Epstein hosts town hall for East Side residents

Assemblymember Harvey Epstein spoke at a recent town hall about legislation he recently introduced that aims to increase job opportunities for individuals with disabilities. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Assemblymember Harvey Epstein held his second annual town hall last weekend to address concerns in the community on housing, as well as disability rights, climate change, prison reform and education. The event was held in the Friends Seminary at 218 East 16th Street and US Senator Charles Schumer also made an appearance near the end of the town hall after a stop at the Chinese New Year celebration in Lower Manhattan in order to provide an update for residents in the community about the impeachment trial.

Advocates broke off into panels for the majority of the town hall to discuss each of the topics but housing was combined into one panel at the end of the afternoon. Yonatan Tadele and Alex Lee of Cooper Square Committee, Barika Williams of Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development, and Munir Smith of GOLES discussed preservation of affordable housing and how tenants can protect themselves against predatory landlords, as well as what advocates still need to work towards after the success of last year’s strengthening of the rent laws.

Williams said that homeownership should be part of the conversation in addition to the discussion about the rent laws.

“Sometimes you’re like, I don’t want to have to fight this renter fight for the rest of my life, and maybe would like to purchase a home,” she said. “So we have to be able to think of those things and we’ve got to think about preserving our stock. There’s going to be a huge battle to make sure that that housing doesn’t all go to market rate because then we’re right back where we started fighting.”

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Senate passes 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, joined by US Senator Charles Schumer (left) and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (right), cheered the passage of the legislation in the House earlier this month.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The bill to make the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund permanent passed in the Senate by a vote of 97 to 2 on Tuesday, following its passage by an overwhelming majority in the House earlier this month.

Following the bill’s passage in the House on July 12, lead sponsor Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to call for a vote in the Senate before the August recess during a press conference across from the World Trade Center memorial last Monday. During the event, Maloney donned an FDNY jacket gifted to her by the Fire Department, which she had pledged to wear at all events to raise awareness until this particular bill had passed.

“The true Twin Towers of New York are the FDNY and the NYPD, and fully funding and permanently authorizing the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund is the least we can do to honor their sacrifices,” Maloney said following the vote in the Senate. “I will not rest until the September 11th Victim Compensation Program is made permanent and we finally turn our promise to Never Forget into law. I hope the President signs this legislation quickly, so we can finally give these heroes the peace of mind they deserve.”

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Con Edison: Manhattan blackout caused by substation malfunction

Buildings south of West 72nd Street were dark last Saturday night because of the outage. (Photo by Noah Gardy)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Con Edison announced last Monday that the cause of a blackout affecting more than 70,000 residents in Manhattan on Saturday, July 13 was due to a malfunction at the West 65th Street substation.

The outage, which occurred at 6:47 p.m., affected customers from West 30th Street to West 72nd Street between Fifth Avenue and the Hudson River. The six electrical networks that were affected were back in service shortly before midnight on Sunday.

Con Edison said that their inspection of equipment and review of the system data found that the relay protection system at the substation didn’t operate as designed. The relay protection system is designed to detect electric faults and directs circuit breakers to isolate and de-energize the faults but in the case of the outage, the systems did not isolate a faulted 13,000-volt distribution cable at West End Avenue and West 64th Street.

The utility had initially ruled out the 13,000-volt cable fault as the cause, believing that it was unrelated to the transmission disturbance.

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Warning about invasive insect isn’t bugging buyers of Christmas trees

A Christmas tree stand outside Augustus-St. Gaudens Playground (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Despite a warning from Senator Charles Schumer that an invasive insect might be infiltrating Christmas trees in the New York area, people shopping for trees this week didn’t seem too worried about the bugs dampening their holiday spirit.

Schumer warned that the bug, called the spotted lanternfly, could be a threat to natural resources in open spaces like Central Park and leafy neighborhoods. The insect, could be hitching a ride from trees brought in from out of state and the senator expressed concern about the effect the destructive bug could have on trees in local parks and threatening New York’s agricultural health.

