Downtown News & EventsThursday, October 23, 2014South Cove
When Does a Breach in a Window Frame
Equal a Breach of Contract?Lease Terms Give BPCA Options If Gateway Landlord Fails to
‘Keep and Maintain Buildings in Good and Safe Order’
The Gateway Plaza apartment complex situated beyond North CoveThe first apartment complex built in Battery Park City hasn’t aged gracefully. After 30 years, the 1980s infrastructure and fixtures at Gateway Plaza had reached the point at which last winter’s cold temperatures made the deficiencies of both the climate control units and the window insulation in many of the apartments unmistakably clear. This led to an agreement by the landlord, the LeFrak Organization, to replace more than 3,000 climate control units, which has addressed some residents’ concerns about habitability and quality of life.But, as a new winter approaches, other issues remain unresolved: most notably, the window frames that many residents claim allow rain and snow to accumulate inside apartments in winter, and allow cooled air to escape from dwellings in summer. State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver commented that, “the windows at Gateway Plaza are inadequate, forcing residents to endure frigid conditions in the winter and having to pay outrageously high electric bills. That is why I have been leading the effort, along with the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association, to replace the windows throughout the complex. Earlier this year, we succeeded in convincing the landlord to replace all heating/air conditioning units as a first step in the process of improving conditions for all Gateway tenants. I will continue the work I have done for many years to address a wide range of maintenance and quality of life issues at Gateway. I have also spent decades fighting to keep thousands of apartment units affordable for Battery Park City families.”Both of these issues, as well as others, may be affected by provisions contained in the ground lease that allows the landlords of Gateway Plaza to operate the giant rental complex. These provisions require the LeFrak Organization to maintain the six buildings properly, according to documents reviewed by the Broadsheet. The lease also says that failure to maintain the property could result in its ground lease being cancelled, which could enable the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) to force the LeFrak Organization out of the lucrative role it has played at Gateway Plaza since the early 1980s, and bring in another real estate company to operate the six buildings.Although the LeFrak organization built Gateway Plaza and has acted as the landlord there since the complex opened, they do not truly own it. Instead, they lease the land on which the buildings are located through the year 2069, and pay “ground rent” to the BPCA. (The Authority, in turn, conveys this money, along with funds collected from other buildings in Battery Park City, to the City and State.) Through the end of the ground lease, LeFrak is entitled to run Gateway Plaza as a business, collecting rent in much the same way that a landlord who owned the property outright would.
Snow and ice accumulate inside Gateway windows in midwinter
The lease that governs this arrangement says that LeFrak, “shall, at its expense, take good care of the premises and all equipment and shall keep and maintain the buildings (which the tenant was obligated to construct pursuant to the Gateway Plaza Sublease) in good and safe order and working condition and shall make all repairs, internal and external, structural and non-structural.”
While the terms “good and safe order and working condition” are not explicitly defined in LeFrak’s lease with the BPCA, they could reasonably be interpreted to include issues such as the gaps between window frames and walls in numerous dwellings, which allowed rain and snow inside residents’ apartments last winter, leading to bitter complaints about safety, habitability, and quality of life.
The lease also spells out the BPCA’s recourse in the event that LeFrak fails to live up to its obligations: “If certain defaults shall occur, the Authority shall have the right to terminate the Gateway Plaza Sublease.” Apart from the literal definition of default as non-payment of ground rent, the lease also defines it as “failure to perform any other provision of the Gateway Plaza Sublease if such failure continues for a period of 30 days after notice by the Authority to tenant, unless such failure could not by its nature be cured within such 30 days, in which case tenant is required to remedy such failure with reasonable diligence.” In so far as the requirement to keep the complex in “good and safe order and working condition” qualifies as another provision of the lease, failure to comply with these terms could fall within the definition of default, entitling the BPCA to cancel LeFrak’s lease for the Gateway complex, and begin the process of recruiting another real estate firm to act as landlord for the 1,600-plus rental units housed within. This possibility is made explicit in a clause that says, “In the event of a default… the Authority will have the right to terminate the Gateway Plaza Sublease and at its option relet the premises and seek damages.”
Even without canceling Lefrak’s lease (or while such a process is in motion), the lease additionally empowers the Authority to step in and make repairs in Lefrak’s place, with or without its consent. A section of the lease titled, “the Authority’s Right to Perform,” says, “if an event of default shall have occurred under the Gateway Plaza Sublease, the Authority shall have the right to perform any obligation on tenant’s behalf,” meaning Lefrak’s behalf, “and any monies expended by the Authority shall be repaid by tenant [again, meaning LeFrak] with interest on demand.” This clause appears to raise the possibility that the BPCA could decide to take action on its own to remedy some of the conditions that have for years been the focus of chronic complaints by residents.
State Senator Daniel Squadron said, “it is critical that over the long-term, Gateway Plaza’s affordability is protected and its residents are ensured buildings that are well-maintained and comfortable to live in. As we saw with the quality of life improvements we worked together to achieve earlier this year — which started with the installation of new cooling/heating units and electrical meters — we know that it is possible to make progress. Along with our colleagues and residents, we will continue to share these priorities with management and the Battery Park City Authority.”
Glenn Plaskin, president of the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association (GPTA), said, “with the support of our elected officials, the GPTA is committed to improving the quality of life at Gateway in every way possible. The Landlord has recently implemented a number of constructive capital improvements — most notably the installation of all new heat-and-air conditioning units, electric sub meters, and intercoms. This came about as a result of a negotiation lead by Senator Daniel Squadron, Speaker Silver, City Council member Margaret Chin, congressman Jerry Nadler, and others. This was GPTA working collectively with our representatives at its best. Working together, as we have, we are confident that management will continue to upgrade the property.”Matthew Fentonphotos by Robert Simko
Report to the CommissionerGPTA Honors Ray Kelly,Elects Board for Coming Year at Annual Meeting
Gateway Plaza Tenants Association president, Glenn Plaskin (right) presents a Lifetime Achievement Award to former NY Police Commissioner Ray Kelly,standing (left) with his wife VeronicaMore than 200 residents of Battery Park City’s largest apartment complex, along with community leaders and elected officials, turned out Thursday evening when the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association (GPTA) honored former New York Police commissioner (and Gateway resident) Ray Kelly with a lifetime achievement award.GPTA president Glenn Plaskin introduced Mr. Kelly as, “a great friend to all New Yorkers, someone who has devoted four decades of his life to public service, who has done more to keep New York City safe than anyone else.” Mr. Plaskin continued, “it wasn’t that long ago that this neighborhood was decimated by the events of 9/11. So many of us were there on that day. We remember how the neighborhood emptied out. Families and children left in droves and never came back. It was a ghost town. But some of us did remain and rebuild. Ray and Veronica Kelly came right back and sent a clear signal that our neighborhood would be safe again.”
