An East Village resident, Joanne Joemelti, argues that tenants shouldn’t be punished because of the ones that use Airbnb. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
With just a week to go before the mayor’s Rent Guidelines Board votes on the year’s increases for roughly one million people, the city’s stabilized renters, both tenants and landlords went before the board to argue why they needed a break — in rent rollbacks or rent increases high enough to cover operating costs, respectively. The usual reasons for both were mentioned: desperate tenants citing stagnant wages while rent increases have steadily been granted until last year’s historic freeze, and owners blaming soaring real estate taxes and other factors like water/sewer fees and building maintenance.
But one thing both sides had in common was a mutual loathing for the increasingly common practice of short-term rentals.
Tenants brought up owners who flout the law to rent vacant units to tourists since it’s more lucrative than monthly rent and doubles as a form of harassment to longtime renters who’ve lost a sense of safety and community. Meanwhile, equally frustrated owners lamented how tenants live elsewhere, while paying under market rent and earning a windfall through Airbnb.
The arguments were made at the auditorium of the Cooper Union building on Monday afternoon. Tenants and landlords lined up to speak along with several elected officials at an RGB hearing.
Residents ask questions at the meeting, which was attended by around 100 people. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)
Also: No permanent dog run, and no more marketing to students
By Sabina Mollot
On Saturday, Stuyvesant Town General Manager Rick Hayduk spoke at a meeting held by the ST-PCV Tenants Association to give updates on the property and to address tenant concerns from student apartments to rogue cyclists.
He also gave a long awaited answer to the frequent requests for a dog run — not happening — but indicated the defunct Stuyvesant Town flea market will return if management can find a way to do it that doesn’t increase the risk of bed bugs.
“They are horrific,” he said of the blood-sucking critters. Hayduk added that if the event were to be brought back, there would need to be so many items banned, from furniture to clothing, that, “The only thing left is a picture of dogs playing poker.”
When the resident who’d asked about the market responded to say she believed tenants would cooperate with whatever rules management comes up with, Hayduk responded, “It’s not a definitive no.”
While the events taking place in Stuyvesant Town ever since the historic sale to Tishman Speyer have hardly lacked for headlines, from the point of view of a former resident, the story that was not being told — at least not nearly enough — was that of how the aggressive attempts to turn over apartments impacted individuals.
Lisa M. Morrison, along with two other people, have since written a book on the subject, called Priced Out: Stuyvesant Town and the Loss of Middle-Class Neighborhoods. The book, published by NYU Press ($28 paperback), was released on March 15 and is available at nyupress.org and on Amazon. Co-authors are Rachael A. Woldoff and Michael R. Glass.
The book includes 50 interviews with residents of all ages and situations (from seniors, some of whom are original residents, to younger people with families to singles, including college students.)
“It has a lot of different angles and kind of looks at the issue from different perspectives,” Morrison said. She also suggested the book is complementary to Charles Bagli’s Other People’s Money, which offered a behind-the-scenes look at the infamous $5.4 billion deal and the real estate feeding frenzy that led to such a speculative and ultimately predatory investment.
“Our book focuses on the community members’ experience, since I don’t think any other book has that,” Morrison said. “And the idea of being priced out of a community. It’s something that’s happening all over. It’s something a lot of people can relate to.”
Rick Hayduk (right), the new general manager of ST/PCV, speaks with tenants at a meet-and-greet event on Saturday. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
The new general manager of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper, Rick Hayduk, has promised tenants that Blackstone is focused on improving services and communication and in particular, said the hiring of four new plumbers should end the two to three week wait times tenants have been experiencing for repairs.
Hayduk made the comments on Saturday at a meet and greet event that was held at the tents at Stuyvesant Town’s Playground 11.
Around 150 people, mainly seniors and other longterm tenants, attended the event, as did a couple of elected officials, State Senator Brad Hoylman and Council Member Dan Garodnick.
Rick Hayduk speaks at Saturday’s event.
