Spike in burglaries, assaults

Lieutenant Vincent Collins reported a 10 percent increase in burglaries. Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel

Lieutenant Vincent Collins reported a 10 percent increase in burglaries.
Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

In the first 13th Precinct Community Council meeting after the summer break this past Tuesday, police reported that the precinct has seen recent increases in crime, specifically in grand larceny auto, burglaries and felony assaults.

Lieutenant Vincent Collins filled in for the precinct’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector David Ehrenberg, who was tied up with a duty throughout all of Manhattan.

Collins reported that there has been a 10 percent increase in burglaries this past month, although most of them are commercial burglaries committed by what police refer to as “office creepers,” who have been noted as a problem for the precinct in the past.

One resident who works on Fifth Avenue wanted to know about the kinds of buildings where these incidents are occurring, and Police Officer John Considine said that these thieves hit both doorman and non-doorman buildings, often posing as bike messengers or food delivery people.

He suggested that to stop it from becoming more of a problem, buildings should make it a practice not to let bike messengers or delivery people past the lobby to prevent them from wandering freely throughout the building and entering offices where they could potentially steal from employees’ desks. He added that doing so could also help spread the word among criminals, letting them know that certain buildings are more difficult to get into.

Although Collins said that there has been an increase in felony assaults, he noted that there have also been a number of arrests in those cases. “A lot of these have been assaults on officers and have been because of the hospitals that are in the neighborhood,” he added.

A resident and local business owner said that he’s encountered a number of people who seem mentally unstable who could potentially be involved in these assaults, and Collins suggested that anyone who encounters such a situation should call 911, or notify the precinct or 311 if the person is more of an ongoing problem for the area.

Other residents added that they’ve had problems with unruly homeless people in the past and seemed doubtful that the police had the authority to detain them for psychiatric evaluation. Linda Janneh from the District Attorney’s office said that in cases when people on the street are getting undressed, “releasing bodily fluids” or threatening to cause harm to themselves or others, they can be forced to go to Bellevue. If they are found to be in certifiable need of mental help, they will be kept in the hospital for at least six weeks.

Shana Wertheimer, the director of the Prince George Hotel on East 28th Street, was also

Shana Wertheimer, director of the Prince George Hotel on East 28th Street, discusses its housing of low-income and formerly homeless New Yorkers. Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel

Shana Wertheimer, director of the Prince George Hotel on East 28th Street, discusses its housing of low-income and formerly homeless New Yorkers.
Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel

at the meeting to speak about services available to the homeless population in the area. The Prince George is run by the organization Common Ground, which is a supportive housing provider for low-income New Yorkers and the formerly homeless.

Common Ground has apartments and temporary housing available throughout the state, including the original building in Times Square. Forty percent of the units in the Prince George are set aside for low-income residents and 60 percent are for the formerly homeless, and the case managers help residents with services such as medication monitoring, money management or with any issues they have, the goal being to provide a more economically-friendly alternative to the city’s shelter system for homeless people in the area.

The increases in grand larceny auto cases have been primarily in the theft of motorcycles, which has been reported in T&V’s Police Watch recently, including two in the past week. Collins noted that all of the incidents have happened late at night and they have beefed up specialized units in an attempt to deal with the problem.

“We’ve had a decrease in grand larcenies, which has historically been our nemesis,” he added.

It also wouldn’t have been a 13th Precinct Community Council meeting without a number of complaints about bikes. Considine said that the precinct has been up in enforcement for the past few months, to the disbelief of some of the residents at the meeting, who said that the number of rule-breakers they’ve seen on bikes has been increasing.

Considine admitted that the arrival of Citi Bike has added to the problem but noted that officers have been writing more summonses for cyclists who have been disobeying the traffic laws and riding on the sidewalks.

“It’s hard to enforce every time it happens and it’s not an easy problem to solve,” he admitted.

The next community council meeting will take place on Tuesday, October 15 at 6:30 p.m. and will include the presentation of Cop of the Month for both September and October.

Letters to the Editor, May 30

Tenants should pick next mayor carefully

Re: Letter, “Rent hikes will destroy community,” T&V, May 23

To the Editor:

When the chair of the ST-PCV Tenants Association cries, “Where’s our mayor?” several times, we’re in trouble. Susan Steinberg concludes her letter with, “The silence is deafening.” But to me the answer to her question, “Where’s our mayor?” is loud and clear.

First of all, we tenants have not had a mayor we could call “ours” in over 20 years. During the Republican administrations of “their” mayors, Giuliani and Bloomberg, we have suffered rent hikes every year. Why? Because the Republican Mayor’s handpicked Rent Guidelines Board, which is stacked 5-4 against tenants, automatically votes in favor of the landlords every year.

If you want to find “their” mayor, go to a Republican fundraiser where you’ll see him surrounded by smiling landlords and developers. Years ago you could see him shaking hands with Republican Senate Majority Leader Bruno, no friend to tenants, who would travel to NYC from Albany using official state helicopters and official state-chauffeured cars to conduct “state business” with the Republican mayor, but only in person and only at the fundraiser.

