Real estate attorney running for City Council

Erin Hussein (Photos courtesy of Erin Hussein)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Real estate attorney Erin Hussein, a candidate for City Council, said that she was motivated to join the race because she’s invested in her neighborhood, the East Village.

“I’m running for District 2 because of District 2,” she said. “I’ve lived here for more than 20 years and it’s been intertwined with my entire life.”

Hussein, a Democrat, is running to replace term-limited City Councilmember Rosie Mendez. She moved to the city for college in 1988 after growing up in Waterbury, Connecticut. While New York is a bigger city, Hussein said she sees neighborhoods that make up the communities as similar to small towns like hers.

“Cities are organisms,” she said. “It’s a collection of neighborhoods, a collection of people. But we’re becoming less focused on people and more focused on buildings, and on the very wealthy elites.”

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Attorney running to replace Mendez

Jorge Vasquez, a lifetime Lower East Sider and attorney (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Lower East Side resident Jorge Vasquez has his lifelong neighborhood to thank for his aspiring City Council candidacy. Vasquez, an attorney who is running to replace term-limited City Councilmember Rosie Mendez in District 2, said that it was the local Boys & Girls Republic, as well as his mother’s influence, that got him involved in community advocacy.

“It was a tradition with me and my mom on Election Day where we would wake up and I would go with her to the polls,” he said, recalling that he and his mother also canvassed for Antonio Pagan, the City Councilmember for District 2 in the 1990s prior to Mendez’s predecessor, Margarita Lopez.

Vasquez said that he started attending programming at the Boys & Girls Republic, which offer youth the opportunity to participate in self-government, at age six and was putting bills together by age 10. When Vasquez joined, the program was known as the Boys Brotherhood Republic but the program later became part of the Henry Street Settlement and was renamed the Boys & Girls Republic.

“Those programs give youth the opportunity to be active in the community,” he said. “Being part of democracy, and even to be familiar with the courtroom and jury rules, is so important. I wouldn’t be an attorney without access to these programs and the advocacy it instilled in me.”

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Town & Village co-hosts City Council debate at Waterside Plaza

On Thursday night, an evening of debate among the candidates running to replace Dan Garodnick in the City Council was held at Waterside Plaza. The event’s hosts were Town & Village newspaper, the Waterside Tenants Association and Waterside management with the event taking place outdoors. A story covering the views of the various candidates on affordable housing, small businesses, issues affecting seniors, and the sanitation garage the city plans to build at the Brookdale campus, is forthcoming. Scroll down to see some photos from the debate, where all seats on the plaza were filled with a mixed crowd of community residents and candidates’ supporters.

Richard Ravitch, owner of Waterside Plaza and former lieutenant governor, makes opening remarks. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Crowd at the debate

Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal, event co-host

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Opinion: A New Year’s resolution to build the full Second Avenue Subway

By Keith Powers

Starting on January 1, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to ride the brand new Second Avenue Subway – a project over one hundred years in the making and once considered out of reach. We still have a long road ahead of us, but we have reached a major milestone and New Yorkers are right to celebrate. We should all make a New Year’s resolution to see this project through to the end and complete the entire Second Avenue Subway.

The new line is expected to carry 200,000 riders each day, easing congestion on the Lexington Avenue line, which carries over 1.3 million riders daily and is the most heavily trafficked subway line in the city. Easing congestion means faster running and less crowded trains. It means that we get to work faster and return home to our families sooner. Even better, it means that East Siders will feel more comfortable during their ride.

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East Village businesses discuss their struggles at Brewer roundtable

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, pictured during a press conference in March (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, pictured during a press conference in March (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Owners of small businesses in the East Village gathered on Tuesday at Jimmy’s No. 43 bar on East 7th Street for a roundtable discussion that was hosted by Borough President Gale Brewer on the challenges that businesses have been facing. Brewer has faced some criticism lately for not pushing for long-stalled legislation that would protect retailers from exorbitant rent increases, and business owners who were present at the roundtable on Tuesday expressed similar concerns. Owners at the event were enthusiastic about starting a discussion, but said they were frustrated by a range of issues, including endless paperwork from the city whenever they reach out for help.

“The bureaucracy is really hurting us,” one owner said. “When we have to deal with different city agencies, the people in the offices are nice, but there’s so much paperwork that things take forever to get done or don’t get done at all.”

Other businesses have still been struggling to recover from the explosion on Second Avenue this past March. Bernadette Nation, executive director of New York City’s Small Business Services emergency response team, worked in the neighborhood for more than a month and said that it was a struggle for a number of the storefronts near the explosion.

“I was in the city during September 11 but this explosion was a really daunting experience,” she said. “This one was really taxing on the body and the mind.”

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Why NY needs the Export-Import Bank

By Congress Member Carolyn Maloney and Council Member Dan Garodnick

In the last eight years, nearly 350 exporters, including 200 small businesses in New York have created or sustained jobs by exporting $11 billion worth of their products with the assistance of the Export-Import Bank. The bank is a little-known but important part of our country’s efforts to help businesses sell everything from peanut butter to airplanes abroad.

Even though the bank is operating at no cost to taxpayers and provided a $1 billion profit in 2013 alone, for a second year in a row Congress is threatening to shut it down. And as the clock ticks, New Yorkers’ jobs are hanging in the balance.

In April, the New York City Council Committee on Economic Development held a hearing to examine what would happen if Congress failed to extend the bank. The findings were alarming. The bank has created an estimated $4 billion in export value for New York City alone — and we know that every $1 billion in new exports creates nearly 5,000 new jobs. Nationwide, the bank created or sustained more than 164,000 jobs last year.

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Letters to the editor, June 18

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

What happened to Stuy Town recreation?

As a very long-term Stuyvesant Town resident whose three children grew up here it is very sad to see what happened to the Recreation Department. At one point about 4-6 years ago the Recreation Department under Radu Ocnean (who left a number of years ago) had a staff of about 40-50 people. There used to be countless tournaments run by the Recreation Department (soccer, basketball, paddle tennis, table tennis, free throw contest, chess, bocce, etc.). Kids of all ages and adults were looking forward to them every year. None of them exist anymore.

The Recreation Department used to run a Super Bowl Trivia Contest, Oscar Trivia Contest, March Madness picks every year. Hundreds of people attended all these events and looked forward to them every year. None of them exist anymore. Kids looked forward every year to something called Point Tournament. All kids who grew up here participated in it at one point or another. It does not exist anymore. As a parent who could always see a familiar face of a Recreation Department staff in almost every playground starting games with kids, paying attention to make sure rules are followed and engaging with kids and parents alike. It does not happen anymore.

I remember talking to Radu many years ago when the budget was cut down to zero for the Recreation Department and he needed to find ways to procure equipment for the kids/adults for the many sports. He got ZogSports to come and in return for using a couple of courts for a couple of hours a few days a week he got tens of thousands of dollars of equipment in return. I remember that because after one complaint from a person they stopped that great program which ran here for years.

Radu also starting selling Christmas trees which has grown to a cash cow. (I guess they still keep that since it makes a lot of money).

To finish, it is sad because it seems that there are only about 4-5 Recreation staff if that. The Recreation Department staff was always the face of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village. All residents knew them, grew up with them and parents were more comfortable with their children in the playgrounds because of them. It does not exist anymore.

Jim Altman, ST

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Garodnick bill would end commercial rent tax for some Manhattan storefronts

Petite Abeille co-owner Yves Jadot (pictured in 2011) said the tax break, if passed, would help at a larger restaurant he owns in midtown. Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Petite Abeille co-owner Yves Jadot (pictured in 2011) said the tax break, if passed, would help at a larger restaurant he owns in midtown. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

In an effort to help Manhattan’s mom-and-pop shops, Council Members Dan Garodnick and Helen Rosenthal have introduced legislation to relieve many small businesses of their commercial rent tax.

Since 1963, any business in Manhattan below 96th Street paying over $250,000 a year in rent (or nearly $21,000 a month) has been made to pay the tax, which is a 3.9 percent surcharge on the rent. The legislation, introduced last Wednesday, would make the tax applicable only to businesses paying $500,000 or more. To make up for the loss in city revenue, businesses paying over $3 million would get a small increase. That increase would rise slowly as businesses pay more in rent, but at its highest would be an additional one third of one percent on businesses paying over $4 million.

While the mayor has not made his point of view known on the bill, Garodnick said his colleagues in the Council have been fully in support of it with the entire Manhattan delegation having signed on as co-sponsors.

“This bill is motivated by a desire to cut a break to small businesses who are getting hit in every direction,” said Garodnick. “This is a way to grant them some relief.”

He noted that while business owners haven’t told him that the taxes alone are killing them, the cost, he said, adds up for small retailers and restaurants, who’ve faced the citywide problem of getting booted out in favor of banks and other chains.

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Brewer throws lifeline to mom-and-pop shops

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer discusses her legislation at the Upper West Side location of Halal Guys. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

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.

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