Preservationists say it’s too late for landmarking of Union Square Park

Union Square Park on a recent afternoon (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Union Square Park on a recent afternoon (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

As the Landmarks Preservation Commission began addressing decades worth of backlog last Thursday, representatives for preservation groups expressed surprising opposition to the designation of Union Square Park as a city scenic landmark.

Jack Taylor, speaking on behalf of the Union Square Community Coalition, and Kelly Carroll of the Historic Districts Council opposed the proposed landmarking.

Taylor said in his testimony that landmarking the park as it is today would be a “historical travesty” and he noted that the idea would have had much more support if the LPC had followed through with the landmarking after a public hearing in 1977.

Since then, though, the park has been modified to the point that Taylor said it doesn’t resemble the location of various historical events, including the first Labor Day that was celebrated there in 1882. He said that in 2005, there was a deliberate effort on the part of the city and then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg that drastically changed the nature of the north plaza.

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Muggers attacking victims, snatching phones and cash

Robbery suspects (via NYPD)

Robbery suspects (via NYPD)

By Sabina Mollot

Police are hunting a pair of violent muggers who’ve so far struck three times in two days, attacking victims and snatching cash and cell phones. One of the attacks happened near Stuyvesant Town.

The string of robberies started on Friday, November 6, when two men approached a 24-year-old man in the elevator of his apartment building on 18th Street. The suspects hit him repeatedly with a blunt object in the face, head, and neck. Then, they stole $200 in cash from the victim and fled. The victim was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.

On Saturday, November 7 at 1 a.m., the suspects approached the 36-year-old man as he was walking in front of 346 East 20th Street, west of First Avenue. One of the suspects repeatedly struck the victim, causing injuries to his face, both hands, as well as his right elbow and right knee. The attackers then swiped the victim’s Samsung cell phone and ran off.

An hour later, the suspects approached a man and woman as they were walking together on 21st Street.

One suspect simulated a weapon at the victims, a 30-year-old man and 35-year-old woman, before snatching an iPhone 6 and multiple credit and debit cards from them.

Police declined to share the avenues the first and third incidents took place, because the locations are the victims’ addresses. However, both incidents happened on the West Side.

The suspects are described as being black, between 18 and 25 years old and between 5 ft. 8 ins. and 5 ft. 10 ins. tall. One was last seen wearing all black. The other was last seen wearing a blue Adidas hooded sweatshirt.

Anyone with information in regards to these incidents 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 www.crimestoppers.com or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

BREAKING: Baby found dead in Stuy Town building

By Sabina Mollot

A two-month-old baby girl was found dead at 455 East 14th Street this morning, police said.

It was at 4:42 a.m. when police arrived at the building to find the infant unconscious and unresponsive. An FDNY spokesperson said the baby was in cardiac arrest.

She was then taken to Mount Sinai Beth Israel where she was pronounced dead. The Medical Examiner will determine the cause of death and the investigation is ongoing.

Police told T&V it does not look suspicious but the investigation is ongoing. The girl’s identity is pending family notification.

Stuy Town author delves into history of Gramercy Park and Union Square

 

Alfred Pommer in Gramercy Park (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Alfred Pommer in Gramercy Park (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Stuyvesant Town resident Alfred Pommer, who’s been leading historical walking tours of various Manhattan neighborhoods for over 25 years, has released a new book about two neighborhoods with particularly rich but different histories — Gramercy Park and Union Square. Pommer’s wife Joyce is the co-author of the book, Exploring Gramercy Park and Union Square ($22, paperpack, The History Press), which was released on October 26.

Together, the couple has also written another book, Exploring Manhattan’s Murray Hill, and Pommer has previously written two other neighborhood history books, Exploring New York’s SoHo and Exploring the Original West Village.

On his latest venture, Pommer said he had initially pitched the idea to his publisher of writing only about Gramercy Park, but was then asked to throw the adjacent neighborhood into the mix.

“I said sure,” said Pommer, who was intrigued by the idea of side-by-side profiles of a neighborhood known for its exclusivity as well as one known for being the pulpit of the masses.

“You have two different neighborhoods in Manhattan that have distinctively different heritages,” he said. “Union Square represents the working class, the common people, while Gramercy Park is much more elite and wealthy, and like many neighborhoods in Manhattan, they’re a block apart.”

