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.”

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ST/PCV replacing 30 lost trees

Workers plant a tree on Friday morning in Stuyvesant Town, as part of a project to bring one tree to the property per day in June. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Workers plant a tree on Friday morning in Stuyvesant Town, as part of a project to bring one tree to the property per day in June. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Throughout the month of June, 30 new trees will arrive in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.

The “30 Trees in 30 Days” program began on the first of the month, with a new tree being planted each day.

In an official statement, StuyTown Property Services, Blackstone’s management company, said the new arrivals are replacing a significant number of trees on the property that have been lost due to old age, attrition and extreme weather conditions.

Chuck Hartsell, director of landscape and horticulture, mentioned that a major factor was the difficulties of being in an urban environment, as he passed some trees in the complex that he noted were on the decline.

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Grounds get more dog friendly

The addition of more mulched areas as well as fences in ST/PCV is aimed at protecting the grass from dog waste.  This is part of an ongoing landscape renovation. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The addition of more mulched areas as well as fences in ST/PCV is aimed at protecting the grass from dog waste. This is part of an ongoing landscape renovation. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

It’s springtime following a particularly rough winter that managed to be both unseasonably warm as well as frigid, and in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village that means just one thing: time for a landscape renovation.

Chuck Hartsell, the property’s director of horticulture and landscape, said this year’s damage wasn’t as extreme as in some recent years due to some precautionary work and current projects include adding 21 shade trees and protecting plants from dogs as well as making the grounds more dog friendly.

To accomplish the pooch-related goals, Hartsell said there’s been fencing and removal of fencing on a rotational basis on grass areas. This was done, he explained as “an experiment” with the grounds crew later noticing that a fenced-in area was kept pristine while an open area was completely laid to waste thanks to, well, dog waste.

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Local resident cries foul as tree is axed on East 20th street

A tree near 440 East 20th Street was cut down.

A tree near 440 East 20th Street was cut down.

By Sabina Mollot
Last Tuesday afternoon, a Stuyvesant Town resident walking past 440 and 430 East 20th Street said she noticed that a very tall, mature tree was in the midst of being cut down.
The resident, who asked that her name not be published, told Town & Village she’d asked a nearby Public Safety officer what was going on and was initially told that the tree was just being trimmed for safety reasons.
She was also told it had to do with the tree being in the way of a ramp for disabled residents that was going to
be built alongside the building.
The building already has a ramp but according to the officer, that one wasn’t up to code.

The stump of the tree was later removed as well.

The stump of the tree was later removed as well.

The resident added that after she stuck around a while, it became clear that the tree was actually being cut down, so she headed over to the new management office to make a complaint about what seemed like unnecessary arborcide as well as the lack of notice that a tree would be coming down.
That’s when she said she was told by a property manager that the tree was actually diseased.
She didn’t get a response as to the lack of notice though other than management tends to get overwhelmed due to all the work going on at the property at any given time.
After returning later in the day to the spot where the tree had been, the stump that had been there briefly after it was chopped was also gone.
A spokesperson for CWCapital did not respond to a request for comment on the tree.

Peter Cooper lawn could become another playground

Lawn in Peter Cooper Village (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Lawn in Peter Cooper Village (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
The east side of Peter Cooper Village where there’s currently a spacious lawn could become another playground.

A resident of 8 Peter Cooper Village told Town & Village that last week he saw a man walking around on the lawn between his building and 541 East 20th Street, measuring things like the circumferences of trees and the length of shadows the trees cast. When the resident, who didn’t want his name published, asked the man what he was doing, the reply was that he was an architect hired by CWCapital and that the owner was thinking of turning the lawn into a playground.

According to the resident, who’s since started circulating a petition against changing the lawn to a playground, the green space is already utilized as active play space by kids to play ball. Additionally, he said, the other playgrounds aren’t over-crowded.

“Even people in our building with children are against it,” he fumed. He added, “If I hadn’t asked the guy what he was doing, all of a sudden there would have been bulldozers tearing it up.”

After the conversation with the architect, the resident spoke with fellow PCV resident Council Member Dan Garodnick, who in turn, spoke with management to say he too was opposed to repurposing the green space.

“This is a bad idea and I hope they shelve it,” Garodnick told T&V. “The playgrounds in our community are great. If anything, they should do a better job making sure that people are respecting the rules. As to the green spaces, community members don’t know if they’re for dogs or for people or neither or for both.”

In related news, a winter roof is currently in the works for Stuyvesant Town’s Playground 11.
A spokesperson for CWCapital declined to comment at this time on the green space and Playground 11.

