Tivoli towers (Crown and Franklin)
  • 49 - 57 Crown Street

    This is a reasonably complex conversation, and this article does a good job of providing the foundation for it:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/31/nyregion/31landlord.html?pagewanted=all

    Fast forward to 2014....

    Despite:
    A. Receiving $ incentives to keep it Mitchell Lama, a protracted court battle and lots of work by politicians

    B. Very public "victories" claimed by Tish James and many others

    The building now has a large number of vacancies, and -hence- isn't providing the amount of affordable housing that is was designed to.

    As reported above, the current landlord (which is actually a large real estate firm, and hereafter referred to simply as LL) bought the building in a state of disrepair.

    Since this time, repairs are being made in a manner that allows the LL to move tenants from their current units into a different unit. However, the units that the tenants moved to are often smaller (1 BR vs 2 BR), and the tenants are not allowed to return to their prior units. EVER. This tactic is legal, because the tenants' household size has shrunk since they first moved in (often decades ago), and (when combined with income) one's household size dictates the unit size allowed. In light of this, many tenants have chosen to move out of the building rather than occupy a smaller apartment.

    The new LL also strictly enforces the terms of lease, whereas the prior one did not. So, tenants have been evicted for breaking house rules and late payment, whereas in the past this rarely took place.

    Likewise, the LL puts much more effort in making sure that the tenants do not exceed (or go below) the income guidelines in place for their size unit. Intensive background checks are made on existing tenants to ensure that all income is being disclosed.

    Housing advocates have watched the situation closely, and -to my knowledge- have not found that the landlord is doing anything illegal. The LL is simply fully exercising their rights, which causes lots of long term tenants to leave or be evicted.

    Now, here's the interesting part:

    The LL isn't refilling the vacant units.

    As a result of the factors above, the building has become progressively "more vacant" over the last 3 years, and is now rumored to be only about half occupied. When one thinks about it, this LL is able to put progressively more money INTO the building, while receiving progressively less rent FROM IT.

    Despite this, the LL is not taking any (low income or market rate) applications from tenants who wish to move in. The LL is preparing the units for tenants who are "unknown".

    The next move of the LL is a mystery:

    --Once all of the repairs are done, does the LL plan to fill the building with Mitchell Lama tenants, as I believe is required?

    --Does the LL plan to sell the building "in a state of good repair, but with a large number of vacancies"?

    --Does spending all of this $ on repairs allow the LL to legally escape the complex set of contracts that were signed, and effectively free the building from the rent and income limits that are presently in place?

    Needless to say, the building has lovely views of the Botanic Garden, Prospect Park, Manhattan, etc. It also is in a rapidly changing area.

  • i suspect the LL would love to see whether there is a way to " sell the building "in a state of good repair, but with a large number of vacancies" with the hopes of the future LL being bale to convert the building into market-rent units. if that can be done legally, it'd be a dream come true for them. 

    my neighbors and i will be interested in seeing how this plays out. (no, i don't live in that complex, but i do live nearby.) 


  • Cross-posting this here, because I wonder if this may shed light on why the LL doesn't seem to be in a hurry to fill vacant units in Tivoli Towers.
  • I think it is safe to assume that EVEN IF these units are eventually filled with folks who meet the existing income guidelines, the tenants will have different preferences and characteristics than the tenants who are no longer present.

    For example, while conforming with the existing regulations, the LL could (by design or mere circumstance) fill the building with tenants who are:

    -Younger.
    -More educated.
    -At the absolute top end of the income maximums.
    -Have better credit.
    -Have younger children.
    -Have fewer children.
    -more transient
    -etc

    The area businesses are all watching.

    Some are confident enough that they are actually already reconfiguring in anticipation.

  • I'm just adding some photos, and pointing out two other large developments in the immediate area that will soon have an impact:

    931 Carroll

    the Sea Crest Linen Site:
    143888-Large
    649152-Large
    686049-Large
  • That first picture (looking west on Crown Street) is old. :) Whatever was on that SE corner of Crown and Franklin has been demolished. 

  • Correct. The pictures were mostly posted to give any readers that are not familiar with this building an idea of its scale. "New" Medgar Evers buildings have replaced the single story brick warehouse one.

  • This weekend, I heard a rumor that a few new tenants were recently placed in apartments.

    I was not able to learn the ways in which they differed from the long term tenants, but heard that the long term tenants are engaging in practices that make the new residents feel unwelcome.

