Stuy-Town Melt Down

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tishman Speyer Properties and BlackRock Realty have decided to turn over Stuy-Town and Peter Cooper Village to creditors. Charles Bagli, a reporter for the New York Times, and Benjamin Dulchin, deputy director for the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, join us to discuss what's next for the housing development and the current tenants.


Charles Bagli and Benjamin Dulchin

Comments [16]

Carolyn from Stuyvesant Town

Beyond the quality of life issues in PCV-ST are the financial issues, which concern me even more. TS has abused the MCI system terribly -- the most recent MCI notices I've received have been for security "improvements" that are actually diminutions of service, such as the poorly functioning and totally unreliable video intercoms, which replaced the old telephone-based system that never once in 15 years malfunctioned for me. I know that upper-class Manhattanites think that all of us rent-stabilized tenants in ST have a great deal that we don't deserve, but some of us are having a very difficult time coming up with the extra money to pay all the MCI increases as well as the regular rent-stabilization increases for lease renewals. Over the past six months, between my lease renewal increase and MCI increase, my rent has gone up 11%. And in just three months (September-December 2009), TS filed for three additional MCI increases for my building, which, if granted in full (and DHCR has been rubber-stamping MCI increases for years), would increase my rent another 7% long before I face another lease renewal increase. Because of these rent increases and increases in my health insurance premiums (I'm self-employed), my personal inflation rate now far exceeds anything I ever experienced in the "high-inflation years" of the 1970s and 1980s.

Jan. 26 2010 09:08 AM
Carolyn from Stuyvesant Town

Because of the apartments rented to groups of students and young professionals, the PCV-ST population has exploded. I suspect there are now far more than 25,000 people living here, even with all the empty apartments. In my building, the waits for washing machines, dryers and elevators are noticeably longer.

But the inconvenience of a larger population is insignificant compared with the problems of living with younger neighbors with uncivil, inconsiderate behavior. Until a couple of years ago, I felt fortunate when friends in other ST buildings complained about the students in their buildings because the ones in my building were not a problem. But over the past two years, many more students and young professionals have moved into my building. And the problems have multiplied, problems that generally did not exist until TS took over -- garbage left in the hallways, food containers not rinsed out before being placed in the recycling bins (attracting roaches, etc.), packages stolen from the hallways, groups of people congregating at the doorways when they go out for a smoke (rather than walking away from the building, as used to be the custom). The noise problems are horrendous -- partying at 3 am on the weekends is typical. Most serious, though, has been the level of violence, which is particularly worrisome to older tenants and to parents of young children. In the past year, ST security and the police have been called to my floor twice because of physical fights -- in one case, the tenant involved in the incident was evicted, but in the other case, I'm not aware that any action was taken by ST management. I also worry because I hear many rumors about drug deals in the complex although I'm not aware of any drug-related problems in my building.

Jan. 26 2010 08:44 AM
Carolyn from Stuyvesant Town

In my opinion, and in the opinion of nearly all the long-term tenants I know, the quality of life in Stuyvesant Town has already deteriorated significantly under Tishman Speyer. One example of this deterioration is what has happened to the grounds under TS.

While the playground renovations and new landscaping under Met Life management in the years immediately preceding the TS takeover were definite and welcome improvements, the additional landscaping under TS has been unnecessary and has left us with a complex far less attractive than it was four years ago under Met Life. TS selected many ugly plants (I admit that "ugly" is subjective, but most people I know agree with my opinion) and created densely planted areas from which muggers can easily accost women coming home at night (this has already happened at least once) and unsafe walking conditions such as mud puddles at the foot of accessibility ramps (a neighbor had a bad fall almost two years ago, and the condition was reported to management, but TS has refused to do anything about it).

Jan. 26 2010 08:23 AM
Mary O'Hara from East Village/Gramercy

I just listened to the Stuy Town Peter Cooper piece and thought it was a bit one-sided (much unlike Lehrer's usual unbiased approach). Four points that I think merit mention:
1. I know of no documented case involving coersion of tenants at the complexes. This would be completely illegal, and punitive damages would apply. If we are going to assume that this behavior occurred, we should at least produce some evidence of it.

2. The complexes were much improved in amenities and upkeep as part of TS's upgrade plan. Most tenants were quite happy with this.

3. One unnamed victim (at least up to the point where my battery died and I was off for the last two minutes): the neighborhood. Will the creditors maintain the complex like an owner? Will they run it like a ghetto project, particluarly now that they can't get the tax abatement along with the rent deregulation? What will the decay of these projects do to the neighborhood?

