Recently, unnamed persons at the new Galvan Initiatives Foundation—which is forging ahead without approval yet as a nonprofit by the IRS—took shots at David Marston, who was elected by a very large margin to represent Hudson’s 1st Ward on the Common Council. Galvan called recent statements by the new Alderman “innaccurate,” “misleading” and “demonstrably untrue.”
But a detailed look at New York City public records, below, appears to back up Marston’s position.
The fledgling fund’s testy reply to Marston is oddly anonymous. It thus could be the work of one or both of its co-founders Eric Galloway and Henry Van Ameringen, or special advisor Rick Scalera, or director Tom Swope, or some hydra-headed, Shiva-armed combination thereof— which one prefers not to visualize... Anyway, it’s Swope who has gone out on a limb to defend Galvan’s tantrum on Carole Osterink’s Gossips of Rivertown blog, saying that “the violations [Marston] finds on the website are misleading.”
Galvan was reacting to a Register-Star article stating that Marston wanted to “bid out contracts” on a proposed hybrid police station, court and low-income (or maybe homeless) housing facility to be sited at the corner of 4th and State.
Marston, according to the Register, cited “a questionable history with other Lantern buildings” as driving his rationale. (The Lantern Organization, formerly the Lantern Group, is a nonprofit controlled by Galloway in NYC, which has proposed several projects in Hudson that never got off the ground, including an outsized homeless facility smack-dab in the center of Hudson’s business district.)
The paper further claimed that Marston alleged 11 Galloway buildings in New York City “average 26 department or building violations per building.” That’s what prompted unnamed Galvan reps to fulminate that this is “demonstrably untrue” and that Lantern has never “failed any inspections.” But Galvan’s overheated response is long on bluster and short on demonstrable hard evidence, citing a total of zero specific, outside sources. Instead, Galvan trumpets only their own sweeping assertion that they’ve researched “all public records.” (Really? All? Like Sarah Palin answered the question about which newspapers she reads—“All of 'em”?) The faceless Foundation then triumphantly declares that it has has conclusively ratified their own argument. (Take that!)
But Galvan did not stop there. The Foundation then launched into a broad attack on Marston’s credibility, describing his position as “inaccurate and misleading,” insinuating that he and two other elected Aldermen must have some other nefarious secret “agenda,” such as being insufficiently sympathetic to the disadvantaged, a quality Swope himself has not been known to evince in the past. (More on that some other time.)
Now, Marston is known to his constituents as a bright, diligent and responsible neighbor; that’s why he was elected so handily. So it is hard for most to imagine, as Galvan would have us believe, that he’d make up such an assertion from whole cloth. (Of course, there is also the separate matter of whether he was accurately quoted by the Register.)
So how to resolve this stark discrepancy? At Gossips, Marston suggested a simple way this could be done:
I encourage anyone to go to the NYC Dept of Buildings online [...] and explore the Lantern violations themselves. GalVan can marshall lazy deceptions about my ‘prejudices’ against the people supportive housing helps, or they can listen to those very people, and speak to the hundreds of complaints they have lodged against Lantern through the NYC DOB.
Not a bad idea: Rely on an independent, outside source to settle the matter.
The evidence would seem to be squarely on Marston’s side. To the best of this site’s knowledge, each of the following 11 buildings which appear in the New York City Department of Buildings public information system is either owned by and/or managed by the Lantern Organization or associated groups. Spot checks trace these buildings’ addresses back to Lantern, and in any case all of their pictures appear on Lantern’s website.
If you average the number of complaints on file per building, it computes to 26.18—which rounds down to 26, just as Marston reportedly said. If you average the violations, you get 26.91—which rounds up to 27. Below is a building-by-building report:
Just this morning (April 3rd), a complaint was lodged that “all the doors to the stairwells are locked, only security has the keys. If you go in the stairs you cannot go out. No secondary means of egress in case of emergency.” In the meantime, another complaint lodged says that one of the building’s elevators has been out of order for a week. These complaints have been assigned to the Building Department’s Emergency Response Team and Elevator Division. (Another complaint about one of the building’s elevators was lodged on January 5th, and is still active.) Past problems include other items like a $500 fine related to the building’s boiler
Lantern lists this as a building they manage on their website. For example, this building has an active boiler violation dating back to late 2009, and another from 2011 for failing to file a boiler inspection report. (Boilers, elevators and missing reports are a recurring theme of these records.) In 2010, a violation notice was served after a caller reported that both elevators “in a six story b[ui]ld[i]ng are out of service” with disabled tenants.”
