Slideshow: Opening Day at the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space

Reverend Billy preaching Rev. Billy preaching.

As The Times and DNA Info reported, the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space, which we first told you about in March, opened on Saturday. The Local was there with cameras rolling, but before we show you our footage, here are some photos by Konstantin Sergeyev, a C-Squat resident who documented the museum’s recovery from Sandy.

MoRUS, at 155 Avenue C, is open daily (except for Mondays and Wednesdays) from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; admission is free.
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Tenants Sue Over Bedbugs in Building Owned By Shaoul

Two former tenants of a building owned in part by controversial real estate developer Ben Shaoul are suing the owners and managers of the walkup for failing to snuff out bedbugs.

The complaint, filed last month, alleges that the landlords of 508 East 12th Street were “willfully, wantonly, deliberate and grossly negligent” in dealing with the infestation, causing “pain, shock, mental anguish.”

Lauren Wilms, 24, and Alexandra Sanchez, 25, told The Local that they moved into the building in June 2011; within six weeks, bedbugs had infiltrated their home. During the three-month infestation, they woke up with bites on their bodies and faces, and had to evacuate repeatedly for exterminators, the plaintiffs said.

P.V.E. Associates proved difficult to deal with throughout the process, according to the roommates. “We were traumatized and broken down ourselves from dealing with this situation, but we were being yelled at by the management company,” Ms. Sanchez said.
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Power Fully Restored to Knickerbocker Village

knickerbocker villageJoann Pan

Power has been fully restored to Knickerbocker Village, the Lower East Side housing complex where low-income residents — many of them elderly — remained in the dark long after service was restored to their neighbors.

Electricity flowed into the last of the complex’s 1,600 units at 4 p.m. today, ending a “painstaking process that involved rebuilding circuits and other equipment destroyed by the East River salt water,” a statement said.

The complex’s 12 buildings aren’t fully back to normal: many units are still without heat (it’s expected to return fully tomorrow or Saturday), hot water is in limited supply (it too will be fully restored by Saturday), and “a small handful of units” might still be without power if they weren’t plugged into the main circuit properly. In addition, there may be outages of several hours as “electrical service is weaned off the temporary generators and back onto Con Edison’s grid,” the statement said.

Last Friday, The Local reported that residents such as 104-year-old Margaret Zomzely were living in the dark and cold, as only 450 of the complex’s 1,600 units had regained electricity, and none had heat. One of those residents, 101-year-old Pao Chu Hsieh, died during the blackout, The Times reported. By Tuesday, power had been restored to all but 400 units.

That day, James Simmons, Vice President of Knickerbocker Village, Inc., told residents they wouldn’t have to pay rent for the days they were without essential services. “Discussions between building management and various elected officials and governing bodies will determine how that will occur, with credits on future rent among the processes under consideration,” today’s statement said.

104 Years Old, and Living in the Dark and Cold in Knickerbocker Village

IMG_8385Dana Varinsky Margaret Zomzely and Sheron Tomlinson talk to Karlin Chan.
IMG_8410Dana Varinsky Volunteers gather supplies to distribute.

Tan Suan Chang, a 90-year-old diabetic, is supposed to receive dialysis two times a week. Usually, his wife wheels him to the elevator of his building on Monroe Street and a transport service vehicle takes him to the hospital. But that became impossible after Knickerbocker Village lost power during Hurricane Sandy. Mr. Chang was too weak to walk down the stairs from his 11th-floor apartment, especially in the dark.

“I didn’t want him to get into a worse situation,” said his son, John Tan. “He missed dialysis for a week so I didn’t want him to go into some kind of kidney shock.” Sunday, Mr. Tan took his father onto his back and carried him down a dark stairwell, then trudged back up for his wheelchair. He brought both of his parents to his apartment in the East Village, where they are now staying.

“My father-in-law was scared. He’s fragile,” said Mr. Tan’s wife, Florence Eng. “He knows that physically he’s very vulnerable and he didn’t even want his own son picking him up and bringing him downstairs.” Ms. Eng’s mother also lives at Knickerbocker Village; she’s staying with another daughter until utilities are restored.

At the moment, it’s uncertain when that will happen. On Saturday, Con Edison returned electricity to most of the Lower East Side housing complex, which houses 1,600 low- and middle-income residents, many of them seniors. But an electrical fire broke out and plunged it into darkness again. “Resulting from the fire, Con Edison imposed new power restoration procedures that govern our process and progress,” the building’s management, Knickerbocker Village, Inc., said in a statement today. Read more…

After Month Without Cooking Gas, Tenants Turn Up Heat On Landlord

east village thaiJoann Pan Sign on the gate of East Village Thai.

