City halts evictions due to coronavirus

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

City officials have indefinitely suspended eviction proceedings in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a memo from the state’s chief administrative judge on Sunday. 

The memo from the Unified Court System last weekend said that effective at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 16, the courts would be postponing all non-essential functions until further notice, including pending trials, due to the ongoing public health emergency in New York State. 

Prior to the city’s decision to halt evictions, a group of 29 New York rental building owners and managers, including Blackstone, instituted a voluntary 90-day moratorium on evictions, which was announced shortly after the court system had issued a one-week moratorium. 

Various housing groups, including Right to Counsel NYC Coalition and Housing Justice for All, pushed a joint city and state strategy, calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo to implement an eviction moratorium and to close the courts. More than 15,000 tenants across the state also signed a petition to the governor calling for an eviction moratorium and immediate rent freeze. 

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Letters to the editor, Mar. 19

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Tenants should campaign against Blackstone 

I attended the press conference on March 5 announcing that the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association had filed legal action in New York State Supreme Court to protect about 6,200 rent-stabilized units in the community from being illegally deregulated by The Blackstone Group.

The Blackstone Group, a global private equity firm, is a member of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY). Blackstone, which is primarily owned and run by five of the greediest predators on earth, want to turn Stuy Town into a cash cow by raising rents sky high. The company is led by Stephen Schwarzman, chairman, CEO and co-founder. His net worth is $18.5 billion and he owns 231,924,793 shares or 47% of the company’s stock valued on March 5th at approximately $58 per share. His pay from 2016-2018 was $242 million.

The other four top executives at Blackstone are President Jonathan Gray (2016-2018 pay: $309 million), Executive Vice Chairman Hamilton James (2016-2018 pay: $232 million), Chief Financial Officer Michael Chae (2016-2018 pay: $65 million) and Vice Chairman J. Tomilson Hill (2016-2018 pay: $60 million).

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Tenants Association files lawsuit against Blackstone

Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg with local elected officials last Thursday (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association filed a lawsuit against property owner Blackstone last week in response to an attempt to deregulate more than 6,000 apartments.

Blackstone is attempting to deregulate units that are currently under the J-51 tax exemption, which expires at the end of June, and increase rents on those apartments for leases renewed or starting in July or later. The private equity firm is arguing that the regulatory agreement Blackstone signed with the city in 2015 supersedes the rent laws the state legislature passed last June, but tenant advocates and local elected officials argued at a press conference in Stuy Town last Thursday that the rent laws abolished deregulation all apartments, regardless of previous agreements.

“The new law is clear and unambiguous,” Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg said. “Blackstone Group is of the opinion that these pro-tenant reforms do not apply to them. We disagree. They cannot disregard state rent law and raise rents and deregulate units as if the law had never been changed.”

State elected officials at the press conference said that they were very specific when writing the rent laws that passed and that Blackstone was not interpreting the law as it was intended.

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Letter to the editor, Mar. 12

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Questions about Blackstone’s agreement

1. Why doesn’t the expiration of J-51 allow Blackstone to deregulate the remaining stabilized apartments, if they leave 5000 affordable, per the agreement with NYC? (But which 5,000 will they choose?)

2. Who does this deregulation effort really affect, other than long term tenants? Market rate tenants get very little benefit from stabilization. Frankly, it feels like market rate tenants are subsidizing others. I believe stabilization started for good reasons, but that too many folks are just plain greedy.

3. Why don’t Roberts tenants, who not only received money, but had their rents “frozen/managed” till 2020, have to abide by that agreement and return to “normal,” which might mean destabilization in some cases? They signed an agreement, didn’t they?

Name withheld
Stuyvesant Town

Letters to the editor, Jan. 30

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Aggressive and persistent scammers

Dear editor,

Tactics used by phone scammers are becoming ever more aggressive. On Friday, January 25 between the hours of 4:30 and 8:30 p.m., I received at least 20 calls telling me about “suspicious activities….” The caller(s) had the audacity to leave numerous messages with the following “toll free” number: 208-262-0000. I was compelled to turn off my voice mail, but the phone kept on ringing. In the meantime, I found out that a neighbor of mine received identical calls, which makes me wonder whether other tenants of PCV/ST have been targeted as well. Verizon was of no assistance. What can be done about this? How can we put a stop to this intrusion on our lives?

