Brookfield in talks to invest in Waterside Plaza

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Waterside Plaza (Photo courtesy of Waterside Plaza)

By Sabina Mollot

Richard Ravitch is looking to find an equity partner for has Waterside Plaza apartment complex on the East River.

City Council Member Keith Powers, whose constituency includes the 1,470-unit former Mitchell Lama complex, said ownership is in “early stage talks” with potential investors, including real estate industry giant Brookfield.

“We know in the short-term it’s to have equity,” said Powers, who made the comments after Bloomberg reported Ravitch was looking to sell Waterside Plaza for up to $600 million.

Powers told Town & Village he spoke with management of the complex after the Bloomberg report surfaced.

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Here we go again: Stuy Town reported to be for sale

ST buildings

Stuyvesant Town buildings

By Sabina Mollot

Over five years after taking control of the property, CWCapital is preparing Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village for a sale, Bloomberg news reported on Saturday.

The article went on to name Blackstone Group LP as a likely bidder, with others possibly in the mix, though not Brookfield Asset Management. That company, which had announced a partnership with the ST-PCV Tenants Association four years ago with a plan for a non-eviction condominium conversion, is no longer involved, a rep for Brookfield said.

Meanwhile, it’s possible a future deal could secure $5-$6 billion. The latter figure would be more than the historic $5.4 billion paid by Tishman Speyer and partner BlackRock in 2006, with the article citing a strong residential market in Manhattan.

Additionally, the report said, “Blackstone’s real estate chief, Jon Gray, said this month that he was bullish on Manhattan rentals because it’s too costly for many residents to buy.”

Peter Rose, a spokesperson for Blackstone, did not immediately return a call requesting comment. Brian Moriarty, a spokesperson for CWCapital, did not respond to a request for comment.

UPDATE: Joe DePlasco, a spokesperson for CW, issued a statement on Monday, saying, “We are pleased that we have finalized in principle the settlement of the outstanding litigation. CWCapital retained Doug Harmon at Eastdil Secured to advise throughout the process.”

The statement from DePlasco didn’t elaborate on the terms of the settlement.

However, CW’s effort to sell has been hampered by a lawsuit filed by junior lenders represented by a company called Centerbridge Partners. The lenders had hoped for a chance to buy a key piece of the junior or mezzanine debt and accused CW of violating an intercreditor agreement when the servicer took title of the property through a deed last year instead of holding a foreclosure sale.

A spokesperson for EastDil didn’t immediately return a call requesting comment.

Susan Steinberg, the president of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, was out of town on Monday, and not available to be interviewed. Council Member Dan Garodnick, a Peter Cooper Village resident, was also unavailable for an interview on Monday morning.

However, he’d previously told Bloomberg, “The tenants are going to insist that the owners work directly with them and with the city to develop a responsible plan to protect the long-term affordability of the place.”

Garodnick has previously met with Mayor Bill de Blasio on a plan to maintain affordability in ST/PCV, that is, in the roughly 6,000 units that are still affordable. On Monday, Wiley Norvell, a spokesperson for the mayor, said the mayor still wanted to preserve affordability.

“Protecting this community’s legacy as a home for New York City’s middle class is a top priority for Mayor de Blasio,” Norvell said. “We will press any owner to preserve affordable housing.”

Andrew Willis, a spokesperson for Brookfield, confirmed that the company was “no longer in the process” of bidding, although he said he didn’t know the reason for the decision.

Johann Hamilton, a spokesperson for the Real Estate Board of New York, whose chair is Tishman Speyer president and CEO Rob Speyer, declined to comment.

This story will be updated.

Letters to the editor, Sept. 18

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Does noisy work have to be done at 7 a.m.?

To the Editor:

The other day around 9:30 a.m. I passed a group of PCV/ST workers sitting on a bench taking a coffee break. Their leaf blowers were resting quietly on the ground along with a large pile of leaves. It was quiet, but it was very noisy earlier when these leaf blowers were operating their loud machines, probably around 7 a.m.

I say 7 because on another occasion at 7, I called Public Safety to complain about these early morning noises which make it impossible for many residents like me to get adequate sleep. Public Safety identified that morning’s noise as a street sweeper and referred me to Resident Services. The woman at Resident Services told me that this noise was necessary because management “has to maintain the property.”

