Madison Square Park Conservancy begs visitors to stop feeding squirrels

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A squirrel samples human cuisine at Madison Square Park, where, the conservancy says, squirrels, in their growing numbers, have been damaging trees. (Photo courtesy of Madison Square Park Conservancy)

By Sabina Mollot

On the heels of Stuyvesant Town’s management appealing to tenants for suggestions on ways to prevent squirrels from attacking their children, the overseers of Madison Square Park have appealed to community residents with a plea to stop feeding the park’s squirrels.

In a blog post published on the conservancy’s website on Tuesday, August 21, the conservancy told feeders their actions are doing more harm than good, by getting squirrels used to a free food source that disappears in the winter.

Additionally, according to a conservancy spokeswoman, as a result of all the feeding, squirrels have been multiplying more, and due to competition for food and resources, have taken to gnawing on tree branches, damaging the park’s dense tree canopy. Humans have also been getting pestered more, as recently noted in this newspaper by Town & Village associate editor Maria Rocha-Buschel, who was recently poked — twice — on the shoulder by a pushy squirrel as she sat on a park bench.

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Woman charged with thefts from gym lockers

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police arrested a woman for an alleged theft from the NoMad SoulCycle location at 12 West 27th Street earlier this month. Police said that 32-year-old Lauren Woods stole cash and prescription pills from lockers inside the locker room on three different dates between July 24 and August 17.

According to the district attorney’s office, Woods could be seen on surveillance video entering the gym’s locker room on Tuesday, July 24 around 6:50 a.m. while carrying a pink shopping bag. Police said that she could be seen on the video opening a locker and removing multiple items from a bag, putting the items in her shopping bag and leaving the locker room. The woman whose bag Woods allegedly stole from in this incident told police that two bottles of Adderall were missing from her bag.

The DA’s office said that Woods could be seen on surveillance video again on Monday, August 13 at 6:45 a.m. with a pink shopping bag and allegedly went into a locker and removed cash. The second victim told police that $180 in cash was missing from her bag when she went to check on it.

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Creep grabs six-year-old boy’s crotch at Union Square Barnes & Noble

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Forcible touching suspect

By Sabina Mollot

Cops are on the lookout for a man who groped a six-year-old boy in front of his mother at the Union Square Barnes & Noble.

Police said that on Wednesday, August 29 at 4 p.m., the man approached the victim on the second floor of the bookstore at 33 East 17th Street and grabbed his buttocks as well as his groin area. The mother caught him as he leaned in to touch the boy’s leg and his hip and when she confronted him, the man said, “I was trying to help him. I’m sorry.” He then fled the location.

The victim wasn’t injured.

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Forcible touching suspect

The suspect is described as black, 18-20 years old, about 5’8″ tall, and 170 lbs., with black hair and brown eyes. He was last observed wearing a multi-colored short-sleeved shirt, dark jeans and white sneakers.

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. All calls are strictly confidential.

Cuomo says he’d end vacancy decontrol

Mar15 Cuomo at podium

Governor Andrew Cuomo

By Sabina Mollot

Call it the Cynthia Nixon effect.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has frustrated housing advocates in recent years for not pushing harder for strengthened rent regulations, has recently stated, in writing, that he would be coming up with a plan to bolster them, including by eliminating vacancy decontrol.

Earlier this month, the Met Council on Housing published a questionnaire for all the gubernatorial candidates along with answers provided by all the candidates who responded, on its website.

Answering a question about how he would strengthen the rent laws in 2019, Cuomo said he would “advance a comprehensive plan — eliminating vacancy decontrol, limiting or eliminating vacancy bonuses, combating artificial rent inflation, making preferential rent the rent for the life of the tenancy, and securing new TPU (Tenant Protection Unit) enforcement tools.”

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Con Ed asks ST/PCV, Gramercy and Flatiron residents asked not to use unnecessary appliances during repairs

Sept6 Con Ed repairs

Con Ed workers on Broadway and 23rd Street in Flatiron (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Throughout the day on Thursday, Con Ed has been asking customers to curb their power use, while making repairs to electrical cables.

