Inauguration fails to inspire most people we spoke with

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The inauguration is screened to a mostly empty Stuyvesant Town Community Center. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

With the majority of New York City residents not having voted for Donald Trump, the televised inauguration, which happened on Friday, wasn’t exactly must-see TV, at least not for too many people in Stuyvesant Town and Gramercy.

This became clear during the pre-inaugural ceremonies when this reporter, attempting to get some local reaction at Cooper Town Diner on First Avenue, was told “no comment” repeatedly.

But out of those who did comment, most, unsurprisingly, weren’t happy.

Josh Thompson, a Stuyvesant Town resident and Democrat candidate for mayor, once previously told T&V he considered Cooper Town to be his second office. But on this day, he was taking his food to go.

Asked for this thoughts, Thompson, an avowed “Obamacrat,” said he had recorded the inauguration of President Obama in 2009 and would go home to watch that instead.

“I’m going to do that for the day,” he said before rushing off.

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ST woman spreading the magic of Mah Jongg

Ahuva Ellner, pictured second to right, at a Valentine’s Day game at the Stuyvesant Town Community Center

Ahuva Ellner, pictured second to right, at a Valentine’s Day game at the Stuyvesant Town Community Center

By Sabina Mollot

Ahuva Ellner, a Stuyvesant Town resident and hospice nurse, has, for the past several months, actively worked to spread the magic of Mah Jongg.

Though the ancient board-and-tile game has, for decades, enjoyed tremendous popularity among seniors and Jewish women (like Ellner), she’s recently noticed heightened interest from younger players. Now, she’s trying to recruit more players of all ages, at least locally.

Around Valentine’s Day, Ellner organized a game for neighbors at the Stuyvesant Town Community Center and since then has continued to organize Mah Jongg luncheons for the growing group at various locations.

For Ellner, who’s now semi-retired, the game has been part of her life since childhood, when her mother would host friends for games while vacationing in the bungalows of upstate Monticello.

“I would watch my mom and I would hear the tiles clattering. I would hear that distinctive noise of the tiles and the women calling ‘3 dot, 4 crak.’ I was mesmerized.”

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Former President Clinton visits Stuy Town

Clinton p1pic

Former President Bill Clinton, at the Stuyvesant Town Community Center with Council Member Dan Garodnick and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and residents Herman Diamond and Doris Black (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

With the presidential primary a mere eight days away, Hillary Clinton’s campaign got a boost in Stuyvesant Town, when her husband, former President Bill Clinton, stopped by to schmooze and pose for pictures with voters.

The visit by the former leader of the free world on Monday was almost as guarded as he was, with the event kept quiet up until the last minute when word started to get around the neighborhood. At that point, the Community Center started to fill up much more than it usually would for afternoon bridge games, mainly with politically connected residents. However, many of the seniors who’d gone there earlier to play cards were still shocked to see a president campaigning on the property for the first time in decades. Then presidential candidate John F. Kennedy had also made a campaign stop in Stuy Town in 1960.

With secret service men in tow, who cautiously allowed tenants to tap Clinton on the shoulder or back while requesting photos with him and asking him questions, the former president eventually made his way around the entire community center.

When shaking his hand, one woman informed him, “You are gorgeous.” In response, Clinton said, “It’s been a long time since a girl said that to me.”

He also got a compliment of sorts from longtime resident Tony Koestler, who told him he looked better in real life than he did on TV. An unruffled Clinton agreed with the man. “Most people with round faces do,” he said.

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ST/PCV gets new general manager

Rich Hayduk

Rick Hayduk

By Sabina Mollot

On Wednesday, Blackstone announced that it will be forming a new management company to run Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village and that they’ve chosen a new general manager, Rick Hayduk.

Hayduk, who’ll be moving with his family to the complex, started on January 1. However, the new company won’t take over from CompassRock until a transitional period ends. Blackstone hasn’t yet elaborated on the new management entity.

Hayduk has over 30 years of property management and hospitality experience, Blackstone said, and previously worked at the 350-acre Boca Raton Resort & Club as the property’s president. Prior to that he was regional managing director of South Seas Island Resort and the Inns of Sanibel, where he worked with over 20 home owners associations and residents of the resort village and neighboring condominiums. He’s been working with Blackstone properties for almost a decade.

