Tenant leader says Gateway deal is likely

Residents of Gateway Plaza in Battery Park City could be in for some good news.

Jeff Galloway, a Gateway tenant leader and Community Board 1 member, said he is “very optimistic” that the building’s rent protections will continue past their planned June 2009 expiration.

“I’m reasonably confident there will be an extension — but the question is how long,” Galloway said.

An extension of only a year or two would not offer much reassurance to seniors on fixed incomes or people who are hoping to raise a family in Gateway Plaza. Galloway said he’d heard of several people who have already left or decided to leave Gateway because of the uncertainty.

“We do need to lay it to rest very soon,” Galloway said. “People are very anxious…. Every day this is unresolved, the stability of the complex, and by extension the stability of southern Battery Park City, is at risk.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has brokered two previous agreements with the LeFrak Organization, Gateway’s owner, to keep the complex affordable. New tenants enter at market rate, but all existing tenants have the right of renewal and their rent increases are in line with Rent Stabilization.

Silver twice used his veto power on the Public Authorities Control Board to keep Gateway rent-protected, since LeFrak needed the board’s approval to refinance its bonds. But it is unclear if that position will come in handy a third time, as LeFrak may not be looking for the board’s approval on anything.

What LeFrak is looking for, though, is to renegotiate its ground lease with the Battery Park City Authority. LeFrak’s lease is not up until 2023, but LeFrak approached the authority late last year to renegotiate early and lock in a deal now. The authority would only negotiate the lease if rent protections and environmental sustainability were part of the discussion as well, and apparently those were deal breakers for LeFrak, because the talks stopped there.

LeFrak did not respond to a request for comment.

“Discussions are ongoing,” said Jim Quent, Silver’s spokesperson. “Protecting the tenants at Gateway Plaza is a key issue for Speaker Silver, and he is personally involved in this process.”

Galloway expects to hear something definite within the next couple months.

— Julie Shapiro