Watchdog says affordability preserved through Stuy Town deal was exaggerated

de Blasio talking

Mayor Bill de Blasio and other elected officials with tenants in October, 2015 announcing the sale of Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

In October of 2015, a grinning Mayor Bill de Blasio stood alongside other elected officials to declare that the sale of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village to The Blackstone Group and partner Ivanhoe Cambridge was the “mother of all preservations deals.”

However, the Independent Budget Office of the City of New York (IBO) is now suggesting, in a report released Friday, that the amount of affordability preserved was inflated.

The IBO estimated that while the deal was supposed to preserve 100,000 “apartment years” (the equivalent of 5,000 apartments for 20 years), 64,000 of those apartment years would have remained affordable anyway through rent stabilization. This would mean the deal really only saved 36,000 apartment years, not 100,000. The report also noted that when the sale took place, just over 5,000 apartments were already renting at below-market rates due to rent stabilization.

While there has been plenty of debate over just how “affordable” the 5,000 apartments that are preserved and leased through a lottery system actually are, according to the IBO, only three percent of those 100,000 apartment years are reserved for low-income households. Twenty-seven percent are intended for middle income households while the remaining six percent of apartment years are units that will remain rent-stabilized longer than they would have without the deal. For its report, the IBO said it considered all of the newly created lottery apartments as well as ones that remain stabilized to be benefits to the city.

Additionally, the report indicated that the city used some misleading numbers at the time of the property sale.

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PSLL celebrates big wins and new division

The PSLL girls’ championship team members wear celebratory jackets at Con Ed Field. (Pictured) Olivia Sheh, Julianna Fabrizio, Sarah Acocelli, Camile Bernard, Dorie Levine, Amanda Haspel and Jordan Hayduk (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

By Saturday morning, a downpour that had gone on throughout the night cleared up just in time for one of Stuyvesant Town’s most important annual traditions, the Peter Stuyvesant Little League Parade.

Hundreds of kids, clad in their new, colorful uniforms, marched alongside former Mets player and coach Mookie Wilson from First Avenue to Con Ed Field, where they got a pep talk from Wilson and a ceremony highlighting the league’s recent victories.

Jeff Ourvan, the league’s president, discussed the $16,000 the PSLL just received as a result of the “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” lawsuit settlement. Ourvan said the funds, which came from unclaimed checks from the settlement, would be spent on batting cages as well as turf repairs.

Ourvan also praised players who last season, he noted, took home some impressive tournament wins.

Of a 13 and 14-year-old girls’ softball team, Ourvan said, “It was the first time in PSLL history we went on to play a state tournament.” The nine and 10-year-old baseball team and the 11 and 12-year-old team also each won a Manhattan championship.

“It shows you the quality of our league is improving,” he added.

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Third round of ‘Roberts’ checks may be on the way

ST buildingsBy Sabina Mollot

Last October, residents of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village who were represented in the “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” class action lawsuit saw a second wave of payouts from the initial $68.75 million pool.

Now it’s likely that there will be a third round of checks, according to Michael Liskow, who’s one of the attorneys representing tenants from the firm Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz.

As a condition of the second payout, if there was more than $100,000 left after a deadline for checks to be deposited passed, then there would be another distribution. If there was less than $100,000 left, then the remaining funds would be split among two local nonprofits, the ST-PCV Tenants Association and the Peter Stuyvesant Little League.

The 120-day deadline has already passed for most of the recipients but attorneys won’t know the exact amount that’s left in the pool until around March 15. This is when the deadline will have passed for all eligible class suit members. However, as of this week, there was over $150,000 left, Liskow said.

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More ‘Roberts’ money on the way for some Stuy Town residents

garodnick

Council Member Dan Garodnick discusses the payouts. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot 

Nearly 2,000 residents of Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village who were part of the “Roberts vs. Tishman Speyer” lawsuit, which proved apartments were illegally deregulated, will soon see another round of checks.

Attorneys on the case said there was about $450,000 left in unclaimed damages from the suit, which in 2013 resulted in a $173 million settlement for tenants ($68.75 million of that amount being cash and the rest in rent reductions).

On Saturday, the checks were discussed by City Council Member Dan Garodnick at a meeting of the ST-PCV Tenants Association.

Garodnick, who’s a resident of Peter Cooper Village, told neighbors that in order to be eligible for the money, the class action suit’s plaintiffs would have had to file as current, not former, tenants, and have received more than the minimum payout, which was $150. They also would have had to deposit their original check.

