Four new MCIs pending for ST/PCV

Blackstone representative Nadeem Meghji, pictured at a meeting last October, tells ST-PCV tenants the owner will not use MCIs as a tool to inflate rents. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Blackstone representative Nadeem Meghji, pictured at a meeting last October, tells ST-PCV tenants the owner will not use MCIs as a tool to inflate rents. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Requests are for facade waterproofing, water heaters, video intercoms and ADA ramps, but Blackstone says it will walk away from $10M in potential fees

By Sabina Mollot

Blackstone’s management company for Stuyvesant Town, StuyTown Property Services, announced on Wednesday that it will be filing for four MCIs for work done in the complex starting two years ago.

The MCI (major capital improvement) projects are for: building façade waterproofing (which the owner said was mandated by law), upgrading the hot water heaters, video intercoms for Peter Cooper Village buildings and the installation of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant ramps.

If approved, the cost that would be passed onto residents in the form of a permanent rent increase that a spokesperson for SPS expects will be on average around $8 per month per apartment. While applications don’t guarantee an MCI will be approved, based on community history, the state housing agency, the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, has never met an MCI it didn’t like.

MCIs will be filed for 54 building addresses, a few with multiple filings, according to SPS spokesperson Paula Chirhart. The intercom MCI will be for all Peter Cooper buildings, while the ADA ramp one will be for just two buildings, 400-410 East 20th Street and 430-440 East 20th Street, with a shared ramp at each building. As for the intercoms, the new system will have its own wiring instead of using tenants’ land lines. The water heaters are being replaced, because, according to Chirhart, at this point, the cost of repairing them would be higher than buying new. The waterproofing work is the result of inspections which take place every five years, with work being done if the inspection shows it’s necessary. That work is being done at 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 Peter Cooper Road, 511 and 531 East 20th Street and 510 and 530 East 23rd Street.

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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 Tenants Association’s Al Doyle gives testimony at rent regulation extension signing

Apr2 TA Al Doyle

Al Doyle, board member of ST-PCV TA (Photo by Anne Greenberg)

The following is testimony given by Alvin Doyle in favor of enacting Intro 685, renewal of the NYC rent regulation laws for another three years, on Monday, March 30.

Good afternoon. I’m Alvin Doyle, a member of the board of directors of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association and a lifelong rent-stabilized tenant. I’m here to speak in support of Intro 685.

Our united developments contain over 11,000 apartments, and we have been ravaged by rapacious owners and others. We see our once-peaceful, stable, and affordable middle-class community being destroyed.

Vacancy deregulation is the worm within, slowly, painfully, inexorably eating away at our affordable housing stock.
As our neighbors have died or moved out, apartments have been renovated, chopped up to add so-called bedrooms, and stuffed with more adult occupants than they were designed to accommodate or that the infrastructure can support. The rest of the city will soon see this as real estate types seek to add value, as they say, to existing buildings.

By manipulating existing regulations, our owners have jacked rents up so high that they are well above market rate. I’m talking about as much as $7,000 for a one-bedroom apartment in a building that doesn’t even have a doorman. Families trying to put down roots regularly find themselves priced out of their homes and their school district. Young people have to submit to dorm-like living just to get a toehold in this town.

Mayor de Blasio, you have committed to adding 200,000 affordable units, and we applaud that. We have over 11,000 such units, and it’s far easier to preserve than to build. But we need strong laws to do this. We deeply appreciate your making the case in Albany recently. We need your political and moral leadership now to repeal vacancy deregulation, which makes apartments and communities unaffordable and New York City untenable.
We need to keep rent-stabilized apartments stabilized. No taking them out of the program by jacking up the rents and churning the tenants — no more automatic 20 percent increase every time the apartment turns over because with current landlord practices, they turn over frequently.

No more perpetual Major Capital Improvement costs. They should be surcharges, not part of the base rent. Once something is paid for, the cost should go away. It’s outrageous that tenants have to pay in perpetuity for what the landlord can depreciate. Who made that deal?

And we need to stop the landlords’ practice of renting apartments for hundreds of dollars less than the legal rent and then ambushing tenants with renewal increases of double-digit percentages. That underhanded tactic is destabilizing our community.

There should be room in every borough for New Yorkers at every income level. We can’t allow greedy real estate operators to buy off upstate officials to support their plan to turn Manhattan in particular into an enclave for the rich and absent. We want to keep the lights turned on for everyone so that we can continue to attract the young, the energetic, the creative — and house them. And we want those who have lived here all their lives to know they can stay in their homes in the city they have worked hard in and to which they have contributed so much.

Garodnick: Bondholders say they’re owed $4.7 B

Dec11 TA crowd

Tenants pack the auditorium of the Simon Baruch Middle School for the Tenants Association meeting on Saturday. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buchel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel
While the future of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village remains as uncertain as ever, at a meeting held on Saturday, tenants got walked through what some of the legalese concerning the foreclosure that had been planned for earlier this year and then canceled means for the community.

This was one of the topics covered at the meeting, which was held by the ST-PCV Tenants Association and attended by around 500 residents who packed the auditorium of the Simon Baruch Middle School.

Council Member Dan Garodnick discussed how when the foreclosure was canceled, the deed of property was transferred to the senior level of the trust. He said that this means the bondholders now own the property but CWCapital continues to represent their interests. He noted that the agreement put in place means that CWCapital could represent the bondholders for a term of three years, which is renewable for a second three-year term. He added that they originally acquired the property for $3 billion and are open to the possibility of conversion but only if they get back the $4.7 billion they are owed.

When a resident asked later in the meeting why the amount had increased so much, Garodnick noted that it was due to interest and fees.
“A whole list of junk,” he said. “‘Special servicing fees,’ that’s what they claim to be owed.”

Garodnick also addressed a question from a resident about CWCapital’s parent company, Fortress. While Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have pledged to not approve of any deal that reduced affordable housing, Garodnick noted that it was possible to cut Fannie and Freddie out of the process if CWCapital hands the property over to Fortress, although he noted that this scenario is unlikely.

