Former PCV resident returns through apartment lottery

Nichole Levin, holding a gift bag with slippers at home on Monday, is happy to be back in Peter Cooper Village. Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Friday, March 31, Nichole Levin, an elementary school teacher and Peter Cooper Village native, got the phone call she’d been waiting for over a year. Her application to the Stuyvesant Town lottery for reduced rent apartments had been accepted. In fact, she was told, she could move in right away, and the apartment was in the same building in Peter Cooper Village as her mother’s home.

The news came as a happy ending to what was a somewhat stressful process, due to the wait — she’d even had to extend her current lease in Tudor City by a month while sorting out a paperwork issue.

Levin, 41, has since spoke with Town & Village about her experience, and has also since moved in (on Monday).

It was last March when the lottery opened for the first time, inviting those with incomes no higher than 165 percent of the area median income as well as those earning no more than 80 percent of the AMI to apply. Levin, who teaches English as a Second Language, had an income that made her eligible for apartments for renters in the upper income tier. Last March, this was $74,850-$99,825 for a single person seeking a studio or one-bedroom. It wasn’t until September, however, that she was contacted for a routine credit check.

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Tenants lose bargaining power under new state budget

State Senator Brad Hoylman (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Sunday night, when the New York State budget was passed by the Senate, landlords won an extension of the 421 tax break for new developments while tenants lost some leverage in the ongoing effort to renew and strengthen the rent laws.

The combined budget bills had totaled nearly 2,000 pages, as noted by State Senator Brad Hoylman last week. He’d voted no as a protest to being expected to review a Bible-sized stack in a matter of hours.

However, with the voting now over in the Senate as well as the Assembly, Hoylman gave Town & Village a recap.

The 421a tax break for developers, which was included in the budget, will no longer sunset at the same time as the rent negotiations. The timeline had previously been seen by tenants as an opportunity to bargain for stronger rent laws.

“The fact that the 421a real estate tax exemption was negotiated behind closed doors is scandalous,” said Hoylman, “but what is also extremely scandalous is that it was not linked to renewal of the rent laws. Albany made a colossal mistake in de-coupling the renewal of 421a with rent laws. That was a major leverage point.”

Additionally, ethics reforms, including the closure of the LLC Loophole (which allows donors to give nearly limitless campaign cash to politicians through LLCs), were not included.

“There was no mention of ethics reform in any part of the budget,” said Hoylman, “which is extremely disappointing. Not an iota. They blocked the LLC Loophole (closure), they blocked measures to limit outside income. Once again the Senate majority refused to take action. The budget process itself was dysfunctional.”

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Protesters mourn loss of affordable housing

Tenant activists gather outside an event held by the Real Estate Board of New York. (Photo courtesy of Faith in New York)

By Sabina Mollot

A group of tenant activists, dressed in black, disrupted a real estate industry luncheon in midtown last Wednesday to mourn the loss of affordable housing in the city. One of the groups organizing the effort was Faith in New York along with Tenants and Neighbors, the latter of whom have a tradition of protesting at events held by the Real Estate Board of New York.

“REBNY has led the charge for pro-gentrification and pro-displacement policies across New York for decades,” Katie Goldstein, executive director of Tenants & Neighbors later said in a written statement. “We are here standing with faith leaders and tenants across New York to mourn the death of affordable housing as we actively organize against REBNY’s policies and practices.”

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Former Mendez aide running to replace her in City Council

Former Rosie Mendez aide Carlina Rivera in Madison Square Park (Photo courtesy of Carlina Rivera)

Former Rosie Mendez aide Carlina Rivera in Madison Square Park (Photo courtesy of Carlina Rivera)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Life-long Lower East Side resident Carlina Rivera has been involved in local politics since as young as age 12, so it should come as no surprise that her next move is running for City Council. Until recently, Rivera was the legislative director for Councilmember Rosie Mendez, and she left the position to focus on running to fill the seat in District 2 that Mendez will vacate this year due to term limits.

Rivera’s introduction to politics at such a young age was thanks to tenant advocate Marie Christopher, who lived on the first floor of her building on Stanton Street when she was growing up.

“She was an amazing tenant advocate, always pushing issues of public safety and preservation of NYCHA,” Rivera said of Christopher, who died in 2013. “She brought me to my first community council meeting. She knew that the community was an ecosystem, and she knew the importance of working with elected officials but also holding them accountable.”

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Editorial: When affordable housing is a prize

Last week, Blackstone reopened its lottery for reduced rent apartments in Stuyvesant Town, an announcement that was welcome news to the rent burdened but still raised the inevitable question of whether a discount of a few hundred bucks on rents that would otherwise start at over three thousand is truly affordable.

The answer is of course it is not, and it’s still hard to grasp — at least to us — how things got to the point where in order to get an affordable place to live in New York, one literally has to win a lottery. It feels a bit like a dystopian cautionary tale of what could happen when a wealthy politician, untouched by the people’s concerns about the need for affordable living, prefers to simply let the market do its thing. Oh, wait… that actually happened.

Fast forward to the present. Mayor Bill de Blasio has been quick to tout the affordable housing he’s built and preserved, as he promised to do on the campaign trail, but again, the Devil’s in the details. In the case of Stuyvesant Town, the 5,000 units committed to so-called affordability (which start at $2,800 for one-bedrooms) only become available as each rent-stabilized unit turns over. Additionally, half of those units, once vacated due to a tenant moving out or dying, will become market rate. So income eligible market rate residents and others hoping for at least some relief may be in for a very long wait. Note: We don’t blame Blackstone for this 50/50 arrangement, which seems fair, or for reopening the lottery, which as we also reported last week, prompted a few hopeful people we spoke with to try their luck.

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Letters to the Editor, Feb. 9

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

‘Affordable housing’ not magic words

Re: Council candidate’s top priority is affordable housing,” T&V, Feb. 2

Reading and rereading Sabina Mollot’s interview with Councilwoman wannabe, Bessie Schachter, left me wondering if Mrs. Schachter is serious.  Of course her “top priority is affordable housing.”  It is also the top priority of tenants and landlords.

I found nothing of substance on the matter of affordable housing. If this sounds/looks excessively picky on my part, may I suggest to anyone thinking that, and certainly to anyone who wishes to replace Councilman Garodnick, they familiarize themselves with New York City’s own site on affordable housing. In particular take a look at the lottery application process that one must enter in order to secure an affordable place to live.  [NYC Connect: Steps to Apply: What to Expect: Your Guide To Affordable Housing] If after reading and rereading the six-column process it doesn’t dawn on a council aspirant that the process is a comic opera in which citizens have been assigned the role of The Fool, then please consider running for dog-catcher, or squirrel keeper; just have the decency to stay out of our lives!

There are of course other difficulties. Our area lost B and C bus service years ago. We are left with a less than reliable D and a soon to be overwhelmed A.  I say “soon to be overwhelmed” because I don’t see that our area is prepared for the numbers that will soon be upon us from the new apartments on 14th and C, along 14th between A and B, between A and First, and on A between 12th and 11th.

I should think that with such legal assaults on our way of life, those who crave Dan Garodnick’s seat would move beyond irrelevant autobiography pleasantries and requests for conversation.

John M. Giannone, ST

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Market raters hopeful about lottery, some others say the cost isn’t exactly affordable

feb9-screenshotBy Sabina Mollot

Following the announcement that the Stuyvesant Town lottery would be reopening for would-be residents in the upper income tier, Town & Village asked a few market rate residents and former residents as well as others for their thoughts. The market raters we spoke with seemed to think that while the rents weren’t exactly cheap, the lottery was still welcome news. However, those unaccustomed to paying those kinds of rents were wary of labeling the available units as affordable.

After hearing what the rents were for one and two-bedrooms, Larry Watson, a former Stuy Town resident who moved out last year, said he thought the deal sounded better for the two-bedrooms.

He’d previously paid $3,900 for a converted two-bedroom.

“If you look at the price for a studio anywhere in Manhattan, it’s $2,000,” said Watson, “so it’s an $800 leap for a one-bedroom, but for a two-bedroom it’s an extra $1,300. So you get the value in a two-bedroom, but not a one-bedroom. I’d say it’s a decent offer,” he said.

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Stuy Town apartment lottery reopening

feb9-screenshot

The lottery website, stuytownlottery.com, is live.

By Sabina Mollot

The lottery for below-market apartments in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village is reopening.

On Monday, Blackstone announced that those who missed out the first time could try again during a one-month window.