“We are confident he is the right person for this role,” said Nadeem Meghji, senior managing director at Blackstone. Meghji added that Hayduk is “someone we know well and trust.”

Residents will get a chance to meet Hayduk at a meet-and-greet on Saturday, January 9 at 10 a.m. at the tented basketball court at Playground 11 in Stuyvesant Town. Additional meet-and-greet events will be on Tuesday, January 12 at the community center, 449 East 14th Street at 2 and 3 p.m. (RSVP required for both by calling (212) 598-5297 or emailing slaubner@abigailmichaels.com) and on January 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the tented basketball court.

Hayduk wasn’t available for comment by Town & Village’s press time, but issued a prepared statement saying he was looking forward to living in the community.

“Over the years of serving guests, residents and associates, I have seen time and time again how personally engaging customers and residents directly is the best approach in property management,” Hayduk said. “Management must be a part of the community in order to understand the needs of its residents. “My wife Carol, our two daughters and I are excited to join the PCVST community and we look forward to getting to know our neighbors and fellow tenants as well as enjoying the green spaces the community is so well known for.”

Hayduk will be the first general manager to live on the property since the Met Life era.

Stuy Town sculptor will give art talk at Community Center

A sculpture made by Adrian Bryttan out of clay and covered in gold leaf

A sculpture made by Adrian Bryttan out of clay and covered in gold leaf

By Sabina Mollot

On Wednesday, December 16 at 3:30 p.m. Stuyvesant Town resident and sculptor Adrian Bryttan will be giving a presentation to neighbors about his gold leaf covered sculptures inspired by Scythian reliefs, and the process that goes into making them.

The talk will take place at the Stuyvesant Town Community Center, 449 East 14th street (First Ave. Loop and East 16th Street).

Bryttan, who makes his sculptures at home in his apartment (using Sculpy clay, his hands and just a couple of tools for fine details), will talk about Scythians and explain the design elements that go into the art.

One of the challenges, he noted, is turning the photos he works from for reference into three-dimensional pieces.

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Aug. 12 SCRIE/DRIE workshop to be held at Community Center

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh held a press conference about the DRIE income limit increase on July 24, just moments before the City Council gave its blessing to the increase. Kavanagh is pictured with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Public Advocate Letitia James, Ellen Davidson of Legal Aid and Council Member Helel Rosenthal

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh held a press conference about the DRIE income limit increase on July 24, just moments before the City Council gave its blessing to the increase. Kavanagh is pictured with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Public Advocate Letitia James, Ellen Davidson of Legal Aid and Council Member Helel Rosenthal

A workshop on recent expansion of eligibility for the programs SCRIE and DRIE (income caps for both programs have been raised significantly in both cases to $50,000) will be held at the Stuyvesant Town Community Center on Tuesday, August 12.

State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Kruger, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and Council Members Rosie Mendez and Dan Garodnick will be co-hosting the event, which is aimed at helping senior and disabled constituents apply for SCRIE and DRIE. One-on-one sessions at which eligible candidates can get personal assistance with their applications, or get their questions answered, will be held 1:30-4:30 p.m. at the community center, located at 449 East 14th Street (on the First Avenue Loop, near 16th Street).

If you are 62 and think you may be newly eligible for SCRIE (Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption) or are 18 or older and eligible for DRIE (Disability Rent Increase Exemption), you can learn how to apply at this event.

The SCRIE and DRIE programs provide exemptions from future rent increases and some MCIs (major capital improvements). They are now within reach of many more ST/PCV residents, due to legislation authored by Kavanagh ecently enacted at city and state levels.

If you plan to attend, call the Community Center at (212) 598-5297, so staffers will know how many to expect.
For those who can’t make it, there will be two additional informational events/registration drives.

One will be at Tompkins Square Library, 331 East 10th Street between Avenues A and B, on Monday, August 11 from 1-3 p.m.
Another will be held at Stein Senior Center, 204 East 23rd Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, on Tuesday, August 21 from 1-3:30 p.m.

