Attempted rape in Stuyvesant Town

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Attempted sexual assault suspect

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police are looking for a man who attempted to rape a woman in Stuyvesant Town in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 29. 

The 20-year-old victim was walking near the M level exterior door of 7 Stuyvesant Oval around 5 a.m. when the suspect approached her from behind and grabbed her by the neck.

Police said that the victim resisted but she was knocked unconscious and fell to the ground when the suspect attempted to sexually assault her. Police said that another resident who was nearby came to the victim’s aid and called 911, after which the suspect fled on foot.

The suspect was last seen running west on East 17th Street towards Second Avenue. The victim suffered bruises to her forehead, neck and elbows and was transported to a nearby hospital for evaluation. 

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Registered sex offender arrested for L train groping

Suspect Gian Verdelli

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

This Friday, police arrested a man with multiple previous convictions for sex crimes in connection with a subway groping that took place on the L train near First Avenue earlier this week. The suspect was identified as 67-year-old Gian Verdelli, who the Daily News reported was just released from prison in May after he was convicted of another incident of sex abuse on the subway. 

The 37-year-old victim was on an Eighth Avenue-bound L train traveling from Bedford to First Avenue on Wednesday, June 26 around 8:50 a.m. when Verdelli allegedly put his hand under her dress and groped her. She and Verdelli both got off the train at First Avenue, where the victim took a photo of Verdelli with her phone before he fled the station. 

Verdelli is a level 2 sex offender and lives in a shelter on Wards Island, according to the New York State sex offender registry, and he was arrested there on Friday. 

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Stuyvesant Town artist recreates ‘Lavender Scare’ for PBS documentary

Illustration of historic scene by John Sicoransa

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Stuyvesant Town resident John Sicoransa hadn’t heard of the Lavender Scare when film editor Bruce Shaw contacted him about creating drawings for a documentary on the topic, but he immediately knew he wanted to get involved once he learned more about the troubling period in American history.

The Lavender Scare, the subject of a new PBS documentary by the same name that premiered last Tuesday, ran concurrently with the Red Scare, a period following World War II when Senator Joseph McCarthy stoked fears about an increase in communism. The Lavender Scare began in the 1950s when President Dwight Eisenhower declared homosexuals a security risk, in part because of a perception that they could be easily blackmailed. Federal workers were fired or forced to resign and others were denied jobs in the first place when the government suspected them of being gay.

McCarthy and attorney Roy Cohn, who later died of AIDS and was accused of being a closeted gay man, were responsible for many of the firings, which were supported by J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI.

“Once I heard the story outline and saw existing footage, I was all in,” Sicoransa said of the film.

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First Avenue florist retiring

Pete Tsoumas is retiring on Friday. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

After 65 years in business, the colorful floral stand tucked in a corner at the Brooklyn-bound exit of the First Avenue L is selling its last bouquet on Friday. Current owner Pete Tsoumas has been operating the stand for almost 50 years, having taken it over from his grandfather and uncle after running three other stores in the city, and now he finally gets to retire. 

“If you told me I’d be here for 48 years, I’d say you’re crazy,” Tsoumas said. 

Tsoumas said that the construction on the station was a challenge but the main reason he’s closing up shop is his health and he’s looking forward to spending time with his family. 

“I need a rest. ‘If you don’t close on Friday, you won’t make it (to your appointment) in September,’” he said his doctor told him at a previous appointment, indicating that his stem-cutting arm gives him trouble.

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Local Pride events

The New York City Pride March will take place on Sunday, June 30. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

With the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising this Friday, Pride Month is reaching its peak this week. This is also the first year that WorldPride will be held in New York. The event, which was first held in Rome in 2000, promotes LGBTQ issues on an international level through parades and other cultural activities and has previously been held in Jerusalem, London, Toronto and Madrid. As the month comes to an end on Sunday, there are a number of local events scheduled for residents to celebrate. 

