Assembly Member Harvey Epstein during a recent tenant lobbying day in Albany (Photo by Sidney Goldberg)
By Sabina Mollot
With the rent regulations set to expire on June 15, the New York State Assembly has set public hearings on May 2 and 9 to discuss a package of proposals aimed at strengthening the current laws.
Among the legislation includes a bill that would end major capital improvement (MCI) rent increases and also require the state housing agency to create a program ensuring property owners maintain a certain level of repair. MCIs are charges tacked on to a tenant’s rent to pay for improvements to the property.
“The major capital improvement rent increase program is a flawed system which has been overly complex for property owners to navigate,” said the bill’s sponsor, Assembly Member Brian Barnwell, “and has been a great disservice in our efforts to preserve the affordable housing stock.”
Another bill would end individual apartment improvements (IAI). Under the current law, landlords are allowed to raise rent after making IAIs, which can range from cosmetic repairs to redoing various rooms.
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.”
The time-honored tradition of greed
The average rent in Stuy Town/Peter Cooper Village is now higher than the average rent in the rest of Manhattan. This is pretty worrisome trend. Far from being a middle-class bastion, it is now a high-rent complex.
Greedy landlords contributed. Metropolitan Life had enormous help from city to clear 80 acres in the Gas House District and evict over 13,000 working class people and their families from their homes. They said it was a slum clearance project — but there were three churches, three schools and countless mom and pop stores all there. The landlord was given enormous tax breaks.
When Mike Bloomberg was asked to intervene when Met Life said they wanted to cash in their chips in a $5.4 billion payday, Bloomberg adapted a laissez-faire attitude and said it was a “private transaction.” He deliberately turned a blind eye.
Rachel Bloom from Citizens United Foundation (right) on voting rights at the town hall
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Assembly Member Harvey Epstein hosted a town hall at the New York University Dental School on East 24th Street last Thursday, attended by more than 100 people braving last week’s arctic deep freeze.
Instead of a single-room free-for-all, the event was broken up into two separate hour-long panels with three different topics that residents could learn more about during each panel. Epstein said that the approach intended to give attendees one-on-one time with experts on a number of different topics, which included voting rights, education and legalization of marijuana during the first panel and transportation, housing and disability rights during the second.
Alex Camarda from Reinvent Albany and Rachel Bloom from Citizens Union Foundation discussed voting rights and good government during the first panel, answering questions about legislative issues such as closing the LLC Loophole, in addition to addressing difficulties that residents had while voting in the last election.
“I’ve lived in Stuyvesant Town for many years and I had so much trouble voting in the last election,” Adrienne Cosner said. “There’s been a lot of irregularity.”
Local elected officials held a press conference by the Fearless Girl statue to draw attention to the fact that Stuyvesant Town Boy Scout Sydney Ireland, who’s been in the program for over a decade, still doesn’t have her record of work recognized. (Pictured) Assembly Member Harvey Epstein, Sydney Ireland, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Brad Hoylman and Sonia Ossorio, president of the New York chapter of NOW (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Just as the organization officially began accepting girls into its program on February 1, elected officials last week called on the Boy Scouts of America to officially recognize Stuyvesant Town resident Sydney Ireland’s 13 years of work as a Scout.
Assembly Member Harvey Epstein, along with State Senator (and Eagle Scout) Brad Hoylman and other advocates, joined 17-year-old Ireland at the Fearless Girl statue last Thursday to demand the BSA formally acknowledge Ireland’s work with the organization.
Ireland joined the Cub Scouts at age four with her brother and has been fighting to be recognized by the organization since she was 11. She said that leaders at the local level have been more open to making decisions that allow her and other girls to participate but that despite changes at the national level, much of her work in the Scouts will have to be redone.
“If the (Boy Scouts of America) wants to welcome young women and build our program, we must be treated equally,” Ireland, who has been working to obtain the coveted Eagle rank, said. “(Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh) should not hide behind the discriminatory membership ban against girls to then justify dismissing my hard work and the work of so many young women.”
