Tuesday, January 31, 2012
This interview is from 2010, but it's still relevant today. My main question is: "What's in it for Guterman to convert Stuy Town/PCV to co-ops and leave afterward--in 18 to 24 months?"
[Hat tip to one of our anonymous commentators.]
Gerry Guterman posted this in our commentary section today, Friday, March 3rd:
We would enjoy meeting with any group of actual tenants (or their representatives) from Stuyvesant Town & Peter Cooper Village. Buying or not buying should not be a factor for attending the meeting. A specific number of participants should be planned for and any member of the tenant's association or their representatives should be identified in advance. Other than those requirements, it would be nice if coffee is served.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
The above postcard from co-op advocates, Guterman-Westwood, which tenants have received or should be receiving in the mail, shows buildings that may look like Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village to the casual eye, but which certainly are not a real depiction of the complex. The photo looks to be a Photoshopped assembly of various New York images, worked on graphically for several layers. What is supposed to be ST/PCV may, in fact, be the Alfred E. Smith complex below Stuy Town. Who knows? But a major fail from whatever departments created and then approved this image (which is surprisingly ugly, too).
Thursday, January 26, 2012
The Guterman side of the story. Online now. Questions answered. [?]
From the company's press release:
Guterman Westwood Partners aims to foster a successful working relationship with the residents of Stuyvesant Town & Peter Cooper Village. The co-op conversion plan proposed by Guterman Westwood Partners details and addresses many of the concerns that residents have about the future of Stuyvesant Town & Peter Cooper Village. The firm's goal is to work with the tenants, as well as the broader public, in continuing the tradition of reasonably priced housing and strong community atmosphere that has been present at the property since its founding.
The www.stpcvfacts.org website offers straightforward answers to the tough questions that community residents have been raising and talking about for years. It provides background information on Guterman Westwood Partners and provides a forum for resident and public inquiry regarding the conversion process, and the firm's intended participation therein. Guterman Westwood Partners believes that no conversion of the community can or should occur without the support of the vast majority of its current residents.
Gerald Guterman, Managing Partner of Guterman Partners and one of the most experienced residential property professionals in the City of New York, notes, "When the details of our plan are objectively compared with plans suggested by others, residents will recognize that our firm aims to produce the best value possible for the community in an orderly and efficient conversion process. Of course, no one other than the mortgagees control the property at this stage. But when the mortgagees' disposition process proceeds later this year, we will be deeply involved as a strong voice for the residents of the Stuyvesant Town & Peter Cooper Village community, with the backing and commitment to see an acquisition and conversion through for the mutual benefit of our firm and the residents."
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
The future: 15 Penn Plaza or "Vornado Tower"
First, some background. Vornado Realty, according to its website:
Vornado Realty Trust (NYSE: VNO)("Vornado") is one of the largest owners and managers of commercial real estate in the United States with a portfolio of over 100 million square feet, primarily located in the New York and Washington, DC metropolitan areas. Vornado's core businesses include: New York Office Properties; Washington, DC Office Properties; Retail Properties and Merchandise Mart Properties.
Its Wikipedia page is more detailed, to include properties the company owns in NYC (a lot): Vornado Realty Trust.
Vornado was at the epicenter of a controversy in 2010 regarding the prospective demolishing of Hotel Pennsylvania to be replaced by 15 Penn Plaza. The controversy involved the height of the proposed building (68 stories), which, being so close to the Empire State Building,would forever change the iconic "postcard" view of Manhattan. Not only was this a controversy on an aesthetic, historical and architectural level, but zoning did not allow for the erection of such a tall building in that area. As is known by now, though, zoning laws in NYC can be done away by the powers that be. (Also term limits, landmark designations, you name it.) The City Council, by a vote of 47-1 granted Vornado Realty the rights to build 15 Penn Plaza.
My lengthy, and angry, post when this occurred is here. Bloomberg News' James S. Russell, in this review of the proposed 15 Penn Plaza building, wrote: "A behemoth office tower that may rise opposite Pennsylvania Station would deface New York City’s skyline and cast a pall over surrounding streets already shortchanged on light and air. " Former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern testified that 15 Penn Plaza "could do irreparable harm" to the city and, writing for the Huffington Post, made a blistering attack on the travesty that occurred with the vote: "This is a case of the city making an extraordinary gift, probably worth hundreds of millions of dollars, to one of its richest and most influential developers."
Dan Garodnick voted in Vornado's favor.
Now we move to the present, and the yet unannounced candidacy of Dan Garodnick for City Comptroller. So far he has received over 1 million dollars in donations, a sizable portion of which come from real estate firms--to include, surprise-surprise, Vornado.
