Rent will go up 1.25, 2 percent

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Tenants play limbo at the vote. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The city’s rent-stabilized renters will be seeing increases of 1.25 percent for one-year leases and 2 percent for two-year leases.

The increases were voted on by the Rent Guidelines Board on Tuesday evening, after two years of rent freezes for one-year leases, frustrating tenants as well as landlords.

Tenant advocates and community groups were pushing for at least another freeze and in many cases a rollback, but owner representatives felt that the increases didn’t go far enough.

Tenant member Harvey Epstein said in his remarks prior to introducing the proposal that ultimately passed that he and Sheila Garcia, the second tenant member on the board, knew tenants needed a rollback or at least a freeze, but he said that neither were possible at this year’s vote.

“It’s our job to do the best we can and live with the political realities,” Epstein said. “We take this job seriously and today is the first day to move to a better system.”

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115 apts. in ST/PCV being reconfigured

TA worried about apartments being churned

By Sabina Mollot

Blackstone has recently embarked upon an “experiment” with 115 vacant apartments in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village that involves adding a new bedroom in most of them by reducing dining or living room space. The plan also will create some new studio apartments.

News of the project was announced on Tuesday by the ST-PCV Tenants Association, which is staunchly opposed to it over concerns it will just add to the “churning” of apartments rented by transients.

Susan Steinberg, president of the Tenants Association, said StuyTown Property Services first shared the plan with the TA about three weeks ago but at that time it had yet to get the greenlight of the Department of Buildings. At this point, however, the city has signed off on the project because the TA has learned construction has already begun.

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Details of the apartment conversions were shared in an email that was sent to neighbors along with the TA’s reasons for asking the landlord to scrap the whole project. In particular, Steinberg said, the Tenants Association is opposed to the Stuy Town subdivisions because in Peter Cooper, living rooms are spacious enough where losing some space wouldn’t be as drastic as the conversions in Stuy Town, which, the TA said, effectively turns living rooms into foyers.

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Tenants Association asks Blackstone to keep Associated in Stuy Town

Associated Supermarket in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

With the future of Stuyvesant Town’s Associated Supermarket once again up in the air, following Morton Williams’ decision not to sign a lease for the space, the ST-PCV Tenants Association has asked Blackstone to let the Associated stay.

The request was made over the Tenants Association’s concern that with a Trader Joe’s store as well as a Target eventually moving across the street from Stuyvesant Town, Blackstone would no longer feel obligated to keep an affordable supermarket in the complex, as the owner had committed to previously. But, the TA is arguing, Trader Joe’s, with its unusual and somewhat curated range of products, doesn’t offer a “complete grocery experience.”

The plea was made via a letter from Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg to Stuyvesant Town’s General Manager Rick Hayduk on Monday.

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Injured bat found in PCV

Local veterinarian Dr. Timothy Mann said he suspects this bat is an Eastern Red bat, although it’s not normal to see one during the day. (Photo by Lisa Kuklinski)

By Sabina Mollot

Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village have long been well known as sanctuaries to birds as well as squirrels, and in late 2015, the park-filled property was even visited by a coyote.

Still, a Peter Cooper Village mom was shocked on Saturday morning when she and her young son spotted a bat lying on the ground.

Additionally, the bat, which was motionless near 2 Peter Cooper Road, did not appear to be in good shape.

“I thought it was dead because it was lying face up on the ground,” the mom, Lisa Kuklinski, later told Town & Village. “Then I got closer and I could see it was trying to breathe.”

For a moment, she thought about taking it home, “but I don’t know anything about bats,” she said. So, instead Kuklinski called the Public Safety department. She went out again a couple of hours later but by then the bat was gone.

She isn’t sure what happened to the bat to cause it to have lost the use of its wings. “I don’t know if one of the hawks got it.”

Hawks have been spotted more frequently in ST/PCV, as T&V reported in February.

Fortunately, the bat did make it off the pavement alive, according to management.

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Signs on squirrel feeding appear outside playgrounds

A sign outside Peter Cooper Village’s Playground 2 (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Sabina Mollot

Aw nuts! Squirrel feeding is now being actively discouraged in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village playgrounds.