In this case, “The checks should be coming in the next few weeks,” he said. Residents will then have 120 days to deposit the money. After that, any unclaimed money, if less than $100,000, will be split evenly between two local nonprofits: the ST-PCV Tenants Association and the Peter Stuyvesant Little League.

According to Garodnick, there are 1,973 people who are eligible for the payout, which would make the average check around $228. This time, no one has to file any paperwork to get their damages.

“This was a big tenant win for our community and for the city,” said Garodnick, who was a member of the “Roberts” class action suit. “I am glad that those who were harmed continue to see compensation.”

Lawyers for tenants said there were over 27,000 tenants and former tenants who were awarded damages from former landlords Tishman Speyer and Met Life. The damages were 100 percent of what the tenants overpaid based on calculations from a very complicated settlement formula, minus 30 percent for legal fees and other fees.

Editorial: The city can, and should, help ST/PCV’s market rate residents

For the past couple of weeks, residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village have been able to talk about little else but what the latest sale of the property means for them — or doesn’t.

For the property’s market raters, those with stabilized leases paying market rent or close to it, the deal means nothing. Not only did it not include an option to buy, it didn’t guarantee insider preference for the stock of affordable units as they become available — or even eligibility. Those details have yet to be decided, with a lottery as one possibility.

While it is certainly encouraging to hear that the new owner wanted to make a deal that appealed to tenants, it is a shame that the residents in ST/PCV’s renovated units have been left out.

Obviously, securing their stability in this deal would have been far more expensive and complicated for the city, and that’s in all likelihood why this was not even attempted. (For over a year, the mayor’s office made it clear that its goal was to preserve affordability at some, not all of the apartments.

Originally, the goal was 6,000 units, with the explanation that there didn’t appear to be any way to turn back the clock for the “Roberts” and post-“Roberts” tenants.)

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Letters to the Editor, June 11

June11 Toon Republican

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Tenants Assoc. to Cuomo: Loopholes in rent laws are eroding Stuy Town’s stability

Dear Governor Cuomo,

I’m writing on behalf of the 25,000 residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. Our residents, as well as tenants throughout New York City, are facing the worst housing affordability crisis in the city’s history. This crisis is damaging the economic and social fabric not only of our city but of our state as well.

As our residents devote an ever-increasing percentage of their income to rent, the drop in their discretionary income has impacted local businesses.

We see more and more empty storefronts. Local businesses have not only experienced precipitous drops in sales, their own rents are rising. The small, individually owned stores that provided a great diversity of needed services are disappearing, replaced by an oversupply of chain pharmacies and banks.

The ST-PCV Community is at the center of the loss of affordable housing. Our apartments are currently rent regulated. However, in the wake of the NY State Court of Appeals decision Roberts v. Tishman-Speyer, which reregulated destabilized units, many of our apartments are renting at or above market rate.

We want new families – not just the transient renters who currently make up a large percentage of new residents – to be able to afford to come to ST-PCV, put down roots and return this community to what it was originally designed to be during the administration of Gov. Thomas E. Dewey.

However, excessive rent increases due to loopholes in the existing regulations are destroying the laws that keep New York affordable for more than one million people. One of these loopholes, known as preferential rent, slams preferential renters with hundreds-of-dollar increases at lease renewal time. Many of our neighbors, young families with preferential rents, are one lease renewal away from having to move.

Major capital improvements have also unfairly burdened tenants. Tacked on to the rent in perpetuity, this windfall for owners simply is not justified beyond the recovery of actual costs. It is unconscionable.

But the overarching issue which we hope you will support is repeal of Vacancy Deregulation, which has been responsible for the loss of thousands of rent-regulated apartments over recent years. This continued bleeding of affordability will ultimately destroy the city.

Thirty-one years ago, your father addressed our nation about a “shining city on a hill.” It was a vivid presentation about what people could accomplish with hard work and a little help from their government in times of need. We are doing the hard work. Now we need that help from our government so that people who work in this shining city can afford to live in it.

For the sake of our community’s future and for all other rent-stabilized middle- and lower-income New Yorkers, I urge you to give your full support for renewing and strengthening rent laws.

Sincerely,

John Marsh,
President, Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village
Tenants Association

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Pols tell tenants their stories are needed in rent law fight

 

Over 400 people listen as local state elected officials brief them on the uphill battle over the rent laws coming in June. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Over 400 people listen as local state elected officials brief them on the uphill battle over the rent laws coming in June. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
On Saturday, over 400 residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village gathered for a meeting held by the Tenants Association that focused on the upcoming expiration of rent laws and the uphill battle tenants would have in trying to get them strengthened.