Letters to the Editor, August 7

Aug7 Toon Cuomo

Inconsistent landscaping is being ignored

I am a resident of Stuy Town for over 30 years. While a lot of landscaping continues in Stuy Town and you write articles full of the ongoing plantings and landscaping, everyone has ignored the fact that the landscaping to the entrance of many buildings is by and large ignored.

If everyone would just get it right! The T level is the front of the building and the front entrance and exit used 90 percent of the time by the residents, where cars, delivery, moving and mail trucks pull up. The M level, which is actually the back entrance, is scary because it is too quiet and women look over their shoulder when using this entrance. Yet the landscaping focus has been on the M and not the T for a long time now.

Consistently some buildings have pretty landscaping and many others are void of any landscape and are in fact an embarrassment. Check out 1 and 3 Oval. Forever ignored, the Terrace levels which again really are the front entrances of the buildings are indeed quite ugly. Is anyone ever going to do anything about it?

Below are pictures of the 1 Stuyvesant Oval T entrance.

 

Gazala Chinwalla, ST

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Letters to the editor, May 22

Time to stop making excuses on housing laws

The issues surrounding affordable middle incoming housing in New York City are complex and depressing at best. In past years leaders like Senator Roy Goodman, Councilman Andrew Eristoff and Assemblyman Steven Sanders worked tirelessly to keep PCV/ST a float for thousands of families. These Republicans and Democrats together saw the value in preserving this unique community.

Now after the sale by Met Life and the events surrounding it, it has become a circus of lawyers, politicians and greedy real estate moguls who cannot agree and have no vested interest or vision in preserving the community and its original purpose.

Politicians and the like continue to make excuses such as no movement in Albany on campaign finance reform, ineffectual rent laws and chronic Republican-bashing.

If State Senator Hoylman had stayed after his talk at the tenants meeting on Saturday, May 10, he might have heard questions from the floor by people who are directly affected by this housing crisis and shared his ideas about what he might actually do to support the efforts to preserve the PCV/ST community, instead of passing the buck and again blaming it all on the Republicans’ eternal blockage in the state housing committee.

Are we really so strapped politically? If this issue of affordable middle class housing is really a priority, you can’t just give it lip service. The most movement in this whole situation, quite frankly, has been the persistent hard work of the ST-PCV Tenants Association.

Frank J. Scala, ST
President,
Albano Republican Club

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ST/PCV undergoing landscape renovation

Chuck Hartsell, director of horticulture and landscape for ST/PCV, standing by the cherry trees in Peter Cooper Village, said more sustainability and visibility are the goals of ongoing landscaping work. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Chuck Hartsell, director of horticulture and landscape for ST/PCV, standing by the cherry trees in Peter Cooper Village, said more sustainability and visibility are the goals of ongoing landscaping work. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
Following one of the more brutal winters New Yorkers have seen in recent memory, spring has finally sprung and in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, this, as always, means there’s a major landscaping project in the works.
Those who’ve strolled around the complex over the past week may have noticed trees blossoming and some colorful new flowerbeds, as well as some contrasting lawn areas that still appear to be bare dirt or partially bare.
However, they won’t be that way for long, according to Chuck Hartsell, the property’s director of horticulture and landscape.
While on a brisk walk through the grounds of Peter Cooper as well as Stuy Town, Hartsell explained that at this point every garden area has been tended to and planted with flowers or grass. It’s just that certain types of plantings take longer than others to spring up, and there are some areas that will still need to be revisited.
The planting was all part of a renovation that began shortly after CWCapital took over the property in 2010. At that time the grounds were overplanted and the Oval, which had drainage issues and swells and dips, was in a condition that could be described as fair to poor.
Since then, close to 1,000 trees have been removed with most being donated to local nonprofits devoted to greening the city while around 100 of the trees that were in poor condition were mulched.
But these days the Oval is doing much better, far better in fact than expected.
“We thought we’d have to empty it and start from scratch,” said Hartsell of the Oval, while walking by its south end, which will be used again for greenmarkets starting this Sunday. The east end of the Oval meanwhile has seen some activity this past year in terms of having some older shade trees chopped down. Not surprisingly, this thinning out of the landscape was met with some community outrage, with residents blasting the move as arborcide.

The Oval lawn will be open soon to sunbathers and starting this weekend, to the Sunday greenmarket.

The Oval lawn will be open soon to sunbathers and starting this weekend, to the Sunday greenmarket.

