Wildlife feeding bans coming soon to Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village and city parks

By this summer, there’ll be no such thing as a free lunch for squirrels and birds at city parks, even sooner in Stuyvesant Town Peter Cooper Village, at least not from a human benefactor. (Pictured) A squirrel noshes on a park goer’s leftovers at Madison Square Park. (Photo by Madison Square Park Conservancy)

By Sabina Mollot

Animal lovers who enjoy feeding the squirrels and birds in this city should do so quickly, because soon it won’t be allowed in the places where the aforementioned animals congregate.

As of April 1, it will be against the rules to feed the wildlife in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village. Additionally, the city’s mulling of a plan for a full wildlife feeding ban in parks has gained steam, with a spokesperson telling Town & Village it’s expected to go into place this summer.

As for the Stuy Town policy, this new rule comes after management conducted a resident survey on the subject (as well as dog-related policies for pet owners) last summer. Then, last Thursday, StuyTown Property Services made sure to remind tenants of the soon to come ban in its weekly e-blast, and the reason for it.

This was “due to several incidents involving resident children being bitten by squirrels.”

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Drivers push back on congestion pricing

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (pictured with Council Member Carlina Rivera and State Senator Brad Hoylman) held a town hall on congestion pricing last Thursday. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Manhattan elected officials argued strongly in favor of congestion pricing at a public hearing last Thursday, but car-owning residents in attendance felt differently about the plan.

“This congestion was caused by the city allowing Uber and Lyft to put hundreds of cars on the streets that were already congested without charging any revenue for the city,” said attendee Sheila Williams. “If they had at least done that, they could have increased revenue and decreased the cars on the street, but now you want all of us to pay for this debacle and it’s already decimated the yellow cab industry.”

Manhattanites got the opportunity to offer their thoughts on the plan at a public hearing hosted by Borough President Gale Brewer at Cooper Union last Thursday evening. Many of the few hundred residents in attendance identified themselves as car-owners and suggested that residents who live in the area shouldn’t be forced to pay a fee just based on where they live.

“I do think that people living in the zone should be exempted from congestion pricing,” Stuy Town resident Lynn Janofsky said. “The only reason I have a car is to drive out of the city. I only go up or down the FDR and don’t drive in the city because I’m too worried about killing somebody, with the bikes, Ubers, pedestrians and phones. I have zero faith in the mayor to think things through before implementing something. For all of us who live in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village and our six garages, we should be exempt.”

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Robo-call prevention bill passes in NY Senate committee

Mar28 Hoylman robocall bill

State Senator Brad Hoylman

On Tuesday, Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou announced that a bill of theirs aimed at banning robo-calls in the state of New York has passed in the Senate Committee.

The Robocall Prevention Act came in response to the scourge of the record number of robocalls placed in 2018, a total of 47.8 billion nationwide.

If signed into law, the RPA would:

  • Prohibit any person or entity from making robocalls to any telephone number owned by a person in New York State, unless for emergency purposes or with the prior express consent of the call recipient;
  • Require telephone service companies to have technology available that would block unwanted robocalls, free of charge to the consumer;
  • Give the State Attorney General new enforcement powers on robocalls and authorize new civil penalties of up to $2,000 per robocall, up to $20,000 for calls placed in violation of the law within a continuous 72-hour period; and
  • Grant New Yorkers a private right of action to go after violators themselves, and allow courts to award treble damages for those who knowingly violate the law.

“There isn’t an issue I hear more about from constituents than the proliferation of robocalls,” said Hoylman. “These calls aren’t just annoying — they’re dangerous, and often used to defraud unsuspecting consumers, seniors, and vulnerable New Yorkers.”

Hoylman first sponsored legislation last May.

Stuyvesant Town residents slam re-designed 20th Street

Community residents attend a meeting that ended up focusing on the state of the recently reconfigured 20th Street. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents are fed up with the changes to East 20th Street and demanded that the street be returned to its pre-L-shutdown state before the city begins work on the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project that will affect the roadway.

Tenants expressed their grievances about the state of the street at a recent meeting hosted by the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association. There, the Department of Design and Construction offered updates about the resiliency plan, which is intended to provide flood protection for the East Side in the event of another Hurricane Sandy.

Department of Design and Construction associate project manager Eric Ilijevich explained at the meeting that there is a structure that will likely be placed on East 20th Street near Avenue C that will help improve drainage during a flood event. Although this is not a new component to the plan, residents had concerns about the container due to the other changes that the street has undergone.

