Tenants gain in heated battle over pool at London Terrace

Regulator grants residents $2M abatement if access to complex's swimming facility is withdrawn

Aug.August 05, 2014 03:45 PM

State regulators have handed a major victory to tenants at Chelsea’s London Terrace in their battle over access to the complex’s swimming pool.

The ruling by the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal on August 1 granted the residents a $165-per-month rent abatement for 24 months — assuming access to the pool at the luxury apartment complex is permanently taken away. If the dispute over pool access is not resolved by later this month, the decision by DHCR would add up to about $2 million a year in total rent abatements, according to lawyers representing tenants in the case.

“The London Terrace Tenants Association has taken the position that the elimination of the services should result in a rent reduction that is commensurate with the cost of replacing the services,” William Gribben, a partner at Himmelstein, McConnell, the law firm representing tenants at the complex, said in an emailed statement. “The order reflects this position.”

The dispute centers on the massive 921-unit London Terrace apartment complex, which takes up an entire city block from Ninth to Tenth Avenues and between West 23rd and West 24th streets. The swimming pool and sundeck are located at 470 West 24th Street.

For decades, the pool was included in the rent, but a move by the co-op board to take away access led to a 1992 rent strike by tenants. An agreement was later reached between the co-op and renters granting tenants access to the pool and sundeck for a fee, while the co-op owners were granted reciprocal access to the gardens, which function as a park for residents.

The owners, according to a filing with state regulators, asked DHCR to approve a 300 percent increase in the annual fee that tenants pay to the co-op for pool access, which would have raised the total yearly payment to $750,000, according to published reports. The agreement would have also banned access to the rooftop sundeck.

In the same filing, the owners asked the agency to implement a 1997 order to take away pool and deck access in return for a 2 percent rent abatement, but lawyers for tenants said that was not adequate to fund the cost of replacing such a service.

DHCR, in the ruling received yesterday, cited the monthly cost of the McBurney YMCA and Chelsea Piers — which are both located near the complex – to determine the value of access to a pool. The McBurney YMCA charges $160 a month for a family membership, while Chelsea Piers costs about $165 per person, according to the order.

The existing negotiations are set to continue until late August, when the current extension on the pool access agreement expires.

Tenants at London Terrace are involved in a separate class action case involving allegations of illegal rent hikes at the complex.

A spokesperson for DHCR was not immediately available. Rose Associates, which manages the rental complex was not immediately available for comment. Attorney Bob Goldstein, who represents the owners, did not return calls.

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