Tenants Association hosts housing forum

Tim Collins, an attorney for the Tenants Association, at the housing forum last month (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association held a forum on Saturday, October 19 for residents to have their specific housing-related questions addressed by experts, local elected officials and representatives from the Division of Housing and Community Renewal.

Attorney Tim Collins, who represents the ST-PCV Tenants Association, said that tenants should be moderately concerned about the lawsuit landlords have filed to challenge the rent laws that passed over the summer.

As the New York Times reported in July, the lawsuit filed by landlords intended to completely dismantle the rent regulation system, claiming that the new laws would cripple the industry and that they violate the 14th Amendment’s due process clause, as well as the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment, which says that private property can’t be taken for public use without proper compensation.

“I am actually less concerned about the legal challenge than I am about the public relations challenge,” Collins said of the lawsuit. “I want you to understand the stakes are a very high and go way to the top, not only for New York City or the State of New York but potentially to the US Supreme Court. The real estate industry’s lawsuit says, [State Senator] Brad [Hoylman], [Councilmember] Keith [Powers], [Assemblymember] Harvey [Epstein]: You don’t matter. You don’t matter because baked within the Constitution is a trump card, which is actually two words: due process.”

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Week In Review: October 24

Andres Pazmino from Chelsea/Greenwich Village Chamber of Commerce, Anwar Khoder from Li-Lac Chocolates, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Deborah J. Glick and Christopher Taylor from Li-Lac Chocolates at the award ceremony over the weekend.

State Senator Brad Hoylman celebrated the opening of Li-Lac Chocolate’s sixth location at Greenwich Avenue and Seventh Avenue on Saturday. At a weekend ceremony, Hoylman presented Li-Lac Chocolates with the New York Senate Empire Award to honor this local small business. The Empire Award is the New York State Senate’s highest award for local businesses, honoring them for excellence and community involvement. Li-Lac Chocolates was given this award in recognition as Manhattan’s oldest chocolate house, and for making their community a sweeter place to live. At the award presentation on Saturday, October 19, Hoylman was joined by Assembly Member Deborah J. Glick; Erik Bottcher, Chief of Staff to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson; Anthony Cirone, Anwar Khoder and Christopher Taylor.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our neighborhoods,” Hoylman said. “At a time when multinational corporations and big landlords are making it difficult for small businesses to survive, it’s wonderful to see this local Greenwich Village small business thriving. I’m proud to present Li-Lac Chocolates with the New York Senate Empire Business Award to honor their years of success and sixth location. What could be sweeter than that?”

In response to the increased use of “smart key” systems in residential buildings throughout New York City, City Councilmember Mark Levine introduced legislation in the City Council last Thursday to prevent landlords from improperly using personal data collected by these systems to harass or evict tenants or to monitor their individual apartments. In recent years residential landlords in the city have increasingly been replacing traditional key locks with new keyless access to buildings – often referred to as “smart access systems.” These new entry systems replace physical keys with several new technological components like biometrics identifiers (i.e. fingerprints, eye scans, facial recognition technology), smartphone apps, and personalized key fobs. The ability of “smart access systems” to collect a broad range of personal data on tenants and their apartments has created serious concerns over where these systems can be used, what data can be collected, and who has access to that data.

“With the rapid conversion to electronic access in residential buildings across New York City, we have to make sure tenants are safeguarded from landlords who may try to use the information collected by these systems to harass or evict tenants from their homes,” Levine said. “Most renters in the city are probably unaware that every time they use a keyless access system in their building or in their apartment that information is electronically logged and can be seen by their landlords. We need to have strong regulations in place to protect tenants from the misuse of this data by their landlords. Every tenant has the right to know what data is being collected by their landlords and should feel secure that that data cannot be used against them.”