George Smith, who has been running the Parks-operated trees stand outside the Augustus-St. Gaudens playground on Second Avenue between East 19th and 20th Streets for the last 12 years, said that he heard about bugs from an article in the Daily News earlier in the week but customers haven’t asked him about it.

“The tree bugs don’t really affect people so nobody’s really said anything or noticed,” Smith said.

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Johnson inaugurated as Council Speaker

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and other elected officials at his inauguration (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Chelsea Councilmember Corey Johnson was inaugurated as Speaker at FIT’s Haft Theater last weekend, becoming the first openly HIV-positive elected official in the position. Johnson pledged to fight for affordable housing, small businesses and fixes for the MTA.

“These problems are incredibly complex and by confronting them, we will ensure that New Yorkers have good paying jobs, healthcare and good schools,” he said. “The city, state and federal governments have to work together to fix the subways. No person should be stopped and frisked. It’s our responsibility to stand up for immigrants, women, people who are transgender, seniors and the poor.”

Johnson especially stressed the importance of renewing the rent laws in state capital.

“We need to press Albany to renew the rent laws,” he said. “We need to close the loopholes that give landlords the ability to deregulate thousands of apartments a year.”

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Flu cases double at Bellevue, Doctors say: Just get the shot

Bellevue Hospital offers the flu vaccine free to New Yorkers without insurance or who are under-insured throughout flu season.

By Sabina Mollot

Over 5,000 New Yorkers have become bedridden with the flu this season, according to Senator Charles Schumer.

Calling it a “historic outbreak,” on Monday, Schumer called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to designate a special “domestic flu surveillance team” for the state, which he believes will help “augment the work of inundated hospitals and budget-strained localities.”

Locally, the increase is being seen at Bellevue Hospital, where doctors have already seen 200 patients with confirmed cases of the flu, up from 100 for the entire season last year. Out of the 200 positive tests, 60 people were admitted to the hospital, while the rest went home. In a typical season, 100 people come in with the flu and 20-40 get admitted.

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Pride Parade was part celebration, part protest

Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The annual Pride Parade marched down Fifth Avenue from 36th Street down to the West Village at the end of last month, with the event doubling as a protest against the Trump administration.

Although the organization also had its usual presence as a group later in the parade, the American Civil Liberties Union’s appearance as one of the grand marshals at the very beginning set the tone early as representatives carried “Resist” signs, which appeared throughout the march from various other participants and groups.

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Opinion: Honorable mentions

By former Assemblyman Steven SandersSettings

For a year and a half politics have been dominated by the race for the White House, and for good reason. The stakes have never been higher and the candidates of the two major parties offer much different visions of America now and into the future. My views on this subject have been extensively discussed on this page. So anything more would just be repetition. I will just say this… I don’t think Trump could have beaten any Democrat other than Clinton, and I don’t think Clinton could have beaten any Republican other than Trump. There was more talk about Donald Trump’s serial misogyny and Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of sensitive emails, than the economy or international relations. And that is a very sad commentary on this campaign as it staggers to the end.

But there are other notable races and candidates that should not be overlooked in the avalanche of presidential ads and hype. These are the so called “down ballot” races.

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Week In Review, Jan. 21

State Senator Brad Hoylman called on telecommunications giant Time Warner Cable on Monday to improve access for blind and visually impaired customers by voluntarily instituting basic product standards, including television guides and documents written in Braille, font size options for on-screen menus, as well as “talking menus” and “talking guides.” In a letter to Chairman and CEO Robert Marcus, Hoylman noted that while “Comcast has already set an example with its simple to use and accessible technology,” Time Warner has yet to implement similar programs for its share of New York’s 400,000 visually impaired residents.
Hoylman learned of the issue from a constituent while visiting VISIONS, a nonprofit that offers rehabilitation and social services to the visually impaired, in his senate district with NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Council Member Robert Cornegy (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Council Member Robert Cornegy (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The City Council voted unanimously in support of legislation to change the way that the city communicates with New Yorkers who qualify for the city’s Rent Freeze Program on Tuesday.
The legislation, sponsored by Council Member Robert Cornegy, requires the Department of Finance to include a notice regarding legal and preferential rents on certain documents related to the NYC Rent Freeze Program.
Specifically, the notice must include the rent amount on which the benefit calculation was based, an explanation of why that amount was used in the calculation, an explanation that the tenant may continue to pay a preferential rent even once enrolled in the program, A statement that the tenant can obtain a rent registration history and file a complaint with the State Division of Housing and Community Renewal and a telephone number and email address for that agency. In addition, by 2018, the legislation would require the Department of Finance to include both the preferential and legal regulated rents of applicants to the NYC Rent Freeze Program in its database and include the preferential rent amount in the notice described above.

