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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tishman Speyer Gives Up on ST/PCV -- Will Start Knocking Down Buildings Next Week



Finding out that another city code violation fiasco is looming (ST/PCV gas lines not in accordance with city regulations), Jerry and Rob Speyer of Tishman Speyer held an emergency meeting on Sunday in Mayor Bloomberg's weekend hideaway in the Bahamas with the New York City mayor, and came to the decision that it's just not worth it anymore to keep Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village running, as is, for current tenants.

Bloomberg has called for an emergency session of the CCC (Corrupt City Council) this Friday, and the immediate passage of eminent domain to get rid of tenants is assured. Only Peter Cooper Village resident Councilman Dan Garodnick is expected to vote no. The first demolition of what is now known as Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village could come as early as next week, paving the way for a brand-new mega housing complex, the likes of which has not been seen anywhere in the world.

As everyone knows when Tishman Speyer purchased Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village in 2006 for 5.4 billion dollars, it was the land property that was of most value, not the buildings on the property. The far-thinking Tishman Speyer already has plans for the mega complex, to be named Speyer City. "These plans were drawn up with others, such as condo conversion, way back when we were considering buying the property," remarked George Hatzmann, Tishman Speyer's managing director of ST/PCV. "Now, in this emergency, we've taken these plans out of the mothballs, so to speak, and are going to proceed to implement them in a hasty and disorganized, but ultimately beneficial to us, manner."

When finished, Speyer City will have 100 massive glass towers, each shooting 70 stories into the sky. The borders of Speyer City will contain exclusive boutiques, managed by female NY students and paid for by their parents, and a Starbucks and Duane Reade on each corner. Currently, there are over 25,000 residents of ST/PCV. Speyer City is designed to have 150,000 tenants, making it the most populous housing complex in the world--and undoubtedly the most luxurious.

"We really have to advance expeditiously on this," added Hatzmann, "just in case the election gives the state senate a tenant friendly majority next year and the mayor doesn't get re-elected to his illegal third term."

Buildings along the perimeters of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village will be the first to be torn down. As for the central area, "We are just going to blow up everything in the middle and get rid of it in one fell swoop," Hatzmann said. Vito's Construction Company, NJ, and Salvatore's Demo, Bay Ridge, will handle the demolishing, and 500 non-documented Mexican workers will do the sweeping.

What about Stuyvesant Town's renowned fountain that has been such focal point of interest and is always featured in ads for prospective market rate renters?

"We will build an even more spectacular fountain with the generous donation of the Tisch family," replies Hatzmann. The Tisches already have a fountain named after them in Washington Square Park and this one will be called Tisch Two, or, affectionately, "TT."

The current Oval area, to be renamed Oval Speyer, will also house spectacular entertainment facilities, including a 5,000 seat IMAX theater (Speyer Theatre) and a mini-circus, Le Cirque Robert, featuring year-round performances by the clown ensemble, Bozo's Billions. Access to Oval Speyer will be on a membership basis ($2,500 initiation fee/$200 per month membership fee).

Mayor Bloomberg commented to Daily News Real Estate brown-nose reporter Jason Sheftell on the forthcoming mega complex and the removal of current tenants.

"This will be a massive evacuation of the tenants," Bloomberg related to Sheftell,"who will be warehoused in the facilities of an abandoned mental asylum, Happy Pilgrim Hospital, in Staten Island until we can find proper housing for them. Current market rate tenants will get preference in Speyer City once it's finished, but of course their rents are expected to more than double, considering the true luxury living that will be put in place here."

What about the rent-stabilized tenants, who currently constitute 65% of the population of ST/PCV? "If they can't afford Manhattan, then they really have no business here," Bloomberg stated. "The city will be building affordable housing somewhere in the far reaches of Brooklyn and Queens, and I'm sure we can accommodate all rent-stabilized tenants there."

Current tenants will be driven over to the Staten Island facility, courtesy Stuyvesant Town's many fast-driving golf carts. Each tenant will be allowed one carry-on baggage per person. The evacuation process, which will run day and night, is expected to take two weeks. Any kids lost along the way are not going to be the city's problem or concern. "Just make sure you hold onto them," the Mayor remarked. "The city can't be responsible for your negligence."

In the event that the evacuation will take longer than two weeks, Stuyvesant Town's four dumpsters will be called in for extra duty, and the remaining residents thrown in and hauled away. In keeping with current policy, dumpster use will occur between 2:30AM and 4:30AM.

