ST/PCV residents list their demands for next council member

Al Ng and Lillian Hsu want to see more affordability for mere mortals. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

A day before the primary, we asked around in Stuyvesant Town for voters’ opinions on what the newly elected City Council member, who’ll be determined in the general election, should focus on.

In response, they gave answers that wouldn’t shock anyone in this city, stressing a need to prioritize affordability, saving small businesses, transit improvements and improvements to public education.

Read on for more on the aforementioned issues that need fixing in District 4, which covers Stuyvesant Town, Peter Cooper Village, Waterside, East Midtown, part of Times Square and the Upper East Side.

Sue Kershbaumer, while strolling through the Oval with her daughter, said her biggest concern was schools — specifically lack of resources and classroom seats for kids with special needs like hers.

Kershbaumer, a computer programmer, added that she hasn’t been able to enroll her daughter in school in the district.

“The class size is too full,” she said. “The DOE doesn’t accommodate children with special needs. You have to hire a lawyer and if you can’t afford a retainer fee you’re out of luck.”

A married couple, both engineers, said they were concerned most about affordability, in particular for their grown children, one an engineer, the other studying to become one.

Lillian Hsu said, “New York City should be more hospitable to real professionals like engineers who make a good living but they’re not investment bankers or attorneys.”

Husband Al Ng added, “New York is unaffordable for most mortals. I’d like a future for our children where they’re not expected to all become financial people, which isn’t good for the world.”

School of Visual Arts student Ashley, who didn’t want to give her last name, said she thought the subway presented a number of hazards, especially L train station at First Avenue.

“It’s too easy to get into the rails and that isn’t safe especially when that area is very crowded,” she said.

Retired cop Chris Perednia said he had a hard time choosing which issue needed the most immediate attention.

“It’s all such a mess,” he said. “Politics, affordable housing, the homeless issue, the crime issue. You have issues living in this place. Transportation. The L train is closing down. Parking spots are gone on 14th Street because of construction. I don’t think I can answer that. Living here and being in the Police Department, I’ve seen everything. Where does all the money go? All of a sudden we have money for free lunches in school? How did that money just appear?”

Sophia Mena, who works at a marketing company, had only one request of her local elected officials.

“Lower rent,” she said. “I’m spending $1,900 for (my share of rent) for a one-bedroom with two roommates. I’m moving out at the end of the month because it’s too expensive.”

A resident named Maria Ann, who also didn’t want to give her last name, discussed her concerns with all the candidates who’d shown up at a meet and greet event last Saturday in Stuyvesant Oval. Mainly she wanted to see the restoration of home rule on housing regulations.

“We should be determining our rent laws here, not in Albany. Albany is a mess,” said the longtime resident, who works as a copy editor. She also wanted to see reforms to the way affordable housing gets created.

“The lotteries are nice but there just aren’t enough of them for the demand,” she said. Referencing the new luxury buildings where a portion gets set aside as affordable in exchange for tax breaks, Maria Ann said she didn’t believe that system was working. “It’s like making a deal with the devil,” she said. “To be in a doorman building, low income people really don’t need that. I’d like to see a Mitchell-Lama system come back, but maybe that’s a pipe dream.”

Retired clothing boutique owner Charles Ahrens said he thought a major problem, that’s become worse in recent years, is traffic, especially on First Avenue.

“You just can’t get anywhere,” he said. “I take a bus but I take taxis as well and that’s when you feel it most. I used to go to 47th and Fifth Avenue and that’s where you’d get traffic. Now you can barely get to 23rd Street before traffic starts.”

Celia Kushner, who works for the Department of Education, and had been advised by her union to vote for Marti Speranza, said, “I heard she is interested in public education. That’s what matters the most to me, and I guess fair housing.”

Florence Stoller, a retiree, said at the age of 98 and a half (“don’t forget the half,” she instructed), she found it difficult to get around in the city. Even some barricades located near the bench she was sitting on, aimed at getting cyclists to slow down, were an obstacle, she said, because she’s legally blind. Other than this though Stoller wanted to make it clear she had “no complaints.”

She added that she’d already cast her vote via absentee ballot though she wouldn’t reveal for whom.

