Longtime ST-PCV TA board member Soni Fink

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.”

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Tenants push for stronger rent regulations

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.”

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Stuyvesant Town apartment lottery reopens

Stuyvesant Town

By Sabina Mollot

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.

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ST/PCV management warns recent crimes due to ‘piggybacking’

jan17 pcv burglary suspect

Peter Cooper Village burglary suspect

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

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.
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Producer of Stuyvesant Town documentary dies

Partner on project says he will complete film

Marie Beirne, who had a background in preservation, died on November 26. (Photo from Marie Beirne bio)

By Sabina Mollot

It was over a decade ago when, as part of an effort to get Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village landmarked, the Tenants Association formed a committee to help with this goal, including by potentially making a short film.

Ultimately what happened was that, while the apartment complex still hasn’t been landmarked or even on the waitlist for consideration, the short film turned into a full-length documentary that according to one of its two co-producers, William Kelly, is currently about 85 percent complete.

Sadly, the other co-producer of the film, Stuyvesant Town resident Marie Beirne, died on November 26, 2018. Beirne’s death at age 72 was unexpected, Kelly said, stemming from complications from what was supposed to be a routine hip replacement last May. There wound up being complications including infections that landed her back in the hospital, including for more surgery. Though Beirne seemed in good spirits just four days prior to her death, when family and friends celebrated Thanksgiving with her over Chinese food at her hospital room, she was never able to recover.

She died peacefully in her sleep at New York Presbyterian.

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Upcoming L train work announced, bigger ferries coming before shutdown

Part of the L train construction site on 14th Street at Avenue A (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

From constant noise to the chaotic construction scene that has effectively hidden a number of local storefronts, the ongoing L train preliminary construction work to the upcoming shutdown has been the primary concern for many fed up residents of Stuyvesant Town.

The issue was among several brought up at a meeting held by the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association on Saturday afternoon at Mount Sinai Beth Israel.

At the meeting, attended by local elected officials and around 125 tenants, State Senator Brad Hoylman brought up a few updates to the work schedule that were only shared with his office a day earlier.

“They absolutely have to do a better job of communicating with us,” he told the crowd about the memo. “There needs to be an individual in charge and they need to have an email address on the construction site.”

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L train, noise and MCIs will be addressed at Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village TA meeting

L train construction and other train related issues will be discussed on Saturday. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

As was announced earlier this month, the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association will be holding a meeting a number of issues on Saturday, September 29 at 2 p.m.

Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg says those who attend can expect to learn more about the following topics:

One will be the L train, specifically residents’ concerns surrounding construction, and, once the shutdown begins, transportation.

“The MTA and the DOT are being awfully vague about what their plans are,” Steinberg said. “As you reported about the L train, they talk about mitigation steps but they don’t say what they are. And I love how they said they’re not really going to be 24/7, but if they need to be, they will.”

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Con Ed to begin work on gas plant remediation wells

The gas works and storage tanks of Con Ed’s predecessor company in 1890. (Photo courtesy of Con Ed)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents appeared more concerned about communication regarding Con Edison’s plan to dispose of toxic waste left behind from the property’s days as a manufactured gas plant than about the project itself during an information session hosted in Stuy Town last Thursday evening.

“We understand that it has to be done,” resident Sherry Kirschenbaum said. “Rick (Hayduk, the property’s general manager) said they will be working with Con Edison throughout the project. Our concerns were allayed.”

Con Ed expects the wells to remain in place for the foreseeable future but representatives said the most disruptive part of the project will be the drilling.

“We’ll be starting the drilling (during the day) once people are already at work and at school and the sonic drill rake we use is more of a hum,” Con Edison engineer Ken Kaiser said. “If there are complaints about noise, we could use some kind of baffling to muffle the sound.”

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ST residents concerned about trees and organized play at Playground 1

Rendering provided by StuyTown Property Services shows how the playground will look once renovated.

By Susan Steinberg
President of the ST-PCV Tenants Association

About 35 Stuyvesant Town tenants attended a town hall on Monday night focusing on the reimagined Playground 1. Hosted by Rick Hayduk, general manager of StuyTown Property Services, assisted by Wes Richards, chief landscape designer and Kevin Wyatt, master arborist, the event took place at the community center.

Hayduk reviewed the need for improvements, including unsafe asphalt requiring resurfacing, parapet walls that were collapsing and trees in various states of decay.  Construction work has already begun on rebuilding the parapets, to the chagrin of the residents living around the playground, well represented at the meeting, who are trying to cope with the drilling. The worst of the noise is expected to be over in two weeks. When completed, the playground will consist of two major areas, an AstroTurf section (about one third of the total area) and a resurfaced asphalt area (two thirds) allowing for roller hockey and T-ball. A net will separate the two areas. The decaying trees will be replaced by Princeton Elms 22 feet high. These grow 4-6.5 feet a year and produce food for squirrels. The design showed 28 benches. The playground is envisioned as serving children ages 12 and under.

Several residents challenged the project. They said playground as it existed was one playground where there was no “theme,” no organized play, no schedules and where residents could site and enjoy quiet time. One resident said she had specifically moved to a building overlooking that playground because it was quiet.

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Opinion: Why we’re pushing for stronger rent laws early

(Pictured after returning from Albany, left to right) Tom Kuhn, Peter Sullivan, Judy Miller (back row), Mary Garvey, Sherryl Kirschenbaum, Michael Madonia (back row), Susan Steinberg, Patrice Michaels, Anne Greenberg, Alex Lee, Regina Shane and Chandra Patel. (Photo by Harvey Epstein)

By Susan Steinberg
President, Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association

Here we go again.  New York State’s rent laws expire in June 2019 and tenant groups are already taking action to renew and strengthen them.

