Residents win rent rebate in deal over Hurricane Sandy damage

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

14th Street between Avenues B and C during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 (Photographer unknown)

14th Street between Avenues B and C during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 (Photographer unknown)

CW Capital and the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association reached an agreement on Wednesday on the Rent Reduction Application that the Association filed as a result of the long-term service disruptions after Superstorm Sandy.

The deal give residents in 15 of the 21 buildings in Peter Cooper Village and two in Stuyvesant Town that were the most affected by Sandy a one-time reduction of 15 percent from the July 2013 rent bill.

The buildings in Peter Cooper Village receiving the higher rent reduction are 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Peter Cooper Road, 420, 440, 510, 530 East 23rd Street, 441, 511, 531, 541 and 601 East 20th Street. 319 Avenue C and 620 East 20th Street in Stuyvesant Town also got the 15 percent reduction. Application participants in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village buildings that were minimally affected by the storm will get a one-time reduction of seven percent.

The claim was originally filed for all 110 buildings in the complex since all lost the ability to contact security through a button in the lobby and lost trunk and storage service.

There were a total of 1,500 participants from throughout Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village in the application.

The terms of the agreement included the rent reduction for tenants who participated in the filing of the application, as well as continued trunk storage for tenants who have been using the service since 2009 who can produce trunk tags, or who can confirm that their tags were given up when they tried to retrieve their belongings from the storage facility in the Bronx, and new trunk storage for participants who never had it.

Applicants who already had trunk service will be able to keep the same number of trunks. Participants who didn’t have trunk service will be able to store up to four trunks or other storage containers per household.
Bicycle storage will also be made available to all tenants without charge for up to two years and if the service is discontinued or a charge is added after that two-year period expires, the tenants will retain the right to challenge either situation.

The application for the rent reduction was filed in February 2013 following the unprecedented storm, which caused power outages, sporadic heat service, out-of-service elevators, flooded garages, damaged laundry rooms and inaccessible basements throughout Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.

Residents of the buildings that were not severely damaged had more limited claims, with trunk service being the most common complaint.

“Prior to the agreement, trunk service had been denied to tenants who were not grand-fathered in by existing use,” explained TA chair and Stuyvesant Town resident Susan Steinberg. “Our goal was to allow more tenants who had no trunk storage to enjoy this amenity. By ensuring some level of trunk service for every tenant who joined in the complaint, we feel that the goal of maintaining the service was achieved. Hence, a lower rent credit of seven percent was agreed to for tenants who did not also have the more severe Sandy-related claims.”

CW Capital spokesperson Brian Moriarty said that the building owner appreciated residents’ patience in waiting for the rent reductions. “We are pleased to have reached an agreement so we may put this chapter behind us and focus on the rebuilding work that still remains,” he said. “We are very proud of the hard work of our staff in the recovery effort and look forward to returning to full capacity.”

This was the first time in the history of the complex that the TA called for a rent reduction, which was sent in to the New York State’s Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) agency under the Rent Stabilization Law.

“The basic remedy for service losses under the Rent Stabilization Code is to roll back rents to the rents in effect under the prior lease,” TA president John Marsh explained.

“That typically results in a rent reduction of two to four percent in the first year the service remains unrestored. The only time this remedy becomes substantial is if the owner fails to restore the service for several years. Most of the Sandy-related service losses were restored within five or six months. So a 15 percent reduction for the tenants hit hardest by Sandy is about what they would have received had we ‘won’ our case after the entire administrative and judicial process.”

The damage caused by Hurricane Sandy was unprecedented in the history of Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village.

The TA’s efforts for the rent reduction claim was aided by local elected officials, including Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and City Councilmember Dan Garodnick, through under-door and personal distribution of instructions and the necessary HCR forms to get eligible tenants to join the complaint.

“I am delighted that the Stuy Town Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association was able to negotiate an agreement with CW Capital,” Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said in response to the agreement.
“I was pleased to join the effort to gather signatures from affected tenants and I am thrilled that, thanks to the great leadership of the Tenants Association, the outcome has been so successful.”

City Councilmember Garodnick, who is also a resident of Peter Cooper Village, said that he was pleased with the result of the agreement due to the work from the Tenants Association.

“After Hurricane Sandy, many residents of Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town were without basic services for a considerable period, entitling them to a rent reduction,” he said.

“CWCapital should have immediately offered discounts to residents, but they did not. The Tenants Association, with the support of its elected officials, appropriately filed a rent reduction claim to recover funds for affected residents. Today’s settlement of that claim delivers a positive outcome without a protracted legal fight, and will give tenants some needed relief.”

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