NYC Pride March

Perhaps the most well-known Pride event in the city is the annual Pride March. As in recent years, the march travels along Fifth Avenue but the route changed last year to include a new memorial dedicated to New York City men, women and children who have died of AIDS on Seventh Avenue at West 12th Street. The march starts at noon on Sunday, June 30 at 26th Street and Fifth Avenue just north of Madison Square Park and will head south. The route will then go west at Eighth Street towards the Stonewall National Monument in the West Village, then will head north again on Seventh Avenue, traveling past the NYC AIDS Memorial Park at West 12th Street and ending at West 23rd Street and Seventh Avenue. 

Dueling Drag Queens

This performance of dueling drag queens is part of the Union Square Partnership’s Citi Summer in the Square that takes place every Thursday through August 8. Every week features a different dueling act on the South Plaza main stage in Union Square and during Pride Week on Thursday, June 27 at 5 p.m. will feature Screaming Queens, a boutique entertainment company providing drag queens, impersonators, colorful theme characters and offbeat cabaret artists. Audience members can cheer for their favorite drag queen to win the title of “Miss Citi Summer in the Square 2019.”

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Middle Collegiate combines Juneteenth and Pride celebration

Middle Collegiate Church’s Rev. Jacqui Lewis with Shan Gilani, husband of late activist Gary Ranker and Ranker’s son Kevin (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Middle Collegiate Church combined civil rights and Pride for an all-inclusive Juneteenth celebration last week. Senior minister Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis said that the event for Pride month was consciously held on Juneteenth. The holiday, celebrated on June 19, commemorates the emancipation of all slaves from the former Confederate states in 1865.

“We wanted to do something Juneteenth-related because it doesn’t get nearly enough recognition,” Lewis said. “We’ve been celebrating Pride 24/7/365 at Middle for decades and we’re super excited to combine these two liberation movements. This was a way to celebrate these two things together.”

The event, which honored civil rights activist Ruby Sales and gay rights activist Gary Ranker, who died earlier this year, also served as the launch of the photo exhibit, “Queer Faith,” which was also featured at the Union Theological Seminary in East Harlem.

Sales was at the event and spoke about realizing that she was a lesbian, coming out and joining the gay rights movement while fighting for civil rights.

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Grace on fire: Park wins Civil Court primary race

Grace Park has been an attorney with the Legal Aid Society for 14 years.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Legal Aid attorney Grace Park won the Democratic primary for Civil Court Judge in District 4 during Tuesday’s election.

According to the Board of Elections, Park received 73.45 percent of the vote and opponent Lynne Fischman-Uniman got 26.09 percent, with 90.38 percent of the scanners reported.

There was a slight controversy regarding the primary at the 11th hour on Election Day when Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents received a letter from neighbors endorsing Fischman-Uniman that some residents felt was deliberately meant to look like it was sent by the Tenants Association. The letter didn’t mention the TA at all, but residents Roberta Moldow, Jane Crotty and Alan Fleishman signed the letter, which was addressed to “residents of Stuyvesant Town.”

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Letters to the editor, June 27

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Bike dock will encourage trespassing

The following is an open letter to STPCV General Manager Rick Hayduk regarding the Citi Bike station that was recently installed in Playground 9.

Dear Rick,

I appreciate your keeping the residents apprised of what management is undertaking but I fear with the latest bike related undertaking you are working at cross purposes.

One of the more frequently heard complaints from the resident population is the plethora of bicycles on the premises. You have tried to establish rules governing their use that are blithely ignored. They are honored more in the breach than the observance. I don’t see how providing “quick and easy” access addresses the problem. We are already awash with Citi Bike docking stations along the perimeter of the complex. Why invite the interloper onto the premises?