And what of the complex's many seniors, for whom such a move can prove particularly traumatic, if not fatal? "Well," opined Mayor Bloomberg, his face souring, according to Sheftell, "you have to die some time, so it may as well be now."

Dogs will not be allowed in the Staten Island facility. ("It's going to be too packed with humans to allow for animals," stated Hatzmann. "And, besides, we're tired of amateur photographers taking pictures of dogs and what dogs do naturally.") So under the city's new "Go Green and Waste Not Policy" dogs will be given over to restaurants in Chinatown where they can be cooked and served as "Lux Peking Duck." In an odd demonstration of Tishman Speyer's by-now legendary bizarre planning, there will be a dog run set up near the former Staten Island mental asylum, despite the absence of dogs.

All is not doom and gloom for ST/PCV residents, however. "Each tenant will get a plant of their choice to take with them to the Staten Island facility, " said Hatzmann. "Treated and watered well, these will be nice momentos for tenants to have of the time they spent with us in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village."

When Rob Speyer was asked if he had any parting words to tenants, a beaming Speyer said:

"Yes--so long, suckers!"

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Below: Staten Island's abandoned mental ward, Happy Pilgrim Hospital, will be quickly restored to its former beauty in time for the first arrival of Stuy Town and Peter Cooper tenants. Yes, residents, I know what you are saying to yourselves: "Peace and quiet at last!"

Monday, October 27, 2008

Gas Troubles



Three buildings in Stuyvesant Town--522, 524 and 526 20th Street--have been without gas since last Monday, October 20th. It appears that a tenant in one of the buildings alerted Stuyvesant Town to a smell of gas hanging in the air. The Fire Department arrived and confirmed that there was gas leak somewhere, which caused the shutdown of gas in all three buildings. Teams of contract plumbers, each escorted by a security guard and a locksmith, had to enter all apartments to begin a phase of installation of exterior shut-off values to the kitchen gas pipes and the removal of existing gas connections to residents' stoves. If a door to a resident's apartment was locked by a top, non-Stuy Town lock, the lock was broken to allow the gas team to enter.

Based on statements from the gas teams, residents were hopeful that the problems would be fixed by Wednesday, but that turned out to be, no surprise, a false hope. As of the following Monday night, October 27th, the work doesn't appear to be any closer to being finished, though landlord Tishman Speyer has informed tenants through the screen intercom system that "the first phase of work has passed testing."

With no gas, residents have no way to cook food or boil water, and must resort to a microwave, if they have one, to heat food. In the Election Room near 1st Ave, Tishman Speyer has been providing free dinner and breakfast for residents of the affected buildings, catered by Bruno's Deli, but dispensed with the breakfast by the end of the week.* At dinner time, the better food is quickly gone, leading residents to hustle over as soon as chow time begins (6PM) in hopes of getting a full meal. Last week sodas and canned beverage teas were provided, as well as bottled water, but today, Monday, only water was available.

No gas also means that residents of the affected buildings have no way of drying laundry in their buildings.

Obviously, the patience of residents is rapidly ebbing away.

Tishman Speyer's gas troubles may be far more impacting than the trouble at these three buildings. According to a quote on the Lux Living website, one of the plumbers informed a tenant that the gas line connections to apartments in the tenant's building were "illegal." This instantly brings to mind Tishman Speyer's recent pressurized wall fiasco. If the gas line connections to all apartments in Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village are illegal, then the complex may well see a massive plumbing project that will make the pressurized wall problems seem trivial by comparison.

* Update: Tuesday, Oct. 28th. Residents were informed after 9AM via the screen intercom that breakfast was being served today, Tuesday, from 7AM to 9AM. In reality-- "had been served." Sorry if you missed it, folks.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

No More Free Electricity



As we wrote here in August, and suspected, Tishman Speyer will begin installing meters inside Stuyvesant Town and Peter Copper Village apartments, and have residents pay for their own electricity. An article in today's NY Post gave some details: "The metered system is expected to be announced to the complex's 19,000 residents in the next few days. It will be rolled out as part of a larger plan to reduce overall energy usage by 20 percent over the next three years."

Though the article doesn't mention it, there may be a possibility that Tishman Speyer will have to slightly lower rents by law, as this new metered system will take away a previous free offering. If this is so, there's a chance that residents who conserve energy may actually wind up paying a bit less rent each month, even with the additional electrical charge. But as of now, it is unclear whether a rent reduction will occur, and if it does, what that reduction will be. Rent stabilized residents who had a choice of installing air-conditioning must be particularly peeved, as when they made that choice (which raised their rent) they factored in free electricity.

