Tenants Tuesday at Stuyvesant Town expressed shock, confusion and a resigned sadness that a temple of Manhattan middle class life might continue to erode in the face of market forces after the sale of Manhattan’s largest rental complex was announced. .
“People are stunned,” said Dennis Mulligan, 78, a retired NYPD homicide detective who has lived in the complex since the late 1980s. “We had no idea any of this was going on: no inkling.”
The de Blasio administration heralded the $5.3 billion sale of the Stuy Town-Peter Cooper Village complex to Blackstone as a victory, noting that about 5,000 of the apartments would be subject to affordability rules for about 20 years.
But many questions remained as to which apartments would be subject to the affordability guidelines, how the sale and income classifications for apartments would affect individuals and what might occur when the protections expired.
“Of course I’m worried: I’ve been here for 40 years,” said Eileen Lugano, a retired schoolteacher who raised five children in Stuy Town . “Nothing was explained to us,” she said of the sale.
At a Stuy Town exit, a young woman was handing out a friendly sounding letter signed “Blackstone & Ivanhoe Cambridge” that said the sale by the current creditors group would bring “much needed stability to the community.”
In addition to the landlord’s commitment “to implement supplemental affordable housing provisions to 5,000 below-market units for 20 years,” tenants covered by a 2009 court decision (the “Roberts Order”) would enjoy a “limit” on their rent increases for five years “at the end of the J-51 abatement period,” the letter continued, noting that “for market-rate tenants, it will be the status quo.” Residents were encouraged to call and email the new owners with questions.
There were plenty of questions.
“Who is going to insure compliance with this is a big question for me,” sighed Deborah Moore, 63, a divorced occupational therapist who pays almost $3,000 a month for a two bedroom she shares with two grown children. “How is the city poised to help us?”
Moore said that as a person on “the high end of rent stabilization,” she already shovels three quarters of her take-home pay into rent: “I’m going to have to move, is what it comes down to,” she sighed. As it is, said the Stuy Town resident of 24 years, “there is no way I can ever retire.”
While amenities have improved as past landlords sought to lure affluent market-rate tenants, the multigenerational family feeling is being lost, said Denise Duffell, a retired teacher who has lived in Stuy Town for about 30 years.
“The reason we stayed is because we have family here,” but many young families can’t rationalize or afford the asking prices of the market rate units, occupied by transient college students who rarely stay more than a few years, she noted. “I want to continue living here and to pay a reasonable rent,” she said, adding that none of the longtime tenants “want to see this spiral out of control.”
Mary Reilly, 85, who works as a hospital receptionist and has lived in Stuy Town for 60 years, was fatalistic. Her 57-year-old daughter, who lives with her, may have to confront the expiration of protections, but “I won’t be here,” she said with a smile.