Stuyvesant Town tenants wary of N.Y.U. influx

By Syd Steinhardt

Despite swirling rumors fed by the existence of an increasingly youthful tenant population and a soft rental market, New York University has not taken over more apartments in Stuyvesant Town, according to the residential complex’s general manager.

Though unsure of the exact number of students living in apartments made available through an arrangement with the university, Steve Stadmeyer said that he had no plans to change it. “We’re happy with the current situation,” he said. “We have a nice relationship with N.Y.U. They’ve been very cooperative.”

The number of N.Y.U. graduate and professional students in the complex is 288, states the university’s Housing and Residence Life Web site. The site also states that the two-bedroom furnished apartments rent for either $11,550 or $10,250 per academic year, depending on the size of the unit.

One graduate student believes that living in Stuyvesant Town enhanced his New York experience. “I love it,” said Benjamin Simatos, a 23-year-old French native who must move out when he receives his mathematics degree in December. “It’s a wonderful community; it’s like a family.”

That sentiment is not shared by some longtime tenants of the 89-building, 8,757- apartment complex between 14th and 20th Sts., east of First Ave. They see a steady encroachment of younger residents that, accurately or not, they suspect of being students. “We’ve had some complaints,” said Al Doyle, president of the Stuyvesant Town Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association.

“I have heard people voice resentment that they [students] are there, but not anything specific,” said Suzy Lim, a spokesperson for City Councilmember Eva S. Moskowitz, who represents the area.

Although no one interviewed came right out and said it, the unspoken fear seems to be concern over noise and parties that N.Y.U. students might bring to the complex.

The murmurings are nothing new to Stadmeyer, who remembers what happened when it was announced last year that apartments would be made available for N.Y.U.’s graduate and professional students. “We started to get complaints before they moved in,” he said.

Though their suspicions remain vague and unsubstantiated, some longtime tenants have been distrustful of management moves since owner Metropolitan Life Insurance Company turned property management of Stuyvesant Town and its more upscale neighbor, Peter Cooper Village, over to Insignia ESG in April 2001.

As part of Met Life’s long-term goal of maximizing stakeholder value, IESG embarked on a $100 million renovation project to upgrade the 80-acre swath of 110 redbrick apartment buildings that urban critic Lewis Mumford disdained as “the architecture of the Police State” when it opened in 1947. The project involves brickwork, lighting improvements, asbestos abatement and landscaping, among other elements. Major work on the lobbies, elevators and walkways in Peter Cooper Village was recently completed, Stadmeyer said.

Aided by reform of the New York state rent laws in 1997 and 2003, IESG has moved to renovate vacated apartments. It has taken advantage of the 20 percent vacancy allowance and major capital improvements, both of which can help raise rents above $2,000, at which point an apartment is no longer subject to rent regulation.

The flat economy of the past few years may have slowed IESG’s progress. A complex that once boasted a multi-yearlong waiting list for its affordable apartments now advertises vacancies. Two-bedroom apartments originally renting for $3,250 in 2001 now rent for $2,995, an eight percent decrease.

These factors cause some older tenants to claim that IESG is having difficulty renting out renovated apartments at market rates. As a result, the argument goes, IESG has resorted to renting them to N.Y.U. undergraduates. The belief persists despite official denials and evidence that is, at best, apocryphal. “There’s definitely a divide between the seniors and students,” said Lim.

One new tenant can attest to that. Stacey Delich Gould, a second-year N.Y.U. law student, moved to Stuyvesant Town in August with her husband, a software engineer. Though the couple did not obtain the apartment through N.Y.U. and pays market rent, she said that she was greeted with a negative comment from another tenant.

“One day, I was walking back home, carrying my books, and an elderly woman spotted me and said in an accusing tone, ‘Are you an N.Y.U. student?’ ” she said. “I responded, ‘Yes — a law student!’”

Gould averred that there may be many more N.Y.U. students occupying Stuyvesant Town apartments than either property management or the university know about. She said that the convenience of the N.Y.U. trolley, which stops at First Ave. and 16th St., is a draw.

“If you get on the bus on a Tuesday morning at 8:50, you’ll see at least 40 kids,” she said.