Tenant lobbying event in Albany

Real Rent Reform (R3), a coalition of tenant advocacy groups, is organizing a lobbying day in Albany on Thursday, March 22 to tell the State Senate to close the loopholes that are making housing in this city unaffordable. Even in rent-regulated apartments, the rent is too high and stability is at risk. Nearly 266,000 tenants live with a preferential rent which means their rent can jump hundreds of dollars when their lease is up.

Transportation will be provided free of cost by R3 as well as a light breakfast and lunch.

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association will have representatives there and is asking neighbors to attend.

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Republican runs for Kavanagh’s old Assembly seat

Assembly candidate Bryan Cooper believes it’s unfair Republicans are blamed for the lack of affordable housing. (Photo courtesy of Bryan Cooper)

By Sabina Mollot

In New York City, it’s generally understood that whichever Democrat candidate is on the ballot in a general election is going to win, regardless of who the Republican or third party candidate is. And Bryan Cooper, the Republican hoping to fill the Assembly seat vacated by State Senator Brian Kavanagh, knows this.

Nevertheless, he is hoping three time’s the charm. This will, after all, be the third time he’s run for the 74th District Assembly seat. Cooper, now 51, ran against Kavanagh in 2008 and again in 2014. He also ran against then-City Council Member Rosie Mendez in 2009.

While both incumbents were easily re-elected, Cooper said he’s more hopeful this time since the special election on April 24 is an open one.

He’ll be on the ballot along with Democrat Harvey Epstein who last Monday got the nomination from the Democratic County Committee. That same evening, the Manhattan Republican Party announced it was supporting Cooper.

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Letters to the editor, Feb. 22

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Differing ideas about housing ‘reform’

To the editor:

My principal difficulty with Harvey Epstein’s “Living in NYC isn’t a privilege,” opinion, Town & Village, Feb. 1, is his omission of what has brought us an “unprecedented housing crisis.” Mr. Epstein took pains to lay bare the crux, but he did not get to its persistent cause. As we read his letter, it becomes apparent that while he understands the crisis, in the sense that he, like we, can describe it, he does not understand it as anything other than a crisis in housing. It is, in his words, “an alarming trend” whose remedy is “up for debate.” I do not know why Mr. Epstein sees the “unprecedented crisis” as a “trend,” and it bears badly for his future leadership and his constituency that he thinks the remedy is “up for grabs.”

To treat the plight of our most vulnerable, Mr. Epstein would provide them with “subsidies so that they can afford to stay in their rent-regulated housing.” He would require “all developers to set aside a percentage of all future development for affordable housing.” He would “repeal vacancy deregulation… reform the way in which landlords impose exorbitant rent increases based on MCIs,” and he would “end the vacancy bonus which allows landlords to increase rents a whopping 20 percent whenever a tenant [vacates] an apartment.” In the main, covering all of the issues, Mr. Epstein believes that, “It’s time we create new working class housing program that allows working class New Yorkers the ability to work and stay here.”

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Rivera focused on mom-and-pops and affordable housing at tech hub

Council Member Carlina Rivera outside her district office in the East Village (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Newly-elected City Council Member Carlina Rivera spoke with members of the community media in a round-table discussion this week, covering affordable housing, the plight of small businesses and the transit woes affecting District 2.

Rivera, who took over the seat from Rosie Mendez, who was term-limited after 12 years in office, previously worked with Mendez as her legislative director and is a long-time community activist working in the East Village and the Lower East Side.

One of the subjects she brought up was the new “tech hub” the city is planning on East 14th Street, and Rivera said she wants to make sure affordable housing is factored into the plan.

“In terms of the zoning, it’s going to be important to look at how we can incentivize affordable housing,” she said. “People are worried that this tech hub is going to be a purely commercial development and one of the most important things we need is affordable housing.”

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City is warehousing vacant lots intended for housing: Stringer

City Comptroller Scott Stringer is accusing the HPD of failing to meet its own target dates for taking actions on available properties.

By Sabina Mollot

On Monday, City Comptroller Scott Stringer blasted the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development, saying that at the rate it’s been working to turn over 1,000 vacant city-owned lots into affordable housing, it’ll take 17 years to get them all breaking ground.

His announcement followed a report he issued in 2016 that showed the city was warehousing over 1,100 vacant lots.

Out of those properties, Stringer said nearly 90 percent (1,007) have remained undeveloped. HPD, he said, has transferred only 64 to developers and 54 others have been transferred to other city agencies for their use. Additionally, some properties have remained vacant for 50 years.

