New York is often held up as beacon of progressivism, but the truth is that our state has not been a leader on enacting criminal justice and re-entry reforms, fairly funding our schools, increasing voter access and protecting and amplifying the voices of groups that have traditionally been excluded from the political process. This year, with decisive Democratic majorities in both houses of the legislature, we will have a unique opportunity to go from a laggard to a leader on many important issues by making substantial changes in state law that will have implications for decades to come.
Every issue the state government is dealing with this year is permeated by the issues of race and racism, which are ever present in our society. We need to hear from people with diverse perspectives and experiences. It is critical that people who share a social justice and racial justice lens engage in the legislative process.
Please get involved. Whether you care about single payer healthcare or the renewal and expansion of the rent laws, criminal justice reforms, or fixing the MTA –– pick your issue and dig in. Learn about the bills, think about the policy implications, consider how your community may be impacted and speak up: tell your representatives what you want to see.
Mayor Bill de Blasio answers questions from audience members at a town hall co-hosted by Council Member Keith Powers at Hunter College. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The L train shutdown and the lack of local affordable housing were among the main concerns of East Side residents who packed a town hall hosted by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Councilmember Keith Powers last Wednesday evening. The mayor, along with numerous representatives from city agencies as well as Powers and other local elected officials, answered questions from more than 300 advocates and community residents during the event at Hunter College.
Stuyvesant Town resident and former ST/PCV Tenants Association president Al Doyle got in the first question of the night, asking the mayor if he would actively support a return to rent stabilization of all apartments that had been deregulated due to vacancy decontrol.
The mayor admitted that he couldn’t necessarily commit to that, at least at this point, despite wanting to.
Council Member Dan Garodnick with Mayor Bill de Blasio at a recent town hall (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
If you missed the recent town hall with Mayor Bill de Blasio hosted by Council Member Dan Garodnick, you can still share your thoughts with the mayor at another town hall on October 12 at 7 p.m. to be hosted by Council Member Rosie Mendez.
The event is intended for residents of the Council District 2, encompassing the neighborhoods of East Village, Gramercy Park, Kips Bay, Lower East Side, Murray Hill and Rose Hill. Along with Mendez, co-sponsors are Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Community Boards 2, 3, 5 and 6, Grand Street Settlement, Henry Street Settlement and the Loisaida Center. Along with the mayor, commissioners and NYPD representatives will be present.
Mendez, in an email to constituents, has also mentioned the following rules: Each constituent who is called on to ask a question will be able to ask one question. No signs will be permitted into the event. Chanting is not allowed.
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.