While at a podium in front of a Stuy Town logo-covered step-and-repeat, Hayduk discussed various tenant concerns, including the recent spike in plumbing repair delays. “Our standard is two to three days and that’s what you should expect,” he said.
Hayduk also said that a hotline for tenants that Blackstone had set up after the company bought the property has been transferred to his office.
“Go through normal channels, but if (a request) needs to escalate, we’re here for that,” Hayduk said. The number is (212) 655-9870.
He also encouraged tenants to slip him notes, gesturing to his pocket while saying that several neighbors had already done so.
The city is planning to expand existing ferry service on the East River and citywide, and a new ferry landing is to be built at East 20th Street. The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association has invited officials from the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to fill residents in on the project. The new landing would be part of the Lower East Side route, a stop between an existing stop at East 34th Street and another at Wall Street/Pier 11.
The Tenants Association is holding an open meeting on Thursday, January 14 from 6-7:30 p.m. at the VA Medical Center atrium conference room, 423 East 23rd Street east of First Avenue.
Questions are encouraged, such as:
What impacts will the new facility have on noise and pollution? Will ferry passengers crowd local buses? What effect will the ferry landing have on the new storm barrier design? What impact will the landing have on pedestrians and bicyclists in Stuyvesant Cove Park? What new commuting options will be available to Stuy Town and Peter Cooper residents?
On Wednesday, Blackstone announced that it will be forming a new management company to run Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village and that they’ve chosen a new general manager, Rick Hayduk.
Hayduk, who’ll be moving with his family to the complex, started on January 1. However, the new company won’t take over from CompassRock until a transitional period ends. Blackstone hasn’t yet elaborated on the new management entity.
Hayduk has over 30 years of property management and hospitality experience, Blackstone said, and previously worked at the 350-acre Boca Raton Resort & Club as the property’s president. Prior to that he was regional managing director of South Seas Island Resort and the Inns of Sanibel, where he worked with over 20 home owners associations and residents of the resort village and neighboring condominiums. He’s been working with Blackstone properties for almost a decade.
“We are confident he is the right person for this role,” said Nadeem Meghji, senior managing director at Blackstone. Meghji added that Hayduk is “someone we know well and trust.”
Residents will get a chance to meet Hayduk at a meet-and-greet on Saturday, January 9 at 10 a.m. at the tented basketball court at Playground 11 in Stuyvesant Town. Additional meet-and-greet events will be on Tuesday, January 12 at the community center, 449 East 14th Street at 2 and 3 p.m. (RSVP required for both by calling (212) 598-5297 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org) and on January 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the tented basketball court.
Hayduk wasn’t available for comment by Town & Village’s press time, but issued a prepared statement saying he was looking forward to living in the community.
“Over the years of serving guests, residents and associates, I have seen time and time again how personally engaging customers and residents directly is the best approach in property management,” Hayduk said. “Management must be a part of the community in order to understand the needs of its residents. “My wife Carol, our two daughters and I are excited to join the PCVST community and we look forward to getting to know our neighbors and fellow tenants as well as enjoying the green spaces the community is so well known for.”
Hayduk will be the first general manager to live on the property since the Met Life era.
Reps for owner meet with tenants on Associated as well as maintenance and safety concerns
A petition recently circulated to save the Associated Supermarket got over 800 signatures online and hundreds more on paper. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
New owner Blackstone has committed to keeping an affordable supermarket in Stuyvesant Town, although it may not be Associated.
Last week, a petition was started to save the 25-year-old supermarket, which, as Town & Village reported in October, was being pressured to end its lease early, even after CWCapital turned down an offer from a competing market to go in at a higher rent.
However, last Thursday, Blackstone reps told members of the Tenants Association board at a private meeting that there would continue to be an affordable option for tenants when shopping for groceries.
As of T&V’s press time, an online petition in support of the store had over 850 signatures. The Tenants Association had also created paper petitions that were placed by each store cashier, which got hundreds more signatures. Many residents had been concerned that the store would be replaced by a more expensive supermarket or no supermarket at all.