The 2019 date was deliberately set at the time of the 2015 rent law renewal so it would occur in a non-election year, saving incumbents from the danger of losing their seats as a result of a strong, forceful tenant lobby. 2018 is, of course, an election year which means that now is the time to start putting the pressure on state legislators who want tenant support for their election or re-election runs. Since bills to strengthen rent laws can be passed any time prior to the June 2019 expiration, the challenge is to get them to the floor of the Senate for a vote. They are now languishing in the Senate’s Housing Committee. (The State Assembly has already passed two bills and will easily pass a third but the Senate has yet to act.)

What is the tenants’ game plan? We are pushing for passage of three bills to strengthen regulations by repealing two laws most responsible for the loss of rent-regulated units — vacancy deregulation and vacancy bonus — and for closing the preferential rent loophole.  Vacancy decontrol is responsible for the loss of 250,000 rent-regulated units over the past decade; the vacancy bonus gives landlords a 20 percent rent increase each time an apartment turns over; preferential rents are a discount from the legal rent that can be taken away at lease renewal leading to a sudden increase of hundreds of dollars.

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Don’t fall for this rotten apple phone scam

apple logoBy Sabina Mollot

The latest phone scam to irritate New Yorkers struck this past week, with numerous residents of Stuyvesant Town reporting they were called by someone claiming to be from Apple.

Susan Steinberg, president of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, said she received at least six of those calls on Sunday, and while she wasn’t fooled, “It’s enough to make you want to pull the phone out of the wall,” she said.

A bunch of neighbors also reported receiving the same on the association’s Facebook page over the weekend.

Like with similar scams in which the caller pretends to be from the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Treasury and Microsoft, recipients receive a call from an automated voice, instructing them to call back.

In this case, callers are informed that their iCloud account has been hacked and their data is in jeopardy. Steinberg first got called in the morning, getting a barrage of followup calls throughout the day.

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Hoylman, Powers ask HCR why it approves all MCIs

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg, pictured at the podium, discusses MCIs at a Tenants Association meeting held in November, alongside local elected officials. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Fed up with the consistent approvals of major capital improvement (MCI) rent increases by the state’s housing agency, Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg called on local elected officials last November to get the agency to stop what seemed to be a rubber stamping process. Or at least, Steinberg said, while hosting a meeting for neighbors, to explain the reasons for the approvals of every MCI ever applied for by the landlord, when the Tenants Association has challenged each and every one of them. She noted at the time that the agency, by its own regulations, was supposed to provide explanations for its decisions.

The two state elected officials sitting on the stage of the auditorium of MS 104, State Senator Brad Hoylman and then-Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, said they’d follow up.

Five months later, Hoylman, as well as new City Council Member Keith Powers, have penned a lengthy, legalese-filled letter to RuthAnne Visnauskas, the commissioner of the state housing agency, Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) that reiterates the TA’s arguments against the permanent rent increases.

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Ticketing blitz hits drivers in Stuy Town

Drivers parked in the loop roads have been slapped with tickets. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Stuy Town drivers, beware.

A recent and ongoing ticketing blitz in the loop roads around the Oval has local motorists on edge for a couple of reasons. First, generally, parking tickets are the domain of Stuyvesant Town’s own public safety department, whose officers are deputized to issue them for infractions. Additionally, they offer a 15-minute grace period to drivers loading and unloading at times when parking isn’t permitted. This grace period was arranged by then-Assembly Member Steven Sanders and the city in 2002.

But all that has changed within the past couple of months. Residents have been complaining on the ST-PCV Tenants Association’s Facebook page, as well as to the office of Council Member Keith Powers, about an NYPD crackdown on illegal parking, that came without warning.

The infractions were for idling as well as for parking in spots where “No Parking” signs were posted. A rep for Powers noted that public safety typically lets drivers know when they can re-park after street sweeping is concluded but that tends to be before the “No Parking” signs indicate.

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TA member recalls first conversation with Blackstone

The ST-PCV Tenants Association’s John Sheehy (pictured) and Blackstone’s AJ Argarwal have neighboring properties in the Hamptons.

By Sabina Mollot

John Sheehy, treasurer of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, recalls exactly the moment when he learned of The Blackstone Group’s interest in Stuyvesant Town.

Sheehy, who has a summer home in East Hampton, has a neighbor in Blackstone’s AJ Argarwal, a senior managing director in real estate. Though they didn’t know each other particularly well, one day they happened to see each other as Argarwal was pulling into his driveway with his wife and Sheehy asked Argarwal if he had any interest in Stuyvesant Town.

His response: “Of course,” recalled Sheehy. It wouldn’t be until a year later, though, when the two men actually met again on the subject of Stuyvesant Town.

This was when he’d arranged for Agarwal, whom he called “a pleasant fellow,” to meet with then-Council Member Dan Garodnick at his midtown office. This was in October 2014, and the Tenants Association still had hopes of going condo.

But CWCapital hadn’t yet shown any interest in that plan.

“CW was saying, ‘We’re not ready to sell, and what’s all this talk about selling?’”

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Tenants asked to speak at Council hearing on rent stabilization

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association is asking neighbors to share their stories about why rent stabilization is needed at an upcoming hearing.

On Monday, March 19 at 1 p.m. the City Council Housing and Buildings Committee has scheduled a public hearing on two measures introduced by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. One is to renew the city rent control law (which doesn’t apply to ST/PCV), and the other (Intro 600-A) is to renew the NYC Rent Stabilization Law of 1969 (which does), for three more years.

In an email to residents on Friday, the TA stated, “As long as the city vacancy rate is below 5 percent the city can renew a declaration of housing emergency. The vacancy rate is currently 3.63 percent, according to the Census Bureau.”

Tenants will have the opportunity to give testimony or simply attend the hearing to support neighbors.

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