Opinion: Powers and Epstein

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

It sounds like a law firm. But in reality, this duo is now the political first responders for our Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village community.

Keith Powers became our new City Council member in January following the term-limited retirement of 12-year Councilman Dan Garodnick. Harvey Epstein was elected to the State Assembly last month in a Special Election occasioned by Brian Kavanagh vacating his Assembly seat for the State Senate in lower Manhattan.

Given the fact that most of our State Senate’s district represented by Brad Hoylman is west of Fifth Avenue, and our community is but a small part of Carolyn Maloney’s Manhattan-Queens Congressional District, the predominant burden of representing this community on a day to day basis falls to Powers and Epstein.

And there are no shortage of issues. Preserving affordability in our housing stock and repairing public housing projects, improving mass transit especially the subway system, keeping our streets safe and maintaining city services while the federal government retreats are but a few of the issues facing Manhattan’s East Side and the City.

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TA member recalls first conversation with Blackstone

The ST-PCV Tenants Association’s John Sheehy (pictured) and Blackstone’s AJ Argarwal have neighboring properties in the Hamptons.

By Sabina Mollot

John Sheehy, treasurer of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, recalls exactly the moment when he learned of The Blackstone Group’s interest in Stuyvesant Town.

Sheehy, who has a summer home in East Hampton, has a neighbor in Blackstone’s AJ Argarwal, a senior managing director in real estate. Though they didn’t know each other particularly well, one day they happened to see each other as Argarwal was pulling into his driveway with his wife and Sheehy asked Argarwal if he had any interest in Stuyvesant Town.

His response: “Of course,” recalled Sheehy. It wouldn’t be until a year later, though, when the two men actually met again on the subject of Stuyvesant Town.

This was when he’d arranged for Agarwal, whom he called “a pleasant fellow,” to meet with then-Council Member Dan Garodnick at his midtown office. This was in October 2014, and the Tenants Association still had hopes of going condo.

But CWCapital hadn’t yet shown any interest in that plan.

“CW was saying, ‘We’re not ready to sell, and what’s all this talk about selling?’”

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Solar 2 design released

This rendering, by Bjark Ingels Group (BIG), shows how the replacement building for Solar One will look, complete with a kayak launch accessible at Stuyvesant Cove Park.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Project architects have released renderings for Solar One’s new building that will be replacing the environmental organization’s original structure along the East River across from Peter Cooper Village within the next two years. The Economic Development Corporation, the city agency overseeing the project, presented the plan to Community Board 6’s land use and waterfront committee on January 22.

Although the project has been referred to as “Solar 2,” the new building will fully replace the organization’s original structure and the renderings show a “Solar One” sign on the building’s western face. According to the presentation, construction on Solar 2 is expected to be completed before the start of 2019 and construction on the additional flood protection in Stuyvesant Cove Park, which is part of the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) project, won’t begin until 2021 or 2022. The ESCR project includes a combination of berms and flood walls to protect the nearby neighborhoods from a possible flood event, and since Solar One’s building is expected to be operational before construction begins for the ESCR, that flood protection will be built around the new structure.

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Garodnick endorses Epstein

(Pictured) Former Council Member Dan Garodnick with Harvey Epstein

By Sabina Mollot

On Wednesday, former City Council Member Dan Garodnick announced his support for Harvey Epstein, who’s running for the Assembly seat vacated by State Senator Brian Kavanagh.

“I’ve known Harvey Epstein for years and have personally witnessed his leadership in fighting for tenants and seniors — especially his advocacy for Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village,” said Garodnick,

“Not only was he responsible for supervising my office’s free tenant hotline over the past decade, but his work on the Rent Guidelines Board led to the historic two-year rent freeze. It is important that we have elected officials who understand the community’s needs and the government process and I am confident that Harvey will be a real asset in Albany.”

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ST girl recognized as Boy Scout after 11 years of Scouting

Sydney Ireland speaks at the National Organization for Women convention in 2015. (Photos courtesy of Gary Ireland)

By Sabina Mollot

Since the age of four, Sydney Ireland knew that she wanted to be a Boy Scout. It didn’t matter that she wasn’t a boy. Her older brother Bryan was a Scout — later an Eagle Scout — and she wanted to be doing the things he was doing, from earning merit badges to ice climbing in Lake Placid.