Blackstone rep Paula Chirhart, who was at the meeting with the Tenants Association, later told T&V, “We are committed to keeping an affordable grocery in that space.”
She noted that the Associated still has two more years to go before the store’s lease is up.
ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg was one of the recipients of a call currently targeting the community. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
Last week, Town & Village reported on a phone scam in which the caller claims to be from the IRS and suing the person being called. While variations on the scam have been reported nationwide for some time, there seemed to be a recent rash of phone calls to Peter Cooper Village residents.
Meanwhile, this week, a similar, but even more sinister phone scam has hit Stuyvesant Town.
One resident who received a call was ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg. Like in the previous scam, the caller used a computer generated, female voice when leaving a message on the answering machine. From that voice, however, came a no-nonsense threat of arrest to the person being called over allegations of tax fraud. The caller claimed to be Officer Smith from the United States Treasury who was warning that this was a final notice before the case ends up in Federal Claims Court or an arrest.
“Make sure you call us as soon as possible,” the voice added, after making the arrest threat. The call came from what appeared to be a Los Angeles-based number.
“Why would someone in Los Angeles call New York about tax fraud?” asked Steinberg, who was aware of the scam, and certainly didn’t buy it.
However, she wondered if the perpetrators knew something about the ages of the people they were calling.
“I don’t know if they have statistics on age, but I suspect they’re targeting people who are older,” she said.
Another resident who got the call around the same time as Steinberg, on Tuesday afternoon, also said she wouldn’t be calling back.
The resident, Kay Vota, said she read about the IRS scam in T&V last week, and guessed the scammers were “getting found out. So they’re going to change the way they’re doing it.”
A rep for the IRS last week told T&V said the unknown perps of that scam work from overseas, using technology to change their caller ID to make it seem as though the number is coming from Washington, DC or another local area. Once in contact with a mark, they’ve been known to threaten to sue or deport a victim or put liens on their properties if they don’t make payments using prepaid debit cards or other untraceable means of transfer.
As for the “Department of Treasury” calls, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of the Inspector General has issued a warning online at http://www.treasury.gov, confirming that they are from scammers.
“These callers have been described as threatening or abusive, and tell victims they need to make immediate payment to forestall arrest. THESE ARE FRAUDS. PLEASE EXERCISE CAUTION IN YOUR DEALINGS WITH ANYONE PURPORTING TO BE FROM A GOVERNMENT AGENCY AND DEMANDING MONEY OR INFORMATION,” the alert said.
It also mentioned a similar scam in which call recipients are told they’re getting grants, but then told they must pay a fee so that the funds are released.
“Likewise, e-mails promising a sum of money and purporting to be from the Treasury Secretary or his staff are false,” it said.
A spokesperson for the department said he couldn’t comment on the call without hearing it, but referred to the online alert.
ST/PCV residents listen to Gerry Kelpin, the Department of Environmental Protections Environmental Compliance Unit director. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Frustrations were high for Stuyvesant Town tenants attending a forum on noise while trying to come up with solutions for peace and quiet in the neighborhood. The main complaint from tenants at the meeting, held by the ST-PCV Tenants Association at the PS 40 auditorium, was the seeming lack of enforcement on the part of management about noise issues. Discussing the issue with a crowd of around 70 tenants were city experts on noise.
“People will call management then management will call public safety, but by the time public safety comes up they won’t hear the noise,” Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg said. “They say not to get involved with your neighbors so you have to wait for public safety but the next thing you know, it’s going on again.”
In response, Noise Activities Chair for GrowNYC.org Dr. Arline Bronzaft said that she disagreed that tenants shouldn’t approach their neighbors.
“You should know your neighbors,” she said. “If there’s a problem, we should be able to interact with each other.”
Other residents felt that the lack of enforcement was due to the non-compliance of many apartments on the 80/20 carpet rule, which states in Stuy Town leases that 80 percent of the floor must be covered by carpeting to mitigate noise between floors.
