BATTERY PARK CITY — Gateway Plaza's pet crackdown isn't just a blow to the complex's many dog and cat owners — it's also a violation of the tenants' rent-stabilized leases, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said.
Silver wrote a letter last Friday to The LeFrak Organization, owner of the 1,712-unit Battery Park City complex, saying the new $250 annual pet fee being charged to dog and cat owners violates a 2009 deal that was supposed to keep residents' apartments affordable.
Under that agreement, which Silver negotiated with The LeFrak Organization, longtime Gateway tenants have the right to renew their leases at rent-stabilized rates through 2020. The agreement, which covers all tenants who were living at Gateway in 2009, never mentioned that pet owners would have to pay an extra fee in the traditionally dog-friendly complex.
"This pet rider represents a violation of [the 2009] agreement and threatens many of those residents by imposing new terms that were not agreed upon," Silver said in the Aug. 24 letter to Richard LeFrak, CEO of The LeFrak Organization. "I ask that it be taken out of renewal leases."
The LeFrak Organization has not responded to Silver's letter, and a spokeswoman did not immediately comment on it Monday morning.
Many Gateway residents are furious about the strict new 19-point pet policy, which would also ban more than a dozen breeds — including pit bulls, German shepherds, Great Danes and Doberman Pinschers — in addition to outlawing any dogs over 40 pounds and limiting tenants to one pet per apartment.
Tenants, who learned of the new policy over the past two weeks, called it "disturbing," "mean-spirited" and "adversarial."
Gateway's owners said in a statement that pets have never been allowed on the property, though that rule has not been enforced. The new policy is designed to keep residents safe and the apartment complex clean, the owners said.
"These requirements are common practice at many rental developments throughout the city," Gateway Residential Management, a subsidiary of The LeFrak Organization, said of the new breed and weight restrictions.
Existing tenants will be allowed to keep any pets that arrived before Aug. 1, but they will have to pay the $250 pet fee to cover the "wear and tear" associated with cats and dogs, Gateway Residential Management said.
One piece of the controversial new pet policy has already been dropped, though. After an outcry from tenants, Gateway decided not to require that all cats in the complex be declawed, a spokeswoman said.
The Gateway Plaza Tenants Association has vowed to continue fighting the pet policy.