Letters to the Editor, Oct. 15

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Catering to a diverse senior population

Re: Letter, “What’s wrong with Bingo?”, T&V, Oct. 8, which was in response to the story, “Thai PM’s wife impressed by active seniors here,” T&V, Oct. 1

In response to Mr. Menchini’s letter of October 8th, I am sorry if it appeared that I was a “pompous elitist” in saying that the people who come to Stein are not the Bingo and Atlantic City crowd.

I have been running programs for seniors for 35 years and it has been a different experience here. We tried to start Bingo a few years back because I know it is stimulating and fun for many people. There wasn’t any interest at the time. We also asked our members if they would like us to set up trips to AC and they said they weren’t interested as well.

We do have a wide range of activities from Feldenkrais to Zumba to Yiddish club, computer classes, parties, trips, early stage dementia program, legal clinic, tax prep and much more. I believe there is something for everybody here and I apologize if it seemed otherwise.

One of our long-time members dubbed Stein, “A Center for the Humanities.” It is not my priorities, but a diverse array of activities and services that are needed in the community.  If a program is not well-attended, it won’t be continued.

Does Mr. Menchini know what we offer at Stein? Each senior program has its own personality and Stein is different than many in that respect. Shakespeare class has been taught by the same teacher for 22 years and opera appreciation long before I arrived in 2008. The classes are attended by 30 to 50 people weekly.

Jane Barry, Executive Director, Stein Center

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Letters to the Editor, Mar. 13

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

All this and a price increase

Furthering the “Name Withheld, PCV” letter (“Airing out the dirty laundry room”, T&V, Mar. 6), let me just add to it.

First, it would have been nice if management had left each apartment a notice that our laundry room was available instead of scotch taping a notification in the elevators and on the main floor at the elevators.

Second, it would have also been nice if they had let us know that the prices had gone up ridiculously. I’m sure they got enough money from FEMA and their insurance companies to cover the machines so an increase, I believe, was not necessary. How about the timing of machines, or are you supposed to guess how long it takes to do a wash? It was bad enough when they got the temporary machines and left it to whoever did the wash, to guess how to use them.

Third, the layout is a ludicrous! The folding tables won’t cover anything as a large bath towel or twin sheet, never mind other items one washes such as queen size sheets. The folding table should have been put on the wall just to the left when you get into the washing machine area.

The site is large enough to accommodate a big, long table.

Fourth, what gives with the sink? It’s about the height of a child. What is this for? I won’t go into what it reminds me of.

Lastly, as to the chairs, why would anyone want to sit so far away from the machines that they would have to get up to see if the washer and/or dryer is done — or is that the reason for the TV? And what’s with the two locked doors?

I guess asking the people who use the machines, what makes sense, is beyond management’s reasoning.

Marcia Robinson, PCV

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Letters to the editor, Mar. 6

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

U.S. should stay out of Israel military action

Re: Letter to T&V, “A majority Jewish state necessary for Israel” (Feb. 6)

To the Editor:

A few years ago Noam Chomsky tried to enter the West Bank to give a lecture. Israel wouldn’t let him in because, in Chomsky’s words, “Israel didn’t like the kinds of things I say.” Israel thought Chomsky was going to make anti-Israel comments and, as I have observed, anyone who even remotely suggests a criticism of Israel is considered anti-Semitic. So the Jewish Chomsky must be anti-Semitic as are the many Arabs, also Semites, who criticize Israel.

Unfortunately, defending Israel from every comment, even if it’s true, seems to be a knee-jerk response. While I support Israel, I also believe it is a strong country, made even stronger by our military support, and has proven to the world that it is perfectly capable of defending itself.

If Israel feels threatened by Iran or any other country and decides to go to war, then it must bear the consequences of its decision. It’s time we look for ways to bring about peace. Secretary of State John Kerry is doing just that. Thomas L Friedman wrote in the NY Times that if Kerry’s peace mission fails, it would force Israel into “either unilateral withdrawal from parts of the West Bank or annexation and granting the Palestinians there citizenship, making Israel a bi-national state…or Israel by default could become some kind of apartheid-like state in permanent control over the 2.5 million Palestinians. There are no other options.”

