Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village under-enrolled for rent freeze programs

By Sabina Mollot

Stuyvesant Town is among the top ten neighborhoods with the most people who are eligible for a rent freeze intended for the disabled or seniors that haven’t enrolled in the programs, according to the Department of Finance.

The stats were part of a report that was released by the DOF on The Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE). The report also said that as many as 155,366 households in the city may qualify for Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) or DRIE and out of that number, 61,319 actually receive the benefit while 94,047 additional residents are not enrolled but could be eligible. The utilization rate for SCRIE is 43 percent while it’s 27 percent for DRIE. Possible reasons for not getting enrolled, the department believes, include language barriers, insufficient public communication and negative sentiment about government assistance.

Along with Stuyvesant Town, which was counted alongside Turtle Bay, other neighborhoods believed to be the most under-enrolled for SCRIE/DRIE include the Upper East Side and Upper West Side, Coney Island, Kingsbridge Heights/Moshulu, Riverdale/Kingsbridge, Throggs Neck/Co-op City, Kew Gardens/Woodhaven, Flushing/Whitestone and Highbridge/S. Concourse.

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Seniors warned: Don’t ignore summonses

Fidel Del Valle, commissioner of the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, speaks at the event held at the Sirovich Center, pictured with Council Member Carlina Rivera (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Ignoring that $100 ticket could end up costing more than $12,000.

The high price tag of ignoring a summons was a major impetus for the workshop held by Councilmember Carlina Rivera at the Sirovich Senior Center on East 12th Street last Friday.

Representatives from the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, which handles most of the summonses issued in the city, wanted to educate seniors on the new ways in which the city is helping residents deal with summonses without even leaving their homes, which can be especially useful for seniors who have mobility challenges.

Assistant Commissioner Marisa Senigo said that there isn’t specific data about how many summonses seniors as a group receive because the agency doesn’t record demographic information, but summonses issued to seniors would often fall under the “personal behavior” category, such as public consumption of alcohol, public urination or being in a park after dark.

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Former roommate charged with stealing $40G from ST golf player

Stuyvesant Town resident Bernie Rothenberg, pictured at his 100th birthday party last year at his apartment (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Sabina Mollot

The family of Bernie Rothenberg, a Stuyvesant Town centenarian well-known to neighbors for his daily golfing at a playground by his apartment has recently appealed to the community to help recoup some of the tens of thousands of dollars they said was stolen from three of his bank accounts.

The money, his son Don told Town & Village, totaled $40,000 and was taken over the past two years, until Don happened to notice the disappearing funds on a third account, since that was a joint account he had access to.

Chloe Garcia, a 26-year-old woman who lived with the elder Rothenberg for over five years until April when she was confronted by his family and thrown out, has since been arrested and charged with grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property. According to the criminal complaint, which doesn’t name the victim, the withdrawn funds come to around $50,000. In it, Garcia allegedly said she got the pin number to Rothenberg’s debit card in his mail and used it for various charges and also wrote checks to herself from his bank account. She was arrested on May 24.

Her Legal Aid attorney, Rebecca Heinsen, declined to comment on the case.

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Cops looking for man who duped elderly woman out of $2G for ‘bail’

Scam suspect

By Sabina Mollot

Police are looking for a man who duped an elderly Peter Cooper Village resident out of $2,000, claiming it was bail she’d need to pay to free a friend who was arrested.

The man called the victim, a 93-year-old woman, at home on Friday, May 26 to say that a friend of hers was arrested and at Rikers Island. He then informed her the bail would cost her $6,500. When the victim said she only had $2,000, the scammer then arrived at her home to collect the cash. Afterwards, the victim got suspicious and called her friend, who, it turned out, had not been arrested.

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For homebound, Citymeals-on-Wheels offers more than just food deliveries

Council Member Dan Garodnick tagged along on a recent Citymeals-on-Wheels delivery to some of his neighbors, including Ellen Fidelman (pictured). Seventy recipients of the regular meal deliveries live in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village.  (Photo courtesy of Council Member Dan Garodnick)

Council Member Dan Garodnick tagged along on a recent Citymeals-on-Wheels delivery to some of his neighbors, including Ellen Fidelman (pictured). Seventy recipients of the regular meal deliveries live in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village. (Photo courtesy of Council Member Dan Garodnick)

By Sabina Mollot

It was 35 years ago when Gael Greene, a food critic, read in the New York Times that many seniors would be going without meals on Thanksgiving weekend. Greene immediately called chef and cookbook author James Beard, who, along with the city’s Department of the Aging, worked together to raise enough money to get 6,000 meals delivered to the homes of the elderly in time for Christmas. The project, Citymeals-on-Wheels, didn’t end there, though. It continued to ensure that New York’s senior citizens wouldn’t have to go without meals on weekends or holidays when senior centers are closed. Demand for the service has only increased since then, with 18,000 homebound elderly currently benefitting from the program each year.

