Letters to the Editor, July 24

Conversion should be fully supported by mayor

Mayor de Blasio came to Stuyvesant Town last week to sell his vision of affordable housing for all – including designating ST-PCV as part of his plan for affordable housing throughout Manhattan.

Buried within your article, you reported that the mayor “was open to the idea of a conversion.”

Apparently, the Tenants Association did not press the mayor on the TA’s clearly stated goal, made on behalf of thousands of ST/PCV tenants: a tenant-led, non-eviction condo conversion of the property.

Recall that in October, 2012, to great fanfare, the Tenants Association said that it was taking our case directly to the bondholders. The TA leaders said the time had come for CW Capital to step aside, and if CW would not meet us at the table, we would “cut out the middleman.”

In fact, however, the TA failed to contact the bondholders, and took no further steps on behalf of the 11,000 tenants who wanted to take charge of their destiny and have a seat at the table.

A condo conversion keeps things affordable because long-term tenants can remain in their apartments, without the fear of ever-increasing MCIs that are designed to squeeze tenants until they leave.

A condo conversion allows the new stabilizers to become new homeowners.

Mayor de Blasio needs to stand up in solidarity with tenants and the TA that has worked so hard for a condo conversion. First, he sandbagged our councilmember, lobbying for Dan Garodnick’s opponent in the speaker race.Now he is sandbagging the Tenants Association.

Whose side is the mayor really on?

Name Withheld, ST
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My Verizon FiOS renewal nightmare

Seth Shire in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Seth Shire in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Seth Shire
Obfuscate: To stupify or bewilder. To darken or confuse.
I am writing this article to bring to light my experience with the misleading business practices of Verizon FiOS. I am hoping to save other residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village from the problems I have had.
Two years ago, in May of 2012, I accepted a FiOS offer for TV, internet and telephone. The cost was $84.99 per month, with a two-year contract. Adding in taxes and other charges the monthly total came out to $94 and change. The service that I received was fine.

This past May, knowing I was at the end of my two-year contract, I called Verizon FiOS to see what kind of a deal I could make to continue the service. I spoke to a Verizon representative (I’ll call him Representative #1) who told me that I could have the same services, with a two-year contract, for $95 a month (not including taxes and other charges).

I asked Representative #1 if I could have a lower rate if I dropped some channels from my cable package. He told me that he could put me on a lower channel tier but that I would lose some sports channels. I was fine with that but emphasized that I did not want to lose CNN or TCM (Turner Classic Movies).  Representative #1 assured me that I would not lose CNN or TCM. I agreed to the two-year contract.

The next time I turned on my TV I discovered that I no longer had TCM.
I called Verizon, spoke to another representative (Representative #2) and had TCM restored, which meant going back to my original channel tier. I then said that I would take the deal for all my present services for $95 a month (as had originally been offered to me by Representative #1).

I was then connected to another representative (Representative #3) who said I could no longer have that rate because I had been “grandfathered” in for the $95 monthly rate and, since I had moved to a different tier, I could no longer go back to that rate. I explained that the reason I had moved to the different tier was because of incorrect information (the promise of keeping TCM) made by Representative #1. Representative #3 said something to the effect of “Oh that’s just human error” and that there was nothing she could do about it.
I asked Representative #3 what kind of a deal she could offer me. After putting me on hold for quite a while she came back with an offer. She said she would increase my internet speed and keep my present TV and telephone package if I took a two-year contract. She explained that my monthly rate would be $90 for the first year ($105 with taxes and surcharges). She said she did not know what my rate would be for the second year. I agreed to this deal as it seemed to be the best I was going to get and with the knowledge that I had 30 days to cancel it.

I called back later and spoke to Representative #4. I said that I thought it unfair for me to commit to Verizon for two years when they were only committing to me for one year (the $90 monthly rate, for only one year). Representative #4 said my rate for the second year would be $114 per month, but that there would be discount deals available. She recommended that I take the $90 per month deal for now and that I call back in a year because there would always discounts available.
So my 30-day trial period ticked by (it is funny they call this the “30-day worry free” guarantee, considering what transpired). On the 31st day I received an email from Verizon telling me that my bill was now $185.  I called Verizon and spoke to Representative #5. I explained that my contract was for $90 month ($105 with taxes and surcharges). To my incredible frustration, Representative #5 told me that I had no contract at all!