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Fannie Mae to back Stuy Town deal

Jonathan Gray (photo by Sabina Mollot)

Jonathan Gray (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Mortgage giant Fannie Mae recently announced that it will be backing Blackstone and Ivanhoe Cambridge’s acquisition of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village with a $2.7 billion credit guarantee.

The government-backed company made the announcement last Monday, The Real Deal first reported, noting that to finance the acquisition, an affiliate of Blackstone will secure the loan from Wells Fargo’s multifamily division, one of Fannie Mae’s lenders. This mean that Wells Fargo will originate the acquisition loan and pass it on to Fannie Mae, then sell it off to investors in the form of commercial mortgage-backed securities.

The agreement means that the federal government will effectively back Blackstone’s $5.3 billion acquisition, on top of the $225 million subsidy from the city for the buyers.

The loan carries a 10-year term, although Fannie Mae did not disclose its interest rate.

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Blackstone addresses tenants’ concerns

Market raters bash deal, ask for insider priority on affordable apts.,

Blackstone says students have been top complaint of residents

Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Blackstone senior managing director Nadeem Meghji, Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been, Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, Council Member Dan Garodnick and ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg listen as Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Blackstone senior managing director Nadeem Meghji, Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been, Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, Council Member Dan Garodnick and ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg listen as Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Following the news about a change in ownership just a few days earlier, over 500 Stuy Town residents showed up at a meeting on Saturday where a representative for the new landlord, Blackstone, answered questions.

Mayor Bill de Blasio popped by for a bit and spoke, as did U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, but the real star of the show wound up being Nadeem Meghji, senior managing director for Blackstone. Meghji started off by telling tenants at Baruch College’s auditorium that their various concerns, brought up in the days following the sale, were being taken “very seriously.” He indicated CompassRock would not continue to manage the complex, but then later said there isn’t a timeline for any change in management teams. Meghji, who was in charge of the Stuy Town deal, frequently elicited applause when responding to tenants’ questions although he admitted he didn’t yet have enough information to answer them all. He told tenants, in response to questions about student apartments, that Blackstone had been hearing about this issue more than any other.

He added that Blackstone would be seeking further tenant feedback via focus groups and a hotline.

“We know that we are going to need to earn your trust,” he said.

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Letters to the Editor: Oct. 8

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

What’s wrong with Bingo?

Re: “Thai PM’s wife impressed with active seniors here,” T&V, Oct. 1

I was upset with Ms. Barry’s remarks that the Stein Center was (not) for the “Bingo or Atlantic City crowd.”

This type of pompous elitism has no place in our senior centers. I heartily endorse any senior center offering courses on drama, theater, history and the arts. Indeed that is what is done routinely at Stuyvesant Town’s community center, in addition to exercise programs, Bingo, nutrition programs, thoughtful movies, walking tours and other areas of senior interest. The purpose of the senior center should be to provide a wide range of services to their constituency. People who are alone and elderly clearly would benefit from many “high tone” events and these should be available. However, to neglect the need for exercise, socialization (as provided by Bingo), pure recreation and other fun activities demonstrates in my estimation a clear sense of elitism and arrogance.

It does not suffice to say that this is what our people want. Clearly and patiently a wide variety of informal educational and social activities should be promoted. In no case would it be satisfactory to merely conduct trips to Atlantic City or to have daily Bingo games.

Our seniors deserve a wide diversity of activities and one must be very careful not to impose our own sense of priorities on an audience which seeks and deserves intellectual stimulation, human companionship and the chance to have some fun.