The book delves into the past of each community, with Gramercy Park always having been known for its wealthy residents but also those who were creatively gifted.

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Two ST buildings left with no gas due to leak

By Sabina Mollot

Since October 31, a gas leak at 272 and 274 First Avenue has left residents without gas in their buildings. The laundry room has been out of use as well since then.

In a flyer that was posted by CompassRock on November 4, management explained that the shutdown was done by Con Ed so emergency repairs could be conducted on the main gas line.

The note to residents went on to say management was working with the utility to ensure that gas would be restored “as safely and as quickly as possible.”

However, the memo also said that gas isn’t expected to be turned on again until Con Ed approves each apartment line after repairs.

Sidney Alvarez, a spokesperson for Con Ed, said on the 31st, the utility had been called about a gas odor and upon arrival, inspectors found that there was a gas leak on the extension service traced to a gas meter room.

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Blackstone surveys tenants on concerns

Residents tell T&V safety, maintenance should be management’s priorities

Blackstone’s Nadeem Meghji, pictured with tenants at last month’s press conference announcing the sale of Stuyvesant Town, said the owner has been asked about students more than any other subject. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Blackstone’s Nadeem Meghji, pictured with tenants at last month’s press conference announcing the sale of Stuyvesant Town, said the owner has been asked about students more than any other subject. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Following Blackstone’s commitment to make Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village more conducive to families and longterm tenants, a rep for the new owner told Town & Village that steps were being taken to address tenants’ concerns about student apartments and noisy neighbors.

Blackstone doesn’t actually know how many students are living in ST/PCV altogether, since that isn’t information the owner collects, but a spokesperson for Blackstone noted there is currently a block lease to New York University for about 100 apartments and another 100 to other institutions (not all academic).

The company rep, Christine Anderson, added that management is aware there are many students beyond those units, but is still in the information gathering phase with regards to concerns about students and other issues.

This month, Blackstone began leaving surveys at tenants’ doors as well as the community center and some have been emailed.

In the meantime, the owner has plans to crack down on illegal subletters and monitor noise complaints.

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Residents threatened with arrest in latest scam

 

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg was one of the recipients of a call currently targeting the community. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
Last week, Town & Village reported on a phone scam in which the caller claims to be from the IRS and suing the person being called. While variations on the scam have been reported nationwide for some time, there seemed to be a recent rash of phone calls to Peter Cooper Village residents.

Meanwhile, this week, a similar, but even more sinister phone scam has hit Stuyvesant Town.

One resident who received a call was ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg. Like in the previous scam, the caller used a computer generated, female voice when leaving a message on the answering machine. From that voice, however, came a no-nonsense threat of arrest to the person being called over allegations of tax fraud. The caller claimed to be Officer Smith from the United States Treasury who was warning that this was a final notice before the case ends up in Federal Claims Court or an arrest.

“Make sure you call us as soon as possible,” the voice added, after making the arrest threat. The call came from what appeared to be a Los Angeles-based number.

“Why would someone in Los Angeles call New York about tax fraud?” asked Steinberg, who was aware of the scam, and certainly didn’t buy it.

However, she wondered if the perpetrators knew something about the ages of the people they were calling.

“I don’t know if they have statistics on age, but I suspect they’re targeting people who are older,” she said.

Another resident who got the call around the same time as Steinberg, on Tuesday afternoon, also said she wouldn’t be calling back.

The resident, Kay Vota, said she read about the IRS scam in T&V last week, and guessed the scammers were “getting found out. So they’re going to change the way they’re doing it.”

A rep for the IRS last week told T&V said the unknown perps of that scam work from overseas, using technology to change their caller ID to make it seem as though the number is coming from Washington, DC or another local area. Once in contact with a mark, they’ve been known to threaten to sue or deport a victim or put liens on their properties if they don’t make payments using prepaid debit cards or other untraceable means of transfer.

As for the “Department of Treasury” calls, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of the Inspector General has issued a warning online at http://www.treasury.gov, confirming that they are from scammers.

“These callers have been described as threatening or abusive, and tell victims they need to make immediate payment to forestall arrest.  THESE ARE FRAUDS.  PLEASE EXERCISE CAUTION IN YOUR DEALINGS WITH ANYONE PURPORTING TO BE FROM A GOVERNMENT AGENCY AND DEMANDING MONEY OR INFORMATION,” the alert said.