Speakers briefed the audience on the current power dynamic in Albany, while also telling those in attendance that without tenants writing to Albany lawmakers, especially the governor, the effort is a lot less likely to succeed.

“If I go to Albany and say (to Governor Cuomo) two and half million people are going to be very upset with you, if that’s not clear in the streets and not in the mail in his email inbox, it’s very hard to believe,” said Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh.

Kavanagh was one of the speakers of the event, which was held at Simon Baruch Middle School, along with State Senator Brad Hoylman and TenantsPAC treasurer Mike McKee.

McKee told the crowd if the laws are renewed in their current state, “It would be a terrible defeat for tenants.” Referring to a recent Daily News article that quoted Cuomo as saying the laws and the controversial 421-a tax abatement for developers could possibly just be renewed and not changed, due to the federal investigations being conducted in Albany, McKee added, “I’m sorry, but that is crap.” McKee has said that 421-a is expected to be used as leverage during the rent law negotiations.

Both Hoylman and Kavanagh spoke about Albany’s power system and how with the Senate in the hands of Republicans whose campaigns are financed largely by real estate, the only hope for tenants is in swaying the Assembly, led by Carl Heastie, and the governor.

Meanwhile, Kavanagh has said he wants to close the “LLC loophole” that makes New York one of the few states where each LLC created counts as a separate campaign contributor, but, he admitted, “I’m not sure we’re going to do that this year.”

However, he added that recent media attention on the issue may prove helpful anyway.
“There may an opportunity to shame people into backing off,” he said.

Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, ST-PCV Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg and State Senator Brad Hoylman (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, ST-PCV Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg and State Senator Brad Hoylman (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

McKee said that while in the past, major decisions in Albany have been made behind closed doors by the “three men in a room” (the governor, the Assembly speaker and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos) this year there might be four — if Jeff Klein is allowed to participate. Klein is the head of the State Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group that caucuses with Republicans. McKee, who’s often blasted Klein as being a tool of the real estate industry, commented that his participation would only be to tenants’ disadvantage.

As for Skelos, McKee added, “Dean Skelos will not do anything voluntarily to help tenants or to hurt landlords. The Assembly has to do what’s called taking hostages. There are dozens of things everybody wants at the last minute. Some of it is minor stuff, nothing to do with housing even.”

One advantage of tenants, he added, is that with Heastie being new as speaker, “he has to prove himself. He has to be accountable not only to us but the members that elected him speaker.” Heastie has said he considers strengthening the rent laws a priority. That said, McKee warned, there’s still always the possibility a tough talking pol will “wimp out” at the eleventh hour. “There is always a wimp factor in Albany,” he sighed.

As for what tenants could do, he urged people to write to the aforementioned three men (letters rather than postcards), and get three neighbors to do the same as well as turn out, if possible for any upcoming rallies. One rally, organized by the Real Rent Reform campaign and the union 1199SEIU, which is aimed at strengthening the rent laws, is scheduled for Thursday, May 14 at 5 p.m. at Foley Square (corner of Centre and Worth Streets). The group will then march over the Brooklyn Bridge.

“We need a very big turnout,” said McKee.

Another rally is on Wednesday, May 6 in front of Cuomo’s Manhattan office at 633 Third Avenue (between 40th and 41st Streets) from 10 a.m.-noon.

He then claimed to have a plan aimed at shaming Cuomo into helping tenants. McKee declined to discuss this further. “That’s all I’m prepared to say,” he said later.

When taking his turn at the podium, Tenants Association President John Marsh echoed the sentiment of the other speakers, calling on neighbors to get involved. “If everyone takes a small step, we can have a very loud voice,” said Marsh.

He also mentioned a door-knocking campaign that he and Council Member Dan Garodnick led through ST/PCV the following day, with Garodnick’s two young sons in tow. Garodnick later said the building walk-throughs resulted in many tenants being appreciative of the reminder of the looming rent negotiations in June.

Kavanagh, when addressing the audience, said that while he realizes many new residents at ST/PCV probably feel the rent laws have no teeth when they look at the numbers on their rent bills, being rent regulated still offers New Yorkers protections they wouldn’t have otherwise.

“It prevents landlords from arbitrarily evicting tenants and that doesn’t exist for most tenants in the city,” he said.
Because of the outcome of the “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” lawsuit, all units in ST/PCV will be regulated until the property’s J-51 tax abatement expires in 2020.

