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ZIP Codes :: 07030, 07086, 07087, 07097, 07302, 07303, 07304, 07305, 07306, 07307, 07308, 07309, 07310, 07311, 07390, 07395, 07399, 10001, 10002, 10003, 10004, 10005, 10006, 10007, 10008, 10009, 10010, 10011, 10012, 10013, 10014, 10015, 10016, 10017, 10018, 10019, 10020, 10021, 10022, 10023, 10036, 10038, 10041, 10043, 10044, 10045, 10046, 10047, 10048, 10055

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The Biggest Mistakes People Make When Renting an Apartment in NYC – Thrillist

February 22nd, 2017 by admin

Renting in New York City is like no other experience, Udi Eliasi, a broker from real estate firm Compass, tells Thrillist.

The rental process here is an incredibly confusing one, and its normal for first-timers to get overwhelmed. You could spend hours scanning apartment listings online (on any given day, may have between 20,000 and 50,000 active listings) only to find youre not even eligible for the apartment you want. Many novice renters will also choose notto work with a broker to avoid paying a fee, but then quickly realize what an exhausting process it is to negotiate directly with landlords and property managers to see units. And thats to say nothing of the paperwork necessary to actually secure your first New York apartment.

Even longtime New Yorkers -- seasoned tenants who have lived in multiple boroughs and have dealt with dozens of landlords and brokers -- can improve upon the experience of renting an apartment.

The New York real estate market is insanely competitive, says CityRealty.coms director of research, Gabby Warshawer. A sense of humor and a Zen attitude can [help] you maintain your sanity -- but those are not prerequisites.

So what is a requirement? We spoke to a number of New York City real estate pros -- licensed agents and other authorities on the citys rental market -- to figure out the biggest mistakes New Yorkers make when apartment hunting. And, most importantly, how you can avoid these all-too-common traps.

Everyone we spoke with said the easiest way to avoid making a mistake while searching for an apartment is to be ready to submit an application the moment you find a place you love.

Have your supporting documents easily printable and at the ready, says Jason Hernandez, an agent with Douglas Elliman.

According to Hal Gavzie, head of rentals at Douglas Elliman, that means having a letter of employment, last two pay stubs, last two bank statements, tax return, and photo ID on-hand, whether youre applying for a rental, co-op, or condominium. All documents should be less than 30 days old.

There are other things to keep in mind, too, like the standard New York rule that renters should make at least 40 times the monthly rent. And renters will likely need to put down the first and last months rent, and a security deposit equal to at least one months rent. There will also be a broker fee (at least one months rent) and miscellaneous application processing fees, key fees, and more. Essentially, you need to have a lot of money available up front.

And if you dont have the assets or the necessary income, have other incentives ready, says Compass agent Grant Braswell. Get a guarantor who makes at least 40 times the monthly rent, or enough cash to pay an extra months security deposit.

Christine Mariani, an agent with Compass, says to be sure all those funds are available in a US bank account, because youll need to cut a check very quickly. Theres really nothing worse than finding out the apartment you loved most has already been rented out. You need to be prepared to pounce on a good apartment when it comes your way, says CityRealty.coms Gabby Warshawer. Ive seen too many people lose apartments because they were dragging their feet, Eliasi adds.

Im surprised to find out how many renters are not aware of their credit score, says Eliasi. Its one of the main determining factors in the approval process and its very important to be on top of it.

Before you begin your apartment search, be sure to run your own credit report. You can most likely do this for free through your credit card, though according to the Federal Trade Commission, everyone is entitled to one free credit report every 12 months. It can be ordered online at

As Eliasi notes, you may lose an apartment over something as small and correctable as a $50 medical bill or parking ticket.

I advise all [of my clients] to narrow their search down to one or two neighborhoods, says Jason Burke, an agent at Citi Habitats. When you are not 100% sure about where you are looking to live, you make the process that much more stressful for yourself.

Burke isnt the only agent to stress the importance of having specific requirements in mind before you begin looking at listings or working with an agent. Do not view anything that is above your budget, says Hernandez. In fact, he recommends giving your broker a price range that is below your budget to gain perspective. As he points out, your $3,000 budget looks great when you know what $2,500 gets you, but if you look at units above your price range, you wont be thrilled with what you can actually afford.

One of the key factors in having a successful -- and not horrific -- apartment search is maintaining realistic expectations. Be educated about how far your money can go in the neighborhood you want to live in, reminds Warshawer.

Summer is New York Citys peak rental season. Its the time of year when college students graduate, internships come to an end, and many leases expire. The less-than-desirable weather conditions dont help, either, Burke adds. I think what catches most people off guard is the overall increase in rent prices for available units when the season changes. We can see increases of almost 20% between February 1 and April 1.

