Watersiders ask city to sweeten affordability deal

Waterside Plaza as seen from Queens (Photo courtesy of Waterside Plaza)

By Sabina Mollot

Waterside residents who are getting close to retirement age — but don’t plan to retire by next year — are asking the city to expand on a deal that’s aimed at giving some kind of rent relief to the complex’s “settling” tenants.

The tentative agreement between landlord Richard Ravitch and the city, which was announced in August, would offer either rent reductions, rent freezes or lower annual increases to 325 settling tenants, depending on their incomes, for 75 years. Settling tenants are individuals who moved into Waterside when it was still in the Mitchell-Lama affordable housing program and later entered into a different agreement with the owner to have an annual rent increase that is now 4.25 percent.

The part of the recent deal that’s caused some controversy however, is an additional benefit offered to tenants who retire by the end of 2019. Those tenants will receive a one-time rent reduction to 30 percent of their household income.

As Town & Village previously reported, local elected officials and tenants have asked if the HPD would consider extending the retiree offer by several years, but the agency has already indicated this won’t happen.

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Most 2-bedroom apts. in NYC unaffordable to current residents

ST buildings

In the 10009 zip code, the average asking rent is $3,610.

By Sabina Mollot

New Yorkers looking to grow their families should take note: Two-bedroom apartments located in over half of the zip codes in this city are unaffordable based on what those areas’ current residents earn.

RentHop, an apartment listings website that often conducts studies on neighborhood trends (from dog poop offenses to where there are the most rat sightings) has concluded the lack of affordability based on current asking rents in each zip code.

The study, released in July, notes that affordability is based on whether a household earns 40 times the amount of what a month’s rent costs in their annual incomes, which would mean about 30 percent of the household’s income goes toward rent. Some landlords require tenants to earn this much before leasing to them.

Using this formula, of 52 percent of the zip codes looked into, median rents for two-bedroom apartments were not only unaffordable, but they exceeded half the household income, effectively rent-burdening the occupants.

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Blueprint for affordable housing

WatersidePlaza

By Council Member Keith Powers and Assembly Member Harvey Epstein

As rents continue to climb, the city is working to create, preserve, and secure affordable housing for New Yorkers. Last week, we announced a breakthrough.

In each of our first years in office, we have had the honor of working on a deal that achieves something many dream of but too rarely comes true: a rent reduction for tenants. Over the past several months, we have been involved in negotiations with Waterside Plaza ownership, the Waterside Tenants Association (WTA), led by President Janet Handal, and the City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) on an affordable housing preservation deal that does just that.

The proposed deal provides substantial relief for rent-burdened tenants, permanently freezes the rent in dozens of apartments, and preserves affordable housing on a generational scale through 2098. The guaranteed 75 years of rent protections for hundreds of apartments combined with the immediate relief to tenants whose rent has been steadily increasing demonstrate a groundbreaking model for affordable housing in New York City.

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Assembly candidates talk traffic, construction and MCIs at forum

Assembly candidates Mike Corbett, Harvey Epstein and Sandro Sherrod at a forum held by local Democratic clubs on Saturday (Photo by Bert Ongkeo)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Candidates for the 74th Assembly District seat met for a forum hosted by the Tilden Democratic Club and the Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club last Saturday evening at the Seafarer’s International House. The forum had been postponed from earlier in the month due to the snowstorm, although the Gramercy Stuyvesant Independent Democrats, which originally planned the event with the two other clubs, ultimately braved the weather and held its forum that day.

Sandro Sherrod, a technology director at NYU Langone, Harvey Epstein, a project director with the Urban Justice Center, and Mike Corbett, an aide to City Council Member Costa Constantinides, all agreed that they didn’t disagree on much but shared their specific positions on issues such as affordability, the MTA, education and other topics.

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Before moving on, Garodnick reflects on 12 years fighting for tenants’ rights

For Council Member Dan Garodnick, defending tenants from harassment has been a signature issue. (Photo by William Alatriste)

By Sabina Mollot

It was in 2005 when Dan Garodnick, an attorney who worked for the firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkin, Wharton & Garrison before running for office, was elected to the City Council, replacing Eva Moskowitz.

Garodnick won with 63 percent of the vote and since then, has held onto the position easily while making tenant rights a signature issue.

At the start of the New Year, however, Garodnick will be the one term-limited out of his Council seat, to be succeeded by a neighbor he endorsed, Keith Powers.

