TA Activity Roundup—Summer 2017

We challenged MCIs: The TA filed a Petition for Administrative Review (PAR) with the state’s Division of Housing & Community Renewal for exterior restoration work on several Peter Cooper buildings. The outcome of this legal action will ultimately affect residents of other Stuy Town or Peter Cooper buildings that have undergone or are currently undergoing work on their façades. Despite our filing a PAR, DHCR jumped the gun and approved a few of the applications. The TA’s attorney is filing objections.

We educated management how not to collect retroactive MCI charges: An under-door notice from management to residents of one Peter Cooper building hit by the façade MCI advised that the MCI rent increase would appear on September rent bills and that the retroactive increase (20 months) would be billed as a lump sum. That’s illegal, we explained to management. DHCR regulations state that monthly and retroactive MCI charges combined cannot be more than 6% of the rent at the time the MCI application was filed. Furthermore, landlords can’t charge any retroactive while there is an active PAR, which is the case for all the exterior restoration applications. This is why the TA needs you to alert us when you receive a management communication.

We went to bat—again—for key cards without your name on itWhen a tenant recently requested a key card without his name on it, Resident Services claimed he didn’t have that choice. Not so! We quickly clarified the issue with management. The TA won a court ruling on this matter 12 years ago, when MetLife switched from metal keys to electronic key cards. DHCR agreed that having names and photos compromised security. Want a card without your name on it? All you have to do is ask—it’s your legal right.

We stopped reconfiguration work being done without work permits: The TA’s report to the Department of Buildings stopped work on five Peter Cooper apartments that were undergoing major work without permits. Checking on tenant reports of noise, vibrations, and cracking walls, we found that “reconfiguration”—turning the kitchen into a bedroom and creating a kitchenette in the living room—had started without required permits from the DOB. Management had to stop work until the permits were issued.

We arranged a meet and greet for the candidates for our City Council district: A sizable crowd of residents turned out Saturday, September 9, on the Oval to put questions directly to the primary candidates for City Council. We thank StuyTown Property Services for providing the venue.

We hosted a presentation on active shooter situations: FBI Special Agent Jim Kim gave a presentation on active shooter survival strategies.


New A/C Surcharge Effective 10/1/17

For tenants paying a surcharge for A/C units, the monthly cost per unit has been reduced to $26.02 effective October 1, 2017. The state agency Homes and Community Renewal sets the charge every year using information from the Rent Guidelines Board’s 2017 Price Index of Operating Costs. According to the agency’s Operational Bulletin 84-4, the charge was “decreased to reflect a 2.35% decrease in the price of electricity” for buildings where electricity is included in the rent.


Filming on the Property: Your Right to Privacy

Many residents saw notices about management filming in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village posted on the property on Sunday, 9/17/17, and Monday, 9/18/17. The notice, in brief, indicated that anyone entering the area automatically consented to be photographed, filmed, or recorded for any use—throughout the universe in perpetuity.

The same issue came up a number of years ago with previous owner Tishman Speyer. At that time, the Tenants Association advised Tishman Speyer that filming individuals without their written consent is a misdemeanor violation of Section 50 of New York’s Civil Rights law.

Last week on behalf of the TA, Councilmember Dan Garodnick contacted StuyTown Property Services General Manager Rick Hayduk to object to the broad language of the notice.

Hayduk stated clearly and unequivocally that—despite the language of the posted notice—individuals' images would not be used without their consent. He also advised that the filming was for a Blackstone internal video and not for promotional materials.

Hayduk has committed that, should future filming take place, he will include language in publicly posted signs that will make clear that no one's image will be used without their explicit written consent.


Tues., 9/26: Town Hall with Mayor Bill de Blasio

The Tenants Association, along with Waterside, several community boards, and others, is cosponsoring a town hall with Mayor Bill de Blasio. The town hall is being presented by Council Member Dan Garodnick, Borough President Gale Brewer, Representative Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Liz Krueger, and Assembly Member Dan Quart.

When: Tuesday, Sept. 26, at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.
Where: High School of Art & Design, 254 East 56 Street

Space is limited, so please RSVP by Tuesday, Sept. 25, noon
Online: http://our.cityofnewyork.us/page/s/garodnick-town-hall
Email: ManhattanTownHall@cityhall.nyc.gov
Phone: (212) 788-2781

See the flyer for more info.


Sat., Sept. 9: Meet and Greet City Council Candidates

Residents of ST and PCV are invited to meet candidates running for the City Council seat for District 4. As you probably know, longtime council member and PCV neighbor Dan Garodnick is term-limited. Nine Democrats and one Republican are vying for the seat.  

Rather than a structured debate, this is your opportunity to express your concerns and ask your questions directly of the candidates.

When: Saturday, September 9, 1 p.m.–3 p.m.