But, insisted Hartsell, removing every other tree in that section was necessary.
“They were growing into each other,” said Hartsell, who’s worked in ST/PCV for the past two years. He’s had the title of horticulture and landscape director since the week of Hurricane Sandy, which also made significant restoration work of the property’s gardens and courtyards required.
As for the Oval trees, Hartsell called the decision to chop them “very painful,” but said it was done only after consulting with experts. “We had three arborists come in and give opinions.” Ultimately, they figured the trees would have eventually all killed each other if a few of trees, all yellowwoods, weren’t sacrificed. “It was either make the move or in 10-15 years, they all come down.”
Additionally, some shrubs were recently removed for better visibility of the Oval fountain. Better visibility was actually one of the goals of the ongoing landscape renovation, partially due to safety concerns.
Previously, Hartsell observed, everything “was planted so densely, you couldn’t see.”
Overgrown trees is always a concern though, and to prevent incidents of residents getting clobbered by low-hanging or heavy tree branches, one staffer has the task of walking through the whole complex on a bi-weekly basis to check where pruning may be needed.
“We’re always looking up,” said Hartsell.”

Chuck Hartsell, in Peter Cooper, said temporary fencing around lawns will soon be moved inward.

Chuck Hartsell, in Peter Cooper, said temporary fencing around lawns will soon be moved inward.

Another goal of the renovation is to create a more sustainable environment.
After Sandy, more plantings were brought in that could handle damage from salt, either salt used to melt snow in the winter or from flooded river water.
“Not that they could survive being submerged for hours on end, but they can handle a little damage,” said Hartsell.
To prevent waste of plants, the grounds crew has begun planting more annuals, which get more mileage than perennials. Also in abundance on site are shrubs (currently 13 or 14 varieties), cherry trees in Peter Cooper in more than one variety (with light and dark pink blossoms) and all around, oaks in four different varieties.
Being acorn producers, the oaks, which make up 30 percent of the trees in ST/PCV, are what feed the squirrel population. That is, when the squirrels aren’t being fed nuts by residents. Despite efforts by some to be discreet, the evidence of this is often uncovered by the gardeners.
“One of the most common weeds we pull is the peanut plant,” noted Hartsell.
While squirrels can do some damage to trees, Hartsell said it doesn’t tend to be too noticeable as they make their nests in tree parts that are already decaying. A bigger challenge is presented by dogs when owners allow them to do their business in the gardens. But for the most part, he said, owners have been respectful and the temporary fencing around lawns to prevent wear and tear by pedestrians of both the human and canine variety should be moved inward soon, closer to buildings.

A recently planted area in Stuyvesant Town

A recently planted area in Stuyvesant Town

“We’re in the process of moving the fences right now,” said Hartsell. Meanwhile during the course of the interview, one fence around a courtyard in Peter Cooper was spotted with a section that had been completely pried open — and not by a gardener.
As for the gardeners who maintain the 80-acre property, the crew now consists of six full-time staffers and 10 seasonal contractors. This is up from just the six full-timers last year.
Though it doesn’t sound like much for such a large workspace, Hartsell said it’s been enough.
On May 10, the grounds crew will work with Apple Seeds, the company that runs Oval Kids, to present a gardening workshop open to all children in the community.
Also in May, the Oval lawn will be open for use of sunbathers and others, ideally by the first week of the month.

Letters to the editor, May 1

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Please, kind landscaper, spare these tree branches

To the Editor:

Once upon a time, not long ago, at the M level of 271 Avenue C, there were some three dozen thriving stem rose plants and maybe some four or five dozen gorgeous yellow day-flowering plants. That was, as I wrote, once upon a time — before someone, with authority, of course, ordered that they all be ripped up and replaced with what I can only describe as junk grass clumps — that as of today, April 24, show no sign of life. Hence, what we have now is a rather sickly looking gray patch where for years we had spring beauty.

Further congratulations should be handed out to the contracted scientific-tree-care company, which seems to be just fulfilling the terms of its contract by pruning beautiful live branches with lots of nice green leaves. They were stark white at both ends — no browning, no rotting, no holes, just clear clean wood.

This gets done right out in the open with neither oversight from management nor objection from security.  No “what the %&#@$% are you guys doing destroying perfectly good limbs!”

When I asked an officer about that practice, I was told, “They are experts.” Ok, so the officer was just doing his employer’s assigned work. Got it! And the folks sitting in the sun basking? Well, they were just basking. Got that too!

Just irrational me photographing and barking and utterly ignored.

