TA: Yes, we’re still trying to go condo

Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg, pictured at a June rally (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
Nearly four months after Stuyvesant Town tenants rallied on the steps of City Hall to demand a seat at the table and continued affordability in the event of a sale, the ST-PCV Tenants Association said on Monday that Mayor de Blasio has still not taken a position on the TA’s condo conversion plan. However, the TA said that it still believes its non-eviction plan is the best way to preserve affordability at ST/PCV and tenant protections and is still hoping to sway the mayor.

This was mentioned as one of several points in a notice the Tenants Association put online on its website on Monday. While there was nothing new regarding the ongoing talks with the mayor’s office, which are aimed at preserving affordability at roughly 6,000 apartments, Susan Steinberg, chair of the Tenants Association said the TA just wanted to let tenants know the effort is still ongoing.

“It takes so long for anything to happen,” said Steinberg, “and when things are slow we want to make sure people understand that it doesn’t mean that nothing is happening.”

The notice follows many letters in this newspaper as well as countless comments made by tenants via blogs and social media speculating as to whether a conversion will ever take place and if it would even be able to pave the way for a return to stability in the community.
At this time, the TA admitted that there are still more questions than answers on the subject, and that its attorneys were also helping to explore alternative ideas.

Meanwhile, the TA noted its hope that CW and the city will “define the level and method of long-term affordability, including a potential conversion — before ST/PCV goes up for sale.”

“What we would define as affordable would depend to some degree on median income, what is considered middle class,” Steinberg said. “Three thousand for a one-bedroom, five thousand for a two bedroom is not affordable. I’m of the mind that affordable is not market rate, so a fireman could live here, a nurse could live here, a teacher could live here. Not five students crammed into a one-bedroom apartment.”

Reps for the mayor have previously said tax incentives or subsidies were a possible solution to keep affordable apartments affordable while also admitting there’s no turning back the clock for “Roberts” tenants and others paying the higher rents.

The TA also said in its release that it didn’t expect the recently filed litigation by Stuy Town’s lenders, represented by the hedge fund Centerbridge, to affect a sale other than possibly by slowing it down.

“We believe that Centerbridge is interested only in winning money damages from CW and not in owning the property,” the TA said. The TA also noted how in a recent report, CWCapital indicated that it would likely begin to “evaluate disposition alternatives toward the end of 2014/2015, subject to the ongoing litigation.”

Meanwhile, the TA realizes that in the event of a sale, Stuy Town will likely have other suitors besides the TA.

“I think that 80 acres in Manhattan is a magnet for probably all of the big name developers,” said Steinberg. “I’m sure all the big names in real estate are just eyeballing us.”

This week, Garodnick said he’s remained in frequent contact with de Blasio’s office as the financials of the property are examined.

“I am encouraged that the mayor is as engaged as he is,” said Garodnick. But, he added, “It is still very early in the process towards a resolution.”

De Blasio spokesperson Wiley Norvell, who confirmed the mayor hadn’t taken a position on a condo conversion, also said while the “good faith discussions” were ongoing, CW has said it wouldn’t take any action with regards to a sale.

A spokesperson for CWCapital declined to comment on the talks.

2 thoughts on “TA: Yes, we’re still trying to go condo

  1. I left a comment to the “letters” last week in which I asked the TA to update the Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village tenancy on the status of conversion. A recent TA notice was posted to the STVCPTA website. And this newspaper is kind enough to advance the topic.

    To reiterate, I am a formerly-market-rate tenant, what Mr Marsh calls a ‘new-stabilizer’. I’ve lived here since 2001. My wife and I have built friendships and bonds here. As much as any other tenant, we call this home. And to once again state, we intend to buy our unit if/when it is available for purchase (subject to offer making sense).

    In the STPCVTA post this week, the TA plays a game with their words. For some time the mandate of the TA was an equally weighted (1) protect any tenant who wishes to remain a renter and (2) provide a purchase opportunity for any tenant who wishes to buy. Of course, the economics of each apartment and tenant would play a part in the decisions each make. But, the opportunity would be there. In the recent TA post, the TA states that (1) a non-eviction conversion plan is still their primary objective and (2) any plan would protect the status of rent stabilized tenants and, with hope, expand and extend those protections.

    As a formerly- market-rate tenant who wants to acquire my unit, here are my problems with the TA’s revised statement and priorities. (1) There is no longer equal weighting to the objectives for ownership and affordable rental. The TA states that affordability is non-negotiable but conversion is a preference. (2) The TA uses the mayor’s office as a scapegoat for its change in ‘wording’/plan as a prospective bidding entity. The TA’s post states that they have petitioned the mayor in hopes of having the mayor support a conversion (that’s a far cry from the non-negotiable demand for better treatment of renters).

    My opinion: I think it is quite easy to say that the mayor supports the advancement of rent stabilization and is intent on increasing the protections for the current STPCV rent stabilized tenants. The mayor’s 10-year plan for housing also intends “to build or preserve 200,000 affordable units over the coming decade”. (Housing New York: A five borough, ten year plan). It’s one of the mayor’s important campaign pledges. But I think it is very difficult for the mayor to support a conversion. That support would lead to the direct loss of units currently defined as ‘rent-stabilized’. We all know that the units in discussion are not really ‘affordable’ but as a statistic, they are counted as such. The mayor’s approval of a conversion would reduce the numbers of currently protected units by the amount of units converted. I cannot see how the mayor can support a conversion if it allows his opponents to use the tacit or explicit mayoral approval and subsequent reduction of affordable units against the mayor. I’m not a strategist for any political entity but it seems pretty pimple to understand the mayor’s option. And that is to support the protection of rental units and dismiss/remain silent on the notion of conversion.

    So where does that leave the TA? And where does that leave the tenants who hope to acquire their units after a sale occurs? I’ll once again ask the TA to amend its position. (1) Return to the position where you equally weight the interests of (a) tenants who live in affordably priced units and intend on continuing as renters and (b) tenants who live in units who wish to acquire their unit for any reason. (2) Schedule a meeting of the tenancy. It’s time. And it’s not based on the fact that you have nothing to say right now. It’s based on the fact that the tenants have a ton to say right now.

    I interact with a fair amount of neighbors who have the same issue/concerns as I. I once again ask the TA to do its job and represent us. If not, there is nothing left for us to do but to form our own group to ensure that our needs are clearly represented and communicated.

  2. So, is the Tenants Association a Tenants Association, or is it a Wannabe Owners Association? Can’t have it both ways.

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