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.

Baby found unconscious at Madison Avenue shelter has died

MAve Hotel (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A two-month-old boy living at the MAve Hotel homeless shelter at 62 Madison Avenue was pronounced dead on Friday, June 21 at 10:16 a.m. after a 911 call about an unconscious infant. When police arrived at the scene, officers found the infant unconscious and unresponsive. EMS responded to the scene and transported the baby to Bellevue Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased. 

Police said that the infant’s body did not have signs of trauma and there were no signs of foul play, so the NYPD will not be making any arrests in connection with the case. The medical examiner will determine the cause of death and the investigation is ongoing. 

The location where the baby was found was previously a hotel that was converted to a homeless shelter in 2016.

Stuyvesant Town golfers come out for clinic

On June 11, the Stuy Town Golf Club held a clinic that was attended by over 50 residents from all age groups. Because of its success, Stuyvesant Town management has asked that the club hold another event that has been set for July 15. The “Full Swing Clinic” will take place in Playground 10 from 7-8:30 p.m. with PGA pros Matt and Shaun. To attend, RSVP to info@stuytowngolf.org.

The club’s organizers are Rich “Coach” Remsen and Bill Oddo. Remsen will be hosting “Golf “FUNdamentals” Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 6:30-8 p.m. at Stuy Town’s Playground 3, weather permitting.

Other upcoming events include an outing to Rockland Lake Golf Course on June 23 (rescheduled from June 20 due to predicted unfavorable weather conditions. Another outing is scheduled for July 9 at Doral Arrowwood Resort in Westchester. Space limited, so if interested RSVP.  For more information, visit stuytowngolfclub.org.

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ACS teens arrested for unconnected robberies

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

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police arrested four teenagers on Saturday, June 15 at 9:14 a.m. for three separate robberies that took place outside the Administration for Children’s Services facility at 492 First Avenue last weekend.

One of the victims told police that he was standing outside the building around on Friday, June 14 around 11 p.m. when three boys approached him. One of the boys pulled what the victim said looked like a handgun out of his waistband and put it against the victim’s chest while saying, “Go buy me cigarettes, I’m not f—king playing.”

Police said that around midnight on Saturday, June 15, an 18-year-old girl approached a man who was standing outside the ACS facility and demanded his phone, then allegedly reached into the victim’s pockets. The victim said that another teen who was with the girl at the time said, “If you touch her, I’ll f—k you up.” The teens fled with his phone.

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GPBA honors cops killed in the line of duty

Family members and colleagues of fallen officers at the memorial event (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Gramercy Park Block Association honored the members of the NYPD that have been killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 6. The memorial event at the National Arts Club has become an annual tradition that the organization has been carrying on since 2015.

The event stemmed from the Blue Lives Matter NYC movement started by three members of the NYPD after the murders of Detectives Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in December 2014. The goal was to help families of the slain offers in their time of need and GPBA president Arlene Harrison joined with the organization the following year.

“It has now become a nationwide movement, and I have done everything I can to spread the word, by organizing a social media network of over 150 police groups around the country,” Harrison said of Blue Lives Matter.

Harrison explained that the GPBA was formed in 1993 after her 15-year-old son was beaten in Gramercy Park with a mission of protecting the neighborhood by working closely with the police department. The GPBA also organized a relief effort within the 13th Precinct for a number of months after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

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DOT implementing busway 2.0

A bus travels west on East 14th Street. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Department of Transportation announced last week that transit and truck priority (TTP) and Select Bus Service on the M14 A/D will begin on 14th Street on July 1. The 18-month pilot project was designed specifically to help commuters traverse 14th Street while the work on the L train is being done and one of the main goals is to improve safety on the corridor.

The new regulations will be in effect from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., during which time only buses and trucks, defined as any vehicle with more than two axles or six or more wheels, can make through trips between Ninth and Third Avenues. All vehicles except MTA buses at signed locations will be restricted from making left turns off 14th Street at all times.

