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Waterside Plaza tenants get rent relief due to city deal

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Some tenants are eligible for rent reductions at the Kips Bay complex

Waterside Plaza on Manhattan’s East Side
Max Touhey

The City Council approved a deal Thursday that brokers a new affordable housing agreement for tenants at the Waterside Plaza apartment complex.

Legislators unanimously approved an arrangement that extends the city’s lease agreement with the Kips Bay complex’s landlord—Waterside Plaza Ground Lessee LLC—from 2069 to 2118, and ushers in new rules preserving the affordability of 325 apartments.

“It’s the culmination of a year or more of work to make this happen,” City Council member Keith Powers, whose district stretches along Manhattan’s east side, told Curbed. “Our goal was to help the tenants who have a rent burden and ensure their homes remain affordable—and we achieved both.”

Waterside Plaza, which runs adjacent to the East River between East 26th and 29th streets, houses 1,400 apartments. The new deal offers relief to tenants who remained in the complex after it left the Mitchell-Lama program in 2001 and faced soaring rent increases of up to 7.25 percent.

Families with incomes of at least 165 percent of the area’s median income (AMI)—which is an annual salary of $120,615 for an individual and $154,935 for a family of three—won’t see their rent increase more than 4.25 percent a year. (The rent will be capped at 2.25 percent or at the rent guidelines board’s recommendation, whichever is higher, but that cannot exceed 4.25 percent.)

Those with incomes below that threshold are eligible for a rent freeze, and those who spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent will not be asked to pay more than that portion, according to the deal.

One tenant leader at the complex called the deal a boon to seniors who have managed to call Waterside Plaza home for decades, despite recent rent increases.

“NYC’s HPD engaged with our community, while shaping a 75-year affordability deal, to learn the needs of our seniors and craft an innovative plan that provides for lasting housing security,” Janet Handal, president of the Waterside Tenants Association, said in a statement.

But the city has not committed to regularly revisiting rents for the 325 units and some fear that seniors who retire at the end of 2019 may be locked into leases that are no longer affordable once they rely on a fixed income.

A spokesman for HPD said the department cannot comment on the deal until the details are finalized, but that the agency “is working hard to ensure the best outcome for the tenants” going forward. Powers echoed that sentiment.

“I think one of the important parts of this deal is dealing with the rent burden, I understand, we can’t always get 100 percent what we want,” Powers said. “Of course, I am always interested in continuing to look at Waterside and to make Manhattan more affordable for people paying soaring rents.”