By Heather Holland
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer and the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association will be holding a “Telephone Town Hall” meeting on Sunday, December 18, to answer residents’ questions about the TA’s proposal to partner with Brookfield Asset Management in a tenant-led conversion plan for the complex.
The telephone info session will be “listen only,” but residents will be able to submit questions ahead of time. The questions will mostly be fielded by the Association’s legal/financial advisors from the firms Paul Weiss and Moelis & Co., and moderated by Council Member Dan Garodnick. Questions may be submitted online after registering or during the call by speaking to a designated operator. Residents should expect a phone invitation to join the call at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, and the call will last for about an hour.
The teleconference comes shortly after the Tenants Association responded to a letter that was sent out to every resident of ST/PCV by developer Gerald Guterman. Guterman had told residents why he thought he was a better candidate for the conversion than Brookfield, and also blasted the TA for choosing the option to pursue going condo rather than co-ops.
In response to Guterman’s letter, the TA posted a letter of its own this week to residents. The letter read, “During this extensive process, we met with the representatives of Guterman-Westwood, as well as with dozens of other potential partners. After consulting with our advisors from Paul Weiss and Moelis & Company we decided to select Brookfield Asset Management over all the others because they have both the credibility in the real estate market and the commitment and ability to live up to principles and goals of the Tenants Assocation…. There are some important facts about the Guterman-Westwood proposal that the TA and our advisors find worrisome and that our community needs to consider.”
One shortcoming the TA found with Guterman’s proposal was one of finance. According to the letter, Guterman offers a “pricing plan” for tenants to purchase their apartments. Alvin Doyle, president of the ST-PCV TA and author of the letter responding to Guterman, noted the TA’s concern that Guterman-Westwood would not be able to raise enough money to purchase the property from CW Capital.
Another concern was that the developer hadn’t promised a long-term involvement with the complex after its conversion, while Brookfield had expressed intentions to stick around to help improve the property. Lastly, the TA said it opted to choose a condominium conversion over a co-op one, believing it to be the less expensive way to go.
Guterman, in his letter, which most residents received last week, said he didn’t believe the TA was acting in the best interests of the community, which is why he reached out directly to residents. Guterman, 43-year real estate industry veteran, has said he’s conducted numerous conversions of rent-controlled and stabilized properties.
In his letter, he wrote, “We note that our firm’s experience in cooperative apartment conversion in the City of New York is more extensive than that of any other firm, including Brookfield.”
Despite the clash of opinions among the developer and the Tenants Association, the choice to bring on Brookfield as the partner for conversion has been cheered by other tenant groups.
“Tenants & Neighbors believes in the power of tenant organizing,” said Maggie Russell-Ciardi, executive director of New York State Tenants & Neighbors, in a written statement. “We know that, working together, tenants who live in housing that is at risk of loss of affordability can build consensus around an alternative vision for their building and then spearhead a campaign to make that vision a reality. We commend the Tenants Association on having taken their community’s future into their own hands and identified a tenant-endorsed preservation partner.”
Another supporter is Harvey Epstein, project director at the Urban Justice Center’s Community Development Project.
“Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village residents have had to deal with years of uncertainty, harassment, and threats of eviction,” said Epstein. “Now they are coming together to try to take the future of their community into their own hands. The tenant-led proposal they are putting together is the best hope for maintaining Stuy Town as an affordable enclave for the middle class.”
To register for the Telephone Town Hall on Sunday, residents are directed to visit http://stpcvta.org/teletownhall or call (917) 338-7860. Registration will close on Saturday, December 17, at 2 p.m. The project is being co-sponsored by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Tom Duane and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh.