CROWN HEIGHTS — Elected leaders stood with tenants of the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital complex in Crown Heights over the weekend to deliver a clear message to the landlord: keep apartments rent stabilized, or else.
After years of receiving rent-stabilized leases, some residents of the 700-unit building on Classon Avenue between St. Marks Avenue and Prospect Place began receiving market-rate leases from their management company, Alma Realty, in recent months. A representative for the company said they made the decision to stop offering rent-stabilized leases after they did not receive a tax benefit they’d applied for with the city for offering affordable units. Without that incentive, the building would go market-rate, they said.
But that isn’t sitting well with those who live there — or the elected officials who represent them, many of whom are already unhappy with Alma Realty over their planned Astoria Cove project, a five-building, mixed-used development on Astoria’s waterfront. There, 345 of the project’s 1,700 units will be affordable, too low a number for many at a press conference at the Crown Heights complex on Sunday.
“So many developers are used to coming before the City Council and getting a rubber stamp from their development project,” said Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo, who plans to find 26 fellow councilmembers to vote against the Astoria Cove project. “That time is over.”
The City Council is set to begin hearings on the Queens development Monday morning, and many at Sunday’s rally promised to withhold approval for the Astoria Cove project unless Alma promises to preserve affordability in the Crown Heights buildings.
“If Alma, with its record of slumlord realty, thinks they’re going to get over on us on a real estate deal in Queens — in one borough — and not come to terms with what’s happening in Brooklyn, they’re making a big mistake,” city Comptroller Scott Stringer said.
But before the council hearings on Astoria Cove begin, negotiations with Alma are already underway, said Letitia James, who attended Sunday’s rally. She said she set up a meeting between the real estate company, her office, Cumbo, Assemblyman Walter Mosley and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to discuss the destabilization in Crown Heights and feels “somewhat confident the issue will be resolved.”
“I cannot say definitively, but … there has been movement,” she said. “The administration — Mayor de Blasio — is aware of the problem, as well as [HPD] Commissioner [Vicki] Been and, clearly, Alma is concerned,” she said.
“If they want that to go down, then so be it,” she said of Alma and the Astoria Cove project. But, she said “they’ve got to make sure that these units [in Brooklyn] will not be destabilized.”
An inquiry to Alma Realty was not immediately returned following Sunday’s rally.
Many at the event Sunday said they feel the issue at the Crown Heights complex is part of a wider issue of affordability in the neighborhood — and demanded that the city take responsibility for keeping their apartments stabilized.
“Crown Heights used to be a place where low and middle-income people could build a life. You could come here and afford to rent an apartment and raise a family,” said Kelly Vaughn, a school teacher who has lived in the complex since 2012 and is expecting her first child in January.
“Yet many have already been displaced and the rents keep on rising. The city must step in and save our homes, which represent almost 700 units of affordable housing, which once lost cannot be replaced."
The first hearing on Astoria Cove will be held Monday at 9:30 a.m. at City Hall.