“Two of the last three tenants who have lived above me were not compliant with the carpeting rule,” resident Arlynne Miller said. “You have to get (management) to jump through unbelievable hoops to get them to comply.”
Jonathan Gray listens to tenants. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
At the big announcement on Tuesday, residents who’d skipped work that morning as well as a number of retirees made up most of the crowd (along with a gaggle of reporters, photographers and cameramen).
Many seemed shocked by the news, and not all were thrilled.
One man, as he walked home along the First Avenue Loop, stopped Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen to tell her she had done a beautiful job explaining the situation. However, he then added, “It doesn’t impact me because I’m market rate, so I’ll be killing myself this afternoon.”
He then walked away, as Glen responded, “Please don’t do that.”
Residents also gave Blackstone’s Jonathan Gray an earful after the press conference. When one resident asked if CompassRock would continue to maintain the complex, he asked, “What do you think of them?” The tenant then said, “Get rid of them,” before several other tenants also began descending on him with their own complaints.
A resident of 30 years who was standing nearby, Lawrence Scheyer, simply said, “I hope Blackstone will be good stewards of this property.”
Scheyer, a real estate attorney and member of Community Board Six’s Transportation Committee, said he also wondered how the tax breaks offered to the owner in exchange for preserving affordability in 5,000 units would impact funding for the MTA. “They get a fair amount of revenue from (mortgage) recording taxes,” he explained.
Rosemary Newnham, a mom of two in Peter Cooper who does some freelance medical writing, said she didn’t think the new arrangement would help her. Her husband is a doctor and she guessed they probably bring in just over $130,000 a year. But, she added, “What is middle income in Manhattan?” She guessed it was closer to $200,000, due to costs like babysitters and daycare. She added that the last articles she wrote, “I paid for because I had to hire a sitter.”
Newnham added, “My husband does important work, saving people’s lives and we barely have any money after we pay our rent.”
Her two-bedroom in Peter Cooper, where her family’s lived since 2008, rents for close to $6,000. After the “Roberts” settlement, the couple got a check for around $100, if it was even that much.
So that new deal “is not going to change our situation as far as I can see,” Newnham said.
John “Butch” Purcell, a resident of Stuy Town since 1968, seemed more optimistic about the future.
“I think it’s a great move in terms of the 20-year thing,” said Purcell, who’s retired from a career in drug treatment counseling. “I think de Blasio stepping in was a very good move. It’s a good situation. Most people are feeling relaxed although not too relaxed because we don’t know what’s coming after this, anything that’s unsaid. What’s coming down the pike we don’t know but it’s a lot better than it was.”
Marina Metalios, a 25-year resident, was also cautiously enthusiastic. Metalios is a tenant activist who also works for UHAB, an organization that helps tenants convert their buildings to affordable co-ops, among other assistance for tenants.
“I want to see the next generation have an opportunity to live here,” she said. “I have a niece and nephew born in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper and I wonder if they could stick around when they’re adults. It seems the plan for those 5,000 units to be targeted by income might create an opportunity for that. I like that, but what happens in the 20th year? Year 20 is troublesome for me. I want something that is permanently affordable or affordable for a very long time. I don’t see how this plays out after year 20.”
The Tenants Association meanwhile issued an official statement, praising the commitments made by the owner.
“After years of fighting to deliver a more stable and affordable future for our community, today we can celebrate an important success,” said Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg.
“We have eliminated the incentives that have existed for landlords to try to kick rent-stabilized tenants to the curb, and provided security for ‘Roberts’ tenants when the J-51 tax abatement expires in 2020. We welcome Blackstone and Ivanhoé Cambridge’s commitment to protecting our valued open spaces, keeping Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper as a unified whole, and endeavoring to create an environment that is most suitable for long term tenants seeking to develop roots here.
“We also strongly support the steps being taken to assist the senior population in our community. This deal is the result of years of advocacy, and we welcome the opportunity to work with Blackstone and Ivanhoé Cambridge to bring stability back to this community.”