Following a few reported incidents of squirrel bites on the grounds nearly a year ago, a number of parents pushed the owner to install some signage indicating that people shouldn’t feed the local wildlife. This week, that signage finally appeared — although it only asks people not to feed the squirrels near the playground as opposed to not at all on the property.

The sign, which features a silhouette of a squirrel as well as management’s “Good Neighbors” campaign logo of a blue heart, reads: “Please do not feed the squirrels within 50 feet of this playground.”

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Leases indicate plan to submeter, but management said language is nothing new

Susan Steinberg

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg

By Sabina Mollot

Language in leases signed by Stuyvesant Town residents indicates that the owner has plans to submeter Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, which would make individual tenants responsible for paying for the electricity they use.

However, according to StuyTown Property Services, there is no plan to submeter the property any time soon.

The issue came up this week after a resident pointed out the language on Facebook and wondered if this meant Blackstone intended for file an application with the Public Service Commission (PSC) to have the property submetered.

In response, a property spokesperson, Marynia Kruk, told us, “The Facebook post (on the ST-PCV Tenants Association’s page) is accurate in that our current lease does have a clause about submetering or direct metering. However, this is not new language. New leases have contained the same language since 2009. Ownership has no current plan for submetering.”

Meanwhile, if Blackstone does eventually decide to submeter, it would be the second attempt by a Stuy Town owner to pass on the costs to renters. Tishman Speyer had planned to do this but then abruptly dropped the project upon losing the Roberts v. Tishman Speyer lawsuit at the Appellate Court level.

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Last of ‘Roberts’ cash will go to TA, PSLL

By Sabina Mollot

Earlier this month, it appeared there might be another distribution of checks, albeit small ones, to residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village who’d been represented in the Roberts v. Tishman Speyer lawsuit.

However, that’s no longer a possibility as the money left in that pot is under $33,000, according to tenants’ law firm, Wolf Haldenstein. Had the remaining funds been over $100,000 it would have gotten distributed to tenants, as part of the settlement deal hashed out in 2013. For an amount lower than $100,000, however, the remaining funds are to be split evenly between two nonprofits: the Peter Stuyvesant Little League and the ST-PCV Tenants Association.

Previously, Wolf Haldenstein attorney Michael Liskow told Town & Village it looked like there was going to be over $150,000 left in the pool of damages intended for residents. That money represented checks that were not deposited by a 120-day deadline. But Liskow this week said he later learned the $150,000 figure he got from the claims administrator, which he thought was updated as of the end of January, didn’t reflect withdrawals from the amount during January. He also apologized for providing us with the “stale” figure earlier.

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TA says: More boots on the ground needed, better interior lighting

Susan Steinberg

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Following StuyTown Property Services announcing new efforts to make the complex safer, Susan Steinberg, president of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, responded with the TA’s own view, which is that equipment is nice, but live patrols are better. The TA also recommended more interior lighting. Read on for the association’s statements.

In the wake of the sexual attack on a young Stuy Town resident in her building vestibule in the early morning of February 19, The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association is once again speaking up for two vital safety measures we have been requesting for years: More foot patrols, especially at night, and far better lighting of interior paths.

General Manager Rick Hayduk’s follow-up communication to residents was a timely reminder of the emergency equipment already available: blue-lighted stanchions throughout the community, “security” buttons on lobby intercoms, the manned central video security screen system, and foot and car patrols 24/7.

Addressing future improvements, he cited plans to work with security consultants to identify where “new and additional equipment can be placed to enhance coverage.”

We at the TA insist that far more important than additional electronic wonders is a seriously enlarged force of on-foot public safety personnel and more small vehicles always on the move. It was just such a band of visible, on-foot and on-wheels security personnel constantly patrolling the property and checking the stairwells of each building every day that once made this community the lowest crime area in the city.

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Airbnb apts. still an ongoing issue in ST

By Sabina Mollot

In October, Governor Cuomo signed a law that will impose steep fines on Airbnb hosts who break local housing regulations. The short-term rental listings giant sued over the law though the company recently settled with the city of New York once it was made clear that hosts and not Airbnb were the target.