State Senator Brad Hoylman speaks to the crowd, while Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and Council Member Dan Garodnick listen. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

State Senator Brad Hoylman speaks to the crowd, while Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and Council Member Dan Garodnick listen. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Along with Garodnick, other local elected officials were in attendance to address the TA’s conversion effort, the state of affordable housing and other topics.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh were also at the meeting and were joined later in the afternoon by City Comptroller Scott Stringer, State Senator Brad Hoylman and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

Stringer assured the crowd his office is committed to preserving affordable housing, especially given the recent Democratic losses in Albany.

“Our office is ready to partner with whatever plan this Tenants Association puts forward,” he said. “Even the most important and ambitious housing plan can’t make up the loss if Stuyvesant Towns and Peter Cooper Villages of the world are lost.”
Stringer added that it was his son’s third birthday, eliciting cheers from the crowd. But when State Senator Brad Hoylman, who spoke next, made sure everyone was aware that it was also Governor Cuomo’s birthday, the room was silent.

“It’s just a fact. We’re gonna need him,” Hoylman said apologetically among laughs from the crowd after the negative reaction.

Holyman then discussed the Democrats’ current fate in Albany.
“Unfortunately it’s not very different from what you see out the window: cold, dreary and windy,” he remarked.

Hoylman blamed poor voter turnout in the recent midterm elections for Democratic losses in the state. With the rent laws up for renewal next year, he said that the Republicans’ new operational majority will make protecting tenants more difficult.

“Some Republicans live closer to Cleveland than to Manhattan,” he said. “But physically making yourself known makes a difference. We have numbers on our side and a lot of smart people on our side.”

He added that legislation protecting tenants did get passed in 2011 when Republicans also had a majority so he encouraged residents to remain optimistic.

TA attorney Tim Collins also spoke to address specific questions and concerns about rent and MCIs.

Collins discussed rent and MCI concerns at the beginning of the meeting. Residents of 431 East 20th Street in Peter Cooper Village said that they had received MCIs for façade work at the end of November and residents from 601 East 20th Street and 2 Peter Cooper Road also received docket letters from DHCR about MCIs for façade work.

“How is it restoration and improvement?” one tenant asked, prompting laughter from neighbors. Collins agreed with the assessment, noting, “It’s not an improvement, it’s a repair.”

A notice from the TA that was released on Monday said that more buildings will likely be hit with the MCI for façade work. The statement encouraged residents to keep the docket letters they receive about MCIs from DHCR and send copies to the TA so it can keep track of which buildings have received them and help tenants fight the rent increases.

Another issue discussed was apartment inspections with tenants skeptical that management only needs to give a day’s notice to come in for inspections. However, Collins confirmed that this is correct. If management needs to get into an apartment to do any work or make repairs, the tenants need to be informed a week in advance but if they need to get in just for inspections, they only need to inform tenants 24 hours before.

Collins also addressed late fees that some tenants have been charged with, including tenants who have been charged but said they don’t have a provision for late fees in their lease.

“If you have been charged a late fee, talk to management because there is no legal recourse for the fee,” he said, adding that tenants with such a provision who have been charged more than five percent should be getting a refund. He noted that there is also some leniency for tenants who are late on their rent the first time and he recommended talking to management about the fee.

TA chair Susan Steinberg noted that the TA will be meeting with management on December 16 and would be able to address questions from residents raised at the meeting, including the lack of action from public safety concerning speeding electronic bikes, disruptive NYU students and residents who are in non-compliance with the floor covering rules.

Letters to the Editor, Oct. 16

Mayor’s actions aren’t measuring up

Re: “The Soapbox: Why the mayor won’t support a conversion,” T&V, Oct. 9

To the Editor:

Iggy Reilly argues that the mayor won’t support a conversion because it would reduce the number of affordable housing units; since the mayor supports “affordable housing,” whatever that means, he can’t appear to contradict himself by advocating both.

This argument assumes that the mayor really supports affordable housing because he has said so. But his actions say otherwise. He has followed in the footsteps of Bloomberg and Giuliani and appointed a Rent Guidelines Board that has just increased rents again. If the mayor is not aware of the obvious, let me point out that increasing rents more and more every year results in less and less apartments that could be, at least “considered,” affordable.

But in truth with rent hikes every year for the past 20 years and more and more MCIs, affordable rents are approaching levels that could change a stabilized apartment to one subject to the free market. Affordability is a joke.

When I was working as a New York City teacher, my rent ate just 16 percent of my salary. Now retired, my “affordable” rent devours 47 percent of my pension, so I have less money to pay more rent. So I doubt the mayor is interested in affordable housing, at least not in Stuy Town where he undermined the efforts of our tenant-friendly neighbor and councilman, Dan Garodnick. Seems the mayor didn’t want a tenant advocate to head the City Council.

We live in a city, state and country where Greed is God, er, good. So if conversion is the goal, it will be necessary to stuff the ravenous jaws of that obese monster Greed with more green stuff than the other guy. Or, if the other guy has more cash (most likely), tenant groups around the city could wage a city-wide education campaign to inform millions of tenants that their rent hikes are the result of the mayor’s actions and urge them to write so many letters to the mayor that all the offices at City Hall will be stuffed.

The mayor must be made to realize that he will not be re-elected unless he reduces rents, not allow them to continuing increasing like the monster Greed.

John Cappelletti, ST

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MCI pending for building facades

ST buildingsBy Sabina Mollot

An application has been filed for a new major capital improvement (MCI), this time for work on building facades.

Susan Steinberg, chair of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, said on Wednesday she just learned about the pending MCI, with residents at two buildings getting notices. At 541 East 20th Street, the work had been completed in in August, 2012. The other building is 17 Stuyvesant Oval.

