Student MetroCard program set to expand

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The MTA Board officially approved a proposal that expands full-fare MetroCard access for students on Wednesday. The proposed resolution expands access to three-trip, full-fare student MetroCards for students who currently have half-fare MetroCards, and would eliminate the half-fare MetroCard program.

Half-fare student MetroCards allow bus-only access for K-12 students who live at least half a mile from their school. Students with half-fare cards are supposed to pay $1.35 in coins for every ride, which the MTA said increases dwell time and can be challenging to collect.

The resolution would give half-fare recipients the same three-trip MetroCard that other students already receive, which gives students three free rides every day and can be used on buses and subways.

There are currently 27,000 daily bus trips using half-fare cards. The MTA issued 200,500 half-fare MetroCards to the Department of Education for distribution for the spring semester of 2018, and data from the DOE shows that 66 percent of the half-fare MetroCards that are shipped to schools and distributed are never used, and of the cards that are used, they are used on only eight percent of school days.

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Teens: This presidential election made us pay attention to politics

Interviews and photos by Maya Rader

This week, Town & Village asked teens in the neighborhood if this presidential election has made them care about politics more or less. All the individuals we interviewed said it definitely piqued their interest.

mar2-maya-annia-gimanAnnie Giman
“I think the election overall made me care a lot more. Going to a public school in New York, I’ve been exposed to a lot more situations than the average kid has. I’ve had kids coming up to me after the election saying they were scared for themselves and their families getting deported. In 2012, I was only 11 so I didn’t really care as much, so to kind of be aware, especially with the caliber of this election, has really been interesting, and it’s kind of driven me to not only care but to get more involved and to really try to make a difference, since I can’t actually vote.”

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Letters to the Editor, May 5

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

The graying of Peter Cooper Village

As in many buildings in Peter Cooper and Stuyvesant Town, mine houses its share of young people from NYU grad programs and professional schools plus a lot of recent grads from around the country starting their new jobs or families, many doubling into a single apartment seeking to ameliorate our ridiculous market rate rentals.

For me, now a longterm rent stabilized tenant, most of these people are a welcome and ebullient contrast to the way things used to be. In those olden days Peter Cooper seems to have been populated predominantly by an overdose of somber and lugubrious graybeards who mostly got their leases by knowing an insider at Met Life, whose children (if they had any) had long ago flown far from the parental nest, and whose notion of liberalism was to tolerate blacks in the development only if they were judges, commissioners or squirrels.

Now the place abounds with young professionals, young parents, young children and young dogs — all liberally sprinkled amongst us lucky traditionals holding out in our stabilized homesteads. For me, despite occasional rare bouts of overenthusiasm emanating from the newcomers’ apartments, this new mix is a delight. The “kids” are great. It’s as if my own kids and grandchildren were (thankfully) not living with me but were (thankfully) nearby.

So what’s all this about the place graying? Well, it seems one of the last major “improvements” undertaken by the last owner, CWCapital, was to paint all the apartment and stairway doors gray, install new gray baseboards in the hallways, and replace the existing hallway carpeting with matching gray-ish wall-to-walls. This project was accomplished right after management completed installation of two gigantic illuminated “EXIT” signs on every floor, pointing to the stairwell a few feet away from each. Considering large stains on the carpet immediately facing the elevators (recently caused by hurried workmen renovating the apartment opposite mine) and another sizeable stain down the hall caused by the resident doggie’s premature expulsion — both nicely offset against the carpet’s two-tone gray — these improvements, now including a few gashes of black that have mysteriously appeared on the wall near one of the stairwells, have created an institutional-like décor, somewhat of a dreary cross between a prison and a hospital. The couple in the just-renovated one-bedroom apartment is paying north of $4,000 a month (for their first year).

My respectful suggestions to this development’s new owner are as follows: 1) Get rid of any holdover decoration and design personnel, 2) put a little color and imagination into the next makeover, 3) as chaotic as this would be, form a tenants’ committee to get input from some of the people who live here.

