordable. Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke of more housing for the middle class. Instead a deal was made in which half of the apartments in questions are presently market rate and the residents here have been given a promise that the other half will remain rent stabilized for 20 years.

    Sir, two decades go by so quickly… So we will gain no new affordable apartments as we have lost about 5K at this time and the remainder in 20 years.

    So, where is the sting of victory?

  2. Also, no mention of the fact that much of the property is a noisy, nasty dorm. We have apartments that are chopped up into cubicles, housing several unrelated persons (in violation of City Code) and a revolving door population of room mates, bffs, and crash pad guests. The TA and Garodnick have done nothing to address this situation. Also, bear in mind that the TA and Garodnick were complicit in the destruction of many beautiful, healthy trees and the digging up of toxic soil to enable to construction of management’s hideous bunker. The TA and Garodnick never went to bat for the tenants of the affected buildings whose lives and health were negatively impacted by the very long period of construction. The TA and Garodnick have never protested the cutting down of so many beautiful shade trees and the destruction of the Oval tree park in order to make room for shitty concerts that totally destroy the peace and quiet of the homes of those who live near the Oval.

    If Garodnick and the TA are our friends, then we don’t need enemies.

  3. I’m tired of politicians past and present spinning this deal for some type of gain.

    So here’s a better press release: “Today, we acknowledge that the rent laws in place to protect affordable housing stock do not work. We acknowledge that more than 6,000 Stuyvesant Town units are no longer affordable to the middle class. We acknowledge that the best we could do is offer the new owner incentives, both cash and development rights transfers. And in return for these incentives, we acknowledge that for the next 20 years, we will allow the new landlord to rent these apartments, upon vacancy, to families earning 1.65 times the median income. We acknowledge that our term ‘affordable’ may not be your definition, but who cares. We can spin it to our political advantage. At the end of the 20 year term, each and every one of you needs to packs your bags and leave.”

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