David Piccirillo and William Ott have not had a working stove or oven since they moved into their apartment a month ago. Because of small leaks in the pipes, the cooking gas in their building at 32 East Seventh Street was shut off Sept. 27, three days before the two moved in.

Mr. Piccirillo, 24, can’t cook his morning eggs anymore, and estimates that his food costs have doubled.

“You have to get up and go out any time you want something warm to eat,” added Mr. Ott, 23, who just relocated from Long Island.

Other tenants have been given hot plates, but Mr. Piccirillo and Mr. Ott were still waiting on theirs earlier today. Mr. Piccirillo said he would like money to be deducted from their rent, though he is not optimistic.

For one of the tenants, hot pots aren’t much help: East Village Thai, which occupies one of the building’s storefronts, has been closed since the gas was shut off. The restaurant’s owner, Paul Euiu, said that when the problem started, his landlord, Jakobson Properties, told him to hold off on October rent until things were resolved. But Mr. Euiu was greeted with the usual rent bill when he stopped by his restaurant this afternoon. Read more…

Landlord to Embattled Attorney Stanley Cohen: Pay Up or Get Out

photo(234)Melvin Felix Mr. Cohen in his loft.

After being accused of federal tax violations in what he believes is a response to his representation of controversial clients that include alleged terrorists, Stanley Cohen is facing another court battle this week: he’s being told to pay real estate taxes or leave his longtime base of operations on Avenue D.

On July 30, the outspoken attorney’s landlord, Hasa Realty, issued a five-day notice demanding that Mr. Cohen pay $45,780 by Aug. 8 or give up his home office at 119 Avenue D. In papers filed Aug. 14 in Civil Court, the landlord claims that the $4,500-per-month loft is being rented for commercial purposes, and is subject to real estate tax totaling $37,637 in 2011 and 2012.

But Mr. Cohen claims in a response filed Aug. 29 that the loft from which he works is also used for residential purposes, and his landlord has long known and agreed to this  – meaning Hasa has no grounds for a commercial summary proceeding. He adds that conditions such as the absence of a fire escape “render the premises unfit for the use intended,” and demands an abatement for the months during which he paid rent despite the unsafe conditions. Read more…

Margaret Hearn Gives Up $747-a-Month Apartment

Margaret HearnSuzanne Rozdeba Margaret Hearn in her East Village apartment.

Margaret Hearn has given up the $747-a-month Gramercy pad she was holding on to as security, while continuing to fight for her $291-a-month, rent-controlled three-bedroom on East 12th Street.

“I don’t want to be there, it’s not home to me,” Ms. Hearn said of the 300-square-foot alcove studio in Gramercy that she has kept for 20 years. She said it was a financial burden to pay for both apartments, and that “nasty comments” from those who read about her living situation persuaded her not to renew her lease, which expires Oct. 31.

Last month, she told The Local she was fighting to keep her East Village apartment because she believes she is the rightful heir to the two sisters who in 2008, she said, asked her to share it with them.

“Win or lose, this is my home. Not because I feel entitled to it, or that I earned it, or anything like that. This is where I’m connected because of my relationship to the ladies. They were my family, and the neighborhood is my family,” she said yesterday.  Read more…

Next Up: A Tompkins Square Historic District?

After celebrating its fifth anniversary last week and the creation of an East Village/Lower East Side Historic District yesterday, the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative is already looking to the future (via the past, of course). The group wants to see the East 10th Street Historic, created in January, extended to other buildings around Tompkins Square Park.

Richard Moses, the organization’s president, said the L.E.S.P.I. is currently surveying buildings from St. Marks Place/Eighth Street to 12th Street, in the blocks on either side of the park, to determine which of them should be part of a proposal that will be submitted to the Landmarks Preservation Committee. The protected area, which would likely be called the Tompkins Square Historic District, would include Avenue B alongside the park, as well as the park itself. Read more…

Six Buildings Excluded From Historic District

EV Historic DistrictEast Village_PROPOSED_CHANGE_20121009L.P.C. The original (left) and final (right) historic districts.
building 1Daniel Maurer 112-116 First Avenue

Six addresses originally slated to be part of the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District were ultimately excluded from the protected zone.

