DEC: Contaminant recovery wells won’t be intrusive

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New York State Department of Conservation project managers Gardiner Cross and Doug MacNeal at a public meeting last Wednesday (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

With a contaminant recovery plan having been proposed for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, representatives from the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) addressed concerns of residents last week at a public meeting.

This included making assurances that wells the DEC and Con Edison plan to build in ST/PCV to collect the leftover chemicals so they can be disposed of wouldn’t be intrusive. Con Ed has been working with DEC on what’s been referred to as a “remediation” for the site, which was once home to a manufactured gas plant (MGP).

The DEC had actually directed Con Edison to begin remediation for this project back in 2011. However, DEC project manager Doug MacNeal said during the meeting that the process was delayed for the last five years because of the changes in ownership at ST/PCV.

MacNeal said that exact locations haven’t been determined for the wells yet, but Council Member Dan Garodnick, who was also at the meeting, which held at Beth Israel last Wednesday, said that he would push DEC to site them as far away as possible from doors, windows and playgrounds.

One possible location for the wells, of which there will be 10 in Peter Cooper and six in Stuy Town, would be inside the garages. Meeting attendees burst into laughter when geologist and DEC project manager Gardiner Cross said that this was because the garages already have good ventilation. However, MacNeal backed up his statement, explaining that to be up to code, a garage has to have a functional ventilation system. If it doesn’t, he added, residents should contact DEC.

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Stuyvesant Town going solar

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Rendering of Stuyvesant Town as it would appear following installation of solar panels (Photo courtesy of StuyTown Property Services)

 

By Sabina Mollot

On Wednesday, Stuyvesant Town’s owners, Blackstone and Ivanhoé Cambridge, announced plans to install solar panels on all of the roofs in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. Additionally, they said, it will be the largest private, multi-family residential solar project in the country.

The 3.8 Megawatt (DC) solar energy system will span across the property’s 22 acres of rooftops.

According to the owners, once the project is completed, StuyTown will have tripled Manhattan’s capacity to generate solar power. Renewable energy developer Onyx Renewable Partners is the project developer for the installation, which is expected to begin this winter and be completed in 2019.

The installation will consist of 9,671 high efficiency solar panels and will generate enough energy to power over 1,000 New York City apartments annually. The project is expected to offset approximately 63,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, which is comparable to removing 12,000 cars from the road for a year.

“We are incredibly proud of the long-term partnership we are building with the StuyTown community,” said Nadeem Meghji, head of Real Estate Americas at Blackstone. “In 2015 we made a commitment to preserve StuyTown’s unique heritage and be responsible stewards of its future. This innovative solar project is one of many initiatives we designed and implemented to make the community more sustainable and environmentally friendly.”

A spokesperson for Blackstone added that there will be no major capital improvement rent increase for the project, and that early on in the new ownership, environmentally friendly projects were actually suggested by residents in response to surveys issued by management. According to the Wall Street Journal, the project will cost $10 million.

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UPDATED: Con Ed recommends putting wells in ST/PCV to recover contaminants from former gas plant

Mar13 Con Ed

The gas works and storage tanks of Con Ed’s predecessor company in 1890. (Photo courtesy of Con Ed)

UPDATE: Con Ed has changed the date and venue of the upcoming meeting. It will be on Wednesday, November 1 at 7 p.m. at Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s Podell Auditorium in the Bernstein Building, 10 Perlman Place, one block west of First Avenue between 15th and 16th Streets, according to an email sent to neighbors from the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association.

By Sabina Mollot

As most people who live in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village know, the property is the site of the former Gashouse District, named for the Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) stations and facilities run by Con Ed and its predecessor companies.

In recent years, the utility has been conducting an investigation in and around ST/PCV, looking for contaminants in the ground, groundwater and air. The investigation is being coordinated with the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the State Department of Health.

According to the study’s findings from investigations in 2006 and 2008, contaminants were found, but located deep in the ground (at least five feet) with most even lower, and in groundwater beneath the site, though that water is not used for drinking. MGP residential levels tested in the air indoors were found to be typical. Outdoor air samples collected were also found to be normal for an urban area. Because of this, Con Ed said in an advisory this week that it’s unlikely people will come into contact with these contaminants, though air monitoring will continue.