THANK YOU: Generous T&V readers donate toys for the holidays

Bonnie Robbins, coordinator of children and family services at Beth Israel, with some of the toys at her Second Avenue office (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Bonnie Robbins, coordinator of children and family services at Beth Israel, with some of the toys at her Second Avenue office (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

At Town & Village, holding a toy drive around the holidays to raise money for kids undergoing treatment at a local hospital is a tradition that’s spanned decades.

This year, thanks to the generosity of our readers, nearly 100 toys were collected to benefit Beth Israel Medical Center. The toys will be distributed to kids spending their Christmas at the pediatric department as well as to families who whose members are patients of the hospital’s outpatient clinics, who in many cases, could not afford gifts for their children.

Among the haul were gifts suitable for kids of all ages from babies to tweens, including dolls, action figures, games, books and a few gadgets.

Bonnie Robbins, coordinator of children and family services at Beth Israel, said the toys were especially needed this year.

Following Sandy, she noted, more families have been utilizing the hospital’s clinics. This has been in an addition to an uptick in families since the recession began.

“People have had to focus on their basic needs,” said Robbins, “so it’s especially necessary for us to be able to provide something. No parent wants to feel like they can’t give their kid something to celebrate the holidays and we help parents who would have a tough time doing that.”

Robbins as well as the staff at Town & Village would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to those who donated as well as those who offered space as toy dropoff points. This year’s dropoff points were the Waterside Plaza management office, the Waterside Swim & Health Club, M&T Bank on First Avenue, Paddy Maguire’s Ale House and the Stuyvesant Town Community Center.

Town & Village holding holiday toy drive

Some of the toys from a previous Town & Village toy drive

Some of the toys from a previous Town & Village toy drive

With the holiday season here, Town & Village is asking readers and community residents to help spread cheer by participating in our annual Christmas and Hanukkah toy drive. An ongoing tradition for this newspaper for decades, the drive delivers gifts to children at one of our local hospitals.

This year, donations will be accepted for young patients undergoing treatment at Beth Israel Medical Center as well as the children of patients of various in and outpatient clinic programs.

According to Bonnie Robbins, head of the medical center’s outpatient clinic for families, the gifts from drives have made a world of a difference to the children the hospital serves, as in many cases, their families would not be able to provide them with any presents for the holidays.

Gifts appropriate for children of all ages are welcome as well as teens. Due to hospital policy, the donated items must be new. Used toys, even gently used, can’t be accepted for health reasons. If interested in donating, unwrapped gifts may be brought to any of the following drop-off centers:

• Stuyvesant Town Community Center, 449 East 14th Street*

• M&T Bank at 397 First Avenue near 23rd Street

• Waterside Management Office, 30 Waterside Plaza

• Waterside Swim & Health Club, 35 Waterside Plaza

• The Town & Village office at 20 West 22nd Street, 14th floor

The deadline to submit toys is Thursday, December 19.

* Please note that the Stuyvesant Town Community Center is also being used as drop-off points for a separate toy drive being organized to benefit Toys for Toys. T&V’s Drive will have its own box for donations. Additionally, the center may be closed on Tuesday, December 17 and Wednesday, December 18 for renovation work. Additionally, a previously announced dropoff point, the Oval Concierge booth in front of Peter Cooper Village, won’t be available for dropoffs.

 

CW talks plans for new management office

The Avenue C management office will be converted into a children's facility. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The Avenue C management office will be converted into a children’s facility.
(Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

In anticipation of major construction work to be done on the First Avenue Loop for the new management office, reps for CWCapital quietly met with residents in buildings along the loop last week to discuss the planned project and their concerns.

The meeting was held on Monday, October 7 at the auditorium of the Simon Baruch Middle School and was also attended by leaders of the ST-PCV Tenants Association. TA Chair Susan Steinberg said buildings where tenants may be affected by the construction and noise were fliered, though there wasn’t any promotion beyond that. However, one resident, who lives at 274 First Avenue, where the new management office will be built in the current Oval Concierge space (274-276), said he didn’t recall seeing any notices.

Still, there didn’t appear to be shortage of interest from tenants, with at least 100 people in attendance, said Steinberg.

