Mayor Bill de Blasio, Councilmember Dan Garodnick and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer along with Tenants Association members during a 2015 press conference to announce Blackstone’s purchase of Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The owner of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, has confirmed it will not purposely keep rent-regulated apartments vacant following criticism from local elected officials after reports that the company was doing so, Gothamist reported last Friday.
The position was a shift from earlier last week when the owner, Blackstone, would not commit to leasing all the regulated units, a strategy often referred to as “warehousing.” Gothamist also noted that the promise came after Mayor Bill de Blasio said that city officials would need to have “some serious conversations” with the company about the agreement it signed to keep the units affordable.
“We are renovating and leasing all vacant units, and we will continue to fulfill our commitment to voluntarily preserve 5,000 affordable apartments,” Blackstone spokesperson Jennifer Friedman told Town & Village, although she added that the company will still have to make “difficult choices” and “scale back certain investments” in light of the recent legislation.
Blackstone is now actively renting out all vacant units, although the company has spent the last several weeks working through how to conduct renovations, especially in recently-vacated apartments that have been occupied for decades.
The Blackstone Group, owner of Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village along with Kips Bay Court and other properties in the city, will stop apartment renovations in Stuy Town as the firm considers the impact that the new rent regulations will have on their business.
Crain’s New York Business first noted the change earlier this month, citing a spokeswoman for Blackstone who said the company is “in the process of evaluating capital investments at Stuy Town.”
A source also noted that renovations on vacant apartments at the complex, which has more than 11,000 units, would halt, possibly in addition to larger construction projects on the property. It’s unclear if management is currently in the process of any major capital improvement (MCI) work. The source confirmed that legally-required repairs to fix leaks or hot water service will continue.
STPCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg said that she isn’t sure what precisely this change will mean for current tenants.
Worker doing dustless masonry cutting through an air conditioner opening (Photos courtesy of Empire Core)
By Sabina Mollot
At Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, about 275 apartments are gut renovated each year, with 35-70 going on at any given time, depending on the season.
While this can boost the value of the property for the owner, for residents of adjoining apartments, the apartment transformations just mean weeks of ongoing noise from power tools and dust clouds that permeate the air.
Fortunately, Empire Core Group, the company that oversees the gut renovation of apartments in ST/PCV, done by contractors, has, within the past year primarily, begun using new tools aimed at reducing both the noise and dust levels as well as the time needed to complete the jobs.
Rick Hayduk, Stuyvesant Town’s general manager, said the effort came as a result of management getting bombarded with calls by residents who live in apartments near those being worked on.
Rendering of entrance at the 23rd Street F/M station (Renderings courtesy of MTA)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The MTA confirmed with little fanfare at the end of April that two stations in the Flatiron and Kips Bay neighborhoods would be closing this summer until the end of the year as part of the Enhanced Station Initiative program. The 28th Street station on the 6 will be closed starting on July 16 and the 23rd Street station on the F/M will be closed beginning on July 23, with both expected to reopen sometime in December.
The agency presented the plan to Community Board 5 on April 23 but specific information about the closures is not available on the MTA’s website. Photos included in the presentation to the community board show significant rusting and water damage in both stations and one of the MTA’s stated goals for the project is to “address structural and cosmetic deficiencies,” as well as improve wayfinding services, navigation and communication to customers.
Renderings of the entrances at 23rd and 28th Streets show inconspicuous improvements, with the most noticeable changes being the addition of new electronic signs announcing service changes and updates, as well as maps to help with navigation.
The interior of the stations will be getting upgrades as well, with renderings showing improvements in lighting, new turnstile areas and wayfinding screens on the platforms.
In addition to the two local stations getting the improvements, 57th Street on the F will also be closed for about six months from July to December for similar cosmetic upgrades and both the 1/2/3 and A/C/E areas in Penn Station will be renovated as well, but work there will be phased and the station will not be fully closed.
Council Member Dan Garodnick discusses new legislation inspired by complaints from Stuyvesant Town residents about lack of notice for inspections and non-emergency work in their apartments. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
For tenants in Stuyvesant Town, getting a notice that one’s apartment is going to be inspected by management or partially torn up by a maintenance crew as part a neighboring apartment’s renovation is a bit like being summoned for jury duty. A disruptive pain, but also an unavoidable fact of life if you want to be law-abiding.
However, this week, Council Member Dan Garodnick said he plans to introduce legislation that would give tenants on the receiving end of such notices more lead time, and more information as to the nature of the work. While owners are allowed by law to inspect apartments or gain access for work the owner deems necessary, there isn’t always much in the way of notice for impacted tenants. On Monday, Garodnick, while surrounded by tenants on First Avenue, said his bill would change this.
Currently, the law says an owner must give a tenant 24 hours notice prior to when an inspection is conducted. The bill, if passed, would change that to 72 hours. It would also increase the amount of notice that must be given for non-emergency work, currently one week, to two weeks. Additionally, tenants would have to be notified of the scheduled visits by notices delivered by hand as well as by email, if the tenant has provided an email address. The notices would also have to be bi-lingual and include the reason for the requested entry and how much time would be required in an apartment. The notice would also have to include information about the legislation.