“Twentieth Street is being condemned by everything that you guys are planning,” Stuy Town resident Tom Nonnon said. “You need more community involvement.”

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Letters to the editor, Mar. 28

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Pricing won’t help with congestion

To the editor:

Apparently April Fool’s Day is Judgment Day for congestion fees here in New York City. It is the day, following Mr. de Blasio on WNYC, when wisdom will be brought to bear and traffic congestion will be made a thing of the past.

Unfortunately, while congestion fees may help the cash-strapped MTA, the practice will do nothing for congestion… and we all know it!

The reason: Traffic congestion was not caused by a cash shortage in the MTA. Congestion is an above-ground problem, and no amount of MTA money, and no amount of on-time public service will get at its causes. The first cause was the deliberate increase years ago in the number of yellow cabs. The second cause is the number and sizes of Uber and Lyft vehicles that found their way onto our streets — 100,000 if current figures are correct. And finally, though not causal, the introduction of bike lanes has squeezed cars, cabs, vans, trucks, limos and buses into an already crowded center-of-the-road.

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Police Watch: Credit card ‘thief’ caught, Man accused of attacking driver

CREDIT CARD ‘THIEF’ CAUGHT AT OUTBACK STEAKHOUSE
Police arrested 42-year-old Jannet Tollinche for an alleged theft from earlier in the day before she was caught inside the Outback Steakhouse on Monday, March 18 at 10:33 p.m.

The victim told police that while she was with a patient at her office in Midtown South that afternoon, she left her wallet unattended in another room. Around 10 p.m. that night, she noticed that her Bank of America card and MetroCard were missing from her wallet and realized that the credit card had been used at Burlington and Outback Steakhouse on West 23rd Street and Sixth Avenue.

She was waiting for a Bank of America representative to cancel the card when she got another alert that her card had been used at the Outback Steakhouse again. A friend of the victim then called the restaurant to see if the person who used the victim’s card was still there and when they found out that she was, police brought them to the restaurant, where the victim positively identified Tollinche as someone who had been in her office earlier that day.

Police said that Tollinche was at the restaurant with two of her friends who said that Tollinche was paying for all the food. The waiter told police that Tolliche was the person who handed over the victim’s card to pay and she was also allegedly in possession of items and receipts from Burlington with the transactions on the receipt authorized through the victim’s card.

Police recovered the credit card from the Outback waiter and the victim’s MetroCard from Tollinche’s wallet. Tollinche was charged with grand larceny and possession of stolen property.

MAN ACCUSED OF ATTACKING DRIVER ON SIXTH AVENUE
Police arrested 31-year-old Alan Bell inside Madison Square Park after he allegedly assaulted a driver nearby on Sixth Avenue on Saturday, March 23 at 4:40 a.m. The victim told police that he was driving north on Sixth Avenue in the right lane and was stopped at a light while waiting to make a right turn. Bell approached the front of the victim’s vehicle and yelled at him to drive, with the victim responding that he couldn’t because he had the light. Bell then allegedly approached the victim in his car and punched him in the mouth.

The victim told police that he stepped out of the vehicle to defend himself and Bell allegedly responded by pulling out a large knife. Bell then left and the victim called 911 and drove around the block, stopping officers who were in front of 16 West 23rd Street.

As police were interviewing the victim, Bell reportedly walked by and the victim identified him as the person who punched him. The officers attempted to stop Bell, who ran into Madison Square Park in an attempt to flee. When officers caught up with him at the corner of Madison Avenue and East 26th Street, he allegedly put his hands behind his back and flailed his arms to prevent being handcuffed. When police searched the area after Bell was arrested, a large knife was recovered. Bell was charged with resisting arrest, an unclassified misdemeanor, assault, weapons possession, menacing and possession of marijuana.

MAN WITH KNIFE ARRESTED ON SECOND AVENUE
Police arrested 32-year-old Jorge Perez for alleged weapons possession in front of 423 Second Avenue on Thursday, March 21 at 7:30 p.m. Police identified Perez on the street because he had two active warrants from 2017 and when he was searched, he was allegedly in possession of a knife and marijuana. Police said that Perez told them he carried the knife for protection. Perez was also charged with possession of marijuana.

