Almost all NYC neighborhoods are unaffordable to current residents, based on apt. listing study

In Long Island City, with a $3,300 two-bedroom apartment median rent and a median household income of $28,378, tenants pay 139.54 percent of their incomes on rent. (Photo by King of Hearts/via RentHop.com)

By Sabina Mollot

In news that is certain to surprise absolutely no one, New York City fared the worst when compared to four other major cities in a study looking to determine which cities have the fewest neighborhoods with affordable two-bedroom apartments.

Additionally, in New York City, the neighborhoods with the highest low income to high rent ratio were the Lower East Side, Williamsburg and Long Island City.

Upper East Side-Carnegie Hill was actually the most affordable to the neighborhood’s own residents with an average household income of $155,213 and average two-bedroom rent of $3,555. The median income for all of NYC is $55,752 with a 2.4 person household.

The study was conducted by RentHop, an online apartment listings directory.

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Tenants and homeless protest side by side at ‘Cuomoville’

A protest for stronger rent laws spanned three days outside the governor’s midtown office. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Tenant activists, including some who are homeless, gathered in front of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s midtown office for three days last week from Wednesday evening to Saturday to demand rent reform in Albany.

A coalition of tenant groups organized the efforts, including New York Communities for Change, Tenant Power NY, Community Voices Heard and others. The groups dubbed the temporary encampment on the sidewalk “Cuomoville,” and linked the governor’s failure to enact stronger rent laws with the increase in homelessness throughout the city.

Gigi Morgan, an activist from Brooklyn who currently lives in a women’s shelter in Harlem, was at the protest on Friday morning after having slept there Thursday night and participating on Wednesday and Thursday.

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Hoylman takes aim at ‘high rent blight’

Various empty storefronts in State Senator Brad Hoylman’s District, the subject of his recent study, “Bleaker on Bleecker” (Photo collage courtesy of Brad Hoylman)

By Sabina Mollot

State Senator Brad Hoylman, whose district includes Stuyvesant Town, Gramercy, Chelsea and Greenwich Village, recently conducted a study that found a high percentage of vacant storefronts in the district, with some retail corridors about 10 percent vacant and on Bleecker Street, a vacancy rate of 18.4 percent.

This is no breaking news to area residents of course; but the senator’s study “Bleaker on Bleecker,” which focuses on what’s been dubbed “high rent blight,” has led to his offering a few proposals to combat the problem.

In particular, the phenomenon of landlords of choosing to keep a space vacant “suggests waiting for Marc Jacobs instead of renting to Jane Jacobs,” the study quotes economist Tim Wu as saying.

The study also mentions the closure last year of the Chelsea Associated Supermarket, which had seen its $32,000 rent jump by $100,000. The now-shuttered store had the same owners as the Associated in Stuyvesant Town, the future of which is still murky.

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Council candidates for District 2 agree to rezone Tech Hub area

The P.C. Richard & Son store on East 14th Street where the Tech Hub is proposed

Maria Rocha-Buschel

Three of the candidates running to replace term-limited Councilwoman Rosie Mendez in District 2 have all pledged their support for rezoning the area around the proposed “Tech Hub” on East 14th Street. The candidates committed their support at a candidate night hosted by historic preservation groups at the Third Street Music School on Monday night.

Nearly 100 concerned residents packed a recital hall in the East 11th Street building while District 2 candidates, as well as candidates running against incumbent Margaret Chin in District 1, fielded questions about their commitment to historic preservation in the neighborhood.

Candidates Erin Hussein, Carlina Rivera and Mary Silver, all Democrats, were all in attendance for the event, although Jasmine Sanchez and Ronnie Cho, who are also running for the seat, were unable to make it.

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Stuyvesant Town Associated is still waiting for answer on lease renewal

Stuyvesant Town’s Associated Supermarket (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Last week, following an op-ed being published in the newspaper The Villager in support of the Small Business Jobs and Survival Act, many Stuyvesant Town residents became alarmed after reading a sentence that mentioned the owner of the complex’s Associated supermarket was told he would not get a lease renewal.

Town & Village since reached out to Blackstone, and a spokesperson for the landlord, Paula Chirhart, said a final decision on whether to renew or not has not yet been made. Joseph Falzon, a co-owner of The Associated, confirmed this when we called although he added he wasn’t feeling confident that he’d get a renewal. He added that he was “99 percent sure” he wouldn’t.

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Protesters mourn loss of affordable housing

Tenant activists gather outside an event held by the Real Estate Board of New York. (Photo courtesy of Faith in New York)

By Sabina Mollot

A group of tenant activists, dressed in black, disrupted a real estate industry luncheon in midtown last Wednesday to mourn the loss of affordable housing in the city. One of the groups organizing the effort was Faith in New York along with Tenants and Neighbors, the latter of whom have a tradition of protesting at events held by the Real Estate Board of New York.

“REBNY has led the charge for pro-gentrification and pro-displacement policies across New York for decades,” Katie Goldstein, executive director of Tenants & Neighbors later said in a written statement. “We are here standing with faith leaders and tenants across New York to mourn the death of affordable housing as we actively organize against REBNY’s policies and practices.”