Recently, over a cappuccino at the Starbucks in Peter Cooper Village, Garodnick, now 45, reflected on his 12 years in office, all the while giving little away about what he’ll be doing next.

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Pols: Enter lottery while you can

Local elected officials held a press conference last Thursday outside of Stuyvesant Town to urge anyone who thinks they’re eligible to seize the opportunity for an affordable apartment while it lasts. (Pictured) State Senator Brad Hoylman, Council Member Dan Garodnick, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Local elected officials held a press conference last Thursday outside of Stuyvesant Town to urge anyone who thinks they’re eligible to seize the opportunity for an affordable apartment while it lasts. (Pictured) State Senator Brad Hoylman, Council Member Dan Garodnick, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Soon after the launch of the affordable apartment lottery, local elected officials and the ST-PCV Tenants Association were urging tenants to apply for it while the window of opportunity remains open.

Though such a move might seem obvious, the pols, who held a press conference outside Stuyvesant Town last Thursday, had reason to issue the reminder.

In 2013, when the Roberts v. Tishman Speyer litigation was settled, those same politicians and tenant leaders went door to door in the complex to advise neighbors to apply for their damages, with many tenants not realizing they had to fill out paperwork for the long-awaited cash for rent over-payments. Additionally, many former residents, when called by tenant volunteers, didn’t even know they were entitled to anything.

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Letters to the Editor, Jan. 14

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

The business of politics

After the T&V editorial on the SBJSA ran last week in the print edition, many offered negative comments online about New York City Council Member Dan Garodnick.

I met him for the first time many years ago when he first ran. He was friendly and seemed quite intelligent and won.

But Mr. Garodnick does need money each time he runs – as do all politicians. He may have first been elected as an idealist. But, now he lives in the real world of politics. Often people in his position morph into self-serving pols who run on helping the regular folks and end up accepting money from people in the real estate industry. Remember that power corrupts and the more one gets the greater corruption.

I gave quite moderate contributions to Obama and Sanders – so modest, that when and if they were or are elected, they owe me nothing. But, certain industries via lobbyists don’t care about the idealism or lack of it when they support a pol. All they desire is to be able to have access and call them directly or via a surrogate to suggest legislation which is in their financial interests.

This is my hypothesis about the insulting comments concerning Dan on the T&V Blog. And, if true it represents just a microcosm of what continues to occur in this city’s apartment and business rents – higher and higher. This also is happening in most areas of this nation.

If you have TWC they are running an important documentary on NY1’s Ch. 1020: “The Vanishing City.” This represents a comprehensive and honest explanation of what’s going down and affecting all of us. See it!

David Chowes, PCV

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Letters to the Editor, Dec. 17

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Affordability has been paid into by residents

Re: Letter, “’Entitled’ to affordability?”, T&V Nov. 26

I hope that the comments that I made on a Blackstone survey might keep Associated, an affordable and well-run supermarket, in our community. This would save the jobs of its many employees and prevent them from being among the “proud-to-be poor” that Benita Therock described in her letter.

In her letter, Therock also bitterly and benightedly refers to ST-PCV rent-stabilized tenants as being “proud to be poor.” She claimed that we “lack the pride and dignity to carry our own weight.”

I suspect that most stabilized tenants are like me. We came to ST-PCV as young couples and young singles with careers decades ago. We have carried our weight as residents of this community. We worked, paid our taxes, voted, raised families, participated in a variety of ST-PCV events, donated and volunteered at local schools, religious institutions, and at community-based charities. We spent our weekends cheering on our kids at Little League and soccer games, just like other Americans across this country.

Some of us long-time residents have gown older. We retired, and despite our savings, our money doesn’t go quite as far as before. But through rent-stabilization, we are fortunate to be residents in the ST-PCV community and in New York, the city that we’ve worked for, lived in and loved. This is home.

Name withheld, ST

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Letters to the Editor, December 3

 Dec3 Toon Trump balloon

Our future (as witnessed on the 14th St. bus)

Standing in the front of a crowded 14th Street bus on the way to my physical therapy, I looked with envy at all the teens and twenty-somethings packing the seats and thought: “This is the future of America.” But I wasn’t envious because they were young but because they were sitting.

Next to me on this bumpy bus, a frail lady clutched a pole for dear life and an elderly man with a cane struggled to keep his balance. Other white-haired passengers looked on as the laughing youngsters competed for attention, shouting and sharing their latest selfies with their techno-savvy friends who were also busy on their phones, texting or talking animatedly or just staring at something on the screen, oblivious to the reality around them.

I found myself imagining these youngsters as adults standing behind podiums at a televised debate for the President of the United States, competing to get the attention of the TV moderators so they could talk about their many virtues and their life’s goal of helping and caring for the poor and middle class, indeed for all humanity — a verbal selfie, if you will, albeit a bit Dorian Grayish.

When the bus stopped at Union Square, the Future of America finally got up and got off, leaving their warm seats.

Then the elderly and disabled people moved slowly and shakily to the newly-vacant seats, eased their tired bodies down and sighed with relief.
Ah, the future of America!

I hope I’m alive to watch those candidates in a future debate which I think will be exactly like the current debates, just with different faces. I could use a little comedy before my final ride where I’m sure to get a seat or, more exactly, a bed.

John Cappelletti, ST

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Letters to the Editor, Nov. 26

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Scientists largely in agreement on climate

Re: “Climate researchers and false prophets,” letter by Gamaliel Isaac, T&V, Nov. 19

Firstly, the words “climate” and “weather” are not synonyms. The former refers to the world’s atmosphere over given periods of time; weather refers to temperature, precipitation, humidity, etc. in one specific area at a given time and attempts to predict the next few days.

Then there is science which we all have learned – but, usually a list of facts – with little emphasis on what “the scientific method” really means and its importance.

There is also the difference between the weathermen we see on TV (who are usually selected for on camera appearance and likability) and climatologists who are scientists.

John Coleman, whose documentary where he posits on the false assertions of climate change, is a weatherman (who worked on WCBS and WNBC and is now CEO of the Weather Channel). I am aware that about half of weathermen (and women) agree with Mr. Coleman.

But, 98 percent of climatologists and other scientists all agree with climate warming and its relationship since the industrial age as increasing amounts of carbon have been increased via humans’ use of fossil fuels. Which group has the background to achieve credibility?

Gamaliel Isaac, your allusion to the superstitious beliefs of the Xhosa in South Africa reminds me of the about ten persons hanged during the Salem witch trials. How one can compare the concerns of scientists to those of primitive groups – as you refer to the Xhosa tribe in Africa (or my example of the Puritans in Salem is beyond me).

If someone in the early 20th Century said that two small electronic units: one in the U.S. and the other in the U.K. could communicate without any wires, they would be thought to be crazy — but through the marvel of the scientific method, it can now be done.

CNN reported yesterday that each of the last six months successively have been recorded as the most warm since record keeping began. And, see Sunday’s NYT Magazine (11/15) on the continuing melting of the polar icecaps. And, science is nether liberal nor conservative.

David Chowes, PCV

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Editorial: The city can, and should, help ST/PCV’s market rate residents

For the past couple of weeks, residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village have been able to talk about little else but what the latest sale of the property means for them — or doesn’t.

For the property’s market raters, those with stabilized leases paying market rent or close to it, the deal means nothing. Not only did it not include an option to buy, it didn’t guarantee insider preference for the stock of affordable units as they become available — or even eligibility. Those details have yet to be decided, with a lottery as one possibility.

While it is certainly encouraging to hear that the new owner wanted to make a deal that appealed to tenants, it is a shame that the residents in ST/PCV’s renovated units have been left out.

Obviously, securing their stability in this deal would have been far more expensive and complicated for the city, and that’s in all likelihood why this was not even attempted. (For over a year, the mayor’s office made it clear that its goal was to preserve affordability at some, not all of the apartments.

Originally, the goal was 6,000 units, with the explanation that there didn’t appear to be any way to turn back the clock for the “Roberts” and post-“Roberts” tenants.)

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Maloney’s opponent: Corporate tax cuts will spur job growth

By Sabina Mollot

Nick Di Iorio (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Nick Di Iorio (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Although primary day is just around the corner, local elected officials aren’t facing any challengers. After all, defeating a popular incumbent is a next-to-impossible task for an unknown candidate. There’s only thing even more difficult. Defeating a popular, 22-year incumbent in the general election when you’re an unknown Republican and democrat voters outnumber Republicans six to one.

But Nicholas Di iorio, a former seminary student who was more recently a contractor with Pfizer, believes he’s got a shot. The reason, said the 28-year-old Upper East Sider (who lives a few blocks away from his opponent, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney), is redistricting.

The district today encompasses much of the East Side of Manhattan, including Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, midtown and the Upper East Side as well as Astoria, Queens and part of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. The redrawing of the district maps in 2012 means that the area that became the 12th district is “now more Republican than it’s ever been,” said Di iorio.

So much so that he’s lost interest in a reality show he’d last year planned to participate in that would have followed his campaign and another race deemed to be unwinnable. A July Daily News story reported that the show idea was turned down by the Esquire channel, but according to Di iorio, though he did want to do it initially, he’d changed his mind even before it was rejected by the network.

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Lieutenant governor hopeful takes tour of Stuy Town

Kathy Hochul gets an earful from tenants and local elected officials during a walk through the complex. (Pictured) Council Member Dan Garonick introduces her to Public Safety Chief Bill McClellan. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Kathy Hochul gets an earful from tenants and local elected officials during a walk through the complex. (Pictured) Council Member Dan Garonick introduces her to Public Safety Chief Bill McClellan. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, which has recently enlisted the aid of the de Blasio administration in an effort to maintain some affordability in the complex, is also now hoping it will have an ally in Kathy Hochul, Governor Cuomo’s choice for the next lieutenant governor.

On Thursday afternoon, Hochul joined Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg along with a handful of TA volunteers on a stroll through Stuy Town, and got filled in on tenants’ more pressing concerns. She’d come at the request of Council Member Dan Garodnick, who was also there with Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh. Prior to the walk through the grounds, Hochul, a former Congresswoman asked the small group, “What’s on your mind?”

“You got a whole afternoon?” was Steinberg’s answer.

Tenants then began chiming in about the dormification of the community with students packing into apartments in order to make the rent affordable, major capital improvements (MCI) for what often seems like unnecessary work — and tenants’ frustration at having to pay for those improvements in perpetuity — and the fear of both longterm and newer tenants of getting priced out. Other topics brought up included more longterm tenants’ fear of harassment, increased transience and questions about what will happen to the rents when the J-51 tax abatement expires in the year 2020. Steinberg also briefed Hochul on the TA’s partnership with developer Brookfield aimed at a condo conversion as well as CW’s lack of interest in talking business with them. Al Doyle, the former president of the Tenants Association, brought up the ongoing issue of predatory equity throughout the city, with Stuy Town, of course, being the poster child for the practice.

Aug7 Kathy Playground10

Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and Kathy Hochul (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Kavanagh and Garodnick brought up that they wanted to see the rent laws get strengthened, but the State Senate hasn’t exactly been friendly to tenants. While refraining from making any promises, Hochul said she thought the community is “worth fighting for.” If she becomes lieutenant governor, she pointed out, she’d have the tie-breaking vote in the event of a deadlock in Albany. From 2011-2013, Hochul represented New York’s 26th District, which includes the areas of Buffalo and Niagara Falls.

During her time in Congress, she lived with colleague Carolyn Maloney in Washington.

“We used to say that we should have a reality show, ‘The Real Women in Congress,’” said Hochul. When asked how Maloney was as a roommate, Hochul admitted, “She’s a lot cleaner than I am.” As for the current state of the Congress, Hochul casually remarked that it’s “the most dysfunctional government on the planet.” However, she added quickly, “There are still a lot of good people out there.”

Hochul also touted her experience, claiming she’d helped make the Department of Motor Vehicles “a more positive experience” when she served as county clerk and when in Congress, fought with other Democrats “like pit bulls” to get more cash for restoration after Hurricane Sandy than Republicans wanted to allocate. During the walk through the grounds, Hochul said that from what she’s seen, “Everybody wants the same thing. A safe house, a job, their kids to get a good education. It’s universal. It’s not downstate or upstate. This is what the governor and I are focused on.”

Steinberg pointed out some positive aspects of the community like the playgrounds, a few of which recently got new water features, and the hayrides for kids that take place each Halloween. When passing by the Oval Café/Playground 9 area, Hochul remarked, “I’d like to live here.”

When the group walked past the Public Safety office, Garodnick, realizing officers might think tenants were about to rally, made a point to say hello and introduce Hochul to Public Safety Chief Bill McClellan. Soon afterwards, Hochul left the complex at First Avenue and the crowd dispersed.