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Tenants will see increases of 1.5, 2.5%

Tenants asked for, but did not receive a rent freeze, at the final vote of the Rent Guidelines Board on Tuesday night. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Rent Guidelines Board voted to increase rents on rent-stabilized apartments by 1.5 percent on one-year leases and 2.5 percent on two-year leases at the final vote in Cooper Union’s Great Hall on Tuesday night. Chair David Reiss put forth the proposal that ultimately passed, citing a slight increase in real estate taxes and possible impacts from the rent regulations that just passed in Albany.

Reiss noted that while the 2019 price index for operating costs and taxes went up for all owners, the ratio of expenses to revenue is “healthy” enough for owners to maintain buildings, making a larger increase unwarranted.

Tenant representative Sheila Garcia expressed the usual disappointment at the lack of a rent freeze, noting that she and fellow tenant member Leah Goodridge felt that the research from the RGB supports a rent freeze.

“I think there would be a chance (for a rent freeze) if people weren’t afraid to do what the data actually states,” she said. “The landlords cry wolf and people fell for it again. They saw the winds around the rent laws as a wind that tenants would be okay and that’s not true. They’re still going to have MCIs and there are still going to be other increases that landlords use as loopholes.”

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Police Watch: Men arrested for thefts from Trader Joe’s, Arrest for alleged robbery

MEN ARRESTED FOR THEFTS FROM TRADER JOE’S
Police arrested 62-year-old Albert Citro and 23-year-old Kyle Charles for allegedly stealing from customers inside Trader Joe’s on Wednesday, June 19 at 1:55 p.m.

Police said that Citro was seen removing a clutch wallet from a purse that was on top of a shopping cart inside the store at 620 Sixth Avenue while Charles allegedly acted as a lookout. Citro allegedly concealed the wallet inside a bag and met Charles outside the store. Police said that Citro and Charles were also seen on video from a previous incident when they allegedly used a stolen credit card in the store.

Citro and Charles were arrested at the corner of West 20th Street and Sixth Avenue and were charged with petit larceny and possession of stolen property.

Police said that Citro also stole a wallet from a shopping cart inside the store on June 16 at 4:30 p.m., on June 9 at 12:05 p.m. and on June 5 at 3:45 p.m. Another woman told police that her wallet was missing from the bag that she was carrying on June 15 around noon.

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Opinion: The difference maker

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

It has often be said that elections have consequences. That statement was never truer than last week in Albany.

 You may recall that Brian Kavanagh, after serving for ten years in the State Assembly, in a district that I represented for almost three decades, ran for an open State Senate seat in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn two years ago. He was elected. But of even greater significance, the State Senate became a Democratic Party majority this year after the 2018 November elections. Senator Kavanagh became chairman of the Senate Housing Committee. That was important because all the New York City tenant protections laws would lapse this year and would need to be debated once again.

 For over half a century the State Senate majority was in the hands of the Republican Party almost without interruption and mostly represented by upstate and suburban legislators. For all those years the Senate was commonly referred to as the place where progressive tenant protection and rent regulation reforms went to die. I can personally attest to that.

During my years in the State Assembly, I introduced dozens of affordable housing bills designed to protect tenants from unfair and excessive rent increases and other protections as well. They routinely passed in the Assembly but rarely if ever were even allowed to be voted upon in the State Senate. Did that fact have anything to do with the other fact, which was that Republican senators received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from the real estate industry? Well, nobody can say for certain, but neither do I believe in coincidences like that. My counterpart in the State Senate, Roy Goodman, was frequently rebuffed by his own leadership in trying to advance these bills. In those days, Roy was only one of a couple of other Republican senators who represented large communities of tenants in New York State. So try as he did, he was stymied at every turn.

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Editorial: On rent regulations and politics

To say this has been a big week for tenants would be the understatement of the century. However, we’ll say it anyway. While the fine print in this epic tenant protection bill is still being examined with a fine-toothed comb, it is nonetheless safe to say that these are no token reforms like the minimal improvements in 2011 and 2015. They are incredibly significant in terms of the ways tenants will be protected from price-gouging.