Burke also notes that landlords may offer special incentives during the winter, like multiple months free or covering the broker fee, that can be a huge asset for clients willing to trek out in the snow and slush to see units. Searching for an apartment in the winter can also be a more relaxing process. Gavzie notes that peak season can be frustrating for hopeful renters, who watch apartments get rented at a dizzying tempo. In the winter things move slowly, reiterates Braswell. But in the summer, you may be putting in an application against 1-3 other people at the end of the day.

Looking for an apartment too early means youll see options that dont align with your move-in date. And according Hernandez, theres actually a magic number for the exact day you should be seeing available apartments. [Searching] 25 days before your move date is how you win, he says. Make two full-day tours so that you have a selection to ponder and have three [units] that you could see yourself living in. This is the ideal way to decide.

Rather than increasing your likelihood of scoring a new place, applying for multiple apartments at once can actually make your application less appealing to landlords. Landlords can see how many times your credit has been run specifically for housing, Mariani reveals. They view this negatively, especially when they are all run within a short amount of time. It screams 'no one wants to rent to you.

It may be tempting to email a dozen agents you found attached to a dozen different apartments. But for a number of reasons, it makes sense to work with just one broker. Inventory that [brokers] can show overlaps at 85%-90%, says Braswell, who points out that in a commission industry, someone is definitely working for something they will not get paid for. Most renters wouldn't work on a 50% chance of getting paid either.

Its also a lot of extraneous effort for the renters. Burke suggests calling a few agents, discussing your criteria, and working with the agent that best understands your needs and has the best knowledge of apartments in your desired neighborhood. Otherwise you run the very likely risk of wasting time, energy, and seeing the same apartments multiple times, Burke adds.

So you managed to avoid the pitfalls and find an apartment you love. Congrats! Still, its not over yet. Reviewing your lease (yes, even that very fine legal jargon) is as crucial as inspecting your apartment before you sign anything.

If the landlord verbally promised to repair or replace something in the apartment but the lease says as is, you have no ground to stand on, says Burke. New appliances, for example, should be installed before you move in a single piece of furniture. And if your landlord promised to have the apartment professionally cleaned, that too should be noted in writing and completed before you arrive.

A lease could also contain deal-breaking conditions (maybe its a two-year lease instead of one, or heat and hot water isnt included) and crucial information about past bed bug infestations.

Dont be afraid to ask your broker to examine the lease and note anything unusual or concerning. Landlords in New York City are much more shielded than other places, notes Eliasi. For that reason, real estate agents play a larger role negotiating, advising, and guiding potential renters through the murky, completely mad process of renting an apartment in New York City.

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Melanie Taryn Lieberman has made almost all of these mistakes, and -- out of the goodness of her heart -- wants you to have a less nightmarish time renting an apartment.

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The Biggest Mistakes People Make When Renting an Apartment in NYC - Thrillist

New series Crashing focuses on chasing comedy dream in New York City – The National

February 19th, 2017 by admin

Greg Kennedy

"Dying is easy, comedy is hard." While few agree which entertainer first uttered this enduring stage adage, even fewer will doubt its truth after watching Crashing.

The new HBO comedy, in which stand-up Pete Holmes relives his punishing struggle to find stand-up stardom, begins tonight on OSN First HD Home of HBO.

"Crashing is loosely based on my life," says Holmes, who rose to fame hosting a talk-show that ran for two seasons on TBS, appearing on Conan, podcasting (You Made It Weird) and drawing cartoons for The New Yorker.

"Its about a comedian who gets his heart broken, and then has to fall into the canopy of New York comedy."

Holmes stars as Pete, who after catching his wife, Jessica (Orange Is the New Blacks Lauren Lapkus), cheating on him, decides to move to New York City to chase his comedy dream.

"The only problem is that hes not really that good yet," says executive producer Judd Apatow, a solid stand-up comic in his own right, who went on to produce and direct hit comedy films including The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Trainwreck.

Thrown into the deep end of an inhospitable Big Apple comedy scene that is not for the faint of heart, the formerly sheltered Pete learns some hard lessons about life and comedy as he meets and learns from a whos who of stand-up talent who play themselves, including cynical sage Artie Lange (The Howard Stern Show), outrageous provocateur TJ Miller (Silicon Valley) and caring motivator Sarah Silverman (A Million Ways to Die in the West).

While trying to make ends meet and crashing on friends couches (hence the title of the show) Pete adapts to the messiness of life as he finds goodness in the most unlikely places.