While Stuy Town Reporter is not adverse to energy saving, it has to be noted that Tishman Speyer is most definitely "going green" (in more ways than one!) to put in place cost-saving elements in running this complex, even at the expense of its tenants. The recently installed Mac-Gray washing machines and dryers are a part of this greening of ST/PCV.

Oval Lounge Attack Confirmed



Today's Town & Village newspaper confirmed that there was, indeed, a violent incident at the exclusive party for brokers held at the Oval Lounge last week, October 16th. Quoting a police source: "It was a short and sweet arrest. One guy hit the other guy on the side of the head with a bottle." The victim suffered injuries to the left side of his head.

Of interest, when the possibility of violence at the Lounge was brought up on the Tenants' message board, with regard to alcohol being served (which it can be if a catered event has a server with a liquor license), a naysayer scoffed at the apprehension.

Well, it happened. Add another black mark to the Tishman Speyer ledger. An embarrassment for the company, to be sure.

Of course, should the Oval Lounge prove the attendance failure it currently is, Tishman Speyer may well want to hold Fight Clubs inside that can be safely viewed outside through the Lounge's glass windows. I'd go and see that!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Oval Essentials--a Bust?


Top: The lights are on at Oval Film, but aside from an American Leisure employee, no one is there. Below: Oval Lounge doesn't show much more life, either.



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The premiere week of the Oval Essentials has answered one question: Will the Essentials prove so popular that there won't be space to let in all members?

Judging by the extreme low turnouts on Monday and Tuesday, the answer is a resounding NO. Each time Stuy Town spies passed by an Essential, they saw minimal use, in many cases no use, with only a black-clad American Leisure employee standing around, doing nothing and looking very bored. The most used Essential was, no surprise, Oval Kids, but even there the action wasn't impressive. Oval Film was dead, and Oval Lounge almost dead, with, at one time, a lonely member or two playing billiards. Oval Study was occupied, now and then, by what looked like a couple of NY students, but empty otherwise.

Undoubtedly the weekends will generate more members making use of the Essentials, but if this type of attendance continues, watch for Tishman Speyer to change Oval Lounge to Oval Starbucks and Oval Film to Oval Blockbuster. At least some income, and movement, may be generated with such transformations.

Tishman Speyer has put in a lot of effort and money expenditure into these Essentials, of which they appear to take a special pride. But now the Essentials stand cold and basically abandoned, a sorry spectacle of a misbegotten plan.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Stuyvesant Town Report Exclusive! Oval Lounge Party Time


A wall of sophisticated plastic pine trees separates the revelers of Oval Lounge from the low-class peons outside.
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We're not sure if either of the Speyers (Jerry or Rob) turned up in this evening's party-time exclusive at Oval Lounge, but we do know who this private party was for. Brokers. Yes, brokers.

So Stuy Town workers and American Leisure sweated their you-know-whats to get everything in order, outside along the Oval and inside the "Essentials," for a bunch of brokers. Not only was the work fierce to get everything reasonably perfect on time, but the presence of security was at an all time high. We counted three security guards in front of Oval Lounge, three more placed between the Lounge and the 14th Street Loop, and two closer to 1st Ave. A security car hovered near the kid playground, not far from the Lounge, and, for sure, other security personnel were at other points in the complex. Added to this was the presence of black attired American Leisure staff, who were placed in front of both playgrounds, undoubtedly to help guide any brokers who should get disoriented in the Stuy Town maze. (Although an Oval is an oval.) Anyway, isn't it nice to know where your landlord, Tishman Speyer, places its security priorities? Not for you, but for brokers. (I'm sure that the very visible security presence was also mandated to impress [fool] the brokers into thinking that Stuy Town actually has such a presence.)

Oh, and we saw security--now hold onto yourselves--actually tell bicycle riders to get off their bikes and walk them through the area around Oval Lounge. So, enforcement of the "no bicycle riding" rule comes only when the brokers, or other hotshots, are in town. Another suitably insulting to tenants priority for Tishman Speyer.

Now, you may be asking why is Tishman Speyer going through all this trouble for a group of brokers if sales of market rate apartments are going very well for TS, which is what TS claims? Good question.

One answer would be that sales are not that good, but another answer could be that TS wants to generate a waiting list (or close to a waiting list), to then raise the price of market rate apartments even higher than they are because, according to the spin, Stuy Town is a hot rental property with many people desperate to get in. So be very glad you could get that one bedroom for $5,000. There's a line in back of you eager to pay $6,000!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Oval Film - Legal?



