TA member recalls first conversation with Blackstone

The ST-PCV Tenants Association’s John Sheehy (pictured) and Blackstone’s AJ Argarwal have neighboring properties in the Hamptons.

By Sabina Mollot

John Sheehy, treasurer of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, recalls exactly the moment when he learned of The Blackstone Group’s interest in Stuyvesant Town.

Sheehy, who has a summer home in East Hampton, has a neighbor in Blackstone’s AJ Argarwal, a senior managing director in real estate. Though they didn’t know each other particularly well, one day they happened to see each other as Argarwal was pulling into his driveway with his wife and Sheehy asked Argarwal if he had any interest in Stuyvesant Town.

His response: “Of course,” recalled Sheehy. It wouldn’t be until a year later, though, when the two men actually met again on the subject of Stuyvesant Town.

This was when he’d arranged for Agarwal, whom he called “a pleasant fellow,” to meet with then-Council Member Dan Garodnick at his midtown office. This was in October 2014, and the Tenants Association still had hopes of going condo.

But CWCapital hadn’t yet shown any interest in that plan.

“CW was saying, ‘We’re not ready to sell, and what’s all this talk about selling?’”

Garodnick, upon reflecting on the meeting, said even though at that time tenants were hoping to get a non-eviction conversion deal with Brookfield as a partner, they were also still exploring their options.

“We were still figuring out ways to get CW’s attention,” he said. “We were able to have conversations with people who might have an interest (in working with tenants) and this fell into that category.”

Eventually, the Tenants Association and Brookfield parted ways, “amicably,” Sheehy said, with the understanding that Brookfield couldn’t wait around forever for CW to talk business. Additionally, due to shifts in the real estate market, the possibility of residents being able to afford to buy, even at insider prices, was beginning to look less and less likely.

Sheehy said tenants had hoped for figures somewhere in the ballpark of $500 per square foot at an insider price. But with the value of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village starting to climb back up close to $5 billion – it was valued at $1.8 billion at a low point – Sheehy said this could have driven prices up to $1,600 per square foot.

Sheehy had certainly been one of the people hoping to own, as someone who’d been paying market rate since 1994. While he’d been in his Peter Cooper apartment since 1983, it was destabilized due to a couple of factors. His apartment at the time was one of seven in the complex that had originally been two units and combined into one. He has three full bedrooms as well as a fourth one that used to be a kitchen. The rent from this apartment combined with his income from the law firm where he worked, Rogers and Wells, meant he lost his stabilized status as soon as Albany allowed for luxury decontrol.

AJ Argarwal

As for that meeting with Garodnick, “That went great. That got the ball running,” said Sheehy. However, CW wouldn’t make its decision to sell until the following year.

“The next thing, I guess was in October (2015), when I get a call that the city and Blackstone had a meeting and that was with Nadeem Meghji (senior managing director and head of Real Estate Americas). AJ I guess was on another deal. But Nadeem was clear that they were not going to come if the Tenants Association didn’t approve. They don’t like to come where they’re not wanted. Brookfield also had this approach.”

Blackstone, Sheehy said, had said they were involved in what was referred to as “opportunistic” acquisitions of distressed properties where they would stay longterm. “They were not interested in quick in and out.” This is ultimately what convinced the Tenants Association since no one wanted to see the property sold again just to be flipped.

After being less than impressed with other possible suitors looking to acquire the property, the TA unanimously voted to approve Blackstone’s involvement.

Another meeting was held, this time at Blackstone’s office at 399 Park Avenue with Meghji, Sheehy, two other TA members, Garodnick and CWCapital managing director Andrew MacArthur. It was at this meeting that Sheehy said he and Garodnick pushed for a five-year extension for Roberts tenants (at annual, five percent increases) upon the tax abatement program expiration in 2020. Later, Blackstone and its partner on the acquisition, Ivanhoe Cambridge, agreed.