When I informed her of NYC’s law prohibiting loud machine noises before 8 a.m., she referred me to the property manager. But when I called the property manager, she wasn’t answering her phone so I left a message to call me back regarding the noisy machines. She still hasn’t returned my call and I’m betting she never will. After all, what could she say?

On pcvstliving.com, management states, “We are dedicated to providing the most comfortable and convenient experience for our residents.” Also, management’s “noise policy” urges residents to “Be mindful and considerate of neighbors during traditionally quiet hours (late night and early morning).”

Furthermore, “it is expected that you will do everything possible to diminish the transmission of sound and noise.”

Huh? Is this the same management that doesn’t return residents’ calls about excessive noise? The same management that has street sweepers, lawn mowers, leaf blowers and other loud machines destroying the peace and quiet of those “traditionally quiet hours (late night and early morning)?” The same management that expects residents to “do everything possible to diminish the transmission of sound and noise”?

Noise is definitely a quality of life issue and both management and residents should be expected “to do everything possible” to maintain at least a reasonable, if not high, quality of life for humans on the property, not just the physical property itself.

After all, what’s more important, humans or property maintenance? So would it be possible for our dedicated, mindful and considerate management to schedule the operation of all those loud noisy machines at the same time when the PCVST workers were having their coffee break at 9:30 a.m.? It’s very simple really. All the quiet work and coffee breaks could be scheduled in the early morning while the loud and noisy work would be performed after 9:30.

It would be nice to be awakened in “those traditionally quiet hours” of early morning with the comfortable experience of bird song instead of Armageddon.

John Cappelletti, ST

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Lieutenant governor hopeful takes tour of Stuy Town

Kathy Hochul gets an earful from tenants and local elected officials during a walk through the complex. (Pictured) Council Member Dan Garonick introduces her to Public Safety Chief Bill McClellan. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Kathy Hochul gets an earful from tenants and local elected officials during a walk through the complex. (Pictured) Council Member Dan Garonick introduces her to Public Safety Chief Bill McClellan. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, which has recently enlisted the aid of the de Blasio administration in an effort to maintain some affordability in the complex, is also now hoping it will have an ally in Kathy Hochul, Governor Cuomo’s choice for the next lieutenant governor.

On Thursday afternoon, Hochul joined Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg along with a handful of TA volunteers on a stroll through Stuy Town, and got filled in on tenants’ more pressing concerns. She’d come at the request of Council Member Dan Garodnick, who was also there with Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh. Prior to the walk through the grounds, Hochul, a former Congresswoman asked the small group, “What’s on your mind?”

“You got a whole afternoon?” was Steinberg’s answer.

Tenants then began chiming in about the dormification of the community with students packing into apartments in order to make the rent affordable, major capital improvements (MCI) for what often seems like unnecessary work — and tenants’ frustration at having to pay for those improvements in perpetuity — and the fear of both longterm and newer tenants of getting priced out. Other topics brought up included more longterm tenants’ fear of harassment, increased transience and questions about what will happen to the rents when the J-51 tax abatement expires in the year 2020. Steinberg also briefed Hochul on the TA’s partnership with developer Brookfield aimed at a condo conversion as well as CW’s lack of interest in talking business with them. Al Doyle, the former president of the Tenants Association, brought up the ongoing issue of predatory equity throughout the city, with Stuy Town, of course, being the poster child for the practice.

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Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and Kathy Hochul (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Kavanagh and Garodnick brought up that they wanted to see the rent laws get strengthened, but the State Senate hasn’t exactly been friendly to tenants. While refraining from making any promises, Hochul said she thought the community is “worth fighting for.” If she becomes lieutenant governor, she pointed out, she’d have the tie-breaking vote in the event of a deadlock in Albany. From 2011-2013, Hochul represented New York’s 26th District, which includes the areas of Buffalo and Niagara Falls.

During her time in Congress, she lived with colleague Carolyn Maloney in Washington.

“We used to say that we should have a reality show, ‘The Real Women in Congress,’” said Hochul. When asked how Maloney was as a roommate, Hochul admitted, “She’s a lot cleaner than I am.” As for the current state of the Congress, Hochul casually remarked that it’s “the most dysfunctional government on the planet.” However, she added quickly, “There are still a lot of good people out there.”