At around 9 a.m., when Con Ed announced the repairs, a spokesperson said the utility hoped to restore any power to lost to customers by the evening.

By the afternoon, Con Ed reduced voltage by five percent in the neighborhoods of Madison Square, Gramercy and Flatiron in Manhattan as a precaution to protect equipment while repairs were being made.

Con Edison has asked customers within the confines of East 31st Street to the north, East 14th Street to the south, Fifth Avenue to the west and the East River to the east not to use appliances such as washers, dryers and, unless needed for health or medical reasons, air conditioners, and other energy-intensive equipment. Customers have also been asked to turn off lights and televisions when not needed until the problems are resolved.

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Waterside Plaza residents retiring next year could benefit from affordability plan

Waterside residents learn more about the affordability agreement at a Community Board 6 meeting on Monday. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Waterside Plaza tenants might want to consider early retirement to take full advantage of the affordability deal brokered between owner Richard Ravitch and the city.

Representatives from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development told Waterside Plaza residents at a recent Community Board 6 meeting that only tenants who have retired by 2019 will be eligible to have their rent reset as part of the deal that was announced earlier this month.

Dozens of residents, including Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal and property manager Peter Davis, were at the Land Use and Waterfront committee meeting on Monday to learn additional details about the plan.

A number of residents at the meeting expressed concern about how much they would benefit through the plan, saying that they were eight to 10 years away from retirement and would ideally like to stay at Waterside Plaza for the foreseeable future but wanted to be eligible for a rent reduction.

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Letters to the editor, Aug. 30

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

A helping hand from a distance

Re: “To feed or not to feed the squirrels,” T&V, Aug. 16

Dear Sir,

Like the majority of Stuyvesant Town residents, I too received the questionnaire about the squirrels. I was perplexed that it has come to that: current residents having to decide how they feel about the squirrels, which have been around Stuyvesant Town long before any of the current humans, and thus decide their fate! To cut a long story short, in the comments section of the questionnaire, I expressed my additional views and suggestions, which happen to almost completely coincide with those of Katherine Compitus, somebody who clearly knows a thing or two about wildlife, as expressed in your article of August 16, 2018.

 She makes many excellent points about the issue, the most important being that management should install its own squirrel feeders in the property, out of the way of people. I am afraid that one key issue that has been overlooked in all this, is the fact that there would be no need for residents to feed squirrels had Tishman Speyer and now the current management, not cut down perfectly healthy and mature oak trees which have always provided plenty of acorns, the natural food for squirrels.

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LES ferry makes maiden voyage

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The Ocean Queen Rock Star, part of the fleet of NYC Ferry’s Lower East Side route, arrives at Stuyvesant Cove at 6:45 a.m. on Wednesday. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Despite temperatures climbing high enough to warrant an official heat advisory from the city, cool winds prevailed along the East River on Wednesday for those aboard the new ferries along the Lower East Side route that launched that morning. The ferry that made the maiden voyage took off from Long Island City at around 6:30, arriving at Stuyvesant Cove at exactly 6:45 a.m. as the sun rose, carrying a mix of Stuyvesant Town residents and reporters.

The ferry, named the Ocean Queen Rock Star, then proceeded — at around 26 miles per hour — to downtown landing Corlears Hook, named, like Stuyvesant Cove, after a park on the waterfront. There, Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Member Keith Powers cheered the new route, which made its debut months ahead of the dreaded L train shutdown.

De Blasio mentioned that the city has been getting many requests from New Yorkers who want a ferry stop in their neighborhoods and said that by the end of the year, decisions will be made on where else they would go. As of Wednesday, there were already six active ferry routes in the city, all operated by Hornblower. According to the mayor, there have also already been six million riders so far on NYC Ferry.

“We know how crowded the subways are. We know the streets are congested,” he said. “We know we need new ways to get around the city. We will not be the city we were meant to be if we don’t have better options.”

