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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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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Tenants rally to demand affordability, involvement in any deal

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By Sabina Mollot
Despite on and off downpours, a crowd of around 300 tenants rallied on the steps of City Hall on Friday morning to demand more involvement in any future deal surrounding Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.
Originally the rally was set for the day of a foreclosure sale by CWCapital but was since turned into an opportunity to promote the fact that negotiations are currently taking place between CW, the de Blasio administration and local politicians on finding ways to maintain affordability at the complex. The goal is to satisfy the senior bondholders while also preserving the thousands of units for the middle class.

While CW said it is committed to the talks with the city for the next two months at least, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, speeches at the podium centered around tenants having a say in any sales process as well as a guarantee, secured by U.S. Sen. Schumer earlier this week, that lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would not finance any deal at ST/PCV that didn’t have the backing of the tenants or the city.

“I said, ‘No if, ands or buts?’ They said, ‘no ifs, ands or buts,’” Schumer told the crowd.
He added that it would be “very hard” for any would-be buyer without Fannie and Freddie’s participation.
Schumer went on to say he’s always enjoyed visiting Stuy Town where his cousins lived.
“It’s always been a place for average folks to actually still be in Manhattan,” he said.

Other politicians at the event — Comptroller Scott Stringer, Council Member Dan Garodnick, Council Member Rosie Mendez, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, State Senator Brad Hoylman and Congress Member Carolyn Maloney — also spoke along those lines, saying no would-be owner should bank on being able to oust current tenants or jack up the rents. They also said ST/PCV should officially be considered part of de Blasio’s housing plan that’s aimed at creating or preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing.

Mayor De Blasio didn’t show, but a rep for Governor Andrew Cuomo was present. Though the governor wasn’t at the rally, he issued a statement in support of the tenants.
“Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village are critical to keeping New York affordable,” Cuomo said. “My office, along with the office of New York State Homes and Community Renewal, will be monitoring the sale closely and we will continue to work to ensure that the rights of thousands of rent-regulated tenants are maintained and preserved for generations to come.”

Maloney brought up legislation she recently reintroduced, aimed at ensuring Fannie and Freddie wouldn’t be able to provide liquidity to any deal that reduces rather than creates affordable housing. (However, she recently told Town & Village that the bill isn’t likely to get through Congress as is.)

During a Q&A period (made brief due to a downpour), Council Member Dan Garodnick was asked if CW had made any commitments regarding a housing plan. In response, Garodnick said no details had been determined yet because the discussions have just begun.
When asked if the de Blasio administration was aware that, despite talk of maintaining affordability at ST/PCV, many newer tenants’ rents are already at levels that they don’t consider affordable, the answer was yes.

“We are making that clear to the administration and to CW that there are many tenants barely hanging on but would stay if the ship was set right,” said Garodnick.
He added that he didn’t think CW was just paying lip service to tenants or the city at this point because the company had actually retained “a variety of professionals for the purpose of these discussions.”
(A spokesperson for CWCapital declined to comment on the rally or the talks.)

As for the tenants who came to the event, most were those who’d lived in the community for many years. Along with seniors, there were also children and their parents who’d taken the morning off from work.
Some carried signs, reading: “Hey Wall Street hedge funds: Don’t be predators!,” “No middle class housing means no middle class” and “Fannie and Freddie, we bailed you out. Don’t bail on us!”

Tenants Association board member Kirstin Aadahl, one of the newer tenants, discussed how she, her husband and then one-month-old baby moved to Stuy Town six years ago. Since then, she’s become involved in the PTA at her daughter’s school, PS 40, but is concerned about how much longer her family can afford to stick around. Aadahl was one of the “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” tenants to get socked with a mid-lease increase last year. After hearing about the foreclosure, “The future looks even more bleak,” she said.

Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg noted how when CW took over operations at the property in 2010, “Remaining a stable middle class community was not in their business plan. The apartments were renovated at an incredible rate and at startling speed.” But, she added, “We’re changing that business plan. They’re going to have us there when they make their decisions.”

Following the event, a couple of tenants told Town & Village they were mostly worried about the stability of the community.
“I can afford it, but I’ve been there 25 years,” said Mark Thompson, the former chair of Community Board 6. He said he was concerned for seniors, parents and “people who do not have huge bank accounts.”