I mention this because a letter by John Giannone tried to warn us that America’s policy towards Israel might drag us into a war that is not of our making and not in our national interest. This letter elicited a response from a writer who informs us that Israel, just like “all nations,” including the U.S., is guilty of committing “actions that are wrong,” as if that excuses the wrong actions. He cites “the eviction of some Arabs from their homeland and certain more recent events.” It’s not “some Arabs,” but thousands who have been evicted and/or have had their olive trees uprooted, thus destroying their livelihood.

Read in The Jerusalem Post what the U.N. Humanitarian Co-ordinator James W. Rawley and the International Committee of the Red Cross have said about Israel’s “despicable actions” towards the Palestinian refugee families and their children, including Israeli soldiers demolishing Palestinian residences and even confiscating the make-shift tents provided by the Red Cross to shield the refugee families from the weather.

The Red Cross no longer can provide these tents because as soon as they are put up, they are torn down. Roger Cohen wrote in the NY Times, “Jews, having suffered for most of their history as a minority, cannot, as a majority now in their state, keep their boots on the heads of the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank any longer…. the corrosive occupation has to end and with it the settlement industry.” In other words, committing “actions that are wrong” must stop. Now.

I support John Giannone’s position.

John Cappelletti, ST

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Letters to the editor, Feb. 27

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Shivering tenants getting cold shoulder

In last week’s “Letters to the editor,” there was a letter describing and highlighting the lack of heat in so many of the Peter Cooper/Stuyvesant apartments.

I write this in my cold den with the heater blasting away. We all agree that we have had unusually cold weather. In that spirit, why is it that CW continues to keep heat out of our apartments during the day? With this inclement weather, many elderly and even young families with babies are homebound. This is something that should be considered.

My friends and I have called 311 and the two Project Managers, whose numbers have been given to the service department and us. There is never a reply from the CW executives, even though our telephone numbers are included in the message on their tapes. 311 has responded, but it does not seem to matter. When calling the service department, we are told, “I will make out a work order.” It seems their pad of work orders must have had to be reprinted since so many of them have been made out, but it never seems to make a difference.

I have been living in Peter Cooper for over 65 years. Sure, I have had situations regarding heat during those times, but this year takes the cake. Something must be done and should be done to require heat in our apartments.

Name withheld, PCV

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Hurricane Sandy repairs still ongoing in Peter Cooper Village basements

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By Sabina Mollot

Close to a year after getting pummeled by Hurricane Sandy, Peter Cooper Village, much of which was flooded by a raging East River, is still the site of ongoing repairs in multiple buildings.

Though a couple of buildings in Stuyvesant Town also saw significant damage, it was PCV that saw the lion’s share of damage, in particular destroyed basements that housed laundry and storage facilities.

This week, a T&V reporter took a stroll through a few buildings’ basements to get an idea of the progress of the repair work, which, at least, at the addresses of 601 East 20th Street and 420, 440 and 510 East 23rd Street, appear to be months away from completion.

However, at each of the buildings, during a recent afternoon, bunches of workers were onsite in various basement rooms, focusing on walls on floors.

In those buildings, where for months basements were verboten, now, due to the availability of temporary laundry rooms, residents can sneak peeks at the progress, which includes newly built concrete cinderblock walls in the old laundry rooms, cleared out bike rooms with, in some cases, new hooks on the walls to hold the bikes, new fire sprinkler systems overhead and the beginning of construction of new recycling stations. Additionally, at 601 East 20th Street, there were gleaming new, light-colored floors for the laundry, bike and storage rooms. There were also signs of the beginning of installation of new wiring by basement doors and new overhead pipes in certain rooms in the buildings.

Additionally, in 420, a resident noted that pipes in the temporary laundry room that had previously had a dripping problem, had been wrapped up.