Leading the meeting was Andrew Cain, an asset manager for CWCapital and Claire Hackney, vice president of construction for the company, who answered the bulk of tenants’ questions.

CW’s plans have yet to be approved by the Department of Buildings and there were also no designs available for tenants to view.

“It would have been nice to see drawings, but unfortunately they didn’t have them with them,” said Steinberg.

As T&V reported in June, CWCapital has said with the new management office in the Oval Concierge space, Oval Concierge would go elsewhere on the First Avenue Loop, but it wasn’t said exactly where it would go at the meeting.

Currently, the only readily available ground commercial space is being used by the Community Center, and said, Steinberg, “I would be really shocked if they did away with the Community Center.”

What CW did say, recalled Steinberg, was that the company hopes work can be done throughout the winter “when there’s less activity and less people walking by.” How long the project will take is uncertain, but what does help is that no jackhammering is anticipated due to a lack of bedrock under the building.

“It’s mostly fill,” said Steinberg, “so there’ll be trucks removing earth and pretty much that side of the building (the First Avenue) side will be impassable,” she said. “People will have to use the loop side.”

Part of the project however includes upgrades for a nearby Playground 8, including the addition of a water feature. Steinberg added that management conceded some trees will have to come down in order to extend the back part of the building. (First Avenue is considered the back.) The extension will also include a green roof over a landscaped area.

In June, management said in a newsletter to tenants that the new management office would be designed with future disasters in mind so it could function as a command center, and that work was expected to be completed by spring of 2014. (There wasn’t a timetable given at the meeting.)

As for residents’ concerns, Steinberg recalled that there was some mention of a lack of access due to the fact that there would be a staff of 100 people doing this work and a staff-only entrance.

“So the character of the whole area is going to change,” said Steinberg. “It will be less residential in character and more commercial.”

However, some residents seemed relieved that management would once again be onsite and this time not all the way on Avenue C. “There are going to be tradeoffs,” said Steinberg. “So we’re not 100 percent overjoyed or annoyed.”

Steinberg said she didn’t believe there could be an MCI for this type of project.

Following the meeting, when asked for comment, a spokesperson for CW would only say there would be an announcement about the plans soon.

As for the old management office on Avenue C, CW has said part of the space will be converted into a facility for children. Talks are currently being held with potential vendors.

Following the space being flooded during Hurricane Sandy, Avenue C in Stuyvesant Town has since been declared a flood zone. CWCapital and management company CompassRock moved management operations to temporary spaces in the Oval for a few months and then moved offsite. Since then, as T&V has reported, residents have found that it’s gotten harder to reach management.

Resident town hall gets heated

Stuyvesant Town Security Chief Bill McClellan and General Manager Sean Sullivan address residents at a town hall meeting on Tuesday. Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel

Stuyvesant Town Security Chief Bill McClellan and General Manager Sean Sullivan address residents at a town hall meeting on Tuesday.
Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

General Manager Sean Sullivan hosted a town hall meeting for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents last Tuesday, the first such meeting in a number of years. Sullivan noted at the beginning of the meeting that its purpose was an informal gathering to talk with seniors about residential programming and the community center, but it quickly became clear that residents had other things on their minds. Security issues, Sandy-related problems and the rising student population were some of the main concerns of tenants at the meeting.

In light of the keycard failures during Sandy, one resident asked Sullivan at the beginning of the meeting if it would be possible to put regular cylinders with physical keys back on apartment doors.

“You may not like some of my responses but I’m going to try to be straight with you tonight,” Sullivan said. “The short answer is no. It’s a system that we put in place and it works. (Sandy) was an extraordinary moment in time and we took extraordinary measures.” Residents responded to this, frustrated, saying the system obviously does not work if it failed for so long after the storm, but Sullivan noted that Sandy was not a typical scenario. “Battery backup for the keycard system will work in a typical outage,” he said.

In addition to the keycard failures, other residents noted that the emergency lights in the stairwells failed as well. Sullivan said that there is a battery backup for these as well but they did not last as long as the outage because they were only meant to be used for hours at a time, not days. When tenants specified that there were cases in which the lighting did not even last for hours after the blackout, Sullivan said that he wasn’t aware of this issue and would look into it.

