Volume 18 • Issue 44 | March 17 - 23, 2006

Knickerbocker tenants win temporary block of landlord plan

By Ronda Kaysen

Tenants temporarily thwarted their landlord’s attempt to deregulate a Chinatown apartment complex when a judge ordered a temporary stay last week on the landlord’s bid to deregulate.

In January, Cherry Green Management got a nod of approval from the state to deregulate Knickerbocker Village, a 4,000-tenant complex that has been regulated by a rent protection program since it opened in 1934.

The Tenants Association filed suit to block the process at the complex, which sits between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. On March 9, New York State Supreme Court Judge Sherry Klein Heitler put a temporary stay on the deregulation bid until an April 10 hearing that will determine whether or not the case goes to trial.

“The grounds were there that this thing is open to trial,” said Robert Wilson, an elected member of the Tenants Association and the association’s former president. “We do have excellent law behind us.”

The New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal, the agency overseeing the property, approved Cherry Green’s deregulation application on Jan. 13, laying out a list of conditions that the management company must follow. Cherry Green must offer rent-stabilized leases to current and future tenants; the building cannot be turned into a co-op for five years; and tenants would be protected from co-op-related evictions for 20 years.

“We’ll all go before the judge in a couple of weeks and our attorneys will discuss it with the judge,” said Cherry Green general manager Vincent Callagy.

Tenants insist D.H.C.R. had no business deregulating the complex. Article IV, a precursor to the Mitchell-Lama, middle class rent regulation program, has no provisions for deregulating pre-1962 buildings.

“It’s illegal and you cannot deregulate the property,” said Wilson.

D.H.C.R. disagrees with the reading of the law. In her Jan. 13 decision, Commissioner Judith Calogero wrote, “The committee’s argument — that a limited dividend housing company constructed prior to 1962 must remain under such use seemingly forever — runs counter to the structure of this and every affordable housing program.”

Wilson worries that without restrictions, the complex, which is 68 percent Chinese, will lose its diverse character and prospective low- and moderate-income tenants will be turned away in favor of wealthier residents.

“If you do deregulate Knickerbocker Village, there’s no limit on who the owners could choose to move in here,” said Wilson. “The mayor and Pataki claim they want to create more affordable housing, but I don’t see them trying to hold onto what they have.”

Callagy declined to respond to the tenants’ claim, saying only, “I don’t agree with their position.”

Last May, Gov. Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg announced that Knickerbocker Village would get $5 million from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation out of a fund to build and preserve affordable housing Downtown. Dep. Mayor Daniel Doctoroff said then that the money would keep Knickerbocker apartments affordable permanently.



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