According to NYC's Campaign Finance Board Database, Vornado's CEO, Steven Roth has donated twice, once in 2010, for 1K (before the 15 Penn Plaza vote) and then recently (after the 15 Penn Plaza vote) for whopping $4,950. The latter number is the maximum allowed by law, so unless there is some glitch in the accounting or other mistake, that earlier 1K is suspect, as its addition seems to go over the legal amount allowed for an individual donating to someone running for city comptroller.
It doesn't just end there. Steven Roth's wife, Daryl Roth, has also donated money for Garodnick's campaign. Yes, the max: $4,950. So, one household, with clear ties to Vornado (the CEO and the CEO's wife), has donated almost $10,000 to Dan, and over that amount if we include that suspect 1K.
Though I'm sure Dan Garodnick has his public-relations justifications for voting in favor of 15 Penn Plaza (jobs/a city that can't stand still/whatever), the appearance of a quid-pro-quo is troubling. Garodnick is not the only politician accepting monies from real estate interests come election time. The other City Council politicians, like Christine Quinn (who stated she would NOT accept such donations, but has, including over 15K from Vornado in past campaigns) and Scott Stringer (whose coffers have been one of largest and heftiest with real estate money deposits; the guy's running for mayor, may the Lord help us) have all held out their collective hands.
Why should real estate concerns donating to local politicians be troubling? The fact is that real estate enterprises are in the business of maximizing profits. "Affordable" middle class housing does not maximize profits. Housing for the rich, the sons and daughters of the rich, and for tourists spending big bucks in Manhattan, maximize profits. The middle class are only useful as workers and consumers in Manhattan. Live in Brooklyn, Queens or New Jersey, otherwise.
The stark reality is that the middle class is being priced out of Manhattan, both as tenants and as mom-and-pop businesses. And real estate companies, by their very nature, are behind this price-out.
Let's take a look at Bloomberg Tower, a property developed and owned by Vornado. This NY Times article details the progress of a neighborhood. While the article is very much pro-Vornado, you will find a sentence that hints at another part of the story. The money shot comes near the end of the article: "Other retailers east of Third Avenue, an area that has traditionally had more service-oriented retailing, like restaurants, locksmiths, dry cleaners, cocktail lounges and delicatessens, said they were feeling the pinch of the Bloomberg Tower, either in the form of rising retail rents or more competition for the potential customers in the office tower and in One Beacon Court."
Rising rents.... Rising rents serve only to benefit the real estate entities that own property or build it. When real estate firms maximize profits, rents go up and the middle class gets displaced. Even if the favorable real estate situation goes bust (a pattern when greed runs rampant), the fallout will not bring middle class tenants and mom-and-pop stores back once they have left.
So the real estate people are the major players in what Manhattan is turning into, aside from the influence of a mayor like Bloomberg. And if you had any doubts about these companies lording over Manhattan in a game of real-life Monopoly, actualizing their conquerors' dream of altering a city forever, you may find this of interest, as you recognize some familiar real estate business names. Vornado's CEO, speaking a couple of years ago about the development of mid-town's West Side:
"Much has already happened," Mr. Roth continued, "to increase the value of our Penn Station assets. The Penn Plaza District and the West Side of New York have been discovered and are the beneficiaries of an enormous amount of recent and current activity. A huge swath has already been rezoned as the future growth corridor of Manhattan. Tishman Speyer has won the bidding to develop the Hudson Rail Yards into a 12 million square foot, 20-year, Canary Wharf-type project. Brookfield has announced 5 million square feet…. Vornado was the pioneer here, and owns the best and the lion's share of the real estate surrounding Pennsylvania Station - the gateway to the new West Side….The Hotel Pennsylvania, Seventh Avenue at 33rd Street, generated a best ever $37.9 million of EBITDA in 2007, $10.4 million more than in 2006, a 37.8% increase ….The credit crisis and Merrill's management changes disrupted this deal, but the fact remains that our site was the last man standing in a rigorous citywide search."
To be fair, one must note that some plans for development contain, through political and public pressure, the assurance of middle class housing or rentals "below market rate." So, in such a scenario a real estate entity would be required to provide a percentage of apartments for people of moderate means in any mass development project. How this will play out in reality remains to be seen. We here in Stuy Town/PCV are already getting, possibly, a similar equation brewing with the TA/Brookfield plan which hints at a percentage of apartments being set aside as permanent rentals for tenants of moderate means, with possible financial assistance thrown into the mix. Assuredly, real estate firms will wish to keep this percentage of forced give-aways as low as possible.
