By Sarah Trefethen
Plans to demolish 190 units of low-income housing on the Upper East Side have a local real estate company pitted against preservation activists, with the two sides offering differing estimates of the rental value of the property.
Stahl Real Estate Company owns a total of 1,049 units of housing on York Avenue, across from Rockefeller University on East 64th and East 65th Streets.
The block of 6-story apartment buildings was designated a historic landmark in 1990, but the two buildings on the eastern end of the block, 429 East 64th St. and 430 East 65th St, were stripped of that designation that same year. In 2006, however, the Landmark Preservation Commission voted to restore the designation.
Now, Stahl is asking the commission for permission to demolish the buildings anyway, claiming economic hardship.
Stahl has been planning to develop on the site of the two buildings since 2000, according to the company’s presentation before the commission on Jan. 24. Today, 97 of the 190 units are vacant. A recent analysis by Cushman and Wakefield found that even after renovation the apartments would not be desirable enough to turn a profit for the buildings’ owner.
The analysis, presented as part of Stahl’s hardship application, estimated that the vacant units, if occupied, would rent for about $600 a month, amounting to a net loss of income for Stahl.
In response, the preservation group Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts released their own estimates, compiled by HR&A Advisors, Inc., estimating that the units could be rented for as much as $1,500 a month and the buildings could yield a return of 13 percent each year.
In a news release, the friends group called Stahl’s hardship claim “outrageous.”
But Stahl representatives are standing by their numbers.
“We don’t believe HR&A analysis can withstand serious scrutiny,” said Brian Maddox of FTI consulting, who represents Stahl.
The buildings in the complex were designed by Philip H. Ohm and built in 1914 and 1915 as part of the City and Suburban Homes First Avenue Estates, a model tenement complex.
The two York Avenue buildings were altered in 2006, including an exterior color change from the tan brick found along the rest of the block to salmon pink.