Seventy of those individuals live in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, an increase from 2014 when there were 47.

To qualify for the home deliveries, seniors can’t be physically able to shop or cook for themselves. For that reason, the organization has also become a lifeline for isolated individuals.

More than 60 percent of Citymeals recipients are over 80 years old; 23 percent are over 90; more than 200 have lived at least a century. All recipients are chronically disabled by conditions such as vision loss, diabetes, arthritis and heart disease. Nearly all need assistance walking. It is estimated that 66 percent use a cane, 39 percent use a walker and 16 percent use a wheelchair.

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Hoylman warns Vision Zero could face some opposition from Albany

By Sabina Mollot

Vision Zero, the mayor’s traffic safety initiative, was the subject of a discussion between the mayor and local seniors at the Stein Center on Monday.

The mayor made a last minute appearance at the center, alongside State Senator Brad Hoylman.

Hoylman is also trying to push the agenda in Albany, where many of the city’s traffic regulations are ultimately decided.

However, prior to the discussion (which was closed to press) Hoylman noted there is the chance the mayor could face some political pushback in Albany on traffic safety from Senate Republicans. This would be keeping in tradition with some political payback for the mayor’s effort in 2014 to flip the Republican-controlled Senate.

“We shouldn’t have to go to Albany every time we want to change the speed limits,” said Hoylman. Meanwhile, he added, “More people are killed by (traffic accidents) than a gun.”

The senator said he is trying to get more speed cameras and lower speed limits in more areas, in particular in front of more schools. Another goal is to get large trucks to install side guards to protect pedestrians.

800 ST/PCV residents who qualify for SCRIE/DRIE haven’t enrolled

City pushing rent freeze programs on East Side

Last Thursday, Finance Commissioner Jacques Jiha and Council Member Dan Garodnick announced that citywide, eligible seniors and disabled tenants aren’t taking advantage of an available rent freeze, especially in Stuyvesant Town and along the East Side of Manhattan. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Last Thursday, Finance Commissioner Jacques Jiha and Council Member Dan Garodnick announced that citywide, eligible seniors and disabled tenants aren’t taking advantage of an available rent freeze, especially in Stuyvesant Town and along the East Side of Manhattan. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Last Thursday, the city rolled out what’s it’s calling East Side Rent Freeze Month, a series of events in October aimed at getting eligible New Yorkers signed up for programs that would exempt them from rent hikes, including MCIs (major capital improvements).

The reason for the push was that in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village alone, 800 eligible tenants have yet to sign up for the programs. According to Jacques Jiha, the city’s finance commissioner, the number of eligible people citywide is 80,000, and many of them are East Siders.

“The East Side of Manhattan has the highest number of eligible participants,” said Jiha, as he stood outside Stuyvesant Town’s Community Center with local elected officials and tenants for a press conference. “During the month we’ll sign up as many eligible seniors and people with disabilities as possible.”

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Tenants not filing for SCRIE/DRIE

Some of the attendees at Monday’s workshop go over literature on the rent freeze program. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Some of the attendees at Monday’s workshop go over literature on the rent freeze program. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Despite increased eligibility for the rent freeze program for seniors and the disabled, many tenants in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village who could qualify for the break are not signing up for it.

“Only 25 percent of Stuy Town and Peter Cooper residents who are eligible are enrolled,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman. “It’s owed to these residents that we help them register.”

In order to spread the word about the program, which seniors and disabled people with up to $50,000 in household income could qualify for if one third of their incomes go to rent, Hoylman and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh held a workshop on Monday in Stuyvesant Town.

The workshop on Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) took place at the complex’s Community Center.

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Residents not enrolling for SCRIE/DRIE benefits

State Senator Brad Hoylman

State Senator Brad Hoylman

By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Local elected officials have started holding workshops to enroll residents in Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) programs since a report came out earlier this year noting that less than half of eligible tenants are receiving the benefits they are entitled to.

State Senator Brad Hoylman, along with State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney and Nydia Velazquez, most recently hosted an event at 535 East Fifth Street on October 23 to encourage eligible seniors and disabled residents to sign up for the program that would freeze their rent, and the workshop was attended by about 30 tenants.

SCRIE and DRIE, collectively known as the New York City Rent Freeze Program, is available to seniors over age 62 and tenants with disabilities. Eligible tenants receive rent increase exemptions through a property tax credit and the income threshold increased to $50,000, from the previous limit of $29,000, earlier this year.