The de Blasio Administration launched a campaign on Monday to educate tenants on their new rights under the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019. The ads, designed by The Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants, give New York City renters the information they need to hold their landlords accountable. The ads will run from October 21 to December 15 and will be displayed in subways, bus shelters, small businesses, Staten Island ferry terminals, community newspapers, Link kiosks and online. The city’s Public Engagement Unit will be going door to door to make sure tenants know about the new protections and how to advocate for themselves.

Tenants across New York City won new protections this summer due to new State legislation. The new laws make it harder for landlords to evict tenants and strengthened protections for New Yorkers living in rent regulated apartments. These laws are enforced by the State’s Division of Homes and Community Renewal (DHCR). These protections include protection from large security deposits, onerous application fees, limits on how rent can increase, and limits how much landlords can charge regulated tenants for building improvements. Anyone with questions about their rights or concerns that they are being illegally harassed can find more information at the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants’ new website or by calling 311.

“The State Legislature passed some of the most progressive rent reforms we’ve seen in decades, but if New Yorkers don’t know their rights, it will all be for nothing,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “This campaign will arm New Yorkers with the knowledge to fight harassment and stay in their homes.”

State Senator Brad Hoylman praised Governor Cuomo last Thursday for signing legislation to end the double jeopardy loophole and enable requesting Congressional committees to obtain a President’s state tax information. As President Trump continues his abuses of power and conflicts of interest, Senator Hoylman and the New York State Senate are taking action to protect our democracy and constitution against abuses by this and future presidential administrations. Hoylman’s TRUST Act, which allows New York State to share tax return information with Congressional investigations, was passed by the New York State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Cuomo earlier this year. Governor Cuomo signed additional legislation last Wednesday to close the ‘double jeopardy’ loophole and reduce Trump’s power to pardon his corrupt associates; this legislation was advanced by Attorney General Letitia James, sponsored by Senator Todd Kaminsky and co-sponsored by Senator Hoylman.

“Combined with our new law to require Trump hand over his state tax returns to Congress, the new law closing double jeopardy loophole is New York’s ‘one-two punch’ against the lawlessness perpetrated by Donald Trump,” Hoylman said. “While the Trump Administration tramples on the constitution and the rule of law, New York is acting responsibly to hold the president accountable. I’m grateful to Governor Cuomo for signing these important bills into law and to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Senator Todd Kaminsky for passing this legislation.”

The City Council Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Sitings and Dispositions and the Committee on Land Use voted last Wednesday to approve the plan to close the jails on Rikers Island and build four new borough-based facilities, and the plan passed at a full vote in City Council last Thursday, culminating a years-long effort propelled by the strong advocacy of the formerly incarcerated to shutter Rikers Island. The vote occurred as Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Johnson and Council leadership agree to a wide-range of investments tied to the closure of Rikers totaling $391 million dollars, including $126 million in previously planned investments and $265 million in new programming that will address the root causes of incarceration and help fundamentally reshape New York City’s criminal justice system going forward. These investments are being announced in detail for the first time today.

“Throughout this process I have stressed the importance of investing in communities most impacted by the criminal justice system,” said City Councilmember Keith Powers, chair of the Criminal Justice Committee. “These targeted, citywide investments further indicate that closing Rikers Island is not only a land-use action, but an urgent moment to overhaul the criminal justice system.”

MTA New York City Transit announced last Thursday that more than 1,500 vehicles have been captured blocking bus lanes on the M15 Select Bus Service route since a new bus-mounted camera enforcement began on Oct. 7. The MTA’s newly implemented forward-facing mobile camera system is part of a multi-agency approach to keep bus lanes clear, speed up rides and prioritize transit on high-volume corridors throughout the city. NYC Transit is using an Automated Bus Lane Enforcement (ABLE) system on 51 buses that travel on the M15 Select Bus Service route, which uses dedicated bus lanes implemented by the New York City Department of Transportation. ABLE camera systems capture evidence such as license plate information, photos and videos, as well location and timestamp information, of vehicles obstructing bus lanes to document clear cases of bus lane violation. The system collects multiple pieces of evidence from multiples buses traveling in the bus lanes to ensure that vehicles making permitted turns from bus lanes are not ticketed. The package of evidence is transmitted to NYCDOT for review and processing, and the program is administered in partnership with NYCDOT and the NYC Department of Finance.

