Former Beth Israel Karpas Center will be demolished

311 First Avenue was included in last year’s sale of Gilman Hall to the CIM Group. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The building that used to house Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s Karpas Health Information Center has been sold and will soon be demolished.

The new owner filed an application to demolish the four-story property at 311 First Avenue and 18th Street, last October, and scaffolding now surrounds the property. There is not yet an application for new development although the razing of the building, which also has nine residential units, was said to be in preparation for an unspecified “plan.”

CIM Group, a Los Angeles-based real estate investment group and private equity firm, through an LLC called 305 First Avenue (NY), bought the property last March for $27.5 million from Mount Sinai, according to Acris records.

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City is warehousing vacant lots intended for housing: Stringer

City Comptroller Scott Stringer is accusing the HPD of failing to meet its own target dates for taking actions on available properties.

By Sabina Mollot

On Monday, City Comptroller Scott Stringer blasted the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development, saying that at the rate it’s been working to turn over 1,000 vacant city-owned lots into affordable housing, it’ll take 17 years to get them all breaking ground.

His announcement followed a report he issued in 2016 that showed the city was warehousing over 1,100 vacant lots.

Out of those properties, Stringer said nearly 90 percent (1,007) have remained undeveloped. HPD, he said, has transferred only 64 to developers and 54 others have been transferred to other city agencies for their use. Additionally, some properties have remained vacant for 50 years.

Stringer noted that while the city has intended to turn hundreds of these lots into affordable housing, it has failed to meet its own target dates for taking action on 80 percent of them. Stringer is calling for all of the city-owned lots to be used for over 50,000 units of permanent affordable housing and for HPD to create a “realistic” timetable to either make this happen or turn the properties over to other agencies or developers.

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Former 21st precinct demolished, new building will be residential

Construction site at 327 East 22nd Street (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

A building in Gramercy that at one time was the 21st Precinct has been torn down and will be replaced with a residential building. The four-story property, 327 East 22nd Street between First and Second Avenues, had already been gutted for a couple of years and covered with a scaffolding but was finally demolished last month.

In 2014, developer Sam Suzuki of Suzuki Capital had bought the building for $11.5 million, planning to turn the building into luxury condos. However, according to Acris property records, he sold it to Atalaya, an alternative investment advisor in May 2017, who then sold it in September 2017 to Bin Yu Wang for $12 million. A deed transfer filed in November 2017 now shows a Suzuki-connected “Gramercy 1860 LLC” to be the new owner. Suzuki, meanwhile, has taken out three mortgages totaling $11.3 million from lender Calmwater Capital, the records show.

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Solar 2 design released

This rendering, by Bjark Ingels Group (BIG), shows how the replacement building for Solar One will look, complete with a kayak launch accessible at Stuyvesant Cove Park.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Project architects have released renderings for Solar One’s new building that will be replacing the environmental organization’s original structure along the East River across from Peter Cooper Village within the next two years. The Economic Development Corporation, the city agency overseeing the project, presented the plan to Community Board 6’s land use and waterfront committee on January 22.

Although the project has been referred to as “Solar 2,” the new building will fully replace the organization’s original structure and the renderings show a “Solar One” sign on the building’s western face. According to the presentation, construction on Solar 2 is expected to be completed before the start of 2019 and construction on the additional flood protection in Stuyvesant Cove Park, which is part of the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) project, won’t begin until 2021 or 2022. The ESCR project includes a combination of berms and flood walls to protect the nearby neighborhoods from a possible flood event, and since Solar One’s building is expected to be operational before construction begins for the ESCR, that flood protection will be built around the new structure.

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Worker dies at Flatiron construction site

The death was being investigated at the site on Tuesday morning. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Police are investigating the death of a construction worker found at the bottom of an elevator shaft on Tuesday.

The 33-year-old victim, later identified as Brooklyn resident Jucong Wu, was working on the ninth floor of 111 East 24th Street, a Sam Chang-owned building in the Flatiron District.

Emergency services were called to the site at 8:53 a.m. and pronounced the man dead at the scene.

The investigation is ongoing, though a police source said it appears to be a job site accident.

According to a spokesperson for the Department of Buildings, Wu was employed by U-Tek Elevator Inc., a firm that was installing an elevator car in the 12-story building, which is being converted to a 130-room hotel by Chang’s McSam Hotel Group.

Wu, however, was not tied to a fall-protection safety line, said the DOB.

A person who picked up the phone at McSam Hotel Group declined to comment.

