Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Lawlessness in Stuyvesant Town, or How Stuy Town Residents are Saying FU to the Rules and How Security is Not Doing Its Job
Here are the new signs that you now see at various points around Stuy Town/PCV:
And green "anti-bike" barricades have now sprung up with maniacal persistence at four points in the Oval, along with notices that bike riding is prohibited.
The result of this new impetus? A flagrant disregard of the signs, with ST dog owners continually letting their dogs on the grass/gardens/wherever and bicyclists maneuvering easily through the green obstacle course placed before them. It even appears that there's more of both activities, almost a willful "FU" to the signs and barricades. (These barricades are also a visual blight in the area and are a pain in the ass for joggers, those who are wheelchair bound and parents with strollers. For bicyclists, they seem like challenging fun.)
Part of the problem is this:
After a brief period where the presence of security appeared to have increased, we are back to the empty booth and lack of visible manpower around the complex. Worse (and I witnessed this myself) when security is around, they do little, if anything, to stop those who ride bikes right in front of them or who let their pooches roam around in the grass or gardens. At most, they will chase kids who are misbehaving in the fountain.
If the rules are stupid or impractical, get rid of the rules; if they are necessary for whatever standard of living we have left here, enforce them. But the current situation is a farce.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
The trial of Queen's Democrat Hiram MonsterRat is underway. MonsterRat is one of the two Democrats who decided to go along with overturning Democratic State Senate leadership earlier this year, plunging the State Senate into chaos and, by default, torpedoing tenant reform. (Pedro Espada Jr. is the other clown.) MonsterRat is on trial for assault against his girlfriend. According to his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, MonsterRat broke a glass and sliced her face. Giraldo later changed her story. The fairytale is that MonsterRat was going to offer her water, slipped and the glass (unbroken?) slashed her face accidentally.
Below is surveillance video showing MonsterRat shoving Giraldo around on the way to a nearby hospital, after Giraldo first tried to find help from a neighbor downstairs.
Monday, September 21, 2009
If you are a Stuy Town Rent Stabilized Tenant, you have already received - or will receive - a notice from the Division of Housing & Community Renewal advising that Tishman Speyer has applied for a Major Capital Improvement (MCI) rent increase to cover the cost of resurfacing of walkways and roadbeds, water tanks, and doors.
Stuy Town Reporter took a walk around the complex to see just how good was the resurfacing of walkways and roadbeds, a resurfacing that didn't seem necessary in the first place. Here are just a few of the photos that tell the tale of a job not that well done:
I guess we'll be needing another round of resurfacing soon and another MCI increase.
Here is the recommendation of the Tenants Association regarding the MCI notices rent stabilized tenants have received:
PLEASE DO NOT DISCARD THE NOTICE. INSTEAD, PLEASE FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS BELOW
AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
We are asking you to request a 60-day extension to respond to the notice, which will give the Association time to analyze the MCI application and develop a plan of action.
1. Make two (2) copies of the notice from DHCR.
2. On the back of one copy, write: I request a 60-day extension. Sign it and write the date you are mailing it. Also include the docket number that appears on the fourth line at the upper right hand corner of the notice. (It will have two letters, a space, 6 numbers, another space, and two more letters.) Each building has a different Docket Number.
3. Mail the form to: State of New York, Div. of Housing & Community Renewal, MCI Unit, 92-31 Union Hall St., Jamaica, NY 11433. Reminder: Postage is now 44 cents.
4. Mail or fax a copy of the form to: ST Repaving MCI, ST/PCV-TA, P.O. Box 1202, New York, NY 10009-1202. Fax: (866) 290-9036.
5. Keep the other copy for yourself. You will need it again in a month or two when you file the Response to the MCI Rent Increase Application. Don't worry about that now. We will send you full instructions for filing when the time comes.
Every resident who sends in the extension request will be helping the Tenants Association to mount an effective challenge of what now appears to be between $7.50 and more than $10 per room per month for a rent increase whose legitimacy we will seriously question.
Please help get the word out, but don't do so by trying to print this e-mail message. It won't print well. Instead, use this PDF letter AVAILABLE HERE. Posting the letter you download will help reduce the need for distribution.
Thank you for your help.
PLEASE: WE NEED YOUR FINANCIAL SUPPORT
Your Tenants Association is run exclusively by volunteers.