The reality was and remains that real estate entities are the natural enemies of affordable middle class housing. Politicians who want to see a different version of Manhattan than the one that we've been speedily heading toward (blocks of high rises w/ground floor banks, chain drug stores, Starbucks), politicians who are 100% sincere about "affordable middle class housing" (a mantra continually repeated by every politician who speaks to Stuy Town/PCV residents), should not be accepting money from real estate companies. If they do, then you know which side they are really on and what their "progressive" vision is for New York.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
The above may have been slipped under your door, or will be. It's a Tenants Association flyer, printed on heavy stock, promoting "taking control of our future" via the condo conversion plan that's being set up between the TA and Brookfield Asset Management. The quality of the flyer suggests money involved, so I suspect its chiefly, if not exclusively, money from Brookfield that went into printing it.
There's zero new info, however, so it's still the TA/Brookfield trying to get the world out. Attached is a card one mails in (or deposits at the Oval Concierge!) where one can indicate: 1) Notify me about ways to join the conversation, 2) Contact me about helping the TA spread the word about the plan, and 3) Contact me about joining the TA.
The flyer notes that "6,951 units signed pledges in support of the TA exploring options to develop a tenant-led bid." And: "We believe our plan is the best way to protect current residents and to permanently maintain the middle-class character of our community."
As for the buzz word "affordability," used with such carefree smoothness by both politicians and the TA, we have this on what the plan would also do: "Explore avenues for public support with the ultimate goal of establishing a set of permanently affordable rental units for the next generation of tenants."
The flyer admits that "we're just at the beginning of this process" and that "prices for the units have not been determined yet...."
I'm kinda tired of this constant beginning process, however, and the circling of wagons around it, and very eager to learn specifics, just as I'm sure we all are.
Friday, January 20, 2012
East Side City Councilman Daniel Garodnick has raised more than $1 million for a run at citywide office, posing a potential challenge to replace embattled City Comptroller John Liu, who is eyeing a run for mayor.
Garodnick raised more than $280,000 over the past six months, according to campaign filings released Wednesday, bringing his campaign war chest to more than $1 million so far.
“That’s a considerable amount of bucks,” said Baruch College politics professor Doug Muzzio. “If Liu does run for mayor and opens up the comptroller seat or needs to resign… Garodnick is in a really good spot," he said.
While the councilman has not yet officially declared his candidacy for any position, sources close to him said he’s eyeing a run for comptroller if Liu leaves the post, setting up a potential challenge with fellow Councilman Domenic Recchia Jr., who currently heads the Council's powerful Finance Committee.
Recchia brought in over $270,000 over the past six months, bringing his total raised to $483,000 for the 2013 race.
If Liu chooses to remain comptroller, some believe Garodnick would also be a strong candidate for Manhattan Borough President, a position that is also being eyed by Community Board 1 chairwoman Julie Menin, as well as Councilwoman Jessica Lappin. Current Borough President Scott Stringer is running for mayor.
Garodnick, who chairs the Council’s Consumer Affairs committee and held a large campaign kick-off event earlier this month, said he was excited by the numbers, which place him among the city’s fundraising elite.
“People have been extremely supportive, and I’m encouraged by that,” Garodnick said of the filings, which were made public Wednesday.
“I think that my approach of trying to solve people’s problems by rolling up your sleeves and getting things done is appealing. I’ve tried to bring that, along with progressive values, to the table,” he added.
In addition to his focus on consumer protection issues, Garodnick said he will continue to push for long-term affordable housing and stability for tenants at Stuyvesent Town and Peter Cooper Village, where he was raised and currenty lives with his wife and young son.
In addition to his cash flow, Garodnick's records show he spent about $34,000 over the past six months, mainly on campaign consultants, voter databases, and a major event at the Mexican restaurant Mojave in Astoria, Queens.
While other candidates like Stringer have courted money from big-names celebs, including actress Scarlett Johansson and Lady Gaga’s dad, Joe Germanotta, Garodnick said he’s relying on longtime supporters, including his family.
“My mom is there,” he joked. “That’s the biggest name I think you’re going to find.” (Records show she donated $200 last week.)
And while he intends to continue fundraising, Garodnick said his energy will remain focused on his current Council gig.
“There’s still two years to go, and I have a list of legislative goals that is extremely long,” he said. "There is a lot to do.”
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Meanwhile, we have some interesting residents (?) parking their cars on the loops:
Placard in ST-parked Car Compares Obama to Hitler.
Monday, January 16, 2012
It's not an award one would really want, but it could have been worse. Apparently last year Stuyvesant Town held the unenviable number one position at Curbed's yearly "Sh#tshows of the Year." This time around the frisky real estate commentary site of NYC trounced Stuy Town for several reasons, but things should look up for next year, as the dog rules here have been relaxed so much (together with the bicycle riding rules) that there's no need for ticketing dog owners for any infractions.
I do have to agree with Curbed on its layering into the One Madison Park building--you know, the ugly block upon block spire that hovers over Madison Square Park and seems like it's going to topple over from a strong wind. A monument to Bloomberg's New York and why real estate developers and zoning regulators should be held in check.