Gateway Plaza tenants viewed the proceedings from on board the Arabella,the floating headquarters of the Manhattan Sailing Club, where acatered reception was heldFramed by the backdrop of the sun setting across the river in New Jersey, Mr. Plaskin said, “look around us tonight. Our neighborhood, all 92 acres of it, is in renaissance. It’s brimming with babies and children and families in our parks, playgrounds, all of it alive with tourists and visitors from all over the world. Why has this happened? Why did we move back and stay? It’s because we feel safe. And that’s the enduring legacy of Ray Kelly. He left behind a city well-protected.”Catherine McVay Hughes, chair of Community Board 1 (CB1) added, “It is rare to meet a man so devoted to one goal — to keep his community safe — and who has also succeeded so well. We saw it in his service in the Police Department and in his advocacy for the Zadroga 9/11 Health Act for responders, residents and workers.”
Ray Kelley with two neighborhood residents and community leaders: Rosalie Siegel (left), a co-founder of the local charity, Battery Park City Cares, and Robin Forst (right), Vice President for External Relations of the Battery Park City Parks ConservancyThe gala event was held aboard the Arabella in North Cove Marina, the floating headquarters of the Manhattan Yacht Club, and hosted by Commodore Michael Fortenbaugh. Catering was provided by Abraham Merchant, owner of Merchant’s River House, SouthWestNY, Clinton Hall, the Watermark Bar at Pier 15, among numerous other venerable Lower Manhattan restaurants and bars.After Mr. Kelly, who appeared deeply moved, accepted the award, many of the guests adjourned to nearby St. Joseph’s Chapel for the GPTA’s annual meeting. Mr. Plaskin reviewed the past 12 months, which included a bitterly cold winter, during which many residents complained of unhealthy conditions created by poor insulation, along with obsolete windows and heating units. Mr. Plaskin also noted the recent announcement by Gateway management that it would soon replace all heating and air conditioning units, as well as all electric meters. Mr. Plaskin added that the year ahead is replete with challenges and opportunities: “We also need new windows for sure,” he said. “Nobody disputes this, including management. In fact, we are in active negotiation with the landlord, elected officials, and the Battery Park City Authority, and hope to procure, through negotiation, a complete installation of new windows.”Mr. Plaskin also noted that, “we are also moving to extend the rent stabilization agreement of June 2009 which expires in 2020. We want to do our best to protect all our tenants, past and future, so that rent increases are fair, and we’re working to do this.”State Senator Daniel Squadon and City Council member Margaret Chin both attended the GPTA annual meeting, where both spoke about the need for additional progress on quality of life issues at Gateway, and further affordability protections.
The event, hosted by Commodore Michael Fortenbaugh of the Manhattan Yacht Club, was attended by City Council member Margaret Chin and State Senator Daniel Squadron, who pledged ongoing support for improvements to the Gateway complex.
Mr. Squadron said afterward, “I was pleased to highlight the partnership with the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association that has led to energy improvements, and pledge my ongoing support for more. Working together, we will bring real relief to Gateway residents, making Gateway Plaza more livable and affordable.”
Ms. Hughes also spoke at the annual meeting, noting that ten percent of the membership of CB1 consists of Gateway residents: voting members Jeff Galloway, Tom Goodkind, Kathleen Gupta, Ninfa Segarra and Tammy Meltzer, as well as one public member, Ruth Ohman. Ms. Hughes added, “we encourage everyone to attend our meetings and to get involved so that we can make our community even better. Your positive input is much appreciated.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, GPTA members voted to elect a 15-member executive board for the coming year. When the votes were counted, the winners were Glenn Plaskin, Jeff Galloway, David Levine, Linda Orlick, Audrey Comisky, Delphina Livorsi, Miriam Bockman, Mark Gorman, Cari DeCoon, John Hummler, Shannon McCue, Neha Arya, Peg Wallis, Karlene Wiese, and Dr. Leo Siegel.Matthew Fentonphotos by Robert Simko
Downtown News & EventsFriday June 6, 2014The Hayward passes Hoboken
Gateway Plaza Tenants
to Honor Former Police CommissionerLocal Resident and Public Servant Ray Kellyto Be Lauded for a Lifetime of Safeguarding New York
Former Police Commissioner Ray KellyBattery Park City’s best-known resident, former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, will be presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association (GPTA) later this month.“Nobody has done more to protect New York City than Ray Kelly,” says GPTA president Glenn Plaskin. “When our neighborhood was decimated after 9/11, Mr. Kelly, having already served once as Police Commissioner, stepped up once again and served us for twelve years, making him the longest-serving Police Commissioner in New York City history. He revamped the NYPD into a world-class counter-terrorism operation, creating a post-9/11 initiative that averted 16 potential attacks on New York.”Mr. Plaskin observed that in the days following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Gateway Plaza complex (where Mr. Kelly has lived for more than a decade) was deserted. “There was not a child in sight,” says Mr. Plaskin. “But now, look at the renaissance. Our neighborhood is filled with children and families, outside on the Esplanade, in playgrounds and parks. Why? Because they feel safe. And this sense of security has everything to do with Ray Kelly’s enduring legacy. That’s why we’re so honored to present him with the Lifetime Achievement Award.”
