Recent publicity has called to front and center the appalling conditions created in both Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village by Rose Associates’ aggressive marketing plans to fill apartments—reconfigured through the use of newly-constructed “pressurized walls”—with college students. Obviously, neither the Tenants Association nor the community at large has anything against college students nor, for that matter, college dormitories. However, students and dormitories both have an appropriate setting. A residential community is not such a setting.
Our community was conceived, designed and operated for many years by MetLife as a residential community. It eventually became an iconic property within Manhattan, in a bucolic park-like setting. It was overwhelmingly popular, evidenced by many years’ long waiting lists for prospective tenants. Eventually through vacancy decontrol, the waiting lists disappeared, as did MetLife in 2006. What followed was a short, disastrous tenure by Tishman Speyer; its default on the property’s massive debt load; and the temporary stewardship of CW Capital, a “Special Servicer” as the property awaits transfer to a new owner.
During the last five years, Tishman and currently property manager Rose Associates have actively marketed the property to colleges and universities to serve as an off-campus dormitory. This has drastically changed the essential character of our residential community, a change that could, or should, have been readily anticipated. It has been reported that as many as seven students now occupy apartments. Student life is vastly different from residential life. The two are not compatible for countless reasons: noise, waking hours kept, and other life style differences between students and families.
In 2007, the Tenants Association—concerned with health, safety issues and the quality of life impact of the sudden surge in the installation of these new pressurized walls—investigated and discovered that many of the pressurized wall installations were in violation of the Dept. of Building and NY Fire Dept. safety codes. The filing of complaints by the TA with the appropriate agencies resulted in a suspension of new walls and the inspection of existing walls until such walls came into conformance with code. Soon, using loopholes, the owner permitted the resumption of installation of these walls at an even greater pace.
What is behind this rental strategy? It seems obvious that it is the patent desire to rapidly fill vacant apartments with the expectation of rapid turnover, thus affording the landlord incremental rent increases under the rent stabilization laws. All of this comes at the expense of straining the facilities in the buildings (laundry, sewage, refuse accumulation, elevator congestion, etc) and the quality of life of residents interested in long-term stability.
One of the reasons the TA believes a tenant-led conversion is so important is that it will give us the ability to take quality-of-life issues into our own hands and to address concerns such as these. We will be able to set rules for ourselves about leasing to prevent a dormitory like environment that is detrimental to the quiet enjoyment of our homes and the long-term stability of our community. In the meantime, we will continue to voice our strong objections to Rose about the negative impact their aggressive courting of student renters has on our community.
We continue to explore every avenue of existing codes and ordinances to be sure that CW Capital is in full compliance with all technical and safety aspects of the law. We will be working closely with our municipal, state and federal representatives to monitor CW Capital and to protect our community from being victimized by real estate rental schemers.
Council Member Dan Garodnick has contacted CW Capital on this matter. A copy of the letter is linked here.
Management needs to hear from tenants how they have been affected by the influx of students in their buildings. All residents who have trouble sleeping, encounter filth in the laundry rooms or in the stairwells, or experience other negative impacts from “overstuffed” apartments.are urged to call and share their issues with Rose Associates.