Volume 16 • Issue 42 | March 19 - 25, 2004

Ink dries as I.P.N. rent deal is signed

By Albert Amateau

Laurence Gluck, owner of the Independence Plaza North complex in Tribeca, signed an agreement on Fri. March 12 with the I.P.N. Tenants Association that will allow residents to remain in their apartments at affordable rents after I.P.N. leaves the Mitchell-Lama program.

The signing, which came after six months of intense negotiations, provides for a combination of federally funded vouchers and a city-sponsored program to subsidize current residents of the 1,329-unit development after Gluck takes I.P.N. out of Mitchell-Lama at the end of June.

“As we signed the agreement, Mr. Gluck said, ‘I feel like I’m signing the Oslo Peace accords,’ and I said ‘Let’s hope it doesn’t end that way,’” recalled Neil Fabricant, president of the tenants association.

Gluck, who left town for two weeks on Monday evening, March 15, issued a statement earlier that day: “I have always respected the fact that Independence Plaza is home to over 3,000 New Yorkers. That is why I pledged to work with the tenants association and city officials to craft a fair and equitable plan with as little disruption as possible to I.P.N. residents.”

Gluck also said that the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the staff of City Council Speaker Gifford Miller played key roles in the negotiations, according to Maureen Connelly, Gluck’s spokesperson. Miller staff members presided at several negotiating sessions, according to Fabricant.

When Fabricant presented the plan to tenants a week before it was signed, many of them cheered.

In a statement hailing the agreement, Mayor Bloomberg called it “a win-win because it preserves affordable housing for New Yorkers, especially in a neighborhood where they might be priced out.” The mayor added that former H.P.D. commissioner Jerilyn Perine was instrumental in bringing the two parties together.

Bloomberg lauded the I.P.N. agreement as an adjunct to his plan to build or rehabilitate 65,000 units of affordable housing. The mayor’s plan includes financing $50 million of capital improvements in Mitchell-Lama developments that cannot afford private financing.

In the I.P.N. agreement, Gluck assumes the responsibility for upgrading the complex without imposing additional rent increases for major capital improvements.

Fabricant said this week that he was pleased at reaching a settlement, but he added that tenants want to make sure the voucher program would continue.

However, the Bush administration’s proposed budget for next year would restructure the entire federal housing subsidy system. Although a Department of Housing and Urban Development spokesperson said last month that the proposed new structure would cover as many tenants as the present one, critics said that over the years it would protect fewer tenants and in nine years would cover 40 percent fewer than are now protected.

“Our efforts don’t end here. We’re absolutely determined to see that the vouchers are maintained permanently,” said Fabricant.

The enhanced voucher program, available to tenants in about two-thirds of I.P.N. apartments, calls for rents to be pegged at one third of a family’s income. The landlord receives the difference between 30 percent of a tenant’s income and market rate from HUD under the voucher program.

Tenants in about 300 I.P.N. apartments who earn 95 percent or more of the mean family income would enter the city-administered Landlord Assisted Program. LAP rents would be pegged at the current rate with annual increases set by the city Rent Guidelines Board for the first nine years. In the 10th, 11th and 12th years, increases would be the Guidelines Board rate plus 3.5 percent, and thereafter, increases would be the Guidelines Board rate plus one percent.

The agreement also covers rate increases for auto parking at I.P.N. When the complex leaves Mitchell-Lama, parking rates will all rise to $200 per month, with $75 monthly increases each following year until it reaches market rate.

“At one point in the negotiations, Mr. Gluck said ‘If I hear the word parking, I’ll walk out,’” Fabricant recalled last week. “So we went out to caucus for quite a long time and when we came back we said ‘parking,’ but he stayed and listened to us,” Fabricant said.

The I.P.N. Tenants Association is a leader in a coalition of other tenant and civic associations that support a City Council bill introduced by Miller that would make it difficult and expensive for landlords to leave the Mitchell-Lama program. However, a provision of the bill exempts landlords from the financial burdens and time restraints of leaving Mitchell-Lama if they reach agreements with tenants as Gluck has done.

“We have 38 Council sponsors of the bill and we believe we can pass it and over-ride a mayoral veto,” said Fabricant.

The I.P.N agreement follows a pattern set by Heywood Towers, a 188-unit residential building on Amsterdam Ave. at 91st St. on the Upper West Side. The Heywood owner, The Seavey Organization, exited Mitchell-Lama last year and reached an agreement with tenants that included the combination of enhanced vouchers and LAP protection. Tenants at Glen Gardens on Amsterdam Ave. at 87th St. reached a similar pact when their landlord exited Mitchell-Lama.



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