By Sabina Mollot
People who’ve been wondering how to get their hands on an affordable apartment in Stuyvesant Town won’t have to wait any longer to get a shot at it.
As of today, Tuesday, March 1, the application for a city-run lottery for the 5,000 units that will eventually be made available, has begun. The way it works, since there’s no telling when each of the units will actually become vacant and available, is that a maximum of 15,000 names of applicants will be put onto a waiting list. Applications will be accepted through March 31 on a website, pcvstlottery.com, and can also be mailed. To request an application by mail, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, 243 Fifth Avenue, Box 425, New York, NY, 10016.
The process does not give any preference to existing tenants of Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, which is something market rate-paying residents had hoped for. Instead, the only preference given will to be to applicants who currently live in the five boroughs, with their applications being reviewed first.
On the fact that no preference will be given to tenants, a spokesperson for Blackstone, Paula Chirhart, said this was the decision of the city’s HDC (Housing Development Corporation).
“While we appreciate the spirit of inclusiveness, we are disappointed that we were not able to provide a preferred option for residents of Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village,” said Chirhart.
Council Member Dan Garodnick also noted that “the city would not allow that scenario.”
However, he said that he asked Blackstone to waive the fees for breaking a lease for any current tenant that does get picked and for the owner to pay existing tenants’ costs of moving to another unit, and Blackstone agreed.
As for the apartments that will be made available, they will all be units that have been renovated at some point, according to Blackstone. The first batch of units will be available to rent in April.
In a letter to tenants, Stuyvesant Town General Manager Rick Hayduk said, “Today, Peter Cooper Village-Stuyvesant Town launched the affordable housing program that was announced in October, 2015 as part of the sale. This program will ensure that 5,000 of PCVST’s units remain affordable to moderate and middle income New Yorkers. We are proud of this program and are grateful to the City of New York and New York City Housing Development Corporation for their partnerships in putting this together.”
While there’s no way to know exactly the frequency of affordable apartments becoming available, affordable apartments have been turning over at ST/PCV at a rate of 300 a year.
Meanwhile, there’s of course no wait at all for anyone willing to pay market rate, with business at the leasing office still being open as usual.
The waiting list for affordable units will be used for a period of two years, but then, while the lottery will still be open, would-be residents will have to reapply. There was no explanation given for this rule on the lottery website. Additionally, if applications are sent anywhere but the lottery website or the aforementioned address, they won’t be counted. With the HDC’s supervision, the applications will be entered into a computer system that will make random selections. Applicants will be subject to a credit check and may be called to verify information on income.
The affordable units have been cheered as “the mother of all preservation deals” by Mayor Bill de Blasio. When the sale to the Blackstone Group and Ivanhoe Cambridge was announced, the transaction called for 90 percent of the 5,000 preserved units being made available to residents earning no more than 165 percent of area median income (AMI.) For a family of three this amounts to $128,205. For families of three earning between 96,150-$128,205, rent for a two-bedroom would be $3,205. The remaining 10 percent will be available to those earning no more than 80 percent of AMI or $62,150 for a family of three. A family of three earning between $46,620 and $62,160 would pay $1,554 for a two-bedroom.
The city has said within the eligible income ranges, none of the new tenants will pay more than 30 percent of their incomes in rent. Household income includes things like hourly wages and tips, Social Security and child support.
In keeping with lottery guidelines, the lottery will be advertised throughout the month of March in four local newspapers, including Town & Village. The others are amNew York, New York Amsterdam News and El Diario.
Blackstone got around $225 million in tax breaks and a loan that doesn’t have to be repaid to the city for this arrangement, which preserves affordability for 20 years. The selling price of the property wound up being a record-breaking $5.45 billion, out of which Blackstone paid $5.3 billion. The previous figure assumes the full amount of transfer taxes.
There were also some protections for the 1,400 “Roberts” tenants included in the deal, specifically, that rent increases would be capped at 5 percent for five years after the J-51 program expires at the property in 2020. For market rate residents, the deal has maintained the status quo.
The matter of just how affordable the units are as a result of the deal has been debated in the community. However, they are significantly below market. A few market rate units advertised on the property’s website this week include a one-bedroom in Stuy Town for $3,232. A 440-square foot studio in Peter Cooper is listed as being available for $3,159-$3,199. A two-bedroom in Peter Cooper can get as high as close to $6,000. Add in a pressurized wall to create an extra room in any unit and rents are boosted by a few hundred dollars.
As for the preservation deal brokered last fall, Garodnick called it historic.
“It’s the largest in the city’s history and we’re pretty proud of the result,” he said. “This is the first step towards preserving our neighborhood as a middle class haven for the next generation.”