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.

NOTE: Comments reflect the opinions of the person writing them and should not be assumed to reflect the opinion of the blog. Because of the anonymous nature of the commentary, specific agendas can be pushed by a sole individual and may not reflect a more popular belief by the residents of this community.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Wishes



Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and Happy Holidays!

(Your ST or PCV apartment can look like that, too...with a few modifications!)


STR

Monday, December 19, 2011

TA Telephone Town Hall Meeting



The idea was certainly novel and well executed while I was on the phone: A "town hall" meeting conducted via telephone, with the Tenants Association and several politicos, including the Senior Senator from New York, Charles Schumer. Listeners were allowed to send in their questions, but with over a hundred questions quickly lining up in the queue, most would not have a chance getting answered. Despite this, it was a valiant and probably necessary effort by the proponents of the TA/Brookfield plan (which still hasn't been clarified) to push the process of conversion along and stave off outside interruptions from real estate entities who may want to get in on the bidding.

Senator Schumer hit all the right notes, stressing the middle class and affordability, even making those as part of the "bigger picture" of what this fight is all about.

Still not answered (while I was on the line) is the question of how can one talk of the middle class and affordability when the conversion plan means that people will voluntarily give up their rent stabilized status and enter the market rate, with a significant mortgage (despite being drawn from an insider price), high maintenance fees, high real estate taxes, etc.

--------------

UPDATE 12/20/2011

Official release from Berlin Rosen, the media firm hired by the TA/Brookfield to publicize and promote the condo conversion plan:

Thousands of Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Participate In “Tele-Town Hall” To Get Information On Tenant-Led Bid

New York – 2,450 tenants participated in a Tele-Town Hall Sunday evening hosted by The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association with special guest Senator Chuck Schumer.

The town hall, moderated by Council Member and Peter Cooper resident Dan Garodnick, provided facts and answered tenant questions about the TA’s recently announced proposal to partner with Brookfield Asset Management on a tenant-led, non-eviction conversion plan that would protect current residents and permanently maintain the middle-class character of this historic community.

Senator Tom Duane and Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh joined Senator Schumer in participating in the event.

Brookfield representative Jonathan Moore, Tenants Association professional advisors Meredith Kane and Alex Rubin, and elected officials were on hand to answer nearly 25 tenant questions during the 1hr 15 minute town hall. Tenants submitted questions online during the registration process as well as posed them live during the event.

The Tele-Town Hall was sponsored by the entire Tenant Association Board of Directors. On hand to facilitate the event were Tenant Association President Al Doyle, Executive Vice President Susan Steinberg and board members John Sheehy and Jennifer Kops. Other board members monitored the call from their homes and from as far away as California.

“The fact that over two thousand of our neighbors joined the town hall indicates the tremendous level of interest and excitement in our plan to take control of our own future, protect current residents and ensure that Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village remain affordable to middle class families for the long haul,” said Alvin Doyle, President of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association. “Over the next several months as we put together our bid, we will continue to provide opportunities for tenants to get more information, offer input and get involved in this historic process.”

In addition to the elected officials who participated, the town hall was co-sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Borough President Scott Stringer.

Background:

This November, the TA announced an agreement with Brookfield to develop a bid over the coming months to submit to CW Capital – the special servicer that represents senior bondholders. The bid would allow tenants who wish to buy their apartments at reasonable rates while offering protection from harassment or eviction to those who wish to remain as rent-stabilized renters. The proposal would also aim to create a set of permanently affordable rental units with help from government sources, improve maintenance and upkeep across the development, and preserve the community’s existing open space.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Key Card Charges Reversed

From the Tenants Association:

Rose Associates has reversed course and discontinued the new $8.00 per key card charge for key cards provided to tenants for their visitors and employees and they stated that they have credited the accounts of all tenants who may have been charged for a visitor card prior to reaching the four free cards threshold.

The reversal came in response to the Tenants Association’s December 1, 2011 predicate notice sent to Rose Associates by the TA’s Counsel, Tim Collins of Collins, Dobkin & Miller charging that the implementation of an $8.00 per card charge was a reduction in service under the Rent Stabilization Code. News of management’s reversal came in a letter to Mr. Collins, dated December 14, 2011, from management’s General Counsel.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

New Stuy Town Facebook Page Dedicated to Noise



Noises from loud neighbors, heels with no carpeting, parties past midnight....

