Garodnick bill would give tenants more notice for apt. inspections

Council Member Dan Garodnick discusses new legislation inspired by complaints from Stuyvesant Town residents about lack of notice for inspections and non-emergency work in their apartments. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Council Member Dan Garodnick discusses new legislation inspired by complaints from Stuyvesant Town residents about lack of notice for inspections and non-emergency work in their apartments. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

For tenants in Stuyvesant Town, getting a notice that one’s apartment is going to be inspected by management or partially torn up by a maintenance crew as part a neighboring apartment’s renovation is a bit like being summoned for jury duty. A disruptive pain, but also an unavoidable fact of life if you want to be law-abiding.

However, this week, Council Member Dan Garodnick said he plans to introduce legislation that would give tenants on the receiving end of such notices more lead time, and more information as to the nature of the work. While owners are allowed by law to inspect apartments or gain access for work the owner deems necessary, there isn’t always much in the way of notice for impacted tenants. On Monday, Garodnick, while surrounded by tenants on First Avenue, said his bill would change this.

Currently, the law says an owner must give a tenant 24 hours notice prior to when an inspection is conducted. The bill, if passed, would change that to 72 hours. It would also increase the amount of notice that must be given for non-emergency work, currently one week, to two weeks. Additionally, tenants would have to be notified of the scheduled visits by notices delivered by hand as well as by email, if the tenant has provided an email address. The notices would also have to be bi-lingual and include the reason for the requested entry and how much time would be required in an apartment. The notice would also have to include information about the legislation.

“We want to reduce the number of situations where tenants are surprised by an inspection or repair work,” Garodnick said, “and we want to make sure that proper notice is given.” He also noted that some tenants have been upset about not having the opportunity to be present during the appointments.

CWCapital has conducted many inspections of ST/PCV apartments in the past couple of years with workers looking at things like appliance types and checking for room dividers, which has led some residents to wonder if those in unrenovated units, paying lower rents, were being targeted. Garodnick said he’s heard these concerns, but has not seen any evidence that would back up such claims.

He also said he hadn’t heard of any recent wave of inspections, although inspections are still an ongoing process.

Also on hand during Monday’s announcement was Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg, who called the current inspection process a “pervasive abuse” of tenants, citing an instance when a resident, after getting out of the shower, was caught by surprise by the arrival of maintenance workers and another time when a tenant’s teenage daughter, home alone, was walked in on. She said she’d also heard of tenants leaving town, “only to come back to find the apartment in shambles.”

Garodnick said the bill would be introduced on Wednesday and that he was drumming up support for it within the Council.

He clearly already has some support among neighbors though.

One tenant at the announcement, Peggy Smith, told Town & Village she’d twice been notified that her apartment was being inspected. The first time she was told it was for illegal room dividers.

“I got very little notice,” she said, but she also recalled being able to reschedule at a date that was more convenient than the date management had originally suggested. But then, after the inspection was conducted, Smith was informed she’d be inspected again.

Fortunately for her, when she inquired as to the reason, she learned the notice of a return visit was actually a mistake.

But, Smith said, “It was very stressful, I have to say, because you don’t know what in particular they’re looking for.”

Another resident, a retiree who didn’t want her name mentioned, said just this week she was visited by someone claiming to need access to her apartment for an inspection. The inspector came before 8 a.m. when she wasn’t yet fully dressed, so the woman said she refused him entry, explaining that the timing wasn’t convenient. In response, she said he “was very polite” and left. Two days later, she received a notice in the mail that her apartment was to be inspected on Monday, March 16 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

A spokesperson for CWCapital did not respond to a request for comment.

TA blasts CW for short or no notice on work in apts.

Garodnick drafting bill to protect tenants from unauthorized entry

By Sabina Mollot

In CWCapital’s ongoing effort to renovate as many apartments as possible, tenants in neighboring units have also been made to allow work to get done in their own apartments to replace pipes in support of the work on the adjoining renovation projects. In the process, some of those neighbors have been getting inconvenienced in ways that have, in at least a couple of instances, been disturbing, according to the ST-PCV Tenants Association.

In a notice that will soon be shared with neighbors on the TA’s website, the TA noted how management hasn’t been giving tenants sufficient notice before breezing on in, in several cases. In one complaint, the TA heard how a teenage girl, alone at home, got scared when maintenance workers unexpectedly banged on and then opened her apartment door.

In another case, a tenant, who gave no authorization for her apartment to be entered, recently returned from a vacation to find her cabinets emptied. The cabinets’ contents were left strewn on the counters, with no explanation. Meanwhile, the work takes one to two days to complete, leaving the kitchen unusable.

“Despite the gross inconvenience, management has not offered to compensate affected tenants for the loss of use of the kitchen and the disruption to the tenants’ right to quiet enjoyment of their homes,” the TA said.

In a case of short notice, the TA said, a tenant was given notice on a Thursday that workers would be entering the apartment on the following Monday. “That’s just four calendar days; the city requires seven calendar days,” the TA said. Additionally, the TA said, management is only supposed to be entering apartments for non-emergency work if tenants’ have given their explicit permission, “and these renovations are not emergencies.”

In response to the TA’s concerns, Council Member Dan Garodnick is drafting legislation that would protect tenants from unauthorized entry or entry with very short notice.