This reopening is specifically for applicants in the higher-income bracket for one and two-bedroom apartments since those are the unit sizes that are most common throughout the property. However, the original waiting list is still active for unit types not included in the current lottery as well as one and two-bedrooms.

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Council candidate says top priority is affordable housing

Democrat Bessie Schachter is a former aide to State Senator Liz Krueger.

Democrat Bessie Schachter is a former aide to State Senator Liz Krueger. (Photos courtesy of candidate)

By Sabina Mollot

There is no one in New York City who would deny that the rent is too damn high, but in the view of one candidate running for the City Council, tackling that one issue is so important that it would also solve others facing Manhattan’s District 4, like growing retail blight and homelessness.

That candidate is Bessie Schachter, who’s also a state committee woman with the Lexington Democrat Club, and up until recently, an aide to State Senator Liz Krueger.

“It all overlaps and comes back to affordable housing,” she said.

Schachter, a self-described progressive, said her campaign was fueled by the calls she’d get from Krueger’s East Side constituents two or three times a week that were from tenants who were being priced or pressured out of their apartments.

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New Kips Bay building includes housing for the disabled

Adam Weinsten, president of Phipps; Aaron Humphrey, Community Board 6 member; Claude L. Winfield, CB6 vice chairman; Jill Schoenfeld, representative of Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh; Pedro Carrillo and Gene Santoro, CB6 members; Council Member Rosie Mendez; Raj Nayar, CB6 Housing Committee chair; and Howie Levine, representative of Council Member Dan Garodnick (Photos by Michelle Deal Winfield)

Adam Weinsten, president of Phipps; Aaron Humphrey, Community Board 6 member; Claude L. Winfield, CB6 vice chairman; Jill Schoenfeld, representative of Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh; Pedro Carrillo and Gene Santoro, CB6 members; Council Member Rosie Mendez; Raj Nayar, CB6 Housing Committee chair; and Howie Levine, representative of Council Member Dan Garodnick (Photos by Michelle Deal Winfield)

By Michelle Deal Winfield

A new building in Kips Bay, which includes some housing for disabled residents, is now ready for occupancy. The completion of the project comes seven years after it was first discussed by Community Board Six’s Manhattan’s Housing Committee and Full Board.

Henry Phipps Plaza South Development — now referred to as 325 KB — is located at 325 East 25th Street, between First and Second Avenues.

The newly constructed building was built on a vacant lot that had been used as a basketball court. Phipps is awaiting a Certificate of Occupancy which the owner expects to receive in two weeks. It consists of 55 rental apartments: 10 studios, 18 one-bedrooms, 27 two-bedrooms, and the superintendent lives on the first floor. Forty percent of the apartments are affordable, which in this case means under 80 percent of the NYC area median income (AMI). The other 60 percent of the units range from 20 percent at 120 percent of the AMI, 20 percent at 145 percent of the AMI and 20 percent at 165 percent of the AMI.

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Some East Midtown Plaza shareholders launch new effort to turn complex private

East Midtown Plaza resident Jeanne Poindexter, who is staunchly against privatizing the property (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

East Midtown Plaza resident Jeanne Poindexter, who is staunchly against privatizing the property (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Mitchell-Lama cooperative East Midtown Plaza is once again beginning the process to go private with a vote happening this Thursday evening.

The vote will be held at a special meeting that was called because the co-op’s board received a petition from more than 250 shareholders who support privatization. The property has been through this process in the past, with the last attempt at privatization resulting in a court case that sided with co-operators who were against the privatization, with a final decision made in November, 2012. Privatizing would allow residents to sell their homes at a profit. The special meeting this Thursday, which will be held at the NYU Dental School, is only open to shareholders.

The vote this Thursday is the first of three successive votes that shareholders will participate in to determine if the property will go private, and is for a feasibility study on whether or not the plan to go private is viable. The first vote only requires a simple majority of 51 percent of those who attend the meeting but the second and third votes require a two-thirds majority of all shareholders, rather than just those who show up at the meeting. The second vote is required to be held at least a year later where shareholders vote on a proposed offering plan on whether or not to continue to the next step. If the second vote passes, a “Black Book” offering plan is filed with the Attorney General, which proposes the form of a privatized co-op and the third vote, at least another year later, is taken on the completed, accepted and filed cooperative structure. If this vote passes, the property can privatize.

