Millionaire New Yorkers say: Tax us, please

Group pushing pied-à-terre tax among others for wealthy

Abigail Disney

By Sabina Mollot

On Monday, a coalition of 35 millionaire New Yorkers, including Abigail Disney and Morris Pearl, retired managing director at asset manager BlackRock, signed onto a letter asking Albany to tax them higher. The reason, they explained in their open letter, which was in the works even before the coronavirus, is to help meet the “urgent” budget needs the state is currently facing.

“If we want our state to continue being a national leader, we need to continue investing in our people and our communities, and that requires higher taxes for wealthy New Yorkers,” said Pearl. “There’s no reason that millionaire investors who have profited the most from our state’s success should have lower tax rates than regular New Yorkers who have to work for a living.”

Among the taxes they’d like to see include the proposed “pied-à-terre tax” on second and additional homes over $5 million, which is having a second go in Albany after being previously shot down. Other taxes the wealthy letter signers say they ought to be saddled with are what they’re calling a “strengthened millionaire’s tax,” with a new marginal rate of 9.62 percent on income over $1 million, and new income brackets starting at $5 million (10.32 percent marginal rate), $10 million (11.32 percent) and $100 million (11.82 percent). This tax, they said, would bring in roughly $4.5 billion per year. They’re also calling for a “modest” annual tax on net assets, applied to households with over $1 billion in assets.

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Tenants rally to save Fifth Avenue building

Although the building is not in his district, Assemblymember Harvey Epstein spoke at the rally against the demolition of the Fifth Avenue building and the proposed development at the site. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Tenants, local elected officials and housing advocates last Friday rallied against a plan from Madison Realty Capital that would demolish a five-story, 20-unit apartment building on Fifth Avenue in a historic district and replace it with a building almost four times as tall as the existing structure but with fewer apartments.

The plan from the developer would replace the building at 14-16 Fifth Avenue, which was constructed in 1848, with a 244-foot, 21-story tower with 18 units of luxury housing.

Advocates at the rally last week condemned the project, arguing that the proposed building was an inappropriate size compared to other buildings in the neighborhood. The demolition of the building would also include the loss of at least 10 rent-stabilized units, which would then be replaced by fewer units, all of which would be unaffordable.

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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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Carbon monoxide sends construction workers at Kips Bay building to hospital

Firefighters pull ropes to hoist two injured workers out of the construction pit. (Photos by Jefferson Siegel)

By Jefferson Siegel

Nine construction workers were overcome by carbon monoxide late Tuesday afternoon at a construction site on East 29th Street between Park Avenue South and Madison Avenue, the location of a 46-story building that will house condos.

The men were using power saws while working in an enclosed space near gasoline-powered generators when they started to feel dizzy. Most of the workers were able to exit the space on their own, but two had to be lifted out by firefighters. They were taken to a hospital and the Buildings Department issued a stop-work order on the site.

A worker overcome by carbon monoxide is rushed to an ambulance.

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City sues over $20M Airbnb scheme

Three buildings in Kips Bay, including 207-215 East 27th Street, were named in a lawsuit against a Manhattan brokerage firm, with the city alleging they were being marketed as short-term rentals. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Monday, the city sued a Manhattan brokerage firm, Metropolitan Property Group, as well as real estate agents and entities currently or formerly associated with Metropolitan, accusing them of running a $20 million illegal short-term rental scheme.

The rentals, arranged mostly through Airbnb, were spread across 130 apartments in 35 buildings, the city said. Five of the buildings were listed in the lawsuit, three of them located in Kips Bay at 207-215 East 27th Street, 230 East 30th Street and 218 Third Avenue. Another was in Midtown East at 123 East 54th Street and another building in Harlem, 200 East 116th Street, was completely transformed into an illegal hotel, according to the lawsuit filed by the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement (OSE).

OSE said it was also able to determine that 18 entities affiliated with MPG and its employees received at least $20.7 million for short-term rental transactions made through Airbnb alone from 2015 to 2018. Named in the suit were Metropolitan CEO Sami Katri, his wife Shely Katri, Maxim Beckman, Simon Itah and Alon Karasenty.