Attorneys from Legal Aid and legal firm Skadden Arps were available at the workshop to help residents complete their paperwork but Senator Hoylman noted that filing for the benefits doesn’t necessarily require a fine-tuned legal mind.

“A big part of it is education,” he said. “A number of people who are eligible just don’t know that it’s available, and because it’s pegged to income, you have to re-enroll every year.”

Senator Hoylman cited the low enrollment specifically in Stuyvesant Town as one of the motivating factors for holding the workshops. The report from the Department of Finance found that Stuy Town was one of the most underenrolled neighborhoods in the city, with only 1,317 out of 5,144 eligible residents enrolled in the program, meaning that only 25 percent of eligible seniors and tenants with disabilities are receiving benefits.

Liliana Vaamonde, Director of Training for the Civil Practice with Legal Aid, also noted that education is an important component for enrolling residents in the program, mainly because of the recent changes in the income limit.

“There was a big change that happened last year with the income level so a whole new, large group of people are now eligible,” she said. “The city has been making an effort to do outreach at senior centers and elsewhere so it’s going to take time to inform everyone about the increase.”

Vaamonde added that there are a few misconceptions about the program that residents have at the workshops as well, relating to eligibility and the income level. She clarified that some tenants are confused about why they are not eligible even though their own income is below the $50,000 threshold.

“It’s about the household and not their individual income, so even if a primary tenant has an income below $50,000, other members of the household might bump it up too high,” she said.

She also clarified that the program is only available to tenants who live in rent-regulated housing and they often get questions about eligibility from residents in public housing or privately owned buildings who do meet the income requirements.

“This is all contingent on the fact that they have rent stabilized housing,” Vaamonde said.

Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, who represents the Upper West Side, has been doing her part to increase education about the program, with legislation that requires landlords to notify tenants about programs that would freeze their rents. Assemblymember Rosenthal announced this past Monday that the bill had been signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

IRS scammers target Peter Cooper residents

By Sabina Mollot

Earlier this week, a Peter Cooper Village resident received a robo-call that supposedly came from the Internal Revenue Service. The mechanical female voice that came through his answering machine informed the resident that he was being sued. To get more information about the legal action, the resident was instructed to call a number that appeared to be from a line in Washington state.

A day after the man shared this story with a neighbor, Marcia Robinson, Robinson received an eerily similar call, this one with a number that appeared to be local to Washington, DC. She then phoned a neighbor in her building to tell her about it, and that neighbor informed Robinson that she too had been contacted with the same message, and believed it was a scam.

“None of us called back,” said Robinson. Their caution was fortunate, since, according to a spokesperson for the IRS, such calls are indeed a scam, and one that is being run with more and more frequency, nation-wide.

IRS rep Patricia Svarnas explained, “It’s a huge scam going on right now and it’s one of our biggest issues.”

While the perpetrators are unknown, what is known is that they are overseas, using technology to alter their caller ID. The numbers will appear to be local, usually from Washington, DC, “to make it look official.”

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Thai PM’s wife impressed by active seniors here

Naraporn Chan-ocha (second to right) with City Council Member Rosie Mendez, Stein Center Deputy Director Bob Doxsey and Executive Director Jane Barry (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Naraporn Chan-ocha (second to right) with City Council Member Rosie Mendez, Stein Center Deputy Director Bob Doxsey and Executive Director Jane Barry (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Stein Senior Center on East 23rd Street last Friday played host to a delegation from Thailand, led by Naraporn Chan-ocha, the wife of Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha. The group was there to learn about what makes the center operate successfully and members of the delegation noted that what was most impressive about Stein, and differentiated it from the few senior centers in Thailand, is how active the seniors were.

“The activities that they can try are impressive,” Chan-ocha, a former English professor at Chulalongkorn University, said. “They help the seniors participate and learn about social media, and they get to do dancing and singing.”

Not surprisingly, Stein Center Executive Director Jane Barry agreed.

“This is not the Bingo crowd, this isn’t the Atlantic City crowd, they’re the Shakespeare crowd,” she said. “Another one of the great programs is the opera appreciation. There are also art history and computer classes. We keep them active.”

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Stein Center could be model for Thai and Japanese senior centers

Jane Barry

Jane Barry

By Sabina Mollot

Gramercy’s Stein Senior Center may end up being used as a model for similar centers to open in Thailand and Japan, Stein’s administrators said this week.

On Friday, September 25, the nonprofit center will be hosting Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha’s wife, Naraporn Chanocha and her retinue, to give a tour and explain Stein’s operations. Naraporn Chanocha is a former associate professor at Chulalongkorn University.

