Archive for the tag 'coops'

hawk2

Update (6:16 p.m.): Reader Christina “Know-it-all” K. wrote in to correct me: it’s a red tailed hawk. A juvenile, which is why its tail isn’t red yet. And maybe this guy is a relative of Pale Male, the first red tailed hawk known to have nested on a building (near Central Park) rather than a tree. Actually, these guys are as rare as falcons are in the city, with 32 known nests.

Original story:

The scourge of fire escape burglaries plaguing Sheepshead Bay might be one reason to keep your windows shut tight, but here’s another: Sheepshead Bay’s peregrine falcon could eat your cat.

That may have been what drew this guy to the top floor fire escape of Ilan P., a resident of the Atlantic Towers co-ops on Avenue Z. According to Ilan, the winged friend took up residence Saturday afternoon, making himself available for a 10-minute photo shoot before flying off into the sunset.

“It took an odd interest in my cat. They had an old western stare down,” Ilan wrote to Sheepshead Bites. “I just thought it was awesome since I’ve never seen a hawk in Sheepshead. It’s very cool to see something different in nature in our area.”

Yes, friends, Sheepshead Bay has hawks and falcons. This fellow is probably the same one known to live on the top of St. Mark Roman Catholic Church’s steeple. You can often see him circling about his perch, getting some exercise or looking for a good meal.

And he’s hardly the only one in the area. We know there’s at least one other couple at the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge. In fact, New York City tracks these guys, and is currently aware of at least 32 around the city. That said, this guy appeared to be without tracking bands, which means there may be more than researchers are aware of.

It wasn’t always this way. The falcons were placed on the endangered species list in the 1970s, as population dwindled with the introduction of chemicals including pesticides. The city and state launched a program to restore their population, and since 1992 the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the city Department of Environmental Protection have worked hand-in-hand in their efforts, which you can read about on the DEP’s website.

Falcons do love New York City, though. According to the DEP, the tall buildings and bridges remind them of their natural habitat, where they perch on cliffs. And the variety of tasty birds to eat – pigeons, sparrows, starlings and others – give them a nice diet, which they capture during dives at speeds ranging from 99 to 273 miles per hour.

Anyway, check out the video and other photos Ilan sent over.

See the photos and video.

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Five candidates vying for seats in two different Southern Brooklyn City Council districts participated in a heated debate on Sunday, focusing on reforming co-op laws to benefit as many as one million New York City residents of co-ops.

All candidates expressed support for a shareholder’s bill of rights, which would grant new protections from potentially abusive and exploitative boards of cooperative housing units. Despite the support, the frustrated shareholders – all with horror stories of their own – expressed a lack of confidence in much-needed reform and ultimately turned on the candidates.

Find out where the candidates stand, and how the audience reacted.

The Sea Isle apartments at 3901 Nostrand Avenue, one of the buildings in our area that offers cooperative housing. Source: streeteasy.com

The Cooperative Community Organization, a group that says it fights for co-op shareholders’ rights in New York, will be holding a debate between New York City Council candidates for the 47th and 48th districts, this Sunday, August 11, 4:00 p.m. at 94 Dooley Street between East 22nd Street and East 23rd Street. The debate will cover issues dealing exclusively with cooperative housing.

The candidates who have confirmed their participation as of this writing are John Lisyanskiy of District 47 and Chaim Deutsch, Ari Kagan and Theresa Scavo of District 48. The group asks that you bring every shareholder you know and be prepared to ask the candidates all of your co-op questions.

To learn more, email info@coopabuse.com or go to www.coopabuse.com.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Some lame duck politicians go out on a whimper, defeated by gridlock, apathy and restlessness on part of the people. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not one of those politicians. In just the past few months alone, Bloomberg has pushed a massive $20 billion storm protection plan and scored a victory when the New York State Supreme Court upheld his plan to expand taxi service across the city. He’s expanding recycling programs, banning styrofoam, and even pissing off Sarah Palin. The New York Times is now reporting that Bloomberg is seeking to make major changes to the city’s building code to increase the resiliency of buildings citywide in the event of more extreme weather incidents like Superstorm Sandy.

