For the past couple of weeks, residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village have been able to talk about little else but what the latest sale of the property means for them — or doesn’t.
For the property’s market raters, those with stabilized leases paying market rent or close to it, the deal means nothing. Not only did it not include an option to buy, it didn’t guarantee insider preference for the stock of affordable units as they become available — or even eligibility. Those details have yet to be decided, with a lottery as one possibility.
While it is certainly encouraging to hear that the new owner wanted to make a deal that appealed to tenants, it is a shame that the residents in ST/PCV’s renovated units have been left out.
Obviously, securing their stability in this deal would have been far more expensive and complicated for the city, and that’s in all likelihood why this was not even attempted. (For over a year, the mayor’s office made it clear that its goal was to preserve affordability at some, not all of the apartments.
Originally, the goal was 6,000 units, with the explanation that there didn’t appear to be any way to turn back the clock for the “Roberts” and post-“Roberts” tenants.)
However, it wouldn’t be any more expensive or complicated to allow current market rate tenants to get preference when affordable units become available. Because of the income limits already in place, the city would be able to make sure that the affordable units would be going to those who do really need them.
When the “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” lawsuit was won by tenants in 2009, the general expectation was that apartments that were illegally deregulated would go back to being affordable. But of course as anyone who lived it knows — that’s not what happened. Instead, apartments at ST/PCV remained at rent levels out of reach for many. Though many class action members received checks for overpayments, those of them who were still living in the community had been hoping for a stable future, not just a onetime payout.
The current deal provides the “Roberts” tenants with something of a cushion when the apartments leave stabilization in 2020 — rent increases capped at 5 percent a year. But those tenants could use longtime stability as much as anyone else in the community.
We fully recognize that there are also plenty of other middle income people in the city in other neighborhoods who are struggling to get by, and of course the city also has its hands full in trying to put roofs over the heads of the homeless. But making sure existing tenants can remain in place in ST/PCV would go a long way in keeping this community, its schools, houses of worship and local businesses stable. Council Member Dan Garodnick has said the legality of insider preference is being looked into, and we hope there are no legal obstacles for what is clearly a logical policy.
And the fact is, tenants do need the city’s support here. Renters haven’t had much luck in Albany when it comes to having their homes protected. The minor strengthening of the rent regulation laws the past two times they’ve been renewed are nowhere near enough to stop the bleeding out of New York’s middle class. Proof of this is in the city’s own data that’s shown that units were being lost in ST/PCV at a rate of 300 a year.
The preservation of 5,000 apartments in ST/PCV was a positive step in the mayor’s affordable housing initiative. But there is still more that can — and should — be done.