Stuy-Town Tenants To Be Re-Stabilized

Bennett Baumer Mar 6, 2009

Stuy-Town and Peter Cooper Village tenants won a victory yesterday when the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court ruled that their landlord must reimburse up to 3,000 tenants money for rent overcharges. Tishman Speyer, the owner of Stuy-Town and Peter Cooper Village, the East Side bedrock of Manhattan middle-class housing, will have to pay an estimated $200 million in overcharges resulting from a controversial interpretation of the J-51 tax abatement.


The tax abatement allows landlords to renovate buildings and receive a tax break and in exchange, the apartments become rent-regulated. Tishman Speyer got into trouble when it deregulated thousands of rent-stabilized apartments when there was a vacancy and the rent surpassed $2,000 per month. The court ruled that J-51 tax abatement continued to extend rent regulations onto those 3,000 apartments. These once again rent regulated tenants will have protections against large rent increases, more housing rights (right to lease renewals among others) and have their rent reset as per the Rent Guidelines Board’s (RGB) percentage increases. Last year the RGB raised rents by 4.5 percent for a one year lease and 8.5 percent for two year leases in over one million rent stabilized apartments. Rent regulated apartments are the largest source of affordable housing in New York City.


Tishman Speyer bought (in retrospect, overpaid) the mega-complex in 2006 for $5.4 billion and is reportedly not able to push rents high enough to meet its bloated debt payments.


From the New York Times:


Alexander H. Schmidt, a partner at Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz who represented the tenants, added: “It’s a very important victory not only for our clients but for tenants citywide. These building owners understood, or should have, that they were taking a risk. They were relying on an interpretation of the law that contradicted the plain meaning and words in the statute.”


A statement by Manhattan City Council member Dan Garodnick, who represents Stuy-Town and Peter Cooper tenants:

“The court’s decision today was as clear as it was correct — Tishman Speyer cannot take $24.5 million in tax breaks while they push rent stabilized tenants out the door.

“This is a landmark victory for thousands of tenants at Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village who have been paying exorbitant market rate rents on units that should never have left rent protection.  Tishman Speyer needs to do something unheard of in this town:  re-regulate apartments that have been lost as affordable housing.  Tenants who have been wronged by their landlords’ double-dipping are owed rent overcharges and significant damages, and they should collect.

“It is also a victory for the City, as it means keeping thousands of units of affordable housing, which will remain regulated through 2017 — or as long as Tishman Speyer is receiving J-51 tax breaks.”

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