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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Men steal 11 purses from Flatiron Coach store

Suspects

By Sabina Mollot

Police are on the lookout for two thieves with expensive taste who stole 11 bags from the Flatiron Coach store.

On January 23 at around 12:30 p.m., one of the men strolled into the shop at 79 Fifth Avenue and 16th Street and took the purses, which together were valued at $3,000, from a display. He then fled the store and handed the goods to another man who’d been waiting outside.

Police didn’t have descriptions of the suspects but three fuzzy surveillance photos show men of slim build who were wearing dark hats and dark jackets.

The men may have been involved in other incidents, as a tweet from the 13th Precinct pointed out that they are wanted for larcenies at high-end stores where one man does the swiping while the other holds the door open.

Purse-snatching suspect arrested at Food Emporium

Union Square Food Emporium (Photo via Google Maps)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police arrested a 39-year-old man for a string of alleged purse snatchings around Union Square last Tuesday afternoon. Daniel Negrin was busted inside the Food Emporium at 10 Union Square East after he allegedly took a woman’s purse that was on top of her shopping cart and tried to leave the store. A store security officer who saw the incident stopped Negrin as he was attempting to flee. Police said that video surveillance showed Negrin taking the victim’s bag out of her cart, and the victim told police that her bag contained credit cards as well as a Louis Vuitton organizer worth more than $1,000.

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Cops looking for L train masturbator

Masturbating suspect

Police are looking for a man who exposed himself and then began masturbating in front of a woman on the L train on Thursday, January 25.

The 45-year-old victim said it happened at about 9:40 a.m. as the L headed towards 14th Street and Third Avenue. She snapped a photo of the suspect before he fled the train station.

He is described as Hispanic, about 25 years old, 5’11” and was last seen wearing a large backpack with all dark clothing.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).  The public can also submit their tips by logging onto nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

Hoylman talks ‘resistance’ with Obama adviser

State Senator Brad Hoylman with Neera Tanden, former policy director for President Obama and policy director for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

State Senator Brad Hoylman spoke with domestic policy expert Neera Tanden about the state of the Democratic Resistance movement and how New Yorkers can “fight back” in a town hall at CUNY’s Graduate Center last Thursday. Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, previously served as Hillary Clinton’s policy director when she ran for president in 2008 and also served as policy director for President Obama.

Hoylman and Tanden discussed ways in which New Yorkers can get involved, but also covered the Russia investigation and the memo from Congressmember Devin Nunes, which had not been released at the time of the event. The memo, ultimately released on Friday, alleges that FBI officials abused their surveillance powers in investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

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Neighbors clash on planned Kips Bay bike lane

A man who came to a recent Community Board 6 meeting on the proposed protected bike lane for Kips Bay was one of numerous meeting attendees who said it was sorely needed. Others expressed concern about the loss of parking. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community Board 6’s transportation committee this Monday voted in favor of a resolution supporting the Department of Transportation’s proposal to install bike lanes on 26th and 29th Streets.

Community Board 5, which covers the western portion of the streets, had a much more contentious meeting last week on the proposal in which a vote was delayed because of disagreements about the removal of parking spaces.

While Community Board 6 members were not enthusiastic about the loss of parking either, the members ultimately voted to support the plan in a 9 to 2 vote.

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Letters to the editor, Feb. 8

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Fruit, family and sacrifice

Adjacent to the Chase branch at the corner of First Avenue and 23rd Street an about 45-year-old man stands in front of a cart and sells the most delectable produce available in the area — at about half the cost which supermarkets and stores price them.

His name is Quddus and he is from Bangladesh. His fruit and vegetable enterprise is open from about 7:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. I have purchased his goods for a long time. This past Friday I bought 10 bananas, two pounds of green grapes, a carton of snow white mushrooms and a box of red ripe tomatoes. The cost: seven dollars.

Always polite but not effusive, if I don’t have cash because I have come to use my debit/credit card when buying almost anything, he trusts me. Working seven days a week, about 80 hours. Wow! I couldn’t even do it for one day. I wondered why he does this. So on Friday I said, “Do you have any children?” and “Do they go to school?” “Yes, one boy attends Queens College; the other is a senior in high school.”

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City offering free legal help to mom-and-pops signing leases

Huascar Aquino, a winner of “Cupcake Wars,” in front of his Hell’s Kitchen bakery with Small Business Services Commissioner Gregg Bishop (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The city is throwing a legal lifeline to mom-and-pops by offering free legal help to some small businesses to help them negotiate leases.

On Tuesday, Department of Small Business Services Commissioner Gregg Bishop, along with Council Member Robert Cornegy, announced the program, which will receive $2.4 million in funding over the next two years.

The program is expected to help 400 small business owners a year who couldn’t otherwise afford attorneys, but Bishop said it can grow if the demand for free legal help is higher than expected. Attorneys, who belong to organizations like the Urban Justice Center and Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation, will be assigned to individual businesses to help them resolve disputes before they end up in court. However, the attorneys, who are expected to provide an average of 40 hours of services per client, will not represent businesses in disputes that do end up in court.

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More details (and concerns) on 14th St. ‘Busway’

Stuyvesant Town resident AJ Miller expresses her concerns to transit officials at an open house at the 14th Street Y. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The MTA and DOT released details on the “Busway” coming to 14th Street during the expected L train shutdown at Community Board 6’s transportation committee meeting on Monday. The agencies also gathered feedback on the plans during an open house at the 14th Street Y last Wednesday.

