Rental assistance program announced

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Management announced at the end of March that residents who are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 can apply for assistance through a new program, although residents will still ultimately be required to pay all rent that is due.

The C19 Resident Financial Hardship Assistance Program provides options to leaseholders who have a demonstrated financial hardship as a result of the virus, which includes a loss of income or extraordinary expense due to COVID-19. Leaseholders who are in good standing who can demonstrate financial hardship can apply for assistance, but at least half of the leaseholders in the apartment must be experiencing hardship to be eligible for the program.

The program has multiple options for those who are able to provide proof of financial hardship, including a payment plan and early lease termination. Under the payment plan, residents can defer up to 100% of one month’s rent and will enter a payment plan that will have the deferred rent paid in equal installments every month until the lease ends.

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Temporary commissary kitchen at Eleven Madison Park

Left to right: Daniel Humm, chef and owner of Eleven Madison Park; Winston Chiu, Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) at Rethink; Dominique Roy, Culinary Research and Development at Eleven Madison Park. (Photo courtesy of Rethink)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Nonprofit organization Rethink has partnered with Eleven Madison Park to feed New Yorkers in need during the pandemic. The organization, which uses food excess from restaurants throughout the city for meals for hungry New Yorkers, announced last Thursday that they were transforming into Emergency Food Management and would be turning the Michelin-starred restaurant adjacent to Madison Square Park into a commissary kitchen that will serve healthcare workers and other New Yorkers impacted by the pandemic. The restaurant and organization are expected to produce more than 2,000 meals per day at full capacity.

“Our mission of delivering food to New Yorkers in need has never been more important, and finding a way to continue serving those that have always relied on us, as well as helping hospitals provide meals in this all-hands-on-deck moment, is so important,” said Matt Jozwiak, Executive Director and Founder of Rethink Food NYC. “This innovative program also helps the very restaurants we’re using to prepare the meals and we hope this partnership serves as a model that can be replicated nationwide, which we’re already working to do.”

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Hoylman calls for Child Victims Act extension

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

State Senator Brad Hoylman is pushing to extend the revival window for the Child Victims Act (CVA) by another year because the pause on non-essential court filings cuts short the full 12-month period for survivors to file suit.

“Pausing all non-essential court filings is a difficult but necessary step to protect the health and well-being of our judicial system,” Hoylman said. “When we finally passed the Child Victims Act, we attempted to guarantee a full 12-month period for survivors to file suit. Yet because COVID-19 has indefinitely paused our judicial system, the CVA’s revival window has effectively closed as of today.”

The Office of Court Administration (OCA) last month announced an indefinite pause on non-essential filings and Hoylman argued that as a result, the CVA’s revival window is now effectively closed. The year-long lookback window opened last August when the law went into effect and it is unknown if survivors will be able to file claims again before the window was supposed to close this coming August.

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Relief available for small businesses affected by COVID-19

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The de Blasio administration and the Department of Small Business Services announced last Friday that loans are now available for small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19. The Small Business Continuity Fund offers financial assistance to small businesses in New York while they deal with challenges in response to coronavirus, and businesses can access the application online.

To meet the requirements for a loan, small businesses must be located within the five boroughs, demonstrate that the COVID-19 outbreak caused at least a 25% decrease in revenue, employ fewer than 100 employees across all locations, have no outstanding tax liens or legal judgments and demonstrate the ability to repay the loan.

In order to demonstrate a revenue decrease, businesses will be required to provide documentation such as point-of-sales reports, bank statements, quarterly sales tax filings, 2019 tax returns, or CPA-certified profit & loss statements. Businesses that are eligible can receive loans up to $75,000 to help retain employees and ensure business continuity.

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Advocates call to freeze, cancel rent for April

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

City and state affordable housing advocates have proposed suspending this year’s Rent Guidelines Board vote, effectively freezing the rent for rent-stabilized units until June of next year, although the move would have to be enacted by the governor, who had not responded to the proposal by the end of March.

