Lower Manhattan’s Local News
Class-Action Suit on Behalf of Gateway Tenants Reaches Proposed Settlement
Attorneys representing Gateway Plaza residents in a class-action suit that began in 2014 have reached a tentative settlement with the LeFrak Organization, the landlords at Battery Park City’s largest residential complex, which they value at $42 million.
The suit claimed that conditions such as poorly insulated windows, along with improperly functioning heating and air-conditioning units, made apartments within the six-building property effectively uninhabitable for multiple years. A related complaint alleged that residents were forced to endure financial hardship by running the defective heaters in winter and air conditioners in summer, in some cases 24 hours per day at full power, to compensate for the structural deficiencies of the buildings, thus incurring massive electric charges. (The suit further charged that LeFrak, “improperly profits from the allegedly excessive charges for electricity paid by tenants at Gateway Plaza through an electrical submetering system at Gateway Plaza,” which is a reference to an unusual provision of Gateway leases that forces residents to buy their electric service from the landlord.) While some of these conditions have since been partially remediated with the installation of new windows and climate-control units (although some residents claim that habitability issues persist, and the electrical metering scheme remains unchanged), the suit and settlement attempt to offer monetary compensation to current and former residents for the harm they suffered.
A Notice of Settlement recently distributed to Gateway tenants asserts that the LeFrak Organization, “denies all allegations of wrongdoing,” and “denies that it has breached the implied warranty of habitability… in any of the respects alleged by the Complaint,” and “denies that it is otherwise liable to members of the Class in any respect.” But the same document goes on to explain that LeFrak, “is entering this Settlement Agreement solely to eliminate the uncertainties, burden, and expense of further litigation.”
In the Notice of Settlement, attorneys for the class of residents who currently live at Gateway (or rented there anytime after April, 2008) outline three primary pools of value that the proposed agreement will recover. The first is a $10 million cash payment by the LeFrak Organization, which will cover attorneys’ fees and expenses, as well as defraying claims by current and former residents. This “settlement amount” will cover any cash disbursements to current and former residents, which will have the effect of retroactively and incrementally lowering the rent they paid during the period covered by the suit. According the documents filed with the court, the attorneys who worked on the case will receive fees not to exceed $3.5 million, along with reimbursement for various expenses, which are expected to cost several hundred thousand dollars. This will compensate the legal team (comprised of lawyers from three different firms) for five years of work.
From the same fund, current and former tenants will receive an amount up to fixed percentages of the overall rent they paid to LeFrak between 2008 and the present. For current tenants, this percentage is 1.66 percent. The percentage that former residents will be paid is 2.39 percent of their overall outlay. According to settlement documents filed with the court, this means that a current resident who paid $30,000 in rent during the period would receive a benefit of $498. A former resident who paid the same amount in rent during the same period would receive $717. While these amounts are hypothetical examples, the percentages represent fixed ceilings, because the $10 million fund (after attorneys’ fees and expenses are deducted) will be distributed on a pro rata basis, depending on the number of current and former residents who sign up to receive payments.
The method of distributing these payments will vary, depending on whether a recipient currently lives at Gateway or is a former tenant. Residents who have moved away will be issued a check. Current tenants will see the amount they are to receive appear as a credit on their rent bills later this year. In some cases, this credit may take more than one rent cycle to deplete, meaning that such a tenant would owe no rent until the credit had been fully absorbed by successive monthly bills.
The second pool of value negotiated by attorneys representing Gateway tenants is a cap on rent increases for the next two years. This benefit, which will accrue only to current residents who sign up as part of the class that will participate in the settlement, is scheduled to begin in July, immediately after the current program of rent stabilization at Gateway is slated to expire (unless it is renewed). The cap outlined in the settlement agreement stipulates a limit on rent hikes of five percent, compared with estimates of typical rent increases of six percent. For a hypothetical tenant currently paying $2,833 per month (or $34,000 per year), this one percent saving would result in a benefit of $340 per year, according to documents on file with the court.
For tenants in rent-regulated Gateway Plaza apartments, the outlook is more complicated. Under the current regime of rent stabilization, LeFrak cannot increase rents for Gateway residents in regulated apartments by more than the threshold set each year by the City’s Rent Guidelines Board, which in recent years has hovered between 1.25 percent and 2.5 percent. If the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) succeeds in negotiating an extension of this program (which will otherwise lapse in June), the five-percent cap would not confer any benefit on Gateway tenants already protected by rent stabilization, because they are currently covered by tighter restrictions on increases. But if the Authority fails to renew the agreement that provides rent stabilization for some Gateway apartments, those residents could face sudden, massive increases, jumping substantially from their current, below-market rents. In this scenario, the subset of Gateway residents who live in rent-regulated apartments would gain a two-year reprieve, which might amount to many thousands of dollars per year. In total, the lawyers representing Gateway residents estimate that that value of the two-year, five-percent cap on rent increase is $13 million.