Joe Lobenthal, PCV

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Garodnick questions Blackstone about crowded apartments

Councilmember Dan Garodnick (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Councilmember Dan Garodnick (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Following years of Stuyvesant Town residents complaining of dorm-style apartments, or more specifically, young people packing into apartments with pressurized walls, Council Member Dan Garodnick asked Blackstone to address the issue before taking over the property.

Garodnick made the request via a letter to Jonathan Gray, the Blackstone Group’s Global Head of Real Estate, that was sent on Monday.

In it, he noted the “persistent and troubling issue for many tenants: overcapacity apartments.”

“The city’s Housing Maintenance Code restricts a single dwelling to ‘not more than three unrelated persons,’” Garodnick said. “It is clear the number of unrelated residents may exceed that number in many apartments throughout the complex.”

He went on to note that it’s often students from New York University and other schools moving into these apartments, and because they aren’t staying in the complex long term, tend to be the source of noise complaints from neighbors. “This behavior is especially common when there are more individuals in an apartment than the law allows,” Garodnick said. “As you take ownership of the property, I am hoping you will take immediate action to correct this situation — including additional steps to keep apartments from being blocked off as dorm rooms — throughout Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.”

Garodnick told T&V he thought this issue “should be a top priority for Blackstone, to not only assess but also to develop a game plan to deal with it.”

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Blackstone surveys tenants on concerns

Residents tell T&V safety, maintenance should be management’s priorities

Blackstone’s Nadeem Meghji, pictured with tenants at last month’s press conference announcing the sale of Stuyvesant Town, said the owner has been asked about students more than any other subject. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Blackstone’s Nadeem Meghji, pictured with tenants at last month’s press conference announcing the sale of Stuyvesant Town, said the owner has been asked about students more than any other subject. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Following Blackstone’s commitment to make Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village more conducive to families and longterm tenants, a rep for the new owner told Town & Village that steps were being taken to address tenants’ concerns about student apartments and noisy neighbors.

Blackstone doesn’t actually know how many students are living in ST/PCV altogether, since that isn’t information the owner collects, but a spokesperson for Blackstone noted there is currently a block lease to New York University for about 100 apartments and another 100 to other institutions (not all academic).

The company rep, Christine Anderson, added that management is aware there are many students beyond those units, but is still in the information gathering phase with regards to concerns about students and other issues.

This month, Blackstone began leaving surveys at tenants’ doors as well as the community center and some have been emailed.

In the meantime, the owner has plans to crack down on illegal subletters and monitor noise complaints.

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Blackstone addresses tenants’ concerns

Market raters bash deal, ask for insider priority on affordable apts.,

Blackstone says students have been top complaint of residents

Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Blackstone senior managing director Nadeem Meghji, Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been, Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, Council Member Dan Garodnick and ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg listen as Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Blackstone senior managing director Nadeem Meghji, Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been, Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, Council Member Dan Garodnick and ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg listen as Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Following the news about a change in ownership just a few days earlier, over 500 Stuy Town residents showed up at a meeting on Saturday where a representative for the new landlord, Blackstone, answered questions.

Mayor Bill de Blasio popped by for a bit and spoke, as did U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, but the real star of the show wound up being Nadeem Meghji, senior managing director for Blackstone. Meghji started off by telling tenants at Baruch College’s auditorium that their various concerns, brought up in the days following the sale, were being taken “very seriously.” He indicated CompassRock would not continue to manage the complex, but then later said there isn’t a timeline for any change in management teams. Meghji, who was in charge of the Stuy Town deal, frequently elicited applause when responding to tenants’ questions although he admitted he didn’t yet have enough information to answer them all. He told tenants, in response to questions about student apartments, that Blackstone had been hearing about this issue more than any other.

He added that Blackstone would be seeking further tenant feedback via focus groups and a hotline.

“We know that we are going to need to earn your trust,” he said.

