That’s why City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and a bevy of other city officials came together this week to call for Lone Star Funds to sell the foreclosed Washington Heights and Inwood buildings at a “reasonable price.”
“We’re here today because once again the stable housing of hundreds and hundreds of New Yorkers is at risk,” Quinn said on Monday, standing with dozens of tenants and a group of officials including Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez. “If these homes are lost, they won’t be replaced in Washington Heights…they’ll just be gone forever.”
Lone Star purchased the mortgages on the buildings after their previous owner, Vantage Properties, defaulted in 2010. The buildings are now being offered for sale at $50 million — $6 million more than the current mortgages’ value. The fear is that it would be impossible for a new owner to pay the bills and properly maintain the buildings’ upkeep.
“If Lone Star Funds and Vantage do not sell these properties at a price that will allow its owners to make large scale improvements and make their mortgage payments, it’s only a matter of time before these buildings fall into completely unlivable conditions,” Quinn said in front of 566 W. 190th St. near St. Nicholas Ave.
Eddy Tolentino, the tenant association president at neighboring 570 W. 190th St., said his main concern is that residents could be one day find themselves displaced.
“I fear (the new owners) are going to try to increase the rent and push the tenants out,” said Tolentino, 62, a 10-year resident of 570 W. 190th St., where he pays $917 for rent.
A spokesman for Lone Star Funds, Jed Repko, declined to comment when the Daily News reached him by phone on Monday. A spokesman for Vantage Properties said only that the company no longer owns or manages the buildings and is not involved with their sale.
Rodriguez said that Lone Star has refused to meet with him and other city officials in regard to this issue.
“This is not just about one building, this is about more than 800 apartments,” he said, noting this situation impacts roughly 2,500 tenants.
The potential loss of these apartments would only add to the chronic shortage of affordable housing for poor and working families in upper Manhattan.
Bloomberg administration efforts to build or preserve homes for people of modest means in Washington Heights and Inwood have lagged behind most other city neighborhoods for years.
The numbers are dramatic: A mere 239 new affordable units have been built in Community District 12 over the past eight years, and just 1,448 have been preserved.
A representative of Manhattan Legal Services said the agency will take action if necessary to safeguard the tenants’ rights “unless Lone Star takes responsibility for the inevitable result of irresponsible lending practices.”
The city’s Dept. of Housing, Preservation & Development has said it’s eager to create more low-cost housing in Community District 12, which covers the tip of the island north of W. 155th St., but officials say there’s a shortage of publicly owned land on which to build.
HPD Commissioner Matthew Wambua was also on hand Monday, saying that his agency would now be closely monitoring the situation with Lone Star, keeping an eye out for building and safety code violations and other signs of negligence.
“To the tenants: We are looking out for you,” Wambua said. “To the owners: We are watching you.”
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