The third pool of value that the legal team representing Gateway has incorporated into the settlement agreement is capital repairs and upgrades, which the Settlement Notice prices at $18 to $20 million. This part of the agreement does not envision or require any new improvements to the physical plant at the Gateway complex. Rather, it retroactively incorporates into the settlement improvements made several years ago, between 2014 and 2017. The Notice of Settlement makes the argument that the LeFrak Organization, “acknowledges that this [lawsuit] was a contributing factor as to both the timing and scope of the capital improvements undertaken.”
Jeffrey M. Norton, a partner at the law firm of Newman Ferrara, which led the class-action suit against LeFrak, said, “we’re really happy with this settlement. We think it speaks for itself, and we look forward to presenting it to the court for final approval.”
There will be a Fairness Hearing on Monday, March 2, during which Melissa A. Crane, the judge presiding over the case, will consider comments on this proposed settlement, either in support or denunciation of its terms. This session will be held in Courtroom 303 of the New York Supreme Court Civil Branch, at 71 Thomas Street. The purpose of the hearing will be for the judge to approve or reject the terms outlined in the Settlement Notice, based on whether they are, “fair, reasonable, adequate, and in the best interests,” of Gateway residents, according to a court document.
Apart from the immediate issues outlined above, this proposed settlement raises a range of questions. Multiple sources directly familiar with the ongoing negotiations between the BPCA and the LeFrak Organization over extension of affordability protections at Gateway Plaza allege that for several years, the landlord has used the uncertainty arising from the lawsuit as an excuse for delaying meaningful discussion. Assuming the settlement is approved by the court, this could remove a roadblock to the preservation of rent stabilization at Gateway. Conversely, however, a settlement valued at tens of millions of dollars could arguably erect a new obstacle to negotiations between the BPCA and LeFrak, with the developer demanding to be compensated for any loss arising from the class-action suit, in addition to whatever other financial incentives were demanded in exchange for extending rent stabilization.
In another scenario, if the LeFrak Organization remains intransigent, and refuses to negotiate an extension of affordability protections, it could argue that the two-year caps on rent increases are a reasonable substitute, in spite of the fact that previous affordability agreements have had terms of a decade or more, and offered more rigorous limits on rent hikes. This could also provide a fig leaf for public officials, who would otherwise face political humiliation at having failed to achieve a goal to which multiple community leaders and elected officials have committed in recent years.
For more information about the class-action lawsuit against the LeFrak Organization, and the terms of the proposed settlement (as well as details about how to sign up to be eligible for benefits, and deadlines for doing so), please browse: www.GatewayPlazaSettlement.com.
To the editor:
The Seaport Coalition is asking our neighbors to send their comments before January 16th to NYSDEC, the agency that will be overseeing the cleanup of toxins found under the 250 Water Street (formerly Millstein) parking lot.
Here are some talking points:
1. Mercury Action Levels should never exceed background at the site perimeter
2. Double the number of mercury vapor and soil samples taken
3. Double the number of air monitoring stations around the perimeter of the site
4. Use more sensitive mercury detection monitors such as Jerome 505 or Lumex RA915M
5. Establish a “hot line” so community concerns about the site can be called in.
6. Provide real time air monitoring data in an on-line data room for easy access.
7. Curtain or Tent drilling sites to reduce noise, light and vapor releases
8. Notify the schools, residences and commercial establishments 24 hours in advance of perimeter work.
9. Immediate community notification when work site is shut down for any reason.
10. Coordinate emergency response of police, fire, hospitals, DOT prior to any ground intrusive activities.
Responses can be to: Michael.Koromoske@dec.ny.gov 518-402-9802
Happy New Year,
Michael Kramer for The Seaport Coalition
CB1 Session Tonight Will Consider Resolution on Saving
Now-Closed Rector Bridge
Work crews fenced off the Rector Street pedestrian bridge on Monday morning, a preliminary step to prepare for the structure’s scheduled demolition.
Cuomo Vetoes Legislation Sought by HRPT to Allow Development on Pier 40
On New Year’s Eve, Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill passed earlier this year by both houses of the State legislature that would have allowed limited commercial development on Pier 40, the massive former cruise ship terminal on the Hudson River waterfront, adjacent to Houston Street, which covers 14 acres and now houses athletic and recreational facilities.
Such development would have helped to fund operations for the Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT), which oversees the four-mile-long riverfront park that stretches from the Battery to West 59th Street.
