By Maria Rocha-Buschel
25,000 fed up Stuyvesant Town tenants are calling on the bill collector in charge of the complex to help them find a new owner – fast.
“It has become frustrating for us as a community,ˮ said tenants association board member John Sheehy. “People are increasingly anxious that we get a true and real owner and not just a custodian for the bond holders.ˮ
The comments came following a community meeting that drew officials from Brookfield Asset Management, banking consultants and lawyers as well as hundreds of residents who have accused the company servicing the debt on the ST/PCV apartment complex of dragging its feet on negotiating the sale of the development.
Tenants have partnered with Brookfield to put together a multi-billion-dollar bid to buy the 11,000 apartments and convert them to condos.
Nearly two years on, the Stuy Town Tenants Association claims that, although it has told special servicer, CW Capital, that it is willing to propose an offer structure that would satisfy its obligations to bondholders, instead of engaging in a discussion, CW Capital continues to decline meetings. CW had said it would only start talking about a possible sale once the class action court case known as Roberts v’s Tishman Speyer was settled.
Although a court ruled on the case last December, awarding the tenants a $69 million settlement against the owners and former owners for illegally raising rents after collecting tax relief, the decision must be finally approved in court on April 9. Until then, the special servicer said, “We’re not in a position to comment on the sale.ˮ
Still, the tenants who turned out for the community meeting at the weekend took aim at CW Capital for the lack of progress — and lack of information — about the next step.
Barry Blattman, senior managing partner at Brookfield Asset Management, was at the meeting, held at Baruch College, to answer questions, and Bill Derrough from Moelis & Company, an investment banking firm acting as a financial advisor for the Tenants Association, was also on hand.
Blattman suggested that residents and members of the tenants association continue to press CW for answers. “We will continue the process and what you can do is to be vocal and demonstrate that you want a resolution,” he said. “Working as we have will yield the best result over time.”
Other questions related to the effect on tenants who might not want to purchase their apartments but remain as renters on the complex.
“(Brookfield) understands the nature of the community in Stuyvesant Town and they want to make sure the nature of the community remains as consistent as possible,” Derrough told the meeting. “They are purposefully low key and under the radar. If they were bad landlords, you would have read about it.”
He added that the company has a long-term horizon, return parameters and significant capital for difficult investments. The decision to ultimately pursue a condo and not a co-op conversion was “for tax and structural reasons,” Derrough said.
“Co-op is a structure that could reject people and (the Tenants Association) concluded that (condo) was the best structure going forward to make the transaction.”
Speaking as a member of the class action suit, Sheehy conceded that “technically” CW is correct about the rubber stamping of the suit, but added, “We still feel that the settlement is of such historic importance that [we could start talks].
“So far, CW has made it clear they do not want to, but that doesn’t mean we will stop trying. This has been a long wait for the 25,000 residents and we are extremely anxious to acquire this property.ˮ