New Plaza design

The new plaza design obviously took a great deal of work and has some amazing and beautiful features.
I don’t understand why we are dedicating so much of the main plaza to a playground.
There are not that many children at EMP. The large majority of shareholders are older and do not have children. It seems we are catering to this small group but not offering so much to adults.

Our existing playground is small and in a closed-off area. Having the playground in the main plaza creates a noise problem for anyone facing the plaza. The sounds of screaming children (an acquired taste, for sure) will echo around the plaza.
Why do we want to attract lots of neighborhood children to our property?
There is already a new mini-park and play facility on Asser Levy place less than one block away.
We will have security and liability issues having this large play facility here. We also run the risk of attracting sex offenders.
One co-operator made a great point at the plaza presentation meeting when he noted that while he likes kids, he wouldn’t buy a house situated next to a playground.
Perhaps a scaled-down playground would be far more appropriate.

While the proposed design for the park is lovely, I am concerned it will be costly to maintain. The plaza should be low maintenance both from a security and upkeep standpoint.

Posted in EMP |

NY Times article re: Southbridge leaves Mitchell-Lama

Click here for NY Times Article

My Letter to the Editor:

Your article “Divided by a Windfall” in the on November 16 Real Estate section seems to call out the pro-privatization co-operators of Southbridge Towers as profiteers getting a windfall at the cost of affordable housing. What your article neglects to mention is that going private is the natural, planned evolution of a Mitchell-Lama co-op. The law under which the Mitchell-Lama program was created gives the right for Mitchell-Lama co-ops to buy their way out of the program after 30-40 years. The reason for this is that it was understood that buildings of a certain age start to require expensive repairs and the low maintenance scenario no longer works if the building is to be self-sustaining. If buildings stay in the program, the residents will become subject to steep assessments for repairs like new windows, roofs, major repairs, etc. or the building will become derelict.  An example of this is Co-Op City in the Bronx where the garage has crumbled and been closed for years since they do not have money to make the repairs. With the crisis of revenues for local and state governments, the governmental agencies that oversee the Mitchell-Lama properties no longer have funds to make low-interest loans to buildings that cannot afford their own major repairs.

The intent of the brilliantly conceived Mitchell-Lama program in the ’50s was that the monies received by the government agency from Mitchell Lama co-ops that buy out of the program is supposed to be used to build new Mitchell Lama projects and thus keep new, self-sustaining affordable housing stock coming into the market. This has never happened. Buildings going private also contribute more to the tax base as they no longer are eligible for tax breaks.

Buildings buying out of the M-L program impose flip taxes on the first sale of a unit of anywhere from 30 to 45%. These funds go to the co-op and are used for repairs and to keep maintenance reasonable.

Forcing Mitchell-Lama co-ops to stay in the program will result in buildings that cannot do necessary repairs and that eventually will become eye-sores or crumble into the ground. Residents that think that their low maintenance will continue in a building that stays in the Mitchell-Lama program past the sell-by date will face huge assessments to make necessary repairs to an aging property.

The choice to leave a Mitchell-Lama program is a right that was guaranteed by law. Politicians blocking buildings from exercising their right in the name of affordable housing are denying people their legal right. If these politicians want to support affordable housing, they should comply with the Mitchell-Lama plan, encourage buildings to follow the natural evolution of buying-out of the program and use the funds to build new Mitchell-Lama projects as was the intention of the plan. These same politicians should also not let every 6 story, rent-stabilized building in Manhattan be knocked down by greedy real estate developers to put up luxury, high-rises that no one can afford except wealthy foreigners. The tenants of the few remaining Mitchell-Lama co-ops should not bare the brunt of the city’s failure to maintain affordable housing stock.

Insurance and Obstructionists

Once again, a group who I have to assume is associated with the Anti’s is obstructing the work of the board and fighting anything that will benefit East Midtown Plaza.

I was not a fan of the board’s amendment to force cooperators to have property and liability insurance due to the additional costs to be borne by the cooperator. Upon gathering information, I realized that this action, although sure to be unpopular is beneficial to East Midtown Plaza and cooperators. The original Occupancy agreement states that the cooperator is responsible for water damage. This means that if there is a fire and the fire departments comes and sprays gallons of water in your apartment or an adjoining apartment, the water storage tank on the leaf breaches or one of our 40+ year old steel pipes springs a leak, the tenant may be responsible for tens of thousands of dollars in repairs. Without adequate property insurance, this will come out of the cooperators pocket! Forcing the cooperator to have insurance in place will also prevent the cooperator from coming after EMP for these repairs thus saving our co-op time and money to defend lawsuits.
Additionally, forcing the cooperators to have liability insurance will probably reduce EMP’s insurance premiums.

All good, right?