Yesterday, as part of its open house, Oval Film was showing IRON MAN from the recently released DVD. Now unless Tishman Speyer/American Leisure received a license to show this film, its showing was illegal. Here's the lowdown on exhibiting films from DVD, as addressed by Richard Linderman on the NJ Law Blog:

How often have you seen the FBI warning screen preceding a movie and wondered, does this warning apply to me? A common issue raised by community associations is whether the association can show a motion picture or DVD at a site within the association, possibly the pool, clubhouse, or community room. The Federal Copyright Act, Title 17, U.S.C. Section 101(1) and Section 106 make it unlawful to show a film in public without the explicit permission of the film’s copyright owner. Renting or purchasing a cassette or DVD from the local video store or library gives the customer the right to view the film, but not to show it in public. The Copyright Act defines “public” in this context as “any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered.” According to Senate Report # 94-473, Page 60; House Report number 94-1476, Page 64, public performances of movies are illegal unless they have been authorized by license. Even “performances in ‘semi-public’ places such as clubs, lodges, factories, summer camps and schools are ‘public performances’ and subject to copyright control.” Furthermore, both for-profit corporations and non-profit organizations must secure a license to show videos, regardless of whether an admission fee is charged. Non-compliance with the Copyright Act is considered infringement and can carry steep penalties. Unlicensed exhibitions are federal crimes and can subject the association to a penalty ranging from $750.00 to over $100,000.00 per exhibition for knowingly violating the Copyright Act. Even inadvertent violators of the Copyright Act are subject to substantial civil penalties ranging from $750.00 to $30,000.00 for each illegal showing, plus other possible penalties under the Copyright Act.

Tishman Speyer/American Leisure would have to get a license from the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation to exhibit DVDs in Oval Film. Does it have such a license? Will those who rent out the space for private movie parties have such a license?

And what about the exhibition of sporting events? Gasp, there may be some trouble for Oval Film here, too (and Oval Lounge). A license may likewise be needed, depending on whether the event is considered public or private, a commercial venture or not, and if it's exhibited on a monitor larger than 55 inches.

Now you may be thinking that Tishman Speyer and company would certainly dot their "i"s and cross their "t"s, but don't forget the recent pressurized wall fiasco, in which TS was caught red-handed not following city building code rules.

So stay tuned. Who knows? We may see the FBI invading Stuy Town soon!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Oval Kids Not Kid Safe!



I took a tour of all the Oval Essentials today. While there is much to write about, I want to focus on this issue tonight. It concerns a safety problem in Oval Kids.

There are various shelf doors, kid-level, about the place and all of them have metal handles with sharp right-angle ledges. Any child that accidentally hits one of these handles with his or her head may suffer a cut, if not a serious injury (let's say to the eye). I'm going to report this to the Essentials staff (American Leisure), but I would also urge others to do likewise. These handles must be changed!

Otherwise, the area seems safe, though I don't know how secure the glass walls are if a kid goes running or tripping into them. So, aside from those handles, Oval Kids appears safe, but is very noisy. It's really a kid madhouse, with poor acoustics to dampen the noise. I don't think an adult can last longer than half an hour in there, if that.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Hurry! Hurry!


Saturday afternoon and workers are rushing to finish Oval Kids in time for tomorrow's open house at 11am. Can they make it in time?
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None of the Oval Essentials are still 100% complete, but today marked the start of open house for two Essentials--Oval Study and Oval Film--with Oval Lounge and Oval Kids holding open houses tomorrow. Remarkably (well, not really) Oval Kids is way behind schedule, with the patio still a mess and the interior an equal mess. If this opens tomorrow, it may well be called Oval Death Trap, as surely parents will have to watch out that their kids don't trip over work either sloppily done or still not done. So bring your cameras and collect yourselves in front of Oval Kids between 11am and 2pm to see how many accidents you can manage to catch in the making!

Meanwhile, just so you peasants know, the patio areas of the Oval Essentials are NOT FOR YOU. Members only. Get it!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Power On For Oval Essentials


Tishman Speyer requested tenants to turn off unnecessary lights and appliances to conserve energy, but gives a full glow to a closed and empty Oval Lounge, with even the HD TV set on. Must be part of the sales pitch.
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The Oval Essentials (limited to 1,000 essential paying members) are going to be premiering soon, but two of them--Oval Lounge and Oval Study--are just about done and very viewable through top/bottom glass windows. Despite not being open, all the Essentials are now fully lit and glowing, with even the Lounge's HD flatbed screen turned on to some finance channel. (The Bloomberg Channel perhaps?--and I'm serious.) It seemed just the other day that landlord Tishman Speyer was asking tenants to conserve energy, but as already proven with TS' rental office on 1st Ave, the conservation of power is not something the landlord thinks about as being aplicable to the company. Just the peasants should follow these requests.

