Tenants Association files lawsuit against Blackstone

Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg with local elected officials last Thursday (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association filed a lawsuit against property owner Blackstone last week in response to an attempt to deregulate more than 6,000 apartments.

Blackstone is attempting to deregulate units that are currently under the J-51 tax exemption, which expires at the end of June, and increase rents on those apartments for leases renewed or starting in July or later. The private equity firm is arguing that the regulatory agreement Blackstone signed with the city in 2015 supersedes the rent laws the state legislature passed last June, but tenant advocates and local elected officials argued at a press conference in Stuy Town last Thursday that the rent laws abolished deregulation all apartments, regardless of previous agreements.

“The new law is clear and unambiguous,” Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg said. “Blackstone Group is of the opinion that these pro-tenant reforms do not apply to them. We disagree. They cannot disregard state rent law and raise rents and deregulate units as if the law had never been changed.”

State elected officials at the press conference said that they were very specific when writing the rent laws that passed and that Blackstone was not interpreting the law as it was intended.

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Management will return lobby directories, names on intercoms

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The STPCV Tenants Association announced in an email last Wednesday that management would be restoring the resident directories in lobbies and on building intercoms.

Last November, some residents noticed that tenant names had been removed from building intercoms, making it difficult for visitors to find residents’ apartments without knowing the apartment number. StuyTown Property Services General Manager Rick Hayduk said at the time that management had been receiving an increasing number of requests to have their names removed from video intercoms and the resident lists in building lobbies due to privacy concerns. After a number of complaints from residents, management later announced that there would be an opt-in option for residents that would allow tenants to still have their names listed on the intercoms, but at that point there was no plan to bring back the printed building directories, and the TA continued to push the issue with management, citing possible housing violations.

Hayduk, while noting that the law still seemed antiquated, said that management will be returning tenant names to intercoms and reinstalling the lobby directories.

“Our position is that we take privacy seriously,” Hayduk said. “We had less than 10% of residents opt-in, but the challenge is always awareness.”

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Tenants can opt-in to intercom directory

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association alerted residents last Monday that management would be allowing tenants to “opt in” to having their name listed on building intercoms, despite saying at the end of last month that doing so would be too complicated for so many apartments. 

StuyTown Property Services general manager Rick Hayduk previously told Town & Village that names had been removed from building intercoms on the property due to privacy concerns expressed by some residents but the TA said that once the names were removed, they received complaints from tenants that friends, delivery people and emergency care personnel were unable to find their apartments without the intercom directory. 

“Despite less than 10 residents reaching out to our team on this matter, we felt that an opt-in was a reasonable request,” Hayduk said regarding the recent change. “That said, we will do what we can to protect the privacy of all residents, especially as the issue of privacy evolves in today’s society.”

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Tenant names removed from intercoms in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents were shocked and dismayed to learn this weekend that tenant names have been removed from all intercoms in all buildings throughout the property.

StuyTown Property Services general manager Rick Hayduk said that tenant names have been removed from all video intercoms, in addition to the resident list that used to be next to the mailboxes, due to privacy concerns.

“Many residents, and at an increasing frequency of late, had requested their names be removed,” Hayduk said. “In light of not only our response to privacy concerns, but the general issue of privacy overall, we made the decision to remove all resident names from public areas.”

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association sent an email to residents on Sunday about the sudden change, noting that the disappearance of tenant names has resulted in strangers dialing resident intercoms, missed food deliveries and emergency caregivers needing directions to apartments. Now that tenant names have been removed, only apartment numbers and buzz-in numbers are listed.

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Associated closing in Stuyvesant Town

Associated Supermarket in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Associated Supermarket in Stuyvesant Town on East 14th Street will likely be closing by the end of this year, StuyTown general manager Rick Hayduk announced in an email to residents last Friday afternoon.

Hayduk noted in the message that management has been working with the store in an attempt to keep the market open through the holiday season, including by offering free rent, but the store reportedly still would not be able to guarantee that it could stay open through the end of the year.

The owners told management that the competitive environment for supermarkets, both locally and due to online ordering, led them to the decision to close.

Norman Quintanilla, who has been the manager at the store for the last 16 years, told Town & Village on Tuesday that they have notified employees that the last day would be December 10, but the store will likely end up closing by the end of November.

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Blackstone halting renovations on vacant units in STPCV

Stuyvesant Town

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Blackstone Group, owner of Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village along with Kips Bay Court and other properties in the city, will stop apartment renovations in Stuy Town as the firm considers the impact that the new rent regulations will have on their business.

Crain’s New York Business first noted the change earlier this month, citing a spokeswoman for Blackstone who said the company is “in the process of evaluating capital investments at Stuy Town.”

A source also noted that renovations on vacant apartments at the complex, which has more than 11,000 units, would halt, possibly in addition to larger construction projects on the property. It’s unclear if management is currently in the process of any major capital improvement (MCI) work. The source confirmed that legally-required repairs to fix leaks or hot water service will continue.

STPCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg said that she isn’t sure what precisely this change will mean for current tenants.

