Monday, October 3, 2016

Roosevelt Island Westview Building Residents Vote Overwhelmingly To Approve Affordability Plan For Withdrawal From NY State Mitchell Lama Program - Low Income Renters Protected By Increasing Purchase Price Says Westview Task Force Board

The last remaining Roosevelt Island Mitchell Lama building, Westview,

took another step closer to privatization and exiting the NY State affordable housing program this weekend with the residents approving an affordability plan negotiated between their representatives, the Westview Task Force  (WTF) and building ownership. According to this WTF email sent out Sunday October 2
Friends Neighbors, Westview Tenants,

We are pleased to announce the results of the Westview tenant vote to approve WESTVIEW A PLAN FOR PRESERVATION OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND WITHDRAWAL FROM THE MITCHELL-LAMA PROGRAM SEPTEMBER 1, 2016 – FINAL.

A total of 227 apartments voted

209 voted in favor

18 voted against

By an overwhelming majority, the Tenants of Westview have approved the Affordability Plan. This vote will allow us all to move forward towards a future with both rent protection and opportunity to purchase.

Thank you to all who participated in the vote.
The WTF stated their reasons for voting yes on the Affordability Plan in this September 29 email to building residents:
Friends, Neighbors, Westview Tenants,

Tomorrow, Friday, September 30th at 7:30pm, in the Westview lower community room begins an important vote that will affect ALL WESTVIEW RESIDENTS.

Everyone needs to vote! Please tell your friends and neighbors.

The Plan we are voting on contains provisions for both AFFORDABLE RENTS and OPPORTUNITY TO BUY. This vote is to accept or reject the Affordability Plan, not whether you plan to buy or not. Your decision to rent or purchase will come at a later date should the Plan be accepted.

If you want the RENT PROTECTION included in the Plan, vote YES.
If you want to PURCHASE your apartment as offered in the Plan, vote YES.

Voting YES for the Plan means:

1. Rent protection for existing tenants who chose to continue renting.
2. The opportunity to own your apartment at a heavily discounted price and build substantial equity.
3. The possibility of a buyout.
4. Complete funding of all present and projected major capital improvements.
Voting NO does not keep us in Mitchell-Lama and does not get us a better deal down the road. A NO vote means risking exit from Mitchell-Lama with NO Plan, NO real rent protection, NO ownership opportunity, NO buyout opportunities, NO funding for building repairs, only uncertainty and the risk of unregulated rents.

We encourage ALL tenants to vote YES!

We look forward to seeing everyone in the Westview lower community room on Friday, September 30th at 7:30pm to kick off the vote. Please make every effort to come as we need a quorum (at least 36 members) to start.

Voting will continue until 10pm on Friday, and again on Saturday, October 1st from 10 am to 3pm.

Ballots will be available at the voting location. If you are a designated proxy, please bring the completed Directed Proxy form to the voting location in person.

Thank you.
As previously reported:
Some Westview residents are very scared for their future and doubt they can remain in their apartments based upon what they understand about the proposed plan.
One long time Westview resident upon learning of the plan's approval said:
I am going to have to leave Westview somehow and Roosevelt Island.

I am so heartbroken. I can't express it.
I attended the Tuesday, September 22 WTF informational meeting.

 Image of September 22 WTF Affordability Plan Informational Meeting

The WTF Board members emphasized to residents attending the meeting that the Affordability Plan protects the lowest income residents who choose to stay and rent by increasing the price to purchase apartments from the Red Herring's $226 per square foot to the current price $246 per square foot.

Also, Westview rents, which have not increased in 8 years, will be raised 6.16% in the first year, followed by rates established by the NYC Rent Guidelines Board in subsequent years for those renters with incomes below the Area Medium Income. Rental apartments will not be subject to future electric submetering.

The Westview Task Force added that the Affordability Plan has the support of local elected officials, NY State Homes & Community Renewal and the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC). RIOC is expected to approve an extension of the Westview Ground Lease through 2068 during its January 2016 Board meeting.

RIOC Acting President Susan Rosenthal has said previously:
RIOC is coordinating with NY State Homes & Community Renewal (HCR), Empire State Development Corp (ESD), tenants and the sponsor to be ready to renegotiate the ground lease when necessary.
This is a continuing story so stay tuned for updates as they occur.

UPDATE 7:15 PM - Roosevelt Island's NY State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright issued this statement:
“Westview residents’ vote to exit from New York State's Mitchell-Lama housing program is a significant milestone in protecting tenants’ rights, in addition to signaling the end of a housing era on Roosevelt Island,” stated Assembly Member Rebecca A. Seawright of the 76th Assembly District which includes Roosevelt Island.

Westview is the last building remaining in the Mitchell-Lama program on Roosevelt Island and will exit with an affordability plan supported by Assembly Member Seawright. Seawright acted on the numerous concerns raised by her constituents and worked with public officials Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Senator Jose M. Serrano, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, NYC Council Member Ben Kallos and New York State Homes & Community Renewal’s Commissioner James S. Rubin to ensure the affordability plan was fair for all. The proposed plan, which was overwhelmingly approved, protects Westview residents who chose to continue to rent rather than purchase. The affordability plan specifically protects residents on fixed incomes who simply cannot afford to purchase their apartments or pay market rent. At the same time, this is an opportunity for many middle income Westview residents to become first time home buyers at affordable purchase prices.

In a letter dated February 1, 2016 to Commissioner Rubin, signed by all the elected officials, Assembly Member Seawright, wrote:
Over the past several months, Westview residents expressed their concerns, especially senior citizens on fixed incomes, following a submission of an Offering Plan to the Office of the NYS Attorney General for the buildings known as Westview located on Roosevelt Island. We met with individuals and groups of constituents at our office, at their homes and attended tenant meetings. At our request, DHCR attorneys graciously met with Westview senior residents and listened to their concerns as well. On behalf of our constituents and Westview residents, please do not approve the revised Affordability Plan dated October 26, 2015 which includes a proposed initial rent increase of 14.9% as such a high increase it is not warranted.
“I am relieved and thrilled for residents who will continue to rent that their initial rent increase will not exceed 6.16% rather than the initial proposed rent increase of 14.9%,” Seawright said, “and at the same time the purchase price remains affordable for the residents who choose to purchase their homes.”