Linda Ayache, a longtime resident, said her concern was about the students in the community or specifically frathouse antics she said she recently witnessed.
Last week, Ayache said a bunch of “young people jumped into the fountain and the women were rubbing themselves like it was a wet t-shirt contest.” Security didn’t respond right away, she said. Security itself was another issue Ayache hoped would be a priority for a new owner.
“Last night a gang of boys accosted a female at 9 Oval at 5 p.m.,” she said.
Over five years after taking control of the property, CWCapital is preparing Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village for a sale, Bloomberg news reported on Saturday.
The article went on to name Blackstone Group LP as a likely bidder, with others possibly in the mix, though not Brookfield Asset Management. That company, which had announced a partnership with the ST-PCV Tenants Association four years ago with a plan for a non-eviction condominium conversion, is no longer involved, a rep for Brookfield said.
Meanwhile, it’s possible a future deal could secure $5-$6 billion. The latter figure would be more than the historic $5.4 billion paid by Tishman Speyer and partner BlackRock in 2006, with the article citing a strong residential market in Manhattan.
Additionally, the report said, “Blackstone’s real estate chief, Jon Gray, said this month that he was bullish on Manhattan rentals because it’s too costly for many residents to buy.”
Peter Rose, a spokesperson for Blackstone, did not immediately return a call requesting comment. Brian Moriarty, a spokesperson for CWCapital, did not respond to a request for comment.
UPDATE: Joe DePlasco, a spokesperson for CW, issued a statement on Monday, saying, “We are pleased that we have finalized in principle the settlement of the outstanding litigation. CWCapital retained Doug Harmon at Eastdil Secured to advise throughout the process.”
The statement from DePlasco didn’t elaborate on the terms of the settlement.
However, CW’s effort to sell has been hampered by a lawsuit filed by junior lenders represented by a company called Centerbridge Partners. The lenders had hoped for a chance to buy a key piece of the junior or mezzanine debt and accused CW of violating an intercreditor agreement when the servicer took title of the property through a deed last year instead of holding a foreclosure sale.
A spokesperson for EastDil didn’t immediately return a call requesting comment.
Susan Steinberg, the president of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, was out of town on Monday, and not available to be interviewed. Council Member Dan Garodnick, a Peter Cooper Village resident, was also unavailable for an interview on Monday morning.
However, he’d previously told Bloomberg, “The tenants are going to insist that the owners work directly with them and with the city to develop a responsible plan to protect the long-term affordability of the place.”
Garodnick has previously met with Mayor Bill de Blasio on a plan to maintain affordability in ST/PCV, that is, in the roughly 6,000 units that are still affordable. On Monday, Wiley Norvell, a spokesperson for the mayor, said the mayor still wanted to preserve affordability.
“Protecting this community’s legacy as a home for New York City’s middle class is a top priority for Mayor de Blasio,” Norvell said. “We will press any owner to preserve affordable housing.”
Andrew Willis, a spokesperson for Brookfield, confirmed that the company was “no longer in the process” of bidding, although he said he didn’t know the reason for the decision.
Johann Hamilton, a spokesperson for the Real Estate Board of New York, whose chair is Tishman Speyer president and CEO Rob Speyer, declined to comment.
A package pileup at 441 East 20th Street in late September gets photographed by Susan Steinberg, president of the ST-PCV Tenants Association.
By Sabina Mollot
For over a year, residents in some buildings in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper have had to deal with their lobbies being subjected to package pileups.
Rather than deliver packages directly to tenants’ apartments, the boxes have been left to pile up into small towers in lobbies, in some cases, tenants have said, creating a fire hazard when the boxes obstruct the doors from being able to fully open.
Additionally, last week, Susan Steinberg, president of the Tenants Association, told T&V that this situation didn’t look like it was going to change any time soon.
Last Monday, Steinberg said as she was about to leave a building in Peter Cooper, she caught up with a UPS driver who informed her that door deliveries were “always a courtesy.”
