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Developer Vows To Replace Chelsea Apartments Razed After Filing False Docs

By Maya Rajamani | December 20, 2016 3:23pm
 Related Companies' site at 500 W. 28th St., which was formerly home to a four-story tenement.
Related Companies' site at 500 W. 28th St., which was formerly home to a four-story tenement.
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DNAinfo/Maya Rajamani

CHELSEA — A developer that local leaders claim demolished a building containing rent-regulated apartments by filing false documents with the city has promised to come up with a plan to replace the lost units — or turn the property over if it doesn’t.

After the city’s Department of Buildings issued Related Companies permits to partially demolish a four-story, six-unit tenement at 500 W. 28th St., in the Special West Chelsea District, the developer razed the building to make way for a one-story commercial building.

Community Board 4 officials, however, said that many of the filings Related submitted to the DOB contained false information, including statements claiming the original building didn’t contain any rent-stabilized or rent-controlled apartments. The board also said the department shouldn’t have approved a demolition at a site located in a special district. 

The board previously told Related it planned to withhold its support for a requested zoning change the developer needs to construct a mixed-use building at a separate, U-Haul-owned site in Chelsea if it didn’t agree to replace the units.

At CB4’s Chelsea Land Use committee meeting Monday evening, Related’s senior vice president Gregory Gushee pointed to a Related-developed building called The Tate on West 23rd Street as a possible site for the replacement units.

The building currently has a mix of market-rate and low-income units under the state's 80/20 housing program.

When The Tate’s current 421-a tax exemption expires in 2023, Related could “drastically” reduce the income requirements for nine of its already-reduced-income units when it extends the exemption, Gushee said.

As an alternative, Gushee suggested creating more affordable housing at a future development, but committee members argued that plan wouldn’t involve Related going “above and beyond” existing 80/20 requirements.

“If you use the [80/20] programs that are in place… we’re always going to be six units down,” committee co-chairman Lee Compton said. “We are asking you to find a way — and the Tate proposal is a very interesting one — to make up [for] those six.”

Gushee vowed to come up with a plan that that met the committee’s requirements.

“First thing, trust us, we’re Related — our word’s solid,” he said.

If Related fails to carry out the plan it ultimately agrees on with the committee, the developer would hand the West 28th Street property over to CB4 via an entity like the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Gushee said.

“If we didn’t do what we’re supposed to do by the deadline, you’d basically take the building,” he explained. “It just gives you comfort that we’re going to make sure we get it done, if you have that essentially as collateral backing up our commitment.”

The committee ultimately voted to deny Related’s U-Haul site application if the developer doesn’t keep its word.

CB4 chairwoman Delores Rubin praised Related for “reacting in a very positive way” when the board raised concerns about the West 28th Street site.

“Our district, as well as the whole city, is having lots of issues where buildings are coming down, in many cases we have found that there are mislabelings, or there are forms that are filled out incorrectly — in some cases they may be illegal,” she said.

“This developer has offered a solution immediately, and that needs to be taken into account."