Opinion: Why we’re pushing for stronger rent laws early

(Pictured after returning from Albany, left to right) Tom Kuhn, Peter Sullivan, Judy Miller (back row), Mary Garvey, Sherryl Kirschenbaum, Michael Madonia (back row), Susan Steinberg, Patrice Michaels, Anne Greenberg, Alex Lee, Regina Shane and Chandra Patel. (Photo by Harvey Epstein)

By Susan Steinberg
President, Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association

Here we go again.  New York State’s rent laws expire in June 2019 and tenant groups are already taking action to renew and strengthen them.

The 2019 date was deliberately set at the time of the 2015 rent law renewal so it would occur in a non-election year, saving incumbents from the danger of losing their seats as a result of a strong, forceful tenant lobby. 2018 is, of course, an election year which means that now is the time to start putting the pressure on state legislators who want tenant support for their election or re-election runs. Since bills to strengthen rent laws can be passed any time prior to the June 2019 expiration, the challenge is to get them to the floor of the Senate for a vote. They are now languishing in the Senate’s Housing Committee. (The State Assembly has already passed two bills and will easily pass a third but the Senate has yet to act.)

What is the tenants’ game plan? We are pushing for passage of three bills to strengthen regulations by repealing two laws most responsible for the loss of rent-regulated units — vacancy deregulation and vacancy bonus — and for closing the preferential rent loophole.  Vacancy decontrol is responsible for the loss of 250,000 rent-regulated units over the past decade; the vacancy bonus gives landlords a 20 percent rent increase each time an apartment turns over; preferential rents are a discount from the legal rent that can be taken away at lease renewal leading to a sudden increase of hundreds of dollars.

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No rent freeze this year, RGB decides in preliminary vote

Tenants react to the board voting down a rent freeze (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The possibility of a rent freeze was quashed last Thursday at the Rent Guidelines Board’s preliminary vote, held at Cooper Union’s Great Hall. As is the case in most previous years, the proposal that ultimately passed was from the board’s chair, Kathleen Roberts, with ranges from 0.75 to 2.75 percent increases for one-year leases and 1.75 to 3.75 percent increases for two-year leases for rent-stabilized tenants.

Tenant representatives Sheila Garcia and newly-appointed Leah Goodridge offered a proposal that would have included a rent freeze for one-year and two-year lease renewals but the chair, the board’s four public members and the two owner members voted against the measure.

The owner representatives attempted to offer their own proposal but were shouted down by tenants who started chanting and yelling once the proposal for a rent freeze failed. Roberts read her proposal and held a vote amidst the yelling and the board walked off the stage with most tenants in the crowd unaware that anything had been decided. The chair’s proposal passed in a vote of five to four, with the owner and tenant representatives voting against the measure and the public members and chair voting for it.

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Man committed lewd act on train in Union Square: Cops

May3 Lewdness

Public lewdness suspect

Police are looking for a man who was masturbating on a northbound E train as it got to Union Square and 14th Street.

The victim, a 27-year-old woman, said the man committed the lewd act after reaching under his coat on the evening of March 9 at around 9 p.m.

The suspect, who the victim got a photo of, is black, about 30 to 40 years of age and has a medium build. He was last seen wearing dark-colored clothing and glasses.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website at nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

Irish dance school students kick off market with style

Photos by Arica Aylesworth

On Saturday, during the Stuyvesant Town Flea Market, a troupe of Irish step dancers performed on the Oval lawn. The performance was organized by Aherne Sheehan School of Irish Dance and Stuyvesant Town residents Arica Aylesworth and her husband Peter Lavin. Their children Ryan and Kristin do competitive dancing with Aherne and thought of the idea to perform came from hearing from many of Stuy Town’s Irish-American residents that they used to do Irish dancing as children.

Aylesworth and Lavin, who’s an Irish-American lifelong resident of the community had discussed ways of giving back to the community and said the school and instructor Elise Wright agreed to donate the performance.

Aherne has been featured by the BBC and has had performances at the Apollo Theater and several off-Broadway shows.

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Crowds come out for flea market

Vendors Waltrine Cooke and Carolyn Laws-Parker both welcomed the opportunity to see neighbors at the resurrected event. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Saturday, the second flea market to take place after a hiatus of about 15 years took place in Stuyvesant Town under a mostly sunny and warm sky.

Around 530 vendors were selling their wares, a number that was slightly higher than last year’s. This time vendors had tables inside three playgrounds, instead of lining the Oval out to the loop roads. Vendors who spoke with Town & Village seemed to have mixed feelings about this, though all were nonetheless glad to see the flea market tradition living on.

At Playground 9, Marilyn Ray, who was stationed near an entrance, seemed happy with the arrangement as her table was a popular stop for those looking for vintage prints and ephemera. Asked how business was going, she answered, “Pretty good. It’s the prints that are selling better than anything else.”