“We want to reduce the number of situations where tenants are surprised by an inspection or repair work,” Garodnick said, “and we want to make sure that proper notice is given.” He also noted that some tenants have been upset about not having the opportunity to be present during the appointments.
CWCapital has conducted many inspections of ST/PCV apartments in the past couple of years with workers looking at things like appliance types and checking for room dividers, which has led some residents to wonder if those in unrenovated units, paying lower rents, were being targeted. Garodnick said he’s heard these concerns, but has not seen any evidence that would back up such claims.
He also said he hadn’t heard of any recent wave of inspections, although inspections are still an ongoing process.
Also on hand during Monday’s announcement was Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg, who called the current inspection process a “pervasive abuse” of tenants, citing an instance when a resident, after getting out of the shower, was caught by surprise by the arrival of maintenance workers and another time when a tenant’s teenage daughter, home alone, was walked in on. She said she’d also heard of tenants leaving town, “only to come back to find the apartment in shambles.”
Garodnick said the bill would be introduced on Wednesday and that he was drumming up support for it within the Council.
He clearly already has some support among neighbors though.
One tenant at the announcement, Peggy Smith, told Town & Village she’d twice been notified that her apartment was being inspected. The first time she was told it was for illegal room dividers.
“I got very little notice,” she said, but she also recalled being able to reschedule at a date that was more convenient than the date management had originally suggested. But then, after the inspection was conducted, Smith was informed she’d be inspected again.
Fortunately for her, when she inquired as to the reason, she learned the notice of a return visit was actually a mistake.
But, Smith said, “It was very stressful, I have to say, because you don’t know what in particular they’re looking for.”
Another resident, a retiree who didn’t want her name mentioned, said just this week she was visited by someone claiming to need access to her apartment for an inspection. The inspector came before 8 a.m. when she wasn’t yet fully dressed, so the woman said she refused him entry, explaining that the timing wasn’t convenient. In response, she said he “was very polite” and left. Two days later, she received a notice in the mail that her apartment was to be inspected on Monday, March 16 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
A spokesperson for CWCapital did not respond to a request for comment.
Garodnick drafting bill to protect tenants from unauthorized entry
By Sabina Mollot
In CWCapital’s ongoing effort to renovate as many apartments as possible, tenants in neighboring units have also been made to allow work to get done in their own apartments to replace pipes in support of the work on the adjoining renovation projects. In the process, some of those neighbors have been getting inconvenienced in ways that have, in at least a couple of instances, been disturbing, according to the ST-PCV Tenants Association.
In a notice that will soon be shared with neighbors on the TA’s website, the TA noted how management hasn’t been giving tenants sufficient notice before breezing on in, in several cases. In one complaint, the TA heard how a teenage girl, alone at home, got scared when maintenance workers unexpectedly banged on and then opened her apartment door.
In another case, a tenant, who gave no authorization for her apartment to be entered, recently returned from a vacation to find her cabinets emptied. The cabinets’ contents were left strewn on the counters, with no explanation. Meanwhile, the work takes one to two days to complete, leaving the kitchen unusable.
“Despite the gross inconvenience, management has not offered to compensate affected tenants for the loss of use of the kitchen and the disruption to the tenants’ right to quiet enjoyment of their homes,” the TA said.
In a case of short notice, the TA said, a tenant was given notice on a Thursday that workers would be entering the apartment on the following Monday. “That’s just four calendar days; the city requires seven calendar days,” the TA said. Additionally, the TA said, management is only supposed to be entering apartments for non-emergency work if tenants’ have given their explicit permission, “and these renovations are not emergencies.”
In response to the TA’s concerns, Council Member Dan Garodnick is drafting legislation that would protect tenants from unauthorized entry or entry with very short notice.
The legislation would include provisions that in notices requesting apartment access, management would have to provide, along with a callback phone number, an email address or another electronic option for tenants to use if requesting a schedule change. Additionally, notices would have to be dated and sent to the tenants’ email address if the owner has one on file. Lastly, consent would not be assumed if the tenant doesn’t respond. However, if after 14 days there is no response, then an owner could enter the apartment.
“There has long been a feeling that people are finding themselves with unwanted visitors,” Garodnick told T&V, “just because they did not see a note or did not have time to respond. This has picked up recently where there are non-emergency improvements being made to neighboring apartments. In that context, we need to protect the sanctity of individual units.”
A spokesperson for CWCapital declined to comment on apartment access or the planned legislation. However, the owner and the TA have clashed on this issue in the past, like last year when management was conducting a round of apartment inspections on safety issues and lease policy compliance. At that time, the TA advised residents to consent to the inspection but be present for it to a recent spate of apartment burglaries that may have been committed by a contractor doing work for CW.