Still, the company is now proposing a “remediation” (cleanup) plan for the site that involves, among other things, the placement of wells.

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Stuy Town garage customers won’t get expected refunds

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Stuyvesant Town’s garages are run by Quik Park. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

For the Stuyvesant Town residents who are customers of the complex’s six garages, which are run by Quik Park, the wait for a refund for $60 in rate increases that came without notice last year is finally over. This is because there will be no refunds issued to these customers after all.

In July, Councilman Dan Garodnick said he was told by the Department of Consumer Affairs that refunds were on the way for customers of Quik Park (parent company Citizens Icon Holdings) who’d been issued an improperly implemented increase. This was accurate, but apparently the Stuy Town garage customers were not included in that pool of motorists. The only refunds that will come through are for customers who’d gotten a notice that the rate hikes they were being charged were for a “Living Wage Assessment,” which happened elsewhere in the city.

Asked if there was still a possibility that the Stuy Town customers could see their money back as well, a spokesperson for the DCA didn’t have a response, but did say the department was working with the garage company (and others in the industry) to ensure customers will receive proper notice of increases in the future.

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Stuy Town gets new public safety chief

New Public Safety Chief Frances Martin is a Stuyvesant town resident.

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday, StuyTown Property Services made the surprise announcement that there was a new chief of public safety in the community.

The job has been given to Frances Martin, a Stuyvesant Town resident and a former NYPD officer who has been working as a lieutenant for SPS for the past seven years on the overnight shift. She is the first woman to become head of public safety in the complex.

SPS made the announcement via email, which curiously omitted any reference to the chief of public safety for the past 11 years, William McClellan. McClellan also previously had worked for the NYPD. SPS wouldn’t comment on the reason for the popular employee’s departure, but praised him in a written statement to Town & Village.

“Chief McClellan served the community well over his 11 years and we thank him for his leadership and service,” spokesperson Paula Chirhart said.

As for Martin, the newsletter states: “She served the city of New York for 27 years and retired as commander of the Detective Squad in 2010. She was an appointee of the then police commissioner and has worked task forces with the FBI, Secret Service, and just about every other federal agency including Homeland Security in the aftermath of 9/11. At the time of her departure, Martin was one of the highest ranking female officers in the NYPD.”

Another Stuyvesant Town resident, Joseph Gamba, will be taking on the role of deputy chief of public safety.

Renovation work stops in four PCV apartments due to lack of permits

Peter Cooper Village

By Sabina Mollot

This week, the city issued stop work orders on four apartments in Peter Cooper Village that had been undergoing renovations, due to a lack of permits. The four units were among the 115 apartments in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village that are being reconfigured to add an additional bedroom in each, and management is currently in the process of applying for the permits for the work.

The Department of Buildings issued the stop work orders after inspecting the apartments on Friday morning, the ST-PCV Tenants Association said. In five apartments, they found three violations in each, all related to work without a permit. Stop work orders were issued on only four, though, since management was able to immediately get a permit for one of the units.

Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg said it was the TA who tipped off the city to the problem as well as alerting management, who had been unaware of the lack of permits. The TA was initially only looking into the situation after hearing from several tenants in neighboring apartments to the ones being renovated, who were complaining about noise, vibrations and even walls cracking. While management has been responsive to requests for repairs that Steinberg’s aware of, a few eagle-eyed residents also noticed that permits weren’t posted in buildings.

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Teens beat man with hockey sticks outside PCV

Mar31 Peter Cooper sign

Peter Cooper Village

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police arrested three teenagers on Monday for a robbery outside Peter Cooper Village that took place earlier this month.

A 47-year-old man told police that a group of kids with masks over their faces approached him on the sidewalk outside 531 East 20th Street on Wednesday, July 12 around 11:50 p.m. The victim said that the teens whacked him in the head and body with hockey sticks and took his cell phone before fleeing the scene.

Police said that teens were stopped and frisked shortly after the crime but the victim could not positively identify them at the time because the suspects had been wearing face masks.

According to police, the victim lives in the neighborhood but could not confirm if he is a Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village resident.