Now 15, Sydney has been active in the Boy Scouts — albeit unofficially — for over a decade, and has been along with her family, pushing for the national organization to formally accept and recognize the contributions made by female members like herself. She first reached out to the organization via an op-ed in this newspaper. She’s since done a handful of interviews on the subject and recently even got the backing of NOW.

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Kips Bay dog run opens unofficially

Pooches play at an unfinished dog run at Bellevue South Park. (Photo by Aaron Humphrey)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Pooch owners in Kips Bay celebrated the opening of a temporary dog run in Bellevue South Park earlier this month after having pushed for the run for years. Neighborhood group KBK9 announced on its Facebook page on December 16 that the temporary run had been opened since the double gate was fully installed that week. The spot for the temporary run is an already fenced-in area adjacent to the basketball courts near the East 26th Street end of the park. Community advocates have been pushing for a fully ADA-compliant dog run in the space and while the temporary version is not accessible, the completed run will be once renovations are finished.

Dog owners using the park on Wednesday morning said they were grateful for the run’s opening, since they don’t want to have to take their dogs too far from home now that winter’s begun. Karen Keavey lives two blocks from Bellevue South and said that the next closest dog run is Madison Square Park, which is at least a 20-minute walk, whereas Bellevue South is a four-minute walk for her and her puggle, Louis.

“This has changed my life,” Keavey said. “It’s good for the park that this has opened up. It brings a different element in.”

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City admits it has no way to track storefront vacancies

Council Member Dan Garodnick chairs the hearing on retail vacancy. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

City agencies currently have no way of measuring the rate of storefront vacancies in the city, representatives have admitted.

The representatives, who were from the Department of Small Business Services, discussed the matter at a City Council hearing earlier this month led by Council Member Dan Garodnick, chair of the Economic Development Committee. At the hearing, Garodnick had been pressing the agency on its apparent lack of strategies to come up with solutions to address retail blight.

“This hearing is about the economic impact of vacant storefronts and what I heard in the testimony was mostly a variety of things SBS has done to help businesses over time, but I didn’t really hear any urgency about the problem,” Garodnick said.

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Before moving on, Garodnick reflects on 12 years fighting for tenants’ rights

For Council Member Dan Garodnick, defending tenants from harassment has been a signature issue. (Photo by William Alatriste)

By Sabina Mollot

It was in 2005 when Dan Garodnick, an attorney who worked for the firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkin, Wharton & Garrison before running for office, was elected to the City Council, replacing Eva Moskowitz.

Garodnick won with 63 percent of the vote and since then, has held onto the position easily while making tenant rights a signature issue.

At the start of the New Year, however, Garodnick will be the one term-limited out of his Council seat, to be succeeded by a neighbor he endorsed, Keith Powers.

Recently, over a cappuccino at the Starbucks in Peter Cooper Village, Garodnick, now 45, reflected on his 12 years in office, all the while giving little away about what he’ll be doing next.

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Garodnick bill for ‘potty parity’ passed by City Council

The legislation would affect new and newly renovated buildings.

By Sabina Mollot

A “potty parity” bill, pushing for new and renovated buildings to offer changing tables in bathrooms accessible to men as well as women, was passed in the City Council on December 11.

The mayor held a hearing on the bill on Monday and is expected to sign it soon, according to one of the legislation’s co-sponsors, Dan Garodnick. The other sponsor is Brooklyn Council Member Rafael Espinal, who said he got to work on the bill after witnessing a man change his daughter’s diaper on the sink of a public bathroom.

“Moms and dads should have equal access to sanitary and safe spaces when changing their baby’s diapers,” he said.

Meanwhile, Garodnick, who has two young sons, can certainly relate.

“As a dad who has changed my fair share of diapers I can say from personal experience that there are very few restrooms with diaper changing stations and it shouldn’t be that way,” he said.

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Stuy Town bus terminal proposed for L shutdown

MTA graphic depicting proposed mitigation plans during the L train shutdown

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A new temporary bus terminal may be headed for under the FDR Drive across from Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, the MTA and the city have announced. The terminal will act as a transfer point for ferry riders during the 15-month L train shutdown, with more than 60 buses per hour going through the space under the FDR.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Department of Transportation both discussed the plan while testifying at a City Council Transportation Committee hearing last Thursday. During the hearing, they provided information on the proposed terminal and other mitigation plans for the shutdown, including a new, also-temporary ferry route that will end at the planned Stuyvesant Cove ferry stop at East 20th Street and connect with the M14 Select Bus Service (SBS), which is expected to launch in time for the shutdown.