It also mentioned a similar scam in which call recipients are told they’re getting grants, but then told they must pay a fee so that the funds are released.

“Likewise, e-mails promising a sum of money and purporting to be from the Treasury Secretary or his staff are false,” it said.

A spokesperson for the department said he couldn’t comment on the call without hearing it, but referred to the online alert.

Letters to the Editor, Nov. 12

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Smoke gets in your eyes

The Tenants Association gets frequent queries as to the legitimacy of management’s installing a dual carbon monoxide/smoke detector and charging $50.00. This typically occurs when a tenant requests a replacement battery for an existing smoke alarm or when management makes an apartment inspection. While the TA has questioned other surprise charges, according to the New York City Rent Guidelines Board, this charge is permitted.

To quote the RGB’s Frequently Asked Questions: “The NYC Housing Maintenance Code requires landlords to provide and install smoke detecting devices in each apartment unit. All smoke detectors must now use a non-removable, non-replaceable battery that powers the alarm for a minimum of 10 years, and shall be of the type that emits an audible notification at the expiration of the useful life of the alarm. The owner may charge the tenant up to $25 per smoke detector (or $50 for a combined smoke/carbon monoxide detector).

“Landlords are also required to provide and install at least one approved carbon monoxide alarm within each dwelling unit. The landlord may charge the tenant $25 per carbon monoxide alarm (or $50 for a combined smoke/carbon monoxide detector).”

Other questions the TA gets are: Why install a joint detector if tenants have a functioning smoke detector? That way, the tenant would only need to pay $25.00. Furthermore, why can’t tenants buy their own combo detector? In fact, why do we need a carbon monoxide detector?

New York City requires the installation and maintenance of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Both property owners and tenants have responsibilities to ensure that all New Yorkers remain safe in their homes from the dangers of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. Landlords are required to ensure that tenants are provided with both carbon monoxide (CO) and smoke detectors (SD) that comply with the physical requirements of the Building Code.

New York City rules require that where a smoke alarm was installed prior to April 2014 and the useful life of the alarm is not known, “that it be replaced with the newly required model within seven years of the effective date and that the owner is responsible for providing and installing the detector.” The landlord also has to make sure that the device complies with applicable guidelines and has to keep records of installation. Filing is required when devices are changed according to the requirement timeframes or whenever broken/missing devices are replaced.

The occupant has one year from the date of the installation to make the reimbursement (bet you didn’t know that).

The Tenants Association is still looking to see if an exemption for STPCV is possible because our complex uses steam heat, which does not have a carbon monoxide risk. However, our research is still ongoing. In the meantime, please know that the installation of dual carbon monoxide and smoke detectors is legitimate and the $50 fee is an unfortunate, but legal burden.

It is always better to err on the side of safety for our valuable community.

Susan Steinberg
President, STPCV Tenants Association

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Police Watch: Teen stabbed, traffic agent arrested for ‘scam’

TEEN ARRESTED FOR STABBING GOOD SAMARITAN
Police arrested a teenager for assault at the corner of Rutherford Place and East 16th Street last Monday at 11:49 a.m. Police said that the suspect stabbed the victim in his back. The victim told police that he was breaking up a fight when the teen stabbed him. The name of the suspect is being withheld due to his tender age.

NYPD TRAFFIC AGENT BUSTED FOR $38,000 ‘SCAM’
Police arrested 45-year-old traffic agent Johnny Phuong for grand larceny at the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 26th Street last Thursday at 8:30 p.m. Police said that Phuong made false promises to the victim about getting her a job and opening a business with her. The victim told police that she gave Phuong $38,000 at separate times. When Phuong allegedly told her that she needed to pay an additional $5,000, she became suspicious and contacted the police. Upon further investigation, police said that Phuong never released the money to the broker for the business and the broker had no knowledge of Phuong.

TEEN WITH BRASS KNUCKLES BUSTED FOR ASSAULT ON E. 17TH ST.
Police arrested a teenager for assault at the corner of Broadway and East 17th Street last Tuesday at 4:50 p.m. The boy was seen swinging at the victim and fleeing into the subway. The victim told police that the teen was in possession of brass knuckles. When he was stopped, he refused to be handcuffed and had to be taken to the ground, where he refused to put his hands behind his back. He then tried to throw the brass knuckles into the subway mezzanine, where police recovered them. He was also charged with resisting arrest, weapons possession and disorderly conduct.