Needing only the approval of the City Council, Bloomberg’s plan to overhaul the building code would make New York City a national leader in making buildings more resilient in the face of hurricanes. For the time being, the new rules would mainly affect the construction of new buildings and big renovations on existing buildings in the flood areas, including much of Sheepshead Bay.

But some upgrades could also be required in existing larger buildings. The Times listed changes that would have to made to residential buildings, co-ops, condominiums, public housing and rental apartments:

For example, emergency lights will be required in hallways and stairwells in case of extended blackouts. Existing buildings will have to add faucets to a common area on lower floors, like a laundry room. That is intended to allow people on upper floors, which lose water pressure from electric pumps during blackouts, to obtain water.

Officials and experts estimated that a 20-story co-op could spend $16,000 for faucets in a laundry room, and more than $100,000 for backup lighting that could last many days. The lighting would be far cheaper if owners deployed battery-powered lights with a shorter life.

Bloomberg’s task force, which he set up with Council Speaker Christine Quinn, did not propose any new rules for existing single-family homes. Still, homeowners looking to make major renovations would have to conform to new regulations like using longer screws and nail fasteners on windows and doors so they can stand up to high winds. New sloped roofs would have to use reflective shingles to cut down on heat.

Hospitals would also have to protect their windows, potentially costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars per building. The city also wants to force businesses that store toxic chemicals to keep them in flood-proof areas. Resistance to the plan is expected to come from real estate developers who fear the overall increased costs they would incur.

In pushing the changes, Bloomberg cited the destruction of Sandy as an imperative.

“Sandy clearly underscored why we need to protect our buildings. We learned a lot, and we want to make sure we won’t forget those lessons,” the mayor said at a press conference.

Mayoral front-runner Christine Quinn stressed speed as being an important factor in executing Bloomberg’s plan.

“We plan to move as quickly as possible,” Quinn told the Times.

Oberman

City Council candidate Igor Oberman is facing some heat for his leadership of the board of the 1,144-unit Trump Village 4, where some residents and former employees allege that he has abused his power and ruled with an iron fist.

A handful of dust-ups with residents and employees is now making its way into the race, with City & State and the New York Post picking up on the controversies.

This morning, City & State reported that Oberman has been the target of lawsuits from tenants and employees. They write:

As president of Trump Village’s co-op board, Igor Oberman has been sued by tenants on the verge of eviction, faces an age discrimination lawsuit from former employees and is accused of firing another longtime worker who represented other unionized employees at the co-op in a union-busting move.

… In January, Trump Village terminated Pierre Wyatt, a longtime porter at the Coney Island housing cooperative who was also the shop steward representing other union employees working there. Wyatt had taken abandoned flooring, according to one account, and wasn’t completely forthcoming about his actions when questioned. The Teamsters Local 804, however, saw Oberman’s move as union-busting, and the matter is now heading to arbitration.

In March, two female Trump Village employees in their early 60s sued Oberman after they lost their jobs, arguing that they were “harassed, verbally abused and intimidated for the purpose of replacing them with a more youthful staff,” according to a press release from their lawyer.

Prior to City & State’s report, the New York Post reported in April that residents complain Oberman has used eviction proceedings to solidify his control over the board.

One case involved Eugene Ovsishcher, a former soldier who returned home from a combat tour in Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Ovsishcher’s wife, a CPA, had previously been asking questions about board finances.

Ovsishcher, 43, was later denied a “service pet” dog to deal with his PTSD and then hit with an eviction order.

He eventually won the legal right to keep his pooch and apartment.

But his psychiatrist, Dr. Zinoviy Benzar, who provided medical testimony on Ovsishcher’s behalf and lives in the complex, was then hit with an eviction order — as were Benzar’s wife and mother-in-law, who own three Trump co-ops between them.

The eviction orders, alleging a failure to pay surcharges for air conditioners, are pending.

But the trio has struck back with a $4.5 million countersuit, charging they were politically targeted for revenge.

Another resident, Yuliya Bezvoleva, 33, an active Army reservist, is fighting an eviction order after she launched an anti-Oberman petition drive.

