The lobby at Stonehenge Village.
It’s not just one gym. Several local building owners are now facing heat for excluding rent-stabilized tenants from amenities offered to their neighbors in the same building who pay market rates.
State assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal announced on Sunday that she’s introducing a bill that would “penalize landlords who discriminate against rent-regulated tenants by prohibiting their access to new amenities and common areas, such as fitness rooms, rooftop decks, pools, and playrooms and reserving them exclusively for market rate tenants.”
In the release about her bill, Rosenthal said she’s heard from tenants at several buildings where management has kept them from using pools and other amenities available to market rate tenants. She claims they are “separate and unequal.”
“The rent-regulated tenants living in the Greystone, located at 212 West 91st Street, have been prohibited from using a new gym, despite offers to pay a monthly fee to use it. Assemblymember Rosenthal wrote a letter to the owners of 230 West 76th Street/235 West 75th Street, who were also denying rent-regulated tenants gym access that was provided to market rate tenants. In other buildings Assemblymember Rosenthal is working with, landlords provide free shuttle service between the building and nearby subway stops to market rate tenants only and have also installed pools, game rooms and play areas for market rate tenants only.”
The Daily News reported that the owner of the Windermere on West End and 92nd “has banned rent-stabilized tenants from using the building’s new gym, pool, children’s play room, lounge and rooftop patio.”
Rosenthal says her bill will hit landlords who violate it with a $25,000 fine and make them forfeit rent increases until the violation is fixed.
The issue first gained steam after tenants at Stonehenge Village on West 97th street protested the management’s decision to lock them out of a new gym in the lobby. Public Advocate Letitia James has since filed a discrimination complaint about the practice with the New York City Human Rights Commission.
Tenants have said they offered to pay to use the gym, but the management wouldn’t even allow that. Marcia Horowitz, a spokesperson for Stonehenge Partners, did not get back to us about whether the building had refused the tenants’ request. But she said “everything we have done regarding this matter is in full compliance with all laws.”
She said that the building has put in several other enhancements that benefit everyone.
“We have to date invested over $5 million towards systems and upgrades to the common areas at Stonehenge Village, including the lobbies and rear courtyard. These improvements benefit all new and existing tenants alike. The small gym we built and opened last week is different in that it is aimed specifically at new and prospective tenants who expect certain amenities and incentives that are commonly available to market rate renters. Our ability to attract residents at market rates, which in this Upper West Side neighborhood are as much as three times the average paid by our rent-subsidized tenants, and to maintain high occupancy is critical to the overall financial health of the building which is in every tenants‘ interest. Our goal at Stonehenge Village is to provide a well-managed, high quality building for all our tenants.”
We checked with a lawyer to see whether he thought the tenants had a case. David Kaminsky, who represents tenants and landlords in disputes, sent the following response:
“[I]f the rent stabilized tenants were not provided the service of a gym amenity at the inception of their tenancy they have no right to the service and no right to complain about the refusal of the landlord to provide such service. The reason is that since the gym service was not initially provided to the rent stabilized tenants, it is not a service that the tenants were initially paying for as a portion of the rent. However, the only way to be absolutely sure is to file a complaint with the State of New York DHCR and see if DHCR concludes that the rent stabilized tenants are entitled to use the Gym without paying an extra gym fee.”
BrickUnderground also talked to lawyers who were skeptical that a legal challenge could win. Said one: “I strongly suspect the landlord is completely within his rights to do it.”
Of course, those legal rights could change if the state passes Rosenthal’s bill.
On Monday, Community Board 7′s housing committee will discuss this issue, along with residents of Stonehenge Village. The meeting starts at 6:30 and is at 250 West 87th Street.