Comment Policy

All comments to posts have to await approval. Please be aware that, depending on when I'm logged onto the internet, it may take me hours, even longer, to moderate comments, so if they don't turn up in a speedy fashion, they are still in the queue. Comments that cross a line I'm not comfortable with will not get approved. Please note: Posts that overdo their passion and veer into name-calling or that make serious accusations without proof are going to have a hard time getting through.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tishman Speyer to Stuy Town: F.U.!!!

Below are some images taken of Stuyvesant Town yesterday, the day before Thanksgiving. It's been three years since Tishman Speyer took over Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. What used to be a coveted place to live and well-maintained has turned, in part, into something that looks like a slum. This change was occurring BEFORE the economy started to tank, and now it's just gotten worse, with a lessening of maintenance and a maintenance staff.

This is a view of Stuy Town at 14th Street:



I'd say the above looks like low-income projects.

Below, the dumpsters. What arrogance on the part of Tishman Speyer to continue traumatizing tenants in this area with the horrid screeching noise of these dumpsters in the night or early morning hours. This is a scandal that also touches our local politicians, who seem to be pathetically ineffectual here.



And let's not forget this beautiful dumpster on the other side of the Ave. C loop:



Nice pick-up, guys!



The worst looking area of Stuy Town is at the interior corner of Ave. C and 14 Street. Imagine paying market rate for this view when you come home:



With cutbacks in the maintenance staff, there appear to be not enough workers or time to pick up all those leaves:







Nothing better says that Tishman Speyer loves it tenants than the sorry state of the Oval grounds:






It was three years ago that Rob Speyer sent this Thanksgiving message to the tenants of Stuy Town & Peter Cooper Village:

I am writing on behalf of everyone at Tishman Speyer to express how honored we are to become part of your outstanding community. We are a business with deep roots in New York, a true love of our city and a great respect for the neighborhoods that make it special. We are committed to maintaining the unique character and environment that have made Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town such a wonderful place to live for so long. We look forward to providing you an extraordinary level of service and attentiveness that will be the source of pride and satisfaction for the entire community.

I think most of us knew this was bullshit at the time. Certainly it has been proven so!

So thanks for destroying this community and property, Rob. Thanks for proving that you are not capable of dealing with tenants with skill and respect. Thanks for proving that you are just a rich man's boy who is in a high management position only because of that and not because of any talent or intelligence. All of us hope to see you and your company leave here soon. I doubt that this community will ever return to what it was before your "stewardship," but we will try, we will try.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The "Veterans Support Organization"?



Is it a scam or a legitimate charity organization? A reader alerted this blog that representatives of "Veterans Support Organization" were soliciting money right in front of Associated Supermarket. According to a photocopied flyer that was being handed out, for $5 you could feed a veteran on Thanksgiving, for $10 on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Scams for charity organizations are frequent during holiday times, and suspicions were raised when another blog reader asked to see VA identification from the gentleman soliciting the money (who was dressed in camouflage attire available in many stores in New York and who claimed to be a twenty year vet with service in Desert Storm--Airborne, too!). Said gentlemen refused, stating that he is not allowed to show his VA identification, which is, plain and simple, bullshit.

I went over to witness what was happening, and indeed the guy (I only saw a guy, but apparently there was an older woman with him earlier) was doing a very vocal charity pitch to anyone passing by or going into Associated. He was standing maybe a foot or two away from the entrance to the supermarket. When I was there, several Associated customers were putting their bills into one of two large Veterans Support Organization plastic buckets. In between the buckets was a folder with copies of papers that were meant to prove that the organization is legit.

After doing some research, yes, the organization is legit and non-profit, though it's had some run-ins with veterans organizations connected with the government. According to online reports, the Veterans Support Organization gives only a percentage of its take to veterans, the rest is divided among the workers, both the street solicitors and those higher up in the organization. Veterans Support Organization began in Florida in 2001, and just recently has set up headquarters in New York. Its NY website is here.