John M. Giannone, ST

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Shade trees chopped down in Oval, management says some trees were overgrown

Workers remove trees from the Oval on Tuesday.

Workers remove trees from the Oval on Tuesday.

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday around midday, workers began to cut down trees, specifically every other shade tree surrounding the interior walkway around the Oval, to the horror of some residents passing by.

The resident who snapped this photo reported, “This removed half the shaded areas covering many of the benches used by the tenants. These trees were planted a number of years ago when the tree service organization cut down all 40 of the original, mature and healthy, London Plane trees that shaded the same areas. London Plane trees have a life span of over 200 years. It took a number of years to regain the shade provided to the tenant by the current trees. When I asked the individual supervising the tree service personnel why they were removing the trees his only answer was ‘We were told to.’ It will take many more years for the trees that now remain to grow and possibly provide shade to the benches that the tenants currently utilize.”

This move follows work last month to remove much of the plantings around the Oval, that CW spokesperson Brian Moriarty said was part of ongoing landscaping around the entire property.

Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg, meanwhile, said she hoped the area would be replanted soon.

“When Tishman Speyer cut down many mature trees several years ago, we were assured they did so because the trees were beetle-infested or dying (whether one believes it or not is another story),” she said. “I would hope that is the case now rather than a sheer landscaping decision. Some of the trees in our community must be more than 65 years old and are treasures.  Moreover, they have taken out what was an absolutely beautiful and lush arrangement of plants and bushes around the perimeter of the Oval, leaving us with barren earth. If they don’t plan on replanting the area with an arrangement equally breathtaking, shame on them.”

A spokesperson for CWCapital did not respond to a request for an explanation by T&V’s print deadline on Wednesday.

However, on Friday afternoon, in one of CompassRock’s emailed newsletters, management discussed the ongoing landscaping work. One of the goals, apparently, is to remove trees that are “overgrown” as well to correct landscaping work done during Tishman Speyer’s ownership which eventually resulted in hundreds of newly planted trees dying or having to be removed from the grounds.

On the recent work in Oval crescent-shaped flowerbeds, in which plantings were stripped, CompassRock said, “This work is part of a property-wide landscaping stabilization program currently in progress, with the goal of establishing a landscape environment which will thrive for years to come. This requires the correction of programs undertaken by prior ownership, which did not ensure adequate care or space for plants to grow, including many instances of tree, shrub and flower plantings in inappropriate soil and sunlight conditions.”

Management also said the landscaping renovation includes “the transplant of trees and shrubs to other locations in the property; removal of several overgrown trees and plants; remediation of the soil; and improvements to the existing irrigation and electrical infrastructure embedded in the crescents. The new tree species being planted in the crescent beds will be lower in height and density, allowing the trees the space they need to prosper, as well as increasing  visibility into the Oval for both passers-by and security. When completed, the gardens will have a cleaner look and a new, lush ground with perennials to add color. The final plantings will be completed in the coming three weeks and new fencing will be established to protect the area and keep it healthy.”

Letters to the Editor, July 11

Laundry room leaky and terrifying

After reading “When does free cost too much?” (Letter, T&V) last week, I thought, those are my feelings, too.

Soon after a flyer was sent around, proclaiming that the basement is now open (how can that be, it has not been completely renovated) and there were old washer/dryers to be used without cost, I ventured downstairs to have a look. Shock set in immediately as the elevator doors opened to the basement. It looked like a dungeon, a place for punishment, not a venue for people to enter.

I spent two minutes looking around and quickly headed back to the elevator. Two days later, I went to one of the buildings where we had access to for many months, to do a laundry. My card would not allow me to get into the laundry room. When I exited the building, two security officers were outside, and I asked them why my card no longer worked. They called their office and informed me that now that I had free machines and dryers in my building, and I no longer could use the other laundry rooms.

Not having much choice, I decided to do a test run in my building with a small bag of rags. Again, I went downstairs, and when the elevator opened, there was a large puddle of water in front of me, and another one to the left near the stairwell. I skirted around the puddle and nervously entered the so-called laundry room. There was a terrible odor. The first machine did not work at all. The second one worked, but when I placed a very small load into the dryer, thirty minutes later, it was still wet.

I felt very uncomfortable being in the basement because of the eerie quality with unfinished walls, dirtier than normal conditions, and a total lack of security.

However, even if there were a team of security people lined up to protect me, I will not go there again until it is completely renovated. No one should have to be subjected to such terrible conditions.

Name withheld, PCV

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