Now, nearly five months after Tishman Speyer stepped away from its failed $5.4 billion investment, the company currently managing the building is changing course. This month it plans to begin removing swaths of trees in some of the most densely planted areas of the sprawling complex that extends between 14th and 23rd streets.
The new landlord is making this turnabout after residents complained that the new trees blocked their views and posed a security threat, among other criticisms.
The episode with the trees shows how Stuyvesant Town’s politically powerful tenants present a challenge for the loan servicer that now controls the property. CWCapital Asset Management is charged by investors with recouping as much value as it can from the city’s largest residential property.
It may not be easy. CWCapital is in the midst of a legal fight with tenants over the proper rents for the more expensive apartments at the complex, and the company for months has been trying to bring to an end a 2007 lawsuit on the issue.
There are other potential conflicts on the horizon. The firm has been planning a conversion to co-ops or condominiums, a complex step that would require cooperation from the residents. While many tenants support this step, it has led to clashes at other properties once the specifics were determined.
In 2008, as Tishman Speyer was planting the trees, it publicized the move as a major upgrade that would enhance the property’s look. But shortly after the trees went in, they sparked criticism from many residents.
“We think that they’re presenting an opportunity for somebody of ill will to hide and potentially perform a criminal act,” said Council Member Daniel Garodnick, a resident of Peter Cooper Village who sent multiple letters to Tishman Speyer about the issue at the time.
Rose Associates, CWCapital’s property manager, is planning to remove about two-thirds of the trees in the densely planted areas that lead into Stuyvesant Town’s central oval, along with bushes and shrubs around the property, said Adam Rose, the firm’s co-president. He expects others will stay in place, and that many of those removed will be given to a nonprofit.
“They were overly ambitious,” Mr. Rose said of the prior owners. “What you ended up with is a property with huge numbers of dense trees.”
To be sure, many residents appreciated the trees and other improvements. And there tends to be a split at Stuyvesant Town between the longtime tenants who were more vocally opposed to change, and the younger, more affluent crowd that has arrived in recent years.