It's too bad that veterans organizations that give 100% (or close to it) of their charity haul to veterans are so underwhelming represented on the street. The success of the VSO will probably mean that these organizations will get less donations than before--but if it takes a more aggressive push for people to give, then perhaps the VSO shouldn't be faulted. Though veterans work for the organization, the street solicitors do not have to be veterans, which may explain why the aforementioned gentleman refused to show his VA ID.

Speaking of veterans--wouldn't it be good of Tishman Speyer to go back to some Stuy Town basics and begin offering veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan affordable housing in this complex? Just a small percentage of the available apartments it has here?

Update: A bit more on the Veterans Support Organization, operating in Cape Cod during the summer....

EAST FALMOUTH — Wal-Mart shoppers on Friday donated nearly $1,500 in just a few hours to two men, dressed in military garb, who were supposedly raising money to help local veterans. Those men, members of the Veterans Support Organization, may have been dressed like veterans — but they have never served in any of the armed forces, police said.

And with administrative offices in Rhode Island and Florida, the company's chief operating officer Richard VanHouten has admitted none of the donations go directly toward helping veterans on Cape Cod.

While the VSO is a registered nonprofit in this state, according to the state Attorney General's Office, Falmouth Veterans Agent Jay Hill said that legal or not, "something stinks."


Read more here.

And then there's this, from WPTV in Florida:

STUART, FL -- You may have seen the men wearing camouflage and dog tags, carrying buckets and American flags on street corners.

They're drumming up donations for a non-profit group called "Veterans Support Organization, Inc."

The group purports to raise the cash for disabled and homeless vets, by giving money directly to local VA hospitals.

But a look at the group's financial statements shows a large percentage of the money raised goes to administrative and fund raising costs.

According to the group's 2006-2007 financial statement, 63% of its revenues go to administrative and fund raising costs. That leaves just 37% for the vets. The percentage improved to closer to 50-50 in 2007-2008.

Scripps Treasure Coast Newspaper columnist Geoff Oldfather started looking into the group 5 months ago when local vets started asking questions about where the money was going.

He learned that some of the group's employees, including a former director, have criminal records.

"There’s just a lot of questions about who they employ how they are going about collecting money and keep in mind it’s all cash and how do you track all of that cash?" asks Oldfather.

Richard VanHouten, director of Veterans Service Organization, admits he has some employees who have criminal pasts, but says he wants to give everyone a chance.

With regard to the high percentage of fundraising costs, he says that was because his group was "young and learning." He says the costs are going down considerably. He insists his group is a major donor to the VA hospital in Palm Beach County.

We placed a call to the VA hospital, but have not yet heard back from officials there.


And here's a very positive view of the VSO.

One more report: Ex-cons collecting money for the VSO.

Update 12/16/09: A halt to the activities of the UHO in New York. Some say the VSO resembles the UHO....

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lazy NYU Students to Get Their Stuy Town Bus Service Back



They whined, they received. Just like with mommy and daddy. Despite NYU's financial troubles, NYU bus service to and from Stuyvesant Town has been reinstated--and very quickly at that.

nyunews.com/news/2009/nov/18/bus/

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Okay Unity Day



Considering the lousy weather and the confusion over where the Unity Day event would be finally be held (at Stuyvesant Cove, if good weather--or Simon Baruch JHS 104, if rain), the turnout Saturday was pretty respectable. The NY Daily News estimated about 500, which I think is a fairly accurate estimate. Dan Garodnick was clearly the best speaker--focused and with a good voice that traveled even to the back of gathering, while State Senator Tom Duane, late in coming, was lousy--full of quick cliches and reviving the idea that tenants should have bought/should get a chance to buy Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village. (Note: If the tenants had bought the property a couple of years ago for 4 billion, we possibly would have been in real trouble by now and the laughing stock of real estate bigshots. I'm uncomfortable with the concept of tenants buying this property for a huge sum of money, unless it can be shown to be risk-free enterprise, probably an impossibility.) Anyway, at least we were spared Duane's refrain from past years--"One more, one more!"--with his index finger pointing in the air. The Democrats got their "one more" in the State Senate this year and completely fucked it up.