After complaining about the package pileups, Steinberg said the driver explained that the volume of packages has gotten so high that, “We can’t do it anymore or we can’t finish our rounds.”
Steinberg added that she was told at a past meeting with CompassRock that management has spoken with the different carriers about this issue. But since that hasn’t seemed to help, the Tenants Association will be bringing up the issue with management again.
Those in attendance at the meeting last Tuesday sat at tables while the pros and cons of each option for the project were discussed. (Pictured) Guests seated before the presentation began (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Neighborhood residents recently learned that the East River may be getting a new elevated park along with flood protection. The discussion about the park took place at the most recent workshop for the East Side Coastal Resiliency project, held at the Stein Senior Center last Tuesday. Representatives from the mayor’s office and BIG U, the winning design firm in the Rebuild by Design competition in 2013, said that this type of flood protection was one of the most popular with residents, according to feedback from the community at the previous workshop in May.
Carrie Grassi, senior policy adviser at the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, also discussed the three options for flood protection in the area along the East River between 14th and 23rd Streets, which includes a berm, which would have a park on top, a flood wall or a deployable, and noted that community members saw the advantages of all three depending on the area.
The area along the river from 14th to 23rd is known as Project Area 2 and Project Area 1 extends south from 14th Street to Montgomery Street. The workshops have been split along these boundaries to focus more on the specific needs of each area.
Grassi noted that there is a need for compromise when considering different characteristics even within each designated project area and the specifics of each kind of flood protection, and they’re hoping the workshops will help find the right balance for Project Area 2.
Susan Steinberg, president of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, pictured at a meeting on the planned sanitation garage (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
Golub notices, or notices of lease nonrenewal over primary residence challenges, had, for a couple of years, become synonymous with the Tishman Speyer era of Stuyvesant Town.
It was only when tenants won the “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” lawsuit, which determined that apartments had been illegally deregulated, that the wave of primary residence challenges finally ceased.
Therefore, Susan Steinberg, president of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, was surprised to hear of seven golub notices being sent to residents in the past couple of weeks.
On Monday, the Tenants Association sent an email alert to neighbors to mention that there had been an uptick in challenges and asked tenants to contact the TA if they believed they’ve received one in error.
Tenants were warned they may be challenged for reasons such as having another address or out-of-state car or voter registrations, tax payments or utility bills. Keycards could also be used to track whether tenants are in their homes for the minimum amount of days (183) to have the units be considered their primary residences.
Susan Steinberg, Al Doyle, Margaret Salacan, Anne Greenberg and Kirstin Aadahl, Margaret Salacan and a resident of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association protest outside a fundraiser for Governor Cuomo. (Photo courtesy of the ST-PCV Tenants Association)
By Sabina Mollot
Days after the deadline to renew the Rent Stabilization Laws, with no resolution in sight, the state legislature worked to extend the laws for another five days.
In a joint statement, Albany’s three men in a room, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, confirmed the governor’s signing of the bill, and claimed to be “moving in a positive direction toward a resolution.”
But rather than offer any detail, the statement then went on to tout the legislature’s passage of unrelated bills such as protections against sexual assault on college campuses and investments in infrastructure.
Heastie, however, issued a statement of his own, stressing that the Assembly wouldn’t bend on its efforts to win stronger protections for tenants.
“We have agreed on a short term extender bill with the Governor and the Senate which will allow for more time to come to a final agreement,” said Heastie. “But one thing is clear – the Assembly Majority will not compromise its principles and agree to a package that does not provide critical rent protections for the millions of New Yorkers who depend on these laws.”
The rent law legislation the Democrat-controlled Assembly hopes to pass is wildly different from the package put forth more recently by the Republican-controlled Senate. The Senate hopes to create a database in which tenants would have to verify their incomes. Tenant friendly measures are codifying the Tenant Protection Unit and imposing stiffer penalties on landlords who harass tenants. The Assembly hopes to repeal vacancy decontrol, reform preferential rents, MCIs (major capital improvements) and IAIs (individual apartment improvements) and lower vacancy bonuses.