In December of 2010, a complaint similar to the one above at Schafer Hall alleged that the building’s elevator was “not working properly” and that there were “disabled people (HIV)” who “need this elevator.” A violation was served in June of 2011 after an inspection in May.
Like several buildings above, this one has multiple complaints on file about an elevator being out of service. However, by the time an inspector came out—typically several months later—the elevator apparently was back in service. Complainants noted that there were disabled people in the building (“everyone has AID[S] and many are in wheelchairs.”)
As with other Lantern-managed properties, a lot of the complaints and violations on record have to do with uninspected boilers or problems with the the elevators. For example, a $500 penalty was levied in 2005 related to the boiler. (Once fines are paid, the Buildings Department lists such violations as “dismissed,” which to most readers sounds like there was no merit to the complaint, when it actually means that it was resolved by a fine.) Other complaints can stay active for long periods of time, without a resolution. For example, in May of 2011 a caller alleged that “there is an unlicensed super altering the boiler.” The Buildings Department sent out an inspector twice on August 2011, but s/he was “unable to gain access” to the building. There is no indication that the inspector went back on a later date, or that the caller’s complaint was ever resolved.
As is so often the case, this building has four open tickets for elevator problems dating from March 2011 and Febraury 2012.
Surprise: The active items (going all the way back to August of last year) are for an elevator problem. A notice that a $2,500 fine would be levied for “failure to maintain [the] building in [a] code-compliant manner” was served on the management on September 26th, 2011, apparently due to failure to service a fire extinguisher and “remove water from [a] pit.” A hearing date is schedule for Thursday the 5th, with the City still awaiting proof of correction and payment of the fine.
A stop work order was served on the building in 2008 because no overhead protection had been put over the “entry walkway” to prevent residents from being injured by construction. As an example of how landlords technically can comply by responding to City officials, while leaving tenants at risk, the complaint was received on April 26th, but only resolved (without a fine) on June 2nd.
There is an active violation listed for, you guessed it, a problem with the elevator reported in February of this year
This appears to be by far the Lantern-managed building with the most extensive record of problems. Renovations appear to be in progress. The most recent active violation on record dates from just a month ago (March 6th). According to the City’s records, work is “taking place outside [the] scope of plans,” with construction “contrary/beyond approved plans/permits.” In January of this year, a neighbor complained of construction debris “falling all over,” but the Buildings Department sided with management. In late November of last year, another still-active problem was cited about exposed “high beam bulbs” on the construction site bothering neighbors.
A wheelchair lift elevator is the subject here of an ongoing investigation, begun last month, for possible defective or exposed electrical writing. A “professional certification compliance audit” is also underway. In January 2010, the City investigated the building for construction “taking place at the location, throughout the building” with “no permits posted.” An inspector cited a “failure to maintain and clear and [sic] unobstructed corridor and passageway,” with a violation issued.
ENDNOTE: In fairness, it should be said that not all of the complaints on file are borne out by the Building Department’s investigators, and some of them may date back to previous owners or managers. (That’s why the above narrative of specific problems focus only on relatively recent ones.) In New York City, more perhaps than most places, you are going to get some unusual tenants who make a career of phoning in complaints to the building department. For example, a caller claimed that there were illegal offices on the 1st floor and cellar, but an investigation found that the certificate of occupancy allowed for them.
By the same token, NYC is notorious for, shall we say, the cozy relationships which often exist among bureaucrats, inspectors, superintendants and building management. In many cases, the long lag times between when complaints get filed and an inspector shows up gives management a lot of opportunity to clear things up before things ever get to a serious enforcement action, though the timeframe is probably a lot longer than tenants would like.
All that said, it appears from the record that many complaints and violations required some action by the City, and some resulted in fines or other corrective action.