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Friday, August 29, 2008
We've received a couple of reports of a non-resident who walks her two large muscular dogs through Stuyvesant Town at will. "I was sitting in the Oval when I heard this savage barking coming not far away from where I was on the bench," reports one Stuy Town resident. "I turned to look and saw these two dogs, barely restrained by their owner, trying to get at a smaller Stuy Town dog. Luckily the owner, a 50-ish year-old woman in cut-off jeans, was able to draw her dogs away with some effort, but I was actually afraid for the Stuy Town dog, whose owner was also trying to hold back her dog from getting into a fight." Then, we received the above photo from another resident, who snapped it after seeing the woman make a lengthy journey through the Oval--and, yes, over the lawn--and then out of the complex via the 14th Street Loop. Our photographer wrote that other residents seemed very wary of these dogs, making sure to be out of their way as the dogs walked past them. In case you are wondering (and why should this be a surprise?), it was confirmed that there was no security within eyesight during the entire time this woman and her dogs toured Stuyvesant Town.
I'm not up on my dog breeds, but could those two be pit bulls or related to pit bulls?
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I was going to write about something else today, but as I was going through the latest postings on the PCVST Tenants Association message board, I began to see a pattern emerge, a pattern of unified simmering rage against our landlord, Tishman Speyer, and the way things are being run (badly) in this complex. In one thread, fed-up market raters had enough of the administration not responding to their calls and e-mails about the pressurized wall debacle and were threatening a lawsuit. In another thread, an exasperated poster wondered why nothing was being done about a dumpster nearby his building, a dumpster the contents of which are removed at odd times in the night, including 3AM--this after Tishman Speyer promised to remove the dumpster in February 2008! In yet another thread, the renting of apartments to corporations was raised with outrage. Apparently this "hotel/motel" rental is generating the presence of company transients who are here one week/month and gone the next. Still another thread had an increasingly heated debate on the outcome of Tishman Speyer's overall plans for this community. Are we seeing the guaranteed end of affordable housing here and the lifestyle many of us knew or is there still hope in a fight against the overwhelming powers that be?
I have lived in Stuyvesant Town for a fairly long time. Not all my life, but for a good chunk of it. I and my neighbors who have lived here more than few years have never seen this place look so bad. We have never experienced this place so noisy, so filthy, so lawless. We have never seen a landlord either so ignorant of what is going on here (and how is this possible?) or so arrogantly disdainful of the complaints and numerous sufferings of his tenants.
Many of us have had enough. We are as mad as hell and we are not going to take this anymore.
Monday, August 25, 2008
It's 10 pm. Do you know where your security is? It's 10 am. Do you know where your security is? Pick any time of day, and you can ask the same question and probably get the same answer: I don't know.
Over the past several months, there's been a noticeable decline in the visible presence of security, of "boots on the ground," particularly in the Oval where such a presence is desperately needed. Thankfully, there's been no major crime committed on the grounds (as yet).
There have been numerous reports of bicycle thefts, however, and such Stuy Town rules as no bicycle riding in the complex and no dog walking through the Oval lawn are being flagrantly ignored. Though on a very minor scale when compared with armed robbery or rape, these breeches have bred a sense of lawlessness in Stuy Town. When added to the miserable condition of the Oval lawn and its immediate surrounding landscaping, residents are talking and complaining about a breakdown in the management and maintenance of Stuyvesant Town.
In ye olden days (not that far distant actually), there was a brick security booth, of good size, at the southern tip of the fountain area. One would always find a security person inside, and he was able to monitor much of the Oval grounds from that vantage point. Then when the fountain was redone, a smaller booth, made of wood, appeared to the east of the fountain. Then, that disappeared, and a security office was crafted out of the building that will now be housing Oval Study. The new placement caused a reduction in the ability of a security officer to monitor most of the Oval because of distance and tree and plant growth that blocked the view. With the construction of Oval Study, a new wooden security booth appeared (see photo above) not far away, but still woefully positioned in terms of viewable access to the entire area of the Oval or even the smaller fountain area. Now, anyone can do anything they want around the fountain and not be seen by security, even if the booth is manned, which frequently it is not. (And to think that the rent deposit box is there, too! Hey, want some checks?)
What's going on? Posts on the PCVST tenants message board have addressed the issue, with a couple of facts emerging: Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town used to have about 80 security officers, but now that number is down to 50--a 40% reduction, as noted by board member nospinzone. This number, as an indication of what is out there at any one time, is cut down dramatically when shifts are taken into account. Apparently, also, a cadre of security officers left for other jobs, and Tishman Speyer has not been keen on hiring new security officers, putting many of its security hopes into electronic surveillance, which cannot help anyone at the moment a crime is being committed, of course.