"Something that was really exciting in making this series was showing an aspect of comedy that I dont think weve seen on TV before, which is, to be frank, how crappy it is when youre just starting out," says Holmes, 37, who adds that he is playing "a 2007 version of myself" .

"When you say, I want to be a comedian, they say, How badly? And then comedy throws all of these experiences at you, and thats part of it," he adds.

"These guys have forgone a regular life," he says of his fellow-comedian co-stars.

"Theyve foregone, in many cases, a stable relationship. Or steady income. Because theyre really bleeding on the stage and giving it their all. Im excited to bring that level of desperation to the screen, I think, maybe, for the first time."

Some of his co-stars still bear the scars from painful early days.

"I did a set for two people once," says Artie Lange. "They called me a loser and I said, Youre here watching me."

Hannibal Buress (Broad City, The Awkward Comedy Show) also had some tough times.

"I definitely slept on couches," he says. "Slept on the train [too]. Weve all been through this. Your favourite comics have been through all this [stuff] ... Its inspiring. Its motivating."

"I slept in my car. I did that for a couple of months," says Henry Zebrowski (Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell, Heroes Reborn).

Jermaine Fowler (Give Em Hell Kid, Superior Donuts) adds: "I used to sleep on air mattresses full of bedbugs. I dont know how bedbugs get in air mattresses, but they existed in mine. I didnt care. I was so happy on my own in New York."

Assembling such an authentic cast of comedians who went through similar struggles is something Apatow is proud of.

"The other comedians we got on the show are a dream team," he says. "We always try to make the script as strong as we can make it, and then after getting a few takes, I like to let the actors play. Every time Ive ever worked [this way], the actor has beaten the script."

Holmes, who popped the question to his now-fiance Valerie Chaney in a hot-air balloon this month, says hes glad he overcame the obstacles.

"As Im doing a show about ... all the things that comedians have to do when theyre coming up, Im like, I couldnt do this [stuff] again. Its just too hard," he says.

Crashing begins on Monday (February 20) at half-past midnight on OSN First HD Home of HBO

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New series Crashing focuses on chasing comedy dream in New York City - The National

Real estate company run by Robert Durst’s second wife files $10M defamation suit against anonymous sites that call … – New York Daily News

February 18th, 2017 by admin


Friday, February 17, 2017, 1:47 PM

A real estate company run by accused murderer Robert Durst's second wife complains in a $10 million lawsuit that several anonymous websites linked to buildings the firm owns wrongly claim she's "the most ruthless New York City real estate mogul of her generation."

BCB Property Management Inc. and Novel Property Ventures, owned respectively by Debrah Lee Charatan and her son Bennat Charatan Berger, also complain the six websites are wrongly sliming them by publicizing untrue allegations about bed bug infestations and swastika graffiti.

The websites are named after the six buildings they correspond to, which are located in Williamsburg, Prospect Heights, and the East Village. The websites went online in summer 2016, the suit states.

"The Defamatory Websites contain false statements concerning the Plaintiffs," the suit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court claims.

Among the "defamatory" statements listed are that the companies "are two of the most infamous and abusive landlords in New York City" and "That Deborah Lee Charatan (sic) is the most ruthless New York City real estate mogul of her generation."

The websites also had posts stating that Bennat Berger had domestic abuse charges filed against him" and "That Bennat Berger made a death threat to a former employee," the suit states.

While disgraced real estate scion Durst contributed millions to BCB, according to Crain's New York, the lawsuit also rails against posts on the websites claiming Durst has an ownership interest.

Durst, 73, is accused of slaying writer Susan Berman in 2000. Prosecutors charge Durst killed Berman because she could implicate him in the killing of his first wife, Kathie, who vanished in 1982.

The websites expose the companies run by Charatan, 60, and Berger, 32, "to public contempt, hatred, ridicule, aversion or disgrace, and/or to induce an evil opinion of the Plaintiffs in the minds of right-thinking persons, and to deprive the Plaintiffs of their friendly intercourse in society," according to the lawsuit.

The claims can also "injure Plaintiffs in their trade, business, and/or profession."

BCB and Novel's lawyer did not return calls for comment.

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Real estate company run by Robert Durst's second wife files $10M defamation suit against anonymous sites that call ... - New York Daily News

Anchor Pest Control, the Premier NJ Pest Control Company, Now Offers Preventative Yearly Service Plans – Benzinga

February 13th, 2017 by admin

Anchor Pest Control announces a new service to extend their residential bed bug control services. Using safe and effective preventative chemical treatments, New Jersey's leading pest control company can help homeowners avoid bed bug infestations before they even start!

