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Fresh Meadows complex’s fate unknown

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Owners of the Fresh Meadows Housing complex are mulling possibly selling the rent-stabilized complex or converting it into co-ops.

The 146-acre, 13-building complex, which contains 3,285 apartments, was purchased by the Insignia Financial Group and the Witkoff Group in 1997 from the John D. and Catherine T. McArthur Foundation in Chicago for $215 million. Monthly rent at the complex ranges from $1,100 for a one-bedroom apartment to $2,000 for three bedrooms.

Jeff Goldberg, an Insignia spokesman, said published reports that the complex is on the market are wrong. "It is not true that it is up for sale," he said. "The owners are looking for their options as they always do."

A report from Bloomberg News, reprinted in Newsday, said real estate investor Steven Witkoff, a co-owner of the property, has been selling several of his holdings in the city and buying others in Britain. Witkoff could not be reached for comment.

"The property is not formally on the market," Goldberg said. "The owners are very happy with the investment and really believe there is a lot of upside to ownership."

The complex is also co-owned by Lehman Brothers Holding Inc. Goldberg said Insignia and Witkoff are the operating partners of the housing complex.

But Goldberg added that many business people have expressed interest in either the land or the complex, and so "the partnership will always continue to evaluate." He would not name any interested parties, however.

"With the real estate market as strong as it is," Goldberg said, "a conversion option is a strong possibility." He said many of the tenants have expressed interest in ownership of their apartments, and that "the market is ripe for development."

"Anything that we would do would be done with the current tenants' support," he added.

Goldberg said he did not know the current market value of the complex. "We are long-term investors," he said. "At the end of the day it's going to be an evaluation of what can bring maximum value."

"The group is looking to maximize long-term investment in the property. That means holding, selling to a local institution or converting to co-op," he said.

Asked when a final decision to sell the complex or convert it to co-ops might be made, Goldberg said, "there's no timetable. We are very happy with our current investment."

He said the three partners are "very aligned in their interest and unified in terms of direction."

Joseph Genty, a Fresh Meadows Housing Complex resident, said he had heard talk of a possible sale or co-op conversion.

"I myself wouldn't buy into it, but there are people who want to buy," he said.

Genty said he thought there should be the option to rent or buy.

"We have a lot of conveniences here," he said, "and service is good -you don't want to kill a good thing."

Reach reporter Daniel Arimborgo by e-mail at timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 141.

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