Volume 19 | Issue 30 | December 8 - 14, 2006

Letters to the Editor

Northern exposure

To The Editor: 
In last week’s edition of the Downtown Express, a letter from Margaret Cooney made me rub my eyes: “Nowhere in the legislation is there any reference to remaining in the Mitchell-Lama program so people from the Midwest can afford to come and live in New York City — a position that is held by the Concerned Cooperators Committee” (Letters, Dec. 1 – 7, “Southbridge study”). I certainly agree with the no-reference-to-people-from-the-Midwest part, but if the Southbridge Cooperators for Mitchell-Lama (the proper name) have a secret Midwestern agenda, I missed that meeting.

What is of concern is the reality behind privatization: That it benefits those who sell at the expense of those who stay. While it is unlikely that seniors will be tossed out into the snow wholesale, the likelihood of maintenance increases steep enough to force people to bid a sad goodbye to their homes and move somewhere cheaper is all too real.

The feasibility study is only a projection of what might happen; there is no example of a privatized state Mitchell-Lama co-op. There is, however, East River Housing — a former limited equity co-op, the same size as Southbridge, which privatized in the mid-’90s. It’s so close to us in size and location it could almost be called Northbridge Towers. East River is already in the red -- and has been for three years. Carrying charges are up 18% in two years. Everyone should check out the New York Times article of Oct 15, 2006, “The Proletariat and the Parking Lot.” They should also Google the message boards for Co-op Village under “flip tax.” They will find real people trying to deal with real post-privatization problems, such as disapproval of spending, suspicions of malfeasance, rising fees, discovering that they can’t find a comparable place for the money they’d get for their apartments, and new, wealthier tenants resenting keeping maintenance low rather than lowering the flip tax. And Seward Park, another of the co-ops on Grand St., is no happier. They are on the message board, too. All of these people have no stake in Southbridge, no political angle. They show a far different picture than the naive, rosy tales spun by privatizers. And I presume both these complexes did feasibility studies.

Kathryn Keppler

The P-word

To The Editor:
Thank you for your extensive and incisive coverage of the cooperators’ movement to reconstitute Southbridge Towers. We would like to point out that our choice of language has a purpose (Editor’s note, Nov. 24 – 30, “Privatization by another name?”). We prefer to say “reconstitute” rather than “privatize,” a term which we think misleads because it suggests that our apartments are like a public housing project, which they are not -- we are already a shareholder-owned co-op.

The difference is that we are state-regulated, and by reconstituting we would end these regulations. Many of us invested thousands of dollars back in the early ‘70s to buy our co-op shares. Now we are legally entitled to reconstitute.

According to the projections of the recently distributed study, the typical cooperator would pay lower maintenance charges than if we continue under state regulation. This would be made possible because revenue from “flip tax” transfer fees will be utilized for repairs, improvements¸ and taxes. If we do not reconstitute, the only way to cover these inevitable expenses would be to raise maintenance charges yet again.

Your article accurately describes the many great financial opportunities that would be opened to co-operators after conversion (news article, Nov. 24 – 30, “Have report, will argue at Southbridge”). Yet some who are opposed to conversion are attempting to use scare tactics, raising phantom fears which are not borne out in the study. The study makes it so clear that this is a win-win situation for all cooperators, that we must assume those very few who oppose it do so because they fear losing power. We believe that our community is bright enough to see beyond the mudslinging and appreciate this opportunity for what it is -- financial security for Southbridge collectively, and for each individual cooperator.

Jared Brown
President Southbridge Rights and member of Southbridge Towers’ board

Letters policy
Downtown Express welcomes letters to The Editor. They must include the writer’s first and last name, a phone number for confirmation purposes only, and any affiliation that relates directly to the letter’s subject matter. Letters should be less than 300 words. Downtown Express reserves the right to edit letters for space, clarity, civility or libel reasons. Letters should be e-mailed to or can be mailed to 145 Sixth Ave., N.Y., N.Y. 10013.

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