Waterside Plaza as seen from Stuyvesant Cove Park (Pictured last August) Photos by Sabina Mollot
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The City Council voted last Thursday to approve an agreement that will protect longtime Waterside Plaza tenants against substantial rent increases as part of a lease extension between the property and Housing Preservation and Development.
The agreement will allow tenants who have been living at the property since before Waterside left the Mitchell-Lama program and will be retiring soon to receive rent protections. City Council Member Keith Powers, who has been working with Assembly Member Harvey Epstein and the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development on negotiations for the deal for over a year, was able to negotiate an additional year with HPD so that tenants have until 2020 to retire and qualify for the rent protections, compared to 2019 when the plan was first announced.
“It’s not huge but it at least gives people who might be affected a better idea of how they should plan,” Powers said after the Council vote of the additional year.
Waterside Plaza as seen from Queens (Photo courtesy of Waterside Plaza)
By Sabina Mollot
Waterside residents who are getting close to retirement age — but don’t plan to retire by next year — are asking the city to expand on a deal that’s aimed at giving some kind of rent relief to the complex’s “settling” tenants.
The tentative agreement between landlord Richard Ravitch and the city, which was announced in August, would offer either rent reductions, rent freezes or lower annual increases to 325 settling tenants, depending on their incomes, for 75 years. Settling tenants are individuals who moved into Waterside when it was still in the Mitchell-Lama affordable housing program and later entered into a different agreement with the owner to have an annual rent increase that is now 4.25 percent.
The part of the recent deal that’s caused some controversy however, is an additional benefit offered to tenants who retire by the end of 2019. Those tenants will receive a one-time rent reduction to 30 percent of their household income.
As Town & Village previously reported, local elected officials and tenants have asked if the HPD would consider extending the retiree offer by several years, but the agency has already indicated this won’t happen.
The mayor’s office has announced a plan to protect affordability at remaining Mitchell-Lama developments throughout the city through additional financing of $250 million.
A representative from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development confirmed that the funding will be available for all Mitchell-Lama developments, meaning that the East Midtown Plaza complex west of First Avenue and East 24th Street will be getting some of the funds. The specific needs of individual developments will determine how the resources are used, but information on the exact amounts is not yet clear.
“The Mitchell-Lama Reinvestment Program will focus on preserving the long-term affordability of all residences currently enrolled in the program,” HPD representative Matthew Creegan said. “It will utilize an array of financing tools, determined by the individual needs of each project, as an incentive for these properties to remain in the program as stable, sustainable and affordable homes for years to come.”
The mayor’s office noted that the new program will target 15,000 homes over the next eight years. Known as the Mitchell-Lama Reinvestment Program, the initiative is part of the mayor’s plan to create and preserve affordable housing throughout the city by financing 200,000 affordable home and expanding to 300,000 affordable homes by 2026.
East Midtown Plaza resident Jeanne Poindexter, who is staunchly against privatizing the property (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Mitchell-Lama cooperative East Midtown Plaza is once again beginning the process to go private with a vote happening this Thursday evening.
The vote will be held at a special meeting that was called because the co-op’s board received a petition from more than 250 shareholders who support privatization. The property has been through this process in the past, with the last attempt at privatization resulting in a court case that sided with co-operators who were against the privatization, with a final decision made in November, 2012. Privatizing would allow residents to sell their homes at a profit. The special meeting this Thursday, which will be held at the NYU Dental School, is only open to shareholders.
The vote this Thursday is the first of three successive votes that shareholders will participate in to determine if the property will go private, and is for a feasibility study on whether or not the plan to go private is viable. The first vote only requires a simple majority of 51 percent of those who attend the meeting but the second and third votes require a two-thirds majority of all shareholders, rather than just those who show up at the meeting. The second vote is required to be held at least a year later where shareholders vote on a proposed offering plan on whether or not to continue to the next step. If the second vote passes, a “Black Book” offering plan is filed with the Attorney General, which proposes the form of a privatized co-op and the third vote, at least another year later, is taken on the completed, accepted and filed cooperative structure. If this vote passes, the property can privatize.
Richard Ravitch at Waterside’s 40th anniversary celebration (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
Waterside Plaza owner and developer Richard Ravitch, the former lieutenant governor of New York and one-time chair of the MTA, recently penned a memoir on his life as a public servant and builder that is also a cautionary tale about fiscal management. Now 80, Ravitch was at the forefront of reviving New York’s financial heartbeat during the 1970s, and tried to do the same for the MTA, almost getting shot in the process. He stood up for the financial well-being of tenants living in the homes he built while facing the realities of what it costs to develop and maintain regulated housing. Ravitch also ran for mayor and has served in numerous government advisory roles.
In April, he released his biography, So Much to Do ($27, Public Affairs), which has already had a second printing in New York. Recently, after returning from a literary tour, Ravitch talked with Town & Village about his book and his experience dealing with the effects of government borrowing while also attempting to fund services vital to New Yorkers…
By Maria Rocha-Buschel Town & Village newspaper has been providing news for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village for over 65 years and we’ve decided to start taking a look back to see what was going on in the community 50 years ago. Here are a couple of snapshots from the August 27, 1964 issue of Town & Village.
Bellevue South Redevelopment
Phipps Plaza, known as Kips Bay Court, between First and Second Avenues at East 26th Street (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
A handful of articles in this 1964 issue of Town & Village dealt with the city’s proposal for what was known then as the Bellevue South neighborhood, located between First and Second Avenues from East 23rd Street to East 30th Street. The urban redevelopment plan called for essentially bulldozing the entire seven-block area and rebuild to include more affordable housing. The project envisioned 17 residential buildings from six to 32 stories tall, containing 2,260 lower to middle-income apartments.
Residents of the neighborhood had recently drafted their own alternative plan in an attempt to fight the plan proposed by the city. The group presented themselves as the Bellevue South Planners Group and presented their proposal for the Board of Estimate. Their plan included the development of buildings which, by their description, sound similar to what Waterside Plaza became: low and middle-income housing surrounding a central park area and use of air rights above the FDR.
The plan was in contrast to that of the city’s, which they said would “plow through” 23rd to 30th Street, “uprooting thousands of tenants, destroying hundreds of businesses and ending employment for more than a thousand workers.”
Another story in this issue of T&V noted that residents had debated the merits of the city’s redevelopment plan at a public hearing the previous Thursday. Opponents of the plan insisted that the area wasn’t a slum and wanted to encourage the developers to consider making improvements on the existing buildings rather than razing the whole area. They also felt that the proper plans weren’t in place to relocate the residents and businesses that would be displaced.