MAN ARRESTED FOR DRUG SALE AT SHELTER
Police arrested 52-year-old Emanuel Bell for alleged sale of a controlled substance inside the 30th Street Men’s Shelter at 400 East 30th Street on Tuesday, March 19 at 8:50 p.m. Police said that Bell sold a quantity of heroin to an undercover officer in exchange for cash, and when he was searched, police found that he was in possession of a glassine envelope with the alleged drug. Bell was also charged with possession of a controlled substance.

Cops say they’ve been ticketing scofflaw cyclists

Police have been confiscating e-bikes like these (pictured in a January Twitter post by the 13th Precinct).

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Just as it did at another cop and community meeting earlier this month in Stuyvesant Town, the topic of bikes dominated the discussion at the 13th Precinct Community Council’s most recent meeting on Tuesday.

“I haven’t been to one of these meetings so this might have been mentioned before, but bikes are a problem,” one Stuyvesant Town resident said early in the evening, prompting a roomful of commiserative chuckles.

In response, Executive Officer Ernesto Castro said that regarding e-bikes, the NYPD is working on operations borough-wide and noted that the precinct has issued 92 summonses for bikes this year, more than last year during the same period.

“This is a difficult area but we are making progress,” Castro assured meeting attendees.

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ACS teens nabbed for muggings

Administration for Children’s Services facility in Kips Bay (Photo via Google Maps)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police have arrested three teenagers in the care of the Administration for Children’s Services Kips Bay Children’s Center in connection with two robberies in the neighborhood this week.

One robbery took place on East 24th Street between Second and Third Avenues on Friday, March 15 around 12:45 a.m. The victim told police that he was walking east on East 24th Street between Second and Third Avenues when three teens approached him from behind and mugged him.

The victim said that they came up from behind him and demanded his bag. He said that he gave the kids his bag and told them he didn’t want trouble before walking away. The victim said that as he was walking away, the three suspects grabbed him and went through his pockets and took his property. The teens were positively identified after officers searched the area.

Police said that one of the teens involved in the robbery was also responsible for a robbery that took place in Kips Bay a few hours earlier the same day.

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(Updated: Arrest made) Man stabbed to death at Riis Houses

Mar28 Riis Houses Wikipedia

Riis Houses (Photo via Wikipedia)

By Sabina Mollot

A man was stabbed to death at the Riis Houses complex near East 12th Street, on Monday night.

At about 8:45 p.m., police responded to a call about an assault in front of 1115 FDR Drive and found a 27-year-old man who’d been stabbed in the stomach. Police said the victim had been arguing with someone in front of 466 East 10th Street and the fight turned physical. The man, who was in and out of consciousness when police arrived, was taken to Bellevue but couldn’t be saved. Police took a “person of interest” whose name hasn’t been released into custody but as of Tuesday there have been no arrests.

The investigation remains ongoing and police are withholding the identity of the victim pending proper family notification.

Update: Police have arrested Christopher Dixon, 26, a resident of 710 East 9th Street, in connection with this incident. The victim has been identified as Phibeon Smalls, who lived in the same building.

Man accused of trying to rape neighbor in Kenmore Hall apt.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police arrested a Kenmore Hall resident for the alleged attempted rape of another tenant in the building last weekend.

The victim told police that she was sleeping in her apartment inside Kenmore Hall, a single-room occupancy building at 145 East 23rd Street, on Sunday, March 10 around 11 p.m. when 62-year-old Anthony Carter allegedly broke in. The victim said that Carter got on top of her, allegedly pulling on her underwear without her consent.

Police said that Carter told the victim, “We’re going to have sex,” and she stated no multiple times, but Carter allegedly forced her to touch his genitals.

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Man tries to rob Stuy Town Citibank

Mar28 Citibank robbery

Police officer in front of the bank at 262 First Avenue (Photo by Sean O’Ceallaigh)

By Sabina Mollot

Police are looking for a man who tried to rob the Citibank in Stuyvesant Town on Saturday.

Police say the man strolled into the bank at 262 First Avenue at 10 a.m. and, after approaching the teller, opened an encyclopedia he was holding to a page with a handwritten note demanding cash.

However, the teller did not comply and the man ran off.

The suspect is described as white, 30 to 40 years old, 6’1″ tall and 180 lbs. He was last seen wearing a black jacket, a grey hoodie, black hat, grey gloves, and black sweatpants with red stripes.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or log onto nypdcrimestoppers.com. All calls are strictly confidential.

