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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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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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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CompassRock closes up shop

CompassRock CEO David Sorise

CompassRock CEO David Sorise

By Sabina Mollot

The company set up to manage Stuyvesant Town after it fell into receivership has closed.

CompassRock was originally founded by special servicer CWCapital in 2012 to manage multifamily properties around the country.

However, its two biggest jobs were at the 11,200-plus-unit Stuy Town, and at Riverton Houses in Harlem, where it managed 1,229 apartments.

In January this year, CompassRock lost its contract at Riverton when CWCapital sold the property to A&E.  Then in April, the firm got the boot from Stuy Town when new owner Blackstone replaced it with its own subsidiary company, StuyTown Property Services.

CWCapital declined to comment on the current status of CompassRock, whose website has been down for months. Phone numbers listed for the company had no option to leave a message.

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MCIs for façade work at Peter Cooper buildings approved

Susan Steinberg

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg, pictured at a Rent Guidelines Board hearing in June, describes the ways stabilized rents are legally padded until they’re unaffordable. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The state housing agency has approved major capital improvement rent increases (MCIs) for four buildings in Peter Cooper Village that underwent exterior restoration work — and more are expected to be approved.

The Tenants Association warned neighbors about the approvals of the MCIs, previously referred to by TA President Susan Steinberg as CWCapital’s “goodbye present,” in an email blast on Sunday.

As of July, the association had heard about the MCIs being filed for 19 different buildings in Peter Cooper and Stuyvesant Town. The cost varies at different addresses, from about $1.15 to $3 per room per month.

Reached on Monday, Steinberg said the association, which did challenge the MCIs, will continue to do so.

“There are a variety of reasons,” said Steinberg. “In a couple of instances, it was past the two-year window when it should have been submitted. There was some question whether Sandy insurance money had been used for some of the work. So we are not letting it go.”

Some of the MCIs were requested as far back as August of 2014.

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ST-PCV TA bracing for more facade MCIs

Susan Steinberg

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

By Sabina Mollot

On Sunday, June 26, the ST-PCV Tenants Association sent out an email to neighbors to warn that dues for membership would be going up to $50 a year, but also to mention that additional MCIs were expected.

When explaining the dues raise, the TA said it was due to legal fees mostly for legal challenges like those aimed at fighting MCIs (major capital improvements).

“And we know more MCIs are on the way,” came the warning.

Asked about this later, Susan Steinberg, president of the TA said while this wasn’t in reference to anything new she’d heard about, CWCapital had applied for “a number of them covering many buildings, and only some were issued.”

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CompassRock officially out, Blackstone’s management company named

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Rick Hayduk  (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Three months after taking over the property, Blackstone has announced the name of its own recently formed management company that will handle the day-to-day operations at Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village. This is following CompassRock’s official exit from ST/PCV on April 1.

Unlike CompassRock, the new company, called “StuyTown Property Services,” will — as its name suggests — just be for the management of ST/PCV, according to a Blackstone spokesperson.

In other management changes, along with four recent plumbing hires, StuyTown Property Services has also added three new people to its resident relations division. Those employees will be responsible for cleanliness inspections, maintenance issues and hands-on resident relations, said Blackstone spokesperson Paula Chirhart.

“The termination of the previous management agreement and the formal establishment of StuyTown Property Services marks a major milestone for all residents,” said Nadeem Meghji, senior managing director for Blackstone. “We are pleased to have Rick (Hayduk) and his StuyTown Property Services team in place and ready to serve the community.”

In January, resort and residential industry veteran Rick Hayduk was hired as Stuy Town’s new general manager. He was also the first person in that role to move into the community since the Met Life days, and is the new company’s CEO.

Meanwhile, this is the second apartment complex CompassRock has lost from its portfolio in recent months. CompassRock, CWCapital’s management arm formed in 2012, had been managing the 1,229-unit Riverton Houses in Harlem while CWCapital oversaw the property following an over-leveraged deal. Then last December, Riverton was sold to A&E Real Estate, and according to a spokesperson, Daniel White, A&E prefers to do its own management of the properties it owns.

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Residents get their say in new book about ST/PCV

Mar17 Priced OutBy Sabina Mollot

While the events taking place in Stuyvesant Town ever since the historic sale to Tishman Speyer have hardly lacked for headlines, from the point of view of a former resident, the story that was not being told — at least not nearly enough — was that of how the aggressive attempts to turn over apartments impacted individuals.

Lisa M. Morrison, along with two other people, have since written a book on the subject, called Priced Out: Stuyvesant Town and the Loss of Middle-Class Neighborhoods. The book, published by NYU Press ($28 paperback), was released on March 15 and is available at nyupress.org and on Amazon. Co-authors are Rachael A. Woldoff and Michael R. Glass.

The book includes 50 interviews with residents of all ages and situations (from seniors, some of whom are original residents, to younger people with families to singles, including college students.)

“It has a lot of different angles and kind of looks at the issue from different perspectives,” Morrison said. She also suggested the book is complementary to Charles Bagli’s Other People’s Money, which offered a behind-the-scenes look at the infamous $5.4 billion deal and the real estate feeding frenzy that led to such a speculative and ultimately predatory investment.

“Our book focuses on the community members’ experience, since I don’t think any other book has that,” Morrison said. “And the idea of being priced out of a community. It’s something that’s happening all over. It’s something a lot of people can relate to.”

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Letters to the Editor: Mar. 10

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

About those new windows in PCV

Re: T&V story, “Roof access coming to PCV, but just for two apartments, T&V, Feb. 25

To the Editor,

So, the new owners are trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear? Where are the amenities that would go along with the prices they intend to ask?