The new Busway will be on 14th from Third to Eighth Avenues going westbound and from Ninth to Third Avenues going east.

In both directions between Third and First Avenues, there will be a painted bus lane on the street but traffic will not be restricted and cars will be able to head across 14th Street, whereas traffic will not be allowed to cross anywhere along the Busway.

Meeting attendees asked DOT representatives why the Busway was not extended all the way to First Avenue or Avenue C and DOT representative Aaron Sugiura explained that it wasn’t ideal, but that the negatives outweighed the positives.

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Police Watch: Man arrested for firing gun, Broomstick assault at W. 28th

SUSPECT ARRESTED FOR FIRING GUN IN FRONT OF STRAUS HOUSES
Police arrested 38-year-old Jamah Joseph for assault, weapons possession and reckless endangerment last Monday at 10 p.m. inside the 13th precinct. Police said that Joseph fired multiple shots at a group of people who were standing in front of 224 East 28th Street on January 18 at 10:25 p.m. with intent to cause serious injuries.

MAN CHARGED WITH ASSAULT WITH BROOMSTICK AT W. 28TH ST. STATION
Police arrested 22-year-old Adan Alverez for assault in front of 145 West 28th Street last Saturday at 7:18 a.m. Alverez and the victim got into an argument, during which Alverez allegedly pulled out a knife in a menacing way. The victim told police that he then chased Alverez to West 28th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues when Alverez allegedly picked up a broomstick and hit the victim on the left side of his head, causing bruising.
The victim was taken to Bellevue Hospital and told police that Alverez threw the knife, which he described as a silver blade approximately three inches in length with a white handle, into the tracks of the 28th Street station. Police searched the area but the knife was not recovered. Alverez was also charged with weapons possession, menacing and possession of marijuana. Police said that the two men did not know each other and did not have further information about what started the argument.

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Opinion: Living in NYC isn’t a privilege

By Harvey Epstein

Maria has lived in her apartment for more than 40 years. However, a few years ago, a new landlord purchased the building. The landlord started a lot of work in the building and filed for Major Capital Improvements (MCIs). The rent has gone up over 30 percent in the last 5 years. Maria is getting ready to retire and now really worries whether she will be able to afford to live in her rent stabilized apartment for the rest of her life. There are thousands of Marias living in our city today unsure what their future holds.

It all starts with a stable home. Opportunities for better employment, our children’s success in school, and the ability to lead healthier lives. But when being able to stay in our homes in New York City is a day-to-day struggle, so is everything else. Affordable housing is the cornerstone of a thriving society, but for far too long it has been under threat in our city.

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Man allegedly slashes co-worker in front of Union Square Liquiteria

Slashing suspect

By Sabina Mollot

Cops are looking for a man who allegedly slashed his coworker in the face in front of the Liquiteria juice shop where they worked at 26 East 17th Street.

Police say Leonard Jackson and the victim had gotten into an argument over a lock on a door when things turned physical and Jackson allegedly attacked him. Police say the victim had to get 40 stitches on his face.

Jackson’s last known address is on Wortman Avenue in Brooklyn and he has been arrested six times in Brooklyn. However, those cases are sealed.

Jackson is described as black, about 200 lbs. with black, short hair and brown eyes. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to call detectives at the 13th Precinct at (212) 477-7444.

A phone number for Liquiteria’s Union Square West location wasn’t working on Tuesday.

Sandy-related construction still ongoing at VA Medical Center

Work includes replacing elevators along with the entire electrical system as part of a $207 million federal relief package. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

It was over five years ago when Superstorm Sandy flooded much of Manhattan’s East Side, crippling hospitals in Bedpan Alley. But it was the VA Medical Center on East 23rd Street that fared the worst, closing for six months.

Today, thanks to $207 million in federal relief money, the veterans’ hospital, while fully operational, is still undergoing work to replace systems that need to be upgraded rather than just repaired in the event of a future catastrophe.

Martina Parauda, director of VA NY Harbor Healthcare System (which includes local facilities including the Manhattan one), spoke to veterans about some of the ongoing projects at a town hall meeting on Tuesday morning.

The massive floodwall that began construction in 2015 is mostly done, including parts that can’t be seen like underwater pumps. It was originally supposed to be completed in 2016, but the VA has previously said underground excavation proved to be more complicated than expected.

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Babysitter accused of stealing jewelry from victims in Stuy Town

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police arrested a woman last week who had been hired by Stuyvesant Town residents as a babysitter for allegedly stealing jewelry from their apartments.

ST buildings

Stuyvesant Town

Police said that 29-year-old Simone Spencer had been hired by two different families in Stuyvesant Town and the victims noticed that items, including thousands of dollars’ worth of jewelry, had gone missing from the apartment during the period that she worked for them.

One of the victims told police that Spencer started working for her family as a babysitter last March. She said that she was certain specific pieces of jewelry were still in her apartment in August, but she noticed on January 14 of this year that a number of items had gone missing, including a Louis Vuitton wallet, a Cartier watch worth $5,240 and an 18-karat gold and diamond ring valued at $6,500, as well as a Tiffany & Co. gift card. She told police that the only people that had access to her apartment during this period were her husband, her two small children and Spencer.

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