Updated 03/06/2009 05:21 PM
Court Rules Against Deregulation At Stuy Town, Peter Cooper Village
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Tenants of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village have won a major victory in the fight over raising rents at the East Side housing complex.
In a decision that could affect landlords throughout the city, a Manhattan appeals court ruled yesterday that Tishman Speyer cannot raise rents to market-rate levels, because the company is already receiving a tax break for owning the rent-controlled property.
Tishman has been slowly attempting to deregulate apartments, with at least 3,000 of them being removed from rent regulation and raised to market rates since the company took control of the complexes in 2006.
The company could now be forced to pay millions of dollars to residents whose rents have been raised.
"There may have to be rent rollbacks, there may have to be damages paid," said Manhattan Councilman Daniel Garodnick. "The courts will now determine as to what sort of remedies are available to the tenants of this community."
Tenant organizers say the court's decision has a citywide impact, as 14,000 buildings around the city get breaks under the J-51 tax program.
"The tenants who have moved into these deregulated apartments who have no basic rights absent rent regulation, they are now going to be put back under rent regulation," said Michael McKee of Tenants PAC.
Spokesman Frank Ricci of the Rent Stabilization Association, a group that represents 25,000 city property owners, says the ruling could affect the city's property taxes.
"There's a lot of concern on the part of all building owners, especially in Manhattan where you have buildings that have this partial J-51 tax abatement and they may have some decontrolled units," said Ricci. "But even more so, there should be a lot of concern on the part of the City of New York, because property taxes in New York City are based on the income of buildings."
Yet tenants who spoke with NY1 this morning had little sympathies for landlords and were pleased with the ruling.
"I think it's wonderful," said one resident. "I think the tenants need as much help as they can get, and the landlord's been doing everything it can do get out rent-stabilized tenants."
"The people in this community, and it's happening across the city, hardworking people, teachers, firemen, police, the people who are not making the big bucks, but are the heart and soul of this city, have no place to live," said another. "They're being moved out of these neighborhoods. So I think this is a big victory for all New Yorkers."
Karen Ruelle, a Stuyvesant Town resident for nearly 20 years, said deregulation and rising rents have torn apart the communities New Yorkers call home.
"Living here is like living in a village, and if you have to move, it's not just finding another apartment, it's moving away from your village," she said.
Tishman Speyer says it will appeal the ruling.
"We remain firmly convinced that Justice Lowe's decision to dismiss was the correct one," said the company in a statement. "We intend to continue to pursue all potential appeals and defenses."