The GPTA’s new board is focused on a series of concerns shared by a majority of tenants at Battery Park City’s largest residential complex. “Obviously, the big issue that confronts all of us here is the continuation of rent stabilization,” notes Ms. Wiese.
This was a reference to the agreement between Gateway’s owners (a partnership led by the LeFrak Organization) and the BPCA, from whom they lease the land on which the complex is located, through the year 2069. A series of accords stretching back to the 1980s have limited rent increases for Gateway tenants to those approved for stabilized apartments by the City’s Rent Guidelines Board. The most recent agreement, reached in 2009, protects legacy tenants (meaning those in residence at the time of the agreement) through 2020.
“We look forward to continuing to work with our elected officials and of course with the Battery Park City Authority’s leadership, chairman Dennis Mehiel and president Benjamin Jones,” said Ms. Forst.
Another issue that the new GPTA board is focused on is the electric rates paid by tenants. Because Gateway does not have a central heating system, apartments are kept warm by electric units (called “packaged terminal air conditioners” or PTACs) mounted beneath windows.
“The vast majority of residents experienced 200 to 300 percent increases this past January, when the weather was extremely cold,” recounts Ms. Joseph. “We know this because we conducted a resident survey, and also canvassed tenants in the lobbies of several buildings at the start of February. More than 100 residents replied, and we found that the increases were widespread.”
“With the help of Sen. Brian Kavanagh and other elected officials, we have been in contact with the Public Service Commission,” Forst said. “They have a role to play, because they regulate utilities, including sub-metering facilities, like Gateway.” This was a reference to the fact that Gateway residents are compelled, under the terms of their leases, to buy electricity from their landlord, rather than directly from an traditional supplier, such as Con Edison.
At issue is not just the amount of power that Gateway residents must consume to keep their apartments habitable, but also the rates they pay for each kilowatt hour of electric current used. “We’re very concerned about the excessively high rates that tenants were charged in January,” says Ms. Wiese. ”
Ms. Joseph detailed these concerns during the public comment section of the BPCA’s February board meeting, “Chairman Mehiel was very concerned,” she says, “and we believe there will be follow-up.” She adds, “in the last few years, Gateway was refitted with new windows, new electric meters, and new PTAC units, all of which were supposed to make the entire complex more energy-efficient, and reduce the charges.”
“One of our goals is increased transparency in billing and we are looking to our elected officials to help accomplish this,” notes Ms. Forst. “Right now, the administrative charge that Gateway collects for providing electricity is unknown to tenants because it is folded into the overall kilowatt charges. The amount is not itemized or specified in a transparent way as is customary on other utility bills.”
The issue of pet riders on lease renewals was recently brought to the attention of the GPTA Board. “A few months ago,” says Ms. Forst, “lease renewals started to contain new language that was inconsistent with the 2012 agreement between management and all existing tenants regarding pets.”
According to Ms. Wiese, “we reached out to management to discuss this issue. We are happy to report that we were able to resolve it, and continue with the 2012 protections for then-current tenants. It was apparently a mistake at LeFrak’s corporate office.”
Finally, says Ms. Joseph, “this board wants to build the sense of community at Gateway. These five buildings are unique throughout the City, and with so many new residents coming in, we want to bring people together. Our approach will be through outreach and social engagement,” she continued. “The GPTA invites all of our residents to participate.”
For more information on how residents can become involved with the GPTA, please go to: www.gpta.org, follow us on Twitter @GPTA_BPC and like us on Facebook.