By Sabina Mollot
On Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Bill de Blasio attended a meeting in Peter Cooper Village, hosted by Council Member Dan Garodnick in his apartment and attended by other local politicians and Tenants Association leaders. The mayor had come at the request of the Tenants Association to discuss steps the administration is taking to protect affordability at the complex.
The meeting didn’t result on any set plan of action, according to a spokesperson for the mayor and Tenants Association leaders, but was mostly about exchanging ideas and tenants discussing their concerns.
“We wanted to impress upon the mayor our perspective and I guess he felt that was fair,” said Susan Steinberg, chair of the Tenants Association.
The city has been talking, for the past month, with CWCapital, and is in the process of reviewing all aspects of the complex’s population, such as turnover, income and financing, with the goal of maintaining affordability of apartments that are still in fact affordable. This week is the halfway point for a deadline in which the owner of ST/PCV has agreed to hold off on any further actions related to a foreclosure sale.
Following the meeting, a rep for de Blasio said the possibility of using tax incentives to make the inclusion of affordable housing as attractive as a regular market-driven proposal to CWCapital has remained.
At the meeting, guests included Steinberg and John Marsh, president of the Tenants Association, as well as Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh. A rep for Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney was also there.
Naturally, the TA discussed its hopes of going condo, since, said Marsh, a conversion still appears to be the only option that would offer stability to tenants in renovated units paying market rent or close to it. This would be because, while the mayor’s goal centers around keeping the rents at an affordable level for around 6,000 units, a rollback for tenants in ST/PCV’s other, renovated units isn’t a part of that plan.
Garodnick, meanwhile, stressed that “various angles” are still being explored.
“I think we have to look at all the various angles we have with the mayor and we hope to devise a plan that puts everyone in a better place,” said Garodnick. “This is still the beginning of the process of connecting the mayor with CWCapital and putting tenants around the table. We clearly have the engagement of the mayor and that’s exactly what we want.”
The TA added, in a statement on Wednesday morning, that although the parties are working with a 60-day deadline, the mayor said more time could be added if needed, and that while he was open to the idea of a conversion, his primary goal was still affordable rentals.
Tuesday’s conversation also revolved around Albany. In particular, the recent decision by the State Senate’s Independent Democrats Coalition to end its alliance with Republicans and the expectation that Democrats will control the Senate after elections in November could, local pols hope, be a turnoff to a predatory bidder. Democratic control of the Senate is seen as tenants’ best hope to strengthen the rent regulation laws. The city also hopes bidders with no interest in affordable housing would be thwarted by a recent commitment by lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac not to finance a deal that the city and the tenants aren’t okay with.
The meeting was the first time the mayor was at Garodnick’s current apartment, though he had been at his last place, also in Peter Cooper, when the Council member hosted a gathering to support de Blasio’s campaign for public advocate.
This event was closed to press, but in a written statement, the mayor pointed out how different his interest in ST/PCV tenants is compared to his predecessor’s.
“Tenants at Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village haven’t always had the support they deserved from City Hall,” de Blasio said. “We are committed to charting a new course and working with tenants to secure a sustainable long-term solution that protects affordability.”