ST/PCV residents enjoy brief break from winter

On Tuesday, children enjoyed the first opportunity in months to play comfortably outside. In Peter Cooper Village, kids on scooters could be seen everywhere. (Pictured) Sisters Alice and Sophie Ghalem with their friends Aya and Sakura Donnelly ride outside Playground 2. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

As the weatherman predicted, the sun came out on Tuesday, bringing with it temperatures that went up to the 60s and even higher on Wednesday.

With the muggy morning a distant memory, on Tuesday afternoon families headed outside to local playgrounds. In Stuyvesant Town, rows of strollers could be seen double parked at the tower playground while at the ice rink the chiller worked overtime for unbundled up skaters. Tee-shirt wearing basketball players took over the First Avenue playground in Peter Cooper while kids, donning helmets, whizzed by on the paths on their scooters outside a packed Playground 2. Over by the fitness playground, neighbors Lisa Chin and Anne Fischbach, who sometimes utilize the equipment there, seemed more content on this tropical day to just relax on a bench.

“There were even more people before,” said Fischbach while gesturing to where a few men were training in a corner of the playground. As for her own plans that evening, Fischbach quipped, “I’m going to watch television at 8 and have dinner.”

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Opinion: The sky really is falling

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

In these past few weeks, we have witnessed a preview of what will likely be common future weather. In recent years, we have experienced multiple “storms of the century” with still 83 more years to go. Katrina engulfed New Orleans, Irene clobbered Central New York and a year later Sandy inundated New York City. Harvey drowned Houston and Irma swamped large parts of Florida and devastated the Caribbean. Those storms and others caused unparalleled property damage and death.

The last two occurred just weeks apart and ironically in the wake of America’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord. That treaty was recognition by virtually every other nation on earth that climate change was real, and as Pope Francis observed a few days ago could threaten the very future of humanity if not addressed.

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Letters to the Editor, Nov. 19

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

14th St. – the noisiest street in Manhattan?

A friend of mine living in New Jersey told me the other day, “I would give my eye-teeth to have a two-bedroom apartment in Stuyvesant Town on the 12th floor with a view of the skyline.”

Little does she know what is actually happening here now: 14th Street has become, not a street, but a super highway.

Ever since St. Vincent’s Hospital on the West Side closed to become yet another condo, all traffic from west to east has to go through 14th Street, or so it seems.

We now have every ambulance, every police car, every fire engine and, to top it off, every motor bike gang storming through our street. (I understand the fire engines because the firehouse is on 14th Street.)

It is impossible to listen to the radio/TV or have a conversation. To top it off, for six months, there has been an excavation on the south side of the Street between Avenues A and B, starting at 7 a.m. until 6 p.m., jackhammering and big cranes making unbelievable noise to build yet another condo.

This street is now the thorough street between west and east.

Is there no way to divert some of this to say, 23rd Street? I am sure the motorbikes which make unlawful noise would not mind.

Bridget Bogard, ST

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Letters to the Editor, Nov. 12

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Smoke gets in your eyes

The Tenants Association gets frequent queries as to the legitimacy of management’s installing a dual carbon monoxide/smoke detector and charging $50.00. This typically occurs when a tenant requests a replacement battery for an existing smoke alarm or when management makes an apartment inspection. While the TA has questioned other surprise charges, according to the New York City Rent Guidelines Board, this charge is permitted.

To quote the RGB’s Frequently Asked Questions: “The NYC Housing Maintenance Code requires landlords to provide and install smoke detecting devices in each apartment unit. All smoke detectors must now use a non-removable, non-replaceable battery that powers the alarm for a minimum of 10 years, and shall be of the type that emits an audible notification at the expiration of the useful life of the alarm. The owner may charge the tenant up to $25 per smoke detector (or $50 for a combined smoke/carbon monoxide detector).

“Landlords are also required to provide and install at least one approved carbon monoxide alarm within each dwelling unit. The landlord may charge the tenant $25 per carbon monoxide alarm (or $50 for a combined smoke/carbon monoxide detector).”

Other questions the TA gets are: Why install a joint detector if tenants have a functioning smoke detector? That way, the tenant would only need to pay $25.00. Furthermore, why can’t tenants buy their own combo detector? In fact, why do we need a carbon monoxide detector?

New York City requires the installation and maintenance of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Both property owners and tenants have responsibilities to ensure that all New Yorkers remain safe in their homes from the dangers of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. Landlords are required to ensure that tenants are provided with both carbon monoxide (CO) and smoke detectors (SD) that comply with the physical requirements of the Building Code.

New York City rules require that where a smoke alarm was installed prior to April 2014 and the useful life of the alarm is not known, “that it be replaced with the newly required model within seven years of the effective date and that the owner is responsible for providing and installing the detector.” The landlord also has to make sure that the device complies with applicable guidelines and has to keep records of installation. Filing is required when devices are changed according to the requirement timeframes or whenever broken/missing devices are replaced.

The occupant has one year from the date of the installation to make the reimbursement (bet you didn’t know that).

