The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Upper East Side Landlord's $600 Rent Claim Disputed

By Amy Zimmer | January 24, 2012 10:16am

UPPER EAST SIDE — Claims that apartments in a pair of landmarked apartment buildings would fetch just $600-a-month in rent would make them less than half the price of the cheapest homes on the market.

Stahl Real Estate, which owns the landmarked walk-ups at 429 E. 64th St. and 430 E. 65th St., claims these apartments, which average 371 square feet, would generate an average rent of $600 a month — even after a $4.5 million renovation.

But a search on StreetEasy shows there's nothing on the market right now for less than $1,350 a month.

Using its rent estimation, Stahl is applying to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for a hardship application to demolish the buildings to make way for a high-rise.

The Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, however, released a report in advance of an LPC hearing Tuesday afternoon, refuting Stahl’s claims for these buildings, which are part of the City and Suburban First Avenue Estate.

The 38-page report, which analyzes rents for comparable apartments in the area, says the units could easily fetch $1,500 per month.

"It is unconscionable for the owner to seek demolition based on false claims of economic hardship,” Tara Kelly, executive director of the Friends group, said in a statement.

"The true hardship has been for the tenants who have endured years of negligent management."

Stahl did not immediately return a call for comment.

Under the landmarks law, a building can be considered a hardship if its making less than 6 percent in profit.

But the Friends report claims the buildings would generate an annual return of 13 percent, and would therefore not qualify for demolition.

The two buildings were part of a larger, 15-tenement development built by the City and Suburban Homes Company in 1915.

They were among the first developments by a private company to address sub-standard living conditions of the working poor. They improved tenement housing by incorporating generous courtyards that provided light and air, Kelly noted.

Because of this historical significance, the complex won landmark status in 1990. Shortly after that, Stahl was able to have the two buildings stripped of their landmark status.

After a 16-year fight, the landmark status was re-granted even though Stahl chipped away the buildings’ architectural details, such as distinct Beaux-Arts stone carvings.

According to Stahl’s application to the LPC, more than 100 of the building's 190 apartments are vacant. The landlord has admitted to warehousing units to prepare for demolition, residents said. Most of the tenants are rent stabilized or rent controlled.

“This hardship application is baloney,” City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin said at a recent Community Board 8 meeting. “It is one more way for them to skirt the law and their responsibilities.”

Lappin noted that the buildings were an affordable place to live in “a place that is increasingly difficult to live.” 

Resident Jerry Bunting said at the meeting, “The hardship was created. They destroyed the buildings.”

He said he looked at Stahl’s application and believes the landlord’s estimates for renovation costs were inflated. The landlord priced a door at $320, for example, he added.

“I priced it at Home Depot," Bunting said. "Take a zero off of that.”