Accusations of racism fly at rent regs hearing

Assembly members at a hearing on rent regulations (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

A hearing on Thursday about the rent regulations that are sunsetting this June in Albany at times got heated with a speaker representing the real estate industry being accused of racism by the crowd and even a couple of Assembly members.

After a few New York City tenant leaders and advocates spoke favorably about a package of tenant-friendly bills aimed at, among other things, ending vacancy decontrol and major capital improvement rent increases, Joseph Strasburg, the president of the Rent Stabilization Association, told the Assembly housing committee members not to “NYCHA-tize the private sector.”

The Rent Stabilization Association represents roughly 25,000 New York City landlords.

In response to his comment, a couple of audience members shouted out “Racist!”

Strasburg disagreed, but one black Assembly member, Latrice Walker, responded that as someone who had grown up in a NYCHA development, only to later lose that apartment and become homeless, she didn’t appreciate his comment.

This was echoed by another black Assembly member, Walter Mosley, who said, “I think the term used with regards to NYCHA, it’s not up to the person who doesn’t know what racism is to determine what racism is. To say it is disrespectful to the members here who are of color as well as those who live in NYCHA, who are a number of my constituents.”

Continue reading

March for Mueller report

 

By Sidney Goldberg

On Thursday evening, a protest was held to demand the full release of the Mueller report that began in Times Square and ended in Flatiron outside Madison Square Park.

The protest was organized by MoveOn.org together with the Nobody is Above the Law Coalition and was said to be one of almost 300 similar protests around the country yesterday.

There were protest songs led by the group Sing Out, Louise! and a few speakers, including the NYC public advocate, from a stage that was set up on Broadway.

Despite the large turnout of at least hundreds, the event was hampered by a delay in marching, with the crowd being held at Times Square and a half. This caused some grumbling among the participants about the need for all the stage time commanded by the speakers.

Pols, Bellevue doctors push for speed camera legislation

Aug9 speed cameras Hoylman

State Senator Brad Hoylman blamed his own chamber for the camera shutoffs. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Surgeons and local elected officials gathered at Bellevue Hospital last Thursday, urging the State Senate to pass legislation that would preserve speed cameras around schools.

Speed cameras in 120 school zones lost their ability to issue speeding violations last month because the State Senate did not extend the program by the July 25th deadline. Advocates at Bellevue were pushing Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan to call a special session so Senators could vote on legislation that has already passed in the Assembly, where it was sponsored by Assemblymember Deborah Glick.

Glick’s bill in the Assembly allows for speed cameras in 50 additional school zones a year for the next three years and extends the program through 2022. Democrats had originally proposed expanding the program to 750 school zones but said they reduced the number to appease Republicans.

“We reduced the number of cameras and reduced the radius the cameras cover,” Glick said. “We added signage so people know that there are cameras. We’ve given so much deference to speeders. We could give at least a modicum of the same concern for school children.”

Continue reading

Democrats vying for Kavanagh’s Assembly seat

epstein

Harvey Epstein (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Sabina Mollot

Following Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh’s easy victory at the polls last week for the downtown Senate seat he wanted, two Democrat candidates have expressed interest in filling the now vacant 74th District Assembly seat.

One of them is Harvey Epstein, a tenant representative on the Rent Guidelines Board and the project director of the Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center. The other is Mike Corbett, an aide to Queens-based City Council Member Costa Constantinides and a former teamster. Marie Ternes, a communications consultant who previously worked for then-Congress Member Anthony Weiner, said she is considering running.

Recently, outgoing City Council Member Rosie Mendez told Town & Village she was mulling a run for Assembly, but then later told the local blog Lo Down that she’d decided against it. Council Member Dan Garodnick has also previously said he has no plan to run.

Corbett, Epstein and Ternes spoke with a Town & Village reporter this week, although Ternes declined to be interviewed at this time since she hasn’t yet made a decision on running.

It’s expected that there will be a County Committee vote held by each party to determine who will get onto the ballot for a special election. However, it’s still unclear when the vote will be or when the election will be, since a special election must be called by the governor. Another possible, though unlikely, scenario is that there will be a primary in June when there’s a Congressional primary, or even later.