Short-term rentals in apartments were already illegal in many cases in New York City if the stay is under 30 days and the apartment’s tenant of record isn’t also staying there. Additionally, the practice also violates lease terms at some properties, including Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, though this hasn’t stopped tenants from listing their homes on Airbnb and other sites.

In recent years, this has been a worry for tenants who are concerned about problems like the spread of bedbugs as well as safety in an environment where they don’t know who’s staying next door. Four years ago when there was an uptick of bedbug sightings in the complex, then Tenants Association President John Marsh suspected that might be the reason. At one point, representatives from the ST-PCV Tenants Association and management met with representatives from Airbnb. The meeting resulted in the company agreeing to issue a pop-up notice on its website stating that rentals are illegal if the site’s user tries to advertise a Stuy Town or Peter Cooper address.

Yet, the practice has persisted.

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ST-PCV Tenants Association to fight video intercom MCI

By Sabina Mollot

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association is seeking neighbors’ help in an effort to challenge the recently announced video intercom MCI.

The major capital improvement rent increase, if approved, will impact the following Peter Cooper Village buildings: 420 and 440 East 23rd Street, 350, 360, 360 and 390 First Avenue, 2 and 3 Peter Cooper Road and 431 and 441 East 20th Street.

Susan Steinberg

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Susan Steinberg, president of the Tenants Association, said this particular MCI, one of four on the horizon, is expected to cost tenants $2.13-$2.50 per room per month.

At a meeting last month, Steinberg said the four MCIs would be challenged for different reasons, including issues with paperwork.

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More ‘Roberts’ money on the way for some Stuy Town residents

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Council Member Dan Garodnick discusses the payouts. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot 

Nearly 2,000 residents of Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village who were part of the “Roberts vs. Tishman Speyer” lawsuit, which proved apartments were illegally deregulated, will soon see another round of checks.

Attorneys on the case said there was about $450,000 left in unclaimed damages from the suit, which in 2013 resulted in a $173 million settlement for tenants ($68.75 million of that amount being cash and the rest in rent reductions).

On Saturday, the checks were discussed by City Council Member Dan Garodnick at a meeting of the ST-PCV Tenants Association.

Garodnick, who’s a resident of Peter Cooper Village, told neighbors that in order to be eligible for the money, the class action suit’s plaintiffs would have had to file as current, not former, tenants, and have received more than the minimum payout, which was $150. They also would have had to deposit their original check.

In this case, “The checks should be coming in the next few weeks,” he said. Residents will then have 120 days to deposit the money. After that, any unclaimed money, if less than $100,000, will be split evenly between two local nonprofits: the ST-PCV Tenants Association and the Peter Stuyvesant Little League.

According to Garodnick, there are 1,973 people who are eligible for the payout, which would make the average check around $228. This time, no one has to file any paperwork to get their damages.

“This was a big tenant win for our community and for the city,” said Garodnick, who was a member of the “Roberts” class action suit. “I am glad that those who were harmed continue to see compensation.”

Lawyers for tenants said there were over 27,000 tenants and former tenants who were awarded damages from former landlords Tishman Speyer and Met Life. The damages were 100 percent of what the tenants overpaid based on calculations from a very complicated settlement formula, minus 30 percent for legal fees and other fees.

Local pols, Rick Hayduk will speak at Oct. 22 ST-PCV Tenants Association meeting

ST/PCV General Manager Rick Hayduk

ST/PCV General Manager Rick Hayduk

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association will hold an open tenants meeting on Saturday, October 22, at 1 p.m. in the auditorium of IS 104, 20th Street between First and Second Avenues.Speakers will include: President of the ST-PCV Tenants Association Susan Steinberg, City Council Member Dan Garodnick, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Rick Hayduk, CEO/General Manager of StuyTown Property Services. The general theme will be the state of the community. Each speaker will briefly address issues as they directly relate to and affect Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, from the L train shutdown to the telephone scams targeting the community, from MCIs to rent-freeze month. An open-mic question-and-answer period will follow.

