By Sabina Mollot
For the first time in the history of the complex, the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association is calling for a rent reduction due to a lack of basic services such as working elevators and laundry equipment in buildings that were hard-hit by Sandy.
On February 1, attorneys for the Tenants Association served ST/PCV General Manager Sean Sullivan and Andrew MacArthur of CWCapital with a notice that it would be filing a rent reduction claim before New York State’s Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) agency for a diminution of services under the Rent Stabilization Law.
On Tuesday, TA President John Marsh said he had yet to get a response from CWCapital on the claim, which if successful, would roll rents back to what they were before the last “guidelines adjustment,” according to the legal filing, called a predicate notice. According to Marsh, some fees would still apply, such as MCIs (major capital increases) and IAIs (individual apartment improvements) but rent increases as issued by the Rent Guidelines Board would not be applied nor would vacancy increases.
The reductions, if the claim is successful, would apply on a case-by-case, or more specifically, building-by-building basis, based on what the HCR decides for each one. They would apply until the lost services are restored, said Marsh.
In order to be eligible to collect the rent reductions, however, tenants would have to sign onto the TA’s claim, and according to Marsh, residents could expect to hear more on the situation from the association soon.
“We’re going to be ringing doorbells,” he said. “This is a very time-sensitive issue.”
Though some buildings saw more damage than others, the claim is for all 110 buildings, since all lost the ability to contact security through a button in the lobby as well as trunk storage service. The harder hit buildings also lost bicycle and carriage room storage, laundry room services, an elevator and intercom/key-card service.
“The residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village have been extremely understanding of the challenges associated with remediating the property after Hurricane Sandy,” said Marsh. “Today, three months later, many tenants are still without essential services and are told they will be without them for many months to come. Every building in the complex has been affected in one way or another. Even if the owner were working earnestly to correct these problems, which is difficult to discern considering their lack of communication, there is no reason for tenants to be paying for services they do not have.”
Marsh said the TA won’t officially file the claim with the housing agency until February 11, which is when the predicate notice expires.
In that document, prepared by the firm Collins, Dobkin & Miller, who also represents the TA on MCIs and certain other issues, attorney Tim Collins wrote that the rent reductions, if granted, would be applied at the beginning of the first day of the month in which HCR serves the complaint to the owner. Consequently, “as a practical matter,” rent reductions wouldn’t take place until March 1.
Councilman Dan Garodnick, whose own building in Peter Cooper was one of the ones to get its laundry and intercom service knocked out by the superstorm, said tenants have so far been “extremely patient.”
However, the work to restore services “has taken much longer than anyone could have expected,” he said. “While work is ongoing, residents should not be forced to pay for services that they are not getting. This petition is fair, it is reasonable, and would not have been necessary if CWCapital and CompassRock had been more sensitive to the needs of residents.”
As for how long the claim process would take, Marsh said he didn’t believe it would take as long as past claims the TA has filed with the HCR’s predecessor agency, the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), such as years-long MCI challenges.
The reason, he said, is that service reduction claims are considered to be more urgent than MCIs. As for how the agency would respond to such a complaint remains a mystery to the TA, though.
“We can only hope that the state administrative agency is fair,” said Marsh, “although that’s not always been the tenants’ experience in the past. Maybe it’s changed under Governor Cuomo.”
A spokesperson for CWCapital didn’t respond to a request for comment.