Gateway Plaza, LeFrak make rent deal

By Ronda Kaysen

The Lefrak Organization, owner of the massive Gateway Plaza apartment complex in Battery Park City, agreed on Wednesday to extend the plaza’s rent protections for another four and a half years, just short of the witching hour.

“I’m ecstatic. We were really under the gun here,” said Gateway Plaza Tenants’ Association president Linda Belfer. The current 10-year agreement, which protected tenants under the state’s Rent Stabilization law, expires in June.

The new agreement, brokered by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, covers tenants until December 2009, offering tenants rent-stabilized leases for all renewals. New rentals will be rented at market rate and renewals on those leases will be rent stabilized, as has always been the case. Gateway residents will also have the option to sign three-year leases, unlike typical rent stabilized apartments, which only offer tenants one- or two-year leases.

“We are pleased that an agreement has been reached that results in the extension of the rent protections for the tenants of Gateway Plaza,” said Ross Moskowitz, counsel to the Gateway Plaza owners, reading a statement from the owners, which includes the LeFrak family and others.

With more than 1,700 units in the six-building complex, Gateway Plaza houses close to half of the population of Battery Park City and its future will have a significant impact on the future of the neighborhood.

The agreement was reached in large part because the LeFrak family decided to refinance its bonds on Gateway Plaza, a move that required unanimous approval from the three-member Public Authority Board. Silver, who controls one vote on the P.A.C.B., along with Governor George Pataki and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, used his veto power on the board to renew the Gateway lease agreement. (The P.A.C.B.-regulated Battery Park City Authority manages the financial arrangement with Lefrak Organization.)

In early 2003, Silver negotiated an extension obligating the LeFraks to agree to rent stabilization increases until 2009 in exchange for P.A.C.B. approval for the debt refinancing. And then in April 2003, Sam LeFrak, the family’s patriarch, died, bringing all negotiations to a standstill while the estate was settled.

“Even since Mr. Lefrak passed away [Silver] has been on top of it,” said James Quent, a spokesperson for Silver, adding that Silver’s position on the P.A.C.B. was key in securing the deal. “He had to make sure that the situation was resolved.”

On Wednesday, after months of negotiations, Lefrak Organization finally agreed to Silver’s conditions, securing the refinancing request for the building and settling the tenant concerns for four and a half years.

“Assemblyman Sheldon Silver is very pleased that the extension of the rent protections for the residents of Gateway Plaza has come to fruition,” wrote Quent in an e-mail statement. “He has worked hard to protect the residents of Gateway Plaza and ensure that his negotiations lead to the best possible outcome.”


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