The yacht Arabella, moored outside Gateway Plaza in North Cove
The award presentation, along with a cocktail reception, will take place aboard the yacht Arabella, in North Cove Marina on June 26. (The event is open to all residents of Gateway Plaza, who are asked to R.S.V.P. via e-mail toGPlazaTA@gmail.com no later than June 23.) The reception will be followed by the GPTA’s annual meeting and election of officers, at nearby St. Joseph’s Chapel.Among the subjects likely to be discussed at this meeting (to which numerous Lower Manhattan elected officials and community leaders have been invited) are recent developments in the ongoing struggle to improve quality of life at Gateway, Battery Park City’s oldest and largest residential complex. In recent weeks, more than two years of discussion and negotiation between the Lefrak Organization (the landlords of Gateway Plaza) and tenant leaders, elected officials, and community leaders resulted in an agreement to install 3,100 new climate control units in the giant residential complex’s 1700-plus apartments, as well as new electric meters in every apartment. Multiple sources say these installations will begin in June and are slated for completion in 16 weeks. Assuming the process gets underway before the end of June, this would peg the end of the installations sometime in the first half of October.This agreement came in the wake of a bitterly cold winter, in which dozens of Gateway residents went public with stories about icicles forming inside their windows, and air cold enough to cause frostbite blowing through gaps in their walls. Others deplored receiving electric bills approaching (in some cases surpassing) $1,000 per month because of the need to keep heating units in poorly-insulated apartments running full blast 24 hours per day, in order to raise room temperatures to slightly above freezing. This financial burden was, in some cases, aggravated, residents allege, by faulty electric meters that clock more kilowatt hours than some apartments actually use.Matthew Fentonphoto by Robert Simko
New heaters coming to Gateway, but door is shut on windows for now
BY SAM SPOKONY | It’s starting to look like Gateway Plaza residents won’t be left out in the cold again next winter.
After months of negotiations with elected officials, the Battery Park City Authority and the development’s tenant association, Gateway Plaza’s management announced Friday that it will install new heating and cooling units throughout the six-building, 1,700-unit complex over the next four months. The management company, Gateway Residential Management L.L.C. — led by the LeFrak Organization, Gateway’s primary leaseholder under the B.P.C.A. — also committed to installing new electrical meters within every unit in the complex.
Those plans will require the installation of about 3,000 Frigidaire heating and cooling units (also known as packaged terminal air conditioners, or PTACs), on top of the several hundred that have already been installed. Many Gateway residents have been demanding the new units to replace their often shoddy, 13-year-old PTACs ever since management failed to keep last year’s promise to have them all installed by the end of 2013.
In its announcement, which was sent in a letter to all tenants, Gateway’s management said it expects to begin installing the units in June, and that the process will take “approximately 16 weeks” to complete.
“Upon completion, all PTACs and electrical sub meters in residents’ apartments at Gateway Plaza will have been replaced,” the letter stated.
Downtown Express previously reported that thousands of Gateway residents have suffered with frigid temperatures and absurdly high electric bills, especially this past winter, partially due to their poorly functioning PTACs and 33-year-old electrical meters. The current push for repairs came after a town hall meeting held by State Senator Daniel Squadron and the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association early in 2013.
However, aside from the new PTACs and electrical meters, an important third element of that push for repairs — new windows throughout the complex — was not a part of Friday’s commitment from Gateway’s management. As this newspaper has also reported, many residents have complained of leaky, unsealed windows that greatly contributed to the shockingly cold temperatures inside their apartments this past winter.
A spokesperson for Gateway’s management did not respond to a request for comment about the window replacements.
In a joint announcement Friday, the G.P.T.A., Squadron, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler and Councilmember Margaret Chin celebrated the management company’s new commitment, while acknowledging that there’s still work to be done.
“This is one very important step for the quality of life and comfort of Gateway residents, and we believe it’s the followup to the town hall we hosted last year,” Squadron told Downtown Express in a phone interview that same day. “We also know that windows remain an important piece of this, so we’re going to continue pushing on that front.”
In a statement released with the joint announcement, Silver also stressed that he is still “committed to ensuring that the windows at the complex are replaced.”
And when asked about his level of faith in this new commitment from Gateway’s management — considering last year’s broken promise — Squadron professed confidence.
“This is a clear definitive announcement, and I don’t see any caveats within it,” said the senator, while adding that he and his elected colleagues will stay on top of the installation process “until the last PTAC unit is installed.”
In a phone interview also on Friday, May 23, G.P.T.A. President Glenn Plaskin applauded the “collaborative result” reached through the long negotiations with management.
“This initiative is fantastic news for tenants, and were hopeful that new PTACs and new submeters will improve living conditions at Gateway,” said Plaskin. “As we know, tenants have suffered, both physically and financially, particularly this past winter, due to conditions that needed improvement. So we’re thankful to the management and to all of our elected representatives for working together on this.”
Meanwhile, there was no response Friday from the three law firms who are currently engaged in a$100 million class action lawsuit against LeFrak and the B.P.C.A., which seeks damages for the complaints of frigid living conditions and high electric bills at Gateway.
One of the lead attorneys on that suit — which was filed in April — is Jenifer Rajkumar, Lower Manhattan’s Democratic district leader and a Gateway resident.
Rajkumar declined to comment on Gateway management’s new commitment to replace the PTAC units and electrical meters, as did representatives of the other attorneys involved in the class action suit.
Downtown News & EventsTuesday May 27, 2014
Power PlayGateway Landlord Agrees to Replace
Climate Units and Electric MetersMore than two years of discussion and negotiation between the Lefrak Organization (the landlords of Gateway Plaza) and tenant leaders, elected officials, and community leaders have resulted in an agreement, announced Friday, to install 3,100 new climate control units in the giant residential complex’s 1700-plus apartments, as well as new electric meters in every apartment. Multiple sources say these installations will begin in June and are slated for completion in 16 weeks.This agreement comes in the wake of a bitterly cold winter, in which dozens of Gateway residents went public with stories about icicles forming inside their windows, and air cold enough to cause frostbite blowing throw gaps in their walls. Others deplored receiving electric bills approaching (in some cases surpassing) $1,000 per month because of the need to keep heating units in poorly insulated apartments running full blast 24 hours per day, in order to raise room temperatures to slightly above freezing. This financial burden was, in some cases, aggravated, residents allege, by faulty electric meters that clock more kilowatt hours than some apartments actually use.The latter controversy arises from a decades-old provision in Gateway leases, which requires tenants to purchase their electricity from the landlord, who buys it at a discount from a utility and then resells it to residents. While this arrangement theoretically saves tenants money on the cost of each kilowatt-hour they use, the ongoing problems with windows and faulty meters, along with obsolete heating and air conditioning units, results in Gateway residents using vastly more electricity than they would under other circumstances.In the wake of these allegations, two legal actions were recently launched against Gateway Plaza: one a class-action suit that seeks money damages, and another a multiple plaintiff lawsuit that seeks relief in the form of improvements, such as new climate control units, new electric meters, and better-insulated windows. (These last of these accommodations is not included in the agreement announced last week.)