When I explained about the $90 rate for one year with a two-year contract that I had been given (by Representative #4) and the increase in internet speed, Representative #5 said that no one would have given me that deal. When I recounted how Representative #4 said I should call back in a year to see what deals were available for the second year, Representative #5 claimed that they no longer negotiated with customers.
When I asked why my bill was $185 she said it included charges from May to June. When I explained that I had already paid my bill for May to June she gave me an incomprehensible explanation and told me that, going forward, my monthly bill (with taxes and surcharges) would be around $150! Representative #5 went on to tell me that she thought the deals that Verizon FiOS made for new customers were too good. She also told me to be a more careful consumer and get things in writing. Lesson learned.

To sum up: Representative #1 gave me incorrect information, which caused me to make a change to my plan. Representative #3 said that because I made a change in my plan I was no longer eligible for the $95 per month rate on a two-year contract. Representative #4 gave me a two-year contract with a monthly rate of $90 ($105 with taxes and surcharges) for the first year. Then I received a bill for $185. Representative #5 denied that I had any contract at all. She also said that Representative #4 never made me the offer that she had, in fact, made to me, and to which I had agreed.
Fortunately, here in Stuyvesant Town (and, I believe, in Peter Cooper Village also) we have choices other than Verizon FiOS. I am sure that Verizon has benefited enormously from selling services to residents of our community. This is how they showed their appreciation to me.

At the end of June I switched my telephone, TV and internet over to RCN. RCN has been a pleasure. Their internet is fast and the TV and telephone work just fine. The price for all three is reasonable. Instead of having to deal with a different customer service representative each time I call, as was the case with FiOS, at RCN I deal with one customer service representative. He returns calls and emails and is committed to customer satisfaction. The RCN technician who came to switch me over to RCN was the nicest, most patient and hardest working technician I have ever seen.

I would like to hear from other tenants who have had trouble with Verizon FiOS.
I can be contacted at seth@townvillage.net.

Editor’s note: Town & Village contacted Verizon FiOS regarding Shire’s customer service experience. Below is the response from company spokesperson Lee Gierczynski:
“Mr. Shire contacted Verizon to renew his FiOS services at end of his contract and wanted to retain the same pricing and products. Verizon made every attempt to keep costs/products similar yet current service offerings required changes which would have slightly increased his pricing.
“Due to a service order processing error, the pricing and products did change beyond what was discussed with Mr. Shire, which resulted in his dissatisfaction. Subsequent calls to Verizon did not resolve these issues, and Verizon is further reviewing the order.”

Seth Shire is a professor at CUNY Queens College during the summer and Queens College and CUNY York College during the fall. He also sometimes writes news articles and film reviews for Town & Village.

Letters to the Editor, Mar. 28

The American public is fed up with banks

Never mind the gridlock in Congress, a body that “we the people” put in place, which if truth be told seems to be all about I, I, I, Me, Me, Me, or My, My, My…this potential revolution that I am starting here, has to do with banking.

Banks were saved by the American taxpayer! Having had everything to do with their potential failures, the exalted top figures proceeded to give themselves bonuses as soon as our dollars made the banks stronger.

Let me give you a few examples of what seems to me criminal behavior, which used to be called usury.
Shop around and see what interest banks are offering on your money (CDs, money market, checking) that should not be at risk. Pathetic!

Open a credit card at Saks Fifth Avenue or Lord &Taylor, for example, cards which banks manage, and you will find an offer to “lend you money” for purchases at starting rates of 23.99 percent and 25.49 percent!

On the other hand, if you are fortunate enough to have an American Express Card and you charge and pay back over a certain amount, you get back 5 percent on certain purchases. (Charging pays more than saving!)

Things are upside down. The examples I have given are just forthe American public to start thinking about. I have been told of people missing one credit card payment and their interest rate going up to 29.9 percent! And then have heard payment rates being as high as over 30 percent!

Why are banks regulated by the Fed to keep rates so low, causing customers who support the banks to get royally ripped off (to put it nicely, but you know what I mean) and then Congress allowing banks to charge these outrageous usury rates to people, using our money?

Now banks want you to put money at risk and charge you a fee when that is not the intent of most of their customers. “Certain” moneys need to not be at risk and that is what banks were intended to protect. Because of their incompetence (and greed) “they” are trying to change the real purpose for their being.

If banks cannot figure out how to make a bigger profit with our money, not rip people off on both ends – 1) the ones who are saving and being offered ridiculously low rates, the lowest ever, and then 2) ripping off the public who can least afford it, with these usury rates (up to 30 percent) – we need more competent bankers and laws need to be changed! Fair laws would be a start.

We the people are allowing this! I want a revolution in banking to benefit the people! And better bankers!

Kay Vota, ST

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