As for the fact that the deal struck in 2015 didn’t result in a condo conversion, Sheehy’s view is: “That wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was the market that did that to us.” He also blamed the disastrous debt structure orchestrated by Tishman Speyer that later led to CWCapital doing battle with some of the lenders.

On his having gotten a conversation started with the eventual owner, Sheehy said, “I don’t mean to overstate my role. I certainly didn’t see a finder’s fee.”

Sheehy also explained the delay between Argarwal’s initial interest and a meeting taking place by saying that despite most people’s perception of the Hamptons as party central, most people with homes there don’t socialize much with neighbors. “They like their privacy,” he said.

Sheehy, retired since 1996, also worked as an assistant district attorney and an assistant counsel to Governor Nelson Rockefeller.

25 thoughts on “TA member recalls first conversation with Blackstone

  1. Shocker… a board member of our corrupt TA is a neighbor of a Blackstone bigwig in the Hamptons. I’m not sure why this guy Sheehy would agree to run this article, as it paints the TA in a horrible light in all of this.

    We have had “Peter Stuyvesant” and other TA members say that they didn’t know about the Blackstone deal until it was already a done deal. This totally contradicts that. It makes Garodnick, Steinberg and the whole TA board look like the liars we all know they are.

    They think we will forget the things they have put in print in the past about this deal, but it’s all out there. Garodnick is gone, now I wish the TA would follow suit.

  2. So this POS from the TA is admitting his corruption and incompetence. He’s obviously proud of the fact that he was a major part of screwing over 30,000 renters. There’s a special place in hell reserved for you John Sheehy. FU!!!!

    • Slash and Scorpion (you are probably the same dope), Your comments are sick and unjustified. Show appreciation to the TA for their volunteering and care for the community. You on the other hand have a sick mind and prefer to post lame and disturbing comments. You need to get a life, and some professional help! Please consider moving.

  3. ST-PCV has many thousands of residents, but the so-called Tenants Association probably has a membership of less than 50. Perhaps this reptile Sheehy, their so called “Treasurer,” can explain where all the money awarded by the court to them in the Roberts settlement ended up? In his own pockets? (Even in the article photograph, one can note that almost nobody else is present at their ‘meeting’. And why is he smiling so happily?)
    If any Finder’s Fee was paid by Blackstone, it was most certainly ‘under the table’, to insure deniability.
    Plus he’d formerly worked with the late multi-millionaire politician Nelson Rockefeller: Maybe he was also acquainted with Ms. Megan Marshack, the 25 y.o. “aide” who was present (on her knees) when the old buzzard (still married at the time, of course) croaked? Did Marshack also provide similar ‘services’ to Sheehy? How much was SHE paid to keep quiet?

  4. A house in the Hamptons and a rent stabilized apartment here. Nice work if you can get it. The TA should be forced to open its books. If there’s no chicanery, they shouldn’t have a problem with that. I suspect that Donald Trump will produce his tax returns before the TA produces its financial statements!

    • Dumb ass, Did you actually Read the article? He doesn’t have rent stabilization!!
      How about showing appreciation to those who volunteer to make the community better?

      • L and NY, probably the same dope (using your wording), tells people what to do. I appreciate what the TA USED TO DO for us. This article states information from a TA board member which completely contradicts what the TA and Dan have told us up to this point about their knowledge of the sale.

        The TA hides way too much from us for me to “appreciate what these volunteers do.” Show me the financials and meeting minutes, and if they prove me wrong I will gladly apologize and never question the TA again.

      • I realized that after I read the article. My apologies. Maybe you could tone down the name-calling. I stand by my statement that the TA should open its books, which is something that non-profits are usually required to do. If there’s nothing to hide, then there’s nothing to worry about and it could well result in restoring the good will of tenants who have lost faith in the TA. Could very well boost membership.

  5. It is TA members who are “sick”–they all have Narcissism Personality Disorder. And these people “volunteer” only to enrich themselves. ($$$, for those who still don’t get it.)
    I’d moved out long ago; unfortunately, some family members still remain, unable to leave for financial reasons. And I now hesitate even to visit them.