“They want to start services for seniors in Thailand,” said Stein Executive Director Jane Barry, “and they want to know how we do it. Specifically, in our role as an independent senior center.”

Although Stein, located at the Firefighters’ Building on East 23rd Street, is one of many senior centers to get some funding from the city for its meals and programming, it’s independent in that it’s not part of a larger organization like the Educational Alliance’s Sirovich Center.

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Sirovich Center’s walls brought to life with nature murals

Section of panels from “Refracted Nature in Clay”

Panel from “Refracted Nature in Clay”

By Sabina Mollot

The Sirovich Center, a senior center on East 12th Street known for its popular ceramics classes, recently got a makeover, courtesy of its own members.

On June 19, the building’s spacious auditorium was outfitted with a dozen elaborately arranged mosaic panels, some of them reliefs, along the mezzanine level’s arched windows. The works of art, made with ceramics, glass, mirror and tile, were created over the past three years by senior artists as part of a program called SPARC (Seniors Partnering With Artists Citywide). After having been installed, they’re expected to remain in place permanently.

The large scale works were put on display by the center’s custodial staff, who’d rented scaffoldings in order to get the panels into the arches located on the building’s second level.

Artist Olivia Beens, who organized the project, titled “Refracted Nature in Clay,” for the last two years, said it completely transformed the look of the auditorium.

“It was a very bland kind of auditorium,” she said. But, she added, “The murals are going to be there forever as long as the building’s standing.”

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Homebound seniors get special delivery

Chef Jason Hall (left) and One Five Hospitality special events director Ashley Bradford (right) with Citymeals-on-Wheels recipient and Stuy Town resident Shashi (Photo courtesy of Citymeals)

Chef Jason Hall (left) and One Five Hospitality special events director Ashley Bradford (right) with Citymeals-on-Wheels recipient and Stuy Town resident Shashi (Photo courtesy of Citymeals)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Chefs from Union Square restaurant The Fourth treated homebound seniors to personally cooked meals from the restaurant last week. The meals were delivered as part of the Chefs Deliver for Citymeals program, in which highly-regarded chefs from various New York restaurants offer up their culinary talents and deliver the meals to elderly residents who are unable to cook or shop for themselves.

The most recent delivery from Citymeals on Tuesday, April 7 was made by chefs Marco Moreira and Jason Hall of The Fourth. Hall personally delivered some of the 200 meals to Stuy Town residents with Ashley Bradford, special events director at One Five Hospitality, which includes The Fourth. On the menu was dinners of Moroccan-spiced braised chicken with peas, carrots and Israeli couscous and the remainder of meals were delivered to residents in the Lower East Side.

Citymeals board of director’s co-president and chef Daniel Boulud and Citymeals board member chef Charlie Palmer launched Chefs Deliver in January, 2014. Citymeals-on-Wheels executive director Beth Shapiro said that Citymeals started the program in response to Hurricane Sandy and it has been available about three times in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village since its inception.

The most recent delivery from Citymeals on Tuesday, April 7 was made by chefs Marco Moreira and Jason Hall of The Fourth. Hall personally delivered some of the 200 meals to Stuy Town residents with Ashley Bradford, special events director at One Five Hospitality, which includes The Fourth. On the menu was dinners of Moroccan-spiced braised chicken with peas, carrots and Israeli couscous and the remainder of meals were delivered to residents in the Lower East Side.

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Stein Center offering program for seniors impacted by Sandy

Flooding at 14th Street and Avenue C. (Photographer unknown.)

Cars partially submerged in floodwater during Hurricane Sandy at 14th Street and Avenue C. (Photographer unknown.)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

For many people living and working in Manhattan, the direct effects of Hurricane Sandy ended when the electricity came back and subway service was restored. But like local businesses and institutions that undertook the painstaking work of rebuilding, still an ongoing process almost two and a half years later, residents who live in areas that flooded are also still recovering. A new program from the Department for the Aging available at the Stein Senior Center on East 23rd Street is trying to help ease the emotional effects of the disaster, specifically catering to seniors.

The $1.7 million in funding for SMART-MH (Sandy Mobilization, Assessment, Referral and Treatment for Mental Health) was awarded from FEMA to the Aging in New York Fund by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office through the Superstorm Sandy Social Services Block Grant in 2013.

The Department for the Aging and the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College are working together to execute the program, which started at the Stein Center in February and is exclusively available for New Yorkers age 60 and older. Stein Center Executive Director Jane Barry said that the free program will be available as long as there are seniors who meet the criteria, and noted that a number of people have been helped already.

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