Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Have a good Thanksgiving!

And thanks to all tenants for making this a terrific tenant organization!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Summary of the General Tenants Meeting of Nov. 16, 2011

The meeting opened with a moment of silence for Richard Geller, who passed away on November 1, 2011 of skin cancer.  I relayed his wife Barbara’s statement that the outpouring of support from her neighbors made her appreciate what a remarkable community we have.

Susan Lerner of Common Cause/NY explained redistricting. Using maps, charts and drawings, she showed clearly that drawing different shapes around the same set of voters (Democrats and Republicans) results in very different electoral districts and electoral outcomes.  Right now, our state legislators choose which voters they want in their districts – instead of voters choosing which legislators they want. 
For example, Sen. Espaillat’s district (31) on the map to the right is green, and runs along Riverside drive, with a little 
box cutting into Sen. Perkins’ district. That’s because the last time the state redistricted, the GOP wanted to ensure that then-Sen. Eric Schneiderman did not keep his seat. So his district was changed from mainly Upper West Side to mainly Washington Heights. People joked that he’d have to learn Spanish.  He did – and won the next election despite the “gerrymandering.” (A district that looks like a salamander is “gerrymandered,” named after a Massachusetts governor.) It also happened to Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries, co-head of the Mitchell-Lama subcommittee of the Assembly's Housing Committee.

Federal voting laws require redistricting after every U.S. Census -  every 10 years.

So the state legislators are drawing maps to comply with those laws – including making districts the same size.  There’s a certain amount of leeway in determining the size of an electoral district.  While the federal mandate is 1 person/1 vote, and districts for Congressional elections must be within 2% of even in terms of the number of voters, state electoral districts have a 10% leeway.

Often, the state legislature has divided up cities so that renters (who live primarily in the centers of cities) have less representation than house owners.  But renters are a “community of interest” and should make sure that our views are represented in the legislature.

Right now, state legislators are drawing up maps to ensure that incumbents in their own parties will be re-elected.  
Governor Cuomo has promised to veto such maps – and this could happen as early as the beginning of March.  It appears that the state legislature does not have enough votes to override such a veto.  It’s up to us as citizens and tenants to ensure that the governor does what he promised – and that maps are drawn as fairly as possible. These maps are available at  (click on "Mapping).  Shortly, that website will have interactive maps, so anyone can suggest moving a line this way or that. 

Ms. Lerner suggested that while there are more Democratic voters in the State than there are Republicans,  fair redistricting would probably lead to a smaller majority of Democrats in the State Assembly - and probably a Democratic majority in the State Senate.   It is possible that a smaller Democratic majority in the Assembly would mean that progressive caucuses would have more power, rather than less. 

No “grace period” for paying rent If rent is
paid after the first few days of the month, the landlord can take a tenant to court.  Even if the rent is paid then and the case dismissed, the landlord can do it again the next time the rent is late.  That establishes a “pattern of nonpayment” and can be a basis for trying to evict the tenant. So try to pay by the first of the month. If rent bills come late – arriving on Sat., Oct. 30 and due Monday, Nov. 1 as they did this past month – you can walk the rent bills to Stellar's office at 70 West 93rd St. Although we got letters saying payments had to be mailed, that has been revoked and you can get a receipt from Enera (“Ana”) there. She often takes lunch from 2-3 PM.

Leases can have unenforceable clauses in them – such as that
you can’t challenge the rent. Even if you sign them, that does not take away your legal rights. You can sign the statement that you will pay a Major Capital Improvement (MCI) rent increase if DHCR orders it.  (The law requires us to obey DHCR orders unless we successfully challenge such an increase in court.)

“Unique or Peculiar” CaseWe joined other tenant associations in contributing to the outstanding bill of $27,000 for the “U or P” case at the Appellate Division.  Although we did not participate before that court, our interests were protected by the lawyers (we won!) , and the lawyers need to be paid.   

Building issues – The CPTGA executive committee is having frequent meetings with building manager Lu Pedraza.  Issues we’ve taken up include:
•    Mice: Ask Carlos to plug all holes in your apartment, and sign up for the exterminator to get rid of any critters already there.
•    Elevators: Doors are iffy, #3 elevator is thumping, and there’s a buzz sound.
•    Floor tiles and torn or filthy rugs are a problem.
•    Closets: Missing pieces for repairs.
•    Outdoor: Hosing down the area where garbage has been stored
•    Outdoor: lighting during dark weather.

Financial report  - Treasurer Joan Browne gave the report - and urges everyone to stay up to date with their dues ($10/year per apartment) and legal fund contributions ($100/year).
Larry Gluck and others in the Real Estate Board of NY represent the 1%.  For the rest of us - the 99% - there are various activities to support what we need.  Check ‘em out!

Got questions? Suggestions? Contact us.

The Executive Committee
 - Sue,  sue  [at sign] janak [ dot] org
 - Na'ava, naavaa [@ sign] gmail [dot  ] org
 - Rich, richj [  at sign] aol [dot] com
 - Steve, eskoolman   [@  ]  yahoo [   dot   ]com
 - Greg, geeemurr [at   sign  ] aol [ d o t ] com

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Redistricting: Common Cause speaker at General Tenants Meeting

Learn about
  • Wednesday, November 16, 2011 
  • at 8 PM 
  • in the Community Room. 

"Redistricting" means drawing the lines to determine each electoral district - to elect members of the U.S. Congress as well as for State offices.  It happens every 10 years when the Census Bureau comes up with its report.  How it happens determines whether those who represent us will be the "same old same old" incumbents, or people who will really speak for us.  (Sometimes they are in fact the same, but not always!)  