WOULD-BE BIKE ‘THIEF’ NABBED AFTER FLEEING SCENE OF SEPARATE BIKE THEFT
Police arrested 48-year-old Jose Rivera for burglar’s tools at the corner of Union Square and East 16th Street last Wednesday at 1:46 p.m. Police said that Rivera was casing a number of bicycles on Broadway between 17th and 18th Streets repeatedly for about an hour, doubling back and forth to the same location. Rivera then left the location and secured his own bike at 14th Street and Union Square East and was seen walking back to the other location. He noticed that another person had been arrested nearby for attempting to cut a bike lock and allegedly attempted to flee the scene on foot. When he was stopped, police said that he was in possession of wire cutters commonly used to steal bikes.

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$500 bike stolen from Stuy Town’s Ave. C Loop

By Sabina Mollot

On Monday, October 5, in Stuyvesant Town’s Avenue C Loop (Avenue C and 16th Street), a resident’s bike was stolen, despite being secured with a U-lock.

The resident, who didn’t want his name published, said it was a $500 Fuji Declaration. A couple of days after it disappeared, the man said he heard there was an arrest of two young men stealing other bikes in Stuyvesant Town and that there were other recent bike thefts.

A spokesperson for the NYPD did not return requests for comment on whether or not there has been a pattern of thefts. Nor did the 13th Precinct.

However, the October 22 issue of Town & Village reported on the arrest of a 23-year-old man, Jose Perez, in connection with another bike stolen from Stuyvesant Town the previous week.

Perez, who was arrested in front of 309 Avenue C, was allegedly using clippers to try to steal a $1400 motorized bike, with another man who was not arrested. He allegedly later told police, “This is what we do. We steal these bikes because we know they cost over $1,000 dollars and I can get like $600 for them automatically. I’m still gonna get my money though.”

IRS scammers target Peter Cooper residents

By Sabina Mollot

Earlier this week, a Peter Cooper Village resident received a robo-call that supposedly came from the Internal Revenue Service. The mechanical female voice that came through his answering machine informed the resident that he was being sued. To get more information about the legal action, the resident was instructed to call a number that appeared to be from a line in Washington state.

A day after the man shared this story with a neighbor, Marcia Robinson, Robinson received an eerily similar call, this one with a number that appeared to be local to Washington, DC. She then phoned a neighbor in her building to tell her about it, and that neighbor informed Robinson that she too had been contacted with the same message, and believed it was a scam.

“None of us called back,” said Robinson. Their caution was fortunate, since, according to a spokesperson for the IRS, such calls are indeed a scam, and one that is being run with more and more frequency, nation-wide.

IRS rep Patricia Svarnas explained, “It’s a huge scam going on right now and it’s one of our biggest issues.”

While the perpetrators are unknown, what is known is that they are overseas, using technology to alter their caller ID. The numbers will appear to be local, usually from Washington, DC, “to make it look official.”

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Editorial: The city can, and should, help ST/PCV’s market rate residents

For the past couple of weeks, residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village have been able to talk about little else but what the latest sale of the property means for them — or doesn’t.

For the property’s market raters, those with stabilized leases paying market rent or close to it, the deal means nothing. Not only did it not include an option to buy, it didn’t guarantee insider preference for the stock of affordable units as they become available — or even eligibility. Those details have yet to be decided, with a lottery as one possibility.

While it is certainly encouraging to hear that the new owner wanted to make a deal that appealed to tenants, it is a shame that the residents in ST/PCV’s renovated units have been left out.

Obviously, securing their stability in this deal would have been far more expensive and complicated for the city, and that’s in all likelihood why this was not even attempted. (For over a year, the mayor’s office made it clear that its goal was to preserve affordability at some, not all of the apartments.

Originally, the goal was 6,000 units, with the explanation that there didn’t appear to be any way to turn back the clock for the “Roberts” and post-“Roberts” tenants.)