State Senator Daniel SquadronThe push for a negotiated resolution has been led by State Senator Daniel Squadron, who hosted a Town Hall meeting about Gateway energy issues in February, 2012. “We felt pretty clear that they had committed to the new heating/air conditioning units and the new meters, at a minimum,” Mr. Squadron said after the agreement was announced on Friday. “At this point, they have followed through, which should both improve comfort and bring down costs. The landlord deserves some credit for this.” He added that a coordinated effort among elected officials and tenant leaders, “is what made the difference.” Mr. Squadron noted that, “there’s an ongoing problem with the windows, and more movement is needed on this issue to ensure long-term quality of life and affordability at Gateway.”Glenn Plaskin, president of the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association, said, “we understand that these new climate control units are a great improvement over the current units. You can control the temperature very precisely, they contain a heat pump, and they are more energy efficient. They are also sized for a particularly tight fit into the sleeve of the walls, which means there should be less air leakage around them. And these units are also very quiet, compared to the older ones.”
Glenn PlaskinMr. Plaskin continued that, “climate control units and meters are all part of the solution. The rest of the solution is a replacement of all the windows. This will our next priority, and we are in continuing talks on this subject. But in the meantime, for tenants who have suffered both physically and financially, this is going the help.”State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has been active in negotiations on behalf of Gateway Tenants, said, “the decision by LeFrak to replace heating/air conditioning units and electrical meters in all Gateway apartment units is an encouraging first step in our ongoing effort to improve living conditions for residents. I remain committed to ensuring that the windows at the complex are replaced, so that residents do not have to suffer through another long winter of freezing temperatures and sky high electric bills.”City Council member Margaret Chin, who has also been advocate for Gateway Tenants, said, “I am very happy to hear that LeFrak is doing the right thing and beginning to address exorbitant electric bills at Gateway Plaza.”
Speaker Sheldon SilverKen Perry, a Gateway resident and attorney who is leading the multi-plaintiff lawsuit against Gateway said, “I’m underwhelmed by their decision to install new climate control units and electrical meters. My feeling is that if these new installations fix those specific issues, it will reduce the number of problems we are dealing with. But this is not the same as obviating the totality of the problems, and the suit will continue with regard to such things as windows that leak air and water into and out of apartments, improperly functioning ventilation systems and issues with mold.”Gateway resident Maureen Koetz, the lead plaintiff in the class action suit against Gateway, called the agreement a “dismal consolation prize,” and said, “taking credit for doing what should have been done years ago is a little embarrassing, and hopefully not a smokescreen for ducking the window and wall failures.” She added that, “unless the outer structure is effectively sealed to staunch the energy bleeding, the problem is not fixed.”A consultant hired by Gateway Plaza performed an energy audit, which was released in 2013 and recommended $14 million in upgrades to the complex, including new climate control units, new electric meters, and new windows, among other measures. The audit concluded that Gateway residents would save a total of more than $789,000 per year in reduced electric costs as a result of these upgrades, or an average of more than $450 per apartment per year.Matthew Fenton
Battery Park CityAFTER YEARS OF NEGOTIATIONS AND PRESSURE FROM POLS,
GATEWAY PLAZA WILL HAVE HEAT AND ACCURATE ELECTRIC BILLS
One of Gateway Plaza’s six buildings (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)There’s good news for Gateway Plaza tenants today. Most of the heating and cooling units in the 33-year-old Battery Park City housing complex are antiquated, as are the gas meters. In last winter’s bitter cold weather, tenants were faced with running up sky-high electric bills while still suffering in inadequately heated apartments.After every elected official in the community went to bat for the tenants, Gateway Residential Management LLC, the management company for Gateway’s 1,700 apartments, announced plans today to replace 3,100 individual packaged terminal air conditioners (PTAC), which provide cooling and heating to apartments and to upgrade the 1,700 electrical sub meters, used to measure tenant electricity use. Nine hundred of the PTAC units had previously been replaced.Gateway’s landlord, Marina Tower Associates – a development company owned by LeFrak, Olnick and Fisher, had previously refused to replace the heating and cooling units or the electrical sub-meters.On the side of the tenants were New York State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and Council Member Margaret Chin, working with the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association (GPTA).At a town hall meeting convened in February 2012 by Senator Squadron and the GPTA, Gateway Plaza residents complained that aging infrastructure was causing exorbitant and erroneous heating and cooling bills, highlighting the need for significant energy efficiency improvements.”These energy upgrades are one step to bringing real relief to Gateway residents, in terms of comfort and dollars,” said Sen. Squadron. “Residents shouldn’t have to spend thousands of dollars on utility bills to have a little heat in the winter.” He said he looked forward “to continuing to work with LeFrak and my elected partners to bring additional improvements to make Gateway Plaza more livable and affordable.”
Ice inside a Gateway Plaza apartment.
Assembly Speaker Silver called today’s developments a “first step.”
All of the windows at Gateway leak and need to be replaced. In many apartments, ice forms on the inside of the windows in the winter.
“I will continue working with my fellow elected officials and the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association to improve these conditions and to help address a wide range of quality-of-life issues for residents,” Silver said.
“This development has been in the works for two years,” said Gateway Plaza Tenants Association President Glenn Plaskin. “We’re immensely grateful to Senator Squadron, Speaker Silver, BPCA Chairman Mehiel, and Council Member Margaret Chin for their passionate effort to procure new PTACs and electric meters for the entire Gateway complex. Our nearly 4,000 tenants will benefit greatly from these improvements.”
