Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer discusses her legislation at the Upper West Side location of Halal Guys. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
Legislation would make it mandatory for landlords to negotiate with retail tenants
By Sabina Mollot
New legislation could curb a trend of mom-and-pop businesses being replaced by banks and chain stores.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said she’s drafting legislation that would make it mandatory for a building’s owner to at least allow a retail tenant a chance to negotiate to keep his or her space.
“The future of street level retail stores and restaurants — I call them storefronters — has begun to look murky,” Brewer said on Monday. “Every day, the press has another story about a kids’ clothing store or a shoe repair shop closing to make room for a chain or a bank.”
The bill, which is being sponsored by the City Council’s Small Business Committee Chair Robert Cornegy at Brewer’s request, along with giving tenants a chance to negotiate, would also give the tenant the option of a one-year lease extension with a maximum rent increase of 15 percent. Additionally, a building owner, if planning on evicting the tenant, would have to give the tenant notice of that intention 180 days before the end of a lease. “So businesses will have enough time to find new space and make a transition, hopefully in the same neighborhood,” said Brewer.
Brewer also said she wanted to help business owners threatened by rent increases the option of purchasing the storefront through “condo-ization.”
“Many of the long-standing small businesses that are here today are only here because they had an opportunity to buy the building,” she said. “There was a time where you could buy a building, but that opportunity today is dim.”
While this is technically already possible under current law, Brewer said there are ways the city could be helping the process along. It may be possible, she added, to create a condo if the business portion of the building is split from the residential portion. Additionally, if 51 percent of the property or more is occupied by the business, it could qualify for a federal Small Business Association loan of up to $5 million.
Council Member Dan Garodnick tries out the adult fitness equipment. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
Last Friday morning, in near-freezing weather following the second snowfall in a week, local community leaders and politicians cut the ribbon on the newly expanded Asser Levy Playground.
Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver joked that “It’s a pleasure to cut a ribbon on this warm and sunny day,” as the politicians on either side of him sat bundled up for the cold. He then went on to say the project had been successful in terms of being both “on time and on budget and that gets a double round of applause.”
New features along the two-block-long park that was formerly a street include a track, adult fitness equipment, a synthetic turf field, drinking fountains, lighting, trees, tables and benches.
The work was funded with allocations of $1,175,000 from Council Member Dan Garodnick, $500,000 from the UN Development Corporation, and $670,000 from the mayor.
While at the podium, Silver joked that Garodnick was so enamored with project, “he named his son Asher.”
In response Garodnick confided that he’d actually told his son that the playground had been named after him.
“There are no limits to my deception,” he quipped. “I told him it was a typo on the sign.” He added that since he also has another son, “We’ll have to see what we can do for Devin.”
While construction had been underway at the site, the Council member said he and both of his young sons would pop by each day from their apartment in Peter Cooper Village and ask the project supervisor for status updates. And, he added, the supervisor was very nice about it.
The playground work was tied to a land deal that would allow the United Nations to put a building on space occupied by Robert Moses Park.While naturally the plan to remove that park space has been met with some opposition from neighbors, Garodnick said Robert Moses Park is underutilized, as the space now occupied by Asser Levy Playground was when it was a street.
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)
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.
ST-PCV Tenants Association President John Marsh at a previous meeting (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association will be holding its next general meeting on Saturday, December 6 at 1 p.m.
Topics will include recent legal issues, the annual review of Tenant Association activities, a conversion update, the Fannie Mae–Freddie Mac commitment to ST/PCV, what lies ahead in Albany post-election with respect to tenant issues and how New York City’s Comptroller’s Office and the Manhattan Borough President’s office will support the TA’s conversion effort.
Speakers will include TA attorney Tim Collins, Councilman Dan Garodnick, Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, NYS Senator Brad Hoylman, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
After the speakers, there will be an open mike question-and-answer session. Tenants will have an opportunity to line up before a floor microphone and ask about critical issues.
The meeting will be held at Middle School 104, East 20th Street between First and Second Avenues. Doors open at 12:30 p.m.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Borough President Gale Brewer, Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Council Member Daniel Garodnick and Community Board 6 invite you to participate in the New York State’s Citizen Preparedness Training Program.
The program will take place on Tuesday, August 12th 2014 at 7 p.m. at United Nations International School (UNIS), 24-50 FDR Drive (just North of 23rd Street).
Through the Citizen Preparedness Corps Training Program, approximately 100,000 New Yorkers will be provided with the tools and resources to prepare for emergencies and disasters, respond accordingly, and recover as quickly as possible to pre-disaster conditions.
Trainings participants (one per family) will receive a free Citizen Preparedness Corps Response Starter Kit, which includes:
– AM/FM pocket radio with batteries
– Regular flashlight
– Plastic drop cloth
– Light stick
– (2) D Batteries
– First Aid Kit
– Face mask
– Safety goggles
– (6) packs of drinking water
– (6) food bars
– Emergency blanket
– Duct tape
– Work gloves
– Water bottle
Mayor Bill de Blasio, seated with Council Member Dan Garodnick, ST-PCV Tenants Association President John Marsh and others, meet at Garodnick’s apartment on Tuesday. (Photo by Bob Bennett, mayor’s office)
By Sabina Mollot
On Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Bill de Blasio attended a meeting in Peter Cooper Village, hosted by Council Member Dan Garodnick in his apartment and attended by other local politicians and Tenants Association leaders. The mayor had come at the request of the Tenants Association to discuss steps the administration is taking to protect affordability at the complex.