Stringer noted that while the city has intended to turn hundreds of these lots into affordable housing, it has failed to meet its own target dates for taking action on 80 percent of them. Stringer is calling for all of the city-owned lots to be used for over 50,000 units of permanent affordable housing and for HPD to create a “realistic” timetable to either make this happen or turn the properties over to other agencies or developers.

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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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Editorial: A pilot program in preservation

The city was quick to slam an independent report that said the affordability preserved in the property’s most recent sale was exaggerated (although this was without disputing the actual figures cited by the Independent Budget Office).

Measuring affordability through years rather than apartments, the IBO has calculated that the majority of apartments would have remained affordable even without a deal that cost the city $220 million.

Just whether or not the city got what it paid for remains to be seen, as is how stable the community will remain over the years with a combination of market rents, true stabilized rents and upper and lower lottery tier rents.

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Former CB6 chair enters Assembly race

Sandro Sherrod (Photo by Bert Ongkeo)

By Sabina Mollot

In a race that so far has no set Election Day, three candidates have already announced their hopes of replacing Brian Kavanagh in the New York Assembly, 74th District.

The most recent one to make his candidacy official is former Community Board 6 chair Sandro Sherrod, a resident of Stuyvesant Town.

Sherrod, 41, works at NYU Langone Center with the title of director of collaborative infrastructure and audio-visual strategy. (As he explains it, he’s responsible for integrative technology and how it gets used.) He’s been at the East Side hospital for the past 17 years and has a record of community activism that’s almost as long. He’s been the president of the Tilden Democratic Club, where he is now a district leader. He’s been the corresponding secretary of the 13th Precinct Community Council and he’s served on the board of the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association. He is now a board member of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association and is still involved with CB6, which he chaired from 2012-2015. He also chaired the board’s health committee and was vice chair of the parks committee.

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Opinion: Priorities for the year ahead

By Council Member Keith Powers

Starting on January 1, I have the privilege to represent the community that I have called home throughout my life. Our district has been lucky to have been represented by Council Member Dan Garodnick for 12 years that were exciting, turbulent, and important to our future. As I take office, I look forward to building on Dan’s legacy and focusing on a few priority areas:

Creating and Preserving Affordable Housing
As I promised during my campaign, I’ll work to make housing laws fair and to provide residents an opportunity to stay in their homes for the long haul, especially right here in ST/PCV. The next few years will need to include addressing the long-term future of “Roberts” tenants in ST/PCV and assisting overburdened settling tenants in Waterside Plaza. The city and state also need to address the rising cost of housing through MCI reform, expanding SCRIE benefits, and continuing the push for zero or low rent increases for rent-regulated tenants.

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Watchdog says affordability preserved through Stuy Town deal was exaggerated

de Blasio talking

Mayor Bill de Blasio and other elected officials with tenants in October, 2015 announcing the sale of Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

In October of 2015, a grinning Mayor Bill de Blasio stood alongside other elected officials to declare that the sale of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village to The Blackstone Group and partner Ivanhoe Cambridge was the “mother of all preservations deals.”

However, the Independent Budget Office of the City of New York (IBO) is now suggesting, in a report released Friday, that the amount of affordability preserved was inflated.

The IBO estimated that while the deal was supposed to preserve 100,000 “apartment years” (the equivalent of 5,000 apartments for 20 years), 64,000 of those apartment years would have remained affordable anyway through rent stabilization. This would mean the deal really only saved 36,000 apartment years, not 100,000. The report also noted that when the sale took place, just over 5,000 apartments were already renting at below-market rates due to rent stabilization.

While there has been plenty of debate over just how “affordable” the 5,000 apartments that are preserved and leased through a lottery system actually are, according to the IBO, only three percent of those 100,000 apartment years are reserved for low-income households. Twenty-seven percent are intended for middle income households while the remaining six percent of apartment years are units that will remain rent-stabilized longer than they would have without the deal. For its report, the IBO said it considered all of the newly created lottery apartments as well as ones that remain stabilized to be benefits to the city.

Additionally, the report indicated that the city used some misleading numbers at the time of the property sale.

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TenantPAC’s top 3 priorities for 2018

Mike McKee of TenantsPAC (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

When it comes to resolutions for tenants in the coming year, TenantsPAC treasurer and spokesperson Mike McKee says time is of the essence.