Continue reading

As for borough president…

Feb23 Gale Brewer

Gale Brewer

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is seeking a second term against three unknown candidates and being the Democrat incumbent, we’re sure she’ll clobber them. However, the fact is that it doesn’t matter who wins this race since the position is useless. The purpose is to be a cheerleader for one’s borough, appointing members to community boards and, if one is ambitious, coming up with ideas that hopefully City Council members will pick up. 

 

Last year in T&V’s “Politics & Tidbits” column, former Assembly Steven Sanders called the office that borough presidents hold, as well as the office that evolved into the public advocate “throwbacks to an earlier age in the last century when they were relevant.” Now, he pointed out, “It has become mostly a springboard to run for mayor or comptroller, where the actual power resides. The current mayor and current comptroller are prime examples of that.”

We like Brewer and that she’s so passionate about Manhattan’s mom-and-pops. But her position kind of handcuffs her from doing anything about this worsening crisis. She recently conducted a study of vacant storefronts and the results were not exactly shocking: Retail blight is getting worse. Her office didn’t respond when we asked what the next steps were on acting on this knowledge, and we’re guessing this is because there aren’t any. Brewer, previously an effective City Council member, should run for another position where she can actually make a difference.

Nov2 Brian Waddell

Brian Waddell

 

Also on the ballot is Stuyvesant Town small business owner and community activist Frank Scala. A good man we respect but we don’t know how he’d magically affect real change with such limited power, either.

If you want to vote against wasting taxpayer money pick a candidate named Brian Waddell. This candidate, on the Reform and Libertarian lines, is running with the idea of eliminating the office completely on his first day if elected. In an amusing Q&A Waddell conducts with himself on his website, the candidate asks: “Is the rent too damn high? Yes, but there is nothing a borough president can do about it, so let’s get rid of them.”

We endorse this plan and this candidate.

Kavanagh to run for NY Senate

Brian Kavanagh

Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

A few hours after State Senator Daniel Squadron announced he’d be leaving Albany, citing special interests and corruption preventing true democracy from taking place as a reason, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh said he’d be running for the position.

Since state elections aren’t until next year, the election for the Senate seat, which covers downtown Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, will be a special election. The date would be determined by the governor though it will likely be in November during the general election for citywide races. Prior to that candidates will be nominated by the county committee for each party.

According to State Senator Brad Hoylman, this process tends to be an insider game, which would make it easier for a well-known candidate like a current elected official to get the nod from the party as opposed to an unknown aspiring lawmaker. While Hoylman admitted he thought this process could use some reform to become more egalitarian, he nonetheless praised his colleague, an 11-year veteran of Albany, as a potential senator.

Continue reading

McMillan planning citywide rent strike

UPDATE: Jimmy McMillan, early today, announced he was calling off the strike in light of a judge’s decision on Tuesday to keep the rent freeze in place.

June27 jimmy mcmillan

Jimmy McMillan is now running for Rosie Mendez’s Council seat.  (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Sabina Mollot

Jimmy “The Rent is Too Damn High” McMillan, now a Republican City Council candidate, is calling on the tenants of New York City to join him in a rent strike this October.

McMillan, an East Village resident who’s been in and out of court with his own landlord for years, said the plan is inspired by what he’s blasting as conflicting interests in the New York City Housing Court.

“The attorneys that sit on a committee that appoint New York City Housing Court (judges), stand before that same judge against the tenant representing the landlord,” he stated in a press release.

The 70-year-old Vietnam vet also believes this setup has impacted his own case.

According to current information on the New York Courts website, the advisory committee that helps appoint judges to the Housing Part of the Civil Court includes three representatives of the real estate industry, including the chair of the NYC Housing Authority, three members from tenants’ organizations, two members representing civic groups, two bar association members, two public members, one mayoral appointee and the commissioner of the state housing agency, Housing and Community Renewal.