I agree with Ms. Steinberg that rent hikes will destroy our community; they’ve been doing that for years. But the question should not be “Where’s our mayor?” but rather where’s an electable Democrat who supports affordable housing?

Surveying the current crop of candidates, that’s not going to be an easy question to answer, but only if we find one and elect him can we stop rent hikes every year and/or at the whim of the landlord.

John Cappelletti, ST

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Burglaries at 3 apts. in Stuy Town

By Sabina Mollot 

A burglar or burglars has hit three apartments in Stuyvesant Town recently, each time at a building undergoing intercom repairs and with no forced entry to the unit. In each incident, jewelry was removed and in the most recent incident, reported late Tuesday, $40,000 worth of jewelry was taken, according to the ST-PCV Tenants Association.

Another victim reported losing $6,000 worth of jewelry and in the other case, $10,000 in jewelry was said to be taken. The buildings are 610 East 20th Street, 319 Avenue C and most recently 620 East 20th Street.

The TA sent an emailed alert to residents on Tuesday night about the burglaries as well as its concerns about unauthorized entry into apartments by employees of the property for non-emergency-related work. In two cases, tenants returned home to find their doors ajar.

“Both of these ‘door left ajar’ reports were from buildings receiving the new intercoms,” the TA said. “One of the reports was from the same building and same time frame as one of the burglaries.”

The commanding officer of the 13th Precinct, Deputy Inspector David Ehrenberg, said the

Stuyvesant Town Security Chief Bill McClellan and General Manager Sean Sullivan address residents at a town hall meeting on Tuesday. Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel

Stuyvesant Town Security Chief Bill McClellan and General Manager Sean Sullivan address residents at a town hall meeting on Tuesday.
Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel

case is being investigated by the detective squad.

“The standout thing is that there was no forced entry,” said Ehrenberg, who added that there was no way to determine yet if the crimes were committed by an employee or contractor. Stuy Town management has been fully cooperative though, he said. Meanwhile, ST/PCV now has a beefed up police presence.

A spokesperson for CWCapital declined to comment on the incidents to Town & Village, citing the ongoing investigation.

However, numerous tenants who’d heard about onsite burglaries demanded answers from management at a town hall meeting held at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Community Center.

At that time, management only knew of two incidents. (The report of a third came later in the evening). Residents were also concerned that contractors were being let into apartments to do maintenance when the tenants weren’t home, especially in light of the recent burglaries.

“(The incidents) all seemed to coincide with maintenance work taking place,” said Tenants Association board member Kirstin Aadahl.

In response, Sean Sullivan, general manager of ST/PCV, who was hosting the meeting, said that, “Public Safety escorts contractors to apartments. That’s the way it should happen.”

ST/PCV’s head of security, Bill McClellan, added that while at that time, a third burglary had been rumored, in one of the incidents, the woman later found the things she thought were missing.

John Marsh, president of the TA, later said that this was the first of the four burglary reports to come in, ironically occurring a few days before the other, confirmed incidents.  In that case, the Peter Cooper Village resident who reported it later discovered jewelry she thought was stolen in the back of her safe deposit box.

Marsh added that although the next two incidents were reported on May 2 and 3, they’re believed to have occurred in April. He also said he’s heard rumors about a fourth incident, this one again at 620 East 20th Street.

The resident who was burglarized at 610 told T&V she was the one to lose $6,000 worth of jewelry, all of it gold and most of it family heirlooms.

The resident, who didn’t want her name published, also said while she doesn’t know exactly when it happened, she also lives in an apartment where an employee entered to fix the intercom without asking. At that time, her sister, who she shares an apartment with, was home. They don’t know if any maintenance visits were made since then and said after asking, were told there were no records of any such visits.

The woman also said flyers she posted around the building to alert neighbors were taken down, and that she later heard that flyers she’d slipped under neighbors’ doors were actually pulled out by security.

As for the incidents of workers entering apartments without tenants’ permission, according to the TA’s alert, several complaints were from residents who were at home in another room when workers entered “and were terrified to find strangers in their living rooms.”

Marsh also said that while an officer is assigned to stand in the building hallway while work is being done in an apartment, that based on what he’s heard, the presence of an officer is “not consistent.” The TA also said it’s received reports of workers entering apartments despite the resident’s refusal to allow them to do so.

“I remember a time when one could allow owner-employed maintenance personnel into one’s apartment without fear of losing valuables,” TA Chair Susan Steinberg said. “And I remember a time when schedules were always negotiated with Resident Services, who would never dream of forcing an entry, except for an emergency such as water overflow, fire or serious gas leak. Tenants have the right to limit unannounced, unauthorized entries to actual emergency conditions and should insist that management respect these limits.”

In response to the concerns about unauthorized entry, Brian Moriarty, a spokesperson for CW said management was only aware of one such report from a resident.