Stephen J. Menchini, ST

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Supreme Court ruling celebrated at pride parade

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By Maria Rocha-Buschel

New York’s gay and LGBT pride march, held last Sunday, came at a particularly appropriate time this year as it was scheduled just two days after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on same-sex marriage.

State Senator Brad Hoylman, the state’s only openly-gay senator and a participant in the parade last weekend, cheered the ruling.

“As a gay husband and father, I’m extremely proud to be an American today,” Hoylman said. “LGBT couples everywhere will now enjoy the same basic civil right that New York State granted back in 2011. It’s exciting to think that one day my four-year old daughter will read about Obergefell v. Hodges in school and understand the transformative effect the case is bound to have on LGBT families in our country.”

In recognition of the decision and in honor of Pride Week, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed that the spire of One World Trade Center be lit up in rainbow hues on Sunday night. Cuomo, who signed same-sex marriage legislation in 2011, also marched in the parade and having recently been granted the authority to officiate marriages, conducted a ceremony at the Stonewall Inn on the morning before the march.

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Rally and City Council Hearing on Monday on Rent Stabilization Laws

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, via an email blast sent out late Thursday, is urging residents to attend a rally at City Hall on Monday at 9 a.m. Read on for details.

Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg with politicians including Council Member Dan Garodnick, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Senator Charles Schumer, at a rally at City Hall in June (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Is your rent more than $4,000 . . . less than $2,500 . . . or anywhere in between?

THIS AFFECTS YOU

On June 15–less than four months from now–all rent protections will end unless renewed by the state legislature and the governor. By March 11, New York City needs to renew the rent laws too. Without renewal, you may not be able to afford your rent. Every one of us is affected.

Ambushed by a massive rent increase on renewal?
Tired of paying MCIs forever?
Want this to change?

Kickoff event: Monday, March 2, at 9 a.m.
Rally on the steps of City Hall.
Attend hearing afterward, City Council chambers, 2nd floor.

Next step: Pressure the state legislature, the new Speaker of the Assembly, and the Governor:

  • write letters (by hand, if you can-it shows politicians you care)
  • sign postcards
  • complete online and hand-signed petitions
  • attend rallies and hearings

We’ll be sending you more information soon.

If you don’t act . . .

  • Without rent stabilization, there will be no limits on rent increases and no automatic right to a lease renewal. We could all face eviction at the landlord’s whim.
  • Without renewal of rent stabilization, Roberts means nothing and SCRIE/DRIE will disappear.

We can win only if you participate. Want to do even more? Let us know by phone or email.

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Have you considered volunteering with us? If you have special skills or want to help distribute flyers and talk to neighbors in your building, let us know by calling the Message Center at (866) 290-9036 or signing up at: http://stpcvta.org/neighbor.network.

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Please consider additional financial support to help bolster our legal fund by donating at http://stpcvta.org/donate

Bellevue gets $380M for Sandy rebuilding

Bellevue Hospital (Photo courtesy of hospital)

Bellevue Hospital (Photo courtesy of hospital)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Bellevue Hospital Center will get a $376 million slice of federal money to cover the cost of putting right damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer announced last Thursday that the city has secured $1.6 billion in federal aid from FEMA to repair the city’s public hospitals damaged during Hurricane Sandy two years ago.

With its share of the cash, Bellevue will install flood-proof elevators, storm pumps and a flood wall.

“The entire New York Congressional Delegation came together to fight for these funds, and wisely sought resources not just for repairs, but also for mitigation,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, in whose district the hospital is located.

“Bellevue is an important facility and it sustained substantial damage and had to be evacuated during Hurricane Sandy. We are taking the necessary steps to be sure that doesn’t happen again.”

According to Bellevue authorities, much of the damage caused by the 2012 superstorm has already been repaired and the fresh FEMA funds will reimburse HHC for those repairs and mitigation work.

Many pieces of critical equipment, such as electrical switching gear, have been relocated out of the basement to higher elevation on the first floor and the hospital has installed removable flood barriers at the two loading dock entrances facing the East River.

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