McMillan’s plan to strike, meanwhile, is also aimed at raising awareness of his campaign platform — affordability. His goal is to see rents slashed across the board.

Continue reading

Stuy Town resident quits mayoral race, joins Massey’s campaign

Aug11 Joshua Thompson1

Joshua Thompson, pictured in Stuyvesant Town last summer (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Joshua Thompson, the Stuyvesant Town Democrat who ditched a campaign for City Council last year to run for mayor has announced he is “suspending” that campaign to serve as senior adviser to another candidate for mayor, Republican developer Paul Massey.

In an email blast on Thursday, Thompson, 31, said that although he’d raised nearly $200,000, it was “time to put values before party politics.”

“I believe deeply in his vision for this city and believe that consolidating resources is the best way to spread our message and affect the lives of New Yorkers,” Thompson wrote.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Thompson’s title will be director of policy and outreach for the campaign and he’ll be focusing on education and homelessness.

Thompson previously worked for the Cory Booker administration in Newark, New Jersey, as well as having held a government position in education in Bridgeport, Connecticut from 2012-2014.

He’s lived in Stuyvesant Town since 2014 with his wife, Julia, who runs a Brooklyn charter school.

Continue reading

Inauguration fails to inspire most people we spoke with

jan26-inauguration-at-community-center

The inauguration is screened to a mostly empty Stuyvesant Town Community Center. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

With the majority of New York City residents not having voted for Donald Trump, the televised inauguration, which happened on Friday, wasn’t exactly must-see TV, at least not for too many people in Stuyvesant Town and Gramercy.

This became clear during the pre-inaugural ceremonies when this reporter, attempting to get some local reaction at Cooper Town Diner on First Avenue, was told “no comment” repeatedly.

But out of those who did comment, most, unsurprisingly, weren’t happy.

Josh Thompson, a Stuyvesant Town resident and Democrat candidate for mayor, once previously told T&V he considered Cooper Town to be his second office. But on this day, he was taking his food to go.

Asked for this thoughts, Thompson, an avowed “Obamacrat,” said he had recorded the inauguration of President Obama in 2009 and would go home to watch that instead.

“I’m going to do that for the day,” he said before rushing off.

Continue reading

Women’s march a sign of the times

i-heart-ny-edit

By Sabina Mollot

On Saturday, marches were held in Washington, DC and in other cities, including New York, in midtown. Women, as well as men and children, packed behind barricades along Second Avenue in the East 40s before marching through the surrounding streets. Marchers came in all ages and ethnicities, and while women’s rights was the main theme, some participants also led chants calling for Muslim, black and LGBT rights. Meanwhile, although many elected officials were in attendance, the biggest stars of the show were the inventive signs carried by marchers, some of whom also donned knit “pussy hats” with cat ears. Many of the signs involved digs at the size of President Trump’s hands and comments he’s made about women as well as countless vagina puns.

A few included were: “Keep your tiny hands off my cuntry,” “Viva la Beaver,” “Vulva la Revolucion,” “Power: Snatch it back” and “Hey PeeOTUS, this is your pussy riot.”

See our gallery for some of the signs seen at the New York march.
Continue reading

Letters to the editor, Nov. 24

Bernie bashing is unsubstantiated

Re: Letter, “Hillary pilloried for not being perfect,” T&V, Nov. 10

I’ll never understand why people with strong opinions are not strong enough to sign their names to their letters.

For example, a “Name Withheld” writer confidently states: “I am proud to vote for Hillary Clinton who is intelligent, competent and completely qualified,” but is not proud enough of her views to sign her name. She states that Bernie Sanders “ran on a platform of grandiose ideas that he did not have a hope of getting through Congress.”

How does she know this? Did Bernie tell her, “Hey, Name Withheld, I know these ideas of mine don’t have a prayer for success, but when you run for public office, you gotta say something?” And did she tell Bernie he is “not qualified to head the Executive Office,” to which he replied, “Who is?” Although being a mayor or governor might offer some experience, I doubt that anything prepares one for being the president of the USA. What were Obama’s qualifications? Or W’s? Or (are you sitting down down?) Trump’s?