He said, however, that the leaky windows remain a continuing problem. “The building needs to be ‘greener,'” he said. “Our hope is that ongoing talks will result in added improvements for the Gateway complex, believing as we do that principled negotiation with all parties should be the most effective way to accomplish our goals.”
Gateway Plaza is the largest apartment complex in Battery Park City. Installation of the new equipment is expected to begin in June, and will require approximately 16 weeks to complete.– Terese Loeb Kreuzer
SQUADRON, SILVER, NADLER, CHIN ANNOUNCE ENERGY IMPROVEMENTS AT GATEWAY PLAZA
Electeds, Community Continue Push for Added Energy Efficiency at Gateway
NEW YORK—Today, after advocacy efforts by Senator Daniel Squadron, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Councilmember Margaret Chin, and the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association (GPTA), Gateway Residential Management LLC announced plans to replace the remaining 3,100 individual packaged terminal air conditioners which provide cooling and heating to apartments at Gateway Plaza. Gateway Residential Management has also pledged to upgrade the 1,700 electrical sub meters, used to measure tenant electricity use, which have not been replaced since the construction of the 33-year-old building. Gateway Plaza residents were forced to endure freezing conditions and sky-high electric bills this past winter.
At a town hall convened by Senator Squadron and the GPTA, Gateway Plaza residents complained that aging infrastructure was causing exorbitant and erroneous heating and cooling bills, highlighting the need for significant energy efficiency improvements. “These energy upgrades are one step to bringing real relief to Gateway residents, in terms of comfort and dollars. Residents shouldn’t have to spend thousands of dollars on utility bills to have a little heat in the winter,” said Senator Squadron. “I’m so pleased that, after our town hall, our advocacy with the Tenants Association and my colleagues Speaker Silver, Congressmember Nadler, Borough President Brewer, and Councilmember Chin, has moved this forward. I look forward to continuing to work with LeFrak and my elected partners to bring additional improvements to make Gateway Plaza more livable and affordable.”“The decision by the LeFrak Organization to replace heating/air conditioning units and electrical meters in all Gateway apartment units is an encouraging first step in our ongoing effort to improve living conditions for residents. I remain committed to ensuring that the windows at the complex are replaced, so that residents do not have to suffer through another long winter of freezing temperatures and sky high electric bills. I will continue working with my fellow elected officials and the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association to improve these conditions and to help address a wide range of quality-of-life issues for residents,” said Assembly Speaker Silver.
“I am pleased that LeFrak has been willing to work with Gateway Plaza and the elected officials representing the area to find a solution to the energy issues facing this building,” said Congressmember Jerry Nadler. “Thank you to everyone involved for their hard work.”
“I am very happy to hear that LeFrak is doing the right thing and beginning to address exorbitant electric bills at Gateway Plaza by replacing the air conditioning and heating units. I want to also thank Senator Squadron and Speaker Silver for their leadership on this issue. We are committed to working with our elected colleagues and the Gateway Tenant Association to address the high electric bills,” said Councilmember Margaret Chin. “We’re immensely grateful to Senator Squadron, Speaker Silver, BPCA Chairman Mehiel, and Council Member Margaret Chin for their passionate effort to procure new PTACS and electric meters for the entire Gateway complex,” said Gateway Plaza Tenants Association President Glenn Plaskin. “Our nearly 4,000 tenants will benefit greatly from these improvements, the result of an effort that began more than a year ago when Senator Squadron hosted the GPTA Energy Forum. Our hope is that ongoing talks will result in added improvements for the Gateway complex, believing as we do that principled negotiation with all parties should be the most effective way to accomplish our goals.” Installation at Gateway Plaza, a 1,700-unit apartment complex in Battery Park City, is expected to begin in June, and will require approximately 16 weeks to complete.
Dear Neighbor:As you may know, I have been working, along with my fellow elected officials and the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association, to improve the unacceptable conditions you have been forced to endure in your apartments. I know many of you suffered through freezing conditions this winter and were hit with sky-high electric bills.As a result of ongoing discussions we have been having, your landlord, the LeFrak Organization, has agreed to replace all of the packaged terminal air conditioners (PTACs), which provide cooling and heating to your apartment. In addition, all electrical sub meters, which measure your apartment’s electrical consumption, will also be replaced. This process is expected to begin next month and take about four months to complete.While this is an encouraging first step, and one which I hope will result in better living conditions, it is still not enough. I am continuing to work hard to ensure that the Lefrak Organization replaces all windows at Gateway, so that we can arrive at a more permanent solution to this problem.As always, I remain committed to doing everything I can to ensure the best quality of life for you and all the residents of Gateway.I will keep you informed as we make further improvements.Sincerely,Shelly
High electric bills have Gateway Plaza tenants hot
Ice forms inside unsealed windows at Gateway Plaza. December 2013 file photo courtesy of the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association.
BY SAM SPOKONY | Gateway Plaza tenants are outraged over their incredibly high electric bills this winter — some of which surpassed $1,000 — and are still calling on their landlord to complete long-overdue repairs that would make their buildings more energy efficient.
“We’re in electric shock, as Gateway is in an electric bill crisis,” said Glenn Plaskin, president of the tenant association for the six-building, 1,700-unit complex in Battery Park City. “Management attributes skyrocketing costs to rising Con Edison rates and sub-zero temperatures, and while those things are both true, the underlying cause of these astronomical energy bills is the condition of our buildings.”
Gateway’s landlord, the LeFrak Organization, has been heavily criticized by tenants and local politicians after failing to keep a promise — made more than a year ago — to replace or upgrade all of the complex’s leaky windows, poor insulation and aging heating units by the end of 2013. As of now, none of the windows have been replaced, only around 500 out of 4,000 heating units have been replaced and the insulation remains subpar, according to Plaskin.
The tenant leader also pointed out that since Gateway’s electric meters are now 33 years old, he and many other tenants believe they could be giving faulty readings and should also be replaced. The whole situation, he said, goes at odds with the fact that Gateway is marketed as a “luxury” housing complex.