Kavanagh reiterated the goals for strengthening the rent laws, which include repealing vacancy deregulation and other policies that give incentive to owners to vacate units such as vacancy bonuses and reforming the way individual apartment improvement (IAI) rent increases are issued. Reform of major capital increases (MCIs) is another goal.

Kavanagh also got a round of applause after saying he wanted to close the preferential rent loophole. Due to preferential rents, which are given to most new residents in renovated apartments in ST/PCV, rent increases can be far higher than those issued by the Rent Guidelines Board, if the tenants’ legal rents are higher than what they’ve been paying (the preferential rent).

“In our community it’s a particular problem due to the way ‘Roberts’ played out,” said Kavanagh. “(Tenants) are facing enormous increases.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who’d been sitting in the audience at the meeting, along with Garodnick, at one point, popped up to comment about preferential rents, which she said was happening all around the city.

“We go case by case and try to fight it but there is no great answer,” she admitted.

The meeting then concluded with a Q&A period, with most of the questions from the audience—which were limited to the topic of rent—being on the theme of MCIs. Tenants mainly asked why they were being forced to pay them. Hoylman and Kavanagh suggested that tenants’ use their frustration and personal experiences as inspiration to write to the governor.

When a woman asked where the mayor was in this fight, saying, “He seems to have had a low profile lately,” Kavanagh responded to say he thought the mayor would be more visible soon. “This is the time we roll out this fight and I think you’ll see the mayor rolling out this fight,” he said. Hoylman added that a lot is done “behind the scenes,” going on to note that this is part of Albany’s dysfunction.

When a man asked if strengthening of the rent laws would help a conversion effort, Kavanagh said he thought it would in that it would help thwart predatory bidders.

Another tenant then asked if it could work to tenants’ advantage if Skelos, who’s being investigated by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, were to be indicted. The answer, however, was that it wasn’t likely to have any impact during rent negotiations.

“If he’s indicted and forced to step down, it’s unlikely that he’d go to trial before June and you don’t have to leave office until you’re convicted,” said Hoylman. “It would have a greater impact next year than this year.”

Town & Village later contacted the office of the governor to ask his position on strengthening the rent laws. In response, a spokesperson emailed prepared statements made by Cuomo at the Association for a Better New York breakfast on rent laws and 421-a.
Included in the written statement was a comment that “At a maximum maybe we can make some fine modifications in both of them.”

“The 421-a, first I believe has to be extended and I believe that’s essential,” the statement read. On changes to it, which he said he believed were needed, he said, “If it was a different time in Albany, frankly, and Albany was a little bit more of a stable situation I would normally take those negotiations to Albany and try to work it out among the parties. Albany has a lot going on right now let’s say, so I’m hoping and I’m asking the parties to work out the disagreements among themselves or their desires for modifications. If they can great, in any event 421-a has to be extended.”

He went on to say, “Rent has to be extended. It is a New York City issue. If we don’t extend rent you would have chaos in the real estate market, these are rent regulations, rent stabilization etc. You would have chaos in the real estate market unlike anything we have seen because it regulates the private industry not another government. It lapses one day you will see real estate entities and landlords start rising rents and evicting tenants. I mean it would be immediate mass mayhem.

“So at a minimum we have to extend those protections but in truth, because everyone has been watching the situation, to have these final negotiations on these delicate points is going to be problematic this year. So, at a minimum rents extended 421-a, is extended. At a maximum maybe we can make some fine modifications in both of them. The democratic assembly is going to be more aggressive on extending rent than the senate Republicans. 421-a, both houses want.”

A spokesperson, Frank Sobrino, when asked if the governor could clarify what was meant by “fine modifications,” said this was a general statement in response to suggested changes. He also denied that the statements were an attempt to remain neutral.

“He said that ‘at a minimum,’ both rent regulations and 421-a must be extended,” said Sobrino. “That’s not neutral.”

Guterman: Tenants should organize and demand conversion

By Sabina Mollot

Gerald Guterman, the landlord and developer who’s previously expressed an interest in bidding on Stuyvesant Town and converting the place to a co-op, said this week that he is no longer interested in buying although he would like to participate as a consultant in a tenant-led effort to do so.

In a written statement he sent to Town & Village on Tuesday, Guterman said: “I do not believe that I will participate in any auction sale for STPCV. I would rather be helpful to an organized and laser focused tenant association. I can already feel the excitement and lifecycle satisfaction.”

Though CWCapital never agreed to discuss business with him, and the Tenants Association ultimately chose a different partner in its own effort to bid, Guterman still pitched his co-op plan to tenants, which he said would have cost them, on average, $315 a square foot for their apartments. However, those numbers were based on a winning bid of slightly over $3 billion. Following the recent news that CW was foreclosing and its own parent company Fortress was preparing a bid of $4.7 billion, Guterman told T&V he was no longer sure he was still interested in buying.