The legislation would include provisions that in notices requesting apartment access, management would have to provide, along with a callback phone number, an email address or another electronic option for tenants to use if requesting a schedule change. Additionally, notices would have to be dated and sent to the tenants’ email address if the owner has one on file. Lastly, consent would not be assumed if the tenant doesn’t respond. However, if after 14 days there is no response, then an owner could enter the apartment.

“There has long been a feeling that people are finding themselves with unwanted visitors,” Garodnick told T&V, “just because they did not see a note or did not have time to respond. This has picked up recently where there are non-emergency improvements being made to neighboring apartments. In that context, we need to protect the sanctity of individual units.”

A spokesperson for CWCapital declined to comment on apartment access or the planned legislation. However, the owner and the TA have clashed on this issue in the past, like last year when management was conducting a round of apartment inspections on safety issues and lease policy compliance. At that time, the TA advised residents to consent to the inspection but be present for it to a recent spate of apartment burglaries that may have been committed by a contractor doing work for CW.

Surprise inspections have residents on edge

By Sabina Mollot

Residents who’ve recently called for plumbing work have been getting more than just their sinks checked.

According to one family in Stuyvesant Town, an appointment last week to have a drain snaked turned into a surprise apartment inspection when the maintenance worker assigned to the job also opened closed bedroom doors and asked the residents questions about their counter tops and appliances.

A resident of the apartment at 280 First Avenue, who asked that his name not be published, said the employee also frightened his adult daughter, who was in her room when he opened the door — without knocking. While the father was in another room, he said the worker breezed into his daughter’s room, telling her he was looking for air conditioners.

After the dad confronted him, the workers was “very apologetic,” saying management was making him to do it.

The employee also produced paperwork showing notes he’d taken at other apartments he’d been working in, and that he was supposed to ask if people had air conditioners.

The employee then asked if the family had a dishwasher and also asked about the countertop in the kitchen, which is when the resident said he told the worker to cut the questioning. The resident said that again the employee was very apologetic and left soon afterwards.

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Letters to the editor, Feb. 27

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Shivering tenants getting cold shoulder

In last week’s “Letters to the editor,” there was a letter describing and highlighting the lack of heat in so many of the Peter Cooper/Stuyvesant apartments.

I write this in my cold den with the heater blasting away. We all agree that we have had unusually cold weather. In that spirit, why is it that CW continues to keep heat out of our apartments during the day? With this inclement weather, many elderly and even young families with babies are homebound. This is something that should be considered.

My friends and I have called 311 and the two Project Managers, whose numbers have been given to the service department and us. There is never a reply from the CW executives, even though our telephone numbers are included in the message on their tapes. 311 has responded, but it does not seem to matter. When calling the service department, we are told, “I will make out a work order.” It seems their pad of work orders must have had to be reprinted since so many of them have been made out, but it never seems to make a difference.

I have been living in Peter Cooper for over 65 years. Sure, I have had situations regarding heat during those times, but this year takes the cake. Something must be done and should be done to require heat in our apartments.

Name withheld, PCV

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Tenants Association wary of apartment inspections

By Sabina Mollot

Since last week, the ST-PCV Tenants Association said it has been getting complaints from tenants regarding a new round of apartment inspections being conducted by CWCapital. Residents have been told in some cases their units are being inspected for pressurized walls.

According to TA President John Marsh, in at least two cases there have been complaints from tenants that inspections were conducted while they weren’t home at times that were not the agreed upon scheduled date and time.

“They came in between (the original date and the rescheduled date),” said Marsh. “They

Tenants Association President John Marsh and residents Sandra Lynn and John Giannone outside the leasing office last Saturday Photo by Sabina Mollot

Tenants Association President John Marsh and residents Sandra Lynn and John Giannone outside the leasing office last Saturday
Photo by Sabina Mollot

just popped in.” This has been of concern to the TA, considering the four burglaries in the complex that didn’t involve forced entry and were at buildings undergoing intercom repairs.

“We’ve been advising tenants to make sure someone can be with them,” said Kirstin Adaahl, a Tenants Association board member.

In response to the concerns, Brian Moriarty, a spokesperson for CWCapital, said all apartments in the complex would be inspected in the upcoming months.

“The inspections are to ensure compliance with the building code, lease terms and community rules,” he said. “Inspectors will be looking for issues such as unsafe conditions, unregistered dogs and compliance with the 80 percent carpet rule. Any unit that is out of compliance will be given a notice to correct whatever issues are found.”

There was no comment on the allegations of unauthorized entry.

Recently, the TA put a notice about the apartment inspections and what residents’ obligations and rights are on its website (stpcvta.org). The notice reads, in part:

The TA has consulted with its counsel and, while every situation is unique and may require individual legal counsel, in summary… (this) is what we were advised:

Necessary repairs, improvements required by law, and inspections are lawful and you must comply.

Landlords must give you proper notice and you have the right to be present in non-emergency cases.

A failure to provide access as demanded does not result in immediate eviction; you have many opportunities to cure.

Unlawful alterations to the apartment, fire safety issues, and hoarding could put you at risk for eviction, but you have multiple opportunities to cure these conditions.