Thursday, March 30, 2006

Residents Approve Price Hike - Morningside Gardens Votes to Triple Value of Co-Ops

Columbia Spectator

Residents Approve Price Hike
Morningside Gardens Votes to Triple Value of Co-Ops

By Lauren Hovel Spectator Staff Writer
March 30, 2006

A two-bedroom Manhattan apartment worth $159,000 on Sunday is now worth $480,000, after residents of Morningside Gardens voted this week to allow their co-ops to sell for triple the previous prices, giving tenants the ability to make enormous profits.

These profits come with a price, however, as the vote, taken on Monday and tallied over the next few days, marks the end of Morningside Gardens� tradition of affordable housing, and with it, some residents say, its history of diversity.

Each of the 1,000 units in Morningside Gardens, located between W. 123rd and LaSalle streets and between Broadway and Amsterdam, was given one vote. The first proposition on the ballot, which enabled the tripling of prices, passed with 584 votes, well over the 51 percent needed to win. A second proposition that would have allowed for just a 60 percent price increase received 114 votes. 70 votes were cast against both measures.

�Morningside Gardens is a great place�there is a wonderful mix of ages, ethnicities, incomes. It is one of the few places still affordable for middle-income people,� said Olga Hughes, a tenant who voted for the lesser price increase. She added that the results could indicate a change in the character of the co-op community.

For residents like Hughes, the price increase will change a heterogeneous complex into a more homogenous�and wealthier�group. But according to other occupants, the price increase was a necessity to pay for badly-needed building repairs. It will also generate funds to allow residents to accrue the same equity and make the same profits as their Manhattan neighbors.

�It�s the first sensible thing that�s happened here in about 20 years. I�m really amazed not just that it passed but how at how few voted against it,� said Marty Lieberman, a tenant who voted for the price increase. �Morningside will have the ability and the money to keep itself in top shape.�

Paul Naprstek, who supported the 60 percent increase called for by the second proposition, said, �It�s really hard to sell people on the idea of making less money. We had to convince people there were certain benefits that made giving up the concrete benefits worthwhile.�

�Obviously I�m disappointed, but I don�t want to be bitter. We had a lot of odds against us, but I think we fought a good fight, and I�m proud of that,� he said.

The debate over whether to change the prices resulted in months of tension among residents, and a tenant who wished to remain anonymous said she fears the divisions may take some time to heal. �It�s been so ugly, so nasty. It has really torn the place up,� said the tenant, who voted against both propositions. �But it�s really a clear mandate, the community has spoken, and I accept the voice of the majority�

Morningside Gardens units will now be sold at 80 percent of the market rate, and sellers will be subject to a 15 percent flip tax so that the complex obtains some of the profit.

No comments: