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.

http://town-village.com/2014/05/06/shareholders-successfully-fight-opening-of-restaurantbar-at-east-midtown-plaza/

Cascabel Taqueria in old Carvel space

cascabel-80streetIMG_7414 (Medium)IMG_7416 (Medium)

Cascabel Taqueria wants to lease the old Carvel store. They would want to put seating in the public space.

First of all, Hooray to the board for finally finding a tenant for this store. The rental income will benefit all of us here at EMP. Also, having a nice restaurant with outdoor seating would enhance the neighborhood and be a place people at EMP could enjoy. Having people dining there would probably keep away the hoards of pigeons and loud bums that hang out there now!

Apparently, there are already some obstructionists who are trying to stop Cascabel from succeeding with a flyer asking you to attempt to syop thenm form getting a liquor license which of course, a restaurant, particularly a Mexican restaurant has to have to succeed. Thsi flyer says that Cascabel features bottomless cocktails. That is not true-They only offer unlimited drinks on their weekend brunch menu and that’s with a 60 minute time limit! Really-How many Margaritas can a person drink in 60 minutes? http://www.nyctacos.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/02.01.14-Brunch_menu_for_print.pdf

I have a friend who lives directly across Second Avenue on the 2nd floor from the Upper East Side Cascabel. It is not noisy at all and a fun, very tasty and lovely restaurant.

 

 

 

Co-op President Mark Andermanis Accused of Cutting Waitlist Fights for 4-Bedroom Apartment

An article about the lawsuit against board President Mark Andermanis is in today’s DNAinfo.com. Isnt it time for him to address this issue to all shareholders and to stop hiding behind the excuse that the case is in court since he already lost round 1 in State Supreme Court?

This is an excerpt from DNAInfo.com. Heather Holland is the reporter:

Co-op President Accused of Cutting Waitlist Fights for 4-Bedroom Apartment

Mark Andermanis is fighting to keep his four-bedroom apartment at East Midtown Plaza.

Mark Andermanis EMP HPD lawsuit

Facebook/Sandra Andermanis, DNAinfo/Heather Holland

KIPS BAY — The president of affordable housing co-op East Midtown Plaza is in danger of being evicted because he broke city rules to unfairly secure a four-bedroom apartment for himself and his family, according to court documents.

Mark Andermanis is fighting to keep his recently renovated home in the Kips Bay complex after one of his neighbors sued him for cutting the line of people waiting for the sought-after four-bedroom unit, one of the largest available in the 333 E. 23rd St. building.

New York’s Supreme Court ruled last year that Andermanis, president of the 748-unit co-op, needed to return the four-bedroom apartment to the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development so that the agency could give it to the person who was next in line.

Andermanis, who is still living in the apartment, appealed the decision and his case is set to be heard in state’s Appellate Division on Wednesday.

“It’s a slanderous suit that had no merit whatsoever,” Andermanis said before declining to speak further about the details of his appeal.

His lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.

City rules require affordable Mitchell-Lama developments, like East Midtown Plaza, to compile a waiting list of residents who are eligible to transfer to larger apartments and then to award the apartments in chronological order as they become available.

The waitlist for four-bedroom apartments at East Midtown Plaza was only open to families with at least six members, but Andermanis was granted permission to move in in April 2012 even though he did not meet that requirement, according to court records.

He was a co-op board member at the time, records show.

Three months later, longtime East Midtown Plaza resident Alicia Echevarria sued Andermanis and his wife, Sandra Andermanis, saying they should not have been allowed to move into the four-bedroom apartment because their family was too small.

Echevarria, 45, also argued that if officials were going to make an exception, she should have been offered the larger apartment first, since she was ahead of Andermanis on a separate waitlist for three-bedroom apartments.

“In their papers the Andermanises admit that they appear on the list after [Echevarria],” Supreme Court Justice Peter Moulton wrote in his April 22, 2013 decision.

Echevarria’s suit also named the East Midtown Plaza Housing Company, which owns the complex, and Mathew Wambua, former commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

In court filings, East Midtown Plaza shot back that Andermanis was awarded the apartment because no one else had shown any interest in it, documents show.

“[The Department of Housing] states that it was never advised by East Midtown that anyone besides the Andermanises on the three-bedroom waiting list had expressed an interest in the apartment,” Moulton wrote in his decision. “It states that it waived its eligibility requirements on that basis.”

In addition, Andermanis argued in court documents that he had made “substantial and expensive improvements to the apartment in reliance on the HPD’s and East Midtown [Plaza’s] award of the apartment to [him],” and therefore he should be allowed to keep the unit.

The same month that Andermanis was cleared to move into his new home, theDepartment of Buildings approved a work permit on April 24, 2012 to replace the sixth-floor apartment’s two bathrooms, including two toilets and a bathtub, according to online records.

The estimated cost of the work was $3,500, records show.

Andermanis, who was elected president of the co-op in 2013, works as chief operating officer at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, an Upper East Side nonprofit that offers an array of social services for children and adults.

Read more: http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20140311/kips-bay/co-op-president-accused-of-cutting-waitlist-appeals-keep-4-bed-apartment

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