As with any MCI, recipients of the notices have 30 days to challenge the MCIs or request an extension, the latter of which Steinberg said the TA would like to do. The work on the facades was extensive as opposed to the brick pointing that takes place around the complex from time to time. While Steinberg acknowledged some buildings’ facades were in serious need of repair, she said the TA still wants to review the details of the project, as it does with any MCI.

At 541, the work, which management estimated cost over $100,000 would cost tenants $3 per room per month.

“Which,” said Steinberg, “doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s on top of other MCIs.”

At this time, the association’s attorney is still reviewing two MCIs that the TA had unsuccessfully attempted to fight through the Division of Housing and Community Renewal. The DHCR had shot down arguments the TA had made against roof and elevator MCIs for some buildings in Stuyvesant Town.

Peter Cooper buildings get new video intercoms

By Sabina Mollot

In recent weeks, residents in Peter Cooper Village have either seen new video intercom systems installed in their buildings or received notice that the work will begin soon. Although a bunch of buildings have had the project completed already, management’s been mostly mum on the issue, declining to discuss the intercoms themselves.

However, at least one PCV resident gave T&V a review of the new product, saying he liked the old system better. Because, explained Council Member Dan Garodnick, the intercom that was recently installed in his apartment can only be used by the front door.

“I don’t like it as much as I like being able to pick up my phone wherever I am in my apartment to let someone in the door,” said Garodnick. “With two little kids running around, I like being able to pick up the cordless phone wherever I am.”

Another resident in a building that had recently gotten a notice that work would soon begin said residents still haven’t been told what day the project would start. She added that she and neighbors wanted to know since the installation requires worker access to individual apartments.

Last week, T&V asked management about dates and on Friday, Brian Moriarty, a rep for CWCapital, said tenants would receive at minimum five business days notice before work begins at their buildings. “Management will post an initial notice indicating the commencement of work in the common areas and will provide a subsequent notice in advance of the apartment installation that includes the date of installation and contact information to ask follow up questions,” Moriarty said.

The intercoms were installed first, last year, at a couple of buildings that were Sandy damaged. A resident at 7 Peter Cooper Road said overall the new intercom works well, though, thanks to the screen, everyone at the door appears to have a huge nose.

Another resident at 8 Peter Cooper Road said the intercoms are hard to use because it takes a while to scroll to find the person’s name. “You have to be a rocket scientist and delivery people don’t want to spend the time,” he said.

As to whether or not the work will mean another major capital improvement increase (MCI) for tenants, there’s no way to know for sure until an application is filed with the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR). However, residents have gotten MCIs for intercoms in the past.

The Tenants Association said this week that it is looking into the possibility.

“We acknowledge tenants’ concerns about the new intercoms, the quality of their installation, and whether they will be subject to an MCI,” said TA Chair Susan Steinberg.

Meanwhile, the TA has also been attempting to figure out its next steps with regards to two MCIs that it had been attempting to fight through the DHCR. The DHCR had recently rejected the TA’s arguments against the MCIs, which were for roof and elevator work in Stuyvesant Town. As a result, retroactive portions of those MCIs are now collectible.

“The Tenants Association and its attorney are evaluating the DHCR decisions and are concerned about what could be procedural irregularities,” Steinberg told T&V. “We hope to have more information soon.”

‘Roberts’ tenants on how settlement, court win impacted them

Jennifer Kops, pictured with daughter Kiki at a Peter Stuyvesant Little League Parade in 2013, has moved within ST/PCV three times in four years. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Jennifer Kops, pictured with daughter Kiki at a Peter Stuyvesant Little League Parade in 2013, has moved within ST/PCV three times in four years. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
Last week, residents and former residents of ST/PCV who were members of the “Roberts” class action finally received their long awaited damages checks.
As Town & Village first reported, over 5,000 of them received non-payment deductions and class members who were former residents were subject to retroactive MCI fees.
This week, T&V spoke with a few “Roberts” tenants to ask how the damages as well as the lawsuit itself, which led to lowered rents for many, changed their lives (or didn’t.)
Here’s what they had to say:

Jennifer Kops, a Stuyvesant Town mother of two who works as an administrative assistant, said she didn’t get anything in damages. She thought she’d be getting $434 but didn’t see a dime after legal fees, MCIs and nonpayment deductions. She grew up in Peter Cooper Village and after divorcing, returned over four years ago with children Jack and Kiki. In that time, she and her family have lived in two one-bedroom apartments in Peter Cooper and now a two-bedroom in Stuyvesant Town.
“We’re fine, but the suit didn’t do anything for me,” said Kops. She moved the last time since the upgrade to a two-bedroom was $3,350 a month, only $100 more than what she’d been paying at her last apartment. “Stuy Town is always a little cheaper,” she said.
Though making the rent has never been simple, “we wouldn’t want to leave,” Kops said.
Kops had been on the board of the Tenants Association for a few years, her kids are in the Peter Stuyvesant Little League and she is currently involved in the PTA at her daughter’s school, PS40. There she’s met other moms in similar situations to her own, tenants in Stuyvesant Town, who’ve turned living rooms into bedrooms with either pressurized walls or bookcases for their kids. This is what Kops had done in her last place, but found life in a one-bedroom too difficult.
“The kids are getting older and I needed more space myself. I don’t like sleeping in the living room.”
The new place is on the main floor and she often hears the conversations of the maintenance employees whose lounge is below her apartment, but that’s her only gripe.
“We hear their morning roll call and we can hear them yelling at each other,” said Kops, “but we overlook a garden area. It’s actually very quiet and peaceful.”

Maurice Owen-Michaane (right) and his husband Michael got a $13,000 payout.

Maurice Owen-Michaane (right) and his husband Michael got a $13,000 payout.

Former resident Maurice Owen-Michaane, who lived in Stuy Town for five years until September, 2012, said it wasn’t “Roberts” that changed things for him or his family, but other factors like constant construction that made him think the complex was going downhill and more importantly needing more space after having a baby.
So he moved to Washington Heights where he now lives with his husband and son, and apparently, many other families nearby.
“There are lots of families and kids and strollers,” he said. “It’s nice up here.”
This week, Owen-Michaane went straight to the bank after receiving his $13,000 in damages, which, he said, will be used to send his son to pre-school and pay some of the couple’s student loans, which total $200,000.
“We’re not going on some big vacation,” he said.
Additionally, out of the damages, $1,600 was taken out for retroactive MCI fees. Not having known about that, Owen-Michaane felt that a heads up from the attorneys or tenant leaders “would have been nice.”
Owen-Michaane, who works in real estate sales for the firm Maz Group NY, added, “No one told us anything.”
That said, overall, Owen-Michaane said the suit was definitely still a win for tenants.
“It was a victory for the little guy, the middle class, who usually get forgotten,” he said.

“Roberts” tenant Jill Pratzon, who owns an art restoration business, said after getting her check, she felt misled about the entire lawsuit.
Pratzon, who moved into Stuy Town with her son and husband, a high school teacher, towards the end of the Met Life era, said due to “Roberts,” she got a $90 rent reduction. This brought down the rent for her one-bedroom apartment on Avenue C to just over $3,000. In damages, after deductions, she and her husband each got checks for $37.50.
“I feel like a fool for staying,” said Pratzon, who got a $500 increase at the time of their first renewal when Tishman Speyer took over the property. The couple’ son had just come home from brain surgery, and they asked management to consider not increasing their rent. In response, it was lowered to a $400 increase. Pratzon said she was told at the time that the owner was planting a lot of trees and that she’d love living there because it would be like the Garden of Eden.
“I come home after dark,” she said. “I don’t have time to enjoy the f—ing greenery.”
When Pratzon moved in it was because the building had an elevator and her son was in a wheelchair. “Then he was out and this lawsuit happened and I thought it was going to mean something,” said Pratzon.
Pratzon, who’s 52, said she’s recently begun taking on more clients, working longer hours, six days a week. Now she and her husband are the oldest people on their floor. People in two other apartments moved out this week.
“Everyone is young and coming and going,” she said. “We introduce ourselves and then a few months later, they’re moving out. They’re professionals or about to be young professionals. I’ve got no grievances with them. It’s management.”
Pratzon also pointed out that in order to afford the rent, her family has no savings.
“We’re hanging on with our fingernails. I felt for years that New York doesn’t want us, me with my small business and my husband who helps at-risk kids in Brooklyn.”

Jill Campbell at her new apartment in Williamsburg

Jill Campbell at her new apartment in Williamsburg

Jill Campbell, a documentary maker, moved into Stuyvesant Town in 2008. The following year, with the “Roberts” case being won by tenants, she was attending tenant meetings and hearing about how the apartments were re-regulated and later, about the Tenants Association’s hope of going condo. At one point, she recalled her rent going down slightly as a result of the case, but just last month, after the most recent increase, she felt she couldn’t afford it anymore. And this was after haggling and getting a significant amount shaved off the bill. Campbell asked that the amount of her rent and what she received in damages not be published. However, she noted that due to legal fees, the damages were less than what she thought she’d be getting.
Overall, Campbell, who now lives in Williamsburg, said she doesn’t feel like the lawsuit impacted her, other than if she hadn’t gotten her hopes up for lower rent similar to what those in unrenovated units were paying, she would have moved out sooner.
But that wasn’t the only reason for leaving.
“It felt like we were living in a dorm,” she said. “Especially on weekends when they would leave pizza boxes scattered on the hallway floors.  The door badge system particularly felt like an invasion of privacy as I had to register any guest that I wanted to provide a key for. The price tag was way to high to live in a dorm. All the ‘Roberts’ expectations and the town meetings surrounding the case did was to raise false expectations that my rent would be lower and that one day I might buy the place at an inside price. When both of those did not materialize we had no choice but to leave.”
While she doesn’t feel the suit did much for “Roberts” tenants, Campbell said she believes it did help the older residents in that it stopped the wave of primary residence challenges aimed at getting them out.
“I think it was good for the old-timers who now have peace of mind,” she said.

Software writer Nick Furness, a resident since 2001, said he first lived in Stuyvesant Town in a two-bedroom, then moved into a one-bedroom in 2003 when the rent got higher than he could afford. He and his wife, a handbag designer, were okay until the rent there got to be around $3500. They then started looking around at other places and though they found other places in the East Village that were slightly cheaper, “they were horrible.” Plus, Stuy Town rent at least included utilities and the large windows offered a lot of light.
After the market crashed, in 2008 or 2009, Furness said he was able to negotiate a significantly lower rent. He wasn’t aware of the “Roberts” litigation at the time and now wonders if it was the reason he was able to get Tishman Speyer to agree to reduce his rent to around $2600. Since then it’s been slowly “creeping back up,” said Furness and he now pays a little over $3,000.
“We’re happy to pay it because it’s the going rate for apartments in this neighborhood.”
In damages, the Furnesses were due $17,000. After fees, the amount was around $11,000. He was a bit surprised by the amount, admitting he hadn’t read all the fine print of the settlement. “It’s like how no one ever reads the iTunes contract.”
At the end of the day, while Furness said he wished attorneys had done more to protect tenants from high fees, he believes he’s better off with a rent regulated home.
“With the rules in place,” said Furness, “I feel happier staying here than I would being in the free market. When the market went up stupidly, our rent went up 30 to 40 percent. That would have been hard to bear.”

Many ‘Roberts’ tenants getting less money than expected

Alex Schmidt

Alex Schmidt

By Sabina Mollot
Many current and former residents of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village who are members of the “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” class action are getting less in damages than they were expecting.
Specifically, over 5,000 of them have had non-payment deductions taken out of their damages, as well as close to a third taken out for legal fees and expenses, and in some cases, with money also taken out for retroactive MCIs.