At this time, CWCapital is still in talks with the mayor’s office and local elected officials, working with the ST-PCV Tenants Association on a plan that would maintain affordability for apartments in the complex that are still in fact affordable.

CWCapital declined to comment on Guterman’s statements, which were aimed at urging tenants to organize and even take legal action to demand a conversion and other changes in the community. The Tenants Association also declined to comment.

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Not many tenants are challenging ‘Roberts’ non-payment deductions

By Sabina Mollot

Alex Schmidt

Alex Schmidt

Although over five thousand ST/PCV residents and former residents had non-payment deductions taken out of their “Roberts” damages checks, so far, it looks like only dozens are attempting to try to get that money back.

As of Monday, July 21, only 78 people had filed to object to CWCapital’s claims that the owner was entitled to the money. This was one week from the deadline to object, July 28.

Alex Schmidt, tenants’ attorney in “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer,” said he isn’t expecting that there will be too many additional objections before time is up since people with objections don’t typically wait until the last minute. As for why more tenants aren’t challenging the deductions, Schmidt guessed this is because more than half of the deductions were for amounts lower than $100 and that in other cases, tenants may have just been aware they owed the money.

At this time, Schmidt said he doesn’t know how much money tenants are fighting to get back or what kind of payments are in dispute. Attorneys won’t be calculating the total until all the challenges are in, since CWCapital has said it won’t negotiate until then.

Susan Steinberg, chair of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, said the Association has heard from a number of tenants concerned about the accuracy of their deductions. However, the TA doesn’t know how many people went on to challenge them.

In addition to the 78 objections, Schmidt said 30 former tenants who were mistakenly paid from a pool of money intended for the distribution of damages to current tenants have also submitted claims. This is because current tenants had 30 percent of their damages taken out for legal fees and expenses. Former tenants meanwhile, got 110 percent of their damages (before MCI deductions) since there was more money left over in that pool due to fewer people filing. Schmidt said that is currently being corrected.

Former tenants hoping to fight their MCI (major capital improvement) deductions may have a tougher time, since, according to Schmidt, the owner is entitled to the money. It’s different, he said, if the former tenant thinks they might have been calculated improperly.

“Roberts” plaintiffs who want to challenge a deduction can do so by contacting the Berdon Claims Administration, either by email through the contact link on the BCA website, www.berdonclaims.com, or by calling (800) 766-3330.

‘Roberts’ payments should be sent out next week

Alex Schmidt

Alex Schmidt

In mid-May, Town & Village reported how “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer ” tenants would soon see their payments, specifically by the end of May, according to tenants’ attorney Alex Schmidt.

However, on May 30, Schmidt told T&V he had not yet gone to court to attempt to get the damages distributed, but attorneys would be going to court on Monday, June 2.

On Wednesday, June 4, he said a court order had been signed at around 3 p.m. that day to authorize the payments and checks should be going out next Thursday.

 

 

Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, CWCapital settle MCI dispute

Retroactive charges eliminated for all tenants who moved in before October, 2013, monthly charges eliminated for ‘Roberts’ and SCRIE/DRIE tenants and reduced by 5 percent for others

 

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

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

By Sabina Mollot
After months of negotiations, the Stuyvesant Town–Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association and CWCapital settled the dispute over the five major capital improvements (MCIs) that residents were socked with at once last fall. On Thursday morning, the state housing agency, the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, issued an order confirming the agreement, the Tenants Association announced.

The news, announced on the TA’s website, said that the settlement will “significantly reduce the impact of the recently approved MCIs for tenants.”
The settlement eliminates all of the retroactive charges for current tenants and reduces the monthly increases by 5 percent. “Roberts” tenants won’t be charged any monthly MCI, nor will SCRIE/DRIE tenants.
“The Tenants Association appreciates having been able to negotiate these issues amicably with CWCapital,” said TA Chair Susan Steinberg. “Residents have been saved a great deal of money in retroactive costs, which have been completely eliminated, and some relief in the MCI rent additions. Notably, the negotiations saved months of time and lots of money in legal filings and responses. The best news is that the outcome is at least as favorable to tenants as any we could have won the harder way.”
Andrew MacArthur, managing director of CWCapital Asset Management, also cheered the settlement.
“We are very pleased to have worked with the Tenants Association to reach a settlement,” said MacArthur. “We have worked closely with the TA to reach an agreement that mitigates the impact of the increases for our residents and brings finality to this dispute.”
The five MCI orders cover video intercoms, a security system, a video command center, water tanks/valves and repaving of the walkways. Two of the orders impact residents in Peter Cooper Village and three of them impact Stuyvesant Town residents.
The MCIs were requested by previous owner Tishman Speyer in 2009. After they were all approved by the DHCR in the fall,