    With approximately 50% of the building still occupied by long term tenants, this could become quite ugly, quite quickly.
  • Oh, I hope that is a rumor...it will be good for neither group of tenants to be divided.
  • A weird rumor at that! It would be so counterproductive for the current, long-term tenants if this were true.
  • In my experience, when such incidents occur, they are rarely "sanctioned" by all (or even most) of the long term residents. They are the actions of a subset.

    ....yes, such actions are very self defeating. I'll let you know if I am able to learn more.
  • Efforts are presently underway to have a past or present resident of Tivoli speak to the walking tour I will be leading on May 4th.

    http://www.brooklynian.com/discussion/43995/ms-whynot-and-whynot-lead-a-walking-tour-of-western-crown-heights-sunday-may-4th-noon-#Item_18 

    No one has committed yet, but I have some promising leads.   I am also told that residents who remained in the building after 2010 were provided with Section 8 vouchers.
  • Rachel @ DNAInfo has done a follow-up story on one of the reasons residents are not happy:http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20140505/crown-heights/tivoli-towers-residents-resist-city-orders-move-smaller-apartments

    While I feel the pain of seniors who don't want to move to smaller units because their household size has shrunk and appreciate Council Member's Cumbo advocacy on behalf of her constituents, I oppose a waiver of the Federal rules.   

    We have an affordable housing crisis in this city, and should make the greatest use of our limited resources.    Rules tying apartment size to household size have been in place since they moved in;  they are merely being enforced now.



      
  • I think that there should be a reasonable compromise on this. If a senior is 87 how much longer are they going to inhabit the unit anyway? Average lifespan in NYC is 4.5 to 5.5 years for someone that is that age. I'm all for looking at people who are 60-70 and moving them into smaller quarters. Any senior over seventy should not be selected for downsizing unless they are in a 3 bedroom or larger, which are the most difficult apartments to find in the city.
  • Technically, they lost their ability to occupy that size apartment the moment their household size shrunk (kid went to college, husband died, kid incarcerated, kid moved out, etc).

    Because the prior landlord did not enforce these rules, valuable space has been under used for decades.   Now, HUD is exerting pressure on the "new" landlord as well as others across the country.

    I see no reason to create an incentive for children to live with their parents until they are over seventy, so their parents can avoid ever having to down size.

     
  • homeowner said:

    I think that there should be a reasonable compromise on this. If a senior is 87 how much longer are they going to inhabit the unit anyway? Average lifespan in NYC is 4.5 to 5.5 years for someone that is that age. I'm all for looking at people who are 60-70 and moving them into smaller quarters. Any senior over seventy should not be selected for downsizing unless they are in a 3 bedroom or larger, which are the most difficult apartments to find in the city.



    Gothamist ran a post about a 91-year old man who is also facing "rightsizing" by NYCHA: http://gothamist.com/2014/05/03/nycha_trying_to_force_91-yr-old_wwi.php 

    People are also making a similar argument to find a compromise in this situation (i.e. how much longer is this old man going to be living? Really?)
  • whynot_31 said:

    Technically, they lost their ability to occupy that size apartment the moment their household size shrunk (kid went to college, husband died, kid incarcerated, kid moved out, etc).


    Because the prior landlord did not enforce these rules, valuable space has been under used for decades.   Now, HUD is exerting pressure on the "new" landlord as well as others across the country.

    I see no reason to create an incentive for children to live with their parents until they are over seventy, so their parents can avoid ever having to down size.

     


    One can argue that the current climate surrounding student loans (along with the tough employment market) is prompting more young people to boomerang back into the nest. It's less about, "It's more convenient/comfortable living with Mommy and Daddy" and more about "I need to do this because I can't afford to go anywhere else". #justsaying
  • These are tenants who are unable to prove that their household size has regained the size that it was when they first leased.




  • when family waitlists for NYCHA housing with 2+ BR is over 4 years, this indicates a crisis. The fact that NYCHA has done nothing about 1 person households living in 4 BR apartments speaks to the height of the ineptitude of this agency. 
  • NYCHA receives a substantial portion of its funding from HUD, which is forcing NYCHA to get its act together or lose the funding.