“Pier 40 is a very key element of the Hudson River Park,” noted Paul Goldstein, who chairs the Waterfront Committee of Community Board 1 (CB1), at an April meeting. To read more…
Shutter to Think
Turns Out That Ignorance of the Law Is an Actually Pretty Good Excuse
A Tribeca building owner recently violated landmarks law by destroying metal shutters on a legally protected building, but both Community Board 1 and the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) have decided that there isn’t much to be done about this.
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades ~ Respectable Employment ~ Lost & Found
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FOR BABYSITTING OR TUTORING
17 year old young man, lifetime resident of Tribeca and BPC.
Went to PS 234, Lab Middle School and currently attending Millennium HS. This summer was a Councilor at Pierce Country Day Camp. Excellent references.Very experienced with kids under 10.
Available for weeknight and weekend baby-sitting and tutoring middle-schoolers in Math or Science. Please contact Emmett at 917.733.3572
IT AND SECURITY SUPPORT
Experienced IT technician. Expertise in 1-on-1 tutoring for all ages.Computer upgrading & troubleshooting. Knowledgeable in all software programs.
James Keirstead email@example.com
347-933-1362 References available
CERTIFIED HOME HEALTH AIDE SEEKING
Full-Time Live-In Elder Care
I am loving, caring and hardworking with 12 years experience. References available. Marcia 347-737-5037 firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTARY PUBLIC IN BPC
$2 per notarized signature Text Paula at 917-836-8802
ELDER CARE NURSE AIDE
with 17 years experience seeks PT/FT work. Refs available Call or text 718 496 6232 Dian
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6 River Terrace
Directed by Church Street School for Music and Art, the BPC Chorus is open to all adults who love to sing. Learn a mix of contemporary and classic songs, and perform at community events throughout the year.
Skyscraper Museum Curator’s Tour
Museum Curator Carol Willis will lead a tour of the museum’s new exhibition Housing Density: Tenements to Towers. 39 Battery Place. Free
Battery Park City Committee
200 Rector Place, Community Room
1) 9/11 BPC Residential Memorial Plaque Placement – Discussion and Possible Resolution
2) 2010 Amendment to BPCA’s Settlement Agreement Financial – Update and Discussion
Licensing & Permits Committee
Community Board 1 – Conference Room 1 Centre Street, Room 2202A-North
999: The Extraordinary Young Women Of The First Official Jewish Transport To Auschwitz
Museum of Jewish Heritage
36 Battery Place. FREE
Upcoming Community Board Meeting This Week
Thursday January 9
Landmarks & Preservation Committee
Click here for any changes to agendas prior to the meeting dates.
Today in History
307 – Jin Huidi, Chinese Emperor of the Jin dynasty, is poisoned and succeeded by Jin Huaidi.
1297 – François Grimaldi, disguised as a monk, leads his men to capture the fortress protecting the Rock of Monaco, establishing his family as the rulers of Monaco.
1454 – The papal bull Romanus Pontifex awards the Kingdom of Portugal exclusive trade and colonization rights to all of Africa south of Cape Bojador.
1790 – George Washington delivers the first State of the Union address in New York City.
1828 – The Democratic Party of the United States is organized.
1867 – African American men are granted the right to vote in Washington, D.C.
1889 – Herman Hollerith is issued US patent #395,791 for the ‘Art of Applying Statistics’ – his punched card calculator.
1940 – World War II: Britain introduces food rationing.
1964 – Lyndon B. Johnson declares a “War on Poverty” in the United States.
1973 – Watergate scandal: The trial of seven men accused of illegal entry into Democratic Party headquarters at Watergate begins.
2004 – The RMS Queen Mary 2, the largest ocean liner ever built, is christened by her namesake’s granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II.
2005 – The nuclear sub USS San Francisco collides at full speed with an undersea mountain south of Guam. One man is killed, but the sub surfaces and is repaired.
2011 – The attempted assassination of Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords and subsequent shooting in Casas Adobes, Arizona, in which five people were shot dead.
1735 – John Carroll, American archbishop, founder of Georgetown University (d. 1815)
1862 – Frank Nelson Doubleday, American publisher, founded the Doubleday Publishing Company (d. 1934)
1911 – Gypsy Rose Lee, American actress, dancer, and author (d. 1970)
1935 – Elvis Presley, American singer, guitarist, and actor (d. 1977)
1947 – David Bowie, English singer-songwriter, producer, and actor (d. 2016)
1958 – Betsy DeVos, American businesswoman and politician, 11th Secretary of Education
1984 – Kim Jong-un, 3rd Supreme Leader of North Korea
1642 – Galileo Galilei, Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher (b. 1564)
1825 – Eli Whitney, American engineer and theorist, invented the cotton gin (b. 1765)
1948 – Kurt Schwitters, German painter and graphic designer (b. 1887)
1976 – Zhou Enlai, Chinese soldier and politician, 1st Premier of the People’s Republic of China (b. 1898)
1996 – François Mitterrand, French sergeant and politician, 21st President of France (b. 1916)
Eyes to the Sky
January 6 – 19, 2020
Sun’s New Year, dawn and dusk planets
Since the winter solstice, December 21, I have been particularly attentive to the Sun as it sets into the skyline to the southwest. Even though I know that the Sun is setting about a minute later everyday, I am impressed to notice that the location of the setting Sun has inched more westerly.