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Behold this not bad looking scaffold

The scaffolding outside 20 West 22nd Street, home to Town & Village and many other businesses (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The building housing the office of Town & Village and dozens of other businesses has become the first in the city to install a scaffold bridge that isn’t a wall of metallic ugliness.

The building’s landlord, ABS Partners Real Estate, recently partnered with Urban Umbrella, a scaffolding firm based in Toronto, Canada, while the 16-story building at 20 West 22nd Street undergoes the Local Law 11 work to maintain the exterior walls.

The scaffolding, made with translucent plastic panels and recycled steel, resembles an unfolding umbrella when seen from underneath and is lit with environmentally-friendly LED lights.

Urban Umbrella co-founder Benjamin Krall said in a statement that the company originally installed scaffolding in Canadian cities Toronto and Vancouver before bringing a more scalable and affordable version of the structures to New York.

“There are more than 10,000 scaffolding bridges in New York City that are hindering foot traffic and affecting the amount of business that companies get while hidden behind construction work,” Krall said. “In New York, there has never been an alternative to these unattractive hunter green scaffolding bridges until now.”

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Garodnick calls for transparency on construction noise

Council Members Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick (pictured at City Hall) have co-sponsored legislation aimed at making noise mitigation plans for construction sites less of a secret.

By Sabina Mollot

In New York City, especially in Manhattan, construction noise is usually impossible to escape. This is even true early in the mornings or later in the evenings at some construction sites, for what, to sleep-deprived neighbors, at least appears to be non-emergency work.

On East 14th Street, Stuyvesant Town residents have complained of late night Con Ed work. Meanwhile, on East 23rd Street, Peter Cooper residents have been dealing with on-and-off pre-sunrise construction relating to the VA Medical Center’s construction of a flood wall.

The canned response to New Yorkers facing what they consider excess noise is to call 3-1-1. However, that doesn’t always work because if work is being done at night, an inspection isn’t going to be scheduled until another day and at that time, there may not be an unacceptable level of noise.

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Con Ed crew at work on East 14th Street in wee hours on Tuesday

Con Ed trucks on East 14th Street (Photo by Sherman Sussman)

By Sabina Mollot

With construction a constant in Manhattan, some residents have the misfortune of hearing trucks back up, pile drivers pound and re-directed motorists curse as the soundtracks to their day. However, one resident of Stuyvesant Town, who lives down the street from the Extell development site and across the street from Con Ed, reached out to us after being woken up at 2:45 a.m. on Tuesday due to work crews on the street.

According to Sherman Sussman, it was at that time that he saw a crew in Con Ed trucks doing non-emergency work in front of 635 East 14th Street. He knew it was non-emergency work after heading downstairs and speaking with the foreman. There were also other trucks idling for over 15 minutes by then, he told us.

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Local Law 11 facade repairs begin in ST

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

Repairs on Stuyvesant Town building facades began last Monday and will continue through October 2017. Management announced the work in a newsletter sent to residents earlier this month, noting that the work is being done to comply with Local Law 11, a citywide program through the Department of Buildings that requires owners to inspect and maintain building facades.
StuyTown Property Services community affairs manager Marynia Kruk said that the amount and scope of the work are building-specific based on what repairs are necessary, but most of the work may result in noise and will require scaffolds that will be dropped from the roof of the building.

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WIHS neighbors blast lack of notice on planned construction

Council Member Rosie Mendez at a meeting held at the school building (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Residents of East 16th and 17th Streets expressed frustration about the planned construction for Washington Irving High School’s façade at a meeting hosted by Council Member Rosie Mendez inside the building on Monday.

East 16th Street resident Julie Block said that she was frustrated by the lack of communication on the part of the School Construction Authority about the project.

“Shame on you for the lack of community input until now,” she said. “We’re the stakeholders in this and we deserve to know what’s going on.”

The purpose of the project, Mendez said, is to repair the facade because of the cracks in the masonry. Netting and scaffolding has been put up to prevent pieces from falling onto pedestrians and some parts of the facade have been temporarily fixed, but some of the more severe cracks have caused water damage and staining inside the school. The budget for the project is $40 million and the expected completion date is March 2020.

The Department of Education did not have representatives at the meeting.

Residents who attended, however, were also concerned that the project will take longer because the work has to be done outside of school hours, with some asking why the work couldn’t get done when the main school closed in 2015 and before the multiple charter schools started moving in.

“If you find a way to stop Eva Moskowitz, let me know,” responded Mendez. “There’s a K-4 school here now and I don’t think we should even have elementary students in this building, but I wasn’t able to stop it.”