On Thursday, June 12, the overcharge payments from CWCapital were sent out, and those who received non-payment deductions will have 45 days to dispute those charges.
Tenants’ “Roberts” attorney Alex Schmidt said he plans to challenge the “NPD” claims for tenants who don’t think they’re accurate.
As for the reasons tenants got the non-payment deductions, he said he didn’t know since CW wouldn’t provide that information.
“We don’t have access to underlying evidence, so people who believe they’re wrong have to contact us,” said Schmidt.

However, out of the 5,000 non-payment deductions, more than half are for amounts under $100. Those cases may have been attributed to things like late fees or lost key charges, Schmidt guessed. “Collectively those things add up,” he said. “It’s up to the tenant if they feel $25, $50 or $100 is worth fighting for.”
A spokesperson for CWCapital declined to comment on the deductions.As for the major capital improvements (MCIs), it was former tenants who’ve been hit with those since the recent MCI settlement between CWCapital and the Tenants Association only includes reductions or eliminations of fees for current tenants.
“It doesn’t do anything for the former tenants,” noted Schmidt.

One former resident, Steven Zecca, commented on the Town & Village Blog about how he received a rather hefty MCI deduction.
“I received my check on Saturday, June 14th,” he said, “along with a third cut from the original damages amount, a non-payment deduction for back rent of $118 and over $1500 for retroactive MCIs…Stuytown resident from May 2010 through August 2013… Anyone have any idea how these retroactive MCIs work and what I was charged for?”

Schmidt said that attorneys investigated and learned that the law does permit CW to charge retroactive MCIs to former tenants.

Out of a $173 million settlement for tenants in apartments that were illegally deregulated by former owners Met Life and Tishman Speyer, $68.75 million is being paid out to tenants. The rest of the money is in the form of rent savings. “Roberts” tenants and former tenants who were owed money from when Met Life was the owner of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village were paid at the end of 2013.
Damages range per person with some getting a minimal payout of $150 and others getting thousands.
The payments are being made from different pools out of the $68.75 million, with the pool of former tenants owed money by CW being the biggest. Schmidt has said tenants could expect to see 100 percent of what they overpaid as calculated by the settlement formula minus legal fees (around 30 percent).

In response to receiving a number of complaints from confused tenants, Council Member Dan Garodnick said he’d asked Schmidt’s firm, Wolf Haldenstein, to send tenants “a complete explanation to address these issues” and soon. And, he added, the firm has agreed.
“It’s apparent that a significant number of people got a deduction that didn’t expect it,” said Garodnick, “and they deserve clarification on what’s going on.”

Correction: The article was changed to reflect the fact that the pool of former tenants is the biggest, not the current tenants, and current tenants could see up to 100 percent of their damages.

Remembering Roy Goodman and more civilized days in Albany

Roy Goodman in a photo that ran in Town & Village in 1977

Roy Goodman in a photo that ran in Town & Village in 1977

By Sabina Mollot
On June 3, 2014, Roy Goodman, the Republican New York State senator who represented part of the East Side of Manhattan, including Stuyvesant Town, for 33 years, died at the age of 84.
According to his daughter Claire Pellegrini-Cloud, Goodman’s death at a hospital in Danbury, Connecticut, was most likely caused by pneumonia.
He had also, for around a decade, been battling Parkinson’s and relied on a wheelchair to get around. His death came as a surprise however, since he’d been active and was just returning home to Manhattan from a trip to see one of his six grandchildren graduate from Harvard. He also attended a number of other events at Harvard, his alma mater, recently, including an awards dinner. On the way home from the graduation trip, an aide noticed that Goodman’s hands were turning blue and called 911. Goodman was admitted to Danbury Hospital on Thursday night, but wound up taking a turn for the worse over the weekend.
“He was surrounded by family up until the last moment,” Pellegrini-Cloud said. “It was a peaceful death.”
Throughout his lengthy political career, Goodman was known for his socially liberal views. He was a supporter of women’s rights, from protection against domestic violence to the right to choose, as well as of LGBT rights and services for people with HIV/AIDS when the disease was just coming into public awareness. He also fought for tenant rights and affordability and was instrumental in the prevention of Riverwalk, a towering luxury development that would have cut off ST/PCV residents’ access to the waterfront and blocked their views of the river. While tackling the city’s fiscal crisis during the 1970s, he still pushed for continued funding of the arts. He also worked on city charter revision and ran the State Senate’s committee on investigations.
Though he left office over a decade ago, with his passing, former colleagues have been wistfully noting the official end to an era when Republicans and Democrats enjoyed a far less contentious — and far more productive — working relationship.
Since his departure from office in 2002, when he was succeeded by Liz Krueger, there have been no Republicans elected anywhere in Manhattan.

State Senator Roy Goodman (left) with Vincent Albano, chairman of the New York County Republican Committee, in a 1979 Town & Village photo

State Senator Roy Goodman (left) with Vincent Albano, chairman of the New York County Republican Committee, in a 1979 Town & Village photo