The Tenants Association is still looking to see if an exemption for STPCV is possible because our complex uses steam heat, which does not have a carbon monoxide risk. However, our research is still ongoing. In the meantime, please know that the installation of dual carbon monoxide and smoke detectors is legitimate and the $50 fee is an unfortunate, but legal burden.

It is always better to err on the side of safety for our valuable community.

Susan Steinberg
President, STPCV Tenants Association

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Letters to the Editor, Feb. 7

Roberts settlement a win

As I listened to Alex Schmidt, plaintiffs lead attorney in the Roberts case, make his fine presentation to the ST/PCV (Tenants Association meeting) audience this past Saturday morning (Jan.  26) I was struck by the fact that the settlement negotiated between the parties was not only an eminently fair one, but a compelling one. For that reason I wish to share my professional judgment about this settlement with the other members of the class, of which I am one.

This is undoubtedly the largest landlord-tenant class action settlement in our country’s history, and it’s the only one of the several “J-51” class actions that has been resolved to date. Three cash components ($100,000,000 former market rate tenants have saved in since the Interim Settlement in December 2009;  $68,750,000 to be refunded for past overcharges between 2003 and 2009; and future rent savings over the next eight years that could rise to as much as $275,000,000) form the core of the settlement. It is a staggering accomplishment.

If the Roberts case had not been settled but was lost either at trial or by class de-certification, none of these benefits would have been achieved.  Moreover, the 4,300 apartments at issue would have been returned to market rate from which residents could be evicted any time their leases came up for renewal. The more than 22,000 affected individual tenants would be facing the nearly impossible task of hiring their own lawyers and filing actions to recover past overcharges and establish future rents.

It is critical that all class members understand that the Interim Rents of 2009, damages and Preferential formulas under this settlement are more favorable to tenants than what the formulas likely would have been absent the settlement and left to the courts for decision.

One reason for this is the landlords who unlawfully deregulated while in the J-51 program, argued that after the Court of Appeals ruling returning the apartments to rent stabilization they should be entitled to all credits and increases they would have been entitled to under the Rent Stabilization Laws had they not deregulated the apartments. The Roberts plaintiffs argued that the landlords should not be entitled to any of these credits because of their unlawful conduct. The settlement resolved this issue in a manner very favorable to the class, while the law in other related J-51 cases was evolving in a direction decidedly unfavorable to our class members.

While rents will go up for most tenants under this settlement by a few to several hundred dollars per month, that is a result of how the law has changed in the landlords’ favor rather than the settlement. If there had been no settlement, rents certainly would have gone up much more and climbed much faster during the next eight years.

This is a sensational result for the class as a whole under any standard, but clearly when considering the turn for the worse the law was taking. And since the vast majority of class members achieved some combination of rent savings, rent refunds and future rent savings, the settlement is very good for each of us individually, too.

John J. Sheehy, Esq.

The writer was the chair of a large litigation department of a major international law firm and member of the New York State Commission on judicial conduct. He is presently a director of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, but is writing in his private capacity. The TA, which was not a party to the action, has taken no position on the settlement.

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Letters to the Editor, Dec. 27

I shot Santa Claus

By John Cappelletti

‘Twas the night before Christmas
And I went to my shrink.
He sat there, not stirring
And his eyes didn’t blink.

He said I was paranoid
To believe as I do,
That people might harm me,
Rob, mug and kill me too.

So I left. I was angry.
And soon began to run
Home to my collection
Of rifles and guns,

Which I keep for protection
From burglars and crooks
And others called “bad guys”
In movies and books.

The Second Amendment
Gives me the right
To shoot these intruders –
On sight!

Our founding fathers formed militias
To fight the red-coated British.
They didn’t have Semis or Glocks,
But you wouldn’t call them skittish.

They had muskets and loaded each shot
To fire. These were the “arms,”
They insisted was their “right
To bear” as a militia to keep us from harm’s

Way; today the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines,
Homeland Security and the local police,
FBI, CIA and Special Operations Forces
Comprise our militia to keep the peace.

We now have pros to protect us.
Militias are a thing of the past.
There’s really no need to bear arms anymore
So the NRA should give it a rest.

These truths should be self evident,
Keeping guns in the home doesn’t work.
And, as we’ve seen, it makes no sense,
Because somebody might go berserk.

But back to my story
Lest these facts put you to sleep:
I was home, feeling angry.
It was quiet… not a peep.

Then I heard the floor creaking,
A shadow stalked the walls
And the flames in the fireplace
Fell on someone decking the halls.

The chiaroscuro hindered my view.
So it might have been a mirage.
But I heard some foreigner singing,
“Fah, lah, lah, lah, lah, lah, lah, lah, lah.”

Then I grabbed my trusty Semi,
Aimed it at the intruder’s head.
But I had never fired a weapon before
So I sprayed his big belly instead.

“Oh, oh, oh,” he cried,
This riddled man with a white beard.
He gasped and mumbled, “Merry mishmash,”
And then he just disappeared.

Well, I know now it was Santa.
I’m sorry. I think he’s dead.
But when I shot at Santa that night,
I felt threatened and I was seeing red.

From now on at Christmas time,
There won’t be joy for anyone.
But that’s the price we all must pay
When one of us shoots a gun.
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