After trashing Bernie, Name Withheld defends Hillary by writing that voters “struggle to see a woman in office. They find reasons to attack her over not very much. Misogyny, unfortunately, is still alive and well.” But maybe it’s not Hillary’s gender that voters find troubling, but rather the appearance of years of dishonesty and corruption.

I can’t speak for others who find Hill and Bill so untrustworthy there’s not enough space in T&V to list their reasons, but I did vote for a woman. Her name rhymes with Hill. She heads The Green Party and because I want a third party, independent of the two giants in America, I voted for Jill Stein. Stein’s platform was almost identical to Bernie’s.

And maybe she lost like Bernie because she didn’t have a hope for success either.  But I do. We have the knowledge and the ability to clean up all the mess we have created in our society. We just need the will.

John Cappelletti, ST

Editor’s note: At Town & Village, we agree that signed letters have more credibility than anonymous ones. However, in this case, it was the editor’s mistake to sign the author’s letter as “Name withheld,” when in fact, she hadn’t made a request to remain anonymous. The author of the letter is Harriet Gottfried, a retired librarian living in Stuyvesant Town. We regret the error.

Continue reading

Mayor, pols ask for $1.9B in Zika funding

Aug18 Mayor Maloney Kavanagh

Mayor de Blasio holding a letter to the leaders of the Congress and U.S. Senate, with State Senator Adriano Espaillat, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Health Commissioner Mary Travis Bassett at the city’s public health lab (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

 

By Sabina Mollot

As the threat of the Zika virus spreads, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other elected officials called on Congress on Tuesday to authorize $1.9 billion in funding for research and prevention efforts.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who was at the announcement with the mayor at the city’s public health lab in Bedpan Alley, said the problem was that Congress, specifically Republicans, were only willing to fund $1.1 billion. In February, President Obama had asked for Congress to allocate $1.9 billion.

Additionally, Maloney said, the debate in the house over funding has led to Republicans including a rider that would ban funding to Planned Parenthood, limiting access to abortions and contraceptives to women here and abroad. Meanwhile, Zika, Maloney argued, is known to cause serious birth defects so New York City’s health department has been actively advising safe sex for people traveling to Zika-impacting areas.

“They added a poison pill,” said Maloney, who argued that the immediate health threat posed by Zika shouldn’t be turned into “ideological crusades.”

With Congress deadlocked on the issue, money to fund Zika efforts has been taken from other existing health initiatives, including $589 million in Ebola funding. “They’re stealing from Peter to pay Paul and it’s not a good way to solve a crisis,” Maloney said.

De Blasio noted how the city had launched a $21 million Zika offensive effort in April that includes the spraying of larvacide in different areas and outreach to warn people, especially those who travel to impacted regions, about the disease which has at last official count infected 530 New York State residents. Of those, 438 are city residents. The latter figure includes 49 pregnant women, with all of the cases being travel related except four that were sexually transmitted. One baby in New York City has been born with microcephaly, a severe birth defect caused by Zika that causes the baby to be born with a small head, a sloped back forehead and mental challenges due to a smaller brain.

Continue reading

How a Stuy Town veteran helped get pension buyback law signed

July14 Alperstein

Jerry Alperstein, of the Jewish War Veterans Post 1, had sent out a memo to legislators urging them to expand opportunities for veteran pension buybacks over a decade ago and has since seen a bill signed into law. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

New York’s veterans who will soon be eligible for a new pension buyback, through legislation recently signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, can thank a Stuyvesant Town veteran for the opportunity.

Jerry Alperstein, a Vietnam War Navy veteran, 72, and original Stuyvesant Town resident, had been pushing the legislation since 2005. This is when he, then serving as the legislative chair of the Jewish War Veterans of New York Post 1, sent a proposal memo to members of the state Assembly. A year later, Assembly Member Amy Paulin, of Scarsdale, signed on as a sponsor of a bill and in 2007, then-State Senator Vincent Leibel became a sponsor in that chamber.