“Under Mayor de Blasio’s Better Buses Action Plan, we have committed to increase citywide bus speeds 25 percent by the end of 2020, and to get there, we will need to step up enforcement to keep vehicles out of the more than 100 miles of dedicated bus lanes we have built around the city,” Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said. “For years, we had overhead cameras along routes like the M15, but adding enforcement cameras to the buses themselves will help us further keep bus lanes clear, allowing tens of thousands of commuters to keep moving.  And we know that improvement in bus travel times consistently lead to increased ridership. We thank our state elected officials in Albany who successfully pushed for this change as well as NYCT President Andy Byford and the team at the MTA for their partnership as we strengthen this essential enforcement program, serving the New Yorkers who take more than 2 million daily bus trips.”

Maloney named interim chair of House Oversight and Reform Committee

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, seen here celebrating the passage of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund earlier this year with US Senator Charles Schumer (left) and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (right), has been named interim chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Democrats have named Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney as the interim chair for the House Oversight and Reform Committee last Thursday following the death of Representative Elijah Cummings, who played an active role in the impeachment inquiry as the committee’s chair.

Maloney is a senior Democrat on the panel and the New York Times noted last week that her appointment as acting chairwoman is in line with House rules. A permanent leader of the committee is expected to be elected at a later time, a senior Democratic leadership aide said.

Local elected officials lauded the news of Maloney’s appointment while paying tribute to Cummings.

“While we all mourn the loss of Congressmember Cummings, I am reassured by Congressmember Maloney’s appointment as interim Chair,” Assemblymember Harvey Epstein said. “Congresswoman Maloney is dedicated to protecting our democracy and I am confident that she will carry out what is necessary to move forward with impeachment inquiries.”

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Opinion: Science-based policy gets a booster shot

By State Senator Brad Hoylman

With the new school year, there’s a new law going into effect, too. This year, faced with a statewide measles outbreak of historic proportions, I sponsored legislation that ends all non-medical exemptions to New York’s vaccination requirements for school attendance.

For some people who’ve been misled by the so-called anti-vaxx movement, vaccines are part of a widespread conspiracy between government and drug companies to harm our children.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

As your State Senator, it’s my job to base public policy on evidence to make our constituents’ lives better. Strong vaccine laws do just that. When California passed a law similar to ours four years ago, their immunization rates for kindergartners rose nearly five percentage points.

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Floating billboards officially banned in New York

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Floating billboards are officially banned in New York waterways, thanks to a court order by Judge Louis L. Stanton on Tuesday, reinforcing a new state law originally introduced by State Senator Brad Hoylman and signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo at the end of August.

The New York Law Department announced the settlement of a lawsuit against Ballyhoo Media, which has repeatedly displayed large floating LED billboards on a barge that traveled daily along the Manhattan and Brooklyn waterfronts, despite the law that prohibits them.

Under the law, which was originally introduced in the Senate by Hoylman and in the Assembly by Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, boats are not allowed to operate digital billboards or other billboards that use flashing or moving lights. The bill also empowers local governments to restrict or ban the use of outdoor advertising signage on vessels within 1,500 feet from shore.

Violations of the law are subject to a $1,000 civil penalty for the first violation and $5,000 for subsequent violations.

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Hoylman combatting robocalls with legislation

State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou with representatives from AARP (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

State Senator Brad Hoylman urged the passage of legislation to curb robocalls on Friday, September 6 along with Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou and representatives from AARP and Consumer Reports, prior to an Assembly hearing on how to combat the pervasive calls. The Robocall Prevention Act, sponsored by Hoylman in the Senate and Niou in the Assembly, would effectively ban unwanted robocalls in the state of New York and the hearing examined actions to fight robocalls in addition to nuisance phone calls and spoofing.

