Letters to the editor, June 29

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Not everyone should have a shot

I read your editorial of Thursday, June 15, 2017.  Given its headline, “Outdated rule makes running for office even more difficult,” I thought I’d be reading about the State Supreme Court Nominating Convention, which one former district leader described as byzantine.

Instead, I read about a so-called “archaic” rule that candidates “are at risk of being booted off the ballot” for duplicate signatures. Well, after slipping through a gauntlet of Vanessa T. Aronson’s petitioners to enter the Stuyvesant Town gates at 18th Street and First Avenue, I ran into my upstairs neighbor who offered me a big handshake. We started talking and soon he was yelling at the petitioners.

I said, “Dude, what’s up? They’re entitled to try to get signatures.”

He wanted no part of it and I had to hold him back from going after the two of them.

I said, “What did they say? Did they demean you, or your family?”

I would have gone over to the petitioners and tried to mop it up had he given me some grist. Instead, he then turned on me while the petitioners yelled, “Go Democrats!”

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115 apts. in ST/PCV being reconfigured

TA worried about apartments being churned

By Sabina Mollot

Blackstone has recently embarked upon an “experiment” with 115 vacant apartments in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village that involves adding a new bedroom in most of them by reducing dining or living room space. The plan also will create some new studio apartments.

News of the project was announced on Tuesday by the ST-PCV Tenants Association, which is staunchly opposed to it over concerns it will just add to the “churning” of apartments rented by transients.

Susan Steinberg, president of the Tenants Association, said StuyTown Property Services first shared the plan with the TA about three weeks ago but at that time it had yet to get the greenlight of the Department of Buildings. At this point, however, the city has signed off on the project because the TA has learned construction has already begun.

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Details of the apartment conversions were shared in an email that was sent to neighbors along with the TA’s reasons for asking the landlord to scrap the whole project. In particular, Steinberg said, the Tenants Association is opposed to the Stuy Town subdivisions because in Peter Cooper, living rooms are spacious enough where losing some space wouldn’t be as drastic as the conversions in Stuy Town, which, the TA said, effectively turns living rooms into foyers.

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Tenants Association asks Blackstone to keep Associated in Stuy Town

Associated Supermarket in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

With the future of Stuyvesant Town’s Associated Supermarket once again up in the air, following Morton Williams’ decision not to sign a lease for the space, the ST-PCV Tenants Association has asked Blackstone to let the Associated stay.

The request was made over the Tenants Association’s concern that with a Trader Joe’s store as well as a Target eventually moving across the street from Stuyvesant Town, Blackstone would no longer feel obligated to keep an affordable supermarket in the complex, as the owner had committed to previously. But, the TA is arguing, Trader Joe’s, with its unusual and somewhat curated range of products, doesn’t offer a “complete grocery experience.”

The plea was made via a letter from Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg to Stuyvesant Town’s General Manager Rick Hayduk on Monday.

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Morton Williams reportedly won’t sign lease after learning Trader Joe’s will open across from Stuy Town

Associated Supermarket in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

That was fast.

A mere few days after employees at Stuyvesant Town’s Associated Supermarket were warned that their new employer (for at least a 90-day trial period) would be Morton Williams, the latter supermarket company decided it would not be signing a lease for the space, said Joseph Falzon, one of four owners of the Associated.

Morton Williams apparently decided to pull the plug after hearing that a Trader Joe’s would be moving across the street from Stuyvesant Town in the site that was formerly home to the Peter Stuyvesant Post Office.

The developers behind that under-construction residential building, Mack Real Estate Group and Benenson Capital Partners, declined to comment through a spokesperson. A spokesperson for Trader Joe’s did not yet respond to a request for comment, nor did a spokesperson for Morton Williams.

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Morton Williams expected to take over Stuy Town Associated’s space

Associated Supermarket in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Monday, employees of the Stuyvesant Town Associated Supermarket, where the owners had been negotiating to keep the store’s lease, all got letters informing them that Morton Williams is going to be taking over the space.

According to one employee, the letter says workers, who are unionized, will get to keep their jobs for at least three months and at that point will be evaluated.

“They have a big company and room to grow,” the worker said the letter from Morton Williams informed them.

Meanwhile, one of the store’s owners, Joseph Falzon, had told Town & Village last month he was almost certain his lease would not be getting renewed. Though a lease has yet to be signed with Morton Williams, Falzon said he suspects a new tenant would have to pay double the rent Associated is paying, which is now $60,000 a month.

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Former PCV resident returns through apartment lottery

Nichole Levin, holding a gift bag with slippers at home on Monday, is happy to be back in Peter Cooper Village. Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Friday, March 31, Nichole Levin, an elementary school teacher and Peter Cooper Village native, got the phone call she’d been waiting for over a year. Her application to the Stuyvesant Town lottery for reduced rent apartments had been accepted. In fact, she was told, she could move in right away, and the apartment was in the same building in Peter Cooper Village as her mother’s home.

