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Gym Ban for Rent-Regulated Building Tenants is 'Apartheid,' Say Opponents

By Emily Frost | February 25, 2014 2:03pm
 Public Advocate Leitita James said she is filing a complaint with the Human Rights Division to stop the policy of not allowing rent-regulated tenants to use a new gym at Stonehenge Village. 
Public Advocate Calls UWS Building's Gym Policy Discriminatory and Illegal
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UPPER WEST SIDE — A building management company that's barring its rent-regulated tenants from using a new gym will be hit with a discrimination complaint filed by the city, Public Advocate Letitia James said.

The suit comes as politicians likened Stonehenge Village's attempt to ban rent-regulated tenants, who make up 60 percent of the occupants at West 97th St. building, with apartheid.

Residents were told earlier this month that a new lobby-level gym would only be accessible to market-rate tenants.

Dozens of furious tenants gathered alongside James and other elected officials Tuesday to condemn the policy. 

James called Stonehenge Management's policy "blatantly illegal" and said it set "a dangerous precedent." She said her office would file a complaint with the New York State Human Rights Division

"We will not accept segregation in New York City," she said. 

State Sen. Bill Perkins called the company's decision a "form of apartheid." 

Many of the rent-regulated tenants were part of the city's Mitchell-Lama affordable housing plan and "came [to the building] at a time when the real estate community had forsaken this area," said City Councilman Mark Levine, who joined the chorus of complaints.

Referencing a sign that residents said has since been taken down from the door of the gym — which told "approved" residents not to hold the door for anyone — Levine said the message "recalls memories of the pre-Civil Rights era."

"We're one city. We're one building," added Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

Residents spoke of the embarrassment they felt at not being able to use the new gym.

"I have to tell a child that I'm not good enough," said resident Treda Palmer Saxton of her experience walking through the lobby with her 7-year-old goddaughter, who wanted to use the facility. 

"Our management is short-sighted and greedy," added tenant association president Jean Dorsey, who said the market-rate tenants she'd spoken to were happy to share.

Stonehenge spokeswoman Marcia Horowitz said, “We are a responsible building owner and manager and we want to assure all interested parties that everything we have done regarding this matter is in full compliance with all laws.”

The New York State Human Rights Division declined to comment.