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Old Post Office site owners reduce height request

Rendering of 432-438 East 14th Street

By Sabina Mollot

The owners of the former Peter Stuyvesant Post Office, who’d proposed a 12-story residential building for the site, have since changed their request, by proposing a smaller, nine-story building instead. In January the owners, Benenson Capital Partners, partnering with Mack Real Estate Group, had gone to the Board of Standards and Appeals to request a zoning variance they’d need to build 12 stories since current zoning only allows for an eight-story structure. Their plan however was fought by community residents as well as the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

The owners’ most recent proposal, which would boost height 14.5 feet higher than what is currently allowable, has also already been blasted by the preservation group. The GVSHP has argued that a building that high is out of context for the East Village and has also claimed that the owners’ main reason for wanting the variance — higher than expected construction costs due to underground water and soil conditions — doesn’t constitute a unique hardship.

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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.

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14th St. developer grilled on height request

Commissioners of the Board of Standards and Appeals, including (from left to right) Chair Margery Perlmutter, Susan Hinkson and Eileen Montanez Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Commissioners of the Board of Standards and Appeals, including (from left to right) Chair Margery Perlmutter, Susan Hinkson and Eileen Montanez (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Board of Standards and Appeals accused developers of getting ahead of themselves in a rush to get a new apartment building started before the deadline for a lucrative tax break in the project at the old Peter Stuyvesant Post Office on East 14th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A.

BSA chair Margery Perlmutter said in a hearing this past Tuesday that Benenson Capital Partners and Mack Real Estate Group (MREG) “went ahead and, at enormous expense, installed foundation slabs even though their project wasn’t necessarily viable.”

The developers’ attorney John Egnatios-Beene, of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, argued at the hearing that the extra cost for building out the foundation was partially due to the construction of a full basement and the difficulties that resulted in building it due to the ground conditions. This rationale was given in addition to the developer’s previous argument that additional apartments were needed to make the project economically viable due to apartments that would be rented below market rate because of the building’s participation in the 421a affordable housing program.

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Rendering, details announced about new building for R&S Strauss site

Rendering of 644 East 14th Street

Rendering of 644 East 14th Street

By Sabina Mollot

Progress is being made to turn the former R&S Strauss site into a residential building.

Opal Holdings purchased the site of the former auto parts shop – across the street from Stuyvesant Town at 644 East 14th – in July.

The owner has since secured a $52 million first mortgage loan. The announcement was made by Madison Realty Capital, the firm that provided the financing, who also provided some details about the future building.

The plans for 644 East 14th Street include 50 residential units, 8,064 square feet of retail space with 200 feet of frontage on 14th Street and Avenue C, and 21,575 square feet of community facility space. Residential units (it wasn’t clear if they’d be co-ops, condos or rentals) will offer contemporary finishes and large balconies with East River views.

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Wait list opens for affordable apartments in Kips Bay

By Sabina Mollot

New Yorkers on the lookout for a more affordable home might want to consider Phipps Plaza South, two buildings located in Kips Bay, where there is currently a lottery for affordable apartments.

There is at this time just a small amount of vacancies, but there is also a wait list, according to a spokesperson for Phipps, which, this week, announced the opportunity via an ad. The reason for the announcement since most units are already filled is that the owner, nonprofit developer Phipps Houses, is required to periodically refresh the waiting list if it’s out of date or applicants fall below a certain number. This policy is a HUD requirement for Section at 8 at the property.

The two buildings are located at 330 East 26th Street and 444 Second Avenue and together have 404 apartments that are mostly low-income. None are market rate, according to the spokesperson, James Yolle, and it’s covered under a regulatory agreement until 2039 and will then become rent stabilized. Any unit rented goes to someone on the waiting list, which applicants can get on based on income limits.

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Landlord group files suit to stop city rent freeze

July14 RGB

The Rent Guidelines Board (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

 

By Christian Bautista

The city’s biggest landlord organization is looking to build a winning streak in the courts as it sues the Rent Guidelines Board over its decision to enact a rent freeze.

The Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 landlords of one million rent-stabilized apartments across the city, has lodged a lawsuit in Manhattan State Supreme Court, arguing that the RGB acted outside the scope of the Rent Stabilization Law when it voted 7-0 to freeze rents on one-year leases.

“Nowhere does the law provide that the RGB is supposed to consider the subject of affordability when determining rent guidelines. Affordability is an issue that should be addressed not by the RGB, but through government-sponsored rent relief subsidies to tenants actually in need,” said Joseph Strasburg, the president of the RSA.

“The RGB, through the rent freeze, is inappropriately and unlawfully providing a rent subsidy to all tenants regardless of need. The rent freeze is not based on need, but rather on the perceived inability of tenants to pay, and to accommodate de Blasio’s political agenda of gaining favor with a large segment of the city’s voting block. “

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Former Gramercy police precinct to be auctioned off

June30 21st Precinct

327 East 22nd Street, originally home to the 21st Precinct (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Two years ago, a Gramercy building that was once home to the NYPD’s 21st Precinct was sold to developer Sam Suzuki, who planned to convert the building to luxury condos.

However, the building, located at 327 East 22nd Street, is now scheduled to be sold at a public auction on Thursday, June 30 at 11 a.m. The upcoming sale, which was mentioned in a public notice in the New York Times, will take place at the New York County Courthouse and is being facilitated by Mission Capital Advisors. In the notice, the property is referred to as “SCPD Gramercy 1 LLC.”

In April, 2014, Suzuki bought the four-story building between First and Second Avenues for $11.5 million, securing an $18 million mortgage. As a condition of the sale, Suzuki also got 7,000 square feet of air rights. In February of 2015 the owner got a permit to demolish the property. However, today it still sits — at least the outside of it — boarded up and covered by a scaffolding. The permit to fully demolish the building expired this February, and the owner hasn’t since filed for a new one.

Prior to this, the building was used as a home for LGBT young people, and run by Green Chimneys, a nonprofit based in Brewster, New York, that owned the building.

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