By Assembly Member Harvey Epstein
New York is often held up as beacon of progressivism, but the truth is that our state has not been a leader on enacting criminal justice and re-entry reforms, fairly funding our schools, increasing voter access and protecting and amplifying the voices of groups that have traditionally been excluded from the political process. This year, with decisive Democratic majorities in both houses of the legislature, we will have a unique opportunity to go from a laggard to a leader on many important issues by making substantial changes in state law that will have implications for decades to come.
Every issue the state government is dealing with this year is permeated by the issues of race and racism, which are ever present in our society. We need to hear from people with diverse perspectives and experiences. It is critical that people who share a social justice and racial justice lens engage in the legislative process.
Please get involved. Whether you care about single payer healthcare or the renewal and expansion of the rent laws, criminal justice reforms, or fixing the MTA –– pick your issue and dig in. Learn about the bills, think about the policy implications, consider how your community may be impacted and speak up: tell your representatives what you want to see.
Assembly Member Harvey Epstein (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
Late last month, the State Assembly held a hearing in an effort to come up with solutions to the worsening student loan crisis.
Assembly Member Harvey Epstein later said that while it’s yet to be determined by his colleagues if this is a matter to be handled legislatively, he personally supports student loan forgiveness. At the hearing, testimony was also given about whether it’s necessary to regulate student loan servicers in New York.
Over the past decade, student loan debt in New York State has grown by 112 percent, bringing the number of borrowers here to just under three million. Prior to the hearing, the Assembly said the stats highlight “the significant impact the student loan industry has on our population and (how it) needs to be examined with greater urgency.”
Gilman Hall was sold last year to CIM Group, who says there is currently no plan to turn the building into a facility for the homeless. (Photo via Google Maps)
By Sabina Mollot
Gilman Hall, the former residence for residents of Mount Sinai Beth Israel that was sold last year to a California developer, is being eyed as a site of a future shelter.
Word that the city was mulling using the now vacant property to temporarily house women and children reached Community Board Six last Thursday.
Asked about this, Molly Hollister, CB6 chair, and Carin van der Donk, chair of CB6’s Housing, Homeless, and Human Rights Committee issued the following statement to Town & Village:
“We have been notified by our elected officials that Gilman Hall at East 17th Street and 1st Avenue is currently being assessed as a possible shelter or temporary housing facility for women and children by the New York City Department of Homeless Services. There is no immediate timeline for a final decision for the site.
Assembly Member Harvey Epstein with L train construction zone neighbors and disability advocates in front of the MTA’s headquarters (Photos by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
While most New Yorkers are approaching April with a sense of dread because of the start to the 15-month L-pocalypse, for those who live around the East 14th Street construction site, the nightmare has been going on already for quite some time.
Recently, local elected officials were able to secure some concessions from the MTA in response to neighbor concerns like additional lighting along the sidewalks where views of the street are obstructed by construction barriers, a commitment to install air quality monitors along the street and reopening of the sidewalk on the East Village side of the street, where stores have been cut off from foot traffic.
However, many concerns have remained, such as noisy work that goes on from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., as well as on weekends, clouds of debris that have caused some neighbors to fear for their respiratory health and equipment-packed streets that have led to an obstacle course for the disabled. Residents have also been left to wonder about the presence of an unidentified, glowing green substance in one of the many dumpsters that regularly get trucked in and out of the site.
Posted in East Village, First Avenue, L train shutdown, Stuyvesant Town, Transportation
- Tagged Assembly Member Harvey Epstein, Construction, East 14th Street, East Village, First Avenue L subway station, Harvey Epstein, L train, L train shutdown, MTA, Stuyvesant Town, transportation
A line snakes out of a Stuyvesant Town polling place, with turnout being similar to presidential election years. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Local politicians were easily re-elected on Tuesday, with none of the state and federal candidates facing any serious challengers in this year’s midterms.
State Senator Brad Hoylman had the easiest path to victory, not having to face any challenger at all, although many of his fellow Democrats vying to flip seats in the State Senate had much closer races. But enough were successful in their campaigns that Democrats were able to regain a majority for only the third time in the last 50 years.
Some Senate races had still not been called as of Wednesday afternoon but by Tuesday night, at least 32 Senate Democrats had won their races, and Republicans won 21 seats. The win means that Democrats control the State Senate and Assembly as well as the offices of the governor, comptroller and attorney general.