    HUD seems to be going after Section 8 buildings owned by corporations (such as Tivoli) before those operated by NYCHA, perhaps because it has greater power over them. 
  • I agree. I think that unless a senior is too physically frail to move, then single seniors should be moved into 1 bedroom apartments or studios. I know a lot of families with 2 or 3 children that would cry with happiness if they were able to move into a 2 bedroom or 3 bedroom apartment at Tivoli Towers. Mitchell-Lamas/Tivoli Towers apartments are a public good that should be allocated to those most in need of them. I also think that since it is the government requiring a senior to move, then the government should pick up the tab for the movers into the new unit (which should hopefully be not too expensive if people are moving within the same building) and help arrange for the moving of extraneous stuff into storage. That is the least they can do to make a publicly beneficial re-arrangement of space as painless as possible.

    Now, if Tivoli starts moving seniors into 1 bedrooms and then keeps the 2 and 3 bedrooms empty...and does not bring new families in...then I see that as a HUGE problem.

    I also see this in relationship to the relative lack of affordable senior citizen housing in this city. I think there are a few senior citizen only residences within NYCHA, Mitchell-Lama and non-profits, but there should be more, so that people in there 60s/70s can be encouraged to think about downsizing early on, and there would be options for them.
  • It remains unclear why the LL is keeping the larger units vacant.    I have to assume they have been pressured by politicians to fill them, but have decided that the units are more valuable vacant.

    In this instance, the Section 8 funding to support the individual family is the "public good";    No entity of government actually owns the building.

    Basically, the LL has been told that they will no longer be able to cash Section 8 Vouchers submitted by residents in apartments that violate the household size rule, and HPD (acting in concert with HUD) has informed the tenants it will no longer pay its share.

    Prior to this "hard line" by HPD and HUD, the LL has been informing tenants that this enforcement is coming, and getting some tenants to comply.

    HUD and HPD have now informed the LL and the tenants they are not complying quick enough.   However, this is only a "surprise" to those who don't think that HPD and HUD would ever get their act together. 

    ....I am among those surprised. 

       

  • I agree. I think that unless a senior is too physically frail to move, then single seniors should be moved into 1 bedroom apartments or studios. I know a lot of families with 2 or 3 children that would cry with happiness if they were able to move into a 2 bedroom or 3 bedroom apartment at Tivoli Towers. Mitchell-Lamas/Tivoli Towers apartments are a public good that should be allocated to those most in need of them. I also think that since it is the government requiring a senior to move, then the government should pick up the tab for the movers into the new unit (which should hopefully be not too expensive if people are moving within the same building) and help arrange for the moving of extraneous stuff into storage. That is the least they can do to make a publicly beneficial re-arrangement of space as painless as possible.



    You raise a good question...one that I haven't seen answered yet in the news stories about seniors who are being asked to "rightsize".
  • Negative:  Rightsize moving expenses are not presently covered by a government entity or the LL.

    Positive:   If a Tivoli tenant decided that they would rather leave the building than accept a smaller unit, they have been issued Section 8 vouchers that are of the variety that they can be used in other developments that take Section 8 throughout the country.


  • For @whynot_31:


    He's basically making the argument that it'd be in the current tenants' best interests if they were to buy their own apartments instead of being subject to landlords; they'd have a better chance of ensuring maintenance is done properly. 


  • I'm glad Parkside Q picked up this story, and Seth might be right.

    However, ordering a LL that is in compliance with the law to sell the property to tenants, and then allowing them to independently hire a property management company is not something we let gov do very often.

    There are a few scenarios in which gov can seize property.   Here are the main ones:

    -When a LL falls behind on their taxes or water bills.

    -When a LL fails to provide tenants with basic services, HPD can do the repairs and then charge the LL.   If the LL then fails to pay HPD for the services, gov can seize the property.

    After seizing it, gov has a few options:

    A. It can sell the whole building to the highest bidder, and allow profit.

    B.  It can sell the whole building to a tenant formed corporation (lots of coops were formed this way in the 1980s).

    C.  It can sell the building to a non-profit to manage, and prohibit profit.  

    In 2010, the building was in lousy repair, but it does not appear to me the gov had its act together to seize it and choose the new buyer.  (see NYT article above)

    Clearly, choice "A" happened.   Gov had its act together to the degree that it was able to get the new owner to abide by some conditions, likely in exchange for some tax credits.

    It remains unclear to me whether those conditions were well written enough that they will be enough to force the LL to continue serving a population "as needy" as the one present when the LL purchased it.

    As mentioned above, I expect the vacant apartments to be filled with a population that is "better off" in many ways.   However, everyone (gov, politicians, the LL) will get to say it remains "affordable housing" because the definition of this term is so expansive. 