Basically, the fight now will be to keep and even strengthen rent-stabilization laws that are due to expire in June, 2011. THIS IS THE BIG ONE, in fact. Landlords will pour all their money and influence, as will politicians paid by or friendly with the real estate lobby, to either get rid of or weaken these tenants protections.

For the purpose of protecting ourselves and fighting the good fight (which is historic), everyone should join the Tenants Association and help them out as much as possible--through money and/or man-womanpower.

One more thing: It was kinda bracing to hear Garodnick and a couple of other speakers make statements that the ruling in the J-51 case means that all market rate apartments in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village are now considered rent stabilized. I'm not too certain how secure in reality that statement is, but it's certainly one that, if factual, puts a smile on one's face and sunshine in one's heart.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lazy NYU Students Complain about Lack of Bus Service



Okay, depending on where you live in Stuy Town, it is probably a 15 to 20 minute walk to various NYU buildings around Washington Square Park. (I can walk to Chinatown in 35 minutes.) It really isn't that far and shouldn't be that debilitating to the young student body of NYU, who are now very upset at the lack of NYU bus service to and from this complex:

After NYU discontinued its bus service to Peter Cooper Village-Stuyvesant Town at the beginning of the semester, many students who live in Stuy Town brought their complaints about the change to the NYU Student Senators Council.

After hearing complaints about the elimination from several students, the Senators Council proposed to the university that the stop be reinstated.

In response, the SSC is currently working with the university to address the issue; recently, the council submitted a proposal to the administration asking to reinstate bus service to Stuy Town during peak hours.


More here.

Poor babies!

Don't forget UNITY DAY - Saturday, Nov. 14 at 1pm at Solar One - Stuyvesant Cove Park



You've seen the flyers and posters. On Saturday, Nov. 14th, residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village will gather at Solar One - Stuyvesant Cove Park (22nd Street and the East River) to "demonstrate our determination to maintain the affordability and unique character of our community." Time: 1pm. Expect to see several of our local politicians and tenant rights activists at the gathering, who will speak on matters critical to our survival here in this complex.

IN CASE OF RAIN, the gathering will be moved to Simon Baruch JHS 104, on 20th St, between 1st and 2nd Avenues.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tishman Speyer to collect "lucrative fees" on rent



These bastards are never going to go away.

From Reuters:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The joint venture that borrowed heavily to buy Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village in 2006 could be among the first to take advantage of changes in U.S. tax law that let borrowers seek payment relief, when it said last week that it could not keep paying interest on a $3 billion loan.

On Friday, the $3 billion senior mortgage was transferred to the special servicer CWCapital after the borrower -- real estate private equity firm Tishman Speyer and BlackRock Realty Advisors, the real estate arm of money manager BlackRock Inc -- asked for relief from paying the debt service on the $3 billion mortgage.

"We requested it now so we can begin to negotiate a restructuring before it goes into default," a spokesman for Tishman Speyer said.

The $3 billion senior mortgage was securitized into five commercial mortgage-backed security (CMBS) deals. Special servicers are the only ones who can modify troubled loans underlying CMBS.

Many commercial real estate experts don't believe that the special servicer will foreclose on the property, which would be costly to the bondholders and would require more cash for the property.

Instead, they expect Tishman and its partners to work out some type of deal that may allow them to manage the property, collecting lucrative fees that could be roughly 2 percent of all the rent on the 11,227 units.

More here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Now the "Special Servicer" Has the ST/PCV Mortgage

From The Observer:

The main $3 billion mortgage for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village has been transferred to a "special servicer," according to the rating agency Fitch, a significant step taken when loans are in default or on the verge of default.

The owners of the giant 11,200-unit Manhattan apartment complex, a partnership led by Tishman Speyer and BlackRock, had just $24 million left last month in a reserve fund to pay off debt, and default was expected in a matter of weeks.