Tenants pack a meeting on MCIs, held at the Simon Baruch Middle School auditorium last fall. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Tenants pack a meeting on MCIs, held at the Simon Baruch Middle School auditorium last fall.
(Photo by Sabina Mollot)

the TA said it would be challenging them. In response, CWCapital made an offer to reduce the MCIs’ retroactive portion for tenants who’d agree not to challenge them, but the TA cautioned residents not to sign on to the offer. Negotiations between the TA and CW began soon after that.
“Squeezing every penny out of residents through MCIs long ago became a common practice in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick. “The Tenants Association wisely took advantage of an opportunity to negotiate a deal with CWCapital that will save tens of millions of dollars for residents over the next ten years. This is a victory for tenants that will mitigate the damage of imperfect law that favors landlords, and I am grateful for the Tenants Association’s efforts.”

Meanwhile, the settlement could still be nullified through additional challenges by individual tenants through PARs (petitions for administrative review.)
“Such PAR could result in the agreement being nullified in the sole discretion of the owner,” the TA said. “Nullification would result in forced repayment of the retroactive charges and any waived portion of the permanent charges by all tenants who benefited from the agreement. The possibility of nullification by the owner due to an ill-advised PAR is a very serious concern to the Tenants Association.”
Exceptions to this would be if a tenant filed a PAR for something like an inaccurate room count in his or her apartment, since MCI charges vary based on the amount of rooms.

According to the TA, a few more details of the settlement are as follows:
● All current residents are included in this settlement except those who moved in after the orders were issued (approximately October, 2013).
● The settlement is retroactive to January 1, 2014.
● Credits noted below will begin to appear on the May rent bill.
● In May, a retroactive credit will be added to the rent bill. This credit will include the benefit amount for January, February, March and April.
● The retroactive and permanent increase amounts noted below are all clearly stated in the MCI orders that residents received in the mail. This number is different for all residents and depends on many factors including: building, unit size and move-in date.
● If a resident cannot find his/her order, that resident is advised to call DHCR at 1-800-ASK-DHCR (1-800-275-3427) to request a duplicate copy.

The Tenants Association will hold a general meeting to discuss the settlement on Saturday, May 10 at 1 p.m. at Simon Baruch M.S. 104 on East 20th Street between First and Second Avenues.

Tenants Association: ‘Roberts’ and recent tenants should pay MCI increase — for now

Tenants Association attorney Tim Collins speaks to residents, while Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, State Senator Brad Hoylman and TA Chair Susan Steinberg listen. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Tenants Association attorney Tim Collins speaks to residents at a meeting in November, while Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, State Senator Brad Hoylman and TA Chair Susan Steinberg listen. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

After five MCIs (major capital improvement rent increases) were approved by the state housing agency last fall, residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village had their rents raised this month.

Though the ST-PCV Tenants Association has entered into talks with CWCapital and the state housing agency, NYS Homes and Community Renewal, over those rent hikes, in the meantime, the Association is advising “Roberts” class action members as well as those who moved in after the “Roberts” suit was settled to pay their MCIs. At least for now.

Previously, an attorney for the TA had told a resident at a public meeting held in November, who said she’d never gotten a notice about a pending MCI, that she wouldn’t have to pay it. This is because notice must be given to tenants when owners apply for an MCI. However, since the MCIs were for work done on the property by Tishman Speyer in 2009, before the Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” suit determined that apartments in ST/PCV were illegally deregulated, tenants in market rate apartments (“Roberts” class members) never got the notices. MCIs are only applicable to rent-stabilized tenants.

“Most if not all of the Roberts and preferential rent tenants never received a notice,” the Tenants Association said in an email blast to neighbors on Friday afternoon. The email, which is also on the TA website (stpcvta.org), went on to note that preferential rent is a rent that is lower than the legal rent-regulated rent for an apartment and the amount a tenant actually agrees to pay. “Roberts” and post-“Roberts” tenants pay preferential rents.

Despite the lack of warning for those tenants, the TA said in its email that while the negotiations with CW continue, tenants should pay the MCIs.