    "Only those who watched how it happened will know what actually happened" 
  • As discussed above, Tivoli Towers is slowly being emptied of its residents via a variety of means.

    I have received reports (of unknown validity) that the building is now 50 - 75% VACANT, and that the majority of vacancies are occurring as a result Section 8 tenants choosing to move out of the building as opposed to move to a unit that matches their new household size (ie "rightsizing")

    It is a federal, nationwide policy.   

    However, some local politicians are holding a meeting about it tomorrow (July 16th): 

    It is wise for local politicians to sympathize with local concerns.   After all, those against the policy (or for "modifying it") are certainly more excited than those who are for it....   

  • I have seen a few high-end cars pull into the garage of Tivoli Tower, not sure how bad-off some of the folks are. One was a Range Rover.
  • The housing crisis in this city is largely due to the ineptitude of generations of politicians pandering to the electorate's short term desire for cheap or free housing. There are ways to make housing affordable, but all of them involve taking a light hand to regulation of the market, and letting the market forces provide the housing. By light hand I mean ensuring that apartments have a valid certificate of occupancy and are fit for human habitation, that a standard lease be used that does not permit rent increases until renewal, that enables a landlord to evict a tenant who does not abide by the terms of the standard lease, and that allows a tenant to vacate without penalty if the landlord fails to abide by the terms of the standard lease, and that provides that security deposits be lodged with the government, which returns said deposits directly to the tenant at the end of the lease unless the landlord can prove that the tenant damaged the apartment or owes back rent. The government also has to ensure that zoning allows for the continual development of new housing stock, either by building on greenfield land, demolishing old housing stock, or rezoning abandoned industrial sites for housing. All these proposals while reasonable and used in many, many other cities, would have NYC's housing lobby having kittens!

    Having said that, when you are dependent on the public purse for part of your income, you pretty much have to do what the government requires you to do keep that income. For unemployment, you have to be actively looking for work, for housing assistance your income and household size have to be at the prescribed levels.

    The only way you get to stay in the same apartment indefinitely is to buy it.
  • The city has decided to use some of its own funds to ease the blow of the Feds actually enforcing their long standing "downsizing policy". 


    In many ways, this merely "kicks the can down the road".

    ...this funding won't last for long, and the Feds (aka HUD) look like they will have to impose more cuts (ie do more enforcement of existing rules) as time goes on.

  • These articles seem to have been written just before the deal took place:

    • Now they are constructing a deal that would allow him to buy Tivoli for $11.25 million, while preserving it as affordable housing until 2040. Mr. Gluck would be required to spend about $15 million rehabilitating the battered building, which is plagued by faulty elevators, mold and leaky roofs that flood certain floors when it rains.
    However:
    • Mr. Gluck signed a contract to buy Tivoli in 2005, with plans to take it out of the Mitchell-Lama program. But tenants discovered a covenant that prohibited Tivoli from leaving Mitchell-Lama until 2024. Years of litigation ensued, with city officials; the borough president, Marty Markowitz; and Senator Charles E. Schumer rallying to the tenants’ side. Today, Mr. Gluck still has a valid contract, but no hope of obtaining private financing.

    source:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/31/nyregion/31landlord.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0


    So, my questions are:

    1.   In this radically-different-from-2010 real estate market, can Mr. Gluck (or the corporation which buys/bought the site from Gluck) secure private funding once the building is largely vacant, and has spent the $15M in renovations required?

    2.   Can the corp then execute the still-valid contract to take it out of Mitchell Lama in 2024, and use some of the money raised to cover a settlement that would cover only the tenants that are still there in 2024 for the disputed period (2024 - 2040)?

    The corp may be betting yes, and that may be the motivation behind not refilling the apartments.    ...each apartment filled represents a "legally occupying tenant" that in 2024 may be deemed by the courts to be entitled to compensation.   

    2024 isn't that far away.      The building's 320 units are now rumored to be only 30% occupied.   

    A casual observer can see that most apartments now lack curtains, furniture on the balconies, and the lights that are turned on in the evening.  

    a.   Will the corp simply count down the time until 2024?     

    b.    Will the building be only, say, 15% occupied by then?          

    c.    Was the state really so stupid that it constructed the "Save Tivoli Contract" in a way that a building owner could use tax credits for operating an affordable housing complex that is mostly unoccupied? 

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