A Move to End Unequal Perks

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:06

(http://nypress.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/LevineEmail_4.jpg)City council members drafting legislation to prevent unequal access to amenities in apartment buildings

Following several recent reports of buildings on the Upper West Side that bar rent-regulated tenants from using amenities such as gyms, playrooms and roof gardens, City Council members Corey Johnson and Mark Levine are drafting legislation that would prevent such discrimination.

Louis Cholden-Brown, the legislative affairs director for Johnson, said the bill is currently being drafted and will seek to change the NYC Human Rights Law in a way that would, "bar discrimination on the class of tenancy."

Developers and management companies use amenities as a way to attract market-rate tenants, and in some buildings, prevent rent-regulated tenants or others who participate in some form of subsidized housing from using facilities in the building such as fitness centers, pools, playrooms, rooftop green spaces or storage areas. The practice has received a fair amount of media attention, but until now, little by way of an official reaction or response.

Councilman Mark Levine said one of the most egregious cases is occurring at Stonehenge Village, an apartment building on West 97th Street, where a sign on the gym door advises market-rate tenants not to hold the door for their regulated counterparts, and that only market-rate tenants should have access to the gym.

"This is a rapidly growing problem at a time when so many buildings are converting market-rate, and my district has a large number of them because we have so many legacy buildings," said Levine.

Levine said he finds himself having a "very visceral reaction to the idea that in someone's own home they can walk by a sign saying that because of who they are they're excluded from entering into a gym or benefitting from some amenity. I think it offends most people's basic sense of morality."

As legacy tenants tend to be older and are more likely to be people of color, Levine said such discrimination, "has an angle of racial and age-discrimination that shouldn't be ignored."

Last week, this paper revealed that a similar practice is occurring at 845 West End Avenue, a pre-war co-op building at West 101st Street. Rent-regulated tenants said they're being denied access to a fitness center and a children's playroom in the building's basement.

Other properties where similar practices have been documented include Lincoln Towers at 142 West End Avenue, the Windermere West End at 666 West End Avenue, and a condo-conversion building at 230 Riverside Drive.

Councilmember Helen Rosenthal has also spoken out against the discrimination. In exchange for her approval of a massive residential project on West 57th Street, the developer has agreed to provide equal access to amenities for all tenants in the building's 1,189-units, 20 percent of which will be rent-regulated.

The solution, say City Council members who oppose the discrimination, is to charge rent-regulated tenants the same fee as market rate tenants or a pro-rated fee for access to the amenities.

Levine said the bill is working its way through the drafting process and should be introduced in no more than a couple weeks.