Blackstone shifts course and commits to renting all vacant, affordable units at Stuy Town
Blackstone Group has apparently shifted course and is now renovating and leasing all vacant units at Stuyvesant Town. This comes after the landlord faced criticism following revelations that the company has been keeping 20 to 50 percent of rent-regulated apartments at Stuy Town empty in reaction to the city’s new rent laws. It didn’t take long for authorities, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, to express concern over the findings. On Friday, a spokesperson for Blackstone told Gothamist, “We are renovating and leasing all vacant units, and we will continue to fulfill our commitment to voluntarily preserve 5,000 affordable apartments.”
During an appearance on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show” last week, de Blasio admitted that “the law that passed in Albany had a lot of elements to it, and is having a variety of consequences.” De Blasio added that he was “very concerned” about the vacancies, alluding to the city subsidies Blackstone received to maintain those affordable units. The city reached a deal with the landlord in 2015 that gave them $220 million in subsidies in exchange for keeping 5,000 of the roughly 11,200 units affordable for a 20-year period.
In the month after sweeping rent reform laws were passed in Albany, Blackstone stopped major capital investments at Stuy Town, saying they would be assessing the costs and their bottom line. The rent laws significantly reduced the amount that landlords can claim in renovation expenses from $40,000 to $15,000 over a 15 year period.
Following the most recent news about Blackstone—that they were “warehousing” up to 50 percent of rent-regulated units at Stuy Town—the city’s Housing Preservation and Development agency (HPD) has announced it is “conducting a thorough review in partnership with the State” of the 2015 agreement. But as Elizabeth Brown, an analyst at the Independent Budget Office, told Gothamist, the “complicated structure of the deal” makes oversight difficult. Blackstone is supposed to report how many units are being leased two times a year, with their next report due next week.