Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Above: Supported by Dan Garodnick, the Second Avenue subway line was a dumb, excessively costly idea from the start, and now its slow construction is killing businesses and neighborhoods in its wake. Some businesses will never return, either because they have been strangled into failure by the construction or removed by the MTA through eminent domain. Dan is at it again, supporting, with the Tenants Association, a tenant buy-out of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. But is this really in your best interest?
The effort by the Tenants Association and Councilman Dan Garodnick to have Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village tenants buy the complex and turn it into a co-op or condos is curious. If the object always has been to retain this complex as "affordable housing," how does the co-op/condo scenario fit into that plan?
One assumes, at its basic tenet, that if ST/PCV will be a co-op/condo, tenants will have the option of buying their apartments for probably a solid six-figure number, and thereafter pay monthly maintenance fees that could equal what they are paying in rent now. Who can afford this? Certainly not many seniors here, nor many other residents who are struggling as it is with financial issues, particularly in this woeful economy. And any word of "mortgage" in this current economy should make anyone pass out with anxiety. Those who opt to buy in will be burdened by rent-stabilized (and protected--we hope) tenants who will opt not to buy. Unless certain tenants are viewing a co-op situation as a potential to sell their apartments for a lucrative amount and make out like property bandits (in this economy this is a laugh), having tenants assume ownership of ST/PCV doesn't make much sense.
The bottom line is that if tenants had bought ST/PCV when the property was put on sale by MetLife, something the Tenants Association and Garodnick pushed for, tenants would have overpaid just like Tishman Speyer overpaid, and we would have been screwed (and rightfully ridiculed).
Furthermore, having Stuy Town/PCV a co-op or condo situation almost guarantees that, eventually, affordable housing will go out the window here and, ironically, with the very assistance of a group that has fought for affordable housing.
The newest issue of Town & Village unwittingly exposes different statistical data for tenants buying Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village. An article by Michael Alcamo presents the case for condo conversion of apartments that would be "affordable, both in the initial acquisition, and also on a continuing monthly basis." Mr. Alcamo, a Stuy Town resident and president of the mergers and acquisition firm, MC Alcamo & Company, states that a one-bedroom could cost "about $105,000," with the purchaser needing a down payment of "about $20.000." Regarding maintenance fees, the net monthly costs would be "about $1,076," which could be a monthly savings if the rent had been higher.
In a letter to the editor, John Monel presents figures that are different. He claims that tenants want a two-bedroom apartment for $300,000, implying that tenants would consider this a fantastic deal, but that these apartments, in this neighborhood, should go for 1.5 to 2 million! While Mr. Monel's background, if any, in real estate is unknown, his letter underlines the lack of clarity behind this whole idea of tenants buying this complex. Mr. Alcamo's figures seem instinctively too low for me, but, hey, he may be right.
Even if he is correct, however, a condo conversion plan would mean that while tenants would own their apartments, they would still be under the rules of the condo board, meaning that they could not do what they wanted (as in subdividing their apartment into smaller rental units) unless approved by the board.
So far, I have not heard debate on one important financial obligation that tenants would have to meet if they owned their own apartments or if they were owners in a cooperative housing corporation. Property taxes! These can be pretty hefty here in Manhattan. What would they be? And what's the protection against them rising dramatically in the coming years?
Another imminent problem is the renewal of this complex, not just the upkeep. Even Mr. Alcamo admits that the "lawn is a mess" and that "lighting needs repair." There are many more problems that will demand to be addressed as Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village deteriorate through simple age--and many more costs involved in staving off this deterioration and in upgrading the buildings and the property into the 21st century.
As all this energy and brouhaha is occurring over tenants buying Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village, I'm left wondering if we are taking our focus away from making damn sure that tenant protection laws are renewed and strengthened in our State Senate. That's the key to affordable housing.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Maybe not drop dead, but get on life-support.
From The Gothamist:
Mayor Bloomberg says he won't dig into the city's wallet to help tenants of Stuyvesant Town take ownership of the foreclosed complex, saying he'd rather the deal go elsewhere. "That's not what we're here to do. We want to make sure that whomever does take it over has a profitable deal," he said. But the Daily News reports that residents think he's judging them unfairly. According to City Councilman Daniel Garodnick, who lives in Stuy Town, "the mayor should not underestimate what the city can do."
The Manhattan Democrat added that "Whether through financing or by helping the tenants partner with a nonprofit entity, the city can play a critical role." But if history shows us anything, it's that Bloomberg won't play ball with the tenants. The mayor previously refused to help residents in a 2006 bid to buy the property. Instead, sellers of the 110-unit development made a doomed deal with the Speyers, who paid a record price of $5.4 billion for the property, only to default on it earlier this year.
Though tenants bidding on this complex is perilous (more on this in a future blog entry), Bloomberg's response is sourly typical of him. I guess he must already know which of his rich pals is headed to buy ST/PCV.
Meanwhile, here's a chestnut from Jackie Mason on Bloomberg:
Sunday, February 7, 2010
The decision by Tishman Speyer to reverse the long-standing rule in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village against dog ownership by tenants was one of the worst decisions made by the company and when TS leaves (hopefully soon), this decision will no doubt remain in place and be the gift that keeps on giving--as in more dog dumps and dog crap smears on the sidewalk, urine on the grass, noise from barking dogs in apartments, dog urine in elevators, and the ever present smell of a zoo in many parts of the complex. As was to be expected, dog owners have not obeyed the dog rules that TS set up and our crack security team (which is, let's face it, both lousy and lazy) has not enforced these rules with any consistency. I've seen dogs piss in the grass right in front of the Oval security booth without a word from the security guard inside (if he happens to be there, of course).
The dog owners of this complex have a sense of entitlement regarding their pooches and the patronizing, morally superior sense that you are sub-human if you don't love their beasts and think them cute and adorable. Perish the thought that these Fidos may actually be lessening the quality of life of everyone else in the complex.
As the years go by, it's going to get worse. Whoever will manage this place may as well give up and throw all dog rules out the window. Let dogs piss and crap wherever they want to, run free without leashes--and as for dog runs--well, that's what the playgrounds are for, no?
Now comes evidence that having a dog is bad for the environment. Yes, you green-living loving dog owners, your dog is ruining the quality of life for the entire planet and plunging it into an Al Gore Armageddon!
Victoria University professors Brenda and Robert Vale, architects who specialise in sustainable living, say pet owners should swap cats and dogs for creatures they can eat, such as chickens or rabbits, in their provocative new book Time to Eat the Dog: The real guide to sustainable living.
The couple have assessed the carbon emissions created by popular pets, taking into account the ingredients of pet food and the land needed to create them.
"If you have a German shepherd or similar-sized dog, for example, its impact every year is exactly the same as driving a large car around," Brenda Vale said.
"A lot of people worry about having SUVs but they don't worry about having Alsatians and what we are saying is, well, maybe you should be because the environmental impact ... is comparable."
In a study published in New Scientist, they calculated a medium dog eats 164 kilograms of meat and 95kg of cereals every year. It takes 43.3 square metres of land to produce 1kg of chicken a year. This means it takes 0.84 hectares to feed Fido.
They compared this with the footprint of a Toyota Land Cruiser, driven 10,000km a year, which uses 55.1 gigajoules (the energy used to build and fuel it). One hectare of land can produce 135 gigajoules a year, which means the vehicle's eco-footprint is 0.41ha – less than half of the dog's.More at the above link.