Category Archives: Pressure Walls

The Fall of Temporary Apartment Walls

AFTER graduating from Duke University this spring, Karan Sabharwal landed a job in finance in New York City. He had a plan to make Manhattan living affordable.

He would lease a nice one-bedroom apartment, convert it to a two-bedroom space with a temporary wall and split the rent with a friend.

But when he went to check out the Rivergate, a high-rise apartment building in Kips Bay, he was told by the property manager that partitions were no longer allowed.

“I told her I had friends in nearby buildings that had put up the walls,” he said. “She said, ‘We have adopted the policy, like many other buildings in the neighborhood, that you will not be able to put up the full wall anymore.’ ”

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Stuyvesant Town Forcing Tenants to Install New Walls

MANHATTAN — It’s the war of the walls at Stuyvesant Town.

The massive East Side complex is telling tenants they must install new, city-approved partitions to split up their apartments, despite the fact that many residents already paid hundreds of dollars to put their existing walls up.

Residents of the 91-building property, which includes the neighboring Peter Cooper Village, often install pressurized walls in their units to subdivide the space and create additional bedrooms.

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Knock, Knock, Stuy Town! It’s Tishman Speyer Looking for Subdivisions

Tishman Speyer, owner of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, is systematically inspecting each of the more than 11,000 apartments in the complex, according to residents.

The stated purpose of the inspections is to ensure temporary walls comply with building and fire safety codes, an issue the Fire Department has previously raised with the owner. Tenants and elected officials, however, suggested that the inspections were an excuse to evict longtime tenants, allowing the company to convert the units to market-rate rents.

“Without any clear purpose or limits to these inspections, tenants are left to worry that this is just a last-ditch effort to clear out longtime residents,” said City Council Member Dan Garodnick, a lifelong Stuy Town resident. “These inspections should not be used as a way to play ‘gotcha’ with residents.”

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Just Like Home, Sibling Included

MIRIAM FINK and her younger brother, Benjamin, two 20-somethings who for the past year have shared a Lilliputian-sized apartment in Greenwich Village, moved into Stuyvesant Town in late July. Their parents wouldn’t arrive from Baltimore to help them settle in until a few days later.

But even with the walls and floors of their new apartment still bare, even with basic pieces of furniture like dressers and lamps still to be acquired, the Finks knew that at least one item would occupy pride of place on their walls, if only as a reminder of how far they’d come.

That was a pen and ink drawing by Joe Forte of an exquisite block of Thompson Street that includes a six-story walk-up nestled within a row of small storefronts. The siblings had been living there on the fifth floor in a 400-square-foot apartment. “Really, just 350 square feet of usable space,” Mr. Fink said.

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Temporary Walls Turn New York City Apartments into Firetraps

The firefighters were trapped in what amounted to a burning maze: a Bronx apartment illegally divided into extra rooms for the sake of making a buck in this cramped city.

With flames licking at their bodies and black smoke making it nearly impossible to see, the men had little choice but to jump from a fourth-floor window. Two were killed and four others were hurt in the January 2005 fire.

“Next thing you know, that I remember, is hitting the ground 40 feet below,” firefighter Jeffrey Cool testified recently in court. “I was in a world of hurt. I was in the worst pain I’ve ever found myself in.”

The former owner of the building, the current owner and two tenants are being tried on manslaughter and other charges, accused of allowing illegal construction that prosecutors say turned the building into a deathtrap.

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The Casualties of Stuy Town’s WallGate

Stuyvesant Town’s wall controversy may be coming to a close, but the missing link has finally turned up in all its bendable glory. Up until now, the “privacy walls” given to tenants who had expected to live in walled-off living rooms converted to additional bedrooms have gone mostly unremarked upon. But a Curbed tipster sent us a couple of photos of these temporary fixes, which apparently are being left for dead in the storage areas of the rental megacomplex’s buildings. Either the pressurized walls are being installed once again, or we have some fed-up renters who’d rather go without the “privacy” for now.

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Stuy Town WallGate Update: Don’t Call it a Living Room!

The gripping drama of Stuyvesant Town’s pressurized wall controversy—landlord Tishman Speyer was forced to stop walling off living rooms to create additional bedrooms due to fire code violations, forcing renters to use “privacy screens”—appears to be approaching its end. According to the Tenants Association message board, wall construction is expected to resume this month, and Tishman Speyer will issue rent credits to those affected, credits that look like they’ll only cover the costs of installing the new walls. But the biggest long-term effect is likely the new floorplans for the walled apartments. Some may not be happy with the results.

A couple of Stuy Towners even drew up illustrations of the new plan, and one such picture is above. The red line represents the old way, just slapping up a wall with a door in the living room, creating an additional bedroom while leaving a window-less living room. That was the no-no. Now, it’s the blue lines, a T-shaped wall that will take up more of the living space and create an additional hallway-like entry. And to get around the windowless thing, the living rooms have ceased being called living rooms, thankyouverymuch. You may now refer to them as “foyers.”

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Stuyvesant Town Renters Rally in Wake of WallGate

We’ve been having a lot of fun with Stuyvesant Town lately—pot-loving laundry thieves, Bruins-loving laundry thieves, etc.—but all kidding aside, it’s the WallGate controversy that looks like it could end up giving landlord Tishman Speyer fits. To catch you up, the widespread Stuy Town practice of creating an extra bedroom by blocking off the living room with a so-called “pressurized wall” was suddenly abandoned. Yesterday, the Post filed a report that confirmed the suspicious of many—that the DOB and FDNY ordered the subdivisions to stop. Tishman Speyer is trying to rush the plans through the system to get the walls DOB approval, but in terms of appeasing new market-rate tenants, who have been given “privacy screens” to set up while they wait on the walls promised in their leases, the damage may have already been done.

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Stuy Town Wall Woes

There’ll be no more subdividing in Stuyvesant Town.

The city Buildings Department and FDNY have ordered Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village to stop installing pressurized walls to convert living rooms into extra bedrooms.

“They pose hazards,” said FDNY spokesman Jim Long. “They can cut one’s means of egress in an apartment or entry for a firefighter if one needs to come in.”

Tishman Speyer, the company that purchased the 110-building Manhattan complex in 2006 for $5.4 billion, declined to comment.

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association had long complained that subdivisions were creating a dormitory-like atmosphere.

Rents for one-bedrooms at the site start at $2,995. Tishman, for a one-time fee, had been converting these into two bedrooms, leaving a windowless living room.

It’s unclear if tenants with pressurized walls in their apartments now will have to take them out.

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When You Hit a Wall

ONCE she arrived in New York last summer to start a new job, Hallie Stephens, who planned to share an apartment with a roommate or two, kept encountering references to something unfamiliar: building a wall.

“I had never heard of building a wall in an apartment,” she said. “I was, like, ‘Do I do this myself?’ I am not that handy, so I am not sure a wall I build will even stay up.”

No, of course she wouldn’t do it herself. She would hire a company to install a temporary pressurized wall, thereby turning one room into two, as so many of her friends had already done. She could then squeeze in an extra person. It was the only way she could afford to rent in Manhattan. (Some buildings allow temporary walls and others don’t.)

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