That resident, who didn’t want her name used, also weighed in on the ongoing work.

“This is definitely progress,” she said, “but it’s coming up on a year.”

The resident, who said she refuses to use the temporary, free washers and dryers, and also didn’t care for two fly paper traps that loomed a few feet above them, observed how there are also no longer any laundry carts. There was however a folding table, put in by management, and next to it was a card table likely put there by a resident. The woman added that there’s been no word on what’s to become of building’s paid storage unit room, destroyed by the superstorm. “They haven’t said a word. There’s been no timetable.”

As for the temporary washers and dryers, word is the machines, which are smaller than the commercial grade ones that preceded them, came from an army base in the south.

Meanwhile, outside the buildings, a recent round of landscaping has been restoring Peter Cooper Village’s green spaces to their former glory. All except for a couple of garden areas, now all fenced off, have fresh grass and plantings. A couple of areas that are still bare soil were being worked on by landscapers and on Tuesday were marked with flags.

A heavily tree-lined area, which previously had a cow path through it due to people taking shortcuts on the grass, is now completely green.

Something of an eyesore though is the boarded up basement windows in the buildings that had been flooded. Some basements also currently have what appear to be wooden paths trailing from the windows across the lawns, which are what’s housing temporary power feeds.

510 is one of the buildings with a power feed, where inside on Tuesday it looked like new electrical wiring was being installed and a recycling station was in the early process of being built. Nearby walls yet to be repaired appeared Swiss-cheese-like due to being covered with holes. Other walls however had already had their water-damaged plaster stripped, leaving the rough concrete underneath exposed.

A resident at 440 also commented on the progress on his building to note that activity had stopped for a while and then picked up again in mid-September.

“They’re nowhere near done,” he observed. “It looks the same as it did a month ago.”

The resident, Jonathan Turkel, added that since repairs had started again, it had been pretty noisy, including on a recent Saturday morning. But that didn’t bother him, he said. What did bother him was when on Wednesday morning, he was awoken by the smell of gasoline in the building, which, it turned out, was due to a worker accidentally spilling some in the basement. Turkel said he’d initially asked workers what was up only to have them say they hadn’t done anything. Still concerned over the smell, Turkel then called 911 and firefighters responded. It was the firefighter, Turkel, said who learned from a worker that gas had been spilled, despite his initially telling Turkel and the FDNY otherwise.

Brian Moriarty, a spokesperson for CWCapital, did not respond by T&V’s deadline when asked about the gas incident and also didn’t respond to a request for comment on the status of the Sandy repairs.

However, last month, Moriarty told Town & Village work was expected to be completed later this fall.

This was in response to Council Member Dan Garodnick’s calling on CWCapital to speed up the work on the basements, noting that management had previously given a timetable of September for their reopening.

“This has taken far longer than anyone could have reasonably expected,” Garodnick said at the time, “and residents deserve an explanation and compensation.”

But according to CW, the delay was due to the frustratingly lengthy process of acquiring approvals from numerous agencies.

“As we’ve said,” said Moriarty in September, “rebuilding the 17 basements that were damaged during Hurricane Sandy is a complex project that, beyond the physical work and procurement of materials with long lead times, involves numerous agencies that must review and approve plans for every aspect of each basement’s infrastructure and careful scheduling and staging of contractors to ensure the work is completed as quickly and safely as possible with the minimum disruption for our residents.”

He added that “although some residents may not yet see physical work being done in their basement, we assure you that significant progress has been made in all basements. We are making every effort to finish this work as soon as possible, and expect it will be done later this fall.”

Meanwhile, John Marsh, the president of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, said he had no complaints this week about the fact that the repairs weren’t complete. In fact, Marsh, who lives in Peter Cooper, said that overall he thought CW was doing the best it could under the circumstances.

“Given the amount of devastation, they’re really working hard,” he said. “There’s a lot of remediation they had to do first and a lot of manufacturing was customized for their needs and there’s the fact that they were competing with every other Sandy-impacted area as well.”