“The TA is in negotiations over the MCIs with management, hoping to resolve them to the benefit of all tenants,” the Tenants Association said. “In the meantime you should pay them as billed. Doing so will not prejudice any of your rights. We will continue to keep you posted as the situation unfolds. Please read the joint statement from counsel for the TA, Management, and the Roberts tenants below:

“The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Tenants Association (ST/PCV-TA), Owner (PCV/ST) and New York State DHCR have been engaged in discussions attempting to reach a negotiated resolution to the recently issued MCI orders. The parties are hopeful that the matter will, in fact, be resolved in the near future.

“In the interim, Owner commenced billing the permanent portion of the MCI rent increase with January 2014 bills. If a negotiated settlement is reached, to the extent agreed upon, there will be an appropriate retroactive adjustment in the rent. Payment at this time will not prejudice any party’s rights or claims. Hence, counsel for all parties have agreed that the increases should be paid while negotiations continue.”

A spokesperson for CWCapital declined to comment beyond the statement.

 

Susan Steinberg, chair for the Tenants Association, said the TA has heard from between 15 and 20 “Roberts” tenants who said they received the charges.

 

However, when asked about how the negotiations were going, Steinberg said she couldn’t say anything beyond the fact that they’re “ongoing.”

 

Notary services available for residents exempt from mid-lease rent increases

Letter issued by CompassRock

Letter issued by CompassRock

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association has announced that notary services will be available on several different days for the tenants who were led to believe by leasing agents that there would be no mid-lease increases and then got them, anyway.

On Monday, Town & Village Blog reported that following an investigation by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, an agreement was reached with management so that those residents will not have to pay their new, higher rents.

Residents in this situation have until June 30 to fill out an affidavit that was slipped under their doors on Friday by CompassRock and have it notarized. Otherwise, they’ll have to start paying their increased rent in July. In related news, the agreement reached by the attorney general and CompassRock means there will be no additional mid-lease increases.

Schneiderman, Council Member Dan Garodnick and the Tenants Association have been working together over the past few weeks to identify 39 tenants who were misled.

Commenting on the settlement, Tenants Association President John Marsh said, “We appreciate the Attorney General’s taking the important action that he did. The allegations of misrepresentations were serious and numerous. We urge all those who received either written or verbal assurances that their rent would not be increased mid-lease to sign and return the affidavit.”

The TA also issued instructions, via email to residents, who need to get their paperwork notarized:

Complete the affidavit and sign it in front of a notary public.  If you have an e-mail or other correspondence with a renting agent, attach it.  If you simply recall a conversation on the matter of the mid-lease clause, write about it in the space provided.

Take the affidavit and any supporting material to be notarized. You must appear in person to sign and show photo ID. To facilitate this process, Tenants Association volunteers with a notary’s license will be available, at no charge, at the Community Center Tuesday, June 18, Thursday, June 20, and Tuesday, June 25, between 6:00 and 8:00 pm., and Saturday, June 22 and Sunday June 23, between 2:00 and 4:00 pm.  Please note that a notary only affirms your signature, not the content of the document.

(If you have discarded the material that came under your door, thinking it was a ruse, you can pick up a new affidavit at the Community Center at those hours) or you can print out the letter and affidavit linked here.

Return the notarized affidavit and support material, if any, by June 30th to:

Office of the Attorney General of the State of New York
Attn: Elissa Rossi
Real Estate Finance Bureau
120 Broadway, 23rd Floor
New York, NY 10271

Send a copy of this affidavit to:

PCVST Legal Department
Attention:  Roberts Administrator
317 Avenue C
New York, NY 10009

Important:  Your response must be postmarked no later than June 30, 2013

Mid-lease increases to be reversed in cases of misrepresentation

Letter issued by CompassRock

Letter issued by CompassRock

View full CompassRock letter

By Sabina Mollot

In news that is sure to be welcome to tenants who were recently on the receiving end of mid-lease increases, those who were led to believe by a leasing agent that they wouldn’t be getting mid-lease hikes will not have to pay their new, higher rents.

On Friday, management slipped notices under tenants’ doors, signed by the property’s general counsel, Fred Knapp, conceding that, “It has come to CompassRock’s attention that, in a limited number of cases,” tenants who signed leases pending the Roberts v. Tishman Speyer settlement “claimed that they were told by leasing agents that the increase set to go into effect on July 1, 2013 (the “July 1 Increase”) would not be applicable to them during the term of their lease.”

CompassRock said if tenants were in that situation then they should fill out an affidavit, which was attached to Knapp’s letter, with details of statements made to them, including emails or other documentation if available, and their rents would stay the same. The deadline for tenants to file their paperwork is June 30. Otherwise, they’ll have to pay their new, inflated rent starting July 1.