Elisabeth de Bourbon, a spokesperson for the Landmarks Preservation Commission, said that 343 and 403 East Sixth Street as well as 92 East Seventh Street and 112-116 First Avenue were left out because “they don’t have a style, unlike all the other buildings in the district which do have a style such as Italianate, Queen Anne, and Romanesque revival.” Read more…

A Tenants’ Rights Group That Pities Landlords?

renters' alliance

Last month’s story about an East Village resident fighting for a $291-a-month rent-controlled apartment sparked many a comment: one reader insisted that Margaret Hearn was “abusing a system meant for New Yorkers who earn modest livings to be able to continue to live in the city”; another posited that she had “earned her right to keep [her apartment] and belongs to a community.”

Perhaps the most notable comment, from a group called NYC Renters’ Alliance for Housing Choice, argued that “we need to reform the rent laws to make them more market-rate tenant friendly.” While local groups like Good Old Lower East Side and the Cooper Square Committee fight for the rights of low-income tenants, it’s not often we encounter a staunch advocate for market-rate tenants. (Though there have been notable cases.) So we decided to speak to the group’s founder, Gregory Bronner, 36, a Harlem resident and life-long New Yorker who thinks rent regulations should be phased out, with moderate subsidies given to the “truly needy.”


What was the idea behind starting this group?


In landlord-tenant issues, you realize there are stakeholders who don’t have a voice, and they are predominantly market-rate tenants. We are mostly market-rate tenants, stakeholders who got priced out of New York and have to move to the suburbs, people who got divorced and had to move out, and some landlords. We started last year and so far we’re just on Facebook, with 105 members. Read more…

Richard Moses Celebrates 5 Years and, Hopefully, 300+ Historic Buildings

richard moses Richard Moses (right) at LESPI’s birthday bash.

At a meeting on Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission may well create a new East Village/Lower East Side Historic District encompassing over 300 buildings. But the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative isn’t waiting till then to celebrate: the group marked its fifth anniversary last night with bubbly and birthday cake at Smart Clothes Gallery on Stanton Street. Since preservation architects Richard Moses and Britton Baine – inspired by a screening of “Slumming It: Myth and Culture on the Bowery” – started the organization in 2007, they’ve gone on to become instrumental in the creation of a 10th Street Historic District and have led countless tours and discussions about neighborhood history and architecture. The Local chatted with Mr. Moses as he prepared for last night’s birthday bash.


You’ve garnered opposition from religious groups in the community in regards to landmarking. Have others opposed your projects and how do you handle the situation?


There were a few property owners who were opposed. They came out and expressed their opposition, but there wasn’t a huge number of them by any means; I would say a few.

It’s a tricky situation because emotions tend to run high on both sides. Certainly we’re sympathetic to concerns of religious institutions on the idea that they want their congregation to be thriving and we certainly want them to be thriving – we don’t want them to burdened. We feel sometimes that there’s a misunderstanding of some of the requirements of the Landmarks Commission and that there’s a different focus on short-term versus long-term goals. Read more…

Petition Calls For ‘Shulamith Firestone Memorial Apartment’ For Low-Income Feminists

Kathy Sarachild 72Bev Grant Kathie Sarachild with photo of Shulamith Firestone.

Acquaintances of Shulamith Firestone want the rent-stabilized apartment where the author and activist died this summer to be preserved as a residence for a low-income feminist, according to a petition obtained by The Local.

The petition, which can be read below, outlines a plan to earmark her fifth-floor walk-up at 213 East 10th Street for tenants doing “important” feminist work, who cannot afford current market rates in the rapidly gentrifying East Village. The rent would be no more than $1,000 a month.

Women’s liberation stalwarts like Kate Millett along with East Village literary agent Frances Goldin and Annette Averette, co-director of Sixth Street Community Center, are among those who have signed the petition directed at landlord Robert Perl, owner of Tower Brokerage.