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Police Watch: Man arrested for office burglaries, fake Fed Ex worker arrested for package theft

MAN CHARGED WITH COMMERCIAL BURGLARIES IN FLATIRON
Police arrested 46-year-old Antonio Jones for alleged thefts and burglaries that took place inside 43 West 24th Street last weekend. Police said that Jones went to the fifth floor of the Flatiron building, occupied by Even Financial, on Saturday, August 18 at 4:38 a.m. and stole a laptop. Jones reported returned to the building the next night at 3:41 a.m. and took another laptop from the same office. Police said that he then went to the sixth floor of the building, occupied by Mighty Hive, and removed a computer from that office as well. He also allegedly entered the offices of Blackwood Seven on the seventh floor of the building but police said that he didn’t take anything from that office.
Jones was arrested inside the 13th Precinct on Tuesday, August 21 at 11:20 a.m. He was charged with burglary and attempted burglary.

FAKE FED EX WORKER ALLEGEDLY STOLE PACKAGE
Police arrested 48-year-old George Sciarrone for an alleged theft inside 69 West 14th Street on Thursday, August 23 at 8:21 p.m. Police said that Sciarrone was seen through a doorbell camera saying that he was a Fed Ex employee who needed access to 38 West 15th Street. He was able to gain entry to the building and police said that he removed a package there without permission. He was also seen exiting the building and allegedly opened the package and removed the contents. Sciarrone was charged with petit larceny and criminal trespass.

MAN ARRESTED FOR SMASHING DUANE READE DOOR
Police arrested 28-year-old Justin Benneate for alleged criminal mischief at the corner of Irving Place and East 18th Street on Wednesday, August 22 at 12:25 a.m. An officer was driving south on Third Avenue when he allegedly saw Benneate smashing a skateboard on the glass door of a Duane Reade near East 18th Street. Police said that the suspect then fled west on East 18th Street and when the officer drove around the block, he saw that Benneate was allegedly going inside Pete’s Tavern. The officer went into the restaurant and brought the suspect back to the scene, where witnesses identified him.

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Teens assault and rob cab driver in Kips Bay

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police arrested three teenagers for robbing a taxi driver in Kips Bay near First Avenue and East 28th Street early last Tuesday morning.

The victim told police that he picked up one of the suspects in his cab at Lorimer Street and Metropolitan Avenue in Brooklyn just before 1 a.m. on August 14 and the passenger asked to be dropped off at East 24th Street and First Avenue in Manhattan.

When the driver arrived at the intersection the suspect had requested, the teen reportedly asked him to go to East 28th Street. When they got to the second location, the suspect reportedly tried using three different credit cards to pay for the ride but the payments wouldn’t go through.

When the teen wasn’t able to pay for the ride, he reportedly yelled out to other individuals who surrounded the cab and tried to open the doors. Another one of the teens that was arrested reportedly hit the driver in the head with a water bottle multiple times and another suspect allegedly opened the passenger side door and stole cash from the center console of the car.

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Former Maloney opponent suing BOE to get name back on ballot

Sander Hicks, pictured at a candidate forum in March (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Sabina Mollot

Sander Hicks, a Brooklyn Democrat who tried to run against Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney in the June primary — only to be knocked off the ballot after a challenge from another opponent — is hoping to run again as an independent candidate.

But first he’s suing the Board of Elections.

According to Hicks, he had nearly 5,500 signatures, which is far more than what he needed — 3,500 to run in the general election. However, he said after he submitted his petitions last month, the BOE responded in a letter to reject his petitions over the fact that he’d put two addresses on his cover sheet (one his residence, the other his office for mailing purposes.) The letter, Hicks said, was dated August 3, but he only received it a week later, and when he resubmitted the petitions on August 13, he was told he was too late. He filed his lawsuit on Friday in the New York City Supreme Court and served the board with papers on Tuesday.

“The legal department wouldn’t even meet with me,” Hicks said, calling the issue a “clerical error.”

