Knickerbocker tenants to get rent credits for Sandy outages

BY SAM SPOKONY  |  Residents of a Lower East Side low- and middle-income housing complex will receive rent credits for the time they spent without heat and electricity during Superstorm Sandy, elected officials announced on Dec. 17.

The private owner of Knickerbocker Village — a 1,600-unit Mitchell-Lama development on Monroe St. — will provide the residents with nine days’ worth of credits, according to the announcement, which was made jointly by State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Councilmember Margaret Chin.

“I have worked tirelessly to help deliver this rent credit to the tenants of Knickerbocker Village and I am enormously pleased that they will now receive it,” Silver said in the release. “Residents of this complex suffered in cold and darkness after Superstorm Sandy and they deserve to be compensated for their hardship.”

The credits will come in the form of a 15 percent reduction in the residents’ January and February rent bills.

Average monthly rents at Knickerbocker Village are around $800 for a one-bedroom apartment, around $1,100 for a two-bedroom apartment and around $1,350 for a three-bedroom apartment, according to Bob Wilson, a longtime tenant leader at the complex.

Ares Management, the development’s owner, had originally promised the rent credits just days after Sandy struck last year on Oct. 29, under pressure from Silver and the other electeds. As time went on, however, some were concerned that under Mitchell-Lama, funding for credits would have had to eventually come out of the pockets of tenants, through later rent increases.

But that situation has now been avoided, since Ares will be able to pay for the credits with money  received in an insurance settlement, according to the Dec. 17 announcement.

That settlement was made possible after Silver brought in the state’s Department of Financial Services to facilitate discussions between Ares and its insurance company.

“This is a huge victory for tenants of Knickerbocker Village,” said Wilson, who just two months ago had said he was worried about the potential infeasibility of the rent credits.

In their Dec. 17 announcement, the elected officials said residents of the complex may also receive more credits in the future, if Ares is able to get additional insurance money.

More specifically, there could eventually be enough funding for nine more days’ worth of credits, according to a source close to the situation. That source further stated that the parties are “pretty sure” the additional funding will come, based on knowledge of talks between Ares and the insurance company.

Another point stressed by the politicians in their announcement was that, since the rent credits are being paid for with funding from the insurance settlement, they will not come at the expense of the development’s much-needed building repairs.

In October, the city agreed to provide $1.46 million from its post-Sandy Build it Back program to fund repairs on all the elevators at Knickerbocker Village. The city has also committed to helping fund the replacement of the entire electrical and heating systems for the complex.

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