Volume 18 • Issue 23 | October 21 - 27, 2005

B.P.C. building sale may force some tenants out

By Claire F. Hamilton

Moving vans were not an uncommon sight in Battery Park City after Sept. 11, but many tenants of the 65 affordable housing units at Parc Place, 225 Rector St., stayed put. Their decision to stay was not just a matter of personal conviction.

Parc Place’s management, the Related Companies, extended the affordable housing guarantee for 20% of the building’s units from 2005 until the year 2019. But Parc Place is now being sold by Related to YL Realty, and the riders that used to protect leases under the 80/20 program have begun to disappear.

Having waited out Downtown’s revitalization process, Parc Place residents fear they will now be forced to leave.

“I saw 9/11 but I came back because this is my home,” said Alicia Rios, a tenant for 11 years, to about fifty others at the fourth meeting of the Parc Place Affordable Housing Tenant Group on Tuesday evening. The group formed just over a month ago in reaction to the impending sale of the building. “I work in real estate, and I know what it’s like out there, and it’s scary. The rents are out of control,” said Rios.

Tenants were never officially notified that their leases would not be protected under new management. Some read in the New York Post that their building was on the market. Others recently received lease renewals that do not include riders protecting rent increases. Kim Allen, who is leading the tenant group, said that she tried calling 311, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and the Housing Finance Agency. “No one knew who oversaw our affordability program.” The group is now seeking legal representation from tenant-law specialists Sam Himmelstein and Kevin McConnell.

“Related said that no information was available except that the building was being sold,” Allen added. “There was nothing precise about the sale date, and they said they had no information about the intentions of the new owner.”

Executives in Related’s central office did not comment and a leasing agent with the firm would only say that the sale is not yet final. Executives with YL Realty did not comment.

“This is a unique situation because [this affordable housing program began] before the full 80/20 program was developed,” said Jennie Laurie, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Council on Housing who attended Tuesday’s meeting. “Today, leases are covered both by mortgage restrictions as well as by tax abatement restrictions, which restricts the owner from pre-paying the mortgage. Today, you would not be able to get out of the program for the life of the mortgage”.

Several disabled and elderly tenants live in the building. One senior stood up to say that she remembered when she first moved into the building twenty years ago, “there was no paving, no bus service and very few stores. We suffered through that but learned to love it here. Now what?”

Another senior, Ruth Brafman, the treasurer for the tenant organization, passed up an affordable unit at St. Margaret’s House in 2003 in order to stay at Parc Place.

One couple only recently moved into Parc Place. Trudy Zener and her husband, who is disabled, found out that the building was on the market ten weeks after moving in. “Being that my husband is disabled, we wouldn’t have moved here for a two-year lease [if we had known]. Moving is too much of a physical ordeal,” said Zener. Adding to the couple’s sense of being jilted, they passed up an affordable unit on the Upper West Side that came as a result of an application filed in 1999, because they expected to lease at Parc Place until 2019.

Like many tenants, Zener is also a city employee. She counsels disabled youth. “It’s a difficult job, and I’m giving of myself to the city,” she told other tenants. Meeting attendees complained that the city was not giving back to those who work hard for middle-income salaries. Allen, who teaches middle school, said, “I’m a teacher, it’s part of my contribution to the city. And part of the reason why real estate is so lucrative is because it’s such a great city.”

Representatives from the offices of Assembly Speaker Silver, Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, Councilmember Gerson and Assemblymember Scott Stringer, the Democratic nominee to be the Manhattan borough president, attended the meeting to encourage residents in their fight. Silver’s and Nadler’s offices have been especially helpful, said Allen, and have arranged a meeting for tenants with the Housing Finance Agency.

David Anderson, a social worker who grew up in the city, said about himself and his neighbors, “These are real New Yorkers here. I’ve got two masters degrees and I can’t even afford to live in New York.”


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