Members of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association joined other residents and tenant organizations to call for a rent rollback outside Gracie Mansion on the Upper East Side last Wednesday night. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Met Council on Housing and other tenant advocacy groups rallied for a rent rollback outside Gracie Mansion on the Upper East Side last Wednesday evening. Members of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association marched with residents from the 86th Street/Second Avenue Q station and joined the protest in front of the mayor’s residence, with tenant organizers leading chants while Mayor Bill de Blasio was reportedly enjoying a showing of “To Kill a Mockingbird” on Broadway that evening.
Some protesters at the rally performed educational skits outlining the importance of attending the hearings for the Rent Guidelines Board where increases for rent-stabilized apartments are voted on and encouraged tenants to push for a rent rollback this year. Since de Blasio was elected in 2013, the RGB has approved a rent freeze on one-year leases for rent-stabilized tenants but last year approved increases of 1.5% for one-year leases and 2.5% for two-year leases. The last time that a rent freeze was approved in 2016.
The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association alerted residents last Monday that management would be allowing tenants to “opt in” to having their name listed on building intercoms, despite saying at the end of last month that doing so would be too complicated for so many apartments.
StuyTown Property Services general manager Rick Hayduk previously told Town & Village that names had been removed from building intercoms on the property due to privacy concerns expressed by some residents but the TA said that once the names were removed, they received complaints from tenants that friends, delivery people and emergency care personnel were unable to find their apartments without the intercom directory.
“Despite less than 10 residents reaching out to our team on this matter, we felt that an opt-in was a reasonable request,” Hayduk said regarding the recent change. “That said, we will do what we can to protect the privacy of all residents, especially as the issue of privacy evolves in today’s society.”
Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents were shocked and dismayed to learn this weekend that tenant names have been removed from all intercoms in all buildings throughout the property.
StuyTown Property Services general manager Rick Hayduk said that tenant names have been removed from all video intercoms, in addition to the resident list that used to be next to the mailboxes, due to privacy concerns.
“Many residents, and at an increasing frequency of late, had requested their names be removed,” Hayduk said. “In light of not only our response to privacy concerns, but the general issue of privacy overall, we made the decision to remove all resident names from public areas.”
The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association sent an email to residents on Sunday about the sudden change, noting that the disappearance of tenant names has resulted in strangers dialing resident intercoms, missed food deliveries and emergency caregivers needing directions to apartments. Now that tenant names have been removed, only apartment numbers and buzz-in numbers are listed.
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.
The new Citi Bike docking station in Playground 9 was installed at the end of last month, resulting in numerous complaints from residents about space from the playground being taken away. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Stuy Town residents were surprised and not entirely thrilled to see dozens of new Citi Bike docks inside Playground 9 installed at the end of June. After a number of complaints were sent to management, STPCV general manager Rick Hayduk announced last week that Citi Bike would be making adjustments to the docks later this month so that the water feature in the playground would be accessible.
Management had previously announced the arrival of the new docking stations in a June rent insert but residents on local Facebook groups expressed surprise about how much space on the playground that the new docks occupy.
The announcement from Hayduk, which came in the form of a notice posted in buildings throughout the property, said that Citi Bike was on-site last week and that they would soon be moving the docking stations to provide access to the water feature. Management expects this realignment to be completed by the third week of July. As of this week, the docks continue to block the water feature.
Councilmember Keith Powers met with Hayduk after he learned about the installation of the docks and his office has also coordinated with the STPCV Tenants Association, Citi Bike and the Department of Transportation. The DOT usually specifies station siting for Citi Bike but since the placement of these docks is on private property, STPCV and Citi Bike had more authority to pick a location. Powers’ office said that the selection of the site was done without their knowledge or that of the TA.
Grace Park has been an attorney with the Legal Aid Society for 14 years.
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Legal Aid attorney Grace Park won the Democratic primary for Civil Court Judge in District 4 during Tuesday’s election.
According to the Board of Elections, Park received 73.45 percent of the vote and opponent Lynne Fischman-Uniman got 26.09 percent, with 90.38 percent of the scanners reported.
There was a slight controversy regarding the primary at the 11th hour on Election Day when Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents received a letter from neighbors endorsing Fischman-Uniman that some residents felt was deliberately meant to look like it was sent by the Tenants Association. The letter didn’t mention the TA at all, but residents Roberta Moldow, Jane Crotty and Alan Fleishman signed the letter, which was addressed to “residents of Stuyvesant Town.”