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Residents sound off about noise

ST/PCV residents listen to Gerry Kelpin, the Department of Environmental Protections Environmental Compliance Unit director. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

ST/PCV residents listen to Gerry Kelpin, the Department of Environmental Protections Environmental Compliance Unit director. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Frustrations were high for Stuyvesant Town tenants attending a forum on noise while trying to come up with solutions for peace and quiet in the neighborhood. The main complaint from tenants at the meeting, held by the ST-PCV Tenants Association at the PS 40 auditorium, was the seeming lack of enforcement on the part of management about noise issues. Discussing the issue with a crowd of around 70 tenants were city experts on noise.

“People will call management then management will call public safety, but by the time public safety comes up they won’t hear the noise,” Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg said. “They say not to get involved with your neighbors so you have to wait for public safety but the next thing you know, it’s going on again.”

In response, Noise Activities Chair for GrowNYC.org Dr. Arline Bronzaft said that she disagreed that tenants shouldn’t approach their neighbors.

“You should know your neighbors,” she said. “If there’s a problem, we should be able to interact with each other.”

Other residents felt that the lack of enforcement was due to the non-compliance of many apartments on the 80/20 carpet rule, which states in Stuy Town leases that 80 percent of the floor must be covered by carpeting to mitigate noise between floors.

“Two of the last three tenants who have lived above me were not compliant with the carpeting rule,” resident Arlynne Miller said. “You have to get (management) to jump through unbelievable hoops to get them to comply.”

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Letters to the Editor, Sept. 3

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Enforcement needed on rowdiness in ST

In response to the “Sick of rowdy drunks barreling through ST” letter writer (T&V, Aug. 27): You need look no further than Vamos! where the music blasts through open doors and windows to know that ST/PCV management is not serious about the community noise policy noted in the September Community Update brochure.

Either the policy does not apply to their commercial tenants or they assume everyone has air conditioning and so, with windows closed, the racket will not bother them. But the “community” is much larger than just Stuy Town and Peter Cooper and perhaps CWCapital could show a little courtesy to the other surrounding buildings and passers-by that are well within hearing of this intrusive noise.

As for the drunks who stumble through Stuyvesant Town? Now that the weather is cooling, air conditioners will be turned off and windows will be opened, we can all look forward to suffering the full impact of the lack of patrols through the complex. This reduction in patrols seems to have coincided with the installation of the cameras around the properties several years ago but what good is watching problems unfold at the multi-screen, state of the art security office if there are no security officers on the spot to address them?

It’s time to put security officers/vehicles at the entrances to ST/PCV so that those rowdy, inconsiderate tenants can be stopped, quieted and if necessary, escorted to their buildings in silence, and yes, even evicted if they prove to be repeat offenders. Anyone not able to prove residency should be turned away.

As for the remaining information in the September Community Update brochure… since noise has been associated with sleep disturbance, cognitive impairment in children, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease, offering any health-related programs is a joke.

J. Polise, ST

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Letters to the editor, July 23

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Why New York needs its own state bank

Regarding Carolyn Maloney Congress Member and Council Member Dan Garodnick’s letter on “Why NY needs the Export-Import Bank,” T&V, June 25), I would like to mention the importance of having our own Community or State Bank in New York.  This is what Mr. Les Leopold, executive director of the Labor Institute in New York, an author of “How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour: Why Hedge Funds Get Away with Siphoning Off America’s Wealth” (2013), has mentioned.

He has also written other articles like “How Billionaires Use the Government as a Tool to Destroy Companies They Have Bet Against” (April 17, 2014), “Our Most Powerful Weapon Against Wall Street? The Rise of Reverse Eminent Domain” (Dec. 15, 2013), “Is Cutthroat Capitalism Pushing a Growing Number of Baby Boomers to Suicide?” (May 10, 2013), and many other articles during the last eight years.

