ST/PCV apartment lottery reopening

ST buildings

By Sabina Mollot

The last time the Stuyvesant Town apartment lottery opened was in January, with slots only being made available for applicants in the upper tier of income levels, meaning those who earn a maximum of 165 percent of the area median income. As part of owner Blackstone’s deal with the city in 2015, as apartments have become available in the complex, half become market rate while the other half become available to lottery tenants. Of the lottery apartments, 90 percent of them go to tenants earning up to 165 percent of the AMI, the other 10 percent going to those earning a maximum of 80 percent of the AMI.

However, the lottery is once again reopening, and this time, applicants in both income tiers are eligible to apply for apartments, which are available in a variety of sizes in Stuy Town as well as Peter Cooper Village. The deadline to apply is October 11 and applications can be done online at stuytownlottery.com. To request an application by mail, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village Wait List, Peter Stuyvesant Station, P.O. Box 1287, New York, NY, 10009.

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Most 2-bedroom apts. in NYC unaffordable to current residents

ST buildings

In the 10009 zip code, the average asking rent is $3,610.

By Sabina Mollot

New Yorkers looking to grow their families should take note: Two-bedroom apartments located in over half of the zip codes in this city are unaffordable based on what those areas’ current residents earn.

RentHop, an apartment listings website that often conducts studies on neighborhood trends (from dog poop offenses to where there are the most rat sightings) has concluded the lack of affordability based on current asking rents in each zip code.

The study, released in July, notes that affordability is based on whether a household earns 40 times the amount of what a month’s rent costs in their annual incomes, which would mean about 30 percent of the household’s income goes toward rent. Some landlords require tenants to earn this much before leasing to them.

Using this formula, of 52 percent of the zip codes looked into, median rents for two-bedroom apartments were not only unaffordable, but they exceeded half the household income, effectively rent-burdening the occupants.

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Blueprint for affordable housing

WatersidePlaza

By Council Member Keith Powers and Assembly Member Harvey Epstein

As rents continue to climb, the city is working to create, preserve, and secure affordable housing for New Yorkers. Last week, we announced a breakthrough.

In each of our first years in office, we have had the honor of working on a deal that achieves something many dream of but too rarely comes true: a rent reduction for tenants. Over the past several months, we have been involved in negotiations with Waterside Plaza ownership, the Waterside Tenants Association (WTA), led by President Janet Handal, and the City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) on an affordable housing preservation deal that does just that.

The proposed deal provides substantial relief for rent-burdened tenants, permanently freezes the rent in dozens of apartments, and preserves affordable housing on a generational scale through 2098. The guaranteed 75 years of rent protections for hundreds of apartments combined with the immediate relief to tenants whose rent has been steadily increasing demonstrate a groundbreaking model for affordable housing in New York City.

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Affordability deal proposed for Waterside Plaza

Sept12 Waterside

Waterside Plaza

By Sabina Mollot

The owner of Waterside Plaza, Richard Ravitch, has entered into a tentative deal with the city to help preserve affordability at the complex in 325 apartments occupied by “settling tenants.”

Those tenants had entered into an agreement with the owner after the property left the affordable Mitchell-Lama program at the turn of the millennium to pay a fixed increase each year, which is currently 4.25 percent. In those apartments, about 30 percent of Waterside’s housing stock, the majority of their occupants are seniors.

Under the agreement, which still must go through a ULURP process and get the approval of Community Board 6, the borough president and the City Council, tenants in those 325 apartments will all see some sort of rent relief.

For tenants earning under 165 percent of the area median income and paying over 30 percent of their household incomes in rent — effectively making them rent-burdened — their rents will become 30 percent of whatever their incomes are. Currently, 165 percent of the AMI is $120,615 for one person, $154,935 for a family of three and $185,995 for a family of five.

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Teachout: More tenant protection needed against predatory equity

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Zephyr Teachout discusses her platform in front of a Jared-Kushner-owned building. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Attorney General candidate Zephyr Teachout has announced specific tenant-friendly objectives she would implement in the office if elected in response to reports that 19 tenants are suing Jared Kushner’s real estate company for pushing them out of their rent stabilized apartments.

Teachout’s agenda, which she announced on Monday in front of the Kushner-owned building in Williamsburg whose tenants have filed the lawsuit, includes creating an ombudsman position that would be responsible for engagement with tenant groups and organizers to respond to complaints and increasing criminal prosecutions in the Real Estate Enforcement Unit, a division of the AG’s office that investigates and prosecutes cases involving bank fraud, deceptive lending practices, tenant harassment and other real estate-related crimes.

“These crimes are committed every day by real estate companies in New York,” she said. “If we really want to change their behavior, we have to go after them criminally and not just civilly.”

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Rents will go up by 1.5, 2.5 percent

Tenants protest the dearth and death of affordable housing at the final vote of the Rent Guidelines Board. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Rent Guidelines Board approved 1.5 and 2.5 percent increases for rent-stabilized tenants in the board’s final vote at Cooper Union’s Great Hall last Tuesday evening. The event attracted the usual crowd of chanting tenants, most calling for a rent freeze at the vote and pre-event rally and some even hoping for a rollback, but the increases proposed by RGB chair Kathleen Roberts passed in a narrow 5 to 4 vote.

While the annual vote usually ends with a proposal that is a compromise between high increases from the board’s landlord representatives and low increases, or often a rent freeze, from the tenant representatives, a public member voted differently than members in the same position have in the past.

Rodrigo Camarena, who Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed this year, voted with the tenant representatives for a rent freeze while the other public members, as well as the owner members and the chair, voted against the measure.