Written by Fran Luck, executive director of the WBAI radio program “Joy of Resistance: Multi-Cultural Feminist Radio,” it notes that owners and developers of housing in formerly working-class neighborhoods have for decades “set aside” affordable rentals. Ms. Firestone paid about $400 a month, according to Mr. Perl, who said he had been planning to increase the rent of the next tenant in order to offset rising taxes imposed by the Bloomberg administration. A one-bedroom in the building, between First and Second Avenues, was recently leased for $2,095, according to StreetEasy. Read more…

Housing Authority Agrees to Closer Tabs

Screen shot 2012-09-28 at 11.54.24 AM

The New York City Housing Authority signed an agreement with the City Council Wednesday to provide quarterly updates about how it spends taxpayer money. According to the Daily News, the agreement, acquired by The Local, requires N.Y.C.H.A. to issue regular reports about projects that use council funding, starting no later than Jan. 15. State Senator Daniel Squadron, who last week helped issue a report decrying a lack of safety in the Housing Authority’s East Village and Lower East Side buildings, told The Local the move was a “good step forward,” adding, “I hope N.Y.C.H.A. will also make real-time data on the installation of security cameras available to the public on its website.”

Fighting for a $291 Apartment, With a $747-Per-Month Last Resort

UntitledSuzanne Rozdeba Margaret Hearn in the room where Josephine Ruta slept, and died.

Margaret Hearn pays just $291 per month to live in a sprawling, three-bedroom apartment on East 12th Street, surrounded by a dizzying clutter of church relics, purses, minks, and souvenir ashtrays that once belonged to the former tenants.

It’s one of two apartments Ms. Hearn keeps: for 20 years, she has also had a 300-square-foot alcove studio in Gramercy, where she pays $747 per month.

Before you get jealous of this enviable arrangement: Ms. Hearn claims she doesn’t live in the rent-stabilized Gramercy apartment. She has merely been keeping it as security. That’s because the landlord of her rent-controlled apartment in the East Village is attempting to evict her. In fact, she might just lose both apartments. Read more…

Garage Might Be Demolished Next to Merchant’s House? Nobody Told Me, Says Garagekeeper

cart ali tousirSasha Von Oldershausen Ali Tousir at his hot dog cart.

Just about everyone in the neighborhood knew about the plan to build a nine-story building next to the Merchant’s House Museum – that is, everybody but the guy whose business was in jeopardy because of it.

Nadir Ayub runs his storage business, Al-Amin Food Inc., out of the one-story garage located on 27 East Fourth Street. The lot, which currently houses 26 carts belonging to local food vendors, is also the site of a contentious development plan that has provoked the ire of many East Village residents.

And yet when The Local approached Mr. Ayub a day after the proposal was reviewed at a Landmarks Preservation Commission meeting last week, he seemed surprised to hear of it. He said he had signed a five-year lease with the garage’s owner in May, around the time he took over the storage business. That same month, unbeknownst to Mr. Ayub, representatives of the Merchant’s House, along with City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, were complaining to Community Board 2 about a plan to demolish his workplace.  Read more…

‘D’ Is For ‘Development’? Another Luxury Rental Building For Avenue D

photo-291Daniel Maurer 55 Avenue D

A developer said to own multiple East Village properties has purchased four adjacent lots at the corner of Avenue D and East Third Street, with plans to tear down the existing buildings and replace them with 80 residential units. The news comes as a broker for another new building on Avenue D confirms that Kim’s Video plans to open a pizza parlor there.

Rash LLC, which bought 53 Avenue D in 2007, has now spent $3.6 million to acquire adjacent plots at 55 Avenue D and 746-748 East Fifth Street, according to the broker who closed on three of the properties, Tamir Daniel of Daniel T Enterprises (the fourth was acquired in foreclosure proceedings). Mr. Daniel said the developer, which owns “a lot of rental buildings in the East Village,” is seeking approval for a building that would boast a gym, roof deck, outdoor areas, and studios as well as 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom apartments.

The corner is currently home to the Lora Deli, where a mural was painted by schoolkids in May.

Citing a luxury rental building planned for Avenue D and East Second Street as well as a plot for sale between Sixth and Seventh Streets, Mr. Daniel said change was finally coming to an avenue that has seen relatively little of it over the years. In the meantime, he didn’t think upscale renters would balk at the idea of living amidst public housing, bodegas and Chinese takeout joints. “I have no concern about filling out the units over there,” he said. “I believe Avenue D is going to be a beautiful area to live.” Read more…

Church Cleared to Be Sold for $41 Million: Evidence That Douglas Steiner Is Mystery Buyer

5U5T0753Alberto Reyes Last mass at Mary Help of Christians

The Archdiocese of New York has been authorized to sell Mary Help of Christians Church for $41 million, and evidence points to Douglas C. Steiner, a developer of luxury residences and the owner of Steiner Studios, as the church’s prospective buyer.