Hochul also touted her experience, claiming she’d helped make the Department of Motor Vehicles “a more positive experience” when she served as county clerk and when in Congress, fought with other Democrats “like pit bulls” to get more cash for restoration after Hurricane Sandy than Republicans wanted to allocate. During the walk through the grounds, Hochul said that from what she’s seen, “Everybody wants the same thing. A safe house, a job, their kids to get a good education. It’s universal. It’s not downstate or upstate. This is what the governor and I are focused on.”

Steinberg pointed out some positive aspects of the community like the playgrounds, a few of which recently got new water features, and the hayrides for kids that take place each Halloween. When passing by the Oval Café/Playground 9 area, Hochul remarked, “I’d like to live here.”

When the group walked past the Public Safety office, Garodnick, realizing officers might think tenants were about to rally, made a point to say hello and introduce Hochul to Public Safety Chief Bill McClellan. Soon afterwards, Hochul left the complex at First Avenue and the crowd dispersed.

Hochul (right) listens to tenants, including Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg and Council Member Dan Garodnick, discuss quality of life issues and dwindling affordability in Stuy Town. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Hochul (right) listens to tenants, including Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg and Council Member Dan Garodnick, discuss quality of life issues and dwindling affordability in Stuy Town. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Steinberg then said that she did feel Hochul was genuinely listening to tenants. “I think she got it,” Steinberg said. Kavanagh also said he thought she’d make “a strong partner in the executive branch,” and support tenants, while Garodnick also said he believed Hochul would be in tenants’ corner. “She is clearly a serious and thoughtful person who was willing to take the time to understand our unique challenges,” Garodnick said.

Doyle, meanwhile, just seemed happy that the would-be lieutenant governor got to hear firsthand from tenants how all the different types of rent increases were impacting the community.

“Homeowners outside the city, when we tell them how (an MCI) is a permanent increase, they don’t believe us,” he said.

Following the stroll, T&V asked what Hochul’s thoughts were on the Cuomo administration doing something to preserve dwindling stability and affordability in the community.

Responding in a written statement, she said, “Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village are critical to keeping New York affordable. I will work closely with the governor, along with the office of New York State Homes and Community Renewal, to ensure that the rights of thousands of rent-regulated tenants are maintained and preserved for generations to come.”

There was no response, though, when T&V asked Hochul’s campaign reps if she wanted to comment on investigation over corruption in the governor’s Moreland Commission. However, in an interview this week with Buffalo-based NBC news outlet WGRZ, she defended the commission, saying, “they had the independence to do what they needed to do.”

Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association will rally on day of foreclosure sale

ST-PCV Tenants Association President John Marsh, pictured in May, 2013 with local elected officials and tenants, protests a mid-lease increase. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

ST-PCV Tenants Association President John Marsh, pictured in May, 2013 with local elected officials and tenants, protests a mid-lease increase. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
Following reports that Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village’s special debt servicer, CWCapital’s own parent company, Fortress, intends to bid on the property on the day of a foreclosure sale, the ST-PCV Tenants Association has organized a rally to protest the way business is being quietly conducted.
Because the Fortress bid has been reported to be $4.7 billion, according to Bloomberg, TA President John Marsh said at that price, the pressure to make a profit is likely to create a repeat scenario of the Tishman Speyer purchase with its business plan of evicting tenants paying lower rents.
“Right this instant we all need to start talking about what we are going to do about Fortress and the other sharks circling us,” TA President John Marsh told neighbors on Facebook. “The writing is on the wall. It’s about to happen again. Tishman Speyer redux. The financial press is speculating, full of scenarios providing detailed financial road maps to our demise.
Another issue is the debate over whether a purchase by Fortress is a conflict of interest, which Susan Steinberg, chair of the Tenants Association, said is difficult to answer without looking at a contract that’s confidential.
“So nobody can read the clauses, and I think that would have been very helpful if some attorneys would have been able to take a look at it,” she said.
“To me,” Steinberg added, “it looks like insider trading. That’s my perception. But without having access to a basic document, it’s really hard to make a judgment call.”
She also said she thought it was disingenuous of the special servicer to refuse to talk business with the TA, after initially saying the company just wanted to wait until the “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” negotiations were concluded. “They were stringing us along,” said Steinberg.
The Tenants Association announced its own intention to bid, with partner Brookfield Asset Management, in 2011. The TA/Brookfield bid has never had a dollar amount attached to it and that has not changed. However, the TA has stressed that the bondholders would be made whole.
A spokesperson for CWCapital has previously declined to comment on the reported Fortress bid and was not immediately available for comment on the upcoming rally.
The purpose of the rally, the TA said, is to show any potential owner the political might of the tenants.
“It’s to let them know if they think we’re going to sit down and let them roll over us, they’re wrong,” said Steinberg. “If they think we can’t create trouble for them, they’re wrong. We expect the elected officials to continue to support us.”
Marsh added, “We need a responsible owner, who takes the long view and not just someone looking to make a quick buck, getting in and getting out.”
On May 13, CWCapital announced it would begin foreclosure proceedings on a chunk of the mezzanine debt that’s reportedly worth $300 million and set a sale for June 13. By doing so it will be able to take over the property, at least temporarily.
The TA’s rally will begin that day, a Friday at 10 a.m. on the steps on City Hall. Local elected officials are expected to attend and the TA is asking tenants to show up as well.