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Letters to the Editor, Oct. 13

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

No option to downsize for the stabilized

Re: “800 ST/PCV residents who qualify for SCRIE/DRIE haven’t enrolled,” T&V, Sept. 29

Despite being many months away from being eligible, I write to commend all of the people involved in publicizing the DRIE and SCRIE rent exemption programs.

But first I want to mention something that’s troublesome. The New York Observer editorialized on behalf of an option that seniors in rent stabilized multi-bedroom apartments be able to downsize to rent stabilized studios, as my grandmother did decades ago, to save chunks of rent. Having one’s rent cut in half is better than having one’s rent frozen. But that is not an option either in PCV-ST or anywhere anymore.

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Wait list opens for affordable apartments in Kips Bay

By Sabina Mollot

New Yorkers on the lookout for a more affordable home might want to consider Phipps Plaza South, two buildings located in Kips Bay, where there is currently a lottery for affordable apartments.

There is at this time just a small amount of vacancies, but there is also a wait list, according to a spokesperson for Phipps, which, this week, announced the opportunity via an ad. The reason for the announcement since most units are already filled is that the owner, nonprofit developer Phipps Houses, is required to periodically refresh the waiting list if it’s out of date or applicants fall below a certain number. This policy is a HUD requirement for Section at 8 at the property.

The two buildings are located at 330 East 26th Street and 444 Second Avenue and together have 404 apartments that are mostly low-income. None are market rate, according to the spokesperson, James Yolle, and it’s covered under a regulatory agreement until 2039 and will then become rent stabilized. Any unit rented goes to someone on the waiting list, which applicants can get on based on income limits.

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ST mayoral candidate focused on charters, affordable housing

Stuyvesant Town resident Joshua Thompson, formerly an employee of the Cory Booker administration in Newark, New Jersey, recently ditched a City Council campaign to run for mayor instead. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Stuyvesant Town resident Joshua Thompson, formerly an employee of the Cory Booker administration in Newark, New Jersey, recently ditched a City Council campaign to run for mayor instead. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Back in February, Town & Village interviewed the first person to officially become a candidate for the City Council seat currently occupied by a term-limited Dan Garodnick. That individual was Joshua Thompson, a resident of Stuyvesant Town who previously worked for then-mayor Cory Booker in Newark, New Jersey as well as for the city of Bridgeport, Connecticut. His platform, he admitted, was still in the works, but he considered education and affordable housing priorities. Then, in May, as T&V first reported, Thompson dropped out of the race, because he was running for mayor instead.

On a recent afternoon, Thompson met with a reporter to discuss his campaign and his surprising decision to run against an incumbent mayor (albeit an embattled one), as an unknown in the world of New York politics.

Asked if running for mayor was the plan from the beginning, Thompson said no. He’d been interested in running for the Council but later felt he wanted to help more under-served communities than those in the 4th District (which runs in a crooked, gerrymandered way from Stuyvesant Town to 96th Street along the East Side of Manhattan).

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CB3 denies request to build higher at old Post Office site

The former Peter Stuyvesant Post Office (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The former Peter Stuyvesant Post Office (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A Community Board 3 committee recently shot down a developer’s request to build higher than zoning allows at the site of the former Peter Stuyvesant Post Office on East 14th Street. The board’s Land Use, Zoning, Public & Private Housing Committee last Wednesday unanimously voted against the zoning variance for a 12-story building. City zoning laws allow the developer to build up to eight stories at the site.

Representatives for Benenson Capital Partners, which is working on the development at the site, 432-438 East 14th Street, previously asked the committee for the variance in June. The company argued that construction costs related to the groundwater conditions made complying with affordable housing unfeasible unless the development could be built larger, the blog EVGrieve reported at the time. With the proposed change in height, the building would have 31 units of affordable housing and a total of 155 units. CB3 had asked the reps to return after the June meeting after looking into alternatives to increasing the building height.

A number of community groups spoke against the plan last week to make the development between First Avenue and Avenue A higher, including the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), the North Avenue A Neighborhood Association, the 12th Street Block Association and the 13th Street Block Association, as well as residents of East 13th Street.
Harry Bubbins, who works with GVSHP as the East Village and special projects director, gave testimony against granting the variance because he felt it was “out of context” with the other buildings in the area.

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