The news came as a happy ending to what was a somewhat stressful process, due to the wait — she’d even had to extend her current lease in Tudor City by a month while sorting out a paperwork issue.

Levin, 41, has since spoke with Town & Village about her experience, and has also since moved in (on Monday).

It was last March when the lottery opened for the first time, inviting those with incomes no higher than 165 percent of the area median income as well as those earning no more than 80 percent of the AMI to apply. Levin, who teaches English as a Second Language, had an income that made her eligible for apartments for renters in the upper income tier. Last March, this was $74,850-$99,825 for a single person seeking a studio or one-bedroom. It wasn’t until September, however, that she was contacted for a routine credit check.

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Stuyvesant Town Associated is still waiting for answer on lease renewal

Stuyvesant Town’s Associated Supermarket (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Last week, following an op-ed being published in the newspaper The Villager in support of the Small Business Jobs and Survival Act, many Stuyvesant Town residents became alarmed after reading a sentence that mentioned the owner of the complex’s Associated supermarket was told he would not get a lease renewal.

Town & Village since reached out to Blackstone, and a spokesperson for the landlord, Paula Chirhart, said a final decision on whether to renew or not has not yet been made. Joseph Falzon, a co-owner of The Associated, confirmed this when we called although he added he wasn’t feeling confident that he’d get a renewal. He added that he was “99 percent sure” he wouldn’t.

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Leases indicate plan to submeter, but management said language is nothing new

Susan Steinberg

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg

By Sabina Mollot

Language in leases signed by Stuyvesant Town residents indicates that the owner has plans to submeter Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, which would make individual tenants responsible for paying for the electricity they use.

However, according to StuyTown Property Services, there is no plan to submeter the property any time soon.

The issue came up this week after a resident pointed out the language on Facebook and wondered if this meant Blackstone intended for file an application with the Public Service Commission (PSC) to have the property submetered.

In response, a property spokesperson, Marynia Kruk, told us, “The Facebook post (on the ST-PCV Tenants Association’s page) is accurate in that our current lease does have a clause about submetering or direct metering. However, this is not new language. New leases have contained the same language since 2009. Ownership has no current plan for submetering.”

Meanwhile, if Blackstone does eventually decide to submeter, it would be the second attempt by a Stuy Town owner to pass on the costs to renters. Tishman Speyer had planned to do this but then abruptly dropped the project upon losing the Roberts v. Tishman Speyer lawsuit at the Appellate Court level.

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Editorial: When affordable housing is a prize

Last week, Blackstone reopened its lottery for reduced rent apartments in Stuyvesant Town, an announcement that was welcome news to the rent burdened but still raised the inevitable question of whether a discount of a few hundred bucks on rents that would otherwise start at over three thousand is truly affordable.

The answer is of course it is not, and it’s still hard to grasp — at least to us — how things got to the point where in order to get an affordable place to live in New York, one literally has to win a lottery. It feels a bit like a dystopian cautionary tale of what could happen when a wealthy politician, untouched by the people’s concerns about the need for affordable living, prefers to simply let the market do its thing. Oh, wait… that actually happened.

Fast forward to the present. Mayor Bill de Blasio has been quick to tout the affordable housing he’s built and preserved, as he promised to do on the campaign trail, but again, the Devil’s in the details. In the case of Stuyvesant Town, the 5,000 units committed to so-called affordability (which start at $2,800 for one-bedrooms) only become available as each rent-stabilized unit turns over. Additionally, half of those units, once vacated due to a tenant moving out or dying, will become market rate. So income eligible market rate residents and others hoping for at least some relief may be in for a very long wait. Note: We don’t blame Blackstone for this 50/50 arrangement, which seems fair, or for reopening the lottery, which as we also reported last week, prompted a few hopeful people we spoke with to try their luck.

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Stuy Town apartment lottery reopening

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The lottery website, stuytownlottery.com, is live.

By Sabina Mollot

The lottery for below-market apartments in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village is reopening.

On Monday, Blackstone announced that those who missed out the first time could try again during a one-month window.

This reopening is specifically for applicants in the higher-income bracket for one and two-bedroom apartments since those are the unit sizes that are most common throughout the property. However, the original waiting list is still active for unit types not included in the current lottery as well as one and two-bedrooms.

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Editorial: Squirrels: To feed or not to feed?

We definitely don’t recommend doing this. (Illustration by Sabina Mollot)

We definitely don’t recommend doing this. (Illustration by Sabina Mollot)

In mid-July, Town & Village published a story detailing recent complaints made by three parents on a neighborhood Facebook group, claiming that their children had been bitten by squirrels in Stuyvesant Town. While the squirrels in the complex are known for being overly-friendly, this was the first time we’d heard of a child getting bitten by one, let alone three. So we asked around for more opinions, which, as usual, were mixed, though most people we interviewed seemed to agree the resident squirrels were aggressive in their begging habits.