It is my understanding that, as of June 2015, the only state of the USA that have had its own state bank is North Dakota, since 1919.  The CEO of that bank earns $250,000 a year – probably what a Wall Street bank CEO earns in one hour; hence, the student and mortgage loans there are cheap, and its main capital is probably the taxes residents pay to their own cities and state. What is more, when a business borrows money from their state bank, they are committed to create certain number of jobs with specific salaries.

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Letters to the Editor, Jan. 29

Jan29 Toon Silver gray

TA has been quite active in bedbug battle

Re: “Bedbugs are nothing new,” T&V letter, Jan. 22

To the Editor:

An anonymous writer in last week’s T&V made the wildly mistaken suggestion that the mention of bedbugs in a recent ST/PCV Tenants Association email regarding a City Council hearing on “short term rentals” such as Airbnb was the organization’s first acknowledgement of the serious bedbug problem in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.

To clarify the matter: In 2012, the TA established a Bedbug Registry on its website. Since then, approximately 100 residents have reported to the Registry that they have had an infestation or have had their apartments inspected in management’s “cloverleaf” inspections of apartments adjacent to an infested one. The site keeps residents informed of trouble in their buildings, warns potential renters of the problem and, in some cases, alerts management to cases that may not have been reported to them.

In August 2013, in an all-out effort to raise the alarm on the spreading bedbug problem, the Tenants Association — at enormous expense — mailed to every one of the community’s 11,227 apartments a pamphlet from the NYC Department of Health explaining how to protect against infestations and actions to take if the bugs strike. The TA’s letter that accompanied the pamphlet noted that infestations had been reported in 20 percent of ST/PCV buildings in the previous three years. Anyone confronting a bedbug problem should notify Resident Services and go online to stpcvta.org, the TA’s website, click on the Bedbug Registry at the top left of the site, and let the TA know. The Registry asks only for building address and floor number, not a resident’s name or apartment.

Soni Holman Fink, PCV​

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New business aims to find sublets for students in Stuyvesant Town

Lucas Chu of NY College Rentals

Lucas Chu of NY College Rentals

By Sabina Mollot

While many longtime residents of Stuyvesant Town would be quick to argue that there are enough college students living in the community already, one entrepreneur is hoping to become the go-to person for students seeking a sublet at the property and said he’s arranged a few sublets already.

Lucas Chu, 27, has set up a website, nycollegerentals.com, aiming to connect would be subletters with residents looking to rent out their apartments for two to six month periods throughout Manhattan. However he’s currently pushing to do more in Stuy Town and the East Village, in particular Stuy Town due to its popularity with NYU students.

“I want to make that area my focus,” Chu told Town & Village on Tuesday. He’s found the sublets there and other neighborhoods south of Harlem through online listings, but said recently tenants and would-be subletters have also begun reaching out to him. “I want to represent more apartments in Stuy Town; there’s a lot of interest from NYU students,” he said. “So far I’ve handled three. I want to do more.”

The way it usually works is, after a tenant expresses interest, “I come over and assess the apartment. I take photos, I put up a listing,” Chu said. Listings go on real estate websites like Trulia and Streeteasy.

The service is free to the tenant offering the apartment, while the student pays a fee of 13.5 percent of what the rent costs each month of the stay. In order to comply with the illegal hotels law, which says residential units can’t be rented out for stays of 30 days or less, he’s made a point to make the arrangements a minimum of two months. Sublets can be for up to two years.

Chu, in his online bio, said he used to work for the Corcoran Group but recently branched out on his own and that he learned about working in real estate, including property management, from his father.

He’s been arranging sublets over the past year, he said, noting that some people just don’t want to get locked into a one or two-year lease. He also currently runs a commercial video production company called Melty Cone. His real estate website went up about six months ago, though this week, it attracted the attention of the Stuyvesant Town Report Blog for its push to get residents to sublet.

When told by this reporter about how the growth of the student population in recent years has also coincided with an increase in quality of life complaints from longterm tenants, usually of rowdy behavior and excess noise, Chu said, “There’s always anger when change happens. I guess I’ll do my research.”