Unlike the previously proposed “busway” plan for the now-canceled L shutdown, under the new plan, other vehicles will be allowed on the street during the restricted times. However, this is only to access the curb and garages and they must turn at the next available right. Commercial vehicles will be allowed to load and unload in short-term metered loading zones and passenger vehicles can drop off and pick up along the whole corridor.

Between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. when the regulations are not in effect, all vehicles can make through trips along the corridor. “No Parking” regulations will allow expeditious loading and unloading along 14th Street.

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Letters to the editor, June 20

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Bikes not the only danger to pedestrians

To the Editor:

In advance of the Tenants Association meeting covered by the recent article “Bikes still a primary concern for ST/PCV residents” (Town & Village, June 6), I consulted NYC’s Open Data concerning collisions and injuries; this data is available to anyone. I used what I found to inform my remarks at the meeting, and I was disappointed that the article didn’t mention those remarks.

The data available on that website comes from NYPD and reaches back in time as far as July 1, 2012.

I conducted two searches covering all of zip codes 10003, 10009, and 10010 from that date through the latest date for which there is data available, April 30, 2019. I found 48 instances involving one or more bikes and no other vehicles, in which instances at least one pedestrian was at least injured. (There were no fatalities, only two instances on First Avenue, and no instances on 20th Street.)

Then I completely removed bikes from the formula, leaving in other types of vehicles, and ran the same search. I found over 1,400 instances in which at least one pedestrian was at least injured. (I encourage anyone interested to check and critique the quality of my analysis.  And as anyone using the site will see, there are ambiguities in the data.)

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Police Watch: Teens busted for burglary, Motorcyclist accused of reckless endangerment

TEENS BUSTED FOR CONSTRUCTION SITE BURGLARY
Police busted two teenagers for allegedly breaking into a construction site at 322 East 18th Street on Tuesday, June 11 at 8:17 a.m. The victim told police that he arrived at the job site and noticed that the secure door on the ground floor was broken and when he got to the main floor, he heard a commotion in the basement. He saw that his alarm system was unplugged and the key pad was broken and he said that he then saw the two teenagers leaving the site through the broken door. He took photos of the teens, which he showed to officers who arrived at the scene, and after searching the area, police caught the two suspects. The victim also said that while he was taking a photo of the two teens who were arrested, a third teen ran past them and fled to East 18th Street towards First Avenue. The teens were also charged with criminal mischief.

MOTORCYCLIST ACCUSED OF RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT
Police arrested 29-year-old Ricardo Bonano for alleged reckless endangerment at the corner of First Avenue and East 14th Street on Tuesday, June 11 at 3:11 p.m. Police said that Bonano was seen driving a motorcycle without license plates and he allegedly ran a red light while popping a wheelie in traffic. Bonano was also charged with being an unlicensed operator and an unclassified traffic infraction.

TEEN NABBED FOR STEALING FROM TAXIS
Police arrested a teenager for allegedly stealing from cab drivers throughout the neighborhood earlier this month.

The teenager reportedly reached into a taxi that was in front of 401 Park Avenue South on Sunday, June 9 around 11:15 a.m. and stole the driver’s cell phone.

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Could a lawsuit really undo the rent regs?

Blaine Schwadel

By Sabina Mollot

Ever since the new rent regulations — all 74 pages of them — were signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday, real estate attorneys have been scrambling to determine what this means for the city’s property owners.

There has been at least one published report in the Commercial Observer suggesting there could be an industry-backed lawsuit, and Blaine Schwadel of Rosenberg & Estis, a law firm representing owners and lenders, said he’s pretty sure there will be some kind of legal action taken.

This reporter was unable to determine what group, if any, was behind the rumor of a planned suit, but Schwadel said there’s at least been talk.

“I have heard that various real estate groups, RSA (Rent Stabilization Association), REBNY (Real Estate Board of New York) and CHIP (Community Housing Improvement Program) are having discussions about how to challenge it,” said Schwadel.

But, he warned, “There have been very few successful challenges to rent regulations in the past.”

