Like the cavalry in an old Western movie, Starrett City Tenants Association President Marie Purnell is sure glad to see all the officials whove recently visited the 46-building, 140-acre complex in which she lives. All have come with deep concerns, and many with the clear intention of blocking the sale of the nations largest subsidized rental housing complex by Starrett City Associates to Clipper Equity LLC for $1.3 billion. Im very much against the sale. I didnt anticipate it would be such a big thing, but Im glad it is, because it shows our organizations and politicians are looking out for us, said Purnell, who has headed the tenants association for the past 14 years. The latest visit to the complex came last week, when U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and other elected officials took the nations Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Alphonso Jackson to a meeting with tenants and the media at St. Lawrence Parish Hall, on the edge of the property. Jackson, like other officials, expressed concern for how Clipper Equity Principal David Bistricer will be able to keep the complex affordable. First opened in 1975, Starrett City now called Spring Creek Towers is the largest federally subsidized rental complex in the country, with about 90 percent of the units receiving some kind of subsidy. These subsidies include the Mitchell-Lama program for moderate-income tenants, the state Section 236 program and the federal Section 8 program. The remaining 10 percent of the 5,881 housing units is rented out at market rate. Upon announcing the sale, Clipper Equity LLC also announced its intention to withdraw the complex from the Mitchell-Lama program by paying the balance of a $243.6 million mortgage. I want to review every aspect of this sale. I do not want to prejudge anything, Jackson told reporters at the meeting. However, its very difficult for me to believe that if you pay $1.3 billion for that property that it can stay affordable. Its almost impossible. Jackson said HUD will review the entire sale as well as Clipper Equity and will announce whether the department will attempt to block the sale by Friday, March 2. Schumer invited Jackson because he believes HUD can block the sale because its regulations call for any prospective buyers of federally subsidized housing to be responsible individuals and organizations that do not have an unfavorable record, which can reflect an unacceptable risk to the public interest. Adding to this discourse, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo last week announced that his office will enforce a State Supreme Court injunction banning Bistricer from certain real estate transactions for life, and will not permit the conversion of any of the property to cooperative apartments. Cuomo also provided Jackson with a letter and supporting court records that may provide HUD with a basis for blocking the sale of the Starrett City complex altogether. Findings that led to the court order against Bistricer include his failure to disclose the terms of refinanced mortgages in amendments filed prior to the auction of apartments he owned, a violation of the Martin Act. He was ordered to pay $450,000 in restitution to residents and $50,000 to the State Attorney Generals office. The law firm of Troutman Sanders LLP, which represents Clipper Equity LLC, responded that in 1998 there was an order enjoining the sale of co-ops and condos. That arrangement was subsequently modified, with the consent of the Attorney General, to allow the sale of units, including most recently the sale of units in a new condo conversion with approximately 250 apartments in Downtown Brooklyn which is under construction, the firm responded in an email. The Downtown Brooklyn property mentioned is 7 MetroTech marketed as the BellTel Lofts. Meanwhile, a Clipper Equity spokesperson said the company still plans on seeing the purchase through. This is a contract for sale between a willing and able purchaser and a willing seller, and we are absolutely committed to moving forward and completing this transaction, the spokesperson said. As part of that process, we absolutely remain committed to protecting long-term affordability, the spokesperson added.
©2007 Community News Group
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