Court documents obtained by The Local indicate that on Aug. 29, the Church of Mary Help of Christians and the Trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral filed a petition to sell the church property, including the church and school buildings at 436 East 12th Street, the rectory at 440 East 12th Street, and the parking lot (formerly home to the flea market) at 181 Avenue A. A State Supreme Court order, dated Sept. 6, authorized the sale to an entity identified only as 181 Avenue A, LLC. According to the documents, a contract dated May 11 indicated that the sellers had agreed to a total purchase price of $41 million, well above a Cushman & Wakefield appraisal that valued the property between $34 million and $37 million. Read more…

At Landmarks Hearing, Outcry Against Hotel Adjacent Merchant’s House Museum

LPC Merchant's House MeetingSuzanne Rozdeba

Preservationists, politicians, and neighborhood residents asked the Landmarks Preservation Commission yesterday to nix, or at least limit the height of, a proposed hotel that they fear will damage the historic Merchant’s House Museum.

Speaking to about 70 people at a public hearing at One Centre Street, City Council member Rosie Mendez, who said she had allotted close to a million dollars for museum renovations, asked that the nine-story, 32-room hotel be scaled back to three and a half stories, to match the height of the neighboring museum. The commission must approve the application because the proposed site is within the NoHo Historic District Extension.

“In this city, when we have great buildings, and it tells something about our history, and our communities, we landmark them,” she said. “And the Merchant’s House Museum is one of those buildings.” The councilwoman asked for a protection plan that would require the developer to pay for any damage as well as for the expense of moving artifacts during construction. Supporters of the national landmark, built in 1832, believe that any construction could cause damage to its interior Greek Revival architecture and its Federal-style brick exterior.

Edward Carroll, the project’s controversial designer, argued that the Bowery was already home to buildings that were taller than the hotel proposed for East Fourth Street, and said it would have a “tri-part design” that would “put it in context with the loft buildings that are typical to the late 1800s and early 1900s in this particular neighborhood.” He also pointed to Great Jones Street, one block south. “There’s a lot of similarities to be seen, with the heights of 100 feet, 80 feet, interposed between each other on one block.” He said the façade would be made of a dark-grey steel and surrounded by a limestone frame. Read more…

Concert Hall Turned Condo Going for $25 Million

210 East 5th SteetG.V.S.H.P.

A real estate listing spotted on Sotheby’s (also noticed by Curbed) indicates that Beethoven Hall, a chic condo in a onetime concert hall, is back on the market, this time at an elevated price of $25 million.

Built by German immigrants in 1860, 210 East Fifth Street served as a social hall for performances, community meetings and celebrations. As The Lower East Side History Project noted, it became a primary gathering place for unions, with appearances from high profile leaders like Emma Goldman and William Randolph Hearst. Andrew Berman shared more history in his roundup of buildings that may become part of an East Village-Lower East Side Historic District.

This hall hosted a number of important events including the 1880 funeral for six victims of a fire that broke out at a wedding at nearby Turn Hall; the 1890 meeting of the American Bowling Congress which standardized rules for the game and initiated national competitions; a boxing match between featherweight and local hero Joe “The Pride of the Ghetto” Bernstein and Tommy Daly; and the 1915 formation of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. By the 1940s the building became a television studio and then later, Mother’s Sound Stages, a film studio; episodes of “The Honeymooners” are purported to have been filmed there.

Read more…

Fresh New Whites For Tanya Towers, Part of $4.4 Million Makeover

photo(312)Daniel Maurer
photo(313)Daniel Maurer

A low-income housing development on 13th Street just got a mod-tastic new entryway as part of a $4.4 million makeover.

Last November, Council Member Rosie Mendez, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and other public officials announced that Tanya Towers, a Mitchell-Lama development for the deaf and disabled as well as senior citizens, would receive funds for extensive renovations and upgrades, including steps toward LEED certification.

Now a new portico has been installed, giving the nearly 40-year-old building’s drab brick facade a Miami glam flourish. (Here’s what the entryway used to look like.) Glenn Stelzer, director of the building at 620 East 13th Street, told The Local that renovations should be completed by December. Heating and refrigeration units in the development’s 138 apartments have already been upgraded, hallways have been painted, and new windows are currently being installed.

To see what the building might ultimately look like, see renderings that The Villager published last year.