Stuy Town Follies: Now It’s War

Given its 50+ years of service as a middle class hideaway in Manhattan, Stuyvesant Town seems like an unlikely setting for a full-fledged Class War, but that’s exactly what’s happening at Tishman Speyer’s $5.4 billion baby. But while the new market-rate tenants—with their stainless steel, pooping puppies and Hamptons shuttles—are the obvious target of rent-stabilized rage (about 60% of the 110-building Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village complex is still stabilized), the real battle is between the stabilized tenants and landlord Tishman Speyer itself.

Tishman Speyer is using various law firms and private investigators to crack down on stabilization violators, but the crackdown has caught many innocent people in its vast net, pissing off some powerful people. When the Times ran a big story a few weeks back on landlords harassing rent-stabilized tenants, a Stuy Towner active on the complex’s Tenants Association message board immediately fired off a letter to the Times asking why Tishman Speyer was left out of the story. Well, apparently the Times read that letter, because woo boy…

Today, the paper rums a massive story on Tishman Speyer’s crackdown on rent-stabilized tenants at Stuy Town, and the charges of harassment made by those tenants caught in the crossfire. Of the 800 stabilized leases denied renewal by Tishman Speyer since December 2006, about 40% of those cases were later dropped, and 30% resulted in the tenant vacating the apartment. The remaining cases have not been resolved yet. This means that, more often than not, Tishman Speyer has tried to kick out a rent-stabilized tenant who had every right to be there. Or, they just got lazy and didn’t follow up. Or, they felt bad and decided not to force the issue. Um, we’ll assume it’s mostly the first explanation.

The average monthly rent at Stuyvesant Town in 2006 was $1,241 for rent-stabilized units, and $2,767 for market-rate units. According to the Stuy Town website, market-rate units now rent for a minimum of $2,900. At classier Peter Cooper Village, the starting price is $3,270. Tishman Speyer obviously has a lot to gain if some Stuy Town oldtimer erroneously charged with a violation gets freaked and moves out, or can’t afford the legal fees of fighting the case and retires to the promised land, Florida. Numerous disputed cases are described in the article, and here’s one on the message board, which the tenant claims was caused by a data entry error on a credit report. Whatever the case may be, it’s war at everyone’s favorite (formerly?) middle-class housing project, and no square dance is going to fix this.

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