Name withheld
Stuyvesant Town

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Letters to the editor, Oct. 3

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

TA: Stand up to Blackstone

Re: “Blackstone not required to provide polling places,” T&V, Sept. 26

“Name withheld” writes that Blackstone doesn’t have an obligation to provide polling sites. This is incorrect.

In 1946, a vibrant neighborhood with streets, schools and polling places was seized under eminent domain and turned over to Metropolitan Life, and became Stuyvesant Town.

In return, Met Life promised to maintain municipal streets, remove garbage, and provide places for citizens to vote. The Tenants Association needs to stand up to our property owner to ensure that Blackstone honors these obligations. Bring back the polling sites!

Name withheld

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Letters to the editor, Sept. 26

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Blackstone not required to provide polling places

To the editor:

Although I am disappointed that some voters will have to cross 14th Street to vote, we must remember that Stuyvesant Town management is not at all obligated to provide space for voting. Voting is a right but one that a landlord is not required to facilitate. Should the government seek to compel management to provide the space, the Fifth Amendment would require that “just compensation be provided.”

Name withheld

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Associated closing in Stuyvesant Town

Associated Supermarket in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Associated Supermarket in Stuyvesant Town on East 14th Street will likely be closing by the end of this year, StuyTown general manager Rick Hayduk announced in an email to residents last Friday afternoon.

Hayduk noted in the message that management has been working with the store in an attempt to keep the market open through the holiday season, including by offering free rent, but the store reportedly still would not be able to guarantee that it could stay open through the end of the year.

The owners told management that the competitive environment for supermarkets, both locally and due to online ordering, led them to the decision to close.

Norman Quintanilla, who has been the manager at the store for the last 16 years, told Town & Village on Tuesday that they have notified employees that the last day would be December 10, but the store will likely end up closing by the end of November.

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Blackstone will rent out all vacant units in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Councilmember Dan Garodnick and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer along with Tenants Association members during a 2015 press conference to announce Blackstone’s purchase of Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The owner of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, has confirmed it will not purposely keep rent-regulated apartments vacant following criticism from local elected officials after reports that the company was doing so, Gothamist reported last Friday.

The position was a shift from earlier last week when the owner, Blackstone, would not commit to leasing all the regulated units, a strategy often referred to as “warehousing.” Gothamist also noted that the promise came after Mayor Bill de Blasio said that city officials would need to have “some serious conversations” with the company about the agreement it signed to keep the units affordable.

“We are renovating and leasing all vacant units, and we will continue to fulfill our commitment to voluntarily preserve 5,000 affordable apartments,” Blackstone spokesperson Jennifer Friedman told Town & Village, although she added that the company will still have to make “difficult choices” and “scale back certain investments” in light of the recent legislation.

Blackstone is now actively renting out all vacant units, although the company has spent the last several weeks working through how to conduct renovations, especially in recently-vacated apartments that have been occupied for decades.

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Letter to the editor, Aug. 15

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Pulling back the curtain on Blackstone

Dear editor,

I am simply sickened to learn that Stephen Schwarzman, the CEO of Blackstone, the company that bought Stuyvesant Town, is a large donor of Trump. This simply sickens me, yet there is nothing I can do about it, short of moving!

Tenants must understand that Schwarzman, by his donations, makes it possible to witness the philosophy of ugliness in having an incompetent person sit in the White House, and by association, share the same philosophy of caging children, targeting immigrants and others, and encouraging the chants of “lock her up” and “send her back.” It is the same philosophy of believing white supremacists have good people on both sides. The curtain has been pulled back allowing a clear look at who owns and runs this development.

Now, we know more today and must never forget who supports the man with the vile tongue.

Name withheld
Stuyvesant Town

Powers concerned about Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town being marketed separately

Apr18 Leasing office 2 closeup

A new leasing office is under construction in Peter Cooper Village. (Photo by Thomas Rochford)

By Sabina Mollot

In response to the latest branding efforts by StuyTown Property Services, which have included new logos for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village and a new leasing office now being built in Peter Cooper, some residents have been worried this was an attempt to treat the two complexes differently.

Council Member Keith Powers, who said he’d been hearing from neighbors on this issue, sent a letter to ST/PCV general manager Hayduk last Wednesday, asking him to clarify that the branding wouldn’t mean Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village would no longer have access to the same amenities.