From my experience, there's been a slight increase in the presence of security personnel of late.* I suspect it's directly related to the complaints emerging from the tenants message board over the lack of boots on the ground. But this is not enough. There has to be at least one security officer present in the Oval area, always. Just the way it used to be. And he has to be making the rounds of the Oval, rather than sitting in that dreary wooden box that is supposed to house him during his shift and from where he can see almost nothing.
[*8-29-08: Since this post, I've unfortunately seen a return to the sorry state of a security presence in Stuy Town. For three days in a row, whenever I walk through the Oval, I do not see any security. Pitiful.]
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Residents of Oval 21 were shocked to come back from work the other day and see the beautifully designed landscaping on the building's northern end gone and replaced by evidence of work crews digging up the ground--again. Yes, gone was the lovely jungle of dirt-crusted ferns and dead or dying newly planted trees that Mexican day laborers planted two months ago, and in their place was a tractor, an ugly fence that didn't even have the courtesy of saying "pardon our appearance," and signs of furious work all around.
This spot has been a particular bane for landlord Tishman Speyer, with scenes of periodic upheavals testifying to something amiss. Though it is believed important piping runs through that area, rumors persist that housed deep down is the beating heart of the idea of affordable housing, and that Tishman Speyer is doing its best to kill it and cover up the crime. I don't believe these rumors and just assume it's the typical mess that TS gets itself into whenever the company's improvements struggle against the natural order of things. Once work is finished (again), we can expect to see the return of the Mexican day laborers and an approximation of the stunning foliage that was already there.
Coming up on this blog: Pressurized walls, the dog issue, the connections between Mayor Bloomberg and Tishman Speyer.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Above: Exclusive photo of The Rob Speyer Magical Mystery Tour taken by one of our photographers, who apologizes for its poor quality. Speyer (pictured in the tan suit to the left of center) is the President and Co-CEO of Tishman Speyer and without doubt one of the visionaries of what's been happening in the Stuy Town complex and what will happen.
As reported by a member of Stuyvesant Town message board, Tishman Speyer President and Co-CEO Rob Speyer and a group of about nine suits (minus one suit due to an arm in a sling) descended Tuesday morning upon Stuyvesant Town for a tour of the complex. The member accosted the group as they passed him by, telling them what a horrible job they were doing, to which Rob Speyer answered, "Thank you." According to another resident, the group headed around the Oval and into the eastern area of Stuy Town in an examination of what appeared to be, generally, problematic front spaces at some Stuy Town buildings. Notations were being taken down by a nice young man onto large sheets of building diagrams.
It is hoped that whatever improvements will be made as a result of the tour will actually make the place look better rather than worse. It is hoped these improvements will not cost tenants further rent increases. It is hoped that while examining certain problematic areas in Stuyvesant Town, the general chaos and shabbiness of the entire complex was noted. Dare we hope, dare we dream?
The tour should have included the inside of buildings, too. A check of the carriage room, a look into the elevators, the hallways, the laundry rooms, the stairs, an examination of the residents' doors and the paint that so easily chips away. Perhaps next time.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
They are now called "Oval Essentials." Part of the Oval amenities due for completion sometime in September, these spaces comprise the Oval Lounge, Oval Kids, Oval Film and Oval Study. They are strategically placed at four corners of the Oval, the central hub and lifeblood of Stuyvesant Town. Unless you live on the borders of Stuy Town and never go into the interior, you will be unable to miss these new spaces as you walk by. And, don't forget, they are now "essential," so if they are not a part of your life, you are less of a person that you thought you were. What's the matter? Can't afford the small initiation fee and monthly charge?
Tishman Speyer, in creating these "Essentials" and mandating a charge for them, furthers the division of the Stuy Town community into those who have and those who haven't. We are already seeing how different classes of people were created and/or nurtured by TS decision making and "improvements." We now have the following cliques of people, not all actuallized since TS came into the picture, of course, and some interchangeable: 1) rent stabilized tenants, 2) market rate tenants, 3) NYU tenants, 4) tenants without dogs, 5) tenants with dogs. At various times, members of each group bitch about the other group, creating bad feelings and rifts in what used to be a unified community. Now we are going to have two more cliques (although one of these should be rightfully called "the peasants"): those who have the "Essentials" and those who don't.
It is easy to foresee the looks of loathing that will be directed at those enjoying the "Essentials," as those without the essentials will be going to or returning from work. Or the dejected looks of our community's retirees on fixed incomes who will not be able to partake of those essentials, though they've been around long enough to remember when all of Stuyvesant Town's true essentials were available for free to everyone here.
It is also easy to foresee the kids who will be nagging their parents without essentials to join the "Essentials" because of Oval Kids. Perhaps some of their friends will have essentials, but they won't. See Jack cry. See Jane weep. See Jack cry some more. See Jane weep some more. See Jack and Jane's parents join Oval Essentials!