I was also amazed to read that the tenants had access to the roof. Never so in the 30-odd years I’ve been living here and if so, was the biggest kept secret. I had been told by security that we couldn’t go up there.

As to the new windows, if people look carefully at the apartment in the photo, you can see that with the new reconfiguration there is no way for a window air conditioner. The unit is now below the window in part of the wall. Now, with the unit where it is, the tenant can’t put a sofa back to the wall so they’re losing space.

As to another MCI for “new windows,” if we had had a lawyer who knew who was on first, we wouldn’t be paying and paying and paying for the rest of our lives.

The windows never did what they were supposed to do which was to keep the apartments cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. At least that was what I had been told. Once a hole was drilled into the window to let the gas out so that it wouldn’t implode, the purpose of the new windows went out the window or door, whichever word you care to use.

Marcia Robinson, PCV

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A peek at ST’s newest studios

A studio facing First Avenue built out of a former trunk room (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

A studio facing First Avenue built out of a former trunk room (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Since last summer, five new studio apartments have popped up in Stuyvesant Town. At this time, though they’re not yet on the market, they will be soon, having finally completed their transformation from former trunk rooms and other spaces once used for storage.

The rents for the studios, which are bigger than the five studios built last year on Avenue C, haven’t been officially determined yet. A Blackstone rep said that won’t be decided until a city inspection. However, they will be market rate.

CWCapital had declined to comment on the units as they were being built at 250, 270, 280 and 300 First Avenue and 435 East 14th Street. Permits for their being built were approved on June 30.

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Riverton sale will keep most apts. affordable

Riverton Houses was sold to A&E with the city providing some tax breaks.

Riverton Houses was sold to A&E with the city providing some tax breaks.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Less than two months after the announcement of the sale of ST/PCV, the city came to a similar agreement with Riverton Houses’ new owner A&E Real Estate to protect almost 1,000 low and middle-income homes at the development in Harlem, announcing that the property was sold for $201 million last Wednesday.

CWCapital had been in control of Riverton, a sister property of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper, since 2010 after taking over from Larry Gluck’s Stellar Management. Stellar had bought the development in 2005, hoping to bring in higher-paying tenants, but defaulted on its $225 million mortgage and its lenders foreclosed.

The property was sold under an agreement to keep the remaining rent stabilized units affordable and in exchange, the city will provide A&E with property tax breaks and other incentives worth about $100 million. Affordability is being preserved through a real estate tax exemption, which will be provided for 30 years and was approved by City Council.

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THANK YOU: Over 200 toys donated to T&V drive

Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s Dr. Bonnie Robbins, coordinator of children and family services, with some of the toys at her office. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s Dr. Bonnie Robbins, coordinator of children and family services, with some of the toys at her office. (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 200 toys to this newspaper’s annual drive.

This year’s haul included an impressive mix of gifts for kids of all ages, including art supplies, science sets, a remote controlled helicopter, dolls and doll outfits, sports equipment and numerous cute stuffed animals.

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Garodnick: Stuy Town plumbing service has gone down the toilet

Councilmember Dan Garodnick (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Councilmember Dan Garodnick (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

For months now, residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village who’ve had plumbing problems have been made to wait longer than they’ve ever had to previously for someone to fix the problem.

Susan Steinberg, president of the Tenants Association, said the issue has been going on since last summer and she has brought up the issue to CWCapital as well as new owner Blackstone. Wait times for plumbers had risen to 10 days, and then recently spiked again to over two weeks or three weeks, Steinberg said.

Last Friday, Council Member Dan Garodnick sent a letter about the plumbing pileups to Jonathan Gray, Blackstone’s global head of real estate, noting that in some cases, residents have gotten so frustrated with the lack of service they’ve sought emergency repairs from the HPD.

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Two ST buildings left with no gas due to leak

By Sabina Mollot

Since October 31, a gas leak at 272 and 274 First Avenue has left residents without gas in their buildings. The laundry room has been out of use as well since then.

In a flyer that was posted by CompassRock on November 4, management explained that the shutdown was done by Con Ed so emergency repairs could be conducted on the main gas line.

The note to residents went on to say management was working with the utility to ensure that gas would be restored “as safely and as quickly as possible.”

However, the memo also said that gas isn’t expected to be turned on again until Con Ed approves each apartment line after repairs.

Sidney Alvarez, a spokesperson for Con Ed, said on the 31st, the utility had been called about a gas odor and upon arrival, inspectors found that there was a gas leak on the extension service traced to a gas meter room.

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Blackstone addresses tenants’ concerns

Market raters bash deal, ask for insider priority on affordable apts.,

Blackstone says students have been top complaint of residents

Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Blackstone senior managing director Nadeem Meghji, Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been, Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, Council Member Dan Garodnick and ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg listen as Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Blackstone senior managing director Nadeem Meghji, Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been, Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, Council Member Dan Garodnick and ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg listen as Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Following the news about a change in ownership just a few days earlier, over 500 Stuy Town residents showed up at a meeting on Saturday where a representative for the new landlord, Blackstone, answered questions.

Mayor Bill de Blasio popped by for a bit and spoke, as did U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, but the real star of the show wound up being Nadeem Meghji, senior managing director for Blackstone. Meghji started off by telling tenants at Baruch College’s auditorium that their various concerns, brought up in the days following the sale, were being taken “very seriously.” He indicated CompassRock would not continue to manage the complex, but then later said there isn’t a timeline for any change in management teams. Meghji, who was in charge of the Stuy Town deal, frequently elicited applause when responding to tenants’ questions although he admitted he didn’t yet have enough information to answer them all. He told tenants, in response to questions about student apartments, that Blackstone had been hearing about this issue more than any other.

He added that Blackstone would be seeking further tenant feedback via focus groups and a hotline.

“We know that we are going to need to earn your trust,” he said.

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