CWCapital foreclosing on Stuy Town debt

Stuyvesant Town leasing office (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Stuyvesant Town leasing office (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
After years of remaining silent on its plans for putting Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village up for sale, CWCapital made a move on Tuesday to foreclose on the property’s mezzanine debt and then it was reported that Fortress, CW’s parent company, was preparing a $4.7 billion bid.
Neither Fortress or CWCapital would comment on that report, but in a brief written statement, the special servicer of the property, which also manages a chunk of the mezzanine or junior debt, said that a sale was scheduled to take place on June 13.
The company went on to say the action “will have no impact on our residents or on property operations.”
In response to the news, which was first reported in the New York Times, ST-PCV Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg said she was tired of seeing the community being treated “like a football.”
“Everything that went into building a unique residential complex for the middle class has been upended in the interest of the bottom line,” she said. “We are being punted towards a goal that isn’t ours.” She added that it was time to have tenants own the place. But that was before hearing about the potential Fortress bid.
The Tenants Association had partnered with Brookfield Asset Management in 2011 in the hopes of buying the complex and going condo. CWCapital had declined to negotiate though saying no business could be discussed until “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” was settled. But after the settlement, there was still no chatter about bidding or a conversion.
Council Member Dan Garodnick said anyone could bid in the foreclosure, but CWCapital itself could be the winning bidder, using its unique position as debt servicer.
“They could bid billions of dollars without writing a check,” he said, “Because they are owed money here.”
He added that the move to foreclose on the mezz debt wasn’t really a surprise, since technically the property’s already been in foreclosure for years.
“It just hasn’t been formalized because there hasn’t been any action to foreclose on the lenders,” said Garodnick. Ultimately, he said what matters is that tenants’ rights are preserved.
In an official statement, the Council member also said the great bidding war of ‘06, in which potential owners were wrongly led to believe the sky was the limit on what they could charge for rents, shouldn’t be repeated.
“We cannot allow an overheated auction with wild expectations that puts a target on the back of rent-stabilized tenants.” he said. “We have seen that movie before. Tenants, and the City of New York, cannot afford to let that happen again.”
That view was shared by Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, who said any developer with eyes on this particular prize needs to know that “This is a community that will stand up for itself.” He also said he hoped the real estate industry will have learned from Tishman Speyer’s mistakes of unrealistic expectations and disregard for the Rent Stabilization Law.
“They shouldn’t bank on being able to remove any of the tenants,” said Kavanagh. The “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” class action suit will keep ST/PCV stabilized until the J-51 tax abatement expires in 2020. On the other hand, with one-bedroom apartments in Stuy Town going for rents that start at close to $3,000, many of the newer residents of the community still consider themselves stabilized in name only.
Developer Richard LeFrak, who bid on the property in 2006, is possibly interested in doing so again, according to the Times piece. Another developer, Gerald Guterman, who’s openly expressed a desire to turn ST/PCV co-op, said that now he’s not sure what he wants to do.
Noting that the announcement by CW only gives potential bidders a month lead time, he quipped, “Fortress makes an offer today. You think it’s because they own CW and they’re not giving outsiders the opportunity? How do you have time to (plan) unless you are familiar with what’s going on?”
As for the reported bid amount, Guterman said he isn’t sure how that sale price could make it possible for current tenants to buy if given the option. He also wasn’t sure if the price is worth it considering all the students and others living in apartments converted with pressurized walls.
“It’s still a number where I could do it but I’m not sure I want to,” he said.
Meanwhile, last August, while still a candidate for mayor, Bill de Blasio penned an op-ed for this newspaper, saying the city should make sure ST/PCV remains affordable.
“While Peter Cooper Village-Stuyvesant Town is privately owned, the city has an obligation to keep its homes affordable for hardworking New Yorkers and their families,” he said. “PCV/ST was created through the power of the city and its use of eminent domain – therefore, it’s the responsibility of the city to ensure that these homes and other affordability housing are never beyond the reach of middle class New Yorkers.”
A spokesperson for the mayor did not respond to a request for comment on this story, but Garodnick said he learned that a tenant-led bid would have the support of the city’s housing commissioner, Vicki Been, and the deputy mayor for economic development, Alicia Glen.
News of the imminent sale comes on the heels of a settlement over five MCIs between CWCapital and the Tenants Association and word that “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” tenants will finally be paid the money they’re owed by CW.
With Tishman having paid a record-breaking price of $5.4 billion, along with $1.4 billion in mezzanine debt, there was $3 billion in senior debt (the lenders of which are represented by CW) and $1 billion in equity.