Friday, January 13, 2012
1) Management uncovered an illegal "hotel" in Stuy Town in which the tenant had hooked up a door release on the foyer floor door that opened the door whenever the apartment was buzzed! Inventive but illegal, of course.
2) NTT's storage units are now going to be charging $10 more per month.
3) According to Town & Village, Guterman Westwood Partners is going to do a second and then a third mailing to tenants about its own plan for the complex, co-op rather than the TA/Brookfield-favored condo. The second mailing, which should arrive soon, will contain a website address where the company will address whatever questions tenants may have concerning the Guterman plan. Boy, these guys really want this property badly!
4) Another article in T & V suggests that lawsuits may have influenced a change in the decades-long no dog policy MET Life had in place for Stuy Town/PCV. This suggestion comes from a lawyer who represented tenants with "service animals" before the policy was changed. I believe this suggestion is mere bs and publicity stunt for this lawyer and his firm, but it does shine a light again on a major divisive issue that Tishman Speyer instigated when it allowed dogs in the complex. The (dog) crap that was coming out of TS' managing director at the time, George Hatzmann (and quoted in the T & V article), is particularly irking in its corporate-spin speak:
"A large number of the residents of this community have sought this change in policy, recognizing the warmth and companionship inherent with keeping and taking care of pets. We listened and are pleased to offer our current and future residents this accommodation. We view this as a natural extension of a community built for and sustained by families."
Perhaps my memory is faulty here, but were we, the residents, ever asked about a change in dog policy by Tishman Speyer?
5) I had been contacted recently by a writer for the NY Observer who asked about Airbnb and the controversy it generated here in Stuy Town/PCV. I didn't have any pertinent information, as it was Lux who followed the Airbnb situation, and I just didn't (and don't) have the time to deal with this as he did, but the following just fell into my lap, as it were, on the commentary page on the NY Observer website:
Note the "quiet times" above, under "House Rules"... "Come and go as you please. Quiet times are 2am - 8am."
I just don't understand why someone doesn't take in a paid roommate (which is legal), instead of creating a revolving door into one's apartment for a variety of travelers who probably are all strangers.
Monday, January 2, 2012
It's been another emotionally destabilizing year for Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village residents, with much of the focus being on the surprising news that the Tenants Association had partnered with Brookfield Asset Management to set the first stage of a condo buyout of the property. The debate, typically vigorous and with little factual information to chew on (the details of the condo plan are being worked on), captivated most tenants who have an interest in the community. Some became worried, some became angry, others suspicious, and then others were thrilled at the prospect of ownership. Whatever happens, one fact seemed lost: CWCapital, the current owner of the complex, has yet to respond to any forthcoming offer from tenants and Brookfield, and may well hold onto the property for a better deal in the future. So all the excitement, pro and con, could be for naught.
This year also saw the Department of City Planning clearly and unequivocally state the food trucks that have been parking at the Oval and the Farmers Market are not zoned to be in this area. The impetus behind clarifying the zoning at the Oval did not, unfortunately, come from either the Tenants Association or our councilman Dan Garodnick, but from online discussions among tenants and subsequent pressure put on the councilman to finally get to the heart of the matter. Which he did by presenting the situation to the Department of Buildings.
While it is understandable that a portion of tenants do not mind or even favor these commercial enterprises inside Stuy Town, the legality of the situation had to be made apparent and not remain nebulous, as, in the case of the Farmers Market, it had been for years. Worrying is that NOTHING was done until certain tenants demanded, and kept on demanding and demanding, an answer as to the zoning of the Oval. The overall issue is, then, what other illegalities, small or significant, are occurring in this complex that neither the TA, nor Garodnick, are looking into or even questioning. Oh, things like the years of housing "dorm" units in the complex and refurbishing apartments, with possible "extra rooms" (ie, pressurized walls) that may--or may not--be questionable in the strict eyes of the law. And we still await one more word on the ice rink, though this issue now seems to have evaporated. And how in the hell did the Roberts victory, which reverted previous market-rate apartments in ST/PCV to rent-stabilization status, not mean a significant reduction in rent? And when are the overcharges going to be returned?
With the TA and Garodnick's focus being now on the condo conversion plan, it is hoped that other, perhaps more crucial, tenant issues will not be neglected. Again, it seems, it will be up to the tenants themselves to be on the alert.
At the tail end of this year, we saw Lux Living close down his site and Facebook, which was a real loss for tenants, as both were very useful and important.
This coming year will see more battles, more uncertainties, I think. I do hope that finally this place will pick up in maintenance. Yes, it's gotten better, but when I see the T-Level of my building finally looking spic and span, with a new paint job, I will shout my hosannas.