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Bikes still a primary concern for Stuy Town-Peter Cooper residents

Executive Officer Ernesto Castro of the 13th Precinct (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper residents expressed concerns about cyclists around the property, especially the bike lane on East 20th Street between First Avenue and Avenue C, at the Tenants Association’s annual meeting last Thursday.

Resident Susan Mason said that a mom in the neighborhood said her stroller was hit while her child was in it. Mason did not specify if this was at the intersection of East 20th Street and First Avenue but said that the corner seems to be a problem.

“Since you’re trying to educate the bicyclists, it would be helpful if you could send officers to 20th and First because cyclists are constantly going through lights there,” she said.

The 13th Precinct’s executive officer, Ernesto Castro, noted at the meeting that there has been one collision reported at East 20th and First so far this year, and the NYPD usually focuses traffic enforcement on areas with more crashes, including East 23rd Street and Second Avenue, as well as at Sixth Avenue.

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Updated: 5 Stuy Café applies for wine and beer license (application withdrawn)

dec1-5-stuy-cafe

5 Stuy Cafe (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Update at 12:15 p.m.: Cooper Cafe has withdrawn its application and will not be at Community Board 6’s Thursday meeting, CB6 has told us.

By Sabina Mollot

The operators of 5 Stuy Café have applied for a wine, beer and cider license and the application will be among one of several to be discussed at a Community Board 6 meeting on Thursday evening.

Liquor and beer and wine licenses are granted or denied by the State Liquor Authority, but community boards have an advisory role.

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association mentioned the upcoming meeting in an email blast to tenants on Monday evening. It will be held by the CB6 Business Affairs and Street Activities Committee on Thursday, February 28 at 7 p.m. at the board office at 211 East 43rd Street, Suite 1404.

Meanwhile, Stuy Town general manager Rick Hayduk told Town & Village that after learning about the application, he would be requesting that it be withdrawn until the details are vetted by StuyTown Property Services. The café is run by a third-party operator called Cooper Café LLC.

Susan Steinberg, the president of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, said the association has not taken a position on alcohol being served at the café.

“We acknowledge the many tenants who have requested the option of having a glass of beer or wine with their food,” said Steinberg. “We also acknowledge the many tenants who are concerned about the possible consequences (increased noise and commotion) that might arise as a result of the wine and beer license. An applicant who comes before the Business Affairs and Street Activities Committee of Community Board 6 will need to assure Board 6 and the public of their procedures to contain noise and nuisance. (Disclosure: I am Vice Chair of that committee; I can ask questions but will have to abstain from voting.)  Assuming the application is approved, if management is unable to contain behavior after a few months, the TA will come down hard.”

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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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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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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Upgraded heat system leads to fewer complaints in ST/PCV

Stuyvesant Town on a recent winter day (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

There’s no question this winter in New York City has been a particularly brutal one, up until last week, anyway.

As always, this has led to some heat complaints in residential buildings across the city. As Town & Village recently reported, a study conducted by RentHop showed that on the week of the “bomb cyclone” snowstorm on January 4, the citywide average for complaints about lack of heat in a neighborhood was 39.5 unique complaints per 1,000 apartments (57.3 including duplicate complaints).

In Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village that week, there were 8.9 complaints per 1,000 units in Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village or 93 actual complaints (99 including duplicates). However, based on management’s figures, heat complaints have been decreasing in recent years.

This, StuyTown Property Services spokesperson Paula Chirhart said, is due to a few engineering improvements made to the 70-year-old complex’s heating system as well as nonstop micromanaging of said system.

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Mayor grilled on garage

Council Member Dan Garodnick and Mayor Bill de Blasio at a town hall on Tuesday (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

On Tuesday, the mayor was grilled about the proposed sanitation garage for East 25th Street by neighbors who attended a town hall.

The hotly-contested issue was the topic of discussion at numerous Community Board 6 meetings when it was first announced in 2012 but the plan has stalled in the last two years, and Mayor de Blasio said at the town hall, which was also hosted by Council Member Dan Garodnick, that the issue will be reviewed again once the next term for City Council begins.

“The fundamental problem is that the facilities are concentrated in Lower Manhattan so we need some kind of facility to serve this area and so far this seems like the most viable site,” he said. “But there should be a real conversation about what the community needs.”

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Renovation work stops in four PCV apartments due to lack of permits

Peter Cooper Village

By Sabina Mollot

This week, the city issued stop work orders on four apartments in Peter Cooper Village that had been undergoing renovations, due to a lack of permits. The four units were among the 115 apartments in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village that are being reconfigured to add an additional bedroom in each, and management is currently in the process of applying for the permits for the work.

The Department of Buildings issued the stop work orders after inspecting the apartments on Friday morning, the ST-PCV Tenants Association said. In five apartments, they found three violations in each, all related to work without a permit. Stop work orders were issued on only four, though, since management was able to immediately get a permit for one of the units.

Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg said it was the TA who tipped off the city to the problem as well as alerting management, who had been unaware of the lack of permits. The TA was initially only looking into the situation after hearing from several tenants in neighboring apartments to the ones being renovated, who were complaining about noise, vibrations and even walls cracking. While management has been responsive to requests for repairs that Steinberg’s aware of, a few eagle-eyed residents also noticed that permits weren’t posted in buildings.

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