Powers also asked if apartments in both complexes would still be available through the lottery system for reduced rents. He also wanted to know if all the marketing would mean existing tenants should now expect diminished benefits and if management planned to reduce staff levels at either complex. Powers also had a question on apartment finishes, asking if Stuyvesant Town apartments would end up looking different from those in Peter Cooper.

“As a lifelong resident who has lived in both Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town, I am concerned that current plans are to put the two properties on a separate path in the short-term and long-term,” Powers wrote.

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New leasing office for Peter Cooper Village under construction

A new leasing office is under construction in Peter Cooper Village. (Photos by Thomas Rochford)

By Sabina Mollot

Earlier this week, residents noticed that a new leasing office was being advertised in Peter Cooper Village in the corner space previously occupied by the Petite Abeille restaurant. The slick-looking posters show smiling individuals of various ages, and the property’s very new logo for Peter Cooper.

Asked about the advertisements, Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village general manager Rick Hayduk confirmed there is a new leasing office under construction just for Peter Cooper, but it will be housed in the neighboring 350 First Avenue. This is where another leasing office, primarily a center for brokers’ use, used to be until closing last year. The new leasing office was briefly mentioned in an e-blast to neighbors last week that also mentioned the Stuyvesant Town leasing office would be getting “a refresh,” as would signage and employee uniforms.

“Since our acquisition in late 2015, StuyTown Property Services’ and Beam Living’s focused attention has been on improving a resident’s experience (resident communication, situational response time, exterior aesthetics, quality of life issues, playgrounds, etc.), and we felt it was time to reset the ‘public’ image of the two communities,” Hayduk said in a written statement. Continue reading

Man charged with shooting guard at Target

Kips Bay Court (Photo via Google Maps)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police arrested 25-year-old Christian Vargas after he allegedly shot a security guard in Kips Bay and later returned to the scene of the crime.

Police said that shortly after 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, March 10, Vargas kicked and attempted to pry open the front door entrance of a Target store that is under construction in Kips Bay Court at 520 Second Avenue where the victim was stationed.

Vargas allegedly spat on the guard and began grappling with him and in the course of the struggle, the victim’s 9mm pistol fell to the ground. Vargas allegedly grabbed the gun and shot at the guard, hitting him three times.

According to the New York Post, Vargas was arrested at the scene later that morning because he had dropped his wallet and keys during the incident and returned to retrieve them around 7 a.m.

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Stuyvesant Town apartment lottery reopens

Stuyvesant Town

By Sabina Mollot

Stuyvesant Town’s apartment lottery has reopened on Tuesday for renters in the upper income tier of eligibility. Based on the affordability deal between the owners Blackstone and Ivanhoe Cambridge and the city in 2015, half of the apartments that become available are put into a lottery system for reduced rents. Ninety percent of those units are for tenants earning a household income of up to 165 percent of the area median income while the other 10 percent are for those earning up to 80 percent of the AMI.

According to an email sent out by Stuy Town management on Tuesday, this amounts to rent for a one-bedroom apartment going for $2,975 for households of one to three people earning incomes starting at $89,250. The maximum income for three people is $154,935, the maximum income for two people is $137,775 and for one person the maximum income is $120,615.

The savings from average market rent, $3,587, is 17 percent, according to the lottery website. Market rate one-bedroom apartments in Stuy Town range from $3,273-$3,675, based on current listings. Peter Cooper one-bedrooms range from $3,717-$4,046, according to listings. There are also converted or “flex” apartments, which are usually higher in price.

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Effort underway to make apt. renovations less noisy and dusty

Worker doing dustless masonry cutting through an air conditioner opening (Photos courtesy of Empire Core)

By Sabina Mollot

At Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, about 275 apartments are gut renovated each year, with 35-70 going on at any given time, depending on the season.

While this can boost the value of the property for the owner, for residents of adjoining apartments, the apartment transformations just mean weeks of ongoing noise from power tools and dust clouds that permeate the air.

Fortunately, Empire Core Group, the company that oversees the gut renovation of apartments in ST/PCV, done by contractors, has, within the past year primarily, begun using new tools aimed at reducing both the noise and dust levels as well as the time needed to complete the jobs.

Rick Hayduk, Stuyvesant Town’s general manager, said the effort came as a result of management getting bombarded with calls by residents who live in apartments near those being worked on.

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