In walking around at night, checking out these Essentials, I had several impressions.... Tishman Speyer has permanently removed the oasis-like feel of the Oval by introducing four brightly lit commercial concerns in the heart of Stuy Town, and making the place feel like a condo project in Queens. And, yes, these are commercial enterprises, as there is a charge to enter them, and they will be rented out to interested parties. Their presence is not unattractive, however, at least at this point when they are empty, and each Essential gives a perspective to the length of the Oval that wasn't there before. Problems are sure to rise with use, however. I feel sorry for the tenants who live near these Essentials, particularly the Lounge, as they will have little peace until the Essentials close for the day, which could be as late as 11pm. It's possible that when rented, the Essentials will be open later than that. Each Essential has a patio area, which again means noise for the tenants near the Essential if the patios will be heavy used. (And just think of the horrors that these tenants had to endure this summer with all the construction noise! They really should have gotten a rent decrease during this torturous time.) The Essentials are small, so that, if popular among the select 1,000 members, there's going to be a problem with fitting everyone in comfortably. Oval Study is going to particularly tight, and already one sees how bunched up the four computers are, sitting on a very small round table. Each Essential juts out with a glass roofing, and one wonders if this is ever going to be a safety issue should a branch, or some other object, fall on this glass.

According to Town & Village newspaper, there's going to be an open house of the Essentials from October 11 to 19, excepting October 16, when all Essentials will be closed. I'm not certain if this is accurate information, as there's been an e-mail sent out from the Essentials' crew that the open house will be for guests of Essential members. We'll just have to see what the situation will be. If open to anyone, it may the only time most of us will get a chance to feel the places out. Somehow, I don't think we will be impressed, but I do want to check out that mini-theater at Oval Film.

Below, Oval Study. Note the computers bunched up on the right.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Overturning the Term Limit Law

No way, unless it's taken to a citizen referendum. Don't let Bloomberg get away with this. He has been planning this before the current economic meltdown, but is now using the meltdown as an excuse to give himself a third term. If he wants a third term, the people should decide 1) to overturn term limits and 2) to vote for him in the mayoral election next year.

Two numbers to call to make your feelings known:

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn: (212) 788-7210
Stuy Town/Peter Cooper Village Councilman Dan Garodnick: (212) 818-0580

Garodnick is opposed to repeal of the law via the City Council, but the more support he has from his constituants, the better.

Oh, and here's a nice photo of Bloomberg and Rob Speyer at a high society event, with First Deputy Major Patti Harris in between:



When the sale of Stuy Town and Peter Cooper was happening and tenants requested input from Mayor Bloomberg to help middle-class housing in the city, he washed his hands of the entire affair, basically saying, "Drop dead, tenants" or, in Bloomberg-speak, "If you can't afford Manhattan, what the hell are you doing here?"

Bloomberg has done positive things for the city, for sure, but he and his adminstration have drastically changed the spirit and look of the Manhattan, driving out the middle class and turning homey neighborhoods into sliver condos with the same ground-level banks and expensive coffee shops. Dubai on the Hudson, it's called, and we want no part of it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bad Idea # 498?



In its effort to beautify Stuyvesant Town, landlord Tishman Speyer has begun to paint (yes, paint) the steps around the complex a bright gray. This could be a classic case of putting lipstick on a pig or at least on a complex that has the uninspired projects-like look of affordable middle class housing, which is what the complex was intended to be at its inception and design.

There was nothing wrong with the cement steps to begin with. They looked natural and part of the earthy and green tones of Stuy Town. But painting steps is not a good idea, because these steps will get heavy use, which means speedy paint wear, chipping and smudging. And just wait until the skateboarders have their fun. It's safe to say that pretty soon these freshly painted steps will look like crap and appear low-class looking, which cannot be what Tishman Speyer had in mind. In the event that this paint job will not work out to Tishman Speyer's satisfaction, there will be no way to go back to the original look with coats of paint layered over them. The only option in that situation would be to break up and remove the steps and put in new ones. More money, more noise. Does Tishman Speyer think these things through?

You don't have to answer that question.