Despite the lack of an official response from Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last Friday that the city government would be working with the state to suspend the Rent Guidelines Board process for the upcoming year, which would maintain all regulated rents at this year’s level until next year’s vote. The change would affect 2.3 million tenants in almost one million rent-stabilized apartments throughout the city.

“I think if ever there was a time there should be a rent freeze, it is now,” de Blasio said. “So for the millions of New Yorkers who live in rent-stabilized housing in this city, normally you wait until later in the spring for the Rent Guidelines Board to make its decision on what rent levels should be for the upcoming leases. What we’ve seen here, to me, makes clear that we need a rent freeze for everyone who’s rent-stabilized.”

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Elected officials propose plan to use security deposits for April rent

Council Member Keith Powers

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Four local elected officials, including Councilmember Keith Powers, have proposed that renters be allowed to use their security deposit for this month’s rent. Powers, in addition to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Brooklyn Councilmember Robert Cornegy and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, announced the proposal last Tuesday and sent letters to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo last Thursday asking that tenants be given relief.

Allowing tenants to liquidate their security deposits would serve as a needed $8 billion cash infusion for the thousands of New Yorkers who have lost their jobs or income due to the coronavirus outbreak, the officials told Crain’s last week.

“New Yorkers are facing unprecedented circumstances due to the coronavirus,” Powers said. “With thousands of tenants facing sudden and unprecedented hardships, we must look toward immediate solutions for those struggling to make their next rent payments in a matter of days. Using existing, pre-paid security deposits to supplement rent payment allows tenants time to seek relief.”

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Locals stepping up to help during COVID-19

Trinity’s Services and Food for the Homeless near Tompkins Square Park has been providing meals for anyone who needs them. (Photos courtesy of Trinity’s Services and Food for the Homeless)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

While many businesses and organizations have been forced to shut down over the last few weeks to slow the spread of COVID-19, others in the community have persevered in order to help New Yorkers most in need, by volunteering at local soup kitchens, donating medical supplies and providing various healthcare services.

Trinity’s Services and Food for the Homeless, which has been operating out of Trinity Lower East Side Lutheran Parish at 602 East 9th Street for the last 33 years, has continued providing hot meals and packaged food for people who need it, although Executive Director Alex Lawrence said that they’ve made adjustments to their soup kitchen and food pantry operations to keep everyone safe.

“The soup kitchen usually has a dining room, but obviously that is not good anymore so we switched to grab-and-go lunches,” he said. “One person comes in at a time and then we send them off.”

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Opinion: Leading by example

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

During tough times, I often take refuge and inspiration from history and the leadership that helped people get through the worst moments.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused unimaginable disruptions to our daily lives and poses a serious health and safety threat to possibly tens of million Americans, and hundreds of millions more around the globe. But it is not the first calamitous threat a nation has ever faced.

Exactly 80 years ago another deadly enemy was on the move causing whole nations to be swallowed up in just weeks.

The Nazi war machine was spreading across all of Europe faster than the COVID-19 contagion. Countries were falling like dominos. In just a few months during the spring of 1940 Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Finland, Denmark, Norway and France were overrun by the Nazis, soon North Africa too. The year before, parts of Eastern Europe fell victim to the German army rout.

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Confusion reigns as renters, owners worry how to pay their bills

By Linda O’Flanagan

Multifamily borrowers with Freddie Mac loans have been granted a 90-day extension on loan payments, it was announced yesterday (Tuesday, March 23).

It was the first officially sanctioned program announced to help renters and mortgage holders following days of “guidance” from the state on who will get financial aid as the coronavirus brings New York to a standstill.

Although Governor Andrew Cuomo has said renters and mortgage holders will get relief, and REBNY has issued a pledge that its members won’t evict renters for non-payment, housing advocates say an official order must be passed.

Cea Weaver, of tenants rights group Housing Justice for All, said. “We need rent relief — in the form of canceled rent, for the duration of the crisis — now. Cuomo can do this by executive order, and he must.”