Old Bridge, NJ (PRWEB) February 14, 2017

Anchor Pest Control of New Jersey is offering yearly preventative bed bug control plans to help homeowners save money by preventing home infestations. Using safe and effective preventative chemical treatments, New Jersey's leading pest control company can help homeowners avoid bed bug infestations before they even start. At a cost of less than 1/3 of a post-infestation treatment, the Anchor Pest Control yearly packages include multiple K-9 inspections and preventative chemical treatments. Most bed bug problems occur in residential and multi-family locations. Because bed bugs infestations are not affected by cleanliness, they are not as easy to prevent as roaches, ants, and other pests. Consider these facts:

Anchor Pest Control created their preventative maintenance program to help their customers avoid the hassle and stress of a bed bug infestation. "We would rather prevent an infestation than to have one of our customers have to suffer with the pain, hassle, and frankly, fear of having a bed bug infestation. One mother who had an infestation recently cried to me about how terrible she felt. She would get her children up in the morning and see tiny blood stains on the sheets from the bugs biting her kids in the middle of the night. I don't ever want to have that conversation again." Carmen Reino, Owner of Anchor Pest Control

Anchor Pest Control offers commercial and residential pest control services throughout New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Bed bugs, termites, rodents and other forms of pests have been handled for more than 25 years by this team of professionals. Their innovative Bug ID Service is just the latest tool they have brought to their customers to protect them from creatures of all shapes and sizes.

If you would like more information about Anchor's bed bug prevention plans, please contact Carmen Reino at 800-585-1580 or email at info(at)anchorpestcontrol(dot)net.

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Anchor Pest Control, the Premier NJ Pest Control Company, Now Offers Preventative Yearly Service Plans - Benzinga

Dont Let the Bed Bugs Bite: Orkin Releases New Top 50 …

February 11th, 2017 by admin

Baltimore Holds Top Spot on Bed Bugs Cities List

ATLANTA (January 3, 2017) Baltimore tops this years Top 50 Bed Bug Cities list, released today by pest control leader Orkin. In the six years Orkin has released the bed bug city rankings, this is the first time Baltimore has made the top five, moving up nine spots since last year. Four metro regions Las Vegas, Portland, Salt Lake City and Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem made the list for the first time this year.

The list is based on treatment data from the metro areas where Orkin performed the most bed bug treatments from December 1, 2015 November 30, 2016. This ranking includes both residential and commercial treatments.

We have more people affected by bed bugs in the United States now than ever before, says Orkin Entomologist and Director of Technical Services Ron Harrison, Ph.D., adding that bed bugs are a growing issue. They were virtually unheard of in the U.S. 10 years ago, he says.

According to a 2015 Bugs without Borders Survey by the National Pest Management Association, nearly all (99.6 percent) of pest professionals nationwide have treated bed bugs in the past year, up from five, 10 and 15 years ago.

Bed bugs are great hitchhikers because they travel from place to place with ease, including luggage, purses and other belongings. Bed bugs can be found anywhere, from single family homes, apartments and hotel, to public places like movie theaters, public transit and libraries and offices.

Anyone can get bed bugs in their home. They are not a sign of uncleanliness. Bed bugs only need blood to survive. We have treated for bed bugs in everything from million dollar homes to public housing, Harrison says.

Bed bugs can be difficult to detect and treat because of their small size and ability to survive up to a year without feeding. They are about the size of an apple seed when fully grown, and can hide around seams of a mattress, behind headboards and in cracks and crevices, usually within a five-foot radius of the bed. The first signs of a bed bug infestation are often the bed bugs themselves or small dark stains bed bugs can leave behind.

People may have bed bugs and not know it, because many people have no physical reaction to bed bug bites, Harrison says. Thats why its important for people everywhere to inspect for bed bugs regularly.

While the 50 metro areas listed above required the most treatments for bed bugs in 2016, Orkin has treated for bed bugs in all 50 states and around the world. To help detect and prevent bed bugs, Orkin recommends homeowners and travelers do the following:

At Home:

During travel, remember the acronym S.L.E.E.P to inspect for bed bugs:

Bed bugs can quickly become a major problem, as they can spread from room to room if undetected and allowed to multiply. Anyone who suspects a bed bug infestation should contact a pest management professional immediately.

For more information about bed bug detection and prevention, visit You can also find 100 facts about bed bugs in Orkins new bed bug e-book.