When asked for CW’s thoughts about the new subletting service, Brian Moriarty, a spokesperson for the owner, said while management had no relationship to the company, it wouldn’t be CW’s place to tell Chu not to market a legal service to residents.

On his website, Chu notes that NYU “recommends our real estate services to all their students.”

However, a spokesperson for NYU, when questioned by T&V, said that isn’t exactly correct, although NYCollege Rentals is mentioned on the university’s website on a page offering information to students to aid in their apartment searches. NYU spokesperson Philip Lentz, said, “The site is listed among other sites in our resources for students. It’s not an endorsement.”

The mention of NY College Rentals also notes that NYU students get a discount on the broker fee though the company isn’t affiliated with NYU. NYU’s website also says that there are around 250 graduate students living in Stuyvesant Town in apartments leased through the school.

Letters to the Editor, Dec. 18

You  want to put it where?

Re: “CB6 to vote on sanit. garage alternatives,” T&V, Dec. 18

To the editor:

On December 10, my wife and I attended an open meeting of Community Board 6.  Our chief interest was the report given by BFJ Planning — a private consultation firm — outlining two options for the construction of a sanitation garage in CB6. One plan would place the garage at 25th Street and First Avenue (Brookdale) as an underground facility with other as yet-to-be-determined structures above it. The other plan would place the plant on Avenue C between 15th and 16th Streets — a flat site currently owned by Con Ed and used for employee parking fronting a huge baseball/soccer field used by our community’s children in the spring, summer and fall seasons.

Both options would put the garage in a flood zone. In the case of the Brookdale option, with the garage underground, a flood from a storm of the Sandy type would not merely flood the garage with salt water, it would create a submerged structure — as in swimming pool — with indeterminate consequences for the garage itself, overlying structures and the immediate intersection — not a promising option.

In the second option, the one on Avenue C between 15th and 16th Streets, a flood of the Sandy type would clearly impact on the garage, as it impacted on everything in our area in 2012, but  here is the significant difference: the flood waters would recede. Of course there would be damage, but in this simplified scenario once the salt water recedes the area would dry and repairs would begin.

This raises the obvious question: for whom is the first plan, the Brookdale option, a consideration? We have heard some strong and firm objections to it, and in contrast, reasoned favorable remarks about the option on Avenue C — if Con Ed sells/rents/ transfers the property to the city, which I am sure the city and Con Ed will “work-out.” So… do we have two options? If you think, as I do (with the limited information available to us ordinary not-yet-apathetic-voters) you will conclude that in reality we have been given one real option.

It is the multiple story site on Avenue C between 15th and 16th Streets. To be sure, the decision making process will appear open, above board, well-reasoned, and in the end wholly predetermined. The result will be a two, three, four, five story maintenance/cleaning facility right smack in a flood zone.

So… in light of what scientists have been long-warning about climate change and the certain flooding of lowlands — witness this area in 2012 — can a paid consulting firm and city fathers do no better than propose building a garage in an area that government itself has designated a flood zone? (A suggestion: in view of climate certainties, find an elevated part of the island.)

John M. Giannone, ST

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Letters to the editor, Sept. 18

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Does noisy work have to be done at 7 a.m.?

To the Editor:

The other day around 9:30 a.m. I passed a group of PCV/ST workers sitting on a bench taking a coffee break. Their leaf blowers were resting quietly on the ground along with a large pile of leaves. It was quiet, but it was very noisy earlier when these leaf blowers were operating their loud machines, probably around 7 a.m.

I say 7 because on another occasion at 7, I called Public Safety to complain about these early morning noises which make it impossible for many residents like me to get adequate sleep. Public Safety identified that morning’s noise as a street sweeper and referred me to Resident Services. The woman at Resident Services told me that this noise was necessary because management “has to maintain the property.”

When I informed her of NYC’s law prohibiting loud machine noises before 8 a.m., she referred me to the property manager. But when I called the property manager, she wasn’t answering her phone so I left a message to call me back regarding the noisy machines. She still hasn’t returned my call and I’m betting she never will. After all, what could she say?