Typically, the transfer to a special servicer gives power to that entity--in this case, CWCapital--to restructure the deal, taking the power away from the owners given that they are unable to keep paying. Eventually, if the complex is sold, money would likely be returned to the main bondholders--entities such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--though the complex has been given a value of about $1.8 billion, significantly less than the mortgage amount, so some bondholders would clearly take a loss.


More here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bloomberg Wins, But Only By 5%



According to the final results it wasn't the blow-out that was expected. 49% of New Yorkers voted AGAINST Bloomberg, with 46% voting for Bill Thompson. Considering the amount of obscene money Bloomberg spent in this election, this margin of victory is pathetic. But, of course, His Royal Arrogance won't get the message.

And over at the NY Times an analysis of just how Bloomberg won and how important Democrats (including President Obama), with a complicit New York media, stood aside to let him win. Read it and weep.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Why Bloomberg Has To Go


Above: Pals Mayor Bloomberg and Jerry Speyer thinking about how to get rid of the middle class in Manhattan and turn the borough into a mecca for the wealthy and influential and their narcissistic and spoiled sons and daughters. The bad economy was an unexpected hard bump in the road. They are waiting out its end and the reelection of Mike, when once again their master plan can "bloom," to include a retry on getting Speyer City built on the Hudson Yards and getting the federal government to financially help Robbie Speyer out with Stuy Town/Peter Cooper Village, after which Robbie will diligently attempt to throw out as many rent stabilized tenants as he can. By the way, Robbie was appointed by Bloomberg as "Chair of the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City." Be very afraid.

I voted for Bloomberg twice. I was also voted against term limits--twice. But this Tuesday I will not vote for Mike Bloomberg. My reasoning is two-fold. One, Bloomberg has seen the dissolution of what I consider the heart and soul of Manhattan, where I live. During his reign as mayor, I have seen entire neighborhoods changed from being true neighborhoods, with a unique character containing their own brand of indigenous ethnic groups and stores, to being soulless blocks stunned by dull architecture and arrogant residents who do not seem to be from the city, but who are passing through, either as businessmen with no particular love for Manhattan (but just a lust for Manhattan as their playground) or as students whose well-to-do families are paying for their education and experiences in the Big Apple until it's time for junior and princess to move on. I have seen buildings I have loved--New York buildings stately in their character and earthiness--torn down to be replaced by generic high rises. You know the type: the business store ground floor (typically a bank, a Starbucks and a chain drug store), the second floor a gym for the exclusive use of tenants of that building, and then rising to the sky, the dreary glass fronts of windows upon windows upon windows. During Bloomberg's reign I have been watching Manhattan, which I love, disappear, never to return again.

Take a walk or a bus ride to the West Side, above 42 Street. What you will see are these incredible high rises, one next to the other. It doesn't look or feel like as if you are in Manhattan anymore. It could be Miami, could be Austin, it would be anywhere USA. This is Bloomberg's New York. Go down below Houston Street. See if you can find Little Italy anymore. Oh, yeah, there it is, a measly block or two and then gone. Yeah, Chinatown is taking it over, but not so fast. See those old buildings going down in Chinatown? Yup, more and more of them are disappearing, and the new tenants are not Chinese, but the brethren of those same rich folks who own places on the upper West and East Sides. And then Chinatown will be no more, except a few blocks to seduce the tourists, just as is Little Italy. This is Bloomberg's New York. See Times Square? Yeah, it used to be earthy and rude and so damn New York that it was the place you wanted to be if you felt you needed a good wallop of the Big Apple and a lesson in what it meant to be a New Yorker. Now it's only meant for tourists. Its soul is completely gone. Yes, good thing they got rid of the peep shows and double-bill theaters where people without much money could enjoy a few cheap filthy thrills. Let the rich and powerful folks--yes, the politicians and the businessmen--have their expensive and out of the sensitive public eye thrills, however. (Think guys like ex-Governor Spitzer, who paid over $4,000 to get paddled by a hooker or to paddle a hooker; it was never made clear which one.) And where is the House that Ruth built? Gone under Mayor Bloomberg's reign, with--guess who?--Jerry Speyer involved in the building of the new Yankee Stadium. And why isn't the 2nd Avenue Deli on 2nd Avenue anymore? (And replaced by a bank, too! What a suitable symbol for what has become Bloomberg's New York.) And what in the hell is happening with 1 World Trade Center? What an embarrassment that during Bloomberg's reign not much has been done in eight years on that tragic site. Although, given how awful the new building will look perhaps we should be thankful for such favors.