4. A huge factor in the demise of this endeavor was the recent case denying rent deregulation during times when a tax abatement is in effect. This case was a complete change of course in the law and a game changer for landlords like TS who assumed (logically) that they could deregulate and have the abatement at the same time.

We can now look forward to more decay and decline in the city's rental housing stock as landlords struggle to maintain buildings with little or no net income(especially if the recession prevents them from recouping the shortfall from their subsidized/controlled units with market-rate income from other units).

My bias: I am an owner and on the board of a nearby coop which owns several rental units, some of which are stabilized.

Jan. 25 2010 12:05 PM
Steven from Manhattan

I live in a building that Rose Associates took over as management a couple of years ago. If I were a Stuy Town resident I wouldn't expect much of change in management style. Rose has harassed stabilized residents in order to raise rent levels to market value. Only the economic downturn has slowed their practices. Some tenants actually left here to relocate in Stuy Town because that found a better deal there. Out of the frying pan and into the fire or maybe the other way around.

Jan. 25 2010 12:01 PM
Jim Brennan from Jersey City

Too much attention on middle-income high-profile stuy town deflects attention from the 90,000+ units of lower-income housing at risk for the same predatory equity practices. It's not illegal for hedge funds to over-pay for real estate, and they walk away from their bad loans leaving thousands of families to suffer - no better reason to enact banking regs

Check the work of Tenants & Neighbors, UHAB and other affordable housing non-profits who predicted this fall 4 years ago - this is the tip of the iceberg. Tishman Speyer defaults with no consequence, thousands of family suffer

Jan. 25 2010 11:48 AM
A listener

Isn't this just like other speculative real estate ventures in that the value of the property was inflated, loans were made, commissions were taken and to heck with the community?

Jan. 25 2010 11:46 AM
Jen from Bronx

6- no, its not. I would like to live on 5th Avenue, but I cannot and I don't expect someone to subsidize me to do so... I can afford to live in the Bronx and do so. These rent laws create this weird lottery system based on how old you are and pure luck and makes everyone else pay through the nose to live in NY.

Jan. 25 2010 11:44 AM
Serena from UWS

My understanding is that these people who qualified to pay exorbitant rents and don't need a break, will now have their rents reduced. What can be done to to return affordable housing to people of lower income?

Jan. 25 2010 11:43 AM
rk from new york

didn't all these buyers pull a lot of money out at the closing, and left them with large debts which they can just walk away from?

Jan. 25 2010 11:40 AM
RCT from NYC

Error fixed:

My husband grew up in Stuy-Town; His father was a Korean war veteran. Although the family was not rich, Stuy-Town afforded my husband and his siblings a "Manhattan" upbringing. Isn't allowing middle- and working-class NY'ers to live in Manhattan an important value for our City? Or do we want Manhattan to become a de facto "gated community"?

Jan. 25 2010 11:40 AM
Chris from Peter Cooper Village

To your guests:
Would whoever assumes management of ST/PCV be under any legal obligation to provide some minimum level of service, or could we be in for a race to the bottom, quality-of-life-wise?

Jan. 25 2010 11:38 AM
riverton resident from Riverton

Please expand further on Riverton. I am a resident and I would like to know what is going on, I understand that Stellar Mgmt is not going to be the managing agent much longer. Who owns the property? What are the plans for the future? The renovated apts are not rent stabilized, how will this turmoil affect these rents?

Jan. 25 2010 11:37 AM
Jeff Putterman from Queens

Tishman Speyer believed its own bs, pure and simple. They overpaid, and had no clue what they could rent vacant, "upgraded" apartments for.

The winner here is Metlife, which, like Sam Zell, bagged Blackrock and some of the allegedly "brilliant" real estate minds of this city.

Jan. 25 2010 11:36 AM
Alex from Brooklyn

I dont think anything will change with the new owners they will try to push out old tenants just as agressively as Tishman etal..

This is a product of the change in Rent Stabilization Laws... there is still big money to be made playing nasty landlord...

So good luck to the tenants your win will be short lived.

Jan. 25 2010 11:06 AM
Matt from NYC

Hello, I am a Peter Cooper resident and would love to have someone answer one the following questions:

Why did Tishman return the property to its creditors instead of filing for bankruptcy?

Will some units/buildings be sold off?

Thank you,

Jan. 25 2010 10:50 AM

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