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Peter Cooper Village resident will direct WWII-era play starring Christopher Lloyd

Christopher Lloyd will play pro-Mussolini propagandist Ezra Pound.

By Sabina Mollot

Peter Cooper Village resident Kathleen Butler, a co-founder of a theater production company called Triumvirate Artists, will be directing a limited run of “Pound,” a new play starring Christopher Lloyd.

The play, by Sean O’Leary, focuses on the American poet Ezra Pound, who made propaganda radio posts for Mussolini during World War II and was eventually charged with treason. Found to be too mentally unfit to stand trial, Pound then spent 13 years at the St. Elizabeth’s psychiatric hospital in a ward for the criminally insane.

The play imagines what his final two months there would have been like when Pound, who had basically ruled the institution where he had been given many privileges, suddenly finds himself in despair and in isolation. He then undergoes some very extreme forms of “treatment” at the hands of Mary Polley, a young psychiatrist. Polley’s methods involve inflicting extreme guilt on Pound, by then 73 years old, for his actions.

“One of the things that comes up often at the heart of this play is that words can make a difference,” said Butler. “Words can kill. Words can have dire consequences, even when you don’t realize it.”

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Kips Bay resident running for Assembly in primary

Akshay Vaishampayan

By Sabina Mollot

On September 13, a primary will be held in the 74th Assembly District for the seat won by Assembly Member Harvey Epstein in the special election in April.

The 74th Assembly District covers the East Village, Alphabet City, Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, Murray Hill and Tudor City.

The candidates are, along with Epstein, Juan Pagan, an East Village Democrat who ran on the Reform Party line in the special election, and Akshay Vaishampayan, a 29-year-old resident of Kips Bay, who, prior to running, worked in the field of financial compliance.

In an interview this week, Vaishampayan told Town & Village he was running because he doesn’t think enough is being done to improve the subway system and because he felt Epstein’s victory as the Democratic County Committee nominee in February smacked of party politics. Epstein had bested two other candidates who withdrew from the race prior to the County Committee vote, when it was clear he had garnered the most support. Epstein then went on to beat three challengers in the special election.

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Fourth L train shutdown bus route announced

Mayor Bill de Blasio heard from a commuter during a ride on the L train, as he headed to a press conference with reporters on the aforementioned train’s dreaded shutdown. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The MTA is adding a fourth bus route to help commuters get from Brooklyn to Manhattan during the L train shutdown that will run up First Avenue.

Joseph Ehrlich, a project manager for NYC Transit, said at a Community Board 5 meeting this week that the route was added based on feedback from members of the community.

The agency announced the additional bus at CB5’s most recent transportation committee meeting on Monday evening and also provided more detailed logistical information about how the buses would run.

The new bus, the L4, will operate along a similar route in Manhattan as the previously-announced L1. After heading into Manhattan over the Williamsburg Bridge, the L1 and L4 will go up Allen Street and continue onto First Avenue before turning onto East 15th Street and going south on Second Avenue until East Houston Street. The L1 originates near the L’s Grand Street stop while the L4 services riders close to the Bedford stop on the L.

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Letters to the editor, Aug. 23

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Leave the squirrels alone

This squirrel thing is the straw that is breaking my back.  In this time of national hatefulness and disunity, Stuyvesant Town now has to be roiled by a few disgruntled people who probably have never seen much that they don’t complain about. Right off the bat, let me ask where are the mothers, fathers, nannies when these little kids are being mauled by the complex’s predators?

For 27 years, I have had very young nieces, nephews and children of friends feed the squirrels. It has always been the highlight of their visit – and I monitor how close squirrels get to each kid. Are you telling me that squirrels are just singling out young kids and pouncing on them before a watching adult can intervene? The creatures have been here since 1948 and coexisted with myriad of children brought up in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village. And now this has all been happening just in the past two years?

I request that Town & Village search its archives and see how often and when there have been like complaints about squirrels. The less said the better about the older citizens who can’t bear to have a squirrel within three feet of them.

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