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Peter Cooper announces COVID-19 case

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

Editor’s note: This story has been updated since publication on Thursday, March 26 to include more information about cases that have been reported in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. 

StuyTown Property Services notified tenants in an email last week that a resident of 5 Peter Cooper Road has tested positive for COVID-19. So far, there have been 10 reported cases in 10 different buildings across the 110 buildings in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. The exact buildings will not be made public but residents of those buildings have been notified.

“To date, a small number of the buildings in PCVST have a self-reported tested positive resident,” StuyTown Property Services General Manager Rick Hayduk said. “Those residents are self-quarantining and our extraordinary team is immediately dispatched to disinfect the building in accordance with CDC and NYC Health guidelines. Residents are being updated regularly and this will continue throughout the pandemic.”

Management sent the email about Peter Cooper’s first case last Monday, noting that the household was self-quarantining and maintenance completed a deep cleaning of all public areas in the building.

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Supermarkets offering special hours for seniors

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

Some supermarkets with locations in Gramercy and Kips Bay are designating some early morning hours for seniors to get their shopping done to help the at-risk population avoid crowds. Morton Williams, which has locations at 313 East 23rd Street and 278 Park Avenue South, and Whole Foods, which has a location on East 14th Street across from Union Square Park, have announced that they will be setting aside special hours for seniors. West Side Rag reported the changes for the stores last Wednesday.

Morton Williams will be allowing vulnerable populations, including seniors age 60 and over and those who are immunocompromised, to come to the stores between 7 and 8 a.m.

“We are asking our customers to please prioritize the hours of 7 to 8 a.m. for our senior citizens, immunocompromised and similarly disabled neighbors,” the company said on their website. “Those most vulnerable in our communities would greatly appreciate it.”

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Speaker Johnson introduces $12 billion relief plan

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

Councilmember Keith Powers came out in support of City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s relief plan for workers and businesses throughout the city that are impacted by COVID-19 that was introduced last week.

Johnson’s $12 billion relief plan, proposed last Thursday, includes a temporary universal basic income for all New Yorkers, unemployment protections for hourly and freelance workers, up to $250,000 to cover costs for impacted businesses, temporarily deferring fees for businesses and refunding business taxes.

“We’re calling on the city to take action to help our restaurant and bar industry,” Powers said of the proposal. “We mandated they had to close. It’s already a struggling industry and it’s the lifeblood of NYC. They’re dependent on that paycheck.”

According to City Council estimate, more than 500,000 workers and more than 40,000 businesses generated $40 billion in taxable sales last year and are among the hardest-hit industries so far in the COVID-19 crisis. These businesses include the hospitality industry as well as retail shops, performance venues, salons and other businesses.

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Letters to the editor, March 26

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Plastics destroy the environment

I applaud the thoughtful, detailed article by J.G. Collins in last week’s Town and Village paper on the issue of the disastrous role plastic is playing in our environment. The recent ban on plastic bags is a very important first step to address the problem (and this took years!) but so much more needs to be done.

Read the list Mr. Collins presents and cry! I am appalled at the amount of plastic and glass refuse we regularly take to the recycle bins in our building. And this is from a two-person household where take-out food is a rare occasion.

Ultimately it all comes down to money. What is to be done when so many important conflicting demands are made on City and State budgets? One (partial?) solution is: Increase taxes on the middle and upper-income population. This is the way some European countries have successfully chosen. It will be controversial here but what is the alternative? Think about it and take action.

Irmgard C. Taylor
Stuyvesant Town


Modest proposals for the pandemic

I offer up two modest, sensible proposals as we attempt to make our way through our new pandemic age.

First, the more local one. We here in Stuy Town have one of those Little Free Library boxes along the southeast edge of the Oval. Last I checked, the bird-house-style box was filled with books, which, during normal times, is as it should be. But for now, maybe the books should be cleared out to allow space for folks with the means to place non-perishable food items in that mini-library space— cans of soup and beans, boxes of cereal and pasta — for folks who might need such items.