Additionally, we agree with TenantsPAC’s Michael McKee who pointed out that this victory could not have been achieved without the work of die-hard activists like those in the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association. It was the tireless efforts of these individuals, combined with a city of renters dead tired of being given the shakedown, that helped turn the State Senate blue, giving long-stalled bills a chance to pass.

Civil Court judge primary
In other news, don’t forget to vote on June 25 as there will be a Democratic primary election for Civil Court judge representing the fourth municipal court district. (This is the area comprised of Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, Gramercy, Waterside and Kips Bay.)

In recent issues of this newspaper, we’ve run interviews with both candidates, veteran attorneys Grace Park and Lynne Fischman-Uniman. Since we ran the profile of Fischman-Uniman, we’ve been contacted by a few readers who wanted to know why it wasn’t mentioned that up until fairly recently the Democratic candidate was a registered Republican. The answer is we didn’t know as she didn’t mention it.

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Man wanted for robbery in Union Square

Robbery suspect

The New York City Police Department is asking for the public’s assistance identifying a man wanted for questioning in connection to a robbery that occurred within the confines of the 13th Precinct/Transit District 4.

It was reported to police that on Monday, June 24 at approximately 3:25 a.m. inside the Union Square subway station, a 44-year-old man boarded a downtown 6 train at the location when an unidentified man punched and kicked the victim multiple times before fleeing with the victim’s wallet containing a credit card. The victim sustained swelling to left eye but refused medical attention. The male fled the station in unknown direction.

The person wanted for questioning is described as a Hispanic man, 18-25 years of age, wearing a yellow du-rag and dark clothing.

Anyone with information in regard to the identity of the male 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 CrimeStoppers website at nypdcrimestoppers.com or on Twitter @NYPDTips.

All calls are strictly confidential.

Opinion: Check your eligibility for the Croman restitution fund

By State Senator Brad Hoylman

Notorious landlord Steve Croman first made the Village Voice’s Worst Landlords list in 1998. He made it again in 2003. And again in 2006.

The landlord equivalent of teflon, Croman terrorized tenants, dragging them into protracted court battles. Tenants lived in dangerous and intolerable conditions. Croman pled guilty to grand larceny and other felony charges in 2017. He was released from jail in 2018, only to buy a building this year on the other side of my district that is home to the historic White Horse Tavern.

Croman is just one of many bad actors who, eager to recoup on their substantial real estate investments, resorted to abusive and exploitative tactics to drive out rent-regulated tenants. They made millions. Many of them went unpunished.

Croman, for his part, was at least forced to pay $8 million in restitution funds—the largest ever monetary settlement with an individual landlord—to the thousands of rent regulated tenants he tormented and preyed upon to evict them from their homes and convert their units to market rate apartments.

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Cyclist killed by truck driver on Sixth Avenue

Cyclists paid their respect to the rider who was killed on Sixth Avenue. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

A truck driver killed a 20-year-old bicyclist on Monday morning at 9:25 a.m. on Sixth Avenue at West 23rd Street. When police responded to a 911 call about the collision, officers found the woman unconscious and unresponsive, lying on the street with trauma to her head. EMS responded to the scene and transported her to Bellevue Hospital, where she was pronounced deceased. 

A white Freightliner delivery truck and the cyclist were both traveling north on Sixth Avenue and a preliminary investigation found that the truck driver collided with the cyclist near the intersection of Sixth Avenue and West 23rd Street. Police said that the 54-year-old truck driver initially left the scene but returned shortly after, so he was not charged with leaving the scene of an accident. 

The driver was issued five summonses but police said that the summonses were all related to truck inspections and not the collision. The NYPD Collision Investigation Squad is investigating but the driver has not been arrested. 

Cyclists held a vigil and memorial on Monday evening at the spot where the woman was killed, leaving flowers and candles on the east side of Sixth Avenue between West 23rd and 24th Street where the collision occurred.