STOP NOW, the Obnoxious Loud Noises from a Neighbor

UPDATE 12/14: Adam Rose of Rose Associates is advising residents who have extreme noise problems that are not resolved with calls to the management office/pubic safety to contact him directly via email. He needs to have names and apartment numbers and has a solid track record of handling these troublesome issues. He can be reached at: adam@rosenyc.com

Monday, December 12, 2011

Statement from Tenants & Neighbors on TA/Brookfield Partnership



STATEMENT FROM TENANTS & NEIGHBORS ON STUYVESANT TOWN-PETER COOPER VILLAGE TENANT ASSOCIATION'S PARTNERSHIP WITH BROOKFIELD ASSET MANAGEMENT


Maggie Russell-Ciardi, Executive Director of New York State Tenants & Neighbors, one of the city's largest tenant's rights groups, said:


Tenants & Neighbors believes in the power of tenant organizing. We know that, working together, tenants who live in housing that is at risk of loss of affordability can build consensus around an alternative vision for their building and then spearhead a campaign to make that vision a reality. We commend the tenant association on having taken their community’s future into their own hands and identified a tenant-endorsed preservation partner. There may still be a long and hard fight ahead to ensure that Stuyvesant Town Peter Cooper Village is preserved as affordable housing. But the tenants have both an incredible determination and the power that comes from intensive and relentless organizing and mobilizing- as was made evident by their historic victory in the Roberts case - and we have every confidence that they will continue to succeed. We support them as they strive to ensure that their building is taken out of the speculative market and instead preserved as decent, affordable housing for the long term.”

The NY Times on the Ice-Skating Rink



The story took a while to brew in the offices of the NY Times and seems, therefore, not that relevant regarding the deep concerns tenants had about the ice-skating rink, concerns which seem to have vanished (for the most part), as the rink is nearly noise free and very much enjoyed by kids and their parents.

Anyway, there is more to this piece than just a review of the rink:

Skating Rink Spurs Stuyvesant Town Residents' Latest Fight with Management

Friday, December 9, 2011

Holiday Best Wishes from that Old Gang of Ours

Aside from mailings from Guterman and the TA, Stuy Town and Peter Cooper residents should be getting this card in the mail this week:

Guterman Attacks!

By now you all should have received a letter from Gerald Guterman of Guterman-Westwood Partners. Guterman is interested in STPCV, too, and is, to put it mildly, pissed at the deal between the TA/Garodnick and Brookfield. Among the several accusations leveled against the TA/Garodnick is that the TA assured Guterman that there would be no alliances formed with the TA "until CW was ready to commence a sales process" (which hasn't yet occurred). The TA also had directed Guterman not to directly communicate with tenants while talks were underway.

In case you haven't received the Guterman letter, click on the pages below to read it.







I'm not a fan of any condo/co-op proposal, but it is interesting to see how people are already screwing each other in private, non-transparent deals that concern all of us residents. Let the fighting begin!

-------------------

Update 12/9/2011. The TA responds to the Guterman letter.

TA Comments on Guterman-Westwood Letter

Dear Neighbor:

This has been an exciting week for all of us as we begin to put together a bid to CW Capital to protect the long term stability and affordability of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. We feel confident that our partnership with Brookfield will give us the ability to deliver a plan that is both commercially viable and also satisfies our goals.

You may have received a letter recently from Guterman-Westwood Partners LLC describing an alternative partnership with tenants to bid for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. It is important that our community have the facts, and that is why I am sending this follow-up letter.

During this extensive process, we met with the representatives of Guterman-Westwood, as well as with dozens of other potential partners. After consulting with our advisors from Paul Weiss and Moelis & Company, we decided to select Brookfield Asset Management over all the others because they have both the credibility in the real estate market and the commitment and ability to live up to the principles and goals of the Tenants Association. Those goals are clear: to allow residents the choice to either purchase their apartment at an affordable price or to stay on as rent-stabilized tenants; to improve the maintenance and upkeep of our community; to prevent new development on open space, and to ensure that the middle-class character of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village continues for the next generation.