Please help defray the cost of legal, communication, and meeting expenses. To save time and effort, donate online. Or mail a check payable to: ST/PCV TA, P.O. Box 1202, Stuyvesant Station, NY 10009 1202. Thanks.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Losers (asterisk indicates running for third term):
*G. Oliver Kopell
Remaining (unopposed or not running)
*Erik Martin Dilan
*Peter Vallone, Jr
Heading to jail:
*Miguel Martinez (resigned his seat)
Monday, September 14, 2009
Christine Quinn, Bloomberg's partner in screwing New Yorkers, is up for reelection this year. In 2007, she was quoted as saying: "I am today taking a firm and final position. I will not support the repeal or change of term limits through any mechanism, and I will oppose aggressively any attempt by anyone to make any changes in the term limits law." The following year she, along with Mayor-for-Life Bloomberg, led the impetus to overturn term limits. As you can guess, Quinn is running for her third term.
Alan Gerson represents a district, the Lower East Side, that is closest to Stuy Town. He's up for reelection and also should be booted out for going against the will of the people by voting to overturn term limits. Yes, he's also running for his third term. Stuy Town's City Councilman, Dan Garodnick, is also up for reelection, but voted against extending term limits. Dan is running for his second term.
Tomorrow is the Democratic Primary. Below are the City Council members who voted to overturn the city's two-term limit rule that had been twice approved by the citizens of New York City. This list is taken from New York One. An asterisk before a name indicates someone who would have been out of office next year if the two-term rule was still in effect. I'm not forgetting Mayor-for-Life Mike Bloomberg, who led the charge to overturn voters' wishes, but I'll be dealing with Mike in a future blog entry. If any of these guys and gals is running in tomorrow's Democratic Primary, the citizens, to maintain their dignity, should vote for someone else. You can already scratch Miguel Martinez from the list, as he resigned in July when the heat got too intense on his activities of diverting public funds for private profit. (Martinez is scheduled to be sentenced October 21.)
Maria del Carmen Arroyo
*Erik Martin Dilan
*G. Oliver Koppell
*Peter Vallone, Jr
Check out the You're a Disgrace, Mayor Bloomberg website for further info.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Rob and Jerry Speyer in far happier times. Their deal for ST/PCV is now called "a poster child for all that was wrong with that era of easy credit, highly speculative deals and greed." Congratulations on your wonderful stewardship of this property, Rob and Jerry!
Rents in ST/PCV Down 25% from Peak
So states the NY Times in today's article about the money troubles for Tishman Speyer and BlackRock via their Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village property. The full two-page online article rehashes much that we've read before, with some extra titbits and some new quotes from Rob and Jerry about their failed venture.
Here's a bit more meat from the article:
Regardless of that outcome, Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village are in trouble. City officials have been monitoring the looming crisis and how it might affect a complex that has served as an oasis of affordability in Manhattan for middle-class New Yorkers. Some 6,875 of the 11,227 apartments at the complexes are rent regulated.
“We are absolutely keeping an eye on it,” said Rafael E. Cestero, the city’s housing commissioner. “It’s an iconic complex.”
“We’re not doing this to bail out anybody who was part of the original transaction,” he added. “Those folks are going to take their lumps. We are looking at how we can ensure that the rent-stabilized units and the families that live there and families that could live there in the future could be insulated from the unwinding of this deal.”
Even with the partnership’s financial problems pointing to a possible default, tenants would not be likely to face high rent increases or eviction, but they may face a period of deferred maintenance and disinvestment.
Rob Speyer, who is co-chief executive of Tishman Speyer Properties with his father, Jerry, acknowledged the problems went beyond the need for a cash infusion from the partners and their investors, which include Calpers, the giant California pension fund that is the nation’s largest.
“The asset is going to require a restructuring,” he said. “Once the court case is resolved, we’ll speak to our debt holders as well as our fellow equity investors.”
Tishman Speyer and BlackRock spent $6.3 billion — the $5.4 billion purchase price and the creation of four reserve funds totaling $890 million — to buy Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village from the original owner, Metropolitan Life.The deal has become a “poster child” for all that was wrong with that era of easy credit, highly speculative deals and greed, said Ben Thypin, an analyst at Real Capital Analytics, a research firm.
Now the buyers are running out of time and money. Jerry I. and Rob Speyer and their partner, BlackRock Realty, who paid $5.4 billion for the quiet middle-class redoubt near the East River, have seen the property lose more than half of its value, and the income from rent — down 25 percent from its peak — covers less than half of their debt payments.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
This is a far more detailed exposé, via Sydney P. Freedberg of the St. Petersburg Times, than we've had before of Florida's pension fund investment in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. Well worth reading. The main meat of this article:
On Oct. 17, 2006, MetLife announced the winning bid, an eye-popping $5.4 billion — $400 million more than the asking price — by Tishman Speyer Properties and BlackRock Realty.