Alicia Zanelli, a longtime resident selling some Peruvian-made items, was less impressed about how packed Playground 9 was with sellers. “Everyone’s getting squeezed,” she said. “We have so many beautiful areas. Open them up!”

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Woman robbed at knifepoint in Union Square

Sketch of robbery suspect

By Sabina Mollot

Police are looking for a man who robbed an employee of a Dunkin Donuts on the street on Monday, April 16, taking $3,500 of the shop’s money she had with her.

The 26-year-old victim said at about 11:40 a.m. she was at the intersection of East 17th Street and Union Square East on her way to a nearby bank with the business’s proceeds, when a man approached her from behind, asking for directions.

When she turned around, the man pulled out a knife and grabbed a paper bag from the victim’s hand, which contained the $3,500. The mugger then fled into Union Square Park and the victim was uninjured.

Asked if this was being investigated as a possible inside job, a police spokesperson said the department couldn’t speculate on this.

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ST/PCV ditches security SUVs

One of three new scooters to be used by public safety officers, along with a fleet of bikes (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The Public Safety department of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village invested in a fleet of six new bikes and three new Segway scooters, while also saying goodbye to three of its five SUV trucks.

The shift in transportation methods has a couple of reasons, according to StuyTown Property Services.

The first is to increase visibility of a security presence as a crime deterrent. The other is to make it easier for residents to get to know public safety officers.

The department is also in the midst of instituting a program similar to one being introduced by the 13th Precinct which places officers in very specific areas to act as community liaisons. The idea is to make it easier for neighborhood residents to form relationships with local law enforcement.

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Epstein elected to Assembly

Harvey Epstein (right) with an aide at the Stuyvesant Town flea market (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday, residents of the 74th Assembly District trickled into polling places, almost exclusively to make Harvey Epstein the next Assembly Member.

Epstein, the Democrat nominee who was also running on the Working Families line, obliterated three other candidates with 90.59 percent of the vote, according to unofficial poll results released by the New York City Board of Elections.

Republican Bryan Cooper got 4.69 percent, the Green Party’s Adrienne Craig-Williams got 2.16 percent and Juan Pagan, a Democrat running on the Reform Party line, got 2.25 percent. Thirteen people (.3 percent of the voters) opted for write-in candidates.

All the now-former candidates are residents of the East Village and had run on platforms that included affordable housing and tenant protections. Pagan is a retired entrepreneur and former corrections employee who’s run for office several times. Cooper is an event planner and the vice president of the Albano Republican Club who’s also run for office before. Craig-Williams is a graduate student and longtime Green Party activist who was running for the first time.

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Police Watch: Teen arrested for assault with bat, Man charged with punching store worker

TEEN ARRESTED FOR ASSAULT WITH BASEBALL BAT IN GRAMERCY
Police arrested a teenager for an assault opposite 325 East 22nd Street on Tuesday, April 3. Police said that the boy hit another teenager with a baseball bat, causing a personal injury. The teen was arrested on Wednesday, April 18 at noon inside the 13th Precinct.

MAN CHARGED WITH PUNCHING STORE WORKER OVER STOLEN RED BULL
Police arrested 37-year-old Ray Williams for an alleged robbery in front of the Chelsea Gourmet Deli at 259 Seventh Avenue on Monday, April 16 at 10:37 p.m. Police said that Williams went into the store and grabbed a Red Bull from the fridge, then allegedly attempted to leave without paying when an employee attempted to stop him. Police said that Williams then punched the employee in the face about 10 times and allegedly fled the scene with the Red Bull but was stopped by officers from the 10th precinct soon after.

MAN ACCUSED OF THREATENING STORE EMPLOYEE WITH KNIFE
Police arrested 39-year-old Thierry Diogene for allegedly stealing from Cowboy Wholesale at 28 West 27th Street on Wednesday, April 18 at 2:58 p.m. Police said that Diogene took items from the display shelf and attempted to leave without paying. When an employee confronted him, Diogene allegedly returned the merchandise to the store but police said that he returned to the location shortly after and threatened an employee from the store. Police said they got into an argument and that Diogene allegedly pulled out a knife and said, “I will cut you.” Diogene was arrested for petit larceny and weapons possession.

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Elderly woman assaulted at bus stop near Stuy Town

Assault suspect

By Sabina Mollot

Cops are on the lookout for a thug who shoved an elderly woman to the ground as she sat on a bench at a bus stop at First Avenue and 14th Street.

Police said on Sunday, April 22 at 7 p.m., a man approached the 82-year-old victim and shoved her off the bench, knocking her to the ground. The woman landed on her arm and later said she had pain in her arm as a result of the assault, although she didn’t go to the hospital.

Police don’t have a description of the man although he’s been captured in some fuzzy surveillance images.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call detectives at the 13th Precinct at (212) 477-7444.

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Thirteenth Precinct to join NYPD Community Policing Program

Deputy Inspector Steven Hellman, commanding officer of the 13th Precinct (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The 13th Precinct will soon be joining in an NYPD program that assigns officers to be liaisons to specific neighborhoods.

