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Thursday, November 3, 2011
The Straw that Broke the Camel's Back?
An ice-skating rink is a pretty big straw, but it seems it has had the effect of mobilizing tenants and making both residents and politicians hyper aware of zoning and the commercialization occurring inside Stuyvesant Town. This week's Town & Village carries a front page article, "Garodnick Questions Legality of Commercial Activity in ST/PCV." Though commercial activities have been happening inside the complex since Tishman Speyer took over as owner and manager, though we've seen the Farmer's Market, Food Trucks, tables for Verizon and Zip Car, charges for the Oval "Essentials," etc, make their way into Stuy Town with some push-back from tenants, this ice-skating rink may just have tipped the balance into getting residents finally fed up with the commercialization inside this property. Or perhaps not. To be seen.
The T & V article carries quotes from councilman Garodnick and management's Adam Rose. Garodnick: "People want to make sure it is legal and I am currently exploring that question. There's a lot of concern over the variety of commercial activities, including the food trucks and now an ice rink and the paid storage facilities." Rose contends that "We believe the minor commercial activity in Stuy town such as food trucks and the ice rink are completely legal, and provide additional amenities and attractions to the vast majority of our residents, especially families." While the legality of commercial activities is yet to be determined by the Department of City Planning (I'm not holding my breath), it has to be stated that the "vast majority" of residents are not using any of the amenities being offered at Stuyvesant Town. We're talking about a resident population of anywhere from 25K to 30K, and certainly you don't even see a tenth of that number using the Oval Essentials, the food trucks, etc, or attending the summer concerts and events, which, at best and on rarer occasions, can draw in a few hundred people.
It can't be stressed enough in these discussions (even T & V skips this point) that these amenities are being used to sell the place to prospective renters, and it must be admitted that some amenities are directed at prospective renters with families, which is a good thing, as we'd like to increase a more stable population rather than the transient student one we see continually growing.
The T & V article reveals more of what Garodnick asked of the Department of City Planning: "Does zoning allow for food trucks to be positioned within the Stuyvesant Town Oval? Management recently announced that they would be installing and opening an ice rink in a Stuyvesant Town Playground. Does the present zoning allow for an ice rink on the property? And if so, would charging for admission or equipment change that?" These are pivotal questions.
Garodnick also stated to T & V that he believes the ice-rink should be complimentary to residents. "An hour a day in a playground that is normally open and free is not a good policy and it will not have a good outcome." Dan must be really hopping mad now, as the updated schedule for free use of the ice-rink allows for just two hours of free use to residents per week, not the previously publicized seven hours per week. (Perhaps I'm wrong, but I smell a slight set-up here, with a "generous" gesture forthcoming that will go back to the one free hour a day schedule.)
A bulging letters column in T & V contains responses from tenants. A couple of tenants are for it, including a familiar voice who calls the rink's detractors "cranky" and "better suited to a gated community in Florida than apartment living in a dense urban environment."
Other letter writers share their concerns, which have also been addressed repeatedly on this blog and Lux's website and Facebook.
The heart-warming surprise comes from an opinion piece by Steven Sanders, who had been our state assemblyman for 28 years. As someone who grew up in Stuy Town, Sanders takes a nostalgic journey in his piece, writing about Playground 10.... "Every kid growing up in Stuy Town or Peter Cooper had 'their' playround and #10 was mine." His article is well worth reading as giving insight into what that playground means and meant. He begins to finish it off this way:
"There are just some places, which are just really special, that corporate America, in such a hurry to make a buck, just does not really get." And: "I may be entirely wrong but I am not sure that there has been an outcry from the residents demanding an ice skating rink which is a very specialized activity that only a relatively few will participate in." Finally:
"When Tishman Speyer bought this community five years ago and over spent literally billions of dollars, they did so in the belief that they could make big changes to our already successful and iconic community that would make it more profitable. In hindsight I am sure they wish that they would have just let well enough alone. So a word to CW Capital and Rose management... 'If it ain't broke don't fix it.'"
Residents should hurry out and get this week's issue of T & V before it gets sold out.