Second, and more broadly for all New Yorkers, Gov. Cuomo should consider pushing back the April 15 deadlines for the filing and payment of New York State income tax returns. Now that July 15 is the new deadline to both file returns and make payments to the IRS, our state needs to match up its deadlines with that of the feds. In the midst of this unprecedented crisis, with growing financial burdens on so many New Yorkers, such a three-month pushback of state income tax deadlines for those who owe the state money should be a no-brainer.

Ken Chanko
Stuyvesant Town


Restrict hours for seniors

Dear New York City Grocery Store Operators:

The grocery stores you operate are a crucial asset in communities across New York, including in my Senate district. Unfortunately, there have been many press accounts in recent days of mass hoarding by shoppers in your stores of basic necessities.

In response, as our city and state begin a new phase in our COVID-19 response, I write to seek from you two voluntary commitments: (i) you make accommodations for your most vulnerable shoppers by instituting special shopping hours for them; and (ii) you implement purchase restrictions on goods that have been the subject of hoarding, including such as toilet paper, bottled water and hand soap.

First, due to the enormous influx of shoppers at your stores, elderly, disabled, and immunocompromised individuals have found it difficult to go to their local grocery stores to purchase the supplies and food necessary to self-segregate themselves and avoid crowds. I’ve heard from many constituents who are unable to stand in long lines because of a disability or able to go into busy grocery stores because of the danger of infection. A solution to this problem undertaken by grocery stores in Jersey City, NJ is to implement special times to allow particularly vulnerable populations to shop without the crowds that put them at risk and allow them to buy the goods they need to survive. Stores like ShopRite of Metro Plaza will be open from 9 to 11 a.m. for shoppers that would benefit from less crowded stores.

Second, I also ask that your stores implement reasonable restrictions on the amount of certain goods like toilet paper, bottled water, and hand soap that can be sold to any individual. In addition to crowds, excessive purchasing and hoarding are also impeding access to essential goods for the vulnerable populations I mention above. Walmarts across the country, H-E-B in Texas, and Wegmans here in New York have already instituted these restrictions with the result of protecting the supply chain for all consumers.

These are turbulent times and New York State is doing everything it can to limit the effects of COVID-19, but additional steps should be taken to ensure everyone’s safety. I hope you agree that grocery stores should undertake these two common-sense solutions to be good neighbors and aid some of our most vulnerable friends and neighbors.

Sincerely,

Brad Hoylman
State Senator 27th Senate District 

Mount Sinai Beth Israel offering space for COVID-19 patients

Mount Sinai Beth Israel (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Mount Sinai Beth Israel will be making space available in the First Avenue hospital in order to provide additional capacity for New Yorkers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospital system confirmed this week. Governor Andrew Cuomo also signed an executive order on Monday requiring all hospitals in the state to increase their capacity by 50%, with the goal of increasing capacity by 100%.

Mount Sinai would not specify exactly how many beds can be made available because that determination is made by the state’s Department of Health, but the hospital system confirmed that it is making space available in the unused portions of Beth Israel on First Avenue and the new Rivington facility, which is a former nursing home that Mount Sinai intends to convert into a mental health facility that will include services currently available at the Bernstein Pavilion. The hospital system has been in contact with the state since the pandemic began and the Department of Health is in the process of evaluating all of the options for creating additional hospital beds.

“In the past few weeks and in the weeks ahead, our sole focus is helping the communities we serve prepare for and address the COVID-19 crisis,” a spokesperson for Mount Sinai said. “These are extremely unique and challenging times and we are doing everything in our power and utilizing every resource possible, including, but not limited to, offering the city and state usage of our Rivington facility and unused portions of Mount Sinai Beth Israel to help fight this growing crisis.”

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Millionaire New Yorkers say: Tax us, please

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

Abigail Disney

By Sabina Mollot

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

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

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

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