Hochul (right) listens to tenants, including Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg and Council Member Dan Garodnick, discuss quality of life issues and dwindling affordability in Stuy Town. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Hochul (right) listens to tenants, including Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg and Council Member Dan Garodnick, discuss quality of life issues and dwindling affordability in Stuy Town. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Steinberg then said that she did feel Hochul was genuinely listening to tenants. “I think she got it,” Steinberg said. Kavanagh also said he thought she’d make “a strong partner in the executive branch,” and support tenants, while Garodnick also said he believed Hochul would be in tenants’ corner. “She is clearly a serious and thoughtful person who was willing to take the time to understand our unique challenges,” Garodnick said.

Doyle, meanwhile, just seemed happy that the would-be lieutenant governor got to hear firsthand from tenants how all the different types of rent increases were impacting the community.

“Homeowners outside the city, when we tell them how (an MCI) is a permanent increase, they don’t believe us,” he said.

Following the stroll, T&V asked what Hochul’s thoughts were on the Cuomo administration doing something to preserve dwindling stability and affordability in the community.

Responding in a written statement, she said, “Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village are critical to keeping New York affordable. I will work closely with the governor, along with the office of New York State Homes and Community Renewal, to ensure that the rights of thousands of rent-regulated tenants are maintained and preserved for generations to come.”

There was no response, though, when T&V asked Hochul’s campaign reps if she wanted to comment on investigation over corruption in the governor’s Moreland Commission. However, in an interview this week with Buffalo-based NBC news outlet WGRZ, she defended the commission, saying, “they had the independence to do what they needed to do.”

Letters to the Editor, July 24

Conversion should be fully supported by mayor

Mayor de Blasio came to Stuyvesant Town last week to sell his vision of affordable housing for all – including designating ST-PCV as part of his plan for affordable housing throughout Manhattan.

Buried within your article, you reported that the mayor “was open to the idea of a conversion.”

Apparently, the Tenants Association did not press the mayor on the TA’s clearly stated goal, made on behalf of thousands of ST/PCV tenants: a tenant-led, non-eviction condo conversion of the property.

Recall that in October, 2012, to great fanfare, the Tenants Association said that it was taking our case directly to the bondholders. The TA leaders said the time had come for CW Capital to step aside, and if CW would not meet us at the table, we would “cut out the middleman.”

In fact, however, the TA failed to contact the bondholders, and took no further steps on behalf of the 11,000 tenants who wanted to take charge of their destiny and have a seat at the table.

A condo conversion keeps things affordable because long-term tenants can remain in their apartments, without the fear of ever-increasing MCIs that are designed to squeeze tenants until they leave.

A condo conversion allows the new stabilizers to become new homeowners.

Mayor de Blasio needs to stand up in solidarity with tenants and the TA that has worked so hard for a condo conversion. First, he sandbagged our councilmember, lobbying for Dan Garodnick’s opponent in the speaker race.Now he is sandbagging the Tenants Association.

Whose side is the mayor really on?

Name Withheld, ST
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Editorial: The silence is deafening

UPDATE: Following Town & Village’s Wednesday afternoon press time, the de Blasio administration has discussed options being explored in the effort to keep Stuyvesant Town affordable with the press.

Following weeks of silence regarding a reported $4.7 billion bid being prepared by Fortress, CWCapital made a decision to take ownership of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village itself. This was a defensive move, and it remains to be seen how long this arrangement will last. (The company did not respond to a request for comment on that one.)

Council Member Dan Garodnick said last week he’s seeing this as an opportunity for tenants to buy some time to consider the next moves, but so far CW hasn’t even given a hint as to whether a tenant-led bid is something that will ever be considered. Also mum is the mayor who, while still a candidate, crowed at Stuy Town that “over my dead body will this place be privatized.”

The de Blasio administration has since ignored multiple requests by T&V on what the mayor’s thoughts are on the now-canceled foreclosure sale as well as the Tenants Association’s plan to rally on Friday, the 13th of June, over concerns about the future. While Garodnick has said he’s gotten the sense the mayor’s office is trying to be helpful to tenants, considering de Blasio’s declarations on the campaign trail, there really shouldn’t be any question as to whether or not he should get involved in the fight for continued affordability in the complex. Lip service isn’t enough and yet right now there isn’t even any of that. The silence is deafening.

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