The Surreal Estate

Perspectives on Tenant Organizing from the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board

What Will Happen to 9 Thayer?

Yesterday, El Diario published an exciting article about 9 Thayer, a building we’ve been organizing as part of our latest Vantage/ Lone Star campaign!  Just to remind you, Vantage Properties, the notorious landlord and private equity group with over 5,000 apartment units in New York City (mostly upper Manhattan and Queens), has defaulted on several mortgage portfolios.  Lone Star Funds, another private equity group based in Dallas, Texas, has purchased the debt on sixteen of these buildings in Upper Manhattan.  Among these buildings is 9 Thayer.

Ana Cruz, a tenant of the 9 Thayer, told the El Diario reporter in Spanish that no one knows what will happen to her and the other tenants, but they will fight to stay in their apartments.  She hopes that whoever buys the building will be a better landlord than Vantage.

Working with tenants in the Vantage/ Lone Star portfolios has been an exhilarating experience for us because of how much energy and fuerza the tenants bring to  fighting for their homes.  There is a great sense of community within the buildings, in part because the tenants have developed it for the thirty or forty years they’ve lived there.  The majority of tenants in the Washington Heights/ Inwood neighborhoods we’re working in are Dominican, which means they share a language, a culture, and a common experience.  Like other predatory equity groups, Vantage bought these buildings for too much money, proceeding to aggressively harass rent-stabilized tenants in attempts to force them out and raise the rents. Many of the tenants we have recently met suffered alongside one another when harassment was at its peak.  Our experience organizing in buildings with such community and determination to fight has allowed our campaign to take off.

We hope that the 16 buildings in foreclosure with Lone Star Funds will see a similar outcome to another Vantage property that is in the news today. Savoy Park, an 1,800 unit complex in Upper Manhattan was recently sold by Vantage and AREA Partners to through a joint fund between Citibank and affordable housing developers, L&M Development Partners.  The story is similar – Vantage overpaid for the buildings during the housing boom, and was unable to carry out its plans to force tenants out and raise rents. At the time of purchase, Savoy Park’s mortgage had been in default for nearly a year, though foreclosure proceedings had not officially begun. David Dishy, president of L&M said in a statement published by Crain’s NY that

We are committed to preserving affordability and upholding the unique culture and vibrancy of the Savoy Park community.

We hope that the Vantage foreclosure buildings with Lone Star Fund mortgages (like 9 Thayer) are also able to see a bright future and permanent affordability. Whether or not the buildings experience a good outcome with the foreclosure depends on what Lone Star Funds is planning to do with them.  Will they keep them? Will they sell them, and if so – to who?  This is what tenants want to find out, and they are determined to have a voice in the process!

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