The notice came after Attorney General Eric Schneiderman conducted an investigation into allegations of tenants being misled by leasing agents. The matter was brought to the A.G. by Council Member Dan Garodnick after he said he’d heard complaints from numerous tenants. As of this week, Garodnick said there were a total of 39 tenants who said they were told, inaccurately, they wouldn’t be getting a mid-lease increase.

As for tenants who have no written proof of agreements that there would be no mid-lease hike, but have said they were told it wouldn’t happen, the rent rollbacks would apply to them as well.

“It is our understanding that verbal assurances will be treated the same way as written evidence, but there does need to be some sort of description” of statements, said Matt Mittenthal, press secretary for the attorney general.

Or, as the notice from CompassRock went on to suggest, tenants could also avoid paying the new rents simply by moving out.

“As you know, “ wrote Knapp, “you also have the right to terminate your lease and vacate your apartment. This notice does not affect that right in any way.”

The letter concluded by saying nothing “should be construed as an admission of wrongdoing or liability” against CompassRock or CWCapital.

Garodnick, who said around 1,100 tenants got mid-lease increases (around 1,300 got rent adjustment notices), added, “We appreciate this strong step taken by the attorney general. There clearly was an issue here that affected many people and any misrepresentations will now not be able to stand.”

Schneiderman, meanwhile, said ST/PCV residents “have been through battle after battle to preserve the character and affordability of their community. That’s why I was so concerned to learn that some tenants had been misled by leasing agents into signing leases that would result in skyrocketing rents. I am pleased that the owners cooperated with our office’s investigation and have entered into an agreement that ensures tenants are treated fairly: No one who was promised a steady rent will be socked with a mid-lease increase.”

Schneiderman added that the agreement means CW can’t impose any additional mid-lease rent hikes and, he noted, he’d be watching the special servicer to make sure of this.
“My office will keep a close watch in the coming weeks to ensure that all aspects of the agreement are honored,” Schneiderman said.

Even before Roberts was settled, attorneys were already warning tenants that CW could issue rent hikes, even mid-lease, as a result of language the special servicer had inserted into new leases. Rent hikes have reportedly been as high as over $2,000, although most are in the hundreds.

In response to the investigation and the agreement, CW said in an official statement that management had only known about 10 incidents of misrepresentations regarding the increases.

“Despite an exhaustive effort to solicit complaints from residents that leasing agents had represented mid-term rent adjustments would not occur, we have received only 10 complaints from affected residents,” CWCapital said on Tuesday.

“While it is clear that, legally, any such representation would have been superseded by the class action settlement in which residents received a $173 million benefit, we volunteered to make official our practice of deferring rent increases to the end of a lease term for any resident that has a factual basis for their confusion. Additionally, we agreed to make official our intention not to issue additional mid-term rent increases. We appreciate the Attorney General’s assistance in balancing our legal rights with a desire to accommodate any resident that was confused about the content of their lease due to purported misstatements by employees of the managing agent.”

This article has been updated to include quotes from CW Capital and Attorney General Schneiderman.

ST-PCV Tenants Association to hold meeting for ‘Roberts’ tenants on May 29

Yesterday, the ST-PCV Tenants Association announced a meeting for “Roberts” class tenants on May 29. Read the notice below:

Invitation to Tenants Facing Mid-Lease Increases

The recent, outrageous mid-lease increases have left many Roberts-class tenants wondering whether the calculations on their individual apartments are correct, particularly since they can’t obtain their unit’s rent history from the department of Homes and Community Renewal on short notice.  Even if the rent history is known, the formula for the increase is complex. What if those calculations were incorrect? Is there anyway, at this point, to mount a challenge?

Because of the ever-increasing number of questions along these lines, the ST/PCV Tenants Association inviting tenants facing mid-lease increases to a workshop on May 29th at IS 104, between 20th and 21st Street, starting at 8:00 PM. This directly follows our members-only annual meeting.

The TA’s attorney, Tim Collins, of Collins Dobkin & Miller, will speak with Roberts tenants who want to explore their options and to answer mid-lease increase-related questions from TA members and non-members, alike. It will also give affected tenants an opportunity to meet others with the same challenges, and exchange contact information.

Seating in the IS 104 auditorium is limited and on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors open at 7:45 PM.

Membership support makes these activities possible. Please consider joining the Tenants Association if you are not currently a member, or making a donation today. Visit http://stpcvta.org/donate