Speaking of architectural monstrosities, any Mayor worth his Gracie Mansion residence would never have allowed the building of this vomitous structure:



How dare Bloomberg allow an architect to take a crap on a city street of something this size and this horrid! (It's the new Cooper Union academic building in case you didn't know.)

Mayor Bloomberg has not only been the steward of the city during these changes, he has actively pursued them, favoring the wealthy and real estate magnates, like his friend Jerry Speyer, over the average New Yorker who is trying desperately to live in the city in affordable housing and not get forced out to one of the outer boroughs--or worse, out of the entire city itself. Bloomberg's vision of Manhattan as the Dubai on the Hudson is not what New York has ever been to me, nor is it something I wish to see solidified. His friendship with the high and mighty (for he himself is high and mighty) has foreshadowed the end of Manhattan for the middle class. That is why Bloomberg has to go.

He also has to go because he subverted the will of the people twice, people who voted for term limits. Both he and the City Council members who voted to rescind the two term-limit law went against the wishes of the people, not even allowing a referendum on the matter. It is well understand by both Bloomberg and these City Council members (many of whom would have been out of office next year) that an elected official already in office has a far greater certainty of being re-elected. (The percentage is above 90%, and I've heard even as high as 99%!) I consider this turn-around on Bloomberg's part a slap in the face of democracy and still am outraged that this could have happened. And don't believe for a moment that it was the bad economy that made Bloomberg turn his back on term limits to "save" New York. Months before the economy took a tumble, Bloomberg was being coy about running for a third term. He understand then that in order to carry out his vision of a transformed New York, he would need more time than just two terms.

It is imperative that we, as voters, as people concerned for the voice of the people, do not forget about this affront against the vote of New Yorkers, do not rationalize this arrogant dismissal away, do not reward it by voting for the people responsible for the reversal. Out of sheer self-dignity, whether you think term limits is good or not, whether you think Bloomberg would be the best mayor for the next four years or not--by sheer dignity, one is compelled to say "NO, I will not put up with this," and place a vote for Bloomberg's opponent.

Do not think for a moment that once the election is over, and Bloomberg wins (which seems likely), that after the economy slowly improves he will not continue with a master plan to keep on turning Manhattan into a town for the rich and the tourist; do not think for a moment that he will NOT try to help his pal Jerry Speyer and Jerry's son, Robbie, in dealing with Stuy Town at your loss; do not think for a moment that, if you are middle class, he will not try to escort you out of the city you love and live in. ("If you can't afford Manhattan, what are you doing here?" one can hear Bloomberg coolly state if you protest.) If the economy doesn't improve fast enough for Bloomberg to make Manhattan into his vision, watch the guy run for a fourth term. You know it can happen. There's no stopping this cold, vain and arrogant bastard. He is on track to spending 140 million dollars for this current campaign, and when added to his previous campaigns for Mayor, it gives him a record in American history. In his run for a third term, he's been saturating the airwaves, the print media and the internet so much that you'd think he was running for Master of the Universe. You can just sense his feeling of self-satisfaction at knowing that his money is stomping any chance of his opponent getting a message out.

And just take a look at this photo to fully understand the problem:



That's Mike on the right with Robbie Speyer on the left.

Yes, Bloomberg has to go.