About Orkin, LLC

Founded in 1901, Atlanta-based Orkin is an industry leader in essential pest control services and protection against termite damage, rodents and insects. The company operates more than 400 locations with almost 8,000 employees. Using a proprietary, three-step approach, Orkin provides customized services to approximately 1.7 million homeowners and businesses in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, South America, Central America, the Middle East, the Caribbean, Asia, the Mediterranean and Africa. Orkin is committed to studying pest biology and applying scientifically proven methods. The company collaborates with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and eight major universities to conduct research and helps educate consumers and businesses on pest-related health threats. Learn more about Orkin at Orkin is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Rollins Inc. (NYSE: ROL). Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Originally posted here:
Dont Let the Bed Bugs Bite: Orkin Releases New Top 50 ...

National presenters kick off 25th Nebraska Urban Pest Management conference – IANR News (press release)

February 7th, 2017 by admin

February 7, 2017

Lincoln, Neb. Managing invasive pests such as termites and rodents is the focus of the 25thNebraska Urban Pest Management conference Feb. 21-22 in Lincoln.

The annual event brings together research-based information from around the nation, with industry showing the latest in technology and products to about 150 participants. Such offerings keep Nebraska pesticide professionals current in pest management and in business practices.

Our operators have many needs in following the rules and regulations of being applicators, said Andy Licht of the Nebraska State Pest Control Association, a cosponsor. Pesticide applicator businesses need sales, marketing, training and legal advice. This conference provides the science, the safety education -- everything they need.

Opening the conference Feb. 21 are Bobby Corrigan, urban rodentologist for greater New York City; Paul Bello, bedbug expert of PJB Pest Management Consulting in Georgia; Justin Schmidt, sting expert from the University of Arizona; and Sylvia Kenmuir, Target Specialty Products of California, discussing Integrated Pest Management to minimize risks to people and the environment.

The remainder of the conference features about two dozen sessions and panel discussions from university and private sector experts. Topics cover bedbugs, birds, bats, ants and other pests, in addition to termites and rodents. Ultimate conference beneficiaries, Licht added, are customers of conference participants -- homeowners, schools, and businesses involved in food service, food processing, health care, lodging, warehouses and sanitation.

A self-tutorial, hands-on laboratory of termites and other insects is available daily through Nebraska Extension, conference coordinator and cosponsor.

Registration is $150 per person until Feb. 10. After Feb. 10 the registration fee is $170.

Held in cooperation with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, the UPM conference is said to be one of the best in the nation. It builds on the 24 years it was coordinated by Shripat Kamble, Nebraska Extension entomologist. Last year Kamble announced he was stepping aside as conference coordinator to do other work.

The UPM conference meets state recertification requirements for commercial and noncommercial applicators in the categories of Structural/Health and Wood-Destroying Organisms.

The event will be at the Cornhusker-Marriott Hotel. For conference details and registration, see

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National presenters kick off 25th Nebraska Urban Pest Management conference - IANR News (press release)

Critter Cities: America’s Top 10 Towns For Pest Infestations –

February 7th, 2017 by admin
Critter Cities: America's Top 10 Towns For Pest Infestations
There has been a 7% increase in complaints about rats in New York from 2015 to 2016, and a 16% uptick in Boston. Not squirming yet? A recent report by the pest-control company Orkin found a steep rise in bedbug incidents nationwide, to near-epidemic ...

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Critter Cities: America's Top 10 Towns For Pest Infestations -

Health emergency at DC school with infestation of rodents, bedbugs – Washington Times

February 7th, 2017 by admin


Aaron Doughty appears borderline frustrated and understandably anxious with D.C. school and health officials.

A father of two girls who attend Alfred Kiger Savoy Elementary School, Mr. Doughty and other parents learned by way of TV news that the school is infested with bedbugs and rodents.

A rodent problem might be understood, since Savoy sits hard by the Anacostia River. Bedbugs, not so much.

Whats truly troublesome is that school officials were aware of the infestation last year, which means they had the whole Christmas break to clear out classrooms, treat the problem, and return or buy classroom materials.

Mr. Doughty took pictures of his girls bedbug bites and allowed them to be broadcast on WTTG-Channel 5, which first reported the story.

He said his daughters, 9 and 10 years old, would not return to Savoy until the problems are resolved. He said the girls bug bites began around Christmas.

They wont be back because they have several bites on them, and Im very concerned about the situation, he said. I will not be sending them to school.

D.C. does have a serious bedbug problem. Orkin, a leader in the pest control industry, lists the nations capital as the No. 2 center for bedbug infestation. Baltimore is No. 1, and Chicago and New York follow D.C. (In case youre interested, Houston, site of Super Bowl LI, holds the 17th spot on the top 50 list.)

Mr. Doughty isnt the only parent who took city health and school officials to task.

This is not how you should notify parents of rats and bedbugs, another parent told Channel 5. I had to see it on the news. Then, the school doesnt notify the parents until four days later.