“Tenants will want to hear from our own elected representatives as to what they have been doing on our behalf,” said Steinberg. “We also plan to provide a summary of TA activities during the year. This is an important meeting, and we hope to see a packed auditorium.”

Four new MCIs pending for ST/PCV

Blackstone representative Nadeem Meghji, pictured at a meeting last October, tells ST-PCV tenants the owner will not use MCIs as a tool to inflate rents. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Blackstone representative Nadeem Meghji, pictured at a meeting last October, tells ST-PCV tenants the owner will not use MCIs as a tool to inflate rents. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Requests are for facade waterproofing, water heaters, video intercoms and ADA ramps, but Blackstone says it will walk away from $10M in potential fees

By Sabina Mollot

Blackstone’s management company for Stuyvesant Town, StuyTown Property Services, announced on Wednesday that it will be filing for four MCIs for work done in the complex starting two years ago.

The MCI (major capital improvement) projects are for: building façade waterproofing (which the owner said was mandated by law), upgrading the hot water heaters, video intercoms for Peter Cooper Village buildings and the installation of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant ramps.

If approved, the cost that would be passed onto residents in the form of a permanent rent increase that a spokesperson for SPS expects will be on average around $8 per month per apartment. While applications don’t guarantee an MCI will be approved, based on community history, the state housing agency, the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, has never met an MCI it didn’t like.

MCIs will be filed for 54 building addresses, a few with multiple filings, according to SPS spokesperson Paula Chirhart. The intercom MCI will be for all Peter Cooper buildings, while the ADA ramp one will be for just two buildings, 400-410 East 20th Street and 430-440 East 20th Street, with a shared ramp at each building. As for the intercoms, the new system will have its own wiring instead of using tenants’ land lines. The water heaters are being replaced, because, according to Chirhart, at this point, the cost of repairing them would be higher than buying new. The waterproofing work is the result of inspections which take place every five years, with work being done if the inspection shows it’s necessary. That work is being done at 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 Peter Cooper Road, 511 and 531 East 20th Street and 510 and 530 East 23rd Street.

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MCIs for façade work at Peter Cooper buildings approved

Susan Steinberg

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg, pictured at a Rent Guidelines Board hearing in June, describes the ways stabilized rents are legally padded until they’re unaffordable. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The state housing agency has approved major capital improvement rent increases (MCIs) for four buildings in Peter Cooper Village that underwent exterior restoration work — and more are expected to be approved.

The Tenants Association warned neighbors about the approvals of the MCIs, previously referred to by TA President Susan Steinberg as CWCapital’s “goodbye present,” in an email blast on Sunday.

As of July, the association had heard about the MCIs being filed for 19 different buildings in Peter Cooper and Stuyvesant Town. The cost varies at different addresses, from about $1.15 to $3 per room per month.

Reached on Monday, Steinberg said the association, which did challenge the MCIs, will continue to do so.

“There are a variety of reasons,” said Steinberg. “In a couple of instances, it was past the two-year window when it should have been submitted. There was some question whether Sandy insurance money had been used for some of the work. So we are not letting it go.”

Some of the MCIs were requested as far back as August of 2014.

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Tenants tell tourists: Take your picnic somewhere else

By Sabina Mollot

Last Friday, after word got out about an article suggesting places to visit in New York included a mention of Stuyvesant Town as “a secret picnic location,” a handful of residents reached out to demand — successfully — that the information be removed from the online story.

By Monday morning, the mention of the private property was gone, with Chelsea Waterside Park instead mentioned as a quiet place for tourists to have a picnic in the online article by the UK Evening-Standard.

Susan Steinberg, president of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, later said that she was one of the residents to ask for the removal of the information by contacting the editor. A few others had made a similar request.

“It seems a lot of people are calling our Oval a public park,” said Steinberg. She noted how the article had mentioned there were few spots downtown to set down a picnic with food bought at the Union Square Greenmarket, so she argued that that’s simply untrue.

“By the greenmarket, there’s a park,” said Steinberg. “There’s Madison Square Park. There’s Tompkins Square Park, all of which are public while we are private.”