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CB6 supports bill aimed at protecting bike lanes near construction sites

Council Member Carlina Rivera

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community Board 6 has voted to support Councilmember Carlina Rivera’s legislation to protect bike lanes during street construction.

The bill, which Rivera introduced in mid-October, would require holders of Department of Transportation permits that allow construction on city streets to preserve impacted bike lanes and provide a safe and sufficient detour.

The legislation specifies that at least three quarters of the original bike lane or four feet, whichever is larger, should be maintained, and the bike lane needs to be separated from vehicle traffic with a barrier. The bill would also ensure that the bike lane is not open to pedestrian traffic.

At the CB6 meeting on November 12, Stuy Town resident and Community Board member Larry Scheyer raised the issue of whether or not there are already any existing policies addressing this, and member Gene Santoro noted that there is not yet anything specific requiring builders to protect the existing bike lanes.

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Effort underway to make apt. renovations less noisy and dusty

Worker doing dustless masonry cutting through an air conditioner opening (Photos courtesy of Empire Core)

By Sabina Mollot

At Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, about 275 apartments are gut renovated each year, with 35-70 going on at any given time, depending on the season.

While this can boost the value of the property for the owner, for residents of adjoining apartments, the apartment transformations just mean weeks of ongoing noise from power tools and dust clouds that permeate the air.

Fortunately, Empire Core Group, the company that oversees the gut renovation of apartments in ST/PCV, done by contractors, has, within the past year primarily, begun using new tools aimed at reducing both the noise and dust levels as well as the time needed to complete the jobs.

Rick Hayduk, Stuyvesant Town’s general manager, said the effort came as a result of management getting bombarded with calls by residents who live in apartments near those being worked on.

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Preservationists blast tech hub plan

Site of the future Tech Hub on East 14th Street at Irving Place (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Neighborhood preservationists were disappointed that City Council’s approval for the proposed Tech Hub on East 14th Street at Irving Place last Thursday didn’t include specific rezoning to protect the area south of the new center, while Council Member Carlina Rivera celebrated the unanimous vote for the plan, claiming that the city is working on putting neighborhood protections in place. The City Council’s Committee on Land Use approved the project at the beginning of the month and the full Council approved the measure last Thursday.

Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation executive director Andrew Berman criticized Rivera, who represents the area on East 14th where the new tech center will be built as well as the neighborhood to the south, for voting yes on the plan, noting that she campaigned on the issue and promised she would only vote for it with specific protections for the surrounding neighborhood.

“The City Council’s deal approves the mayor’s Tech Hub with just a fraction of a fraction of the protections the surrounding neighborhood needs and called for, and which Rivera promised to condition her vote upon,” Berman said. “The approval of the Tech Hub will accelerate the transformation of the adjacent Greenwich Village and East Village neighborhoods into an extension of ‘Midtown South’ and ‘Silicon Alley,’ which many developers and real estate interests have already begun to call them. We are seeing 300-foot tall office and condo towers going up in this area and 300-room hotels being built, which are completely out of character for these neighborhoods, with many more to come.”

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Construction worker injured in fall at Asser Levy Center

July12 Asser Levy rescue

Rescue in progress at Asser Levy Center

By Sabina Mollot

A construction worker was injured after falling at the Asser Levy Recreation Center on Thursday morning and taken to Bellevue Hospital.

The fall happened at about 8:30 a.m. and The Department of Buildings later issued a partial stop work order at the site.

Notes in the stop work order said the worker fell two stories from the roof to the sidewalk, sustaining “moderate injuries,” citing an Office of Emergency Management report. However, a spokesperson for the DOB told Town & Village the fall was from a second level of a supported scaffold to the base of the scaffold. A complaint entered on the DOB site said the worker fell 10-15 feet and had pain in his shoulder and was unable to move.

A spokesperson for the department said the workers were doing minor façade repairs, which don’t require a permit.

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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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