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Council approves bill for predatory equity watch list

Council Member Dan Garodnick at a rally against predatory lending in 2016 (Photo by William Alatriste)

By Sabina Mollot

Last Thursday, the City Council passed legislation aimed at making it more difficult for speculative landlords to price or harass tenants out of the buildings they’ve just bought.

City Council Members Dan Garodnick and Ritchie Torres are the authors of what’s been dubbed the “Predatory Equity Bill,” which calls for the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development to establish a list of recently sold, rent-regulated buildings owned by potentially predatory investors.

Garodnick, who’s been working on the legislation for over a year, said it was inspired by the disastrous sale of Stuyvesant Town in 2006.As has been well documented, then owner Tishman Speyer tried to make up for its over-leveraged $5.4 billion purchase by issuing primary residence challenges to over 1,000 rent-regulated residents, before finally defaulting and walking away in 2010.

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Stuy Town gets new temporary bus stop shelter

The new shelter at the northeast corner of East 14th Street and Avenue B (Photo by Lawrence Scheyer)

By Sabina Mollot

On Saturday, a temporary bus stop shelter was installed on the northeast corner of East 14th Street and Avenue B as preliminary work continues along 14th Street for the looming L train reconstruction.

A rep for City Council Member Dan Garodnick told Town & Village the shelter’s installation is unusual for a couple of reasons. First, because the city had initially said that temporary shelters aren’t normally installed at stops that get relocated due to construction. However, Garodnick was able to convince the city to install this one as well as another at a different stop on Avenue A over the summer.

The new shelter is also unusual because it had to fit alongside the L train construction site and still have an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalk.

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Garodnick’s water tower legislation would make building inspection results clear to all

Council Member Dan Garodnick said he was motivated by building owners ignoring the law he got passed calling for annual inspections.

By Sabina Mollot

Last Tuesday, the City Council voted to make the results of buildings’ water tank inspections more readily accessible after many years of those records being kept private.

The bill was sponsored by Council Member Dan Garodnick, who, in 2006, authored another piece of legislation that required annual inspections of water tanks. The bill also required landlords to make the results of those inspections available to the city upon request for the next five years. It was signed into law in 2009.

Under the new legislation however, the results of the inspections would have to be submitted to the Department of Health and entered into a searchable, publicly available online database on the DOH’s website. The data would also be submitted annually to the City Council.

Garodnick said the issue was first flagged to him by then-Assembly Member Steven Sanders, who left office in 2006.

“Back then members of the public were barred from seeing the results, even if they had a subpoena,” said Garodnick. “Those reports should not be treated like state secrets.”

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Garodnick calls for transparency on construction noise

Council Members Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick (pictured at City Hall) have co-sponsored legislation aimed at making noise mitigation plans for construction sites less of a secret.

By Sabina Mollot

In New York City, especially in Manhattan, construction noise is usually impossible to escape. This is even true early in the mornings or later in the evenings at some construction sites, for what, to sleep-deprived neighbors, at least appears to be non-emergency work.

On East 14th Street, Stuyvesant Town residents have complained of late night Con Ed work. Meanwhile, on East 23rd Street, Peter Cooper residents have been dealing with on-and-off pre-sunrise construction relating to the VA Medical Center’s construction of a flood wall.

The canned response to New Yorkers facing what they consider excess noise is to call 3-1-1. However, that doesn’t always work because if work is being done at night, an inspection isn’t going to be scheduled until another day and at that time, there may not be an unacceptable level of noise.

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MCIs, noise top tenant concerns at meeting

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg speaks at Sunday’s meeting. Also pictured: Council Member-elect Keith Powers, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Council Member Dan Garodnick and State Senator Brad Hoylman (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

At a Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association meeting that was held on Sunday afternoon, while those in attendance were briefed on numerous issues such as coastal resiliency, the looming L train shutdown and Beth Israel developments, it was the ongoing issues of noise from construction as well as major capital improvements (MCI) that residents seemed most concerned about.

At the meeting, held at the auditorium of Simon Baruch Middle School, Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg spoke about recent MCIs for exterior restoration work, hot water heaters and video intercoms in Peter Cooper Village.

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