Incumbent Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney won against Republican Eliot Rabin with 86.2 percent of the vote. Rabin received 12.3 percent of the vote, and Green Party candidate Scott Hutchins got 1.5 percent of the vote. Incumbent Assembly Member Harvey Epstein beat out Juan Pagan of the Reform Party and Republican Bryan Cooper with 87 percent of the vote.
Today is Election Day, and along with the race for governor, United States senator and attorney general, locally, in the 74th Assembly District, voters will have the opportunity to choose their Assembly member and Congress member.
During the primaries, Town & Village endorsed the incumbents, Harvey Epstein and Carolyn Maloney, for these positions. (State Senator Brad Hoylman ran uncontested during the primary and will again face no opponent on November 6.)
As for the general election, we are sticking with the aforementioned candidates for their records of accomplishment and for platforms that are in line with the concerns and values of the vast majority of their constituents.
Eliot Rabin, an Upper East Side boutique owner and Republican, and Scott Hutchins, a homeless activist in the Green Party, both hope to unseat Maloney.
L train construction and other train related issues will be discussed on Saturday. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
As was announced earlier this month, the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association will be holding a meeting a number of issues on Saturday, September 29 at 2 p.m.
Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg says those who attend can expect to learn more about the following topics:
One will be the L train, specifically residents’ concerns surrounding construction, and, once the shutdown begins, transportation.
“The MTA and the DOT are being awfully vague about what their plans are,” Steinberg said. “As you reported about the L train, they talk about mitigation steps but they don’t say what they are. And I love how they said they’re not really going to be 24/7, but if they need to be, they will.”
The possibility of 24/7 construction on East 14th Street as the Avenue A subway entrance is being built was raised at a town hall meeting on Monday night. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
East Village residents and local politicians demanded detailed mitigation plans from transit officials about noise and air quality relating to the upcoming L train shutdown at a recent town hall.
Speakers at the meeting, held on Monday night, brought up the construction that has already taken over East 14th Street and Avenue A as part of the work for the new subway entrance for the L train, with multiple others commenting on the increase in diesel buses in neighborhoods throughout Lower Manhattan.
“I think many of my neighbors were still surprised to realize that this will be a 24/7 construction zone moving forward in the months and years ahead,” Council Member Keith Powers said at the meeting, noting that he has already been hearing from constituents living near the construction zone at Avenue A who are dealing with noise, dust and vibrations in their apartments.
“That is in addition to everything else that we’ve talked about, which is making sure that people will be able to get to work every single day and get around the city,” Powers said. “I would ask again that we have a real plan to address long-term construction area around 14th Street, that we have a dust mitigation and noise plan. We can still do better in addressing these issues.”
More bikes than ever so why none left?
Re: “Two Citi Bike valet stations arrive in ST,” T&V, Aug. 30
You recently published an article about the Citi Bike racks at 20th and the FDR and First Avenue and 16th Street being made valet racks. This was great news except the rack at 20th and the FDR has been empty four of the last eight mornings I’ve gone out for a bike.
I joined Citi Bike when it first came into Manhattan. Over the last five plus years I’ve not had a bike about 95 percent of the time I’ve wanted one on weekday mornings. I’ve never understood why an area as big as PCV/ST is so underserved by Citi Bike. There are four racks now in the entire complex since the removal of the rack at 14th and B. Other areas in the city have racks every other street. Go across 13th Street and there are racks at almost every avenue.
Voting signs at 360 First Avenue (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Governor Andrew Cuomo defeated activist and challenger Cynthia Nixon by a significant margin in the Democratic primary election on Thursday evening, with the election called for the current governor less than an hour after the polls closed at 9 p.m., although the victory was much narrower among Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents than it was for all five boroughs.
Citywide, Cuomo received 66.45 percent of the vote and Nixon got 33.24 percent, but of the almost 4,000 Democratic voters in Stuy Town and Peter Cooper, the governor only received 51.1 percent to Nixon’s 48.9 percent.
Incumbent Assemblymember Harvey Epstein also won his race by a large margin in the 74th District, getting 62.4 percent of the vote over newcomer Akshay Vaishampayan, who received 19.2 percent and multiple-time candidate Juan Pagan, who got 17.9 percent.