The bill passed in the State Senate unanimously on June 14 but has not yet passed in the Assembly.

“This legislation that passed in the Senate passed with both Republican and Democratic support, which shows how widespread this issue is, how it’s impacting the constituents, how it’s hurting our seniors, how it’s defrauding our citizenry and something has to be done about it,” Hoylman said.

According to the YouMail Robocall Index, which estimates monthly robocall volume in the United States, almost 50 billion robocalls were placed to consumers in 2018, which is an all-time record. As of September 1, there have already been more than 38 billion robocalls this year. New York City ranks third out of all cities in the country in 2019, according to the index, with more than 1.3 billion robocalls, which is roughly 79 calls per person.

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Local politicians, experts answer questions on rent laws

Delsenia Glover, Ellen Davidson and State Senator Brad Hoylman answered questions about the rent laws. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

More than 200 tenants attended a housing forum hosted by State Senator Liz Krueger’s office on September 10 to learn more about the impacts of the rent laws that were passed in June, addressing the repeal of vacancy decontrol, preferential rents and new rules for major capital improvements.

The forum, held at CUNY’s Graduate Center on Fifth Avenue, was also attended by State Senator Brad Hoylman, State Senator Brian Kavanagh, the former Assemblymember for District 74 and currently the Chairman of Committee on Housing, Construction and Community Development for the Senate, housing advocate Delsenia Glover of Tenants and Neighbors, NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas and Legal Aid attorney Ellen Davidson.

The local elected officials, experts and advocates at the forum discussed some of the major takeaways from the new rent laws that were passed, specifically regarding how they would affect rent-regulated tenants, and answered questions about housing-related issues.

Visnauskas said that the strengthened rent laws are helping to preserve affordable housing throughout the state by removing loopholes that landlords could exploit to increase rents and push apartments out of rent stabilization.

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Letters to the editor, Sept. 12

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Frustrating ‘rush hour’ M23 service

I am a senior living on East 20th Street and Avenue C near the SBS bus stop. I arrived at the bus stop at 8:45 a.m. (well within “rush hour”). There was a bus outside with the front door open.

I showed the bus driver my MetroCard and said, “Just give me a second to get a slip.” I ran to the machine that was about 5 steps away from the bus. While I was inserting my MetroCard, the bus driver shut the door and drove away.

During this “rush hour,” I had to wait an additional 20 minutes for another bus. If this was the first time this or a similar incident happened, I would let it go. But this happens frequently. The bus parks away from the stop, pulls up when there’s a red light and takes off when the light changes.

Marilyn Levin
Stuyvesant Town

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Opinion: ‘Revival window’ for child sex abuse survivors opened

By State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal

A window to long-overdue justice just opened in New York for survivors of child sexual abuse, thanks to the Child Victims Act (S.2440 / A.2683), legislation we sponsored.

Until earlier this year, our state had among the worst laws in the country for survivors of child sexual abuse. New York’s statute of limitations was so tilted against survivors that most had no later than until their 23rd birthday to file criminal charges against their abusers, or until their 21st birthday to file a civil lawsuit.

The Child Victims Act changed that by increasing the criminal statute of limitations by five years and giving survivors the ability to sue their abusers or the institutions that enabled them until their 55th birthday – ensuring that future survivors have more time for legal recourse.

On August 14, one of the most important provisions of the Child Victims Act took effect: a one-year window during which adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse for whom the civil statute of limitations has already expired will be able to file lawsuits against their abusers and the people or public or private institutions that intentionally or negligently enabled the abuse.

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First new park for Chelsea in 40 years opens

The new park was constructed on a lot formerly occupied by a sanitation garage. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson joined State Senator Brad Hoylman along with other local elected officials, community board members, park advocates and neighborhood residents for the ribbon cutting on a new park on West 20th Street at the end of July.

The quarter-acre park between Sixth and Seventh Avenues was built after the former Sanitation facility on the lot was demolished by the Department of Design and Construction.