But once again the obstructionists have found a lawyer to comment on what they claim the board has improperly done and probably will file a suit against EMP. Every year at the EMP annual meeting, one or more of the anti’s gets up and complains about the high legal expenses. Don’t they get it that if the anti’s didn’t fight everything the Board does or the overwhelming majority of your neighbors want, EMP would not incur huge legal bills to defend the suits the obstructionists bring?

There will always be dissenting opinions on any decision. If a small minority fights every decision the majority-elected board decides on, the only result will be nothing getting accomplished.

EMP Bike Rooms to be re-done

The EMP bike rooms will be re-painted and renovated. It’s definitely overdue. The increase from $25 to $60/year is a bit steep. Encouraging use of bikes and green transportation should be encouraged! Although, we suppose the increase will encourage people to get rid of their old broken-down bikes that haven’t been used in 10 years!

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Town & Village : Shareholders successfully fight opening of restaurant/bar

By Sabina Mollot

A taco restaurant and bar that had been close to signing a lease at East Midtown Plaza has already made a run for the border.

Though initially hoping to move into a retail space last occupied by a Carvel shop and have outdoor seating for 40 people as well as 30 indoor seats, the owners of Cascabel Taqueria pulled out last week. The reason apparently was that the restaurant, which offers bottomless cocktails during brunch at its two uptown locations, would have been limited to a wine and beer license only and would have had to close earlier than its desired closing time of 1 a.m.

The limitations, recently imposed by EMP’s co-op board, came after a number of tenants blasted the plan to have any kind of bar operating outside on the area of the complex known as the triangle. This is currently a common area on East 24th Street and Second Avenue used by residents as well as the public. It’s a popular spot to have lunch when the weather permits it and there’s no alcohol drinking allowed there.
Residents were first made aware of the plan to open the restaurant, called Taco 1584, at a Community Board 6 meeting last month when owners David Chiong and Elizabeth Gaudeau requested the board’s blessing for a liquor license.

Shelley Winfield, an EMP resident, told Town & Village she was at that meeting and told the owners she hadn’t heard about any restaurant coming. In response, she said the owners said the co-op complex’s board wanted them to sign a lease but first start the process of getting a liquor license.

Winfield voiced her opposition to the idea due to noise concerns and CB6’s Business Affairs and Street Activities committee instructed the owners to come back with ideas on how to mitigate concerns about noise. However, shortly before the meeting that was scheduled for Thursday, April 24, the restaurant’s application was pulled from the agenda.
Winfield later said that though she was opposed to a bar, she would welcome a restaurant. “The co-op benefits when the commercial spaces are leased.” Still, she recalled living in another apartment on the second floor within EMP nearby the proposed space and how “noises could be heard from the street.”

Another resident against the plan was John Small, who noted that the space Cascabel would have moved into was occupied by a bar decades ago, which, he said, caused problems with noise, transients coming through the complex at night and rowdiness.

And Cascabel, it seemed, would not have been any different. Along with the bottomless cocktails, the current locations already feature happy hours and flights of tequila. “They also,” said Small, “invite SantaCon attendees to come to their bars during the annual drunkfest.”

Also of concern to Small was that EMP’s co-op board initially didn’t want to discuss the plan for Taco 1584. Small said that at a recent co-op meeting, when the board’s president, Mark Andermanis, was asked about it, he said the matter would be discussed at a “closed meeting” between board members.

“They refused to answer questions,” said Small. The decision to impose restrictions on the restaurant’s operation, he added, was only done after shareholders started complaining and distributing fliers opposing its moving in.

Winfield, who served on the board of directors from 1996-1999, seemed to agree. “It appears the board shares information after everything is settled,” she said.

Andermanis wasn’t available for comment when T&V called him about the issue, but a member of EMP’s co-op board, Mala Mosher, confirmed that the deal with Cascabel’s owners was now officially off the table.
“Both parties agreed that they were not going to continue” in negotiations, said Mosher.

However, she said the lack of information given to tenants wasn’t intentional, but that when the talks began, the co-op board had not yet been presented with a detailed business plan. Once restrictions were brought up, “I don’t think it was doable for them,” she said.
In a letter to CB6 dated April 18, the board said it would have liked to see a license given with restrictions because the proposed space has been vacant for years and is hard to rent because of how small it is.

According to another shareholder, Jeanne Poindexter, the last tenant, Carvel, closed after its rent was doubled. Fortunately for EMP, she added, it’s currently the only vacant space in the Mitchell-Lama complex’s retail strip.

When asked for comment about the plans being scrapped, a manager at Cascabel Taqueria, who said she fields calls for the owner, claimed to have no knowledge of the proposal to open a location at East Midtown Plaza. Chiong and Gaudeau did not respond to the call from T&V. The restaurant, online, claims it has the best tacos in New York.