By Kenneth Chanko
Landlord stories superabound in our city. So do we really need another one?
Well, this particular tale might hit closer to home for T&V readers than most. As a Stuy Town resident for the past 31 years, having lived in a two-bedroom on Avenue C before moving to a three-bedroom on 20th Street — and having been born and raised through secondary school in Stuy Town and Peter Cooper, then raising my own two kids here (and a dog!) — I have a pretty expansive yet highly personal perspective on the succeeding iterations of Stuy Town management and how they’ve treated tenants throughout the decades.
After its Stuy Town experiment went belly-up, Tishman Speyer thankfully departed the premises. There followed too many years of receivership, which saw a further erosion of services and upkeep. A new landlord, Blackstone partnered with Ivanhoé Cambridge, purchased the development. Last month marked the two-year anniversary of the new management being fully in place, and that’s enough time to get a sense of what’s going on.
Cynics might mutter “Here’s to the new boss, same as the old boss,” or something to that effect. Also, when Rick Hayduk, head management honcho, whom I spoke to recently, says that, unlike in the past, his staff has been “liberated” to serve tenants as energetically and respectfully as possible, it might too easily be dismissed as “happy talk.”
The thing is, it isn’t just talk. I’ve noticed many differences, especially over the past year. I don’t know about anyone else (actually, I do, at least anecdotally, having discussed these things with several neighbors over the past several weeks), but I’d say Stuy Town, in many important ways, is well on its way back.
Communication and the conviction that Stuy Town is a community — not merely a profit center — have been the keys, according to Hayduk, and tenants have been reaping the rewards of such an attitude in action. Such improvements touch on everything from the big things — newly robust maintenance response times, the hiring of more porters, enhanced property beautification, a new compliance department to handle noise complaints — to the small things — like the recent additions of junk-mail bins in the lobbies and improved signage.
One example: I noticed one day last winter that a Stuy Town trash can at the exit of the 20th Street loop was no longer there, so I inquired about its absence. The next day, I received a detailed email from Rei Mora, the development’s new director of environmental services, who explained that within a week or two a new trash can would be placed up the steps closer to the 430/440 East 20th St. building as part of a reevaluation of the placement of trash can in and around the complex.
Moya even volunteered to come by and meet with me in front of my building to show me where the new trash can would be placed and to further explain management’s thinking and their plans. I took him up on it and I came away from our meeting with a better understanding of Moya’s goals, the reasons behind the changes, and how it would benefit tenants.
As for more personally consequential experiences here on the fifth floor on 20th Street, I’ve also been dealing with different persons in management over the last several months that have been similarly revealing. It speaks to the commitment on the part of management that has become rampant.
Why have I had to be in contact with an array of Stuy Town management folks lately? Well, in addition to some small things (needing a new part for our fridge, for example), my wife and I have been orchestrating the retrieval of decades-old storage trunks and getting our entire apartment painted for the first time in 13 years.
Ugh. Yup, that was my reaction, too. No one looks forward to such stuff. It’s labor-intensive and requires coordination on both the tenant’s end and management’s end to make it run smoothly.
Here’s what went down. First, the trunks. All 27 of them. That’s right, we had 27 big trunks in storage dating back to the 1990s. Everything from books and LPs to memorabilia/personal items and vintage clothing. We weren’t overly optimistic about getting everything back unscathed, given floods and whatnot.
Yet, somewhat miraculously, all 27 were located and returned to us with their contents in good condition on a schedule that was convenient for us, with the trunks arriving like clockwork, several every week, in the order we wanted them (we retained all the red tickets!). Here’s hoping it works out as well for other long-time tenants whenever they decide to get their stuff out of storage. (Back in the day, such storage was free; these days, tenants pay for storage lockers that they can access themselves.)
The painting of our apartment, however, did not go quite as smoothly. While the actual paint job by Scala was top-notch (ask for Richie!), the coordination was less than stellar. There were some serious scheduling snafus as well as paint procurement problems on top of pricing miscommunications.
To be blunt, the process and pricing is unnecessarily opaque for any tenant looking to get the walls — and ceilings and door/closet trims — of their apartment painted using anything above and beyond basic Stuy Town white paint. Something as simple as a brochure with detailed pricing that could be handed out to tenants when they visit the onsite paint shop would be a good start to improve the situation. Hayduk acknowledged the less than transparent process (Stuy Town uses an outside contractor, EmpireCore, which runs the paint shop), and promised a “deep dive” into the situation.
Ultimately, and what’s most important, management was accessible and responsive throughout the paint process. Management held itself accountable, taking ownership of the problems. In particular, Kathleen Kehoe, senior director of resident relations, who was my primary contact throughout the painting process, worked to make things right.
I don’t want to imagine how any of this stuff — the trunks, the painting, inquiring about missing trash cans, et al. — would’ve been handled a mere four or five years ago.
Longtime Stuy Towners don’t — or shouldn’t — take such things for granted, knowing as we do how things could be — and have been — a whole lot worse.
Management needs to keep up the good work of further nurturing a vibrant community, tenants should always strive to be neighborly — get those carpets and rugs down and pick up after your pooches, fellow-tenants! — and who knows how much better things can get.