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London Terrace Rental Tenants May Lose Access to Popular Pool

By Mathew Katz | April 28, 2014 6:36am
 Renters in London Terrace will lose access to a beloved pool unless a deal is reached. 
Renters in London Terrace will lose access to a beloved pool unless a deal is reached. 
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

CHELSEA — Archie Mac Gregor, 85, has a routine almost unheard of among New Yorkers: four days a week, he goes for a swim at a pool that's less than two minutes from his apartment.

Mac Gregor moved into the sprawling London Terrace complex in 1968 and attributes his health to regular dips in the building's beloved pool. But at the end of May, he will likely have to stop, according to tenants and documents.

"I picked this building just because I wanted to have use of the pool," Mac Gregor said. "I feel wonderful thanks to my swims. If they were to take the pool away, it'd be a disaster."

London Terrace Towers, a co-op consisting of four taller buildings at the corners of the complex, want $1.7 million a year from London Terrace Gardens, the 10 smaller rental buildings in between them, in order for the rental tenants to continue using the five-lane pool in the tower at 465 W. 23rd St., along with a popular sun deck, records show. Previously, the Gardens had paid $250,000 annually. 

Negotiations between the two sides have come to a standstill, tenants said.

With the Gardens' access to the pool set to expire at the end of May, the owners of the massive rent-stabilized building on West 23rd Street between Ninth and 10th avenues are now seeking state permission to reduce rent in exchanged for reduced amenities. But some tenants said no amount of discounted rent would be worth losing access to the pool.

"I couldn't care less about reduced rent," Mac Gregor said. "I need the pool for my health."

The 1,700-unit complex had a single owner when it was originally built, but was split into separate entities in the 1930s. The four towers become co-ops in the 1980s.

Use of the pool was originally set to end for rental tenants in February, but the Towers gave them a 90-day extension to figure out if a deal could be reached. However, the Gardens' management company said in a filing that the terms were not financially feasible.

"The Apartment Corporation is seeking a 300 [percent] increase in the consideration paid by [London Terrance Gardens] and an elimination of use of the sundeck," wrote Gardens management company Rose Associates in a petition with the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal. "While the [Gardens] is willing to entertain a substantial increase in the charge, the terms proposed by the Apartment Corporation are not economically feasible and would still result in a loss of services to the Tenants."

A spokeswoman for the Division of Housing and Community Renewal declined to comment because the case is ongoing.

Tenants in the rental building called the pool a "way of life" and hoped that an agreement could be reached that let them continue to enjoy a dip every now and then. Some even set up a "Live and Let Swim" group and produced a video urging the two owners to come to an agreement, but with the clock ticking, there appears little chance of a deal being reached, tenants said.

"Negotiations between the two buildings have broken down," said Andy Humm, president of the London Terrace Gardens Tenants Association. "The pool is going to be empty without us, so they can enjoy it in isolated splendor."

Rental tenants have already been barred from using the sundeck by the co-op's doormen since warmer weather returned to the city, Humm said. 

Carl Reinlib, London Terrace Towers' general manager, could not provide details on the negotiations.

"The Towers are more than happy to provide a new contract to the Gardens for use of the pool, provided they can come to financial terms," he said in a statement. 

A spokesman for Rose Associates did not respond to requests for comment.

How much less tenants would have to pay in rent if they lose access to the pool and sundeck — which is guaranteed by their leases — is unclear, though when they faced a similar fate in 1994, the state agreed to a 2 percent rent reduction. Rents in the complex vary, with some rent-stabilized tenants paying $2,000 for a one-bedroom, and newer market-rate tenants paying up to $4,050 a month.

Rose Associates has explored other options, Humm said, including possibly buying memberships at sports complex Chelsea Piers for all tenants.

"That's not the same as staying in your building and going in your flip-flops," Humm said.