Deputy Inspector Steven Hellman, commanding officer of the 13th Precinct, announced at last month’s community council meeting that the precinct would join the Neighborhood Policing program by October and the policy is expected to be instituted in precincts citywide by 2019.

“It’s going to allow us to talk to the right people through social media and interact with the community,” Hellman said. “It’ll help with a lot of different issues like traffic and noise complaints because the officers will get to know the community on a personal basis.”

The program will break the precinct into different sectors that are each assigned neighborhood coordination officers (NCOs) who work as liaisons between the NYPD and the community. Sectors in each precinct are designed to correspond to the boundaries of established neighborhoods as much as possible. NCOs will be familiarizing themselves with the residents and problems in the neighborhood by attending community meetings and following up on previous incidents.

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Opinion: Very special election

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

The stakes are high in next week’s special election to fill vacancies in several state legislative seats on April 24. In our own Assembly District Democrat Harvey Epstein will be squaring off against Republican Bryan Cooper and two third-party candidates, Adrienne Craig-Williams and Juan Pagan, to fill the vacant seat left by Brian Kavanagh who was elected to the State Senate representing lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn.

The winner of that election will be a key player for our community. But the real significance will be in the several special elections for the Senate across the state. The results of those elections could have important policy and political implications for New York as well as national ambitions.

 For most of his two terms as governor, Andrew Cuomo has presided over a divided government. The Senate has been controlled by the Republican Party with the essential aid of a handful of Democratic Senators aligning themselves with the Republicans to give them numerical control. In exchange, these Democrats have received certain personal and political perks. This arrangement had the tacit approval of Cuomo. Why (you might ask), would a Democratic governor prefer a Republican-controlled State Senate?

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Two cops recognized for arrests of robbers

Officer Brendan Bellew (pictured at left) was presented with a Cop of the Month award by Deputy Inspector Steven Hellman and 13th Precinct Community Council President Frank Scala. Officer Nicholas Clemente (not pictured) was also given an award for his service. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A pair of cops were recognized for their work in catching multiple robbers over the last month at the 13th Precinct’s community council meeting on Tuesday evening.

Deputy Inspector Steven Hellman, the precinct’s commanding officer, praised Police Officer Brendan Bellew for spotting a man on April 11 in front of 8 Gramercy Park South and recognizing him from a wanted poster about a robbery inside a Duane Reade at 333 Seventh Avenue earlier this month.

“This guy has 35 arrests and has been on the job for six months,” Hellman said. “This was an incident of shoplifting gone wrong in a Duane Reade and there was an image captured with surveillance. Brendan recognized him from the photo and arrested him. He’s a great example for the kids.”

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Man in MAGA cap pushes victim into train tracks at Union Square

Assault suspect

By Sabina Mollot

Police are looking for a man wearing a Make America Great Again cap and matching shirt who pushed a fellow straphanger onto the train tracks after insulting his ethnicity.

The incident took place on Friday at around 8:15 p.m. when the suspect picked a fight with the 24-year-old victim as they rode a northbound 4 train approaching Union Square station. After making “multiple derogatory statements regarding the victim’s ethnicity,” cops said the suspect followed the victim as he left the train at Union Square and punched him on his head multiple times on the platform. He then pushed the victim onto the track bed before fleeing to the Brooklyn bound L train platform.

The victim’s friend and another person helped the victim back up to the platform and he was taken to the hospital for a wound on his head he got from falling onto the tracks.

The suspect is described as being black with a heavy build. Along with his red MAGA shirt and headwear, he had a black jacket on and jewelry around his neck.

The assault is being investigated as a hate crime and according to published reports, the victim was Hispanic.

Last week, a man wearing a MAGA cap was confronted by two men at the same subway station who stole his hat. When the victim tried to get it back, one of the men pulled out a knife and threatened him with it.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).  The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website at nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

 

Maloney opponents square off at forum

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Democratic congressional candidates hoping to replace incumbent Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney squared off in a debate at the end of March sans the Congresswoman herself, who was originally confirmed for the event but ultimately told the organizers there was a conflict in her schedule.

The two candidates who did appear, Sander Hicks and Suraj Patel, debated at a monthly meeting for the Progressive Action of Lower Manhattan at the Seafarer’s International House at the end of March. Arthur Schwartz, chair of the organization, moderated the discussion and geared some of the talking points to broader, national issues for a change of pace because the group generally only has a chance to discuss local politics, with the candidates discussing the direction of the Democratic Party as well as healthcare, voter participation and advocating for the disabled.

Supporters of former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders are a substantial contingent of the members of NYPAN, with one debate attendee pointing out her tattoo of the Vermont Senator, and Schwartz put emphasis on this early in the debate, asking if the candidates had considered how these progressive voters would be represented in the Democratic National Committee.

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