In advance of the Tenants Association meeting covered by the recent article “Bikes still a primary concern for ST/PCV residents” (Town & Village, June 6), I consulted NYC’s Open Data concerning collisions and injuries; this data is available to anyone. I used what I found to inform my remarks at the meeting, and I was disappointed that the article didn’t mention those remarks.
The data available on that website comes from NYPD and reaches back in time as far as July 1, 2012.
I conducted two searches covering all of zip codes 10003, 10009, and 10010 from that date through the latest date for which there is data available, April 30, 2019. I found 48 instances involving one or more bikes and no other vehicles, in which instances at least one pedestrian was at least injured. (There were no fatalities, only two instances on First Avenue, and no instances on 20th Street.)
Then I completely removed bikes from the formula, leaving in other types of vehicles, and ran the same search. I found over 1,400 instances in which at least one pedestrian was at least injured. (I encourage anyone interested to check and critique the quality of my analysis. And as anyone using the site will see, there are ambiguities in the data.)
When graduate student Sophie Maerowitz told T&V (“Bikes still a primary concern for ST/PCV residents,” June 6) that bike lanes have made biking safer for biking, reducing fatalities by 44 percent, she addressed those ST/PCV “concerns” and “nervousness” with utterly irrelevant information.
Ms. Maerowitz’s remarks fail to address the fears pedestrians have been taught when they now cross streets that have bike lanes. To my knowledge no one has argued that bike lanes are a blunder, and no one has claimed that bikers have killed pedestrians. More so, my remarks and our fears do not come from all bicyclists running lights, nor from pedestrians splayed-out by bikes.
Plain and simple, our fear has been caused by a pattern of bicyclists’ behavior. So let’s not require what is not before our city government takes us as real.
Executive Officer Ernesto Castro of the 13th Precinct (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper residents expressed concerns about cyclists around the property, especially the bike lane on East 20th Street between First Avenue and Avenue C, at the Tenants Association’s annual meeting last Thursday.
Resident Susan Mason said that a mom in the neighborhood said her stroller was hit while her child was in it. Mason did not specify if this was at the intersection of East 20th Street and First Avenue but said that the corner seems to be a problem.
“Since you’re trying to educate the bicyclists, it would be helpful if you could send officers to 20th and First because cyclists are constantly going through lights there,” she said.
The 13th Precinct’s executive officer, Ernesto Castro, noted at the meeting that there has been one collision reported at East 20th and First so far this year, and the NYPD usually focuses traffic enforcement on areas with more crashes, including East 23rd Street and Second Avenue, as well as at Sixth Avenue.
By Council Member Keith Powers, Assembly Member Harvey Epstein and State Senator Brad Hoylman
As tenants in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village know all too well, there’s nothing minor about a Major Capital Improvement (MCI). That’s why we’re pushing for the elimination of MCIs in Albany this June.
Almost weekly, we hear from tenants about new MCIs being added to their rent, costs that never disappear, and the unfairness of a system that transforms sometimes dubious improvements into permanent revenue streams for landlords. These costs push rents higher and only exacerbate annual rent increases.
In theory, MCIs are designed to incentivize landlords to continually keep up and improve properties with rent stabilized tenants. For example, a landlord might pay to replace a boiler or install new windows with the ability to pass a portion of the costs onto the tenants. MCIs allow owners of residential buildings to apply to New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) for permanent rent increases after completing improvements or installations — not repairs — to rent regulated buildings. Part of the problem is that HCR almost always automatically approves these requests, leaving tenants bearing the burden. In fact, we have been helping the Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association contest 39 MCIs dating back over a decade.
This week, some residents of Stuyvesant Town received notices that the Division of Housing and Community Renewal had approved the owner’s request for hot water heater major capital improvement rent increase.
One resident shared the MCI notice on the Tenants Association’s Facebook page, which stated the increase to tenants’ rent would be $1.86 per room per month. However, MCI charges can vary slightly from building to building and this one is for the whole complex.
The ST-PCV Tenants Association had opposed this MCI, but the DHCR rejected its arguments that it would cause a financial hardship to tenants and that it was unfair because the property’s six commercial garages would also be benefitting from the upgrade. In its notice to tenants, the DHCR wrote that the garages are getting their own separate hot water systems, so they aren’t benefitting from the hot water heater (exchanger) system.
Soni Fink (pictured at right) with the mayor and other Tenants Association members during a 2015 press conference to announce Blackstone’s purchase of Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
On Sunday, Soni Fink, a longtime board member of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, died after a long illness. She had celebrated her 95th birthday a few days earlier on Wednesday, and when she died was home surrounded by family and friends.
