Gateway tenants battling to keep rents ‘affordable’

The Broadsheet has covered this well, but I wanted to register a post here since this seems like an important effort to preserve what we around here call “middle income” housing in Battery Park City and, since there is no other building as big as this, in the neighborhood as a whole.

A group of residents at Gateway Plaza, which has 1,700 units, are battling their landlord, LeFrak, to keep the rents there from continuing to climb, and to make sure units that were stabilized in 2009 will stay that way. It’s a complex situation with a checkered history (see below) and nothing about it is straightforward, but here are some bullet points to help you digest it, if you want to know more:

• Gateway was completed in 1981 as the first residential building in BPC and got a discount on the ground lease in exchange for creating affordable housing and received Mitchell Lama financing. However, rents were never part of a formal stabilization program and started rising right away. The ground rent paid by the landlord is low – confirming that exact number currently.
• In 1985, tenants organized and sued to keep rents down, which were at that point galloping out of control with 15 to 25 percent increases.
• By 1987, the landlord settled and created a 10-year “rent stabilization agreement” that covered every resident – at least until they moved.
• In 1995, that agreement was extended to 2005.
• In 2005, the landlord and the BPCA entered an interim agreement to get everyone covered up to 2009.
• In 2009, tenants negotiated to keep current residents stabilized, but for the first time, the deal did not apply to anyone who would move in after that date.
• The 2009 stabilization deal will sunset in June 2020, and tenants are arguing to extend the protections of the stabilized tenants to 2040 AND to stabilize ALL residents of Gateway, 65 percent of whom now pay market rents that continue to creep up and up.

Jeff Galloway, who moved to Gateway in 1982 and is now one of the tenant leaders, figures if the deal is not extended, most people will have to move out. And the ever-rising rents will destroy the stability of the area. People are less likely to put down roots if they don’t know they can afford the rent the next year. He saw that in the early ‘80s, when there was nary a child in sight.
“Having stability in a building affects the character of the place,” said Galloway. “People moving in don’t expect to stay. They don’t join local civic organizations, they don’t build relationships with neighbors. Massive turnover will affect not just Gateway, but the community as a whole.”

Is it impossible to imagine, but when Gateway opened in 1982, Liberty Street was a dirt road. And before that, Gateway had sat for a decade as abandoned foundations in an odd urban desert. (This allowed for the staging of the 1979 No Nukes concert led by Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, Bonnie Raitt, and John Hall on Sept. 23. Almost 200,000 people rallied on the landfill. See vids below from James Taylor’s guitarist Waddy Wachtel. And I have to add: the No Nukes album was my first ever music purchase, as a double cassette.) There was no World Financial Center, no other residential buildings, just a wasteland. Construction resumed in the late ‘70s, and by then, the original master plan that called for mixed income housing at the site had been scrapped.

Rents started at $615 for studios, $800 for one-bedrooms and $1,200 for two-bedrooms. But almost immediately rents began to rise, by 1983 there was a rent strike and by 1985 tenants were suing to keep rents down – and, well, you have the rest of the history in the bullet points above.

Galloway notes that the tenants today aren’t asking for much — just to keep things from skyrocketing out of control. “This isn’t the creation of true affordable housing. It’s a tiny foothold of middle-income housing that people are barely able to afford.”

There’s a petition at change.org if you want to help out.

 

13 Comments

  1. Go look up Independence Plaza and the battle with Larry Glick. We were there before Gateway and we lost the fight a long time ago. Its very sad how they want to ” build affordable housing” when it already exist. The Politian’s are full of it. We all built these neighborhoods and slowly had to leave because we couldn’t ” afford” to live here. The new tenants are in and out like a revolving door. Independence Plaza lost their fight. Good luck to Gateway.

  2. I personally know 5 people who live in gateway and who also own homes in the Hamptons. Several of these people live in combined apartments- over 2000 square feet- and are most definitely NOT paying market rent for these units. People like me, who purchased apartments in BPC, are essentially subsidizing the tenants at gateway with our outrageously high common charges to cover the obscene break in the ground lease that LeFrak managed to negotiate. I’m all for affordable housing for people who actually qualify and it is no doubt needed in this expensive neighborhood. But owning a second home AND snagging a reduced rent unit? Not fair or right.

    • Is this Mr Lefrak writing? No one I knows in Gateway owns a home in the Hamptons! You are tone deaf.

      Most stabilized tenants are middle class families who were the first ones to come back to BPC after 9/11 when there were no groceries stores and fires burning!

      Most stabilized tenants will not be able to live in NYC if stabilization ends.

    • You know “Anonymous” I’ve heard your same tired rhetoric for years. Rent stabilization shouldn’t be exclusive rather inclusive. It helps a city maintain stability and keeps the work force housed and spending their hard earned money.
      You choose to buy property on leased land and hopefully your lawyer conducted their due diligence properly and you knew what you were getting yourself into with the high monthlies but it is apples and oranges my friend. Don’t be bitter.