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Sinkhole on E. 23rd turns into gurgling tub

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Men work at the sinkhole on the bike lane at 23rd Street and the East River on Tuesday. (Photo by Janet Handal)

By Sabina Mollot

A sinkhole that’s been on the bike lane at 23rd Street along the East River for weeks now has grown from being a few feet across to a ten-foot-wide gurgling geyser. It has also been an active worksite manned by a plumbing crew from the Economic Development Corporation, which manages the nearby city-owned Skyport garage. It’s a broken, leaking pipe underneath the garage that has been blamed for the problem.

Town & Village first reported on the sinkhole last week, when a then two-week-old 311 complaint had yet to spur any action from the city. The relevant city agencies finally arrived at the scene last Wednesday evening (following T&V’s press time) to barricade off the area. Additionally, at that time, a spokesperson for the DEP told us the Skyport garage had been ordered to fix the pipe as well as well as the sinkhole.

But by Tuesday evening of this week, a spokesperson for the EDC, Shavone Williams, still couldn’t say exactly when the damaged water line would be fixed, although the expectation was sometime this week. Williams added that the EDC was planning with the Department of Environmental Preservation to shut down a main on Wednesday morning so contractors could repair the line and repave the surface later in the week. Until it’s repaired, Williams said, the crew would remain onsite and keep the area surrounding the water hole secured with cones and tape.

Meanwhile, water service was completely shut off at Waterside Plaza on Wednesday by 8:30 a.m., according to the management office. General Manager Peter Davis said he didn’t know if it was related to the sinkhole, since the property hadn’t gotten a notice from any agency. UPDATE at 10:54 a.m. Water service has been restored to Waterside, and a DEP representative said the agency was looking into why it happened and why residents were not notified.

Janet Handal, president of the Waterside Tenants Association, first reported the sinkhole to the city on July 5, fearing it would become a deathtrap for cyclists and the usual crowds of people headed to the party boats at the marina next to the garage.

However, there was no visible response from the city on the growing hole until Handal reached out to a number of city agencies and elected officials as well as Town & Village. Only then did teams from the DEP and the Department of Transportation arrive to completely barricade off the sinkhole, which had been only partially surrounded by tape.

As of this Tuesday, Handal said it didn’t appear the workers knew yet where the water main actually was. After stopping by the site, Handal said she was shocked by the force and sound of the gushing water in the hole, as thick cords from six water pumps snaked their way inside. The width of the hole, which had originally just been in the bike lane, had stretched across two traffic lanes by then. This may have been done intentionally to allow the workers access, however.

Based on her observations, though, the water pumps didn’t appear to be doing much. She said she was told by a worker that the EDC was waiting for the DEP to turn off the water and that the collapsed pipe was believed to be about 80 years old.

Teens threaten senior at knifepoint in PCV, suspects nabbed

Mar31 Peter Cooper sign

Peter Cooper Village

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Two teenagers attempted to rob a 78-year-old Peter Cooper Village resident outside 420 East 23rd Street last Monday at 5:40 p.m.

Police said that a 14-year-old middle school student from Bethpage on Long Island threatened the resident in front of the Peter Cooper building. The teen reportedly threatened the victim with a blue knife while demanding that he give him a dollar while the other teen, a 17-year-old high school student who attends Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn, was acting as a lookout.

The 14-year-old managed to get into the building’s lobby by closely following another resident and got in before the main door locked, but both teens were outside the building when the middle schooler threatened the victim.

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115 apts. in ST/PCV being reconfigured

TA worried about apartments being churned

By Sabina Mollot

Blackstone has recently embarked upon an “experiment” with 115 vacant apartments in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village that involves adding a new bedroom in most of them by reducing dining or living room space. The plan also will create some new studio apartments.

News of the project was announced on Tuesday by the ST-PCV Tenants Association, which is staunchly opposed to it over concerns it will just add to the “churning” of apartments rented by transients.

Susan Steinberg, president of the Tenants Association, said StuyTown Property Services first shared the plan with the TA about three weeks ago but at that time it had yet to get the greenlight of the Department of Buildings. At this point, however, the city has signed off on the project because the TA has learned construction has already begun.

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Details of the apartment conversions were shared in an email that was sent to neighbors along with the TA’s reasons for asking the landlord to scrap the whole project. In particular, Steinberg said, the Tenants Association is opposed to the Stuy Town subdivisions because in Peter Cooper, living rooms are spacious enough where losing some space wouldn’t be as drastic as the conversions in Stuy Town, which, the TA said, effectively turns living rooms into foyers.