The buyers put in $225 million of their own money, then passed much of the risk to others.
Tishman Speyer and BlackRock each had business and political friends in the state.
Tishman Speyer had vast real estate holdings in South Florida in the 1980s and early '90s and was looking to get back into the market. The company contributed $5,000 to the Florida Republican Party in 2002. Two of its executives donated the maximum $500 to the 2006 political campaign of Gov. Charlie Crist.
BlackRock, which is 49 percent owned by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, gave $500 to Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink during her 2006 campaign.
Crist and Sink, who serve as pension fund trustees, declined to be interviewed for this story. Their aides said there was no connection between political contributions and the investment in the Peter Cooper Village venture.
BlackRock already managed more than $300 million in Florida pension money. They wanted more business.
On Jan. 9, 2007, five BlackRock executives visited Tallahassee to make their case. Among those they met with were Steve Spook; Doug Bennett, the senior investment officer in the SBA's real estate unit; and Kevin SigRist, the agency's deputy executive director.
A few weeks later, BlackRock sent the real estate unit a confidential document outlining the strategy for achieving double-digit returns on the Peter Cooper Village project.
The 92-page memo revealed that Tishman Speyer and BlackRock planned to weed out rent-regulated tenants and turn the units into a "market-based environment'' in seven years. They would woo young, affluent renters and "position the asset for a value-maximizing sale.''
Ash Williams, who took over as the SBA's executive director in October 2008, concedes that in hindsight, the projections made by Tishman Speyer and BlackRock may have been "overly aggressive.''
But the documents provided to the SBA show that the agency's managers were made aware of the risks all along.
Line by line across 13 pages, the confidential memo lays out the risks. They included the possibility that Tishman and BlackRock could fall short of cash to pay off debt.
"Unless net operating income from the property increases materially,'' the memo said, "the partnership will not be able to meet its interest payment obligations in which event it would default.''
Spook evaluated the Peter Cooper Village deal for the SBA. The analysis relied heavily on the owners' statements.
• The report stressed the apartment complex's "excellent physical condition'' and "competitive advantages.'' But some prospective renters were turned off by the plain brick buildings that looked like a low-income public housing project.
• The report spoke of the "favorable fundamentals'' in the Manhattan apartment market. But some experts were predicting a weakening market.
• The report noted the owners' "extensive experience'' in managing rent-regulated apartments. Tishman Speyer had limited experience managing multi-family rental properties. Its expertise was in office towers like Rockefeller Center in New York City.
Spook's report also highlighted "issues'' with the investment, including possible cash flow problems, contaminated soil beneath the property and concerns about "liquidity,'' meaning Florida could have trouble unloading the investment if it declined in value.
Spook also noted a "lack of full Townsend due diligence.'' Townsend is the Townsend Group, a firm that Florida paid $200,000 a year for real estate advice.
SBA spokesman Dennis MacKee said that Townsend doesn't normally do due diligence. He said the SBA thoroughly vetted the investment.
On March 12, 2007, Spook recommended investing $250 million. Two weeks later, Doug Bennett concurred. In a three-paragraph memo, Bennett acknowledged that the deal could be a "risky proposition'' but said Florida would benefit from increasing its New York City exposure.
Kevin SigRist concurred with Bennett, and then-executive director Coleman Stipanovich approved the deal.
The Peter Cooper Village sale fueled a political uproar in New York City over the future of affordable middle class housing.
New York City Council member Dan Garodnick said the high selling price put pressure on the owners.
"They started sending legal notices to many perfectly legitimate longtime tenants claiming they were not using their apartment as their primary residence,'' said Garodnick, himself a resident of Peter Cooper Village.
Garodnick helped tenants fight eviction and supported a lawsuit. It contended that the owners had improperly raised rents after getting special tax breaks. The tenants sought $215 million in rent they overpaid.
BlackRock and Tishman Speyer's confidential memo to Florida's pension fund had warned that a lawsuit could cripple the deal.
The owners said they thought the tenants' claims were without merit. But if the residents were to prevail, the memo said, the owners would "suffer an immediate and very substantial loss of revenues and would be unable to carry out a significant part of its plan to convert rent-stabilized units to market rate.'' ....
On June 7, 2007, with the real estate market about to head south, the SBA sank $266,780,948 into the Peter Cooper Village partnership with other investors: $250 million for the investment plus $16,780,948 in fees.
By September 2008, the investment was in deep trouble. BlackRock and Tishman Speyer were having trouble converting the rent-regulated apartments to market-rate units. Expenses were higher than expected, income,lower. The new owners were running low on cash to cover payments on their $3 billion mortgage.