As for school authorities, they issued this statement: We were made aware of an incident of bedbugs at Savoy Elementary School, and we hired professional cleaning contractors to thoroughly clean the school, developed an ongoing cleaning plan for the building, and ordered new nap mats with 2-foot risers. We are working with the school and the community to be vigilant in keeping unwanted pests from entering the building.

Reassuring? Not really.

Although officials implemented a three-day-a-week extermination and cleaning plan, a key mistake is allowing students, school personnel, parents and visitors to continue to come and go at Savoy, a pre-K through fifth-grade school.

Bedbugs are unwanted transplants because they travel on and in whatever they cling to. If infested backpacks and clothing are carried home from an infested school, the critters make the return trip to the freshly sanitized school in the infested gear.

Rodents and other four-legged pests dont stay away simply because the exterminator tells them to leave.

Clearly, authorities with the D.C. Health Department need a sustained public profile on this problem.

I say that because, as I stood outside Savoy yesterday afternoon, I wondered whether the trash bins, brooms and mop buckets I saw near the Savoy kids eating area were free of bedbugs or if the room itself was clear of rodents, which generally come and go as they please. The adults appeared as oblivious as the kids.

This was hardly welcome news to the Districts public schools chancellor, Antwan Wilson, who marked his first day on the job yesterday.

The D.C. Health Department informs on its website: Bedbugs feed only on the blood of warm-blooded hosts. They can conceal themselves in any tight crack or crevice, and are often found in padding, such as mattresses and box springs. They can also hide behind electrical faceplates, baseboards, folded areas of beds, bedding, adjacent furniture, picture frames, wallpaper and nearly anywhere inside a shelter, apartment, or structure.

Schools and other educational environs should be added to that list.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at

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Health emergency at DC school with infestation of rodents, bedbugs - Washington Times

Concerns mount over BMHA chief’s heavy travel schedule – Buffalo News

February 7th, 2017 by admin

Dawn Sanders-Garrett, who heads Buffalos public housing agency, in mid-October 2015 hopped a plane to California for a housing conference that kept her on the West Coast for much of the week.

The next month, she boarded another plane, this one to Charleston, S.C., for a retreat that a public housing organization held for its board members.

Less than three weeks after returning from South Carolina, she headed to Miami for meetings sponsored by a public housing insurance organization.

About a month later, in January 2016, Sanders-Garrett again headed to Florida, this time for a conference sponsored by the same organization that hosted the November retreat.

It was a busy travel time for Sanders-Garrett, but not that unusual for her.

During 48 months from Jan. 1, 2013, through Dec. 31, 2016, the executive director took 34 trips for the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority almost all to conferences or meetings sponsored by five different industry groups, according to a Buffalo News review of BMHA travel vouchers.

The cost of Sanders-Garretts travel amounted to about $27,000 over the four years, the review found.

But that is not what is raising questions. It is her time away from the Buffalo authority as the financially stressed BMHA struggles to maintain the 29 apartment complexes where some 10,000 of the citys neediest residents live.

Sanders-Garrett was out of town for all or part of 158 days, while traveling for conferences and related meetings from January 2013 through the end of 2016, according to the travel vouchers. That includes weekends, travel days and a handful of times when at her own expense and on her own time, using vacation or personal days she stayed in or near a conference city a few extra days, The Buffalo News analysis found.

Her busiest year was 2015, when she took 10 trips that took her out of town for all or part of 49 days.

If the executive director is gone all the time, there is no direction, and thats what we see, said tenant leader Sam Smith, who lives in the Stuyvesant Apartments senior complex. And who pays the price? The residents.

Sanders-Garrett defends her travel, saying she works on behalf of the BMHA at these conferences, looking for ways to get more money and develop and advocate for state and national policies that assist the Buffalo housing agency.

She is always reachable by phone and computer while at the sessions, and others on her management team remain in Buffalo when she is not there, Sanders-Garrett said.

Even though I may not be in the office for these meetings, I am always in touch with the office, she said. There is never a time I dont know what is going on at the office. This is a 24-7 job.

But there are growing concerns with Sanders-Garrett's heavy travel schedule.

Michael Seaman, who approves Sanders-Garretts travels as chairman of the BMHA board, agrees Sanders-Garrett is accessible while traveling. He also believes her work at the conferences and meetings is important.

But given the day-to-day challenges the BMHA faces, Seaman said, it might be time for Sanders-Garrett to pull back on her travel schedule, perhaps using teleconferencing as an alternative.