“For the vulnerable, for the displaced, for fairness, I vote yes,” Camarena said when casting his vote.

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Lottery reopens in Stuyvesant Town

Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Stuyvesant Town’s apartment lottery has reopened, this time for applicants earning a maximum 165 percent of the area median income (AMI).

The lottery opened on January 16 and would-be residents (and current residents) have the opportunity to apply until February 21, 2018. The waiting list for people who’ve already applied is still active, so no further action is required on their part.

Applications are currently being accepted for one-bedroom apartments at $2,889 and two-bedrooms for $3,543 in Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village. An advertisement for the lottery puts the income limits for the one-bedroom apartments at $110,220 for a single person, $126,060 for two people and $141,735 for three. For the two-bedroom, income limits are $126,060 for two people, $141,735 for three, $157,410 for four people and $170,115 for five. Applicants also can’t have more than $250,000 in assets though sometimes there are exceptions with regards to retirement accounts.

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Hotel 17 reopens with ‘extended stay’ model

Hotel 17 shut down regular hotel operations to comply with the Illegal Hotels Law. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Hotel 17, the Stuyvesant Square budget hotel that closed in April due to zoning issues, has recently reinvented itself as an extended stay hotel.

The 160-room hotel, which is located at 225 East 17th Street, notes on its website in several places that it’s now “extended stay,” meaning guests must book a room for 30 days or longer.

Doing this keeps the building, which was never actually zoned as a hotel, in compliance with the city’s Illegal Hotels Law. The law forbids buildings that are zoned as residential from renting units for under 30 days. Hotel 17 operated openly as a hotel for decades but a few years ago found itself in trouble with the city upon a crackdown on short-term rentals.

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Rent will go up 1.25, 2 percent

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Tenants play limbo at the vote. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The city’s rent-stabilized renters will be seeing increases of 1.25 percent for one-year leases and 2 percent for two-year leases.

The increases were voted on by the Rent Guidelines Board on Tuesday evening, after two years of rent freezes for one-year leases, frustrating tenants as well as landlords.

Tenant advocates and community groups were pushing for at least another freeze and in many cases a rollback, but owner representatives felt that the increases didn’t go far enough.

Tenant member Harvey Epstein said in his remarks prior to introducing the proposal that ultimately passed that he and Sheila Garcia, the second tenant member on the board, knew tenants needed a rollback or at least a freeze, but he said that neither were possible at this year’s vote.

“It’s our job to do the best we can and live with the political realities,” Epstein said. “We take this job seriously and today is the first day to move to a better system.”

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Baruch professor appointed as a public member of RGB

Hilary Botein said she was surprised to be asked to serve on the board. (Photo courtesy of Hilary Botein)

By Sabina Mollot

Last Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced two new appointments to the Rent Guidelines Board — the same day the board held its first meeting to help determine this year’s rent increase (or freeze) for over a million households.

One was real estate professor and lawyer David Reiss. The other was Hilary Botein, an attorney and associate professor at Baruch College’s Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, who teaches courses on housing and community development policy. Both she and Reiss are now public members, replacing K. Sabeel Rahman and Steven Flax.

Reached on the phone after Botein attended her first RGB meeting as an active participant, she told Town & Village the call from the mayor’s office came as a surprise. However, saying yes to the unpaid position wasn’t difficult for Botein, who’s been to many RGB hearings and meetings as an observer and has also sent her students to the often raucous forum for assignments.

“It is a lot of work and a big responsibility,” she said, “but I also felt it was an opportunity to bring my experience and knowledge of housing in New York to (impact) millions of people.”

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Tenants rally for rent rollback before first RGB meeting

Tenants rallied outside 1 Centre Street on Thursday (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Rent stabilized tenants geared up for the upcoming Rent Guidelines Board vote at a rally before the board’s first public meeting of the year this past Thursday morning. Encouraged by a recent ruling by the New York Supreme Court, tenant advocates pushed for a rent rollback.

“As Judge Debra James ruled in her courtroom on Tuesday, the RGB must consider tenant affordability, along with landlord expenses, income and profit,” said Anne Cunningham, a tenant of a residential hotel on the Upper West Side who has been coming to RGB-related housings rights protests for more than 30 years. “And when the RGB votes, they must consider a rent rollback for tenants as a fair and reasonable rent adjustment.”

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Rent freeze stays

Tenants protest the lawsuit last September. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday, a judge ruled against a landlord group that had sued to undo the rent freeze for over a million stabilized tenants in New York City.

The fight might not be over though since the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents over 25,000 property owners in the city, later tweeted that it would review Judge Debra James’ decision and “seek grounds for appeal.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio, meanwhile, cheered the news, and while discussing it on Tuesday, also brought up the mansion tax, saying this would create affordable housing for 25,000 more New Yorkers.

“Everyone who has struggled to pay the rent ― here’s the good news ― the people won and the landlords lost,” de Blasio said.

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Former Post Office site developers give up on trying to add height

Ryan Singer, executive director of the Board of Standards and Appeals, tells protesters the application has been withdrawn. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The developers of the former Peter Stuyvesant Post Office site have given up on trying to get the green light to add another story to their planned East 14th Street residential building.

The announcement that Benenson Capital Partners and Mack Real Estate Group had withdrawn their application was made on Tuesday morning. The news, delivered by Ryan Singer, executive director of the Board of Standards and Appeals, to a group of mostly union member protesters across the street from the BSA building on Reade Street, elicited cheers.

“The process worked the way it should,” Singer said. “Based on comments from the board yesterday, they felt they could no longer pursue the variance.”

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