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City hopes to use ST composting program as model for other multi-family buildings

Stuyvesant Town Director of Environmental Services Rei Moya, Stuyvesant Town General Manager Rick Hayduk, Department of Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, David Hurd of GrowNYC and Stuy Town resident Deborah Brozina (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Stuyvesant Town management and the Department of Sanitation are trying to raise awareness about the property’s efforts to compost food waste, and hopes to use the property as an example of how larger multifamily buildings can do this successfully.

DSNY Commissioner Kathryn Garcia visited Stuy Town last Wednesday with representatives from greenmarket organizer GrowNYC and NYC Organics, the branch of DSNY that runs the compost collection program, to check on its progress.

The program officially started in Stuy Town and Peter Cooper on December 2 and director of environmental services for STPCV Rei Moya said that it took about a month to hit its stride. Moya recommended that residents who want to start composting can collect their food waste in the freezer and empty it directly into the brown bins in building recycling areas. The program will accept food scraps, food-soiled paper and plant clippings. He added that he has started composting in his own apartment and invested in a countertop container, lined with biobags that can be purchased at places like Walgreens or local supermarkets.

“Because the moisture just seeps out and dries up, there’s no smell,” Moya said.

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Exhibit taking residents back in time

Hours of the exhibition, taking place at Oval Studio, have been extended. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Saturday, StuyTown Property Services turned Oval Studio into a gallery space celebrating the community’s 70th anniversary.

The exhibition features various mementos from the property’s past, mostly on loan from residents. Items run from artwork showcasing the complex’s landscaping to photos of local businesses from days gone by to letters showing interaction between tenants and management. In one stern, type-written letter, a resident is informed that his child’s use of water gun on the grounds is a no-no.

The exhibition mostly steered clear of the property’s past major controversies, though, focusing on nostalgia, with a few exceptions. One could be the first year’s issues of this newspaper, which was displayed in a bound volume. (In the early years, an ongoing story involved Met Life’s policy of barring black residents.) There was also some other Stuy Town-focused reading material included.

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Former PCV resident returns through apartment lottery

Nichole Levin, holding a gift bag with slippers at home on Monday, is happy to be back in Peter Cooper Village. Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Friday, March 31, Nichole Levin, an elementary school teacher and Peter Cooper Village native, got the phone call she’d been waiting for over a year. Her application to the Stuyvesant Town lottery for reduced rent apartments had been accepted. In fact, she was told, she could move in right away, and the apartment was in the same building in Peter Cooper Village as her mother’s home.

The news came as a happy ending to what was a somewhat stressful process, due to the wait — she’d even had to extend her current lease in Tudor City by a month while sorting out a paperwork issue.

Levin, 41, has since spoke with Town & Village about her experience, and has also since moved in (on Monday).

It was last March when the lottery opened for the first time, inviting those with incomes no higher than 165 percent of the area median income as well as those earning no more than 80 percent of the AMI to apply. Levin, who teaches English as a Second Language, had an income that made her eligible for apartments for renters in the upper income tier. Last March, this was $74,850-$99,825 for a single person seeking a studio or one-bedroom. It wasn’t until September, however, that she was contacted for a routine credit check.

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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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Confusing parking sign changed outside Peter Cooper Village

Cailin Krogman’s car parked by the sign last November (Photo by Cailin Krogman)

By Sabina Mollot

Earlier this month, a parking regulation sign located outside Peter Cooper Village on East 20th Street that had been confusing drivers was replaced with a new one. The problem with it previously, as one Peter Cooper driver who got socked with a $115 ticket told us, was that an arrow indicating where one couldn’t park appeared to contradict what the paint lines on the street indicated.

“It’s in conflict with the sign; it doesn’t match up,” said the driver Cailin Krogman. Last November 13, Krogman had parked where she thought it would be okay to do so, over a car’s length away from the sign, only to get slapped with the ticket anyway that evening.

So, while the sign having been changed is good news for drivers (a result of Krogman complaining numerous times to Council Member Dan Garodnick’s office), naturally, Krogman said she would still like her ticket dismissed. Especially since, she pointed out, she’s been paying attention to the spot since her ticket was given and seen that others have not been ticketed. Adding insult to injury, said Krogman, her car has a visible tag indicating she’s a disabled driver.

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