Stuyvesant Town apartment lottery reopens

Stuyvesant Town

By Sabina Mollot

Stuyvesant Town’s apartment lottery has reopened on Tuesday for renters in the upper income tier of eligibility. Based on the affordability deal between the owners Blackstone and Ivanhoe Cambridge and the city in 2015, half of the apartments that become available are put into a lottery system for reduced rents. Ninety percent of those units are for tenants earning a household income of up to 165 percent of the area median income while the other 10 percent are for those earning up to 80 percent of the AMI.

According to an email sent out by Stuy Town management on Tuesday, this amounts to rent for a one-bedroom apartment going for $2,975 for households of one to three people earning incomes starting at $89,250. The maximum income for three people is $154,935, the maximum income for two people is $137,775 and for one person the maximum income is $120,615.

The savings from average market rent, $3,587, is 17 percent, according to the lottery website. Market rate one-bedroom apartments in Stuy Town range from $3,273-$3,675, based on current listings. Peter Cooper one-bedrooms range from $3,717-$4,046, according to listings. There are also converted or “flex” apartments, which are usually higher in price.

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New GM promises improved service and more accessibility

Rick Hayduk (right), the new general manager of ST/PCV, speaks with tenants at a meet-and-greet event on Saturday. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Rick Hayduk (right), the new general manager of ST/PCV, speaks with tenants at a meet-and-greet event on Saturday. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The new general manager of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper, Rick Hayduk, has promised tenants that Blackstone is focused on improving services and communication and in particular, said the hiring of four new plumbers should end the two to three week wait times tenants have been experiencing for repairs.

Hayduk made the comments on Saturday at a meet and greet event that was held at the tents at Stuyvesant Town’s Playground 11.

Around 150 people, mainly seniors and other longterm tenants, attended the event, as did a couple of elected officials, State Senator Brad Hoylman and Council Member Dan Garodnick.

Rick Hayduk speaks at Saturday’s event.

Rick Hayduk speaks at Saturday’s event.

While at a podium in front of a Stuy Town logo-covered step-and-repeat, Hayduk discussed various tenant concerns, including the recent spike in plumbing repair delays. “Our standard is two to three days and that’s what you should expect,” he said.
Hayduk also said that a hotline for tenants that Blackstone had set up after the company bought the property has been transferred to his office.

“Go through normal channels, but if (a request) needs to escalate, we’re here for that,” Hayduk said. The number is (212) 655-9870.

He also encouraged tenants to slip him notes, gesturing to his pocket while saying that several neighbors had already done so.

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Stuy Town sold for $5.3B to Blackstone

5,000 apts. to remain affordable for 20 years, with income requirements for new tenants looking for lower-priced apartments

Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at a Tuesday press conference. Pictured with him are State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Blackstone’s global head of real estate Jonathan Gray (partially hidden), Council Member Dan Garodnick, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg and other residents. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at a Tuesday press conference. Pictured with him are State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Blackstone’s global head of real estate Jonathan Gray (partially hidden), Council Member Dan Garodnick, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg and other residents. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot 
The biggest flop of New Yorkʼs real estate boom was on Tuesday hailed as the biggest win for its working class.

Announcing that investment firm Blackstone and Canadian hedge fund Ivanhoe Cambridge will pay $5.3 billion for the 11,241-apartment Stuy Town/Peter Cooper Village apartment complex, Mayor Bill de Blasio crowed, “This is the mother of all preservation deals.
“This is the one we talked about from day one, to unmake the mistake from a decade ago. It’s a very gratifying day.”

Nearly six years after Tishman Speyer walked away from Stuyvesant Town after defaulting on loan payments on a $5.4 billion deal to buy it, de Blasio, along with other elected officials, tenant leaders and Jonathan Gray, global head of real estate for Blackstone, cheered the new sale as a win for tenants and the city at a press conference inside Stuyvesant Town’s First Avenue Loop.
According to the mayor’s office, the deal will prevent the loss of what had been a rate of 300 affordable apartments each year.

Under the deal, tenants at the affordable units will be able to remain in place, but when they move, new tenants moving in will have restricted rents if they meet certain income requirements.
Of the 5,000 affordable units, 4,500 will be rented to households earning no more than $128,210 for a family of three, and the remaining 500 apartments must be rented to families earning no more than $62,150 for a family of three. None of those tenants will pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent.

