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City Offers Tax Break to Brooklyn Landlord to Keep 700 Units Rent-Regulated

By Rachel Holliday Smith | February 20, 2015 4:37pm | Updated on February 23, 2015 8:57am
 The landlord of the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital complex in Crown Heights may receive a tax break from the city to keep its 700 units rent-regulated.
The landlord of the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital complex in Crown Heights may receive a tax break from the city to keep its 700 units rent-regulated.
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DNAinfo/Rachel Holliday Smith

CROWN HEIGHTS — A local landlord may get a tax break from the city for keeping 700 apartments rent-regulated in Crown Heights after it threatened tenants with market-rate leases this fall.

In a letter sent to tenants at the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital complex this week, local elected officials announced Alma Realty would receive an Article XI tax benefit  which could exempt Alma from some or all local taxes for up to 40 years  in exchange for keeping the buildings’ 700 units rent-regulated.

“Although the exemption is still being finalized, upon completion and approval by the New York City Council it will allow all tenants of the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital to remain in a long-term rent-stabilized home,” read the letter, signed by Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo, Assemblyman Walter Mosley and others.

Officials described the move as “a huge victory” after months of back-and-forth with Alma, which this fall began issuing market-rate leases to tenants who had previously lived at the Crown Heights complex under rent-regulated leases.

Soon afterwards, elected officials used approval for Alma’s Astoria Cove project in Queens as a bargaining chip in the negotiation. Mosley, however, said Alma was “always willing” to come to an agreement.

“They’ve always wanted to find a solution, understanding that we had thousands of residents who could have seen themselves possibly on the streets looking for somewhere else to live,” he said.

Besides requiring rent-stabilized leases in the buildings, the deal stipulates new tenants must make under 120 percent of the area median income, he said, though current tenants will be grandfathered in.

An inquiry to Alma Realty was not immediately returned Friday.

Tenants in the building are glad Alma agreed to ditch market-rate prices, but say it’s “not a done deal” until the city council approves the tax break and, even then, they’ll stay on their toes.

“It tastes, it feels, it smells like a victory, yet we know better than to just to accept it,” said Mariano Muñoz, a tenant of the building who has worked to organize his neighbors since the early fall. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction. We’re very excited. But we’re going to remain vigilant.”

It could be a while before the deal is set in ink, housing advocates said. To receive the Article XI benefit, Alma must transfer ownership of the complex to a new non-profit entity, a “Housing Development Fund Company,” or HDFC, said Cea Weaver of the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, who has assisted tenant at the complex since the issue arose.

Next the department of Housing Preservation and Development must determine how much money the city will give Alma before the application for the tax break is made, she said. An inquiry to HPD was not immediately returned Friday.

The City Council has 120 days to respond to the application once its done, Weaver said. Mosley predicted the council will approve the Article XI application sometime this spring.