Volume 75, Number 43 | March 15 -21 2006

West Village Houses tenants close deal on purchase of 42 buildings

By Albert Amateau

Tenants of the West Village Houses last week closed the deal on their purchase of the 42-building complex, nearly two years after the city-assisted agreement with the landlord, who was buying out of the Mitchell-Lama government-supervised program.

“We signed on March 9 at 6 p.m.,” said Katy Bordonaro, president of the tenants association. “It was a great event and a new day for us.”

The closing was the climax of efforts by more than 400 residents who faced the possibility of 300 percent rent increases when the owners announced in 2002 their decision to leave the Mitchell-Lama subsidy program.

The “black book” offer of shares to residents of 408 of the 420 apartments came at the end of November. By Feb. 28, residents in 250 of the apartments had accepted — more than enough to close the deal. Two apartments were held off the market for use by superintendents and 10 were vacant and are retained by the landlord. Another 63 residents have accepted the offer but have not yet closed on the deal.

“That leaves 95 residents who will be offered new leases under rent stabilization by the old owners, who will retain control of the apartments,” Bordonaro said. The rents will begin at the old Mitchell-Lama rate and annual increases will be governed by the Rent Stabilization Board.

The rental units will remain in the stabilization program for 12 years. Tenants will be able to exercise their options to buy, but the cost will increase annually above the insider price by about 11 percent and reach market rate after 10 years.

Co-op members will also have the option to sell their units beginning at the insider price and also rising annually by about 11 percent for 12 years, after which they will be able to sell at market rate. The insider price for a two-bedroom unit at West Village Houses is about $175,000 and the rent for a two-bedroom unit is about $900 per month.

The new co-op will celebrate the long-awaited event at a party Thursday evening March 16 at Village Community School, 272 W. 10th St.

“We couldn’t have done it without the good offices and co-operation of the Bloomberg administration and all our elected officials,” said Bordonaro, singling out Councilmember Christine Quinn — who has since become speaker of the City Council — Assemblymember Deborah Glick and State Senator Tim Duane.

The agreement-in-principle was signed in May 2004 by tenant association leaders; Jeffrey Cohen, a partner in the ownership of the complex; and Shaun Donovan, city Department of Housing Preservation and Development commissioner, who had been appointed a month earlier and was instrumental in moving the deal forward.

Negotiations began in 2002 shortly after the landlord announced the intention to buy out of the Mitchell-Lama program.

The city’s contribution includes forgiving about $19 million in interest on the mortgage and passing legislation to extend a tax abatement for 12 years on the six-story complex located between Washington and West Sts. from Morton to Banks Sts.

The total price the new co-op paid the former landlord is estimated at $115 million.

However, a former West Village Houses resident and tenant association board member, Will Creed, criticized the deal. “It’s phasing out affordable housing,” Creed said, “because co-op members will be able to sell and cash out at full market rate at the end of 12 years.”

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