“They have to pass some of our reform bills this year, not 2019,” the activist said.

McKee is adamant about the timing of a growing, organized effort to strengthen the rent laws, explaining that the following year when the rent regulations are up for renewal or expiration, tenants will no longer have leverage that exists this year. The reason for this is simple. Elected officials, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, will be up for reelection in 2018, and, explained McKee, six months after the new term, “he’ll have no interest in June 2019 of doing anything for the tenants” nor will the Republican-aligned members of the Independent Democratic Conference.

McKee, who was reached on the phone last Friday, added that he was planning, along with dozens of other activists, to protest outside Cuomo’s State of the State speech. A number of participants, he added, had committed ahead of time to getting arrested for blocking the entrance to the capitol.

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Now a senator, Kavanagh says rent regs are still top priority

State Senator Brian Kavanagh reflected on his career in Albany so far at a Pret shop near his office, which was already in boxes earlier this month. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Thursday, December 7, Brian Kavanagh, who had served as Assembly member representing Manhattan’s 74th District for 11 years, took the oath of office for his new role as state senator. While his Assembly district, which included Stuyvesant Town, Waterside, Tudor City and a handful of other East Side neighborhoods, is now vacant, Kavanagh’s new beat, the 26th Senatorial District, formerly represented by Daniel Squadron, spans part of Brooklyn’s waterfront and much of Lower Manhattan.

Just days before Kavanagh officially began his new position, he met with a Town & Village reporter at a Pret sandwich shop near his legislative office (since the office itself was already packed up in boxes) to discuss his reason for switching chambers and how he still plans to fight for affordable housing.

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City pouring $250M into Mitchell-Lamas if they stay in program

East Midtown Plaza (Photo via Wikipedia)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The mayor’s office has announced a plan to protect affordability at remaining Mitchell-Lama developments throughout the city through additional financing of $250 million.

A representative from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development confirmed that the funding will be available for all Mitchell-Lama developments, meaning that the East Midtown Plaza complex west of First Avenue and East 24th Street will be getting some of the funds. The specific needs of individual developments will determine how the resources are used, but information on the exact amounts is not yet clear.

“The Mitchell-Lama Reinvestment Program will focus on preserving the long-term affordability of all residences currently enrolled in the program,” HPD representative Matthew Creegan said. “It will utilize an array of financing tools, determined by the individual needs of each project, as an incentive for these properties to remain in the program as stable, sustainable and affordable homes for years to come.”

The mayor’s office noted that the new program will target 15,000 homes over the next eight years. Known as the Mitchell-Lama Reinvestment Program, the initiative is part of the mayor’s plan to create and preserve affordable housing throughout the city by financing 200,000 affordable home and expanding to 300,000 affordable homes by 2026.

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Letters to the editor, Nov. 2

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Tenants will win with Powers

Keith Powers is the clear choice for City Council. Like me, Keith is a third-generation resident of Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village.  Keith is uniquely qualified to tackle the issues facing tenants.

His work as a member of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, as well as his commitment to affordability, has been demonstrated time and time again. On the campaign trail, Keith rolled out a platform that would expand affordability through opposing rent increases at the Rent Guidelines Board and permanent MCI increases, protecting and increasing access to the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program, as well as committing to exploring legal options to protect Robert’s tenants, who are slated to lose vital ​protection in 2020.
Keith grew up in a rent-stabilized apartment, so issues of affordability hit home for him. He knows the impact that affordable housing has on people’s lives and our community. Keith doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. He has been endorsed by organizations, like Tenants PAC, for his commitment to protecting affordable housing.

For all these reasons and more, I hope you will join me in voting for Keith Powers for City Council on November 7.

John Marsh, PCV

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Mayor grilled on garage

Council Member Dan Garodnick and Mayor Bill de Blasio at a town hall on Tuesday (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

On Tuesday, the mayor was grilled about the proposed sanitation garage for East 25th Street by neighbors who attended a town hall.

The hotly-contested issue was the topic of discussion at numerous Community Board 6 meetings when it was first announced in 2012 but the plan has stalled in the last two years, and Mayor de Blasio said at the town hall, which was also hosted by Council Member Dan Garodnick, that the issue will be reviewed again once the next term for City Council begins.

“The fundamental problem is that the facilities are concentrated in Lower Manhattan so we need some kind of facility to serve this area and so far this seems like the most viable site,” he said. “But there should be a real conversation about what the community needs.”

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