Co-op boards in New York City are guided by a confusing mess of procedures and formulas called the Business Corporation Law, and there is no oversight agency or independent commission dedicated to co-op compliance – leaving courts as the only resort for residents seeking redress. Abuse allegations have been noted at co-ops here and throughout the city, though the allegations rarely find their way to court due to costly legal expenses.

At Trump Village 4, residents have sought to make their war public in an attempt to cripple Oberman’s campaign, launching a website dedicated to attacking his reign as board president.

Oberman declined to discuss the matter with Sheepshead Bites, instead forwarding us to his campaign spokesperson, who was not available for comment. However, the spokesperson disputed the allegations to City & State:

Chelsea Connor, a campaign spokeswoman, said that Wyatt, the former shop steward, was fired after he was accused of theft, and noted that a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board was dismissed. The two employees in their 60s had failed to deposit a $47,000 check, she said. As for the lawsuits regarding the eviction proceedings, Connor said that the building has had a no-pet policy for nearly 50 years and that another tenant had rewired an apartment and that it failed to meet fire code safety regulations.

Oberman will face off against District Leader Ari Kagan, Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo and Flatbush Shomrim founder Chaim Deutsch in the Democratic primary. In the general, former State Senator David Storobin is expected to take the Republican line.

Parts of 301 Oriental Blvd remains filled with a toxic oil-water mixture. (Photo by Susan Vosburgh)

Some of Southern Brooklyn’s landlords appear to be slow to help in fighting for their tenants’ rights to heat, hot water and electricity, and may even be adding obstacles to the mix.

Take, for instance, the case of 301 Oriental Boulevard in Manhattan Beach, which we told you about last week. A horrible stench has haunted the building for weeks, ever since Hurricane Sandy flooded the basement, causing water to mix with barrels of oil in storage. Residents complain the landlord has done little to rectify the situation, and many are concerned about their health as headaches and fatigue have set in.

“It’s been a month, going on a month, and we still have no utilities,” said 20-year-resident Susan Vosburgh. “Apparently there’s still oil in the building. I doubt any utilities will touch us because it has to be safe when they come in.”

Although pumping has already occurred, Vosburgh said the unskilled migrant workers the landlord hires keep missing rooms filled with the toxic oil-water mixture, and just this morning returned for the umpteenth time to pump out the elevator pit. On their first attempt at draining the basement, she claims they illegally pumped the hazardous materials into the street.

“The migrant workers he gets for like a dollar an hour, they forget this room and that room,” Vosburgh said. “I just want this cleaned up, we’re breathing the fumes.”

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Source: JohnnyBarker / Flickr

For some people, Hurricane Sandy came and went, barely disrupting their lives or neighborhoods. Others, especially the elderly living in Brighton Beach and Coney Island, were not nearly as lucky. A report in the New York Daily News chronicles the weeks-long nightmare that elderly New York City Housing Authority residents have faced in Sandy’s aftermath.

Virtual prisoners of their own apartments, scores of seniors were shut in their homes without power, heat, hot water, and medical supplies, and had no one coming by to check in on or assist them. New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio blames the mayor’s office and NYCHA for failing to do a more extensive door to door check of people’s homes affected by shortages of essential needs.

The city claims to have visited more than 65,000 apartments, with 42,000 of those being NYCHA properties. However, de Blasio told The Daily News that the effort wasn’t enough. “They’re missing whole parts of the city. It’s scattershot. We hear it over and over: ‘No one has knocked on our door.’”

Those the city missed include Irine Lombardo, a 74-year-old Coney Island resident forced to evacuate her flood-damaged apartment to a friend in Brighton Beach. During the storm, she lost her oxygen tanks, and when forced to relocat to a friend’s fifth floor apartment in Brighton Beach, she had no access to electricity, heat, or hot water, leaving her trapped and vulnerable, and without proper medical care.

Irine’s friend, Olga Romanov, told The Daily News that, “Nobody came to us from the city. Nobody came to us from NYCHA.”

Through the combined efforts of de Blasio’s office and volunteers from the Physicians for a National Health Program, Lombardo finally got her oxygen tanks this past Sunday.

Volunteers sort clothing and other goods dropped off at Warbasse (Photo: Alex Morozov)

Hundreds of seniors and other residents remain trapped in Coney Island’s major co-op developments, and efforts to help them are hampered by supply shortages and language barriers.