Local elected officials and community residents had been working to open the park for almost 10 years, since the space became available after the city was no longer using the Sanitation Garage on the lot.

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Questions answered at housing forum

Assemblymember Deborah Glick, Councilmember Keith Powers, Assemblymember Harvey Epstein, Cooper Square Committee director of organizing and policy Brandon Kielbasa, State Senator Liz Krueger and Legal Aid housing attorney Ellen Davidson at the forum last week. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Assemblymember Harvey Epstein’s office sponsored a forum on Thursday at the NYU Dental School on East 24th Street regarding the rent laws that passed in June to answer questions that tenants have about rent regulation and affordable housing protections.

State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger, as well as Assemblymember Deborah Glick, Councilmembers Keith Powers, Carlina Rivera and Ben Kallos, were also in attendance, and Legal Aid housing attorney Ellen Davidson was available to answer questions about the complex aspects of the new laws.

“The MCI section [of the rent laws] is just like MCIs: very complicated,” Davidson said of one of the parts of the law most difficult to understand. “[The Division of Housing and Community Renewal] will have to set a schedule of reasonable costs of what can be recovered but they have to do it quickly because they can’t do any work until it’s approved.”

One of the victories that state legislators claimed in the passage of the rent laws was an annual cap on MCIs, or major capital improvements, at 2%. The previous cap was 6%. The new law also caps the amount that a landlord can pass on to tenants after a vacant apartment is renovated at $89, while also eliminating the previous 20% vacancy bonus that landlords could add after tenants moved out.

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Anti-vaxxers protest local politicians at forum

Anti-vax protesters attended the housing forum to voice their concerns to state legislators, primarily State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger, as well as Assemblymember Deborah Glick, about a law that eliminated religious exemptions for vaccines. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Anti-vax protesters disrupted a housing forum held at the NYU Dental School last Thursday, frustrating tenants who wanted to learn details about the new rent laws.

State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger were two of the elected officials at the event and the two that received the most ire from the protesters, primarily because they were both sponsors legislation in the State Senate repealing religious exemptions for vaccinations.

The law requires that all students in public and private schools be vaccinated to attend, with no exceptions made for those with religious objections to vaccines, and many of the protesters at the event had signs arguing that thousands of children, including those with special needs, were being kicked out of their schools because of their parents’ religious beliefs.

The protest surprised elected officials attending, in part because local politicians who appear at community events in the neighborhood rarely have such vehement opposition to their policies, especially where the topic at hand is entirely unrelated to the subject being protested, but also because the legislation passed more than a month ago in mid-June.

Even as he was arriving at the event, Hoylman was challenged in the elevator by a man who argued that politicians shouldn’t be dictating how parents provide healthcare to their children, while Hoylman shot back, “You’re right, doctors should, and they have.”

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Pride Month ends with two parades

State Senator Brad Hoylman handed out US Constitutions with his husband David Sigal during the Pride March on Fifth Avenue this Sunday. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The month honoring the LGBT movement ended on Sunday with the annual Pride March down Fifth Avenue, with even larger crowds than usual for the celebration due to the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and WorldPride. The latter attracted visitors from all over the world both participating in the march and watching from the barricades.

Stuyvesant Town also celebrated Pride with a parade for the first time this year, holding the event last Wednesday after the originally scheduled date got rained out. Peggy Becker, a 25-year Stuy Town resident, said that she was excited that management had decided to host their own parade.

“It’s a historical event,” she said. “They’ve never done it before so I wanted to support it.”

High school senior Asher Dwoskin, Becker’s grandson, has marched in the city’s main parade in the past with a contingent organized by Amherst College, his mother’s alma mater, and said that marching in both that parade and Stuy Town’s was important to him.

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Letters to the editor, June 20

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Bikes not the only danger to pedestrians

To the Editor:

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.)

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Opinion: Time to end runaway MCIs

ST buildings

Stuyvesant Town

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.

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