I think today, with all that is going on, we need to pay more attention on the day-to-day services we need to provide for our residents, Seaman said, adding: A conversation has to be had. There has to be balance. Our main focus is to serve the residents the best we can. We spent a lot of money to have a conference room equipped with technology. Perhaps we can look at using that to get some of this done.

Others, like Smith, are more critical.

When the cats away the mice will play, Smith said.

Having an executive director gone 158 days in four years only works if an organization has a strong second-tier management, he said.

And they dont.

Started at HUD

Sanders-Garrett, 48, was named executive director in 2007 and earns $120,000 annually running the largest public housing agency in New York State outside of New York City.

At the time she was hired, the University at Buffalo graduate she has a bachelor's degree in public policy as well as an MBA had spent seven years working with HUDs Western New York field office, assisting municipalities and organizations with federal programs. She also was a member of Grassroots, the same political organization that is associated with Mayor Byron W. Brown.

When appointed, Sanders-Garrett said, she was told that representing the BMHA at conferences was part of her job.

So she has taken on dual roles as executive director of the Buffalo agency and as public housing advocate.

As head of the housing authority, Sanders-Garrett takes the brunt of the criticism when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, for the third-straight year, labeled the Buffalo agency substandard. HUD cited the housing authority finances and management, particularly its inability to get apartments rented quickly enough after residents move out as well as the hundreds of vacant, dilapidated BMHA apartments deemed uninhabitable.

She also takes much of the criticism when residents complain that the authority is lax in addressing rats, bed bug infestations and broken electrical sockets and elevators.

In mid-December, Mayor Brown showed his frustration over the agency's operations when he ordered city crews to help board up dozens of vacant units after The Buffalo News published photographs of open windows and doors at the Commodore Perry apartments.

[PHOTO GALLERY: Life in the Perry Street apartments]

In mid-January, a 93-year-old resident told The Buffalo News that she was terrified when both elevators at one of the Marine Drive apartment buildings were broken.

I felt trapped, said the woman, who lives in a 12th floor apartment in the building.

She was fearful of walking down the 11 flights of cement stairs and being unable to walk back up.

Marine Drive Apartments seen from the 29th floor of One Seneca Towerin 2015. (John Hickey/News file photo)

And two weeks ago, Sanders-Garrett acknowledged learning last month that tenants she asked a building manager to relocate in October because of the poor condition of their BMHA apartments werent yet moved out.

Im disgusted, tenant commissioner Robin Edwards said.

Me, too, Sanders-Garrett responded.

I dont think they know what they are doing, Smith said of Sanders-Garrett and her top aides.

Sanders-Garrett said she and her staff work hard to improve operations. She blames inadequate federal funding for most of the problems the agency faces, including cutting more than half its staff since 2005.

I agree we can use more staffing. But we are living within our means, Sanders-Garrett said. The residences need new kitchens. The residences need new roofs. I cant fix problems without money.

The lack of federal money illustrates the importance of her attendance at industry conferences and meetings, she said. That is where she and others work to get more resources and create new programs to address problems facing the BMHA and other housing authorities across the nation.

Its why our voice is needed, she said. We have to get out there, not just as Buffalo, but as a collective, to fight for the resources necessary, to advocate for new and innovative programs, to make changes to help the BMHA.

Leadership roles

Sanders-Garrett doesnt just attend industry conferences and meetings, she takes leadership roles.

She has been asked to serve on committees and boards, according to national organization officials.

We want knowledgeable folks on the board to help us develop policy on behalf of the housing authorities, said Timothy G. Kaiser, executive director of the national Public Housing Authorities Directors Association, who said he approached Sanders-Garrett to serve on the board of trustees.

She brings knowledge as a housing authority director and as someone who started her career working for HUD, Kaiser said.

Sanders-Garrett was named to the public housing association board of trustees in 2014, when she also was named to the board of the New York State Public Housing Directors Association. The two organizations are at the forefront of lobbying on behalf of the public housing authorities in New York and nationally.

In addition, she has had a committee assignment since 2013 for the HAI Group public housing insurance organization, a company created by public housing organizations throughout the nation. Sanders-Garrett is one of about 150 committee members who help the organization set policy at quarterly meetings.

Sanders-Garrett has provided invaluable input, helping HAI address affordable housing policies, said Courtney Rice, HAI Groups communications director.

Being able to sit at the table and shape what the policies are give you an opportunity to do more to help the BMHA, Sanders-Garrett said.

She then ticked off a list of accomplishments through these organizations.

They helped secure stimulus funds for housing authorities, bringing an extra $14 million to the BMHA. The money was used for new roofs, sidewalks, lighting, siding and furnaces at BMHA developments.