By the time of Vernal Equinox, March 19, sunset will be due west. Sunset today, the 6th, is at 4:43:33pm., an increase of 15 minutes from the earliest sunset on December 8th. Picking up momentum, we will experience a 14-minute gain of afternoon sunlight by January 19, when sunset time is 4:57:28pm. To read more…
Recalling Five Points
Epicenter of a Notorious Slum Proposed for Commemoration
In 1831, the City government considered a petition that warned, “that the place known as “Five points” has long been notorious… as being the nursery where every species of vice is conceived and matured; that it is infested by a class of the most abandoned and desperate character.”
A decade later, Charles Dickens, visiting New York, wrote of the same Lower Manhattan neighborhood that had inspired the petition, “what place is this, to which the squalid street conducts us? A kind of square of leprous houses, some of which are attainable only by crazy wooden stairs without. What lies behind this tottering flight of steps? Let us go on again, and plunge into the Five Points…. To read more…
Cruise Ships in New York Harbor
Arrivals & Departures
Sunday January 19
07:00 ~ 17:00
Sunday February 2
07:00 ~ 17:00
10:00 ~ 16:00
07:00 ~ 17:00
07:00 ~ 17:00
10:00 ~ 16:00
Many ships pass Lower Manhattan on their way to and from the Midtown Passenger Ship Terminal. Others may be seen on their way to or from piers in Brooklyn and Bayonne. Stated times, when appropriate, are for passing the Colgate clock in Jersey City, New Jersey, and are based on sighting histories, published schedules and intuition. They are also subject to passenger and propulsion problems, tides, fog, winds, freak waves, hurricanes and the whims of upper management.
Plan Floated to Span East River with Arch Containing Thousands of Apartments and New Transit Portal
To those who claim that the age of monumental public works and historic pieces of civic infrastructure has ended in New York, Scott Baker has a succinct answer: “Not if I have anything to say about it.”
Mr. Baker is the brains and the propulsive force behind an audacious new proposal to span the East River with a hybrid structure that would be part building, part bridge, and part mass transit conveyance, connecting the Dumbo/Vinegar Hill section of Brooklyn to the Manhattan neighborhood of Two Bridges.
Mr. Baker calls his plan, “RiverArch,” and describes it as, “a way to transform the skyline and the City with a structure like no other in the world, while also housing thousands of people and generating hundreds of millions of dollars per year in new tax revenue.”
What If All This Is Not Enough?
Pondering Whether $300 Million and 16.5 Feet of Protection Will Matter
At the October 29 meeting of the Battery Park City Authority board, Catherine McVay Hughes raised a potentially troubling question. As BPCA management reviewed plans to spend some $300 million on resiliency measures designed to protect the community against future sea-level rise, extreme-weather events, and climate change, she questioned one of the key assumptions upon which these plans are predicated.
“I think a lot of folks are looking at the depth-to-design elevation flood line,” Ms. McVay Hughes began. “And there was a report that was recently issued… [in which] this technical expert suggested that the 16.5 feet needs to be raised another two to three feet. So I just wanted to make sure that what the Battery Park City will be planning to do will be adequate, as well.” To read more…
CB1 to Consider Cutbacks in Number of Stops on Free Bus Service
Tonight (Tuesday, December 3) the Transportation Committee of Community Board 1 (CB1) will hear a presentation from the Downtown Alliance about planned cutbacks to the number of stops on its free Downtown Connection shuttle bus.
The plans include the elimination of six stops within Battery Park City.
A Tale of Two Museums
Community-Focused Cultural Center Faces Uncertain Future, as Tourism Magnet Thrives
The 9/11 Tribute Museum, a highly regarded local cultural institution, is grappling with a precarious outlook, according to a story first published in Crain’s New York Business, which says that the space housing the facility, located at Greenwich and Rector Streets, may be sold out from under the organization by its landlord.
Death Came Calling at the Corner of Wall and Broad Streets, in Lower Manhattan’s First Major Terrorist Attack
As the noon hour approached on a fall Thursday morning in 1920, a horse-drawn wagon slowly made its way west down Wall Street toward “the Corner,” the high-powered intersection of Wall and Broad. Its driver came to a gentle stop in front of the Assay Office, where stockpiles of gold and silver were stored and tested for purity. But theft was not his motive.
Cass Gilbert and the Evolution of the New York Skyscraper
by John Simko
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