Trinity School OK’d to hike rents at UWS tower

By Adam Pincus | October 02, 2013 06:27PM

The Trinity School has eked out a victory in a long-running battle to extract more money from an affordable rental tower it owns on the Upper West Side, securing city approval to hike rents by as much as 13 percent in one year — more than three times the standard rise for rent-stabilized units this year.

Tenants of Trinity House, a 199-unit apartment building at 100 West 92nd Street, can expect to see the first increases next month, with a 9.5 percent climb planned for the second year and an additional 3 percent increase slated for the third year, according to Kevin Ramsey, a spokesperson for the school.

The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which regulates Mitchell-Lama buildings like Trinity House with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, signed off on the plan.

Typically, rent increases for regulated apartments are much smaller. For example, this year the Rent Guidelines Board approved a 4 percent increase for one-year leases and 7.75 percent for two-year leases on rent-stabilized leases.

However, the overall cost at Trinity House will remain far lower than the Manhattan average, hitting $484 per month for studios, $740 for one-bedrooms, $904 for two-bedrooms and $1,089 for three-bedrooms once the new rents are fully phased in. By contrast, the median rental price for an apartment in the borough cost $3,150 to rent, according to the latest figures from Douglas Elliman.

“We have reviewed the testimony presented at a public hearing, analyzed the corporation’s financial history and its physical needs, have had discussions with the housing company’s consultants, met with representatives of the tenants association and prepared a financial analysis of the development’s needs,” a spokesperson for HPD said in a statement.

Trinity applied for the rent increase with HPD in March, as previously reported.

“The HPD-approved rent increases ensure that the strong quality of life and affordable housing available at Trinity House will be placed on a sound financial path,” Ramsey said in a statement to The Real Deal. “It is important that our neighbors at Trinity House have a fiscally healthy building, as they are such a vital part of the vibrant and diverse neighborhood that we all share and treasure on the Upper West Side.”

Despite Trinity School’s reputation for educating the children of Manhattan’s elite, the institution has struggled to earn more from the rental building, which was built with government subsidies in 1969. In 2007, Trinity tried — and failed — to sell the building.

There are 97 Mitchell-Lama buildings in the city, according to HPD.

Helen Rosenthal, who is the district’s likely City Council member after winning the recent Democratic primary, has criticized the rent jumps and advocated a tenant buyout.

“We have no choice but to focus on the sale, because the proposed Trinity rent increase … is so riddled with mistakes, misinformation, padding and errors that it is impossible to fairly evaluate,” she said in May.

Rosenthal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Trinity School’s actions in 2007. In fact, the institution tried to sell the rental tower at that time.