There are some important facts about the Guterman-Westwood proposal that the T.A. and our Advisors find worrisome and that our community needs to consider.

1) Financial Commitment- Guterman-Westwood has outlined a “pricing plan” for tenants to purchase their apartments. We are concerned with the plan’s ability to raise the amount of capital needed to purchase the property from CW Capital. It is critical that any bid put forward by Tenants have the capability to engage CW Capital.

2) Short-Term Partner – When we began this process, the TA committed to finding a long-term partner to help our community buy the property – and then to stick around to help us improve it. Guterman-Westwood has made it clear that they would convert the property and have no continuing involvement

3) Converting to a co-op, instead of a condominium. Guterman-Westwood’s proposal calls for converting Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village into a cooperative. After careful review of this issue, we believe, along with our professional advisors, that a co-op conversion could present problems. For example, a co-op would mean a common tax lot and a master mortgage, increasing the chance of systemic financial distress that could impact every resident in the community. The risk of such financial headaches could make it difficult for residents to find lenders willing to help them buy their apartments during the conversion process. In addition, the costs of repaying a property-wide “master” mortgage would mean higher monthly maintenance charges for residents. A condominium conversion would avoid all of these challenges, allow for more flexibility when we choose our community’s governance structure, and allow us to target property tax abatements directly to rental or “affordable” apartments on a unit-by-unit basis.

We are now at the beginning of what will be a long process of listening to our neighbors, gathering feedback and input, and preparing to put forward a tenant-led bid that will put us in charge of the future of our community. I want to thank the volunteers of the Tenants Association whose work has been critical to our effort, and the thousands of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper residents who have offered their support and ideas throughout this process.

I hope that you will continue to stay informed and involved as we move forward. For more information, please visit our website at www.ProtectSTPCV.org, or feel free to call us at (646) 403-9747.

Sincerely,

Alvin Doyle

Q & A at Saturday's STPCV Tenants Association Meeting

Watch live streaming video from stpcv at livestream.com


Part 1; other parts available here.

Just listening to several minutes of answers makes me depressed. If this plan is accepted, that's it for the struggling middle class and certainly "affordability." I think there is no way to look at this plan otherwise. And, yes, for those who wish to make money off their STPCV apartments by flipping them at good profit, you will be able to do so, except you'll pay some extra tax on the deal. Really, this is a plan for STPCV residents who have money or who want to make money. That's the reality. This is surrender on permanent rent stabilization and the affordable rental unit in Manhattan.

I guess the good news is that it may take years for this plan, if it's accepted by the required amount of tenants and by CWCapital, to be activated. So we wait. And worry.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The STR Plan for Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village



When it came out that the Tenants Association has been brewing a tenant co-op/condo plan for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village with Brookfield Asset Management, several real estate big sharks began circling again around this complex, offering up their own plans or willingness to get into the mix. Well, in the spirit of "if they can do it, why can't I?", this is my plan for Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village:

1) Senior lenders are "owed" 3.5 billion dollars. Says who? And if so, who is to pay? Let's get this straight: Institutions took a financial risk in investing in the biggest real estate deal of the century, the investment tanked and now residents of this complex are to be burdened with a debt of 3.5 billion? Sorry, your mistake for trying to make a killing here, so you LOSE and won't be able to get anything for your loss except perhaps a tax break. Take it up with Tishman Speyer if you have a problem. Sue them if you like for 3.5 billion. But in no way should residents of this community be burdened with paying off the senior lenders in high rents, packed-in apartments for students, gimmicky non-zoned commercial activities, a reduction of services, benign neglect, or some future "deal" to be made with CWCapital. Once residents are free of this burden, even by implication, then our financial future in this complex becomes clearer and more breathable.

2) The city has to take over the running of the complex, at least financially, and establish a partnership with the Tenants Association. Before the Met Life sale, Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village used to turn over a modest profit and the complex can still do so. For their pains, the city would gain something for their coffers. (Let's see the politicos of NYC, the people who so eagerly appear at tenant rallies and meetings, vote against the idea of the city making sure ST/PCV is truly run for the ideals of "the middle class" and "affordability" by letting the city become the complex's owner.) The TA would be charged with selecting someone to manage the actual day to day workings of complex, and that entity would be responsible to the TA, and by extension, to the tenants, for the quality of the work they do, which includes the quality of the security force.