He also said he thought the special servicer had done well with mold prevention, treating the issue “aggressively.”

At this time, added Marsh, though the basements aren’t close to being completed, he thought residents had bigger worries, in particular two recently issued major capital improvement rent increases for video intercoms in Stuy Town and other security upgrades in Stuy Town and Peter Cooper

Basements in PCV still closed

Garodnick asks for timetable,

CW says approvals from city take time

Generators outside Peter Cooper Village buildings during early stages of the cleanup/repair efforts in November  Photo by Sabina Mollot

Generators outside Peter Cooper Village buildings during early stages of the cleanup/repair efforts in November
Photo by Sabina Mollot

 By Sabina Mollot

Nearly eleven months after Hurricane Sandy, Council Member Dan Garodnick has called on CWCapital to finish the repairs in hard hit buildings in Peter Cooper — especially since they were supposed to have been completed this month.

This was a timeline given by management, and noted Garodnick in a letter to CWCapital Asset Management Vice President Andrew MacArthur, was last mentioned in an official property update to residents in August.

“It is now September, and as far as the residents can tell, none of those basements appear close to opening,” said Garodnick, in the letter, which is dated September 4.

He added that residents deserve at least an update with some sort of explanation since residents in 15 PCV buildings have had to do without bike storage or laundry rooms. (Those buildings have had temporary washers and dryers.) Residents have also been unable to access the basement to get in and out of their buildings. Meanwhile, instead, Garodnick said, the only updates residents do get are for things management wants to promote.

“The updates being sent out give information about more whimsical matters like last week’s photo contest — with no word about these basic services,” said Garodnick. Though he was the one to push CW to give residents a timetable for the completion of the work, Garodnick said he never expected that the September date wouldn’t be enough time. “This has taken far longer than anyone could have reasonably expected,” he told T&V, “and residents deserve an explanation and compensation.”

Following the loss of Sandy-related services in 15 Peter Cooper buildings and two Stuyvesant Town buildings, the Tenants Association filed an application for rent reductions with the state housing agency. However, there has still been no decision on that, the Tenants Association said this week, and in his letter, Garodnick called on CW not to wait for that claim to be resolved before paying up.

“We’re getting close to the one-year mark here,” he said.

Garodnick said that as of Tuesday he has not gotten a response from CW, but on Wednesday, after being asked for comment from T&V, Brian Moriarty, a spokesperson for CWCapital said that the delay is due to the slow process of getting city approval for the various aspects of the work.

“As we’ve said, rebuilding the 17 basements that were damaged during Hurricane Sandy is a complex project that, beyond the physical work and procurement of materials with long lead times, involves numerous agencies that must review and approve plans for every aspect of each basement’s infrastructure and careful scheduling and staging of contractors to ensure the work is completed as quickly and safely as possible with the minimum disruption for our residents,” Moriarty said.

“As such, it is not uncommon for construction projects of this scale to take a long time. Although some residents may not yet see physical work being done in their basement, we assure you that significant progress has been made in all basements. We are making every effort to finish this work as soon as possible, and expect it will be done later this fall.”

Moriarty said that as far as the rent rebates are concerned, the Tenants Association’s application, previously slammed by CW in a court document as “petty” and “mean-spirited,” was also helping to slow things down.

“We offered to sit down with the TA in January to negotiate exactly that,” said Moriarty. “However, they declined to meet and elected to file a diminution of services claim instead.  It is disappointing as many of the steps the TA has taken have actually prolonged our ability to get the required approvals.  It seems that this could have been more easily resolved.”

In response, Garodnick said, “Rather than get into a he said, she said about TA management negotiating, CW should just do the right thing and compensate tenants.”

Though we were unable to reach the Tenants Association by press time for the print edition, TA Chair Susan Steinberg and President John Marsh later responded to say that the application for a rent reduction doesn’t affect management’s ability to restore the laundry rooms. They added that filing the application strengthened their ability to negotiate.