Many Peter Cooper Village residents were on hand at the meeting to express frustrations about the lack of laundry services, as well as the partial elevator service that still exists in some of the buildings.

“My husband is in a wheelchair. We waited two and a half hours because the one elevator was out (a couple weeks ago),” one resident said. “You can keep your memos about the landscaping. Restoring elevator service should be your number one priority. All we’ve got is reassurances and no definitive information.”

After heckling from other meeting attendees about the lack of a concrete date, Sullivan said the hope is that all elevator service will be restored by the end of this month, and attempted to explain why the process has been so lengthy.

“They’re not broken, they’re gone,” he said. “The workers are rebuilding the elevators in the shaft from scratch. We were fortunate to get in the queue. There were a lot of manufacturers that stopped taking orders because the need was just so high (after Sandy). There is no profit for us to move any slower on this.”

As for laundry, service for residents without it in Peter Cooper Village will still have a few months to wait.

“We’ve said that laundry service would be fully restored by September of this year. I’m not changing their timeline but we are trying to do better than that,” he said. “We’re focused on restoring these services. We don’t want you to be frustrated, but the damage was significant and severe. I understand the level of frustration and I don’t want to diminish it for a moment. We’re working on it. It’s not a great solution but we’re doing our best.”

Although noise and late-night rowdiness from the community’s younger population has been a recent complaint of many residents in this newspaper’s letters to the editor, residents at the meeting were more bothered by the transient nature of students in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. The constant moving in and out of short-term tenants was a point of concern for those at the meeting. Some residents noted that it even becomes a frustrating security issue because building doors have been propped open while people are moving. “It happens every month, sometimes in the middle of the month as well,” one resident said at the meeting. “When I bring it up to them, security says, ‘oh it’s fine.’ But it’s not fine. It’s a safety issue.”

ST/PCV Security Chief Bill McClellan said that alarms are set to go off if a door has been propped open for three minutes. They’ve also sent people to close doors and tell movers that they can’t prop the doors open, but residents at the meeting were frustrated that this was not helping, one noting that she had told movers herself not to prop the door open and the mover cursed at her.

A resident of 541 East 20th Street said that she was concerned about safety issues as well after maintenance had entered her apartment to install an intercom without notice or permission, and was especially disturbed after hearing about the reports of burglaries in the community.

Sullivan said that maintenance is supposed to reach out to tenants beforehand and for tenants that don’t respond, maintenance may come back multiple times to deal with these exceptions. After not specifically addressing the resident’s situation, other attendees at the meeting became frustrated, yelling while Sullivan attempted to move on to another question.

In response to concerns about the thefts possibly being related to recent maintenance work, Sullivan added that public safety is supposed to escort outside contractors to the apartments to supervise but otherwise had no information about why this incident occurred at the building on East 20th Street.

In some of the less contentious moments of the evening, Sullivan did announce that the gym is expected to reopen in just a few weeks.

He also noted, to the appreciation of the tenants at the meeting, that the doors in the community center would be replaced by automatic sliding doors, similar to those in supermarkets, because there have been issues with seniors walking into the doors or having difficult getting them open.

FEMA Workshop at Stuy Town

FEMA_ClrCommunity residents are invited to The Stuyvesant Town Community Center on Tuesday, January 15th from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. to learn about their options for FEMA assistance, the office of Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh has announced. FEMA representatives will be on hand to answer questions and to help those in attendance register to apply for assistance.

You may be eligible for assistance if your apartment was made unlivable as a result of the storm, if you had disaster-related damage to a vehicle or if you incurred moving or storage expenses due to Sandy.

The Community Center is located at 449 East 14th Street. (Enter via First Avenue Loop at 16th Street and First Avenue).

If you cannot attend the event, you can find more information about applying for FEMA assistance atwww.disasterassistance.gov or by calling1-800-621-3362. The deadline to register for assistance is January 28th.

Disclaimer: This event will be run by FEMA and they will not be able to address rent abatements offered by Waterside Plaza, Stuyvesant Town or Peter Cooper Village management.