Well, as anyone who reads this paper knows, that coverage didn’t go over too well with the community’s squirrel lovers, who interpreted the parents’ concern as hatred toward the fluffy tailed critters in letters we published. In addition, this newspaper was blasted as being irresponsible. “Malicious,” “slander” and “perverse” were some of the words used to describe the article, written by Town & Village editor Sabina Mollot. Our publisher, Chris Hagedorn, even got a call from a woman who threatened to boycott every business that advertises within our pages for our treatment of the local Eastern Grey population.

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Thank you – Over 250 toys donated to T&V drive

Gifts donated to Mount Sinai Beth Israel (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Gifts donated to Mount Sinai Beth Israel (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Readers of Town & Village have once again made the holidays a little brighter for children stuck in hospital rooms as well as the families utilizing the outpatient clinics run by Mount Sinai Beth Israel by donating over 250 toys to this newspaper’s annual drive.

Gifts for kids of all ages were donated this year, from board games to books to stuffed animals to arts and crafts supplies to games sure to cheer any fan of Star Wars.

Town & Village’s partners on this longstanding community tradition are Blackstone/Stuy Town Property Services, the management of Waterside Plaza and M&T Bank on First Avenue and 23rd Street, who all provided convenient toy dropoff sites.

Bonnie Robbins, PhD, coordinator of children and family services at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, has said in recent years the hospital has faced some difficulty in getting enough toys to meet the needs of patients. This is due to the economy as well as other factors like drives for larger organizations competing for the support of individuals as well as toy retailers.

The hospital’s clinics are located throughout the city with three in the Kips Bay/Gramercy area, and for many patient families, parents often have to choose between clothes for their children or toys.

Fortunately, the turnout of this year’s drive, Robbins said, will be a big help.

“We are enormously proud and grateful to be a part of this supportive, generous community,” said Robbins. “Once again residents and businesses have opened their hearts to our children. This very successful toy drive helps us to provide a happy holiday to our kids and families, and it would not be possible without the support of our fabulous neighbors.”

The staff of Town & Village would also like to say thank you and happy holidays to our readers, SPS, Waterside and M&T Bank.

Letters to the Editor, Dec. 1

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Why I’m grateful this holiday season

I thought it would be appropriate, given the time of year, to express some gratitude and optimism during these discordant times. The Stuy Town/Peter Cooper community has been through a lot and now our country, too, is facing some tough times.

As I take inventory of areas for thanks, I choose to look locally and at our great and diverse community.  We have to be ever mindful that our ST/PCV community is actually a small and complex city, with unforeseen challenges.

I am grateful that we have finally achieved some real stability in Blackstone as our still-newish owner and for their important choice to have key staff living among us, sharing our quality of life.  I am grateful for management’s clear voice and steady hand thus far. Grateful for their choice to keep long-serving staff like Bill M. and Fred K., who keep us safe and to Kathleen K. and Tom F. who keep us warm and our homes and buildings functional. For Rick H. and the new members of his team who are making real efforts to care for our community.

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ST-PCV Tenants Association to fight video intercom MCI

By Sabina Mollot

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association is seeking neighbors’ help in an effort to challenge the recently announced video intercom MCI.

The major capital improvement rent increase, if approved, will impact the following Peter Cooper Village buildings: 420 and 440 East 23rd Street, 350, 360, 360 and 390 First Avenue, 2 and 3 Peter Cooper Road and 431 and 441 East 20th Street.

Susan Steinberg

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Susan Steinberg, president of the Tenants Association, said this particular MCI, one of four on the horizon, is expected to cost tenants $2.13-$2.50 per room per month.

At a meeting last month, Steinberg said the four MCIs would be challenged for different reasons, including issues with paperwork.

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Weather monitor installed in Stuy Town to keep grounds from getting over-watered

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The arrival of the new gadget is part of the owner’s effort to make the property more environmentally friendly. (Photo by Jonathan Wells)

 

In an effort to save water and prevent the grounds from being overwatered, StuyTown Property Services has recently installed a weather monitor in the complex. The solar-powered gadget, which appeared over the weekend outside a building on the East 14th Street Loop, 455, collects weather information, which then determines what irrigation levels for the landscaping need to be based on real time data.

In a press release, management cheered the arrival of the ET-300-W weather station, calling it “a smart piece of environmental technology.

“This new weather station will allow the StuyTown Grounds & Landscaping Department to ensure precise watering of our 80 acres of soil, based on the specific environmental factors and weather conditions of our property using solar cells to power the apparatus and transmit data to a nearby wireless controller.”

It measures data through a “Tipping Rain Bucket” component which records effective onsite rain fall. It can also collect data to estimate how much moisture (in the form of irrigation run times) needs to be replenished from the previous day’s evaporation.

SPS said the new piece of technology will save “a significant amount of water,” which is part of the company’s mission to make Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper “the most environmentally-friendly multifamily property in New York City.”