Along with ensuring the apartments that are currently affordable remain that way, so-called “Roberts” tenants who are currently in renovated apartments paying higher rents will get five additional years of another kind of rent protection. When the J-51 tax abatement program expires in 2020, their apartments will no longer be rent-stabilized. Under the agreement, rent increases for those 1,400 tenants would be capped at five percent a year for five years.

While there are still many details to be worked out — Gray said he was still learning about a big concern of tenants, which was the property’s population of students­ — some questions have been addressed by the company already on a website, stuytownpetercooper.com.

One question posted online is how the decision will affect market rate tenants, to which Blackstone said it would “maintain the status quo.” The company also said the transition wouldn’t impact the property’s employees’ jobs or their current pay and benefits.

Blackstone has also promised not to build on top of the property’s open spaces.

As for how new tenants would be eligible for an affordable apartment, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen said a possibility was a lottery, which, she admitted, typically involves a waiting list.
Despite the price paid — $100 million less than Tishman Speyer’s winning bid — Gray said tenants shouldn’t fear that the switch in ownership will lead to a replay of a desperate landlord trying to oust low-rent-paying tenants.

Jonathan Gray (photo by Sabina Mollot)

Jonathan Gray (photo by Sabina Mollot)

“This is a very different situation from back then,” said Gray. “We’re taking a longterm approach to this asset. We have clear rules about affordability. The fact that we signed an agreement with the city of New York with input from the Tenants Association, which obligates us to do certain things, makes us very different from the situation back then.”

Gray said the amount the company is borrowing to finance the deal is only 50 percent of the cost, “which, in context with buying a house, 50 percent is very low leverage,” he said.

He also said he expected that the rental market in Manhattan would remain strong.
“We expect continuity,” Gray told reporters during the press conference. “The market is tight. There is a shortage of apartments in New York City. That puts upward pressure on rents. That’s why we are interested in New York City, but we don’t expect any dramatic changes.”
His company, he added, is interested in “stable, longterm assets. We’re looking to take on lower return, less risk that take less debt (investments) that have a much longer hold period.”

In a prepared statement, he also said, “It is a tremendous honor and responsibility to become co-owners of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. We intend to own Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village on behalf of our investors for many years to come.”

Tenants will have the opportunity to ask questions about the new ownership at a town hall meeting set to take place on Saturday, October 24 at 1 p.m. at Baruch College, 17 Lexington Avenue at East 23rd Street.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg said she was happy with the outcome even though it wasn’t the non-eviction condo conversion the association had wanted to see through with partner Brookfield Asset Management. Brookfield, Steinberg explained, had been the TA’s partner as a bidder in the event of a foreclosure auction. However, this deal did not involve an auction.

She also said tenants’ hopes of owning condos seemed to become bleaker as the property climbed in value in recent years, which would make buying less affordable than originally thought.
“As values of the property soared from $1.7 billion to three times that amount, the idea of ownership became tenuous,” said Steinberg, “as the price per square foot went up.”

However, she added, “We didn’t lose sight of the prize,” referring to tenants’ insistence of preservation of ST/PCV “as a single unit and preservation of open space.
“People forget the reality is we don’t own this place,” she added. “I think we got the best possible deal we could.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Member Dan Garodnick hug at the press conference. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Member Dan Garodnick hug at the press conference. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Council Member Dan Garodnick, who, along with the Tenants Association and the mayor, was very involved in the negotiations, echoed the sentiment. He also told T&V that while the current plan didn’t include a conversion, Blackstone has said it would be open to the idea.

As for what happens after the 20-year affordability arrangement ends, de Blasio said that would in all likelihood be a matter for the city’s government at that time.

Blackstone Group LP is the world’s biggest alternative-asset manager.
This summer, it gathered $15.8 billion to invest in global real estate.
According to Bloomberg News, the firm collected more than 90 percent of the pool, its eighth fund for global property, from institutions in about four months, a person with knowledge of the matter said in March. The remainder was raised from individual investors.

New York-based Blackstone has already committed 20 percent of the fund to deals including $14 billion for real estate assets being divested by General Electric Co., and nearly $4 billion to buy Strategic Hotels & Resorts Inc.

