West 190th St. tenant Kenneth Ramkisson shows his Councilmember how rats enter his apartment. Photo via DNAInfo.
16 days. That’s how long it has been since Speaker Christine Quinn, City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez and City Councilmember Robert Jackson sent a letter to Lone Star Funds expressing their deep concerns about the 16 Vantage properties in foreclosure in northern Manhattan. 16 days, 16 buildings.
In the letter, the City Council expressed their concerns over the aggressive overleveraging the buildings have experienced. Though the buildings have a combined debt of over $100M, we have fairly recent rent rolls and believe that a sustainable debt – one that reflects real, not projected, income – is something closer to $31M. “Our goal,” the Councilmembers stated, “is to protect the housing stock and the tenants – who had no part, deserve no blame, and should not suffer the consequences of speculative deals. We call on you to meet with us and the tenants to explain how you will ensure that the buildings will be protected and maintained for the future.” 16 days and Lone Star has not responded to their request.
What the letter did NOT say is that the tenants of the 16 Vantage buildings in foreclosure are organized, angry, and ready to fight for their rights. Besides the letter to Lone Star, they are working hard on several fronts and plan to force the Texas based private equity company to meet with them, one way or another.
Last week the 566 West 190th Street Tenant Association invited HPD inspectors and Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez on a tour of their building, pointing out the bad conditions and expressing their fears that a new owner would be unwilling or unable to give the building the rehabilitation it desperately needs. DNAinfo.com covered the story and took pictures of some of the things inspectors saw. Problems included mold, gas leaks, rodents, and windows. At the same time, the tenant association at 9 Thayer Street met with Barbary Rose Realty, the management company that their receiver has appointed to run the building. Happily, Barbary Rose seemed receptive to tenants concerns, and has already changed some of the annoying practices that caused tenants to feel neglected.
But tenants are not getting comfortable – the fight is just beginning. A strategy session with tenant leaders is coming up in the next few weeks. One thing is a fact: Lone Star hasn’t heard the last from NYC politicians or from the Vantage Tenants Coalition.
To read the text of the letter sent by the three City Council Members, click here.