      • I agree with Anonymous. There are so many people who live in NYC who don’t even get the chance to live in a tent stabilized home. They are hard to find and acquire. With that being said, the more needful citizens deserve rent stabilization vs people who can both afford a home in Manhattan and in the Hamptons. Take me for example, I make maybe $500 a week, I just graduated college, and I was living by myself… paying $1659.00 a month plus utilities and internet (so basically 2k a month) to live in a one bedroom in a nasty part of Astoria by the projects. I couldn’t afford to do that so I was forced to move into an apartment with three other people. That’s four people in an apartment. That’s a lot of people and personalities. I should be able to have a one bedroom in Manhattan for a price I can afford, but I have not had any luck getting affordable housing through the government. It’s hard and I think should be given to people who really need it. If you have money… suck it up. Be thankful you have money. Don’t use the system so you can save a lot of money and then go buy a home elsewhere. Think about all of the other people who are barely scraping by.

      • Great article. Increases do skyrocket. Gateway has 1700 Apts so 5 who get the benefit don’t bother me and I live there and I am not subsidized. They were there when the law was passed so they have the right. Having a second home also if you bought a while ago was not out of reach for middle income earners. It may be now. For some it’s also retirement. It sounds like previous poster is mad about the land lease however Lefrak negotiated and not the tenants if there was no deal with tenats they would keep the entire benefit so it still would help you. Additionally the rents are not reduced, the increases are capped.

    • Anonymous sounds bitter with owning woes. Stabilizing housing has long proven to be good for public schools, building and maintaining communities. There are people who started out stabilized and worked hard to make it…so it helped them succeed fiscally. Do those few still need the stabilization, probably not but they have either been at Gateway to help build BPC in the early years or rebuild the neighborhood after 9/11. Throwing out an entire plan to maintain some level of affordable rents Downtown duebto a few is short sighted at best. There are far more families & indies who get squeezed out of the neighborhood due to rising rents. Moreover, each building in BPC has its own separate deal for their land lease, affirming affordability in one does not penalize the others or cause them to pay more. If that was the case then when every new building went up, every other building should’ve gone down and that’s not how it worked. BPCA collects more than it needs and gives NYC & the State the extra every year. It needs to ensure that this is a sustainable area in all levels.

    • If you’re so jealous of these “5 people” that you supposedly know, you should just out them and have them kicked out. You can’t use outlying examples of people that are gaming the system as a reason to not have something in place that helps hundreds of others get some of the assistance that they need.

  3. I live in Gateway and make less than 90000 as a teacher. I do not have a home in the Hamptons (see previous comment). I have one son. My husband died. He was in school at the time.

    I have lived in Gateway since before 9/11. If stabilization is not extended, I do not know what we will do. I guess I will have to give up my job and move with my son to another state.

    I cannot afford to pay 3000 -5000 for a Gateway apt.

  4. Anonymous Do you realize that many stabilized people in Gateway pay much more than the $1695 you are paying.

    Do some research!
    Stabilization is not rent control.

    Most stabilized people in Gateway are paying more than $2400 for a studio; $2700 and upwards for a 1 bedroom.

    Under Michael Bloomberg, the rate of increases each year skyrocketed. I don’t know where he thought the people at Bloomberg were supposed to live!
    If stabilization is not continued, NY will go back to the 70s where middle class moved out and only the very rich and poor will live, crime will increase etc…

    Stabilization stabilizes a community.

    Police Fireman and government officials who make under 100 thousand are required to live in NYC. That is why Peter Cooper village and Stuveystant were created. Now these have gone market ……

    This is why so many companies are relocating to the Carolinas and Florida. They cannot afford to pay their workers enough to live in NY. Also happening in San Fran.

    • “Residency: [A police officer] must also be a United States citizen, have a valid New York driver license and live in one of the city’s five boroughs or Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland, Westchester, Putnam or Orange counties within 30 days of being hired.”

      Police Officer Hiring – NYPD
      https://www1.nyc.gov/site/nypd/careers/police-officers/po-hiring.page

    • “Age and Residency Requirements
      Do you have to be a NYC resident to be a FDNY Firefighter?

      “You must live in one of the five boroughs; Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island or one of these New York counties: Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Orange, Nassau or Suffolk County”

      firefighter-career-faq
      https://www1.nyc.gov/site/fdny/jobs/career-paths/firefighter-career-faq.page

    • “The requirements for residence may vary based upon an employee’s position, title, status or agency, but most City employees are required to establish and maintain residence in one of the five boroughs (Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island) for two years of City employment.

      “As a result of Local Law 48, most employees may now reside in one of the six designated New York State counties (Nassau, Westchester, Suffolk, Rockland, Orange or Putnam) after two years of continuous City employment. Other positions, such as positions in the Executive Office of the Mayor and senior-level positions in Mayoral agencies, require that the employee maintain city residence for the duration of his/her employment. […] Those employees serving in the title of Chaplain or whose regular work site is located outside of the five boroughs are excepted from the residency requirements, as are employees selected for titles certified as hard-to-recruit. […]

      “The provisions of Section 1127 of the New York City Charter require that City employees residing outside of New York City at any time during their employment pay to the City an amount [of taxes] equal to that which would be paid if such non-resident were a City resident […]”

      http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcas/downloads/pdf/misc/empl_residence_info_sheet.pdf

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