3) Full and genuine rent stabilization in this complex has to be a right and tenants have to focus on working toward strengthening tenant protections across the board in New York. No more of this "realistic" bs (convenient as a scare tactic to get tenants to give up current rent-stabilized apartments) that tenant protections are going to disappear, so we may as well go for the best deal we can, which includes voluntarily accepting rent-stabilized units turning into market rate apartments. Tenant protections laws, to include permanent rent stabilization, have to be the primary goals of every rent stabilized tenant living in the city and every tenant association that represents them.

4) All apartments in ST/PCV are apparently rent stabilized, but at the same time we have market rate prices on many apartments. How in the hell did that happen? There has to be a complete revaluation of high-priced apartments with pricing that reflects the general pricing of apartments that have not turned "market rate." The only allowance would be a modest addition fee of living in a refurbished apartment. Even an extra $300-500 per month charge would be a savings for tenants paying market rate prices, as their monthly rental bill would be cut in half from its current high. If the rents here were truly in the rent stabilized category, there'd be a complete occupancy of rental units here, with a waiting list to get in, and a decent selection process of prospective tenants, just like in the "good old days."

5) No more transient tenants from schools. Transient tenants create garbage, pressurized wall mazes, and destabilize the community, creating a class of people who do not care about the past, present or future of ST/PCV. Bye-bye NYU, New School, etc. We want families and working people here, whose intentions are to stay for a good number of years and preferably for a much, much longer time, setting up roots in this place as many of us have done. Such tenants, replacing the transients, will create a vigorous new body that will become active in tenant affairs and fully support rent stabilization because this is their home and not a dorm or a hotel. These are people we want here, the solid middle class who will fight for the middle class and not take bull from anyone--politicos and monied real estate/asset management companies combined.

Any other plan that deviates in large part from the above, to include co-op and condo conversions, spells the end to the true middle class here and affordability and paves the way for the complete transition of Manhattan into a Bloombergesque vision of highrises fronted by chain drug stores and banks--a Manhattan inhabited by the wealthy and/or their student sons and daughters--and the eradication of the charm, gusto and fighting spirit of what still is the greatest city in the world.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Power to the 99% or to the 1%: The Partnership Between the TA and Brookfield



Once again, the ST/PCV Tenants Association is trying to place a bid on acquiring Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village. This time, the TA has a partner: Brookfield Asset Management.

At the public press conference on Wednesday, November 30th, Councilman Dan Garodnick struck all the right notes: much was mentioned, and stressed, about a "non-eviction" plan and "the middle class" and "affordability." But is a deal that will require of tenants a six-figure number in mortgage loans, with maintenance fees that could equal or surpass their current rent, really affordable and a secure base for whatever middle class remains in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village?

Let's admit from the outset that self-interest plays the most important role for everyone concerned--tenants, buyers, non-buyers, and asset management companies. While the arguments can be buttressed by lofty ideals about the middle class and apartment affordability, the bottom line is that everyone will be looking after their own interests when it comes to the sale of ST/PCV. If you are a ST/PCV resident with money to burn and believe that acquiring an apartment here at a low insider rate is good for you as an investment or for your family's future, you will be for the deal; if you are a tenant who cannot afford to pay for, or get a mortgage for, whatever the final asking price will be, or if you don't see any value in paying so much money when you are in a rent stabilized situation, then you will be against the deal. As for asset management companies...sorry, but I don't believe in the tooth fairy or beneficent benefactors. These companies want to make money, and the complex that's Stuy Town/Peter Cooper Village, stretching from 14 st to 23 st and 1st Ave to the FDR Drive, is, despite all the troubles and turmoil here, a huge prize that many are after, and NOT because they want to maintain rent stabilization and the middle class in Manhattan. At the Wednesday press conference, Barry Blattman, the senior managing partner of Brookfield, stated that ST/PCV is "the kind of real estate that our company covets." Thanks for warning us.