  6. The criticism of John Sheehy and the TA Board is unwarranted.

    John has been a valuable and hard working Board member for eight years. He has served as Treasurer, Co-Chair of the Conversion Committee and Chair of the Executive Committee. In all these positions, he has provided the TA with the benefit of his knowledge and broad experience as both an attorney and former government official. The ad hominem (and anonymous) attacks against him are particularly inappropriate.

    It is absolutely untrue that the TA or any Board member received any financial benefit from Blackstone. No Board member or other TA volunteer has received any remuneration for the many hours they spend working on the proposed conversion, fighting MCIs, advocating for quality of life issues, organizing public meetings to keep tenants informed, lobbying in Albany on behalf of regulated tenants, or answering hundreds of tenant inquiries.

    Kevin J. Farrelly, Chair, TA Board of DIrectors

    • Wow, we got a response from the TA chair. Hey Kevin, open your books and meeting minutes and maybe we will believe you, until then you are just spewing more words on paper that hold no merit. If you guys aren’t doing anything fishy, this would be a non-issue and you would just show us all what we want to see.

      My attack is not against him, but rather ALL OF YOU!

      Also, this is not a person who draws ethical soundness – https://www.thelawyer.com/issues/24-november-2003/ex-rogers-wells-partner-pursues-lifetime-benefits-in-court/

      • Sorry Kevin but you are flat out wrong, it is more than warranted. Let’s see, he has a $5 million dollar home in the Hamptons, a combined (2 apartments in one) rent stabilized apartment, he was fired from his law firm for unethical behavior (which he failed to mention) and then he sues his former law firm for his benefits despite the fact he was fired for overcharging his clients for starters. Additionally, he either lied or is incompetent and believes his apartment was taken out of rent stabilization. Imagine a board member of the TA not aware of this. C’mon Kevin give us a break. Your organization is a complete failure. Probably not because you are all incompetent but more likely because you are all unethical. Why hide, if not? Prove your statements otherwise people will continue to believe you are all on the take. Plain and simple.

        P.S. I personally have no problem if you stop doing the things you purport to do to “help” tenants. With help like that who needs enemies, so to speak. The truth is real rent stabilized tenants owe you a big fat lawsuit for making them take the brunt of a recent MCI so the TA could suck up to what it called market stabilizers and cut them a break at others expense, simply so the TA could attempt to add to its paltry membership. What do you represent Kevin about 5% of tenants. Do us all a favor and go away!!

        • I am curious about this MCI distribution you are talking about. Kevin, is this true? Did the TA negotiate for a lower MCI distribution to “New stabilizers?” If it is true, any true RS tenant that remains with your group is a fool.

          I know you guys haven’t pursued the updated room counts for MCI’s, so this wouldn’t surprise me. Sometimes I wonder how you guys even show your faces around here.

    • Let’s start easy…

      1) What is the STPCV Tenants Association Foundation that was founded in 2013 (by you)? http://www.nonprofitlookup.com/profile/757041.html

      2) Garodnick and the Manhattan Delegation funneled $71,500 to the TA from 2014-2017. The TA also received the remaining Roberts Settlement money. The TA has accomplished absolutely ZERO since 2014, so where has this roughly $100k gone?

      Nothing is a secret anymore, and in this age of the internet the truth is always at our fingertips. Opening this information up to all tenants will either vindicate the suspicions surrounding the TA, or implicate the TA. I for one would re-join the TA (and recruit others) if everything is released, and the TA has been doing everything in their power to represent the tenants as best as possible over the past few years.

    • They will now remain quiet until this passes. I’m done letting them pass, so I Have started talking to some attorney friends. Enough is enough of them playing with the livelihoods of 30,000 tenants that they are supposed to represent.

      • They certainly seem to be hiding something and, in all truthfulness, I fail to see what they’ve done for the tenants over the past several years. I think they’ve done more harm than good.

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