When active in the Tenants Association, from 2000-2017, 15 of those years as a board member, Fink was responsible for the organization’s communications to neighbors. This meant she frequently and quickly churned out emails and press releases about the various efforts being made to fight rent increases and quality of life problems in Stuy Town as well as rent gouging legislation in Albany.
The work came naturally to Fink, who had a long career in journalism, working for a number of magazines as well as Women’s Wear Daily, where she was foundations editor. After time out for child-rearing, she worked in public relations for Macmillan, Inc., handling publicity for subsidiaries as G. Schirmer Music and Berlitz. She also continued to write as a freelancer, creating newsletters for Volkswagen of America and other clients.
On her efforts for the Tenants Association, Fink’s son Arthur said, “She was a writer and editor, ensuring they had good copy, which meant they could project their ideas with power and force.”
Tenants board a bus to Albany for a day of lobbying ahead of the rent laws expiring in June. (Photos by Sidney Goldberg)
By Sabina Mollot
Last Wednesday, over 30 tenants from different organizations, including 11 from the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, headed to Albany to lobby for stronger rent laws. The rent regulations that keep over a million apartments in New York City stabilized will expire this June. While they are expected to be renewed, tenants always hope to get them strengthened, which seems more likely to happen this year with Democrats having a majority in the State Senate.
At the Wednesday event, Anne Greenberg, vice president of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, led one of the groups of tenants who came from Manhattan. Another group had come from Brooklyn. The Cooper Square Committee was also participating. Greenberg’s group met up with an aide of State Senator Kevin Thomas and there was also another meeting with freshman Assembly Member Simcha Eichenstein. Tenants also eventually ran into local Assembly Member Harvey Epstein, which Greenberg noted, happened by chance because the capitol was so crowded with people.
Greenberg in particular said she thought it was important for tenants to tell personal stories like about how rents can go up drastically upon lease renewal because of preferential rents. Tenant activists are also hoping for vacancy decontrol and reform on rent increases for major capital improvements, individual apartment improvements and vacancy bonuses.
“Part of the mission is to put a story and a put a face to the issue of why we need rent reform,” Greenberg said. “The legislators aren’t always up to speed on all the issues. Now there’s a foundation where we could follow up.”
Stuyvesant Town’s apartment lottery has reopened on Tuesday for renters in the upper income tier of eligibility. Based on the affordability deal between the owners Blackstone and Ivanhoe Cambridge and the city in 2015, half of the apartments that become available are put into a lottery system for reduced rents. Ninety percent of those units are for tenants earning a household income of up to 165 percent of the area median income while the other 10 percent are for those earning up to 80 percent of the AMI.
According to an email sent out by Stuy Town management on Tuesday, this amounts to rent for a one-bedroom apartment going for $2,975 for households of one to three people earning incomes starting at $89,250. The maximum income for three people is $154,935, the maximum income for two people is $137,775 and for one person the maximum income is $120,615.
The savings from average market rent, $3,587, is 17 percent, according to the lottery website. Market rate one-bedroom apartments in Stuy Town range from $3,273-$3,675, based on current listings. Peter Cooper one-bedrooms range from $3,717-$4,046, according to listings. There are also converted or “flex” apartments, which are usually higher in price.
Stuyvesant Town management sent a newsletter around to residents earlier this week warning about an increase in building break-ins throughout the complex and warning against allowing non-residents to “piggy-back” inside.
StuyTown Property Services CEO Rick Hayduk told Town & Village that none of the incidents mentioned in the email were new and had all been reported in the last six months. The incidents included the assault of a woman who had been hired by residents and was attacked after security buzzed her into the Stuyvesant Town building and a man followed her inside, in addition to a teenager who was mugged in a Peter Cooper Village vestibule last fall.
One incident that Town & Village did not learn of at the time was an apartment break-in that occurred within the last few months where a man followed a resident into the building and started checking for open doors. Finding one, he began taking things from an apartment and was leaving as a teenage resident was returning. The resident wasn’t harmed and the suspect hasn’t been arrested.
This incident wasn’t publicized at the time because the resident requested that it not be made public, although Hayduk noted that it was reported to the NYPD.
Deputy Inspector Steven Hellman also noted at the 13th Precinct community council’s most recent meeting on Tuesday evening that package thefts have been up in the neighborhood, with two suspects being arrested for a string of six incidents in Stuyvesant Town on Christmas after they managed to get into multiple buildings. Hayduk noted in the email that package thefts have increased on the property and often occur when non-residents manage to piggy-back into the buildings. Continue reading →