Another longterm resident of Stuy Town, Gary Ireland, was there with his daughter Sydney.
When Tishman Speyer was the owner, Ireland’s family had faced a primary residence challenge. This was after his mother-in-law, who lived in New Jersey, died, and his wife was accused of not being a resident. “It was really aggressive behavior. She had to prove she lived here.”

But years later, the stability of the community doesn’t appear to be any less shaky. On Ireland’s floor, there are three apartments that have turned over as many times in the past three years. His next door neighbor is a longterm tenant and a senior citizen. “A nice guy who wants to live there without getting harassed.” Then there’s another apartment Ireland suspects is being used as an illegal hotel. “There are a lot of people with suitcases coming in,” he said. “It happens all the time.”
As an attorney, whose wife is a teacher, Ireland said he’s able to make the rent in Stuy Town and his daughter attends Friends Seminary, a tuition-based school.
“We make some difficult financial decisions,” he said. “We have a two-bedroom and two kids with a makeshift bedroom in the living room out of bookshelves. We live the way a lot of people in Stuyvesant Town live.”

Note: The article has been updated to reflect the head count that was provided to Tenants Association President John Marsh by police.

City exploring options to maintain affordability in Stuyvesant Town

Senator Chuck Schumer with other elected officials at a rally in Stuyvesant Town in 2010 (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Senator Chuck Schumer with other elected officials at a rally in Stuyvesant Town in 2010 (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
One month after CWCapital’s beginning of the foreclosure process of Stuyvesant Town, city officials as well as U.S. Senator Charles Schumer have announced ways they were trying to help tenants in maintaining affordability.
One possibility is offering a tax exemption in which the owner would commit to a 40-year agreement for affordability. That possibility, first reported in the New York Times, could preserve as many as 6,000 apartments for families of four earning between $65,000 and $135,000 a year. This is just one option, however.
A city official confirmed today that there are other government programs that could be explored and there have been good faith discussions with CWCapital as well as Council Member Dan Garodnick in an effort to create more transparency going forward. CWCapital’s decision last week to take ownership of the property is being seen as an opportunity to take the time to explore options in maintaining affordability. More specifically, the idea is to avoid a repeat situation of the 2006 sale to Tishman Speyer when tenant affordability wasn’t even a factor. Because any transaction would be considered private, the city has some but not limitless sway on the outcome and currently, the administration is trying to gauge what tenants’ rents and income levels are to determine what their needs are.
Meanwhile, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who provided crucial mortgage financing in the Tishman Speyer sale have committed to not financing a deal that would be “unacceptable to tenants and the city,” the Times quoted Schumer as saying.
In response, Mayor de Blasio called this a “positive step.”
In a written statement, he added, “We are aggressively using all the levers we have at our disposal to protect affordability at Stuy Town. Senator Schumer has been a forceful leader in pushing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make sure the city and tenants have a better shot at shaping this outcome and protecting this community for middle class New Yorkers.”
The administration has also been quick to note, however, that while most buyers would require help from Fannie and Freddie for such a large transaction, there are others that could possibly make a deal without those agencies’ financing.
Still, the news of their cooperation has been greeted with enthusiasm by the Tenants Association, which still plans to hold a rally in front of City Hall on Friday at 10 a.m. The rally will be attended by elected officials, including Schumer.
Susan Steinberg, chair of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, said the news left the TA “very encouraged. Our voices have been heard and our advocacy on behalf of STPCV tenants is bearing fruit. The need to maintain STPCV as a place where ‘families of moderate means might live in health, comfort and dignity’ is important to New York City, and beyond. Middle class affordability can’t become a thing of the past. We welcome the support and participation of our state and local electeds in helping us protect our homes.”
Garodnick, along with dozens of other local city, state and federal politicians had sent a letter to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Finance Agency and Housing and Urban Development (HID) on June 10 in an effort to get Fannie and Freddie to not invest in deals that put affordable housing at risk.
Today, he praised the commitment made by Fannie and Freddie.
“This commitment from Fannie and Freddie will help us cut off the oxygen to another predatory deal here,” said Garodnick.