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Opinion: One flag, many stars

“One nation Indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” Those are the words from the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag first written in 1863 and formally adopted by Congress in 1942. Twelve years later “under God” was inserted after “one nation.” The Pledge articulates the ideal of a unified society with the common belief that everyone is valued and that freedom and fairness guides our civic life. These are principles worth reflecting upon as America observes Flag Day this week.

The Pledge contains nice words for sure, but aspirational at best. Over the decades many Americans have struggled to secure their liberty and justice. Women were only granted the right to vote in the last century and black people and other minorities were suppressed or restricted and also kept from voting by discriminatory local laws.

As for a “nation indivisible”… that is a tough one. From our inception there have always been profound national schisms. At first it was the agrarian states, mostly in the south with their particular cultural orientation vying with the industrialized northern states. The southern states coveted cheap and even free labor to work their fields and desperately protected the immoral and inhumane institution of slavery. Every school child knows that the fracture between free states and slave states led to the bloody Civil War which divided regions and even families, pitting brother against brother on the battlefields of America.

Despite Lincoln’s hopes for a charitable reconciliation at the war’s end “with malice towards none,” the defeated Confederacy lived under a virtual occupation during the Reconstruction Period. Resentments festered giving rise to hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, which sought to restore the bigotry of a white supremacist society through intimidation and violence against blacks and others. In the succeeding years America remained deeply alienated along racial, religious and geographic lines.

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Albany passes strongest rent regulations ever

Tenants in Albany on Friday (Photos courtesy of Housing Justice for All)

By Sabina Mollot

On Friday, the governor signed the most tenant-friendly package of rent regulations the state has ever seen, including the repeal of vacancy and high-income deregulation, the end of vacancy bonuses and much stricter limitations on major capital improvement (MCI) and individual apartment improvement (IAI) rent increases.

As for what this means for tenants, most notably there will be adjustments to stabilized tenants’ rent, said Assembly Member Harvey Epstein. MCIs, which previously could be no higher than six percent of a tenant’s rent, will now be no higher than two percent. They will also be eliminated after 30 years instead of being paid in perpetuity. If tenants have signed a lease with a preferential rent, that amount, when the lease is renewed, will now only be allowed to climb as high as the rent increase voted on by the Rent Guidelines Board. Previously it could have gone as high as the maximum legal rent (often a difference of hundreds of dollars).

Additionally, while this doesn’t impact current tenants, tenants moving into an apartment won’t have nearly as much to pay in IAIs, which will now be limited to $15,000 each, and only three units will be eligible over a 15-year period. The increase would also last 30 years instead of remaining permanent. Tenant blacklists will also disappear and there will also be more protections available for tenants fighting an eviction. Additionally, any conversions to co-ops or condos must be non-eviction plans. Tenants who want to file overcharge complaints will now have longer to do so, six years instead of four.

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Candidate for Civil Court judge says she’d encourage mediation

Lynne Fischman-Uniman (center) with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Assembly Member Dan Quart, who are supporting her campaign (Photo courtesy of Lynne Fischman-Uniman)

By Sabina Mollot

On June 25, there will be a Democratic primary in New York City, albeit a quiet one in certain districts, mainly for delegates for judicial convention, county committee members and district leader positions. But in the fourth Municipal Court district — the area comprised of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, Gramercy, Kips Bay and Murray Hill — there is a race for Civil Court judge with two serious candidates.

One is West Midtown resident Grace Park, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society, and the other is Upper East Sider Lynne Fischman-Uniman, who also practices law, in her case for nearly 40 years. Unlike other races, judicial candidates don’t need to live in the districts they’re running in and it’s quite possible that if elected, they will end up being assigned outside the area or even the borough, depending on where the demand for judges is.

Civil Court judges decide cases involving small claims of up to $25,000 and some housing cases, though sometimes they’re assigned at first to Family Court or Criminal Court.

As for why New Yorkers should care about a local race for the bench, Fischman-Uniman’s elevator pitch to voters has been that along with her experience in law, including teaching it at New York Law School, she is devoted to the betterment of the court process wherever possible.

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