During a recent interview, Alperstein explained that this bill will allow all veterans who served honorably and are employed by the State of New York, its municipalities or its school districts in perpetuity to buy back up to three years of military time toward their pension while still employed.

According to Alperstein, the law brings New York State more in line with most other states in their consideration for veterans who are public employees. Prior to its signing, which happened on May 31, there were other pension buyback opportunities, but they were time-limited to the point that many people they were intended for found themselves unable to collect.

A 1976 law gave the buyback only to World War II veterans; but those who were public employees on 20-year retirement had already retired and were no longer eligible to buy back. A 2000 law only applied to those who served during specified periods of armed conflict.  This meant that virtually all Korean War veterans had already retired as were the Vietnam War veterans on 20-year retirements.

“That’s a reprehensible history of buybacks,” said Alperstein. “They called the Korean War the forgotten war and that’s exactly what it was.”

Continue reading

Letters to the editor, May 12

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Landlords are not hurting for money

Re: “Tenants may get rent freeze,” T&V, May 5

To Whom it May Concern:

So the landlords want more money. Surprise, surprise, as they say once again they can’t make a living.  Let me tell you a secret.

I personally know one owner who has over fifty apartment buildings in New York City whose net worth is over $300 million dollars. Money is not a problem. I know another owner who is worth more than a billion dollars from residential real estate owned throughout the country.

So to those real estate owners who need more money? Let me tell them, either they don’t know how to make money in real estate or they should find another business. Don’t quote me, but there is probably less than one-half of one percent of real estate owners who are somehow suffering. That is not enough to give them an increase.

So please, call whomever you can. Tell them that apartment owners don’t need a raise.

They are doing pretty well with the way things are.

Larry Edwards, ST

Continue reading

Letters to the Editor, May 5

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

The graying of Peter Cooper Village

As in many buildings in Peter Cooper and Stuyvesant Town, mine houses its share of young people from NYU grad programs and professional schools plus a lot of recent grads from around the country starting their new jobs or families, many doubling into a single apartment seeking to ameliorate our ridiculous market rate rentals.

For me, now a longterm rent stabilized tenant, most of these people are a welcome and ebullient contrast to the way things used to be. In those olden days Peter Cooper seems to have been populated predominantly by an overdose of somber and lugubrious graybeards who mostly got their leases by knowing an insider at Met Life, whose children (if they had any) had long ago flown far from the parental nest, and whose notion of liberalism was to tolerate blacks in the development only if they were judges, commissioners or squirrels.

Now the place abounds with young professionals, young parents, young children and young dogs — all liberally sprinkled amongst us lucky traditionals holding out in our stabilized homesteads. For me, despite occasional rare bouts of overenthusiasm emanating from the newcomers’ apartments, this new mix is a delight. The “kids” are great. It’s as if my own kids and grandchildren were (thankfully) not living with me but were (thankfully) nearby.

So what’s all this about the place graying? Well, it seems one of the last major “improvements” undertaken by the last owner, CWCapital, was to paint all the apartment and stairway doors gray, install new gray baseboards in the hallways, and replace the existing hallway carpeting with matching gray-ish wall-to-walls. This project was accomplished right after management completed installation of two gigantic illuminated “EXIT” signs on every floor, pointing to the stairwell a few feet away from each. Considering large stains on the carpet immediately facing the elevators (recently caused by hurried workmen renovating the apartment opposite mine) and another sizeable stain down the hall caused by the resident doggie’s premature expulsion — both nicely offset against the carpet’s two-tone gray — these improvements, now including a few gashes of black that have mysteriously appeared on the wall near one of the stairwells, have created an institutional-like décor, somewhat of a dreary cross between a prison and a hospital. The couple in the just-renovated one-bedroom apartment is paying north of $4,000 a month (for their first year).

My respectful suggestions to this development’s new owner are as follows: 1) Get rid of any holdover decoration and design personnel, 2) put a little color and imagination into the next makeover, 3) as chaotic as this would be, form a tenants’ committee to get input from some of the people who live here.

Joe Lobenthal, PCV

Continue reading