More recently, a successful lawsuit the national organizations filed against HUD on behalf of hundreds of housing authorities, including the BMHA, is likely to save the Buffalo housing authority almost $4 million earmarked for building improvements.

And the statewide public housing group she works with persuaded Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last year to put $2 billion in his budget for public housing improvements throughout New York, including Buffalo, although the State Legislature did not yet agree to free up the money.

The Perry public housing in Buffalo. (Mark Mulville/News file photo)

The public housing organizations also worked to get alternative funding programs as federal funds dry up, and through their efforts, HUD now allows housing authorities to use private financing for capital needs, and the public housing insurance organization now offers gap financing to help housing authorities with capital projects, she said.

The BMHA hopes to use these programs to demolish uninhabitable units, and reinvent several of its run-down developments, including the Commodore Perry, A.D Price and Frederick Douglass Towers apartments, she said. None of these projects has yet received funding.

[RELATED: Battle brewing over plans to replace A.D. Price public housing]

That federal officials havent provided the Buffalo housing agency requested money for some of these projects frustrates Seaman, the BMHA chairman.

In past years, Seaman said, he traveled to some conferences with Sanders-Garrett and joined her in efforts to explain to federal lawmakers the BMHAs need for additional money, especially to demolish hundreds of vacant, dilapidated apartments in the Commodore Perry apartment complex.

Weve been trying to get someone to pay attention for four or five years, Seaman said. They are not listening, not willing to deal with the challenges.

Conventions at resort locations

Public housing agencies provide shelter for some of the nations neediest people. But when the directors of these agencies meet to talk about shared problems, they attend conferences and meetings in four-star hotels, sometimes at resort communities in California and Florida.

Sanders-Garretts travel in 2015 started at the end of January with a weeklong stay in the Tampa, Fla., area, for a national conference of the Public Housing Authorities Directors Association at the Trade Winds Island Grand Resort in St. Pete Beach. Trade Winds Island advertises itself as set on 20 lushly landscaped acres adjacent to a private white sand beach on the Gulf of Mexico.

Two months later, toward the end of March, Sanders-Garrett spent a week in Southern California attending a public housing insurance meeting in Coronado, a resort city across the bay from San Diego.

Other conferences and meetings that year took her to the Hyatt Regency San Francisco, the Omni Hotel in Los Angeles and Doubletree Hotel in Charleston, S.C., as well as the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill.

The Turning Stone Casino resort in Verona is one of the places that Dawn Sanders Garrett has visited. (Buffalo News file photo)

There also was a statewide conference that took her to the Turning Stone Casino resort in Verona.

I cant control where the meetings are, Sanders-Garrett said.

The resorts are selected to attract agency directors, said Kaiser, the Public Housing Authorities Directors Association executive director.

We had a member years ago who said, To train people, you have to get them to come. You have to provide a location they want to go to,' he said. I dont think that diminishes the mission of members to provide safe, decent affordable housing to low-income people.

Some conferences are advertised as places for directors to network and to see what vendors are offering for everything from computer software and pest control services to management and financial analysis.

Panel discussions allow authority directors to share experiences about developing affordable housing projects and pilot programs that encourage unemployed tenants to find work.

There sometimes is training in HUD policies as well as new ways to finance public housing, and sessions when executive directors brainstorm ideas to present to HUD, Congress or the insurance industry.

And sometimes members of Congress and their staffs are guest speakers, outlining what can be expected in upcoming budgets. When events are held in Albany or Washington, the public housing directors lobby lawmakers as well as state and federal housing officials.

More trips

Sanders-Garrett said she anticipates taking about the same number of trips this year as she did in 2016, when she went on eight trips.

But she emphasized that she remains flexible. She has previously and will in the future cancel a trip if BMHA work necessitates she remain in Buffalo, she said.

She skipped the national public housing directors conference held in Orlando, Fla., earlier this month.

I was scheduled to go, but we are working on a number of development deals, she said. I felt it was best to stay here. The BMHA is the first priority.

Topping that list of development deals is the $20 million plan to demolish and redevelop whats left of the original A.D. Price homes on Spring Street. The buildings have been vacant since 2009, when residents were moved out and into nearby high-rise apartments.

Preservationists last month accused the BMHA of promoting demolition by neglect, and other critics said the housing agency continues to reduce the number of public housing units in Buffalo despite a waiting list for apartments.

The agency denied the demolition by neglect accusation, but agreed its housing stock has gone down as dilapidated units are demolished.

We plan to get them replaced, said Modesto Candelario, Sanders-Garretts assistant executive director.

Read the original:
Concerns mount over BMHA chief's heavy travel schedule - Buffalo News

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