Brookfield's Barry Blattman

(I have to mention that I have no hardcore distrust of Brookfield, aside from my tempered cynicism regarding any real estate/asset management company being on the side of tenants. Barry Blattman seems like a nice guy and Garodnick believes that Brookfield's intentions toward tenants are "benevolent." I did a check of Brookfield's donations to NYC candidates for the past decade, and the company appears fairly reputable in who they give their money to. Note: They donated considerable money to Thompson in the last mayoral election and completely stiffed Bloomberg, though such a face-slap could be based on some personal/business clashes in the past.)

All this said, it would be petulant to dismiss outright whatever plan is still brewing amongst the key players here. According to the Town & Village, the TA and Brookfield share these goals: "a conversion plan that would allow tenants to remain on as stabilized renters if they choose and give those who wish to buy an attractive insider's price." Other goals: "maintain affordability and stability of the community with tenants free of harassment, keeping the open spaces open and improving maintenance and upkeep of the property." T&V adds, "To maintain stability, the plan includes keeping some of the apartments permanently affordable through funding from government sources." Remarkably, this latter point contradicts all the politico and TA speeches about the "middle class" and "affordability" and proves that the complex will NOT be affordable should the plan go through. Another source mentions a figure of 10% for the number of apartments being kept in affordable range. If that pathetically low percentage is true, and tenants accept the deal, then the death of the middle class and "affordability" will come to this complex much sooner than was ever anticipated.


Garodnick, Stringer, Quinn, Duane

A significant part of the plan involves Brookfield, a company that owns over 20 million square feet of property in Manhattan. According to T&V, Brookfield would be the sponsor of the plan, "putting together the money for the purchase, offering the units for sale, and then remaining the landlord and manager of the unsold apartments." At first and even second glance this arrangement means that Brookfield would be in charge, much like Tishman Speyer was in charge, but with the TA's blessings and some (?) input from a co-op/condo board should tenants win the right of apartment ownership.

For tenants wishing to make money, the TA and Garodnick are pushing for some type of cap on tenant owners flipping an apartment for considerable profit. While seemingly good for "affordability," such a stipulation will, no doubt, dampen the enthusiasm of some tenants who are already envisioning making a killing on the deal.

But right now, there is no detailed plan, just a vague template with several constructs ready to be argued over, filled in, amplified.


Center: TA's president, Al Doyle, talking with Brookfield's Barry Blattman

What concerns me most is that I see no way as to how "middle class" and "affordability" can be mentioned in the same breath with Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village if this still-brewing plan goes through. Whoever pays off 3 billion plus to the original senior lenders that CWCapital represents will be stuck with making up that 3 billion somehow, and I get the feeling that tenants and prospective tenants will be the ones ultimately footing the bill, while at the same time paying high maintenance costs on a property and buildings that are not deluxe or luxury living.

We also have to ask ourselves this question: Do we see, in the distant future, Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village as it is now? Do we see the same buildings standing here, the ones without central air-conditioning or heating, no doormen, fabricated ugly project-style after the Second World War? Or do we see something else: almost a mini-city of sleekly designed high-rises with doormen and the most contemporary modern conveniences? If the latter picture IS going to be the reality, then is it much better to start now and approach it in a straight line? Or are we going to approach this reality (if such it will be) in a zigzag line with continual squabbles, buy-ins, buy-outs, this management/that management, tempers flaring, blood pressures rising, and continual lack of certainty with tenants separated by rental status and potentially fighting each over a variety of monetary and maintenance issues? Ultimately, will everything that's here get replaced by eminent domain, either the genuine kind (upon which ST/PCV was built) or the more devious kind where the property or chunks of it will be bought out by monied interests who will, after offering tenants a sizable buyout, start knocking down the buildings one by one to erect a city of the future. (If we don't want to see this vision a reality, then the TA's efforts to have ST/PCV landmarked may not be such a mad Quixotic idea, after all.)

There is this thing called "progress" and Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, in the judgement of some, may be standing in the way. But that other thing, "self-interest" is going be continually in the game, whether people want to admit it as the most vital component or not.

-----------------

Read into these photos what you will:





(Thanks to NoSpinZone for the photos.)

DON'T FORGET THAT TOMORROW, SATURDAY, DEC. 3rd, the TA will hold an important meeting at Mason Hall, Baruch College, 23rd St. & Lexington Ave. at 1pm. Politicos and a Brookfield representative will be present! For more details visit www.stpcvta.org