MetLife, Tenants of NY’s Stuyvesant Town Settle Lawsuit

MetLife Inc (MET.N) has agreed to settle a 2007 lawsuit by tenants of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village who claimed they were charged too much rent to live in Manhattan’s largest apartment complex.

Settlement terms were not disclosed. MetLife revealed the accord in its annual report filed on Tuesday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Alexander Schmidt, a lawyer who represents the tenants, said the accord covers “several thousand” tenants whose rent-regulated apartments were converted to market rents between January 2003 and November 2006.

MetLife sold the complex that November for $5.4 billion to a group led by Tishman Speyer Properties LP and a real estate unit of Blackrock Inc.

“We’re very pleased with the settlement and we feel that it’s very fair (and) reasonable,” said Schmidt, a partner at Wolf, Haldenstein, Adler, Freeman & Hertz.

He said both sides hope to reach a final settlement within 45 days. An accord would require approval by New York State Supreme Court Justice Richard Lowe in Manhattan.

CWCapital, a special servicer representing bondholders that now control the complex after Tishman missed a debt payment, have not settled with the tenants, who sought roughly $215 million in their lawsuit.

A lawyer for CWCapital did not immediately return a call seeking comment. MetLife spokesman John Calagna said the insurer believes it has set aside enough funds for the settlement.

Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village include 56 buildings and roughly 11,200 apartments, and sits on an 80-acre property that overlooks the East River.

MetLife, which is based in New York, originally built the project for returning World War II veterans and middle class New Yorkers.

In October 2009, the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, ruled that MetLife and the Tishman Speyer-led group illegally raised rents for thousands of tenants.

A tenants group, the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, has been working since November with Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management Inc (BAMa.TO) on a plan to buy the complex.

It hopes to convert many apartments in the complex into condominium units and let current tenants buy their apartments or remain rent-regulated.

The case is Roberts v. Tishman Speyer Properties LP et al, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 100956/2007.

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