On Dec. 4, 2008, at a meeting of the group that advises the Florida pension fund on investments, a member questioned why nobody at the SBA had mentioned the troubled Peter Cooper Village investment.
"I think this should have been on the agenda,'' said Jim Dahl, a Jacksonville investor. "Let's make sure we talk about 'em so we don't repeat mistakes. … This is a serious, serious problem and we almost went through the meeting without discussing it.''
Dahl said many investors thought the deal was based on "pie-in-the-sky'' assumptions and was "going to have a bad ending.''
The SBA said otherwise.
"This is a long-term investment,'' SigRist said in an interview a few weeks later. "The view here is, as a long-term investor, we're uniquely qualified to hold these investments.'' He blamed problems not on inadequate vetting but on the changing financial world.
For months, the SBA did not respond to information requests from the Times about the Peter Cooper Village deal. They did not disclose documents the newspaper requested in December 2008, again in January 2009 and again in March.
Prompted by a fourth request, in April the agency released copies of appraisals and two redacted reports. Information about fees, expenses and investment issues was blacked out. The agency is still withholding documents about the deal, saying the legal department is reviewing them to determine if they can be released.
More at the above link.
One of the numerous things that stood out in the above excerpt is:
They [Tishman Speyer and BlackRock] would woo young, affluent renters and "position the asset for a value-maximizing sale.''
It doesn't get any more brazen that this. A young, college-age Stuyvesant Town resident, relaxing with his babe and his dog, right by the no dogs on grass sign. Faces covered to protect the guilty.
It does appear to be a sense of entitlement, plus a heavy dose of mommy and daddy never enforcing any rules. I received the following e-mail:
I know you like dog stories, so here's one, a true one. The other day as I was walking around the Oval, I saw a dog running loose in the playground with the artificial turf. The owner, a young guy definitely in his college years, later scampered over to the fountain, in which he allowed his unleashed dog to jump. All fun and games, but I just had to find out what his thinking was. So I approached him as he was leaving the vicinity and asked:
"I'm curious as to why you have your dog unleashed and running around in the playground and also why you let your dog go into the fountain? All three are not allowed here."
He looked at me with a half-stupid smile, still exhilarated by his play time with his dog. I repeated my question. And again received no answer but that half-stupid smile. I nudged again with a question as to why he was not following the rules here regarding dogs.
Finally still smiling stupidly at me, he gave me a shrug-of-the-shoulder answer:
"My philosophy is 'Rules are meant to be broken.'"
I informed him why those specific rules are in place and requested that he be more considerate of his fellow tenants in the future, and he was off, his dog still unleashed.
Below are a few more photos of "rules are meant to be broken" entitled dog owners:
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
It's just getting worse and worse for investors who went along with Tishman Speyer and Blackrock in acquiring Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village.
Florida’s pension lost $250 million it invested in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, Manhattan’s largest rental-apartment complex, the fund’s trustees were told.
“We are carrying that investment at zero because the market softened dramatically,” Ash Williams, executive director of the State Board of Administration, which oversees $121.9 billion of pension and other assets, told a meeting in Tallahassee today.
The SBA bought in 2007 its share of a limited partnership run by Tishman Speyer Properties LP and Blackrock Inc., owners of the property, said Williams, who was hired in October 2008.
Tishman and Blackrock acquired the 80-acre, 11,200-unit Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper complex for $5.4 billion in 2006 at what Williams called “the top of the market.” Their plan to convert 1,600 rent-stabilized units to market rates as residents vacated was stymied by rising unemployment during the worst economic recession since the Great Depression.
“Rents are not going up like they normally would, landlords are making concessions like free rent and people have not moved out at the rate anticipated,” said Williams, who came to the SBA after nine years as a managing director at Fir Tree Partners, a New York hedge fund.
Manhattan apartment rents fell as much as 10 percent in August from a year earlier, the Real Estate Group of New York said on Aug. 25. Vacancies are growing and tenants aren’t moving as the city’s unemployment rate climbed to a 12-year high of 9.6 percent in July....
“What’s going to happen to the investment?” Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican running for governor in the November 2010 election, asked Williams.
“Is there potential for recovery? Yes,” Williams said. “Is it a strong possibility? No.”
Florida is a junior partner in the Tishman/Blackrock venture, Williams said, with an equity-only investment and none of the mezzanine debt held by senior partners. He said the equity stake “could be wiped out.”
“We’ve had an unfortunate experience, we regret it and we’re taking steps so it doesn’t happen again,” Williams said.
More at the above link.