Update: Rick Hayduk, general manager of Stuyvesant Town, said StuyTown Property Services has provided video to the NYPD and will continue to provide assistance to police. Additionally, the Public Safety department has beefed up patrols along First Avenue with officer patrols as well as cameras.

 

Apartment evictions are down, study says

There have been three evictions so far this year in Gramercy. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Residential evictions are down in New York City from last year, according to a study conducted by apartment listings website RentHop.

Overall there was a 9.6 percent drop throughout the city with evictions tapering off in each borough based on eviction information from January 1 to March 11 in 2018 and January 1 to March 11 in 2019.

The study also found that: both Brooklyn and The Bronx have a much higher eviction rate than Manhattan, but both also had sharp drops from 2018 to 2019. The Bronx went from 1,558 to 1,225 (a 21.4 percent decrease). Brooklyn went from 1,170 to 994 (a 15 percent decrease). Manhattan’s numbers, meanwhile, only decreased slightly from 518 to 486 (6.2 percent). Queens has a higher eviction rate than Manhattan, but it too only decreased slightly from 733 to 716 (2.3 percent). Staten Island easily has the fewest evictions, having gone from 127 to 97. Percentage-wise, this was the sharpest decrease at 23.6 percent.

Adrian McHale, who worked on the study, used numbers from the city’s open data portal, which includes information such as addresses but not the reason given for the eviction.

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Investigation finds no violations at Washington Irving construction site

The construction site outside the Washington Irving High School campus (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A report on the ongoing construction at the Washington Irving High School campus released by the Department of Investigation last Monday determined that the School Construction Authority has not violated city, state or federal regulations as a result of the work, contrary to complaints from neighbors regarding noise, dust and other safety issues.

The SCA’s Office of the Inspector General received numerous complaints about the project regarding noise and dust but said in the report that the testing of noise levels has not resulted in any violations from the Department of Environmental Protection or the Department of Buildings.

Although the DEP received more than 80 noise complaints between March 24, 2017, and December 17, 2018, and inspectors visited the site more than 80 times, the agency never issued a summons for a noise violation.

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Letters to the editor, Mar. 21

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

It’s time to pay the pied-a-piper

I Googled Peter Wunsch of Gramercy (author of letter, “Forget the tax, just cut spending,” T&V, Mar. 14), written in response to “Council pushing pied a terre tax,” T&V, Feb. 28.

It appears his family is a dynasty of “old money” wealth and has had quite a privileged life. I guess he doesn’t want to pay the tax on his continuing good fortune. He is also not informed of the facts – pied-a-terre taxes are not financing city workers retirement. Does he think that these folks should have free Police Department, Fire Department, ambulance, etc. services?

Be advised that city employees cannot retire at age 50; the minimum age is 57+ and the pension amount is based on number of qualified years worked. He should check the NYCERS website for details of the pension plan for city workers. City workers are required to contribute to their pension plan. The average city employee doesn’t get wealthy from their city salary (no annual bonuses, either) but civil servants do earn benefits in retirement (not financed by taxpayers).

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Opinion: Forget Amazon and help mom and pop

By Kirsten Theodos of Take Back NYC

After the big news that Amazon was canceling its plan to build its new headquarters “HQ2” in Long Island City, activists and local elected officials celebrated it as a victory while others viewed it as a tragic collapse. The biggest complaint has been the loss of 25,000 promised jobs over the next decade.

Meanwhile, on every Main Street in every neighborhood across the city, there are empty storefronts where once-thriving businesses existed. Are supporters of the Amazon deal aware that New York City courts evict 500 businesses every month and over 1,000 are estimated to close every month, mostly due to high rents? Eighty-nine percent of all small businesses in NYC are considered “very small,” meaning they employ less than 20 people. Conservatively using eight as the average, that means New York City loses at least 8,000 jobs every month.

There are people lamenting over potentially having lost 200 new Amazon jobs per month when our city already sheds over 8,000 per month, which the Amazon deal would have exacerbated. And while it is true that online shopping has altered the retail landscape (namely by Amazon itself), it is the unfair lease renewal process that is shuttering our long established small businesses. Just on my block a ramen restaurant, a bike repair shop and pizza place were all forced to close due to an exorbitant rent hike upon their lease renewal, and none of them competed with Amazon.

Small businesses employ more than half of NYC’s private sector workforce. They provide jobs that offer a path to social mobility and in New York City are predominantly immigrant owned. Unlike Amazon’s imported tech bros, small businesses employ actual New Yorkers who live in our communities.

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