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Stuy Town Residents Fear Sale Will Not Protect Middle-Income Families

By Noah Hurowitz | October 21, 2015 10:03am
 A plan to keep 5,000 units affordable in Stuy Town will have to win the trust of residents, they said.
A plan to keep 5,000 units affordable in Stuy Town will have to win the trust of residents, they said.
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DNAinfo/Heather Holland

STUYVESANT TOWN — For retired policeman and longtime Stuy Town resident Pat Boylan, his rent-stabilized apartment is safe from exorbitant rent hikes for the next 20 years, but the chances of his daughters getting to stay in the complex as adults are slim, he said.

Residents of Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village were wary to praise a deal announced on Tuesday in which financial firm Blackstone Group has agreed to buy the complex and protect slightly less than half of the units, or roughly 5,000 homes, from rent hikes for the next two decades.

Joining tenant leaders, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other local elected officials, Blackstone announced its purchase of the 11,200-unit property for $5.3 billion from CWCapital Asset Management LLC, the lender who seized the complex in 2010 after a $5.4 billion purchase fell through in the midst of the financial crisis.

And while residents were relieved after spending years in limbo over the fate of the complex, many were concerned of the 20-year cap on protections for rent-stabilized apartments.

“I think there’s still a lot to find out,” said Boylan, who's lived in the complex for 30 years. Boylan’s ideal plan would keep the 5,000 remaining affordable units below market rate forever, rather than just the next 20 years.

“Let them make money on the other apartments,” he said.

Under the terms of the sale, the majority of affordable apartments will go to middle-income families, including those making roughly $128,000 annually who would have to pay about $3,200 per month for a two-bedroom. The rest of the units will go to lower-income families making less than $62,500, who would pay about $1,550 for a two-bedroom.

Boylan raised his daughters in Stuy Town, and they still live with him. But the chances of his kids and other Stuy Town natives finding apartments in the complex in adulthood has rapidly diminished thanks to rent hikes, Boylan said, adding that he doubted whether 5,000 rent-stabilized units — which would still be too pricey for many families, he said — would be enough to keep the place populated by middle-class families.

“A lot of families who might want to live here don’t make $130,000 a year, so that wouldn’t do them much good,” he said. 

Sitting on a bench in Stuy Town with Boylan was Charles Daescher, a lifelong resident who said his grandparents were among the first residents. Daescher echoed his friend's skepticism about how much the new landlord would do to ensure the complex remained a haven for middle-class working families.

“It used to be all cops, firemen, public servants,” he said. “I don’t see them being able to afford living here.”

Newer residents of the complex were also concerned about the deal, including Gregg Sugerman, who said he wouldn't be convinced of the benefits until he sees it in action.

“I’ve lived in Manhattan since I was born, so I’m a cynic,” said Sugerman, who moved to Stuy Town in July with his girlfriend. “Show me and we’ll see.”

Still, there appeared to be a sense of relief at a possible end to the uncertainty stemming from the aggressive 2006 purchase of the complex, the chaos of the deal falling apart in the financial crisis, and the flurry of lawsuits against the owner, including one from tenants over illegal rent increases and one from creditors over the 2010 seizure of the property.

One longtime resident said she is just glad to see the 2006 deal, which threatened vastly increased rents, recede in the rearview.

“I’m looking forward to meeting our new landlords,” said the woman, who gave her first name as Audrey and said she had lived in Stuy Town since 1965. “I’m hopeful they will understand the tenants a little better.”