As we detailed earlier this week, Stahl Real Estate's hardship application that, if granted, would allow it to demolish two landmarked six-story walkups on York Avenue between 64th and 65th Streets is, let's just say, somewhat fishy. The Landmarks Preservation Commission did not take action on the application at a hearing yesterday afternoon, but its approval is becoming increasingly difficult to imagine, especially considering the tone of the questions that commissioners had for Stahl (many began with phrases like, "If these units are so unlivable...") and the litany of anecdotal evidence offered by neighborhood residents and tenants of the buildings suggesting that the hardship that Stahl is contending with is all self-imposed. In addition, the Friends of the Upper East Side continued to poke holes in Stahl's numbers.
Stahl's consulting firm, Gleeds, estimates that after a $17.38 million renovation, the apartments will still have a 10 percent vacancy rate and Stahl won't be able to achieve the city-mandated minimum of a 6 percent profit, while HR&A, the firm hired by the Friends of the Upper East Side, contends that only a $4 million renovation (which was what Stahl had originally said it would cost) should result in a return on investment of 11.7 percent, even if they factored in a vacancy rate more than 300 percent higher than the vacancy rate of the surrounding area. The Friends of the Upper East Side also pointed to a couple other dubious claims on Stahl's part, such as the fact that they estimated that their painting costs would increase by 87 percent in the year following the renovation.
Representatives for several politicians also spoke in opposition of the hardship claim, and a bunch of tenants and neighbors spoke about how Stahl had achieved its current vacancy rate of over 20 percent by intentionally making vacant apartments unlivable and refusing to market the apartments in any way. Some even reported that when people actually managed to contact the landlords, they were told that all the apartments were occupied. One neighbor compared the application to a "defendant who murders both his parents and then appeals to the courts because he's an orphan." So, all in all, things are not really looking that great for this application. "Next stop: court," one tenant was heard muttering as the hearing adjourned.
· Landlord Seeks Demolition, Argues Buildings Aren't Profitable [Curbed]