Tenants push for stronger rent regulations

Tenants board a bus to Albany for a day of lobbying ahead of the rent laws expiring in June. (Photos by Sidney Goldberg)

By Sabina Mollot

Last Wednesday, over 30 tenants from different organizations, including 11 from the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, headed to Albany to lobby for stronger rent laws. The rent regulations that keep over a million apartments in New York City stabilized will expire this June. While they are expected to be renewed, tenants always hope to get them strengthened, which seems more likely to happen this year with Democrats having a majority in the State Senate.

At the Wednesday event, Anne Greenberg, vice president of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, led one of the groups of tenants who came from Manhattan. Another group had come from Brooklyn. The Cooper Square Committee was also participating. Greenberg’s group met up with an aide of State Senator Kevin Thomas and there was also another meeting with freshman Assembly Member Simcha Eichenstein. Tenants also eventually ran into local Assembly Member Harvey Epstein, which Greenberg noted, happened by chance because the capitol was so crowded with people.

Greenberg in particular said she thought it was important for tenants to tell personal stories like about how rents can go up drastically upon lease renewal because of preferential rents. Tenant activists are also hoping for vacancy decontrol and reform on rent increases for major capital improvements, individual apartment improvements and vacancy bonuses.

“Part of the mission is to put a story and a put a face to the issue of why we need rent reform,” Greenberg said. “The legislators aren’t always up to speed on all the issues. Now there’s a foundation where we could follow up.”

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ST residents concerned about trees and organized play at Playground 1

Rendering provided by StuyTown Property Services shows how the playground will look once renovated.

By Susan Steinberg
President of the ST-PCV Tenants Association

About 35 Stuyvesant Town tenants attended a town hall on Monday night focusing on the reimagined Playground 1. Hosted by Rick Hayduk, general manager of StuyTown Property Services, assisted by Wes Richards, chief landscape designer and Kevin Wyatt, master arborist, the event took place at the community center.

Hayduk reviewed the need for improvements, including unsafe asphalt requiring resurfacing, parapet walls that were collapsing and trees in various states of decay.  Construction work has already begun on rebuilding the parapets, to the chagrin of the residents living around the playground, well represented at the meeting, who are trying to cope with the drilling. The worst of the noise is expected to be over in two weeks. When completed, the playground will consist of two major areas, an AstroTurf section (about one third of the total area) and a resurfaced asphalt area (two thirds) allowing for roller hockey and T-ball. A net will separate the two areas. The decaying trees will be replaced by Princeton Elms 22 feet high. These grow 4-6.5 feet a year and produce food for squirrels. The design showed 28 benches. The playground is envisioned as serving children ages 12 and under.

Several residents challenged the project. They said playground as it existed was one playground where there was no “theme,” no organized play, no schedules and where residents could site and enjoy quiet time. One resident said she had specifically moved to a building overlooking that playground because it was quiet.

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Tenants fight landlord lawsuit to undo rent freeze

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Tenants defend the rent freeze. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

A group of tenants from around the city are hoping to intervene in a lawsuit that was filed in July aimed at stopping the rent freeze authorized a month earlier by the Rent Guidelines Board.

That lawsuit was filed by the Rent Stabilization Association, an organization that represents around 25,000 landlords in New York City.

On Tuesday morning, the tenant group announced its intention to fight the litigation at a rally held at Foley Square, near the courthouses. The group, dubbed the Rent Justice Coalition, includes tenant and civic groups from around the city with legal representation by Legal Aid Society, Goddard Riverside and the Urban Justice Center.

Event organizer Larry Wood of Goddard Riverside told the crowd of tenants and activists, “The RSA says the Rent Guidelines Board used criteria they shouldn’t have. The RSA claims tenant affordability shouldn’t have been considered. It’s outrageous to say they’re not supposed to think about tenant hardship.”

The suit had argued that the issue of affordability shouldn’t be handled by the RGB, but by government-sponsored rent relief subsidies.

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Four new MCIs pending for ST/PCV

Blackstone representative Nadeem Meghji, pictured at a meeting last October, tells ST-PCV tenants the owner will not use MCIs as a tool to inflate rents. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Blackstone representative Nadeem Meghji, pictured at a meeting last October, tells ST-PCV tenants the owner will not use MCIs as a tool to inflate rents. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Requests are for facade waterproofing, water heaters, video intercoms and ADA ramps, but Blackstone says it will walk away from $10M in potential fees

By Sabina Mollot

Blackstone’s management company for Stuyvesant Town, StuyTown Property Services, announced on Wednesday that it will be filing for four MCIs for work done in the complex starting two years ago.

The MCI (major capital improvement) projects are for: building façade waterproofing (which the owner said was mandated by law), upgrading the hot water heaters, video intercoms for Peter Cooper Village buildings and the installation of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant ramps.

If approved, the cost that would be passed onto residents in the form of a permanent rent increase that a spokesperson for SPS expects will be on average around $8 per month per apartment. While applications don’t guarantee an MCI will be approved, based on community history, the state housing agency, the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, has never met an MCI it didn’t like.

MCIs will be filed for 54 building addresses, a few with multiple filings, according to SPS spokesperson Paula Chirhart. The intercom MCI will be for all Peter Cooper buildings, while the ADA ramp one will be for just two buildings, 400-410 East 20th Street and 430-440 East 20th Street, with a shared ramp at each building. As for the intercoms, the new system will have its own wiring instead of using tenants’ land lines. The water heaters are being replaced, because, according to Chirhart, at this point, the cost of repairing them would be higher than buying new. The waterproofing work is the result of inspections which take place every five years, with work being done if the inspection shows it’s necessary. That work is being done at 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 Peter Cooper Road, 511 and 531 East 20th Street and 510 and 530 East 23rd Street.

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VA: Flood wall now expected to be finished by end of 2016

The contractors working at the hospital site faced delays due to difficulties drilling through found materials like concrete and rocks and a tentative projected finish date for the project is the end of the year, with work on the Asser Levy Park side expected to be finished some time this summer. (Photo by Anne Greenberg)

The contractors working at the hospital site faced delays due to difficulties drilling through found materials like concrete and rocks and a tentative projected finish date for the project is the end of the year, with work on the Asser Levy Park side expected to be finished some time this summer. (Photo by Anne Greenberg)

By Sabina Mollot

Last August, Town & Village reported on how the project to build a flood wall outside the VA Medical Center was scheduled to be finished by March of this year.

However, as anyone who has walked past the construction site recently could see, the project is still ongoing and the actual wall hasn’t even been built yet.

This week, when asked the reason for the delay, a spokesperson for the VA blamed the delay on “unforeseen factors,” specifically a less than cooperative construction site.

Work on the part of the wall along Asser Levy Park is now expected to be finished this summer, according to “tentative projections,” the spokesperson, Claudie Benjamin, said. The walls and work along 23rd and 25th street is now expected to continue until the end of the calendar year. Benjamin added that once the work along Asser Levy Place is finished, the park, which is now partially blocked off, should be “like new” at some point in the summer.

As for the difficult work conditions, Benjamin said this was discovered during the excavation for the flood wall’s foundation.

“We found some unanticipated site conditions that required us to bring in archeological and architectural teams to review and opine that we were doing everything safe for the site and the local community and that we didn’t have any archeological sites of significance,” she said.

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