“Do we call this property luxury,” Plaskin wondered. “With snow, ice, rain and cold air insinuating itself into apartments, tenants are suffering both physically and financially. It’s very sad when tenants with young children tell me its difficult to keep their children warm.”
As with some other developments around the city, Gateway tenants are not billed directly by Con Ed for their electricity use. Instead, LeFrak buys energy in bulk from the utility company and then acts as a middle man in billing the residents.
And while Con Ed did raise its prices this winter — according to Gateway’s bills, the costs rose about 20 percent from 21 cents per kilowatt hour in December to 25 cents per kilowatt hour in January — tenants at the complex saw their costs increase at a much, much higher rate, even though they claimed not to have used any more energy.
Gateway tenant Nancy Chambers, 70, said the bills for her one-bedroom apartment nearly doubled this winter, from just over $300 for December to $567 for January. She and her husband, who both live on a fixed income through Social Security, had to borrow money just cover those costs, even as they’ve remained shivering cold due to the shoddy windows, bad insulation and a fear of racking up even higher fees by trying to warm their home.
“I’m sitting here in the cold, under blankets, and I’m too scared to crank the heat,” she said. “I don’t want to move…I want to stay here, but I just want to be warm, and I shouldn’t have to borrow money just to pay these bills.”
William Couig also lives in a one-bedroom apartment at Gateway, with his wife and young daughter, and although he said his use of heat didn’t increase, his bill similarly shot up from around $300 for December to more than $500 for January.
“When I called management to complain about the bill, they didn’t even want to talk about the subject,” said Couig. “They posted these notices throughout the building saying that Con Ed had raised its prices, trying to say that’s why the bills were so much higher.”
However, weeks after Couig’s original complaint went unheeded, a management employee stopped by to read his electric meter.
“[That worker] said there were some abnormalities with the meter, maybe some spikes, and he said he wanted to come look at it again,” Couig explained. “That was a couple of weeks ago, and we haven’t heard back from them yet.”
And Tom Goodkind, a Community Board 1 member who lives in a two-bedroom apartment at Gateway with his wife and children, said he somehow racked up an exorbitantly high January bill — just over $1,000.
“And everything is unplugged all day while we’re all at work and school,” said Goodkind. “There’s just something wrong here.”
A LeFrak spokesperson declined to answer specific questions about possible meter abnormalities that may have led to the absurdly high electric bills.
But in a statement responding to questions about the overdue building repairs — which could improve the complex’s energy efficiency — the landlord seemed less worried about completing the repairs than about using them as leverage in its ongoing rent negotiations with the Battery Park City Authority, the state organization which is effectively LeFrak’s landlord.
“Gateway has engaged in productive discussions with agencies of the State of New York, its regulator and ground-landlord, in the hopes of making adjustments to its outdated ground lease to facilitate investments at the property,” said the landlord’s spokesperson in the March 4 statement.
The B.P.C.A. declined to comment on the situation.
State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has met with both the B.P.C.A. and Gateway’s tenant association to discuss the issue, and said in a March 5 statement that they’re all working together as part of an “ongoing effort” to make the repairs and upgrades. But he had took a strong stance against the current living situations at the complex.
“I have made clear that residents of Gateway Plaza should not have to pay sky-high electric bills for poorly insulated apartments,” said Silver, who has negotiated past Gateway rent agreements with LeFrak for over two decades. “I am encouraged that discussions are now taking place with Gateway’s owner, and I am committed to ensuring that these unacceptable conditions are fixed as soon as possible.”
And State Sen. Daniel Squadron — who has pushed for the repairs ever since working with LeFrak and Gateway’s T.A. to conduct an energy audit of the complex in 2012 — responded to LeFrak’s terse statement by once again calling on the landlord to simply honor its previous commitment.
“At a meeting last February, Gateway residents were promised basic repairs and energy efficiency upgrades,” Squadron told Downtown Express on March 4. “Now, 13 months later, they’re still waiting for the promise to be kept. That’s simply wrong.”
|Gateway Plaza beyond North Cove|
Snow accumulation inside a Gateway Plaza apartment,
Battery Park City residents cold, but repairs are slow
Originally published: January 26, 2014 7:19 PM
Updated: January 26, 2014 9:10 PM
By MARIA ALVAREZ. Special to Newsday
Pauline Wolf poses for a photo in her apartment in the Gateway Plaza, an apartment complex in Battery Park City in Manhattan. The 94-year-old is one of many in the complex that are suffering with inadequate electric heaters through this winter’s bitter cold. (Jan. 22, 2014) (Credit: Anthony Lanzilote)
Families and elderly tenants have been freezing in their Battery Park City luxury rental apartments at Gateway Plaza in the recent extreme cold, and the problem is not going away soon.
Residents and owners all say windows are drafty and insulation repairs are needed, but it is uncertain when all of the repairs will occur.
“This is ghetto luxury living,” said tenant Nancy Nowinski who sleeps with three comforters at night and duct tapes her windows to keep the cold air from coming in.
She said maintenance workers have installed foam strips to “plug up” the drafts of cold air that come through the heating units, but to no avail.
“The temperature in my apartment is always between 49 to 61 degrees. I’ve had it. I’ve called 311 and I’m tired,” Nowinski said.
Glenn Plaskin, president of Gateway Plaza Tenants Association, said the conditions are due to inherent problems in the building that need repair. “The building is 30 years old and there are 1,712 apartments and many tenants are having major problems such as snow and ice and even rain coming through their windows.” he said. “It’s a structural defect.”
A spokesperson for The LeFrak Organization, which owns the building, blames the slow pace of repairs on the Battery Park City Authority, which owns the land and collects ground rents from the various high-rise apartment buildings.
“The property’s management would like to make investments in the property, but is unable to do so without the cooperation of the property’s landlord, which is the Battery Park City Authority,” the agency said in an email.
Battery Park City Authority, a state agency, said it was working with LeFrak and had given the owner concessions on its rent so that improvements on the building could begin.
“In early 2013, we understand management had promised tenants they would make the necessary improvements to replace windows, heating and A/C units, and insulation by year’s end; however to this date, the majority of this work is yet to be done,” the authority said in a statement.