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Paws for celebration at First Ave. pharmacy

Store turns focus to health needs of disabled dogs

Woodstock, a dog owned by the manager at Nature’s First pharmacy, is able to walk using a wheelchair now sold at the store on First Avenue and 18th Street.

Woodstock, a dog owned by the manager at Nature’s First pharmacy, is able to walk using a wheelchair now sold at the store on First Avenue and 18th Street.

By Sabina Mollot

On First Avenue, one small pharmacy is going to the dogs — but in its owners’ defense, it’s just a response to neighborhood demographics.

The shop is across the street from Stuyvesant Town, where at last official count, there were close to 1,100 dogs, and in response, Nature’s First pharmacy is now focused on Fido, carrying canine medical supplies from wheelchairs to harnesses for giving lift to weak hind legs. Additionally, soon the store will be carrying dog meds that typically are only carried at veterinarians’ offices.

In the past three years the shop’s been open, co-owner and pharmacist Alex Burlak has been focused on holistic health products, stocking items like essential oils, herbs and organic teas. However, he recently noticed there seemed to be a need in the area for pet medical supplies.

“I really think it’s going to explode,” he said.

“I have no doubt because of the demographics here. In Stuy Town there are a million dogs.”

Additionally, there aren’t any distributors of such products within a 100-mile radius, Burlak said. The idea however, actually came from the store’s manager, Ralph Perez, who bought a wheelchair for his dachshund, Woodstock, a few years ago after the dog lost the use of his hind legs.

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Dem clubs host presidential candidate forum

Reps for Sanders, Clinton and O’Malley face off on drugs, guns and financial reform 

Assembly Member Keith Wright represented Hillary Clinton, Adam Stolz represented Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Sean Patrick Murphy represented Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Assembly Member Keith Wright represented Hillary Clinton, Adam Stolz represented Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Sean Patrick Murphy represented Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Over a dozen local political clubs sponsored a forum for the Democratic Presidential candidates this past Sunday afternoon but rather than appear at the forum personally, all three campaigns for the leading candidates sent representatives on their behalf. The event was held at the SVA Theatre on West 23rd Street.

Adam Stolz represented Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Sean Patrick Murphy spoke on behalf of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, but former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was represented by New York Democratic Assemblyman Keith Wright instead of a representative of her campaign.

Wright’s lack of familiarity with Clinton’s campaign tripped up the local elected official on a handful of issues during the forum, including on financial reform.

“(Clinton) has a plan to go further than Glass-Steagall,” he said of legislation passed in 1933 that limited commercial bank securities, which was repealed in 1999. “I’m not intimately involved in the campaign but she has a plan to take it further.”

When pressed, Wright could not provide additional information about what he meant by taking Glass-Steagall “further.”

One of the noticeable differences among the candidates was their stance on the death penalty. Both Stolz and Murphy said that their of character for a moment to say that he was “emphatically” against it. Members of the audience clamored for him to instead answer the question as the candidate he was representing, but he said no more on the topic, possibly to deflect the fact that Clinton was the only of the three candidates not opposed.

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Letters to the Editor, Nov. 5

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Suggestions for dealing with neighbor noise

Dear Sirs,

I read with interest the reported comments about noise issues (“Residents sound off about noise,” T&V, Oct. 22). I offer three observations coupled with comments.

1.  Neighbor noise.  Meet your neighbors; slip a note under their door welcoming them and introducing yourself when you see the trail of packing materials indicative of the arrival of a potential friend.  First impressions have always been the most powerful, and this is a positive “hi.”
Then if/when there is a noise issue drop a note the day after the karaoke party/clog dance on bare floors/wild animal baying at the moon incident.  Only after that contact the ST/PCV office. Trying to solve strictly local concerns with a Public Safety response is guaranteed to generate a “to hell with them” response.

2.  The 80/20 floor coverage. I applaud this formula, and personally leap from rug to rug like a mad Frogger player in an effort to keep my neighbors happy.  Since it is a condition of the lease I would like to see a Grand Poobah who does inspect and verify this on an annual basis.

3.  Ambient noise.  My biggest gripe is with the day to day outside noise, generated by the overpowered 4x4s on the sidewalks, the five full weeks of construction involved in the ice rink, the all-day racket of the paper shredding truck, the leaf blowers on the weekend, movie and concert nights on the green.

I’d be happy if management did less for me and let this be a quiet place.

James Davis, ST

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