Mapping Unequal Access on the U.W.S.

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:14

Five properties bar rent stabilized tenants from using certain amenities

Upper West Side The Upper West Side has found itself at the epicenter of a growing debate over how rent stabilized tenants are treated compared to their market rate neighbors.

The approval last month of Extell Development's plan to include a separate entrance -- or "poor door" -- for rent stabilized tenants at their project on Riverside Boulevard reignited a discussion that started months ago when various newspapers, including the West Side Spirit, revealed several buildings on the Upper West Side were barring rent stabilized tenants from using certain amenities that are open to their market rate counterparts.

By our calculation, five buildings on the Upper West Side have such policies in place, which affect around 600 rent stabilized tenants in the area.

Known buildings:

845 West End Avenue

? 91 units/unknown number of rent stabilized apartments

? What's excluded?

o Gym

o Children's playroom

Stonehenge Village, 135 West 96th Street, 120 ? 160 West 97th Street

? 135 W. 96th Street: 104 units/45 rent stabilized

? 120-160 W. 97th Street: 315 units/213 rent stabilized

? What's excluded?

o Gym

Lincoln Towers, 140 ? 142 West End Avenue

? 562 units/41 rent stabilized

? What's excluded?

o Gym

Windermere ? 666 West End Avenue

? 403 units/217 rent stabilized

? What's excluded?

o Children's playroom

o Spa/pool

o Yoga room

230 Riverside Drive

? 268 units/72 rent stabilized

? What's excluded?

o Gym

o Some storage areas

Rent stabilized tenants and local officials liken the practice to segregation.

Jean Green Dorsey, a tenant advocate at Stonehenge Village on West 97th Street, filed a complaint with the city's Human Rights Commission alleging the policy of unequal access in her building amounts to discrimination by age. According to her, 66 percent of the 252 rent stabilized tenants at Stonehenge are 65 or older.

Public Advocate Letitia James filed her own complaint with the CHR supporting Dorsey's claim, and wrote, "[Stonehenge Management is] fully aware that those tenants who are subject to stabilization are long-term tenants who are more likely to be elderly."

Twenty city council members signed onto James' complaint, including Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal and Councilman Mark Levine.

"The common spaces should be available to everyone who lives in the development, I'm not asking for the unthinkable." Dorsey told the West Side Spirit. "My goal is to keep our community diverse, comfortable and available to all."

A spokesperson for the Human Rights Commission said the complaint is under investigation and that about 90 percent of their cases are resolved within a year. If the investigation finds there is probable cause of the policy violating Dorsey's human rights, the commission would work towards a resolution between tenants and the landlord, "because it's speedier." Failing that, said the spokesperson, the commission would refer the case to the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings to schedule a hearing.

Stonehenge and other companies have claimed that amenities are used as a way to attract market-rate tenants to a building. But in this case, Stonehenge Village management told Dorsey and others who offered to pay a fee to use the gym that it wasn't an option for them.

Stonehenge Management did not respond to a request for comment.

At the state level, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal is pushing legislation that would levy a $25,000 fine against landlords who employ such a policy in their buildings.

"The affront in that behavior is that they don't even allow their rent regulated tenants permission to have access to the facilities. It's not even that you can't use them, it's that you can't even pay to use them. Like you're so beneath everyone else that we don't even want to associate with you," said Rosenthal.

She said her office began honing in on this issue after hearing from many constituents that the buildings they live in prevent them using amenities that are open to their market rate neighbors.

As news of the bill picked up, Rosenthal said she heard from residents and lawmakers in other boroughs who were seeing the same thing.

"It's not just isolated," said Rosenthal. "I think it's part of a larger effort to essentially get rid of rent regulated tenants in certain buildings?It's something that has to be remedied."

Do you know of other buildings on the Upper West Side or elsewhere in Manhattan that bar rent stabilized tenants from using certain amenities? Email