The saving of Stuy Town: has corporate greed in New York been dealt a blow?

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The saving of Stuy Town: has corporate greed in New York been dealt a blow?
Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village opened in 1947 as affordable city housing / Photo: Bloomberg

The near-mythical Stuyvesant Town apartment complex was once a haven for middle-income New Yorkers, until corporate landlords hiked up the rent. A new deal pledges to stop the bleeding – but is it too late for Manhattan’s middle class?

Of the many blows the 21st century has so far dealt to tenants in New York, few were as bruising as the one that landed on Stuyvesant Town–Peter Cooper Village. “It was,” New York senator Chuck Schumer told tenants on Saturday, “one of the most despicable acts of corporate greed I have ever seen.”

Between 2002 and 2015, a succession of owners systematically dismantled the affordability of Stuy Town, the largest complex of rental apartments in Manhattan – a near-mythical urban village that stood for nothing less than the achievements of New York’s middle class.

The collection of 110 red-brick towers remained physically intact, but its character changed dramatically, as its owners ended a 50-year commitment to rent-stabilised, middle-income housing in order to profit from New York’s housing crisis. In 2001, fewer than 100 of Stuy Town’s 11,000 apartments were rented on the open market. Today, more than half of them are.

But last week’s announcement of the sale of Stuy Town to Blackstone, America’s largest rental landlord, will fix that ratio for the next two decades. The deal stipulates that 5,000 apartments will remain rented to middle- and low-income tenants.

It’s a victory beyond numbers – proof that affordable housing can still be a municipal priority on Manhattan island if determined tenants and public officials make it one. But it’s also a coda to a cautionary tale. […]