Stoller also added that there was one local issue she hoped the new council person wouldn’t bother with.

“This business of removing the statues — that’s meshugga. For hundreds of years we’ve had these statues.”


4 thoughts on “ST/PCV residents list their demands for next council member

  1. When small businesses disappear, the city’s budget will be over $90Billion and the revenue will be made up by a record increase in property taxes. Then the only issue will be saving
    our economy but will be to late. REBNY won big on election day because they own City Hall .

  2. All eyes will be on Powers over the next 4-8 years (I don’t foresee the Republican candidate beating him). I hope he does not turn his back on the community like Garodnick did with the unbelievably bad Blackstone deal, but I’m not hopeful. These politicians are known to sell out their own families, so why should we think PCVST is safe?

  3. Pingback: Editorial: The registered Dems have spoken | Town & Village

  4. Three big issues for the locality and three city-wide:

    For the locality:

    1. AMELIORATE THE L TRAIN SHUTDOWN . We should add additional bus routes that just traverse 14th Street in round trips, on top of the regular M14 bus runs.

    The 30th Street Homeless Shelter, which I understand was originally sold to our community as a shelter for women and minor children, has become a city-wide residence for homeless men. That’s fine, but many of those clients at the shelter who have been arrested locally for crimes are violent felony offenders on parole. The city has (supposedly) removed sex offenders, but those on parole for violent felony offenses should not be placed in a residential neighborhood; it’s too risky to our residents as the string of crimes committed by such individual in recent years has proven. We can’t exclude them because there is no public notice of who they are, as there is with the state sex offenders’ registry; we need to.

    The planned DSNY Headquarters Garage at Brookdale will forever foreclose the best opportunity for active green public park space this area has had in 50 years. I would hope that the newly elected officials in Districts 2 and 4 can work out an arrangement to place the garage on East 13th Street, opposite the Con Ed plant, which already has a mostly industrial character. In exchange, District 2 residents in Murray Hill, Gramercy, Kipps Bay, etc. will have space where local children and teenagers will have a place to play greenfield sports like baseball, flag football, soccer, lacrosse, etc. There are plenty of other alternatives, too, particularly given the coastal resiliency project that now re-opens alternatives that DSNY had ruled out because of flooding concerns.

    For the City:

    The city needs to work on a formula zoning plan to eliminate the overwhelming market power of chains and franchises relative to “Mom n’ Pop” businesses. A formula zoning plan values owners and entrepreneurs of small businesses over chains like Starbucks, Duane Reade, the GAP, and the big banks by limiting the number of so-called “formula’ businesses that can be established in any particular commercial zoning tract.

    We know that small businesses and entrepreneurs maintain their leaseholds better, often open earlier and close later to be “eyes on the street” and safe havens, and are more involved in the local community than stores run by employee managers who work for a headquarters company far away. We also know that chains are far more likely to close a store after a bad year than an entrepreneur who relies on the business for his or her livelihood.

    Thus, there is an inherent public purpose to adopting a formula zoning policy.

    Landlords are better positioned to pay the tax than tenants. Moreover, charging the landlord at the last occupied rent, even when the space is vacant, will tend to encourage landlords to lower the rents to get the space filled and provide cash flow for the rent tax payments.

    Of the city’s five public employee pensions, only one falls within the 70% funding that the bond ratings agencies consider to be viable pensions. The FDNY pension plan is only about 55% funded.

    Since the city assumes a 7% compounded annual growth rate (about what Bernie Madoff “guaranteed” his investors), some “safe” pension assets, like bonds, are invested in BBB bonds, one step above junk, to match the 7% hurdle. (Moody’s gave a “BBB to Argentina’s bonds; that’s how risky they are.)

    They city’s pension plans, together with required infrastructure spending, present a looming fiscal catastrophe in the outyears, 10 to 20 years from now. We can start correcting it by various means (re-instating the commuter tax, applying the sales tax to certain licensed professional services where the billings exceed $1 million, and by cutting redundant and/or “deadwood” programs that have been routinely funded, year after year, without any real scrutiny.

    These new officials are going to have a lot on their plate.

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