MetLife: Sale of East Side Buildings Will Not Alter Character of Properties

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The New York Sun

The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company is defending its right to sell off Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village following charges by local elected officials that a sale would lead to the permanent loss of a middle-class enclave.

So far, MetLife has accepted more than 50 bids from prospective buyers of the more than 100 buildings containing about 11,200 apartments on Manhattan’s East Side. The sale is expected to net up to $5 billion.

Senator Schumer, the speaker of the City Council, Christine Quinn, and a group of local elected officials have said that a transfer of ownership will permanently alter the character of Manhattan and serve as a loss of critical affordable housing. They are backing a tenant effort to buy the buildings in an attempt to preserve their affordability.

Yesterday, the CEO of MetLife, C. Robert Henrikson, wrote in a statement to the City Council: “A change in the ownership of these properties (if that is the outcome) will not change the rights of the occupants of the properties.”

Currently, about 70% of the apartments are rent-regulated under state law, and about 30% are rented at market rates — roughly twice the amount of the regulated units, according to reports.

Mr. Hendrickson said MetLife does not believe that the complexes now serve as affordable housing, but are comparable to similar market-rate and rent-regulated apartments in Manhattan. A spokesman for MetLife, John Calagna, said the average income for residents of the complexes is more than $100,000 a year, and the median income is more than $78,000.

“That doesn’t sound to us like that is affordable housing for the middle class,” Mr. Calagna said.

The City Council yesterday held a hearing regarding the potential sale of the complexes that was attended by hundreds of tenants. The deadline for bids is October 5, and real estate experts said a sale could be finalized before the end of the year.

The local council member, Daniel Garodnick, is leading the group of tenants trying to buy the property.

“We need to take a stand in defense of the middle class in New York, and I fear Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper is one of our last attempts to do so,” Mr. Garodnick said yesterday.

The Bloomberg administration was not represented at yesterday’s hearing. A spokesman for the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Neill Coleman, said: “The city is exploring options for preserving affordable housing across the city, including at Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.”

Mr. Calagna said MetLife has had discussions with City Hall and New York State officials over the future of the property. Based on estimates of the sale, the city could earn well over $100 million in tax revenues.

The president of the city’s Housing Development Corporation, Emily Youssouf, said prospective buyers of the housing complexes have approached her agency to ask about programs that are available to finance affordable housing.

Ms. Youssouf said the city’s existing co-op conversion program is an existing program that could be applied to Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. Under the program, tenants have access to cheap, government-subsidized financing to buy their apartments, which would be preserved indefinitely at a below-market price.

The New York Sun

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