“In that case, apartment entry was correctly scheduled with the resident but management mistakenly entered one day too early. Management apologized directly to the resident No other claims have been received.  Per the lease, management has the right to enter a unit. In emergency situations, management may enter a unit without notice. In non-emergency situations, management’s practice is to provide notice to residents and provide them the option to reschedule for a more convenient time if desired.

Maria Rocha-Buschel contributed reporting to this article.

This article was updated from the print version published on Thursday, May 9 to include a comment from CWCapital.

 

Resident town hall gets heated

Stuyvesant Town Security Chief Bill McClellan and General Manager Sean Sullivan address residents at a town hall meeting on Tuesday. Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel

Stuyvesant Town Security Chief Bill McClellan and General Manager Sean Sullivan address residents at a town hall meeting on Tuesday.
Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

General Manager Sean Sullivan hosted a town hall meeting for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents last Tuesday, the first such meeting in a number of years. Sullivan noted at the beginning of the meeting that its purpose was an informal gathering to talk with seniors about residential programming and the community center, but it quickly became clear that residents had other things on their minds. Security issues, Sandy-related problems and the rising student population were some of the main concerns of tenants at the meeting.

In light of the keycard failures during Sandy, one resident asked Sullivan at the beginning of the meeting if it would be possible to put regular cylinders with physical keys back on apartment doors.

“You may not like some of my responses but I’m going to try to be straight with you tonight,” Sullivan said. “The short answer is no. It’s a system that we put in place and it works. (Sandy) was an extraordinary moment in time and we took extraordinary measures.” Residents responded to this, frustrated, saying the system obviously does not work if it failed for so long after the storm, but Sullivan noted that Sandy was not a typical scenario. “Battery backup for the keycard system will work in a typical outage,” he said.

In addition to the keycard failures, other residents noted that the emergency lights in the stairwells failed as well. Sullivan said that there is a battery backup for these as well but they did not last as long as the outage because they were only meant to be used for hours at a time, not days. When tenants specified that there were cases in which the lighting did not even last for hours after the blackout, Sullivan said that he wasn’t aware of this issue and would look into it.

Many Peter Cooper Village residents were on hand at the meeting to express frustrations about the lack of laundry services, as well as the partial elevator service that still exists in some of the buildings.

“My husband is in a wheelchair. We waited two and a half hours because the one elevator was out (a couple weeks ago),” one resident said. “You can keep your memos about the landscaping. Restoring elevator service should be your number one priority. All we’ve got is reassurances and no definitive information.”

After heckling from other meeting attendees about the lack of a concrete date, Sullivan said the hope is that all elevator service will be restored by the end of this month, and attempted to explain why the process has been so lengthy.

“They’re not broken, they’re gone,” he said. “The workers are rebuilding the elevators in the shaft from scratch. We were fortunate to get in the queue. There were a lot of manufacturers that stopped taking orders because the need was just so high (after Sandy). There is no profit for us to move any slower on this.”

As for laundry, service for residents without it in Peter Cooper Village will still have a few months to wait.

“We’ve said that laundry service would be fully restored by September of this year. I’m not changing their timeline but we are trying to do better than that,” he said. “We’re focused on restoring these services. We don’t want you to be frustrated, but the damage was significant and severe. I understand the level of frustration and I don’t want to diminish it for a moment. We’re working on it. It’s not a great solution but we’re doing our best.”

Although noise and late-night rowdiness from the community’s younger population has been a recent complaint of many residents in this newspaper’s letters to the editor, residents at the meeting were more bothered by the transient nature of students in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. The constant moving in and out of short-term tenants was a point of concern for those at the meeting. Some residents noted that it even becomes a frustrating security issue because building doors have been propped open while people are moving. “It happens every month, sometimes in the middle of the month as well,” one resident said at the meeting. “When I bring it up to them, security says, ‘oh it’s fine.’ But it’s not fine. It’s a safety issue.”

ST/PCV Security Chief Bill McClellan said that alarms are set to go off if a door has been propped open for three minutes. They’ve also sent people to close doors and tell movers that they can’t prop the doors open, but residents at the meeting were frustrated that this was not helping, one noting that she had told movers herself not to prop the door open and the mover cursed at her.

A resident of 541 East 20th Street said that she was concerned about safety issues as well after maintenance had entered her apartment to install an intercom without notice or permission, and was especially disturbed after hearing about the reports of burglaries in the community.

Sullivan said that maintenance is supposed to reach out to tenants beforehand and for tenants that don’t respond, maintenance may come back multiple times to deal with these exceptions. After not specifically addressing the resident’s situation, other attendees at the meeting became frustrated, yelling while Sullivan attempted to move on to another question.

In response to concerns about the thefts possibly being related to recent maintenance work, Sullivan added that public safety is supposed to escort outside contractors to the apartments to supervise but otherwise had no information about why this incident occurred at the building on East 20th Street.

In some of the less contentious moments of the evening, Sullivan did announce that the gym is expected to reopen in just a few weeks.

He also noted, to the appreciation of the tenants at the meeting, that the doors in the community center would be replaced by automatic sliding doors, similar to those in supermarkets, because there have been issues with seniors walking into the doors or having difficult getting them open.