A meeting is scheduled for next month among LeFrak, the Battery Park City Authority and the tenants association.
State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has been advocating for the tenants, said they have “suffered for years because of poorly insulated windows and enormous electric bills.”
The frigid temperatures have forced Pauline Wolf, 94, to bundle up in throw blankets to keep warm and crank up the heat full blast so she can sleep at night.
“I’m very happy living here,” she said from her one-bedroom apartment where she has lived for 12 years. “I love my apartment, but it’s freezing,” she said. Last month, Wolf’s electricity bill totaled $277.30, which includes heating, lights and other appliances, and is higher than normal.
Wolf pays $3,100 a month in rent. Despite a new heater that was recently installed, cold air continues to blow through the sleeves of the heating unit. LeFrak has started to install 400 new heaters.
“It feels like I have the air-conditioning on in my bedroom,” said Wolf, who keeps a space heater next to her living room recliner to keep warm.
Wolf’s son Michael also lives in Gateway Plaza. He said he has to put towels on the windowsills to soak up the melted snow and ice that build up during the night.
“The water runs off onto our carpets and floors,” said Wolf, who thinks a rent strike will force The LeFrak Organization to install new heaters faster and insulate the apartments to keep the cold air out. “We can put the money into escrow until something is done.”
Gateway still hot over cold apartments, but rent strike talk loses
Ice forms inside unsealed windows at Gateway Plaza.Photo courtesy of the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association.
BY SAM SPOKONY | Tensions are coming to a head at Gateway Plaza, where residents of the Battery Park City complex continue to suffer in cold due to faulty heating units and unsealed windows that allow ice and frigid air to leak into their apartments.
Some residents are even talking about a rent strike, although that action is not currently supported by the complex’s tenant association.
Last February, the LeFrak Organization — which owns the six-building, middle-income, 1,700-unit complex on South End Ave. — told tenants that all of their PTAC units (which provide heating and air conditioning), insulation and windows would be repaired or replaced by December 2013. But at this point, no new windows have been installed, no insulation repairs have taken place and only about 300 new PTAC units have been installed.
On Jan. 9, 200 additional heating units were delivered to Gateway, and are now in the process of being installed, according to Tenants Association President Glenn Plaskin — he acknowledged that development as “progress” on the issue — but that still leaves around 3,500 units to be replaced.
At the Community Board 1 Battery Park City Committee meeting Jan. 7, the idea for more aggressive tenant action came up while numerous Gateway residents were sharing their experiences of freezing indoor temperatures and ice forming along the inside of their windows.
“I think a rent strike is not out of the question,” said C.B. 1 member Tom Goodkind, who has lived at Gateway for 25 years and who, in addition to struggling with the cold weather, is one of many residents who thinks he has been overcharged for electricity bills due to faulty meters.
Several other residents supported that notion during the meeting — although many of their comments seemed to have been made in the heat of the moment — while acknowledging the difficulty of getting each of the complex’s 1,700 units onboard.
But following a meeting of the Gateway T.A.’s Executive Board on the evening of Jan. 9, Plaskin said that the T.A. does not consider a rent strike to be one of its primary options at this time, and declined to directly comment on the future possibility of attempting one. Instead, he said that he’s focused on a more diplomatic approach to making LeFrak aware of the ongoing problems.
“We want to work with the management on this, so my first option is always negotiation,” Plaskin told Downtown Express the next day. “I realize that the tenants are very upset, and they have reason to be. But screaming and yelling and threatening is not always the best strategy. We value our working relationship with management, because that’s how we can really get things done.”
However, Plaskin did say that he is in ongoing discussions with attorneys regarding the possibility of a lawsuit against LeFrak for violating city’s warranty of habitability, which requires landlords to provide tenants with a “livable, safe and sanitary apartment,” according to the city’s Rent Guidelines Board.
He declined to comment on the details of those discussions, or how likely it is that the T.A. will file a suit.
“When you’re trying to help 4,000 tenants, you have to reserve all options,” he said.
LeFrak declined to comment on both the status of heating unit and windows replacement and the possibility of further tenant actions.
Plaskin explained that, in order to continue more diplomatic communications with the landlord, the T.A.’s primary focus at this point is to bring tenants together and learn precisely the extent of their problems, as well as their opinions on future steps to be taken.
To that effect, he said that the Gateway T.A. will be holding a community forum some time at the end of February, to which all of the complex’s residents will be invited to voice their experiences and concerns.
Plaskin also said that said that, over the course of the next week, members of the T.A. will be setting up tables in Gateway building lobbies to collect more information from tenants, who are urged to share their problems and needs.
Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — who has been very active over the past few decades in securing affordable housing agreements and supporting tenants’ rights at Gateway — said on Jan. 10 that he plans, once again, to get involved in this issue.
“I am committed to continuing [my] efforts on behalf of Gateway Plaza residents, who have suffered for years because of poorly insulated windows and enormous electric bills,” Silver said in the emailed statement. “The recent frigid weather served to once again highlight these problems. I met with the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association and Battery Park City Authority Chairman Dennis Mehiel to discuss residents’ concerns, and I intend to work with Gateway’s owner to address them.”
The Battery Park City Authority did not respond to a request for comment.
The Broadsheet | 375 South End Avenue | New York | NY | 10280
Second Annual Holiday Celebration
Residents of Gateway Plaza in Battery Park City are invited to a Holiday Celebration with friends, family and neighbors at a reception co-hosted by SouthWestNY, 301 South End Avenue (at Albany Street), on Sunday, December 8, from 6 – 9pm. The restaurant is providing complimentary hors d’oeuvres, and a professional photographer will be on hand to take keepsake photos as a memento of the holidays.
Last year’s holiday gathering drew over 300 guests, the largest event ever held by the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association (GPTA), and it was attended by City Council member Margaret Chin, current Community Board 1 chair Catherine McVay Hughes, and former CB1 Chair Julie Menin.
All those who wish to attend are asked to RSVP to GPlazaTA@gmail.com by Friday, December 6th.
