New pols promise stronger rent regulations

Tenants carry signs at a rally in front of City Hall. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Since the flipping of the State Senate last month, local Democrat elected officials have been crowing that 2019 will be the year of the tenant.

That point was hammered home on Monday when about 70 tenant activists and about a dozen members of the State Senate and Assembly held a rally in front of City Hall on the laws that regulate rents for about 2.5 million New Yorkers. On June 15, the rent regulations will expire in Albany, but with many new members-elect of the State Senate having campaigned on the issue of affordable housing, there is a better chance than ever before that they’ll make good on those promises.

State Senator Liz Krueger, who got to witness an embarrassing coup in her chamber a previous time the Democrats won the majority, said this time it will be different.

“This is a statewide cry that’s been building louder and louder,” she said about the demands for more affordable housing. “It was this issue that every single senator downstate ran on and now it’s a statewide issue. Now housing is unaffordable in many areas in the state, not just the city.”

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Letters to the editor, Dec. 13

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

NYC homeless made to compete for help

The following is an open letter to Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo:

Perhaps if either of you, or any of our esteemed local representatives took the time to chat with some of the younger homeless, as I have, you/they would discover (as I did) that most of the people, aged 16-50, come from other states, as close as NJ and as far away as the Dakotas!

That being said, I do believe that NY State and City residents should help the homeless, but help our homeless first.  There must be a law somewhere, or one should be written and introduced that would give preferential treatment to NYC citizens out of our NYC taxes.  At the same time, our NY government should send these young, able-bodied (but mostly alcohol or drug-addicted) men and women back to the state they came from, and let those tax payers take care of their own.  You could start by asking for any kind of identification before giving them services such as food stamps, housing or a bus ticket to their home state!

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L train neighbors slam MTA over noise, debris and mysterious goo

Dec13 L train Epstein

Assembly Member Harvey Epstein with L train construction zone neighbors and disability advocates in front of the MTA’s headquarters (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

While most New Yorkers are approaching April with a sense of dread because of the start to the 15-month L-pocalypse, for those who live around the East 14th Street construction site, the nightmare has been going on already for quite some time.

Recently, local elected officials were able to secure some concessions from the MTA in response to neighbor concerns like additional lighting along the sidewalks where views of the street are obstructed by construction barriers, a commitment to install air quality monitors along the street and reopening of the sidewalk on the East Village side of the street, where stores have been cut off from foot traffic.

However, many concerns have remained, such as noisy work that goes on from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., as well as on weekends, clouds of debris that have caused some neighbors to fear for their respiratory health and equipment-packed streets that have led to an obstacle course for the disabled. Residents have also been left to wonder about the presence of an unidentified, glowing green substance in one of the many dumpsters that regularly get trucked in and out of the site.

On Tuesday, Assembly Member Harvey Epstein joined a few residents whose apartments overlook the construction zone for a press conference in front of MTA’s downtown Broadway headquarters. The protesters held signs that indicated MTA stands for “Making Tenants Angry” and one that showed a photo of the goo-filled dumpster at the site.

“We respect the need to upgrade the L train,” said Epstein. “But at what cost? At what consequences? We ask the MTA to do more.”

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Opinion: Senator Hoylman arrives

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

He’s been in the trenches for over two decades. He was a community activist, chair of Community Board 2, and currently is our state senator. He is one of the most thoughtful and knowledgeable members of the state legislature. I am referring to Brad Hoylman. He won a Rhodes Scholarship and graduated from Harvard Law School. And now he is important.

For only the second time in over a half century, the Democratic Party has won control of the State Senate. And now entering his seventh year in that body Mr. Hoylman is poised to become one of its most impactful and influential legislators.

Several years ago, I had dinner with Senator Hoylman in Albany. I was impressed with his ideas and his energy. He is a progressive but he is also pragmatic. The very two characteristics that are necessary to advance vital legislation for our community and our state.

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Woman convicted for trying to kill baby at Waterside apartment

Waterside Plaza

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday, a nanny who worked for a family at Waterside Plaza was convicted of trying to kill a two-month-old infant she was watching last year.