The meeting didn’t result on any set plan of action, according to a spokesperson for the mayor and Tenants Association leaders, but was mostly about exchanging ideas and tenants discussing their concerns.
“We wanted to impress upon the mayor our perspective and I guess he felt that was fair,” said Susan Steinberg, chair of the Tenants Association.
The city has been talking, for the past month, with CWCapital, and is in the process of reviewing all aspects of the complex’s population, such as turnover, income and financing, with the goal of maintaining affordability of apartments that are still in fact affordable. This week is the halfway point for a deadline in which the owner of ST/PCV has agreed to hold off on any further actions related to a foreclosure sale.
Following the meeting, a rep for de Blasio said the possibility of using tax incentives to make the inclusion of affordable housing as attractive as a regular market-driven proposal to CWCapital has remained.
At the meeting, guests included Steinberg and John Marsh, president of the Tenants Association, as well as Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh. A rep for Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney was also there.
Naturally, the TA discussed its hopes of going condo, since, said Marsh, a conversion still appears to be the only option that would offer stability to tenants in renovated units paying market rent or close to it. This would be because, while the mayor’s goal centers around keeping the rents at an affordable level for around 6,000 units, a rollback for tenants in ST/PCV’s other, renovated units isn’t a part of that plan.
Garodnick, meanwhile, stressed that “various angles” are still being explored.
“I think we have to look at all the various angles we have with the mayor and we hope to devise a plan that puts everyone in a better place,” said Garodnick. “This is still the beginning of the process of connecting the mayor with CWCapital and putting tenants around the table. We clearly have the engagement of the mayor and that’s exactly what we want.”
The TA added, in a statement on Wednesday morning, that although the parties are working with a 60-day deadline, the mayor said more time could be added if needed, and that while he was open to the idea of a conversion, his primary goal was still affordable rentals.
Tuesday’s conversation also revolved around Albany. In particular, the recent decision by the State Senate’s Independent Democrats Coalition to end its alliance with Republicans and the expectation that Democrats will control the Senate after elections in November could, local pols hope, be a turnoff to a predatory bidder. Democratic control of the Senate is seen as tenants’ best hope to strengthen the rent regulation laws. The city also hopes bidders with no interest in affordable housing would be thwarted by a recent commitment by lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac not to finance a deal that the city and the tenants aren’t okay with.
The meeting was the first time the mayor was at Garodnick’s current apartment, though he had been at his last place, also in Peter Cooper, when the Council member hosted a gathering to support de Blasio’s campaign for public advocate.
This event was closed to press, but in a written statement, the mayor pointed out how different his interest in ST/PCV tenants is compared to his predecessor’s.
“Tenants at Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village haven’t always had the support they deserved from City Hall,” de Blasio said. “We are committed to charting a new course and working with tenants to secure a sustainable long-term solution that protects affordability.”
The mayor, left, at Council Member Dan Garodnick’s apartment with tenants and local politicians, including Borough President Gale Brewer (Photo by Anna Pycior for Assemblyman Kavanagh)
By Sabina Mollot
In what has become one of the community’s most beloved traditions, hundreds of children and their families marched through Stuyvesant Town on Saturday morning for the annual Peter Stuyvesant Little League Parade. The event, which kicked off a season of youth baseball, softball and teeball, was celebrated with a ceremony at Con Ed Field following the march that included a surprise visit from retired pro baseball player Dwight “Doc” Gooden.
While at the field, the famous pitcher who played for the Mets and the Yankees as well as the Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, told the young players he understood the importance of little league.
“Because I know that we all start here,” said Gooden. “You’ll develop friendships that will last forever.”
The Tampa native also advised the little leaguers to: “Play hard. Respect the rules. Respect the umpires. Listen to the coaches” and as for their fellow players, “Cheer them up, because one day you’ll need the cheering up.”
Another tip was simply for the players to do their best. “When you guys are at practice, practice hard because how you practice is going to be how you play. Don’t cheat yourself and don’t cheat your teammates.” But most importantly, he concluded, “Have fun and enjoy the game.”
Along with the visit from Doc, the event was also made special for the PSLL due to its getting to celebrate a 2013 District 23 Majors Baseball tournament team — the league’s first title in 57 years. Additionally, this season will also be the league’s first time playing on an AstroTurf field rather than a grass one. The long-awaited conversion to turf, first proposed a decade ago, was sponsored by the field’s owner, Con Ed.
A rep for the utility, Vice President of Environmental Health & Safety Andrea Schmitz, told the players how seeing the field covered in AstroTurf was important to her personally. “It means a lot to me because I’m a resident of Stuyvesant Town,” she said. “So I know how important the field is.”
Other guests who spoke at the field included three local elected officials: Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Brad Hoylman and Council Member Dan Garodnick.
In his brief pep talk, Garodnick told little leaguers if they play hard, it doesn’t matter if they win or lose games. This prompted PSLL President Peter Ramos to jokingly inform Garodnick that his son, Asher, had been traded.
Also included in the ceremony was the singing of “God Bless America” by PSLL member Kiki Kops and the national anthem by members Jamie Kurtzer and Maya Donovan. All the members then took the little league pledge to always do their best, followed by the parents at the field being made to take their own pledge to offer positive encouragement to their kids and respect the decisions of the umpires. The event then concluded with Gooden throwing the ceremonial first pitch of the season, which was caught by PSLL player Ethan Pascale.
The Peter Stuyvesant Little League, established in 1956, today has over 750 members between the ages of five and 16.