At that time, noted Pellegrini-Cloud, Goodman was disappointed at the sharp right turn his party had taken, and that “people couldn’t rise above personal vendettas to work together. He was very solution oriented.”
She added that this attitude extended to Goodman’s family life. When she was growing up, Goodman would make sure each of his three children, Claire, Randolph and Leslie, got equal airtime at the dinner table. When there were disagreements, “He would say, ‘Let’s not be so quick to judge that person. Let’s see it from their point of view,’” said Pellegrini-Cloud.
Meanwhile, she disagreed with a detail in a recent story in the New York Times, which first reported on Goodman’s passing, that said her father was seen by some as a snob.
“He was known for mixing it up with anyone,” she said. “Yeah he used flowery language, but he was a great believer that the average person could understand that. Why dumb it down?”
Steven Sanders, the Assemblyman who represented the ST/PCV area for 28 years (25 of those alongside Goodman) recalled working with the senator to fight Riverwalk as well of another development farther north in Tudor City. That Harry Helmsley project would have destroyed residents’ park space. Sanders, on the morning of his wedding day, heard that a bulldozer had come to the site, and promptly headed over there to join the tenants in forming a human chain. Goodman, meanwhile, managed to secure an order from a judge to stop work despite it being a weekend.
He also recalled how due to legislation sponsored by Goodman in the Senate and Sanders in the Assembly, the cost of major capital improvement rent increases (MCIs) for tenants was reduced.
“Since MCIs as we know are paid in perpetuity, the cumulative savings for tenants became hundreds of dollars in each year,” Sanders said. They also worked together with the owner of Waterside Plaza, Richard Ravitch, and the Waterside Tenants Association to create an affordable housing contract for tenants at the complex when its Mitchell-Lama contract expired in 2001.
He also recalled how back in the 1980s, he and Goodman, along with then Town & Village Publisher Charles Hagedorn and Bill Potter, then the general manager of Stuyvesant Town, would meet for lunch every few months. The spot was usually Capucines, a restaurant on Second Avenue at 19th Street that recently closed.
“It was social and an occasional discussion of some community issues,” said Sanders, who is now the only surviving member of that group. “Imagine that… Republicans and Democrats, and the representative of the landlord Met life along with the publisher of the Town & Village joining together as colleagues.”
But, added the former assemblyman, who left office eight years ago, “Roy and I come from a different time. That notion of governing seems to have been lost. Politics has been exceedingly contentious. It’s all about winning and losing. We had our tussles every two years when I supported my candidates and he supported his, but then we’d have a drink or lunch and we would do community work for our district. We will not see his like again.”
Krueger, whose first run for office was against Goodman, said she remembered her opponent’s humor when he ultimately defeated her.
“His graciousness and good humor were on full display from that campaign’s beginning to its end, when, victorious after a six-week recount, he jokingly dubbed himself ‘Landslide Goodman,’” she shared in a written statement last week.
According to a Times article, he had a similar attitude when he lost a mayoral race in 1977 to Ed Koch.

Roy Goodman (right) with Frank Scala in a 2006 campaign  flier for Scala’s Assembly run

Roy Goodman (right) with Frank Scala in a 2006 campaign flier for Scala’s Assembly run

Frank Scala, the president of the Vincent Albano Republican Club, was a friend of Goodman’s and had his endorsement when he ran an unsuccessful campaign for Assembly in 2006 during a special election.
This week, Scala pointed out that most people living in ST/PCV are unaware of Goodman’s involvement in the creation of Stuyvesant Cove Park a decade ago.
While still in office, he’d allocated $1.2 million for its construction. “If it wasn’t for Roy Goodman the park wouldn’t have been built,” said Scala.
Goodman had also encouraged Scala to revive the Albano Club after it had been inactive for years.
In 1981, Goodman became the Republican New York County Committee chair and remained in that position for 20 years.
After leaving office, he served as CEO for the United Nations Development Corporation and was a participant in a handful of organizations supporting the arts. Up until the time of his death he lived on the Upper East Side, where he grew up, the grandson of Israel Matz, founder of Ex-Lax.
In an interesting coincidence, Goodman’s death occurred within 24 hours of the time his wife of over 50 years, Barbara, died eight years ago.
On both days, Pellegrini-Cloud remembered there being loud, violent thunderstorms, and only after the more recent one, she spotted a rainbow.
“I like to think it was my dad’s stairway to heaven, going to join Mom,” she said. “It was incredible.”
Condolence visitation for Goodman was held on Sunday, June 15 from 6-8 p.m. at Frank E. Campbell, 1076 Madison Avenue at 81st Street. The funeral service was on Monday, June 16 at Temple Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue and 65th Street. The burial was private.

MCI settlement was best possible deal for tenants, TA attorney says

Tenants Association attorney Tim Collins at a meeting on Saturday (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Tenants Association attorney Tim Collins at a meeting on Saturday (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
On the heels of the MCI settlement between CWCapital and the ST-PCV Tenants Association, around 250 tenants attended a meeting on Saturday to learn more about what the deal meant for them.
As usual almost all in attendance at the TA meeting, held at the Simon Baruch Middle School, were seniors. A bunch came armed with questions regarding the MCIs as well as quality of life and general affordability issues. However, those with unique circumstances were herded into another room at the school where there were tables to set up to help people understand the figures on their leases and with other problems.
Meanwhile, Tim Collins, the attorney for the ST-PCV Tenants Association addressed the crowd. First, he responded to some “grumbling” the deal has gotten since for most non-“Roberts” tenants, there’s only five percent removed from their monthly payments. Collins argued that as with any settlement, “you have to make deals. You have to trade something.” “Roberts” tenants wound up getting the higher reductions or full eliminations of the monthly payments because, said Collins, “they’re already paying very high rents.”
As a result of the deal, all tenants have had the retroactive portion of their MCIs (major capital improvements) eliminated. As for the monthly or permanent portion, “Roberts” tenants paying the full legal rent get a 5 percent credit. “Roberts’ tenants paying either the maximum modified legal rent or the maximum “Roberts” preferential rent get a 50 percent credit (as determined by the class action settlement). “Roberts” tenants paying less than the modified legal rent or “Roberts” preferential rent get a credit of 100 percent.
SCRIE/DRIE tenants are also exempt from having to pay the MCIs at all.
Non-“Roberts” tenants paying the full legal rent get a 5 percent credit. Non-“Roberts” tenants paying less than the full legal rent get a credit of 100 percent.  The credits are retroactive to January of this year and appear as two separate credits on tenants’ rent bill from May (one for May, one for the other four months).
While discussing the settlement, Collins tried to discourage residents from filing individual PARs (petitions for administrative review) since that could unravel the settlement for all tenants, a clause CW insisted on. Those hoping to score a better deal, warned Collins, would have less standing as individuals with the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) than a coalition like the TA has. He also pointed out that the TA had been at work for months in the hope of getting the best possible deal.
“I think we accomplished that,” said Collins.
He also shared with tenants that the settlement almost didn’t happen, with the talks breaking down twice. He declined to explain why, but admitted he wasn’t happy about having to agree that tenants would have to give up the option to file PARs.
But in trying to see it from the owner’s side, Collins said, “They wanted there to be finality. They wanted to have peace. They don’t want to fight 500 or 1,000 PARs that disrupt the deal.”
The deal does however make exceptions for tenants who want to file a PAR in unusual circumstances, such as the room count of their apartments being incorrect, since MCI costs vary based on the number of rooms in a unit.
Collins also reminded tenants that even before the negotiations, the TA had managed to convince the DHCR to knock 23 percent off the amount then-owner Tishman Speyer asked for in 2009. The challenge that followed came about after tenants received notices of the approved MCIs last fall and Collins saw that none of his arguments made in 2012 against the improvements, such as shoddy workmanship, had been considered.
The attorney also echoed the sentiment often made by local politicians that MCIs are not just a problem for tenants in Stuy Town, but a result of a law that favors landlords by allowing them to charge in perpetuity for building improvements.
“The main problem is in Albany,” he said.