For more information about the GPTA, visit gpta.org
Silver’s support Downtown remains strong
Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver spoke with Gateway Plaza tenant Irving Levine at a ceremony honoring the speaker’s work.
BY TERESE LOEB KREUZER | “Nobody has done more for Gateway tenants than Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver,” said Glenn Plaskin, president of the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association. “For 20 years, he has been our strongest ally and a fierce supporter who believes in affordable housing.”
Plaskin was addressing an audience of Gateway tenants assembled in the auditorium of P.S./I.S. 276 on June 6 for the presentation to Speaker Silver of the first Gateway Plaza Tenants Association Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Battery Park City tenant group’s board voted unanimously six months ago to give a Lifetime Achievement Award to Silver. The award was based on the totality of his contribution to the quality of life for Gateway tenants, most notably his leading all rent stabilization negotiations.
Considering the recipient, there could not have been a more appropriate venue than the school at 55 Battery Place, which opened in 2010. Speaker Silver pushed the Department of Education to build the school and made it happen.
Several elected officials and community leaders who spoke about Silver that night noted this fact, among others.
“Since Speaker Silver has represented us, he has created four K-8 schools in Community Board 1 and we’re hoping we’ll get another one soon,” said Catherine McVay Hughes, chairperson of Community Board 1.
“You’re right to give [Silver] a lifetime award today,” said U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, “although we hope that his life and service will go on for a long time.”
Nadler said he met Silver in 1975 and they had worked together ever since.
“Shelly has been the speaker for 20 years and I can tell you that he has been one of the leading protectors of everything that most people in this auditorium today would hold dear,” Nadler said. He mentioned Silver’s work on behalf of women’s rights, education funding and affordable housing. He specifically mentioned that Silver protected rent stabilization in opposition to the governor and the State Senate.
“The fact that we still have rent control and rent stabilization is, to a very large extent, because of Shelly Silver, regardless of whether he gets credit for it,” said Nadler. “So you have chosen well. He deserves this Lifetime Achievement Award.”
With a lawsuit over his handling of the Vito Lopez sexual harassment case hanging over him, Silver may have had a rough day before he arrived at the Battery Park City school, but the warm reception that greeted him should have made up for it.
The audience applauded him loudly and at length.
“Thank you for your friendship and for your support over the years,” Silver said.
Julie Menin, Community Board 1’s former chairperson, who is running for Manhattan Borough President, said, “No one has believed in our community more than Speaker Silver.
“There was a time after Sept. 11 where people doubted the tenacity and perseverance of our neighborhood. And Speaker Silver said that was wrong, that we would be able to rebuild our community.”
City Councilmember Margaret Chin spoke of Silver’s protection of affordable housing, and her opponent for reelection, Democratic District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar, spoke about how much she had learned from Silver about leadership.
For his part, Silver said, “Gateway Plaza and its residents have really been special to me.”
He said that it was at Gateway Plaza, which has 1,705 apartments and is the largest residential complex in Battery Park City, that he began the fight for affordable housing.
“It was 25 years ago, almost exactly, that the mandatory deregulation, rent stabilization ended at Gateway,” he said. “And here we are, 25 years later, still with a rent stabilization program — and it was a career just keeping it that way.”
Silver spoke about pressuring Richard LeFrak, chairperson and C.E.O. of the LeFrak Organization, which owns Gateway Plaza, to keep Gateway rent stabilized if he wanted to refinance the building. Long-time tenants of Gateway are still rent stabilized through 2020 although tenants who moved in after 2009 now pay market-rate rents.
Silver also referenced quality-of-life issues necessary to accommodate population growth in Lower Manhattan.
“We continue to push the Department of Education to build more schools for our rapidly growing community,” he said. “And likewise to accommodate that growth, we built new parks, we revamped recreational facilities such as the state-of-the-art ball fields just a few blocks from here.”
This is “a great place to live, and nobody thought it would be almost 12 years ago,” he said. “They figured people would flee Lower Manhattan and never return. We proved them wrong.“
He said that between the census of 2000 and 2010, Lower Manhattan and specifically his Assembly district, experienced larger population growth than any other community in New York City.
“Many of you were here on that dark day almost 12 years ago,” he said. “You stayed here. You helped rebuild because you believed in community. You believed in your neighbors and you believed in working together to ensure that Battery Park City continues to be one of the greatest places in our city to live, to work and to raise a family.”
Gateway Annual Meeting Thursday Night
|Gateway Plaza’s newly renovated outdoor seating area and play space|
|Gateway Plaza Tenants Association president Glenn Plaskin|
have any dog or cat of their choice. We also pushed forward on our initiative to pressure the landlord for new heating and air conditioning units and new electric meters, both of which we have been told to expect to have installed before next winter.” Mr. Plaskin added that, “according to our 2012 survey, polling 761 tenants, 42 percent want new windows. The landlord is now in the process of collecting estimates for the replacement of all windows.” Finally, he said, “the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association was also on hand to give tenants updates and support during Hurricane Sandy.”
State Assembly Speaker
Welcome to GPTA.org, the online home of the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association.
We are committed to working together to build and maintain a high quality of life in our community, in every possible way, for the tenants of Gateway Plaza.
Please click around the site to read the latest Gateway news, engage with fellow Gateway community members, and contact the tenants association. And please, don’t forget to join GPTA!
We invite and encourage ALL Gateway residents to join the GPTA, as our very existence depends upon the participation of the tenant population. Indeed, the larger our membership, the greater our power and influence. So we encourage all of our Gateway neighbors to join us in supporting and participating in the activities of the GPTA. Let your voice join others toward the betterment of our community!
You can always turn to the GPTA when there are issues which you feel affect Gateway Plaza or the entire Battery Park City community. The GPTA will log in issues that are recurring or “global,” and then bring them to the management’s attention. The GPTA is committed to addressing any and all issues.
The GPTA was created in 1982 to respond to tenant-related issues in Gateway Plaza, the largest residential complex in Battery Park City. Over the last 30 years, the GPTA has accomplished a variety of goals, including negotiating long-term rent-stabilization agreements with the landlord, thereby preserving Gateway as a family-friendly residential community for people with diverse incomes.
Click around the site to learn more!
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