Volunteers sort clothing and other goods dropped off at Warbasse (Photo: Alex Morozov)

When Esther grabbed me by the arm, pulled me in for a hug and told me I was the only person who had come to see her in days, I cried. This was an 80-year-old woman living on the 19th floor of Building 3 in the Luna Park co-ops. While all of the other buildings have electricity and some have water, Esther and anyone else above the 10th floor does not.

Hesitant to open the door at first, she eventually revealed that she didn’t prepare well and didn’t have water. She was starting to feel lightheaded. When I saw her face-to-face, she could only ask about her 82-year-old brother in Building 5; she didn’t know that his building had power and water.

Bensonhurst Bean food writer David Cohen and I walked up to the 20th floor with as many water bottles as we could carry. Then we made our way down through the dark hallways, knocking on doors and checking in with over the 160 or so mostly Russian-speaking seniors living in Building 3. We ran out of supplies by the 15th floor.

Unable to make the trek down many flights of stairs for food or water, and with few outsiders aware of their plight, the seniors are trapped. In fact, most of the high-rise co-ops west of Ocean Parkway that house a large senior population are without water, heat or electricity. In some cases, they are without all three. The potential of the freezing nor’easter to come along the East Coast early next week makes this situation a deadly one. 

Keep reading, and find out how you can help.

Gallo joins members of the Cooperative Community Organization (Source: Gallo campaign)

Don’t be fooled into thinking the campaigns for the 45th Assembly District, currently occupied by Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, are over. The September 13 primary that saw Cymbrowitz best Ben Akselrod was only the first round, and the incumbent now faces off against Republican Russ Gallo.

Gallo is ramping up his campaign and is now borrowing a play from Akselrod’s book, seizing on the mounting frustration of  some of the district’s co-op owners who find themselves swept up in divisive battles with their co-op boards’ alleged abuses. [UPDATED]

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Source: estately.com

Hardly a week goes by where Sheepshead Bites doesn’t receive an e-mail from an aggrieved co-op apartment building resident, taking issue with their board. Sometimes they even organize anti-board rallies or try to usurp the board altogether. And one thing’s for sure, there ain’t much oversight over these quasi-corporate, quasi-residential buildings.

Well, now there’s a show for them – and anyone else thinking of buying a co-op unit.

The Russian American Community Coalition of New York (RACCNY) is set to create “Co-Op Passions,” a reality show which will depict the many issues related to the rights of cooperative shareholders.

A “co-op,” or cooperative, is a jointly owned commercial venture that constructs and allocates goods and services. They are generally run in order to benefit their shareholders. However, as will be demonstrated in the show, Co-ops can come along with more harm than benefits.

The show will presumably include 10 episodes, which are to be aired on YouTube and Facebook. It will convey true stories of New York shareholders and the issues they faced with the Co-op board members, sponsors, supers, and management companies. Names will be changes in order to protect the identities of those featured in the show.

The first five episodes of this reality show are already underway. The first episode, entitled “Problems Problems Problems…” will display the rampant infringements on the rights of cooperative shareholders. “Where Has Our Money Gone?” the second episode, will portray the misuse of monetary power in Co-ops. The third episode, “What Can I Do?” will educate shareholders on ways in which they can protect their rights and interests. The fourth, “Independent Inspection,” shows a situation in which an independent inspection of a shareholder is arranged. “Legal Aid,” the fifth episode, will feature stories of cooperative shareholders who attempted to file a complaint through the office of the Attorney General.

This show is part of a project that wishes to expose the unknown side of Co-op ownership. Through the use of cinematic techniques, the internet, and the media, RACCNY hopes to reveal the problems related to Co-ops. They wish for government officials to respond and attempt to fix these setbacks. Consequently, if successful, RACCNY feels this project will assist in reinstating fairness to cooperative shareholders in the eye of the law.

RACCNY is a non-profit organization that attends to the Russian speaking community of New York. In addition to other activities, RACCNY seeks to aid owners of New York Cooperatives apartments, help them comprehend their entitlements as shareholders, and assist them in handling arguments. They also hold seminars and offer free legal advice to shareholders.