Collins’ advice: Sign a one-year lease, not two.
Collins concluded his talk by urging tenants who have lease renewals coming up before October to take a one-year lease rather than a two-year one.
The reason, said Collins, who served as the executive director/counsel for the Rent Guidelines Board from 1987-1994, is that the RGB is expected to vote for a lower increase this year than what was handed down in previous years. Even a rent freeze is possible based on the preliminary vote last week. However, the increase voted on won’t go into effect until October.
Collins added that in recent years, the board’s increases amount to “nothing less than a scandal.”
The reason, he said, is that arguments made in support of owners involved projected operating cost increases that were much higher than what they actually turned out to be. At the same time, household incomes were dropping. Collins admitted that when he worked for the board, he took a somewhat hands-off approach, telling its members, “It’s not your job to make every apartment affordable or every building profitable for owners.” But over time, he started to feel like landlords were being given too much and advised the board to implement a rent freeze.
“This year I’m asking for a rollback,” he added.
Following his comments, TA President John Marsh chimed in to say Collins was speaking for himself and not on behalf of the TA, since what kind of lease to sign is always a gamble.
Council Member Dan Garodnick also spoke about the RGB, to recommend that tenants to participate in this year’s vote process by speaking at public hearings about their MCIs. With a new chair and new mayor, Garodnick pointed out that tenants have a better shot at swaying the board this year than they’ve had in the last 20 years. “I would encourage you to make your voices heard,” he said. “It’s quite an opportunity for tenants in this city.”
(Editor’s note: In a recent editorial, T&V also recommended that tenants tell the RGB about their MCIs, in the hope that hearing about unexpected increases tenants are made to pay mid-lease will have an impact on the board’s decision on the annual increase.)
The next public hearing in Manhattan takes place on June 16 at the Emigrant Savings Bank at 49-51 Chambers Street from 2-6 p.m.

ST-PCV Tenants Association President John Marsh speaking at a Tenants Association meeting on Saturday, with Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, Comptroller Scott Stringer, State Senator Brad Hoylman and Council Member Dan Garodnick (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

ST-PCV Tenants Association President John Marsh speaking at a Tenants Association meeting on Saturday, with Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, Comptroller Scott Stringer, State Senator Brad Hoylman and Council Member Dan Garodnick (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Support for tenant-led purchase of ST/PCV
Another issue discussed at the meeting was the future sale of ST/PCV, with Garodnick saying a tenant-led deal has the support of the city’s housing commissioner.
Later, he told Town & Village that along with HPD (Department of Housing Preservation and Development) Commissioner Vicki Been, he’d also spoken with the deputy mayor for economic development, Alicia Glen.
“My sense from them was that they wanted to find a way to be supportive of tenants in our initiative if they can,” he said.
On the other hand, CWCapital has remained unwilling to talk business.
“Not just with us but with anybody,” Garodnick said at the meeting. “We all suspect that a sale is somewhere on the horizon, but we’re not sure when.”
(Three days after the meeting, the plan to foreclose on the Stuy Town’s mezzanine was made public.)

Tenants at the meeting at Simon Baruch Middle School (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Tenants at the meeting at Simon Baruch Middle School (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Why tenants are pretty much doomed thanks to Albany and City Hall
As always, there was also much depressing talk about the politics governing rent laws at the event. Local elected officials took turns at the podium explaining why tenant-friendly bills never get anywhere.
State Senator Brad Hoylman reiterated a point he’s made before, saying that until there’s campaign finance reform, the State Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, will remain a place that’s more friendly to landlords than tenants. He noted that many of the Republicans get millions in campaign contributions from real estate interests and also often live in upstate districts where there are few renters. The Olean, NY-based Cathy Young, who chairs the Senate Standing Committee on Housing, Construction and Community Development, has blocked campaign finance reform from even being discussed on the Senate floor, Hoylman said. This, he explained, is why Senate members have been reduced to arguing about yogurt.
“Her district is closer to Detroit than Manhattan,” said Hoylman of Young, who’s also legislatively tried to undo “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer.” “We need to continue to fight for campaign finance reform,” Hoylman added. “It is fundamental to changing the power dynamic in Albany.”
Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh then spoke about how the state housing agency’s new Tenants Protection Unit was in danger of being de-funded by the State Senate.
Also at the meeting was Comptroller Scott Stringer who said that the mayor’s housing plan aimed at building or preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing won’t be enough to make up for the amount of affordable units that are getting lost each year. In the last 12 years,
Stringer said, “rent have skyrocketed by 75 percent,” while in the past 16 years, 400,000 apartments that rented for $1,000 or less disappeared. “Two hundred thousand (units), it’s just not enough to deal with the crisis,” Stringer said.

More ‘Roberts’ payments to be sent out this month: Attorney

Alex Schmidt

“Roberts” attorney for tenants, Alex Schmidt

UPDATE: June 4, Attorney Alex Schmidt said a court order had been signed at around 3 p.m.  to authorize the payments and checks should be going out next Thursday.