Apparently fed up with the baby’s crying and her salary, Marianne Benjamin-Williams, 47, had shoved a baby wipe down his throat. Despite arguing that the baby’s toddler sister had done it, the jury found her guilty on all charges, including attempted murder, assault and strangulation.

It hadn’t helped her case that she’d lied about her employment history to the family she worked for, including past work and references and had doctored her IDs.

Benjamin-Williams is expected to be sentenced on January 7. According to the district attorney, she’s facing eight and one third to 25 years in prison for the attempted murder charge alone.

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Man smashes message board at Kips Bay synagogue

Congregation Adareth El at 133 East 29th Street

By Sabina Mollot

Cops are on the lookout for a man who smashed the glass of a Kips Bay synagogue’s message board in the wee hours of the morning.

The incident occurred on Saturday, November 10, but the information was only released by the NYPD on Tuesday night.

Police said that at around 3 a.m., the man broke the board at Congregation Adareth El, located at 133 East 29th Street and Lexington Avenue, with his elbow, then proceeded to keep walking down the street, heading east.

Vandalism suspect

The suspect is described as a light-skinned man with a beard; last seen wearing a dark colored hooded sweater, a dark colored jacket, dark colored pants and light colored sneakers.

Anyone with information in regard 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 CrimeStoppers website at nypdcrimestoppers.com, on Twitter @NYPDTips or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

What all those spray-painted markings on Avenue C mean

The markings, along the southeast perimeter of Stuyvesant Town, denote multiple projects. (Photos by Eileen Togashi)

By Sabina Mollot

Last month, a resident of Stuyvesant Town alerted us to some sprawling spray-painted markings along the sidewalk and street on Avenue C from 14th to 16th Streets. The geometrical markings made the resident concerned about possible demolition work, with some of them appearing on the cobblestones lining Stuy Town.

As it turns out the markings have to do with a number of projects, Rick Hayduk, general manager of Stuy Town, said this week.

Some are related to the ongoing L train construction along 14th Street, others to Con Ed’s Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) well excavating project in Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village, which is now completed and the property’s own heat and power project, which was announced months ago.

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Man found dead next to East River at 20th Street

Stuyvesant Cove beach William Farrell

Stuyvesant Cove (Photo by William Farrell)

By Sabina Mollot

On Monday, December 10, a man was found dead at the shoreline of the East River and 20th Street.

Police found the man, who hasn’t been identified and was in his 40s, at around 7 a.m. after responding to a call about an unconscious person. He’d appeared to have been in the water and was taken to Bellevue Hospital, but he couldn’t be saved.

The medical examiner will determine the cause of death and the investigation is ongoing. A spokesperson for the medical examiner didn’t have further information about the individual.

Police are asking that anyone who might have information about the man or the circumstances surrounding his death to call 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).

VA Medical Center could be re-named after woman war hero

Margaret Corbin took her husband’s place at the battle of Fort Washington in Manhattan after he was fatally wounded.

By Sabina Mollot

On Friday, Manhattan Congress members announced legislation to rename the Manhattan VA Medical Center after Margaret Corbin, a Revolutionary War hero.

Corbin fought alongside the Revolutionary Army and was the first woman to be recognized for her military service by the United States. With this bill, the facility would be renamed to the “Margaret Cochran Corbin Campus of the New York Harbor Health Care System.”

When asked about the bill, a spokesperson for the Manhattan VA, located at East 23rd Street between First Avenue and Asser Levy Place, said it would be premature to comment.

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Teen robbed for his phone in NoMad

Dec13 NoMad robbery

Robbery suspect

Cops are on the lookout for a man who robbed a 16-year-old of his phone last Thursday.

The victim told police he was in front of 110 East 30th Street at around 8:30 a.m. when the robber snuck up behind him and forcibly grabbed the cell phone from his bag. The man then fled south on Park Avenue South. The phone was said to be worth $500.

The suspect is described as black, 35 years old, 6’01” tall and 200 lbs. He was last seen wearing all a red hoodie, green coat and tan pants. Anyone with information in regard to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). All calls are confidential.