In July, the firm acquired a 25-parcel package from the Caiola Family. That $700 million grouping holds about 1,000 apartments which are centered near the Upper East Side and Chelsea. It increased its presence in the boroughs, snatching up Sky View Parc for $400 million in Flushing in June.

But even though the company’s seven previous global property funds have doubled their invested capital, the city isn’t taking any more chances with Stuy Town.

Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Glen told reporters that if the market does go south and things don’t go the way Blackstone is picturing, even if the company sells the property, the next owner would be bound by the same terms Blackstone has agreed to.

In exchange for preserving affordability, the new owners will not have to pay transfer taxes, saving them about $140 million, and they won’t have to pay a $75 million mortgage tax.

This arrangement also saves tax payers money, Glen said, by offering a one-time exemption instead of an ongoing abatement. “Normally with an affordable housing project, the owner gets a break on taxes every year,” she said.

Until recently, CWCapital’s effort to sell had 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.

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.”
CW did not respond to a request for comment on the sale.

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.

Cheating claims spark new lenders lawsuit

Stuyvesant Town leasing office (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Stuyvesant Town leasing office (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
Last week, CWCapital was sued by holders of Stuyvesant Town’s mezzanine debt who claimed that the new owner cheated them out of hundreds of millions of dollars.
The lawsuit, which was first reported by Bloomberg, is being led by Centerbridge Partners, which is representing six limited liability companies who are named as plaintiffs.
The suit follows a decision by CW last month to take title to Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village through a deed rather than hold a foreclosure sale that had been scheduled for June 13.
By doing this, Centerbridge accused CW of a “continuing pattern of misconduct” to keep control of the property and “reap an unjust windfall of $1 billion” that should go to lower level lenders, who’ve received nothing.
The report went on to say the lenders, in their complaint, called CWCapital’s takeover “executed on the flawed premise that the amount owed on the senior loan was greater than the value of the property.” CW represented that $4.4 billion was owed on the mortgage when the amount was really $3.45 billion, the lenders said.
A spokesperson for Centerbridge, Michele de Milly, said the lawsuit shouldn’t impact the tenants.
In an official statement, Centerbridge said, “We believe that Stuyvesant Town is and will continue to be a unique and extraordinarily important property, both for the City of New York and for the thousands of tenants who make it such a robust community. This legal matter is an inter-creditor dispute and we do not expect it to affect Stuyvesant Town or its residents. Funds affiliated with Centerbridge Partners, which have owned mezzanine loans of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, have been forced to commence this lawsuit because of the actions taken by CW Capital, in violation of an inter-creditor agreement.”
CWCapital, however, denied this and called the suit “without merit.”
“The assertions made in the lawsuit are utterly baseless and without merit,” spokesperson Brian Moriarty said. “The fact that the complaint centers on a deed in lieu transaction completed before the plaintiff acquired their position exposes the plaintiff’s specific intent to wrest a quick profit from ‘purchased litigation.’ Centerbridge acquired this position at a deep discount in hopes of reaping a windfall at the expense of the bondholders we represent and residents who deserve a timely resolution that will provide certainty and a path forward for the community.”
The litigation, which also names commercial-mortgage trusts set up by Wachovia Bank, may slow down a sale process. However, it shouldn’t stop the city from its current plan of trying to work with CW to maintain affordability at the property while satisfying the bondholders.
When CW canceled the foreclosure auction it also agreed to hold off on a sale for two months while working with the de Blasio administration along with local elected officials representing ST/PCV to come up with a plan. According to Council Member Dan Garodnick, this litigation doesn’t change that.
“This is largely a dispute between lenders and it does not affect our strategy,” he said. “The only question is whether this has the effect of slowing things down further, which is not at all clear at this moment.”
A New York Times story on June 11 had quoted Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen as saying a plan was being explored that would keep as many as 6,000 units in ST/PCV affordable in exchange for a tax exemption.
However, as of late June, Garodnick told Town & Village there aren’t yet any numbers figured out and city officials stressed that was just one possibility.
“The numbers that have been floated were hypothetical and not based on the substance of any negotiation,” Garodnick said.
Lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have already committed to not financing a deal that would be unacceptable to the tenants or the city.