UPDATE May 30: Attorney Alex Schmidt said he will be going to court on Monday, June 2.

By Sabina Mollot
Current and former ST/PCV residents who are members of the “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” class action should be getting their rent overpayment checks later this month, the lead attorney for tenants, Alex Schmidt said.
Though they were originally supposed to be paid earlier in the year, there was a delay because CWCapital had claimed many of the tenants owed back rent.
The delay was also due to the settlement between CWCapital and the ST-PCV Tenants Association over five MCIs (major capital improvements). As a result of the settlement, along with the monthly rent increases being reduced or eliminated, retroactive portions of those MCIs were also eliminated for most tenants.
“Once that agreement was signed and announced, we had to go back and make sure all the current tenants who were slated to receive non-payment deductions were not being improperly charged for retroactive MCIs, which the TA’s superb settlement precludes,” Schmidt said.
At this time, the process of awarding damages to over 11,000 people who still need to be paid is almost done, Schmidt said. The attorney, who’s with the firm Wolf Haldenstein, said he’ll go to court this week or the following week to get the next round of payments to class members. Those who are believed to owe rent will still get part of their damages. To get any amount that’s in dispute, the tenant or former tenant will have a 45-day period to object.
Out of a $173 million settlement for tenants in apartments that were illegally deregulated by former owners MetLife and Tishman Speyer, close to $69 million will be paid out to tenants. The rest of the money is in the form of rent savings.
“Roberts” tenants and former tenants who were owed money from when Met Life was the owner of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village were paid at the end of 2013.
A spokesperson for CWCapital declined to comment.

CWCapital to market ST for sale soon: report

ST-PCV Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg, pictured at a a rally against mid-lease rent increases in May (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

ST-PCV Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg, pictured at a a rally against mid-lease rent increases in May (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

CWCapital is expect to market Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village in the middle of this year, according to a report on Globest.com. However, the article goes on to say a sale is not expected to be completed in 2014.

CWCapital did not respond to a request for comment on the story, and has not spoken about the possibility of a sale for some time, explaining to the ST-PCV Tenants Association, a would-be buyer with partner Brookfield Asset Management, that talks could not happen until the resolution of “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer.” That could happen soon though, since according to the “Roberts” attorney for tenants, Alex Schmidt, checks for rent overpayments as a result of the class action lawsuit, could be headed tenants’ way from CW in January or February. Payments from former owner Met Life were sent out to affected tenants in late December.

However, the company could also be waiting to resolve the ongoing negotiations over five major capital improvement (MCI) rent increases with the Tenants Association. The TA said this week that talks were still ongoing over the MCIs, which were charged on tenants’ rent bills this month after being approved late last year by the state housing agency.

Meanwhile, Susan Steinberg, chair of the Tenants Association, said on Wednesday that the fact that CW could be marketing the property for a sale soon was not a new development.

“We had seen this statement in a similar report several months ago, so this does not come as a surprise,” she said. “CW doesn’t have to go far to ‘start marketing the asset,’ since all along the TA/Brookfield partnership has been ready, willing and able to start the conversation about a tenant-led purchase that would satisfy the bondholders. We would like to think such a conversation will happen before too long.”

Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper residents won’t see MCIs on rent bills until January

Tenants Association attorney Tim Collins speaks to residents, while Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, State Senator Brad Hoylman and TA Chair Susan Steinberg listen. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

At a meeting held on November 2, ST-PCV Tenants Association attorney Tim Collins speaks to residents about the MCIs, while Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, State Senator Brad Hoylman and TA Chair Susan Steinberg listen. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Residents of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village won’t see the recently approved round of MCI rent hikes on their rent bills until after the holidays, CWCapital has announced.

In an email sent to residents on Friday, the special servicer said:

“CWCapital and CompassRock Real Estate have agreed to defer new MCI billing until January 2014. As a result, your December 2013 rent bills will not include the recently approved MCIs. CWCapital, the ST/PCV Tenants Association and DHCR are engaged in discussions regarding the implementation of the MCIs and we will keep residents informed of any developments.”

A spokesperson for management declined to comment further on the delay to implement the MCIs, which the Tenants Association also mentioned in an email to neighbors sent at around the same time in the afternoon as CW’s. The Tenants Association also noted that it was engaged in discussions with CWCapital and the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) of New York Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), the state housing agency.

In the past month, tenants have received notices that MCIs (major capital improvements) for security upgrades done in 2009 as well as work done that year on doors, resurfacing and water tanks and valves, had been approved. The Tenants Association has since said it would challenge those MCIs, while CWCapital has made an offer to reduce the MCIs’ retroactive portions by 35 percent if tenants agree not to partake in any challenge. The DHCR, meanwhile, recently agreed to the Tenants Association’s request for reconsideration of the MCIs.

Letters to the Editor, Nov. 7

Was that an offer or a threat?

As if receiving multiple MCIs that have been sitting on the DHCR’s desk without proper action and due process for years were not enough for tenants to cope with, management has taken this opportunity to instill fear and more insecurity in tenants by distributing a rather ambiguous letter not easing but adding to the confusion.

Paragraph 6 reads as follows:

“Many longer tenured residents have accrued significant retroactive charges due to the unusually long period between the MCI application dates and the approval dates. We will seek to reduce the amount of retroactive charges added to monthly bills in order to mitigate the impact of the component for our longer term residents.”

Even if all of the MCIs were to be found correct after due process, which obviously was omitted by the DHCR, the law allows the landlord to only add a specific percentile of retroactive charges to the monthly rent. The management seems to tell the tenants that if they don’t comply with their request as stated in this letter they might be faced with paying thousands of dollars all at once or as management sees fit.  If this is not fear mongering and harassment, then what is? Apparently they think tenants are so afraid and ignorant of existing laws that they will just shut up and comply.

This is certainly not a conciliatory way of solving this issue.

Name withheld, ST

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