On pcvstliving.com, management states, “We are dedicated to providing the most comfortable and convenient experience for our residents.” Also, management’s “noise policy” urges residents to “Be mindful and considerate of neighbors during traditionally quiet hours (late night and early morning).”

Furthermore, “it is expected that you will do everything possible to diminish the transmission of sound and noise.”

Huh? Is this the same management that doesn’t return residents’ calls about excessive noise? The same management that has street sweepers, lawn mowers, leaf blowers and other loud machines destroying the peace and quiet of those “traditionally quiet hours (late night and early morning)?” The same management that expects residents to “do everything possible to diminish the transmission of sound and noise”?

Noise is definitely a quality of life issue and both management and residents should be expected “to do everything possible” to maintain at least a reasonable, if not high, quality of life for humans on the property, not just the physical property itself.

After all, what’s more important, humans or property maintenance? So would it be possible for our dedicated, mindful and considerate management to schedule the operation of all those loud noisy machines at the same time when the PCVST workers were having their coffee break at 9:30 a.m.? It’s very simple really. All the quiet work and coffee breaks could be scheduled in the early morning while the loud and noisy work would be performed after 9:30.

It would be nice to be awakened in “those traditionally quiet hours” of early morning with the comfortable experience of bird song instead of Armageddon.

John Cappelletti, ST

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Letters to the Editor, Sept. 11

Owning won’t end problems with students

To the Editor:

I fully support Larry Edwards’ demand for a conversion “that is affordable to all the tenants who live here today and to those who have been living here for 30 to 40 years or more.” (Town &  Village, Sept. 4).

However, assuming that owning an apartment will prevent transient college students from noisy partying at all hours is unrealistic in today’s real estate market. The neighboring universities will merely buy up blocks of apartment condos or co-ops as investments and turn them into student dorms with the same “howling in the courtyards,” and “waking up their neighbors at 3 or 4 in the morning.”

As for affordability, only stronger rent stabilization laws can keep apartments within the middle class, not “ownership.” Today’s “market rate” for two-bedroom Manhattan co-ops ranges from $750,000 to over a million. Families earning under $300,000 a year will be shut out.

This has nothing to do with building owners, the Tenants Association, or elected officials – all  are powerless against the so-called “free market.”

And for wealthier people who can afford to “own,” they might still find themselves living next door to howling students. They might as well join the party.

Elliot Markson, ST

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Letters to the editor, Sept. 4

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Time to own is now, before students take over

To the Editor:

Here we go again. The big move-in by students, new grads and those just starting their first jobs.  The SUVs and U-Hauls are here with hopeful parents bringing the usual bric-a-brac items needed for city living. And it’s three or four to an apartment to split the rent that no one else can afford alone. Say hi to them and ask how long they might be living here, and they will say a year or two and then on to other pastures.

Unfortunately these people will be heard howling in the courtyards when they come home from their weekend drinking and bar hopping and then on to clip-clop with their high heels on the uncovered floors to wake up their neighbors at 3 or 4 in the morning. They use the laundry carts as moving aids to get their things from street to floor. But none of them will help create a viable community where neighbors get to know each other over the years. They are just here to fill their “dorm” time and for the landlord to fill vacancies when there are few others.

So what’s the solution?  It’s time for PCV/ST to be converted into co-ops or condos. Where people will own what they live. Where neighbors will be neighbors who care about each other and care about what they own. Demand that this be done.

Demand that CW do this. And at a reasonable conversion rate that is affordable to all the tenants who live here today and to those that have been living here for 30 or 40 years or more.  If CW won’t comply, demand that they do. Get someone bigger than them so they will. If the Tenants Association can’t do it, find someone else who can. If our elected officials can’t make it happen, vote for those who want it converted and who will make it happen. It’s time. We have all been waiting long enough and we don’t want to wait any longer.

See you when I own my apartment. And everyone is a proud owner.

Larry Edwards, ST

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