By Sabina Mollot
Following news that residents who are affected by “Roberts” won’t be getting their damages as soon as expected, the general response has been one of frustration.
This week, the Tenants Association, in an official statement, called on CWCapital ― and the Berdon Claims Administration, which is handling the paperwork ― to get cracking.
“The Tenants Association deplores the delay on the part of CW in distributing settlement funds to tenants who have been waiting for months,” the TA said. “The $173 million has been sitting in escrow for years and the court approved the settlement back in April. Tenants have been waiting long enough. We urge CW to take whatever steps it needs to expedite the payments.”
While aware the delay was due to a process that’s been described as “complicated” by attorneys, the Tenants Association noted that tenants have already been subjected to a drawn out legal process.
“We did check in with the Roberts attorneys and found that the delay stems primarily from the complex nature of the calculations involved in allocating the damages among the varying co-tenants who came and went over the course of the leaseholds, as well as claimants who owe back rent even after their lower settlement rent formulas are applied,” the TA said. “While settlement claims processing often takes a year or more, even for simpler cases, as a minimum CW, who is remarkably quick to raise rents mid-lease and generate rent demands, should have communicated that there would be a delay with the claimants. This has been a long-drawn out legal process and relief should be fast-tracked.”
Manhattan Borough President hopeful and City Council Member Jessica Lappin also weighed in on the delay, saying that “CW stands for corrupt and wrong.”
Lappin added, “First, they try to hike rents mid-lease. Now they’re withholding millions of dollars they owe to Stuy Town tenants. This money belongs to residents, and they deserve it now.”
Jill Pratzon, a “Roberts” class member and art restorer who lives with her husband, a high school teacher, and their teenage son in Stuyvesant Town, was naturally disappointed with the turn of events.
After hearing about the delay, her first reaction “included words you can’t print in T&V.”
Pratzon added that at this point she doesn’t know if she and her family will continue to try and “hold on” to their apartment.
“Depending on the mystery amount of the settlement, I suppose it would be wise for us to use our refund to pay a mover or put down a security deposit in an outer borough. I’m torn, as ever; I still love it here, but I’m starting to feel stupid for holding on. How do we know if we can keep holding on until our stabilized rent starts to mean something when my husband, a public school teacher, has been working without a contract for four years? His salary sure hasn’t kept up with the dramatic rent increases we’ve endured, nor has my business, hard hit by this economy. And residents who think the next mayor’s negotiations with the teachers’ unions won’t affect them need only talk to any teachers still left in Stuy Town.”
Pratzon added, “I know we live in a beautiful place, but honestly, I don’t have time to sit and enjoy the Oval anymore. All I do is hustle to work, come home after the sun is down and try to pay the rent. I think we’re the only people on our floor over the age of 25, and it wasn’t like that when we moved in nine years ago. But hey, if we move out, two or three more students can pack into our apartment and add to PCV/ST’s population. I wonder if we’ll be missed?”
Teacher Kirstin Aadahl, who was among the tenants hit with a mid-lease rent increase in May, said she was annoyed about the holdup.
“On May 14, when many of us got mid-lease increases, CW did this on the first day the court allowed them the option to do so,” said Aadahl “Yet when it comes to money owed to tenants, it’s delayed for months. That angers me the most.”
More criticism came from real estate developer Gerald Guterman, who’s been hoping to buy ST/PCV and turn the place into a co-op. However, he said this week he’s been having second thoughts over whether it’s worth it, referring to the recent turn of events as a “horror show” and “an abuse” of tenants.
Guterman said he blamed the attorneys on both sides, saying, “I’ll bet the attorneys on the defendant side and the plaintiff side got paid.”
(Alex Schmidt, attorney for the tenants, said the attorneys, had in fact gotten the bulk of their compensation, but said he still wanted to see tenants get paid “as quickly as possible. We don’t want it to linger.”)
Guterman, meanwhile, recommended that tenants start withholding the refund amounts in their rent to CW, saying, “You’ll get those people to wake up.”
Meanwhile, he said he thought the property was going downhill with the ongoing influx of students, which he has said cause a strain on the property’s plumbing and electrical systems. The reason, he said, was that the buildings were not designed for a few adults in each unit. He said he believes this has devalued the property, and been making him have doubts about bidding as high as CW might want to go. “They are driving out the tenants and ruining families,” he said.