I truly feel sorry for those parents who, on a tight budget, may not be able to afford these essentials, which will leave their kids feeling as if they are in the poor house rather than in Stuyvesant Town, the "ultimate living experience in Manhattan."
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
New residents of Stuyvesant Town may be surprised to learn that there was a time when even on the weekdays you could wake up to the sound of birds chirping outside your window instead of jackhammers hammering and drills drilling. There was no 7AM wake-up call from Tishman Speyer, and life here was tranquil, an oasis in Manhattan that was true luxury living.
It would stand to reason that eventually all the construction we are seeing, and living through, will come to an end--but is that so? And if there is an end to it all, when will it occur?
Right now, the 20th Street Loop is being repaved, both the roadway and the sidewalks. Work is still not finished, though it looks as if just one week more may be needed to complete the project, if that. The noise, filth and disruption that tenants in that area have had to endure for many weeks will now be the experience of another loop in the Stuy Town complex. So the suffering continues. At least there's a limited amount of loops to play with.
The four Oval amenities that are being crafted out of four corner buildings in the Oval are still not finished. Sometime in the middle of September they should be done, which will be a great relief to the tenants that live around those spots. Still, trouble may be brewing when these Oval amenities (called now "Oval Essentials") open up and produce, perhaps, nighttime crowds that will give little peace to the tenants nearby.
The dumpsters. There are two large dumpsters near the borders of Stuyvesant Town that are emptied in the middle of the night (like past 1AM) and make life a living hell for the tenants in those areas. No relief is in sight, despite the promises of Tishman Speyer to move the dumpsters to a garage facility where, hopefully, the noise will be considerably less intrusive to tenants.
Somehow, however, one has hope. But one should not hope too much. It is very possible, if not probable, that Tishman Speyer has another construction/disruption project in the works, if not several of them. (And if a few can double up as MCI increases--why the hell not, according to TS.) As has been mentioned on the Stuy Town Tenants Association message board, a good possibility exists that meters for gas and electricity will be installed in each apartment for the obvious purpose of relieving Tishman Speyer of paying the gas and electric bills of their tenants. (Free gas and electric has been an honored tradition in Stuy Town and Peter Cooper since the complexes were built, but Tishman Speyer has been eradicating tradition with a vengeance.) Rumors abound that a gate will be built around Stuyvesant Town--another project with a 7AM wake-up call. Perhaps new sidewalk lamps and illumination will have to be installed, because, after all, the overkill of newly planted trees and plants has created too many shadows and dark nooks and crannies where none existed before. And the central Oval area has been ignored for the entire summer and is crying out for rehabilitation, which, beware, may include a white picket fence around it.
So, you see, there can always be something that still needs to be done, some new project thought of by a man sitting in a nice suit in a nice high-rise office that justifies his nice salary.
The irony is that all of this may be a moot point down the line. If, as some predict, Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper are eventually going to be demolished to make way for 60-70 floor towers, all our sufferings and all the work and all the man power will have been in vain. But don't bet for one moment that whatever MCI increases paid for such work will be retracted.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Above: Stuy Town in better days. A security booth to the right of the fountain, typically manned 24 hours a day, is now gone, leaving the security presence in that area at an all time low. The Oval lawn was well maintained, but now is filled with pockmarks, exposed dirt, puddles and mud. Dogs, previously forbidden in Stuy Town, are now investigating and relieving themselves on the Oval lawn where lie itchy sunbathers, though dog walking on the lawn is against ST regulations. Aggressive noise from the continual construction work being done throughout Stuy Town and around the formally tranquil Oval intrudes from 7AM on.
This is what the splash page of the official Stuyvesant Town website states about the complex:
"There is so much to love in Stuyvesant Town. With spacious and contemporary apartments, an unrivaled host of amenities, access to over 500 social events, and all within downtown's most desired location, Stuyvesant Town represents the ultimate living experience in Manhattan."
The truth is a bit different. The apartments may be spacious if you go by certain box-like Manhattan standards, but some of them became less so with the addition of pressurized walls (meant to fit in an extra bedroom) and then the removal of said walls because of building code violations, to be replaced by a newer plan that provides even less space for the living room, out of which the new bedroom was carved. As for contemporary, well, only your designer would know, but the buildings themselves are clearly project-like, inside and out, and poorly cleaned and maintained by understaffed workers. "Unrivaled host of amenities"--they haven't arrived yet, and from the looks of it, they will be a joke. (More on these amenities in a future blog entry.) "500 social events"? I have no idea where the landlord Tishman Speyer got this figure or what it constitutes. Perhaps TS just opened up Time Out Magazine and started counting any events listed there. After all, you do have access to anything in Manhattan, just as a transient does who lives in the Men's Shelter on 1st Avenue and 29 St.
So we have the lies and we have the truth. And the truth is pretty ugly, as this blog will reveal.