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Leases indicate plan to submeter, but management said language is nothing new

Susan Steinberg

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg

By Sabina Mollot

Language in leases signed by Stuyvesant Town residents indicates that the owner has plans to submeter Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, which would make individual tenants responsible for paying for the electricity they use.

However, according to StuyTown Property Services, there is no plan to submeter the property any time soon.

The issue came up this week after a resident pointed out the language on Facebook and wondered if this meant Blackstone intended for file an application with the Public Service Commission (PSC) to have the property submetered.

In response, a property spokesperson, Marynia Kruk, told us, “The Facebook post (on the ST-PCV Tenants Association’s page) is accurate in that our current lease does have a clause about submetering or direct metering. However, this is not new language. New leases have contained the same language since 2009. Ownership has no current plan for submetering.”

Meanwhile, if Blackstone does eventually decide to submeter, it would be the second attempt by a Stuy Town owner to pass on the costs to renters. Tishman Speyer had planned to do this but then abruptly dropped the project upon losing the Roberts v. Tishman Speyer lawsuit at the Appellate Court level.

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WIHS to get facade fixed and neighbors worried about noise

Councilmember Rosie Mendez

Councilmember Rosie Mendez

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The School Construction Authority is planning a major project to repair and renovate the façade of the Washington Irving High School building and neighbors are already concerned about how long they’ll be dealing with noise from what is sure to be a lengthy project.

The neighborhood residents made their views heard at a meeting hosted inside the school on Monday by Council Member Rosie Mendez.

Due to the constraints on construction for schools, the work on the building can only be done on nights and weekends, which concerned residents who live on adjacent streets who have already been dealing with periodic construction noise from the school, even though this major project has not started yet.

Joseph Bova, chief project officer for the SCA, specified that nights and weekends meant 4 p.m. to midnight during the week and as early as 8 a.m. on weekends, although due to objections from residents at the meeting, he said there may be flexibility on the weekend start time and he noted that only clean-up would happen between 11 p.m. and midnight.

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City proposes reconfiguring 2 playgrounds as part of East Side flood protection plan

nov24-asser-levy-playground

Asser Levy Playground (pictured) and Murphy’s Brother’s Playground will be impacted by the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. (Photo courtesy of Parks Department)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The city has been exploring options to redesign Asser Levy Playground and Murphy’s Brother’s Playground, since both will be affected by the construction of flood protection along the East Side of Manhattan from East 23rd Street to Montgomery Street.

Earlier in the month, representatives from the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency discussed the proposals at a community meeting held at Washington Irving High School.

Carrie Grassi, the deputy director of planning for the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, mentioned how the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project will run adjacent to both parks and construction will disturb activities there.

However, since the city is only in the concept design stage with the project, Grassi said that decisions for all aspects aren’t necessarily final yet. One such instance is the placement of the floodwall as it approaches the Asser Levy Playground. One configuration has the wall bordering the park along the FDR Drive, turning along East 25th Street and connecting with the floodwall that the VA Hospital is working on.

“But some feel that would be too imposing,” Grassi said.

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ST-PCV Tenants Association to fight video intercom MCI

By Sabina Mollot

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association is seeking neighbors’ help in an effort to challenge the recently announced video intercom MCI.

The major capital improvement rent increase, if approved, will impact the following Peter Cooper Village buildings: 420 and 440 East 23rd Street, 350, 360, 360 and 390 First Avenue, 2 and 3 Peter Cooper Road and 431 and 441 East 20th Street.

Susan Steinberg

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Susan Steinberg, president of the Tenants Association, said this particular MCI, one of four on the horizon, is expected to cost tenants $2.13-$2.50 per room per month.

At a meeting last month, Steinberg said the four MCIs would be challenged for different reasons, including issues with paperwork.

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Service roads and islands around Stuyvesant Town getting $200G renovation

The project is aimed at making the streets easier to manage for disabled pedestrians as well as anyone pushing a stroller. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The project is aimed at making the streets easier to manage for disabled pedestrians as well as anyone pushing a stroller. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The streets surrounding Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village are getting a $200,000 facelift.

The project, which is being paid for with funds allocated by Council Member Dan Garodnick, isn’t just cosmetic, however.

Service roads around the property from 14th to 23rd Streets will be repaved as will any curb cuts in need of smoothing, and the medians or islands on 14th Street, 20th Street and First Avenue will be repaved to make them wider for wheelchair users. Some, though not all of the cobblestones along with islands will be removed in order to do this. Currently, obstructions for anyone in a wheelchair user include signs and bus stops. Additionally, any cracks along the medians will be filled.

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