Owner of Flatiron store Fishs Eddy talks shop in nonfiction graphic novel

Julie Gaines chronicles her store’s ups and downs in Minding the Store, which was illustrated by her son, Ben Lenovitz. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Anyone considering opening a small business in New York City, or who simply enjoys frequenting them, may want to check out a new graphic novel on the subject, written by the owner of quirky Flatiron home goods store Fishs Eddy.

Julie Gaines, who opened the shop with her then boyfriend, later husband, Dave Lenovitz, 32 years ago, has written the book, published by Workman (a division of Algonquin) and titled Minding the Store with illustration by her son Ben Lenovitz.

Released on November 29, it’s now available at her store on Broadway (along with other book retailers) for $22, and tells the history of the business through its ups and down from the shuttering of American manufactures that made its dishware to, in recent years, growing competition from online retailers. It was the latter problem that prompted Gaines to hire a CEO to help counter dwindling sales, only to end up feeling even more stressed and eventually undermined by his corporate drill sergeant approach to running a store.

“He actually bullied us,” said Gaines. “That’s what this book is about. He terrorized us.”

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Editorial: Give Stuy Town’s drivers a break

As Town & Village reported this week, a number of community residents have gotten parking tickets or even towed for parking in spots along the newly designed 20th Street east of First Avenue that used to be legal.

While the city has already made the choice to justify the permanent loss of 12 parking spaces in the interest of enhanced traffic safety (an important issue to be sure) it’s unfortunate that this plan was enacted with almost no heads up to the community (unless you count a tweet in September by the Department of Transportation, followed by an article in this newspaper after residents noticed the sudden loss of parking spaces).

It is also unfortunate that this lack of communication extends between city agencies. Ideally, there would have been a message given to the NYPD that parking spaces that are no longer legal were legal up until very recently and that perhaps motorists parking where they have always parked might be deserving of a grace period, as Council Member Keith Powers is asking for.

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20th Street re-design has residents ticketed, towed and just plain ticked

The newly laid out street east of First Avenue, with two protected bike lanes, has confused drivers and worried pedestrians. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The traffic safety enhancement project along 20th Street, east of First Avenue, which has so far included creating two protected bike lanes on the north side of the street and moving a bus stop to an island outside the bike lanes, apparently isn’t making neighborhood residents feel any safer.

In fact, many residents have been complaining to Council Member Keith Powers that they’re now more afraid for their safety now that they have to cross the bike lanes to catch the bus. Additionally, at least 15 drivers have contacted Powers to say they’ve gotten tickets, usually for $115, for parking in spots that were legal up until very recently. A few people have also been towed at an additional pickup fee of up to $225.

The project, which began in October, was aimed at making the streets safer in anticipation of increased bike and pedestrian traffic to the Stuyvesant Cove ferry landing once the L train shutdown begins on April 27.

But from what Powers has been hearing, the general response has been that the work seemed unnecessary.

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Letters to the editor, Dec. 6

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

More bike regs would go a long way

To the editor,

Thank you for researching and publishing (in your Nov. 29 issue) data that’s been collected re: bike/pedestrian accidents in New York City (“Stats on bicycle/pedestrian crashes”).

I frequently cross at 23rd Street and Second Avenue. As at other major cross streets bicycles have their own traffic light which is rather adorable (red, yellow and green icon of a bicycle). Many, perhaps half, of the bicyclists ignore it, if they see it at all. It’s particularly evident when there is a left turn signal for downtown traffic to turn to go East on 23rd to the FDR. That includes many trucks and at least one bus route.

I’ve seen vehicles having to deal with a bicycle weaving about in front of them as they turn. More frequently the bikes zip outside their lane to continue straight down Second in the middle of the street.

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Man robbed for Balenciaga shoes at Gramercy hotel

Dec6 Shoe robbery suspects

Robbery suspects

By Sabina Mollot

A man was robbed for a pricey pair of kicks at the Freehand Hotel in Gramercy last Saturday.

Police said the 26-year-old victim was in a second floor public bathroom at the hotel at about 4 p.m. when two men approached him and demanded his Balenciaga shoes.

After being threatened, the victim turned the pair, worth $300, over to one of the robbers, who is described as being white, in his 30s, 5 ft. 11 ins. and about 180 lbs.

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