Come and learn
  • how it affects us as tenants, as Upper West Siders, as neighbors, as New Yorkers
  • what we can do to affect the process of redistricting.
Bring a chair and a neighbor!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sad News: Richard Geller died.

The tenants' association mourns the loss of our dear friend and neighbor Richard Geller and gives our condolences to his wife Barbara, his  son Jason and daughter-in-law Mikiko, his daughter Lisa, his brothers Harold and Allen, and to his many extended family members.  Below is an obituary prepared by his family.

Richard B. Geller
(August 20, 1946 – November 1, 2011)

Richard, age 65, died Tuesday afternoon, November 1, 2011,  at the NYU Langone Medical Center hospital after a hard-fought battle with melanoma cancer.  During his final hospital stay, he was almost constantly surrounded by as many family members as his room could hold.  His unconditional and unwavering love, generosity, support, loyalty, and tireless passion for family, friends, and teaching math forever enhanced and changed the lives of those who knew him well. 

Richard was born on August 20, 1946, in Brooklyn, New York. The oldest of three sons, he taught his brothers games like chess and billiards. He loved his brothers deeply, and maintaining relationships with them was a priority throughout his adult life.   His father discontinued school after 8th grade but believed in the importance of education and wanted his sons to pursue college and graduate school. After graduating from Midwood High School in 1963, Richard attended Brooklyn College and graduated in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics.  He later enrolled in a masters degree program in Statistics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.  During these college years he was involved in civil rights and anti-war protests.   To avoid the draft, he left graduate school after one year to pursue a career in teaching and to earn a masters degree in education.
Richard soon married and became the father of two children.  Through tough times and good times, his love for his children never wavered.  He was driven by a desire to promote their present and future happiness, to support their pursuit of their own dreams, and to solidify extended family ties.   He also loved his daughter-in-law as his own.  Regardless of where his children moved as adults, including San Antonio, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Guam, Korea, Tokyo, Nagoya, and Okinawa, he made visiting a priority. His no-nonsense directness and honesty, while sometimes blunt, was always motivated by the best of intentions.  They never had to guess about what he thought and knew they could always count on him with no strings attached.

No one knew Richard’s romantic side better than the love of his life Barbara.  At the time they met he was rapidly evolving into a connoisseur of fine foods and a gourmet cook, characteristics Barbara greatly appreciated. He proposed to Barbara in Switzerland at the most famous restaurant in the world, Girardet.  Barbara was totally surprised and thrilled.  When she accepted, he characteristically ordered the most famous champagne in the world, Dom Perignon.   From then on they always celebrated life’s big events by cooking feasts at home, or dining at the best restaurants, including Lutece, Raos, and Bouley.  He personally knew some of the best chefs in New York.

After their marriage, he became an uncle and jumped into his new role with both feet.  Despite geographic separation up to a thousand miles, he was a cheerleader at most significant competitions, performances, and events, often carrying a bag of math problems to work on during down times.  He visited his young nephew in Delaware so often that his nephew thought he lived at the Christiana Hilton.  He provided invaluable support, and a home away from home, to his niece from Wisconsin, who attended college and graduate school in New York City.  He welcomed all his nieces and nephews in his apartment at every opportunity, showing them around New York, cooking special meals, playing games, and making jokes.   He gave them his time, and they knew he loved them. 

Math was his passion, and he found his calling as a math teacher, a job he performed with great enthusiasm for forty three years.  His students became like a second family, and he was always thinking about their future in everything he did.  While some saw him as overly strict or ornery, he worked tirelessly for them without regard to recognition or popularity.  Nonetheless, he was recognized with innumerable awards and recognitions for teaching and coaching.  In recent months, Richard said the main thing that helped with the cancer pain and fatigue was teaching.  He continued to work even from the hospital on his death bed, and in the hours before his death he was talking in his sleep about teaching a lesson.   He seemed to sleep well that night!

Family, math, and food were not his only passions.   He also loved sports, especially the Giants, Rangers, Knicks, and Mets, international travel especially to France, and cycling (he rode 12 miles to and from Stuyvesant High School every day and took several long biking adventures including a 400 mile journey along the Erie Canal and many European bike trips with his wife Barbara).  However, what he wanted most in life was to express his love for teaching math and his love for his wife and family.  Although he always said “Math is #1 and Family is #1”, for him, love was really #1.   And this is how he will be remembered.

Richard was preceded in death by his parents, Morris and Minnie.  He is survived by his wife, Barbara, brothers Harold and Allan, daughter Lisa, son Jason and daughter-in-law Mikiko.   He is also survived by brothers- and sisters-in-law Art, Jean, David, Donna, Sue, Jim, Rob, and Tricia and by his nieces and nephews Katie, Dan, Alex, Sarah, and Emma. 

His family wishes to thank Dr. Anna Pavlick and the entire incredible team at the NYU Clinical Cancer Center for their willingness to find the best possible experimental treatments for Richard and their unwavering emotional support.  They also want to thank Dr. Amy Lewis and the research team at Genentech for their steadfast advocacy and support for Richard every step of the way.

A memorial was held Friday November 5, 2011 at Riverside Memorial Chapel, 180 West 76th Street at Amsterdam Avenue.  The family received visitors beginning and showed a short film of Richard’s farewell to his Stuyvesant High School students and community before the memorial itself.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to a scholarship fund at Stuyvesant High School set up in Richard’s name.  Checks can be made out to Richard B Geller Memorial Scholarship for Mathematics and sent to Barbara Geller, 50 West 97th Street #11T, New York, NY 10025.

1. YouTube video of Richard Geller's Stuyvesant Graduation Speech

2. NY Times article