Market raters hopeful about lottery, some others say the cost isn’t exactly affordable

feb9-screenshotBy Sabina Mollot

Following the announcement that the Stuyvesant Town lottery would be reopening for would-be residents in the upper income tier, Town & Village asked a few market rate residents and former residents as well as others for their thoughts. The market raters we spoke with seemed to think that while the rents weren’t exactly cheap, the lottery was still welcome news. However, those unaccustomed to paying those kinds of rents were wary of labeling the available units as affordable.

After hearing what the rents were for one and two-bedrooms, Larry Watson, a former Stuy Town resident who moved out last year, said he thought the deal sounded better for the two-bedrooms.

He’d previously paid $3,900 for a converted two-bedroom.

“If you look at the price for a studio anywhere in Manhattan, it’s $2,000,” said Watson, “so it’s an $800 leap for a one-bedroom, but for a two-bedroom it’s an extra $1,300. So you get the value in a two-bedroom, but not a one-bedroom. I’d say it’s a decent offer,” he said.

Watson won’t be trying his luck though as he now lives where he works as superintendent of a building on the Upper West Side. But he believes the lottery is a good thing for the community.

“You have to take into consideration that in Stuyvesant Town, it’s beautiful and there was a sense of community that’s fading. There were a lot of students. This might be good for families, you know? It’s a nice place to live.”

Joshua Thompson, a Democrat candidate for mayor who also works for an education nonprofit called New Leaders, seemed to have mixed feelings. He and his wife Julia, who runs a Brooklyn charter school, have lived in Stuy Town since 2014 and he has previously criticized the preservation deal as not being affordable enough.

Still, he didn’t see the harm in applying while this opening lasted.

“I’d love to save five to six hundred dollars a month,” Thompson said. “I’ll definitely apply. My wife and I are New Yorkers fighting to stay in New York every day. Stuy Town to us is Eden. It’s got everything so we’re definitely interested.”

However, he reiterated that he still didn’t think the reduced rents were truly affordable.

“It’s a nice gesture, but if you’re going to make the gesture, make it meaningful,” he said. “In my opinion it’s still not affordable. We throw that term around way too loosely. It’s stretching the definition. It’s like when you say universal pre-K, which should mean for every single person and now you have all these parents waiting on lists to get their kids into pre-K.”

Jennifer Kops, who grew up in Stuyvesant Town and moved back to the complex six years ago with her children, entered the lottery the day it reopened.

“Any chance you have to try to get affordable living is a triumph,” she said.

When the lottery was first introduced last year Kops, who works in data analytics, found herself sandwiched between the two eligible income brackets. This time however, “It’s more middle income,” she said. “Now they’re bridging the gap. Yes the prices are higher, but they are lower than market rate. I think it’s great that they are trying to accommodate as many people as possible.”

Feeling similarly was Henry Beck, who does work for his wife’s healthcare staffing company, although he said they had already applied for the lottery last year. “Numbers are arbitrary but theoretically we are still on that list,” he said.

Beck wondered about the owner’s reason for reopening the lottery, though. “Probably they have vacancies they can’t fill,” he said, echoing the sentiment of ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg, who said the rents were still too high for many. Beck also noted his quality of life concerns like issues with heat in his apartment and the influx of NYU students.

However, Beck added, “It’s still, relatively speaking, a decent value from a real estate perspective.”

A former resident, meanwhile, who also grew up in Stuy Town, took one look at the prices and said there was no way she could afford it. However, the woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, said she might try anyway.

“I looked around at this whole area and it’s $2,000 for a studio, at least, and that has no utilities (included),” she reasoned.

She had looked into the lottery the first time around and said she earned slightly more than the maximum amount allowed for the lower income bracket of 80 percent area median income. Now living in Oklahoma, she was in town to clean up her mother’s $1,400-a-month apartment following her recent death. Her mother had lived in Stuy Town for 50 years and her daughter said she wished she could move back to her old apartment. “Maybe I’ll apply. My son doesn’t like living in Oklahoma,” she said.

But one person, who entered the lottery last year, said so far the experience has been frustrating.

“The city was proud to announce that 5,000 units at Stuy Town would remain affordable, and they claimed that Stuy Town would remain a place to live for low to middle-income New Yorkers like nurses, teachers,” he said. “However, 90 percent of these affordable units are being awarded to those making no less than $84,150 a year. I don’t know any teachers or nurses who make that kind of a salary.”

The man, who wanted to remain anonymous, added, “The real prizes in the lottery are the lower income bracket units. But there are so few of them, and I haven’t heard whether any of them have been awarded.”

(A spokesperson for Blackstone and management we checked with said tenants have moved into those units.)

Also wary of the reduced rents was Marina Metalios, a stabilized tenant in Stuy Town as well as a tenant activist and employee of UHAB, an organization that helps create and support low-income co-ops.

After reading a notice slipped under her door about the lottery, Metalios said, “Yes, the units’ rents are under market, but affordable to whom? I have seen often that the affordable units in a project are priced right under the income cap. So if the AMI is 165 percent, for example, the rents will be set for those at 164 or 165 percent AMI. I am sure on paper the projected rents are affordable for those who are income-eligible. Usually the incomes get poured into a formula and the rents pop out at the other end. But the question is not to me what is the AMI cutoff, but at what AMI were these rents set to be affordable to? I cannot tell.”

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