Where: South side of the Oval (near Playground 12), weather permitting. In the event of cancellation, management and the TA will send an e-mail at noon.

The Democratic primary is September 12. There is no Republican primary.

The following candidates have agreed to attend:

Vanessa Aronson (D)
Maria Castro (D)
Rebecca Harary (R) will be represented by her campaign manager
Rachel Honig (D)
Jeffrey Mailman (D)
Keith Powers (D)
Bessie R. Schachter (D)
Marti Speranza (D)

If his schedule permits, Barry Shapiro (D) may attend. Alec Hartman (D) had a scheduling conflict.

The Stuyvesant Town–Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association thanks StuyTown Property Services for providing the venue for the event.

 


Don’t Want Your Name on Your Key Card? Say So!

When a tenant recently requested a building key card without his name on it, Resident Services claimed he didn’t have that choice. Not so. After he asked the Tenants Association for help, we quickly clarified the issue with management.

The TA won a court ruling on this issue 12 years ago, when Met Life decided to switch from metal to electronic building entrance keys. We commenced litigation before the Division of Housing and Community Renewal—and one of our primary concerns was the requirement that residents put their names as well as their photographs on the card. We saw no need for it, and viewed it as a threat to privacy and security. Today that threat is even greater.

The DHCR agreed—and ruled that tenants should have the option to not have their names printed on the card key. All you have to do is ask; it’s your legal right.


Active Shooter Presentation by FBI Special Agent, Tues., July 18

None of us likes to think we would ever be in a situation where there is an active shooter—but we should all be aware of strategies to survive in such an event.

The TA is sponsoring a presentation: Active Shooter Survival Strategies, given by Special Agent Jin Kim, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Division.

Date: Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Time: 7:00 p.m.

Place: Mount Sinai Beth Israel's Podell Hall at 9 Nathan D. Perlman Place (between 15th and 16th Sts., west of First Ave.).

Who needs to attend: Mothers and fathers, young adults and seniors, marrieds and singles—in short, everyone.

This 75-minute presentation provides a current outlook on active shooter attacks in the U.S. and focuses on individual survival techniques and strategies for today’s world.

Topics include historical case review, FBI Active Shooter Report and shooter profile facts, strategic concepts, barricade techniques and alternative methods, and truth and myths about firearms.

Special Agent Kim is a 22-year veteran of the FBI's New York Division and a subject matter expert in active shooter survival. He is the Active Shooter Coordinator on the Crisis Management Team and is assigned to the Fort Dix, NJ, training venue as the Tactical Training Program Manager.

In addition, as part of the FBI's Police Training Program, Special Agent Kim is the Director of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) School, the PSD/Executive Protection Counter Assault Team (CAT) School, and the Observer/Sniper School, respectively.

Special Agent Kim regularly presents at international association conferences and seminars, Fortune 500 companies, schools and universities, hospitals, and to public safety departments.

 


New Reconfiguration of STPCV Apartments

StuyTown Property Services recently informed the Board of Directors of the Stuyvesant Town–Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association that they are  embarking on an “experiment” to reconfigure vacant apartments. Although construction has already begun, StuyTown Property Services has not yet notified the community.

The new program will convert 40 vacant Peter Cooper Village units by turning the kitchen of a one-bedroom unit into a bedroom and moving the kitchen into the living room; combining adjacent one- and two-bedroom units to form a three-bedroom unit; and reconfiguring adjacent one- and two-bedroom units to create a three-bedroom unit and a studio. The new program will continue to divide Stuyvesant Town living rooms of 75 vacant apartments to provide an additional bedroom at the expense of living and dining space.

The Board of Directors of the Stuyvesant Town–Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association opposes the reconfiguration of the Stuyvesant Town apartments, which reduces living rooms to foyers in order to increase sleeping spaces. The arrangement, which degrades the time-tested, well-designed layout, will likely result in an increase in the existing transient rent-a-room lifestyle. This is the antithesis of the original concept of our community. This reconfiguration will most certainly exacerbate the dormitory and churn effects which tenants have been objecting to since subdivision of apartments began. It will add further pressure to our aging infrastructure. It will continue to destabilize our once-cohesive community.

However, we consider that, with the exception of the studio apartments, the reconfigured Peter Cooper Village units may attract long-term residents, the stated goal of both management and the Tenants Association.

The Term Sheet executed by the City and Blackstone when the latter purchased the property states in part:

"The agreement protects both the current tenants of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, as well as the Property’s legacy as a home for moderate- and middle-income New Yorkers for the generation to come. The Purchaser and the City are committed to the good stewardship of this unique community, and its long-term viability.

"In addition, the Purchaser intends to maintain the unique characteristics of the Property . . . by creating an environment that is conducive to residents establishing a long-term connection to the community."

The Tenants Association believes the terms and the spirit of the purchase should preserve the functionality of the original Stuyvesant Town living spaces in order to maintain, not violate, a viable and gratifying living experience in an unusual urban setting.

 


Affordable Supermarket—TA Letter to Rick Hayduk

Concerned that Trader Joe’s and Target would be perceived by Blackstone as “affordable” grocery options, thereby paving the way for Blackstone to either lease to a more expensive grocery store or plan for another type of commercial facility in the space currently occupied by Associated, the Stuyvesant Town—Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association wrote the following on June 5, 2017, to Rick Hayduk, CEO of Stuytown Property Services:

I’m not sure to what degree you have ever shopped in either Trader Joe’s or Target, but these retailers do not provide the complete grocery experience that an Associated or Morton Williams do. Trader Joe’s is good for shoppers seeking gluten-free, vegan, or organic products. Except for certain fruit and vegetables, their produce is pre-packaged. They do not have fresh meat and fish, are limited in popular items, such as sodas (i.e., you can’t go in there for club soda or seltzer, or other commonly purchased sodas), and you can’t even buy just plain rice. Paper products are in very limited supply. Target is great for sodas, snacks, and canned or packaged items, and has a good supply of paper products, but they are limited as to fresh offerings. Neither of those stores offers a deli or salad bar or hot food to go.

I find strange the fact that Morton Williams pulled out because of the future presence of Trader Joe’s and Target because the customer base is different for all three retailers.

The enthusiasm to maintain our Associated Supermarket is not just about the price point. Many seniors have expressed how friendly the staff are and how the store goes out of its way to provide extra little services for them. When the construction of the new L train entrance at Avenue A commences, seniors and the mobility impaired will have even more of a challenge to access a nearby store. Just crossing to the south side of 14th Street in a construction zone could endanger them. We need a reliable, affordable grocery store on the premises.

Several months ago, the Tenants Association took action in response to our concerned residents and developed a petition to keep Associated. It was signed by hundreds of shoppers and ultimately delivered to Blackstone. We will continue to reach out to you and advocate on behalf of our constituency until the issue has been resolved.

Please share this concern with your peers at Blackstone when you discuss the store’s space with them.

The letter was signed by Susan Steinberg, TA President.


Rent Increases Coming—On June 14, Tell the Rent Guidelines Board Tenants Deserve a Break

The city’s annual process for determining rent increases for rent-stabilized apartments has begun. The increases will affect leases that renew between October 1, 2017, and September 30, 2018.

How much will the increases be? In a preliminary vote, the Rent Guidelines Board recommended a range of 1%–3% for one-year leases and 2%–4% for two-year leases. Although the RGB’s staff reports projected increased costs for landlords, they also showed that net operating income for landlords far exceeded their costs (details below).

Wednesday, June 14, 2–8 p.m.: You can testify in person—two-minute limit—to the RGB at the U.S. Customs House at 1 Bowling Green (4 and 5 trains to Bowling Green). You must register to speak. Before the hearing, call (212) 669-7480. You can also sign up at the hearing.

Tips for testifying in person:

  • Make it personal—why you deserve a rollback or a low increase
  • Keep your remarks to the two-minute limit by timing yourself

Interpretation available in Spanish and Mandarin. If you need a sign language interpreter or an interpreter for a language other than those mentioned, make a request by June 1 by calling (212) 669-7480 or writing to the RGB at 1 Centre Street, Suite 2210, New York, NY 10007.

Can’t attend or have a lot more to say? Other ways you can submit comments by June 22:

Website: http://rules.cityofnewyork.us/proposed-rules

Email: board@nycrgb.org

Mail: NYC Rent Guidelines Board, 1 Centre Street, Suite 2210, New York, NY 10007

Fax: NYC Rent Guidelines Board, (212) 669-7488

Final vote: Tuesday, June 27, at 7 p.m. at Baruch College’s Mason Hall, at 17 Lexington Avenue (corner of 23rd Street).

 

The details:

How are landlords doing? According to RGB staff reports:

  • Landlords’ operating costs went up 6.2% this year; they’re projected to go up 4.4% next year.
  • Excluding fuel and steam costs, landlords’ operating costs went up 4.5%.

BUT

From 2014 to 2015, net operating income (revenue remaining after operating expenses are paid) grew 10.8%. This is the 11th consecutive year that NOI has increased.

On average, in stabilized buildings, 2014–2015:

  • Rental income increased by 4.4%
  • Total income rose by 4.4%
  • Operating costs increased by 1.1%
  • Net operating income (NOI) grew by 10.8%

What about tenants? Half of New York tenants pay more than 32% of their income to rent.

The RGB meeting schedule and videos of its meetings are at http://www.nycrgb.org/html/about/meetings.html. Copies of its reports are at http://www.nycrgb.org/html/research/cresearch.html.