Tenants Celebrate Court Victory, Mostly
Eliot Brown Oct. 22, 2009, 7:16 p.m.
Tenants of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village on Thursday expressed support for a ruling from the state’s Court of Appeals, which said that landlord Tishman Speyer unfairly de-regulated thousands of rent-controlled apartments. While many specific implications are unclear, the decision seems to mean apartment deregulations will halt going forward.
“I’m thrilled,” said Joe L., 63, a retired resident of a rent-controlled apartment who declined to give his full last name.
He said he was particularly incensed when his friends were threatened with eviction for owning second homes, and had to pay thousands in legal fees.
Marc McDonald, a jazz saxophonist, has been living in a rent-controlled apartment in Stuy Town for three years with his wife and son. He was happy because of the decision, but didn’t look forward to Tishman’s looming default.
“I don’t see a doomsday scenario, where buildings are going to start falling down,” said Mr. McDonald, but was concerned with the uncertainty of a possible foreclosure.
He also noted that Tishman beautified the community by investing millions of dollars on landscaping, creating a good environment to raise his son, Alec, 2. But this may have been a capitalist effort to transform Stuy Town into a “luxury” area.
“They’re trying to attract an upscale tenant. It’s not completely altruistic.” said Mr. McDonald. “On the other hand, they’ve done some nice things,”
But all the trees and flowers in the world wouldn’t win over some tenants, who said the landscaping efforts weren’t merely a waste of money, but actually degraded Stuy Town’s quality of life.
“These people who came here strictly for greed, I despise that. They made a shamble of this place. It’s so filthy, it’s so dirty. You just feel like they’re out to get you. I want them out of here,” said Ann, who refused to give her last name, a resident since 1955 and a retired junior high school teacher.
She also complained about loud music – not merely from college students, but also the Tishman-sponsored free concerts held at the Stuy Town Oval over the last two summers.
“It’s so loud that my house shakes,” she said. “I have no other place to go. I’m stuck here.”
Daniel Bui, a junior at the New York City College of Technology, moved to Peter Cooper Village in August. He was pleased by the decision, which could affect some of his neighbors, and wouldn’t mind a reimbursement for his market-rate apartment.
But like many students who have flooded Stuy Town in recent years, Bui was already getting a deal, as the landlord lured market-rate tenants with generous concessions.
“They were so desperate to get tenants here,” he said.
When he signed the lease with two friends for a 920-square-foot apartment for $3,000 a month over the summer, he received a $500 gift card for signing the lease, and another $500 for being referred by a friend – and two months of free rent.
He’s very satisfied with the apartment, which has a recently-renovated full kitchen and bathroom. Though it’s technically one-bedroom, it has been divided into comfortable 15-foot-by-15-foot squares, thanks to a temporary wall installed by Manhattan Pressurized Walls Inc.
But Bui doesn’t plan on staying past the lease, since he said he was told his rent would go up by an estimated $500 per person the second year.
The result is a drastic departure from the family-centered, rent-stabilized that Stuy Town once was. Instead, it has become what residents call a “transient” community, with moving vans piling in when school starts and many tenants who stay for no more than a few semesters or years.
And no matter how the case plays out, some will always wish for a simpler time.
“Even on a pretty day like this, when you feel like smiling,” said 54-year Stuy Town resident Ann. “I think of how it was. Nothing lasts forever.”
But if an era is ending, residents hope the new one will have fewer evictions, fewer market-rate conversions and more affordable housing.
And as the case moves to a lower court, which will decide damages, Stuy Town could very well return to predominantly rent-controlled apartments, new trees and all.