CWCapital to market ST for sale soon: report

ST-PCV Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg, pictured at a a rally against mid-lease rent increases in May (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

ST-PCV Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg, pictured at a a rally against mid-lease rent increases in May (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

CWCapital is expect to market Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village in the middle of this year, according to a report on Globest.com. However, the article goes on to say a sale is not expected to be completed in 2014.

CWCapital did not respond to a request for comment on the story, and has not spoken about the possibility of a sale for some time, explaining to the ST-PCV Tenants Association, a would-be buyer with partner Brookfield Asset Management, that talks could not happen until the resolution of “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer.” That could happen soon though, since according to the “Roberts” attorney for tenants, Alex Schmidt, checks for rent overpayments as a result of the class action lawsuit, could be headed tenants’ way from CW in January or February. Payments from former owner Met Life were sent out to affected tenants in late December.

However, the company could also be waiting to resolve the ongoing negotiations over five major capital improvement (MCI) rent increases with the Tenants Association. The TA said this week that talks were still ongoing over the MCIs, which were charged on tenants’ rent bills this month after being approved late last year by the state housing agency.

Meanwhile, Susan Steinberg, chair of the Tenants Association, said on Wednesday that the fact that CW could be marketing the property for a sale soon was not a new development.

“We had seen this statement in a similar report several months ago, so this does not come as a surprise,” she said. “CW doesn’t have to go far to ‘start marketing the asset,’ since all along the TA/Brookfield partnership has been ready, willing and able to start the conversation about a tenant-led purchase that would satisfy the bondholders. We would like to think such a conversation will happen before too long.”

Letters to the editor, Feb. 16

Black History Month is recognized in ST

Re: Letter, “Essential Black History Month,” T&V, Feb. 9

Dear Editor,
It is with great concern that I formulate this rebuttal to the recent reader comments that I read in your publication concerning Black History Month and Oval Essentials. Being one of the principals of the operations team that coordinates all programming, I take great pride in the offerings, service level and diversity of events that we put on monthly to enhance the entire resident experience here at Peter Cooper Village/Stuyvesant Town.

Let me start by stating that my intention is not to discredit these mistaken and misguided comments. But, rather to use this misinformed example as an opportunity to communicate to all of your readers the vastness of the offerings provided by the various teams working around the clock here at PCV/ST. Our goal is to develop and provide the most exciting and enriching programs at a minimum of cost to the participants, and quite frankly, I believe we succeed with flying colors.

For as low as $15 per month, residents have access to some 15 plus special events per month. We hold monthly How-To-Tuesday informative demonstrations that range from resume building to dating workshops. Recently we have held both salsa and tango dance classes. We put on free-for-all-residents parties centered on monthly pop culture and sporting events.  We also provide free tutoring for kids, monthly presentations from some of the city’s most interesting museums and our author lecture series. And, this doesn’t even begin to touch the surface of our myriad of children’s programs and fitness offerings. If the writer of these comments had taken the time to thoroughly explore all our offerings, she would have seen that in Oval Kids (just this week) we held an arts and crafts event centered around  Romare Bearden – the famed African-American artist and writer who worked in a variety of mediums including; cartoon, collage and oils. Upon further inspection of our monthly calendar, this writer would also have been informed of the two (2) Capoeira dance classes – the Brazilian dance/art form created by African slaves – that we are holding on February 22 and 29th. Continue reading