Riverton Housing Complex Fighting to Stay Affordable

By Catherine Yang, Epoch Times
March 8, 2010 Updated: March 8, 2010

NEW YORK—The tenants of the Riverton apartment complex gathered outside the main gate of the Harlem residence on Sunday to demand the affordable housing to be preserved. They were joined by Congressman Charles Rangel, Sen. Bill Perkins, Assemblyman Keith Wright, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and Council Member Inez Dickens.

The Riverton apartment complex has 1,230 units and was purchased in 2005 by Laurence Gluck for $135 million. Within a year of the purchase, Gluck increased the property's debt to $250 million. In order to repay the loan, Gluck will need to displace half of the low and moderate-income tenants over the next five years.

CW Capital has expressed their intention to bid for the apartment complex at an auction on Thursday, March 11, and resell it at a later date.

The Riverton tenants, most of whom have been living in the apartment complex since it was developed in the 1940s, are concerned about the property changing hands and want a seat at the table as Riverton’s future is decided.

Assemblyman Wright, a resident of Riverton, said the Riverton development has “been an oasis of affordable, stable, clean housing,” and he intends to keep it as such.

“As a former tenant leader, and now a member of the Assembly, I live in the same building now as I’ve lived in as a young child. In 1948, my mother and father were the third residents to move here, into the Riverton development," he said.

“In the late 1990s, the early 2000s, the Riverton development and other developments throughout the city had been subjected to speculators, developers who were drinking out of the trough and getting drunk with banks just giving away money blindly to speculators, thus overleveraging these properties," he continued.

“This is a community, and it needs to be safe, affordable, and stable. We have been subjected to foreclosure, we have been subjected to receivership, and now we are subjected to auction. There’s really no way, shape, matter, or form that this community needs to be subjected to these fear tactics."

Congressman Rangel was adamant in supporting Riverton in remaining an affordable housing complex as well.

“While it is truly sad to see this building go through the foreclosure process, we must all remain vigilant to ensure that the services for those who have a responsibility to ensure that these rent-stabilized buildings remain as affordable housing for generations to come,” he said.

The tenants are optimistic, as Wells Fargo, the backing for CW Capital, recently pledged to work with the tenants of over-leveraged, rent-regulated buildings in East Palo Alto California to come to a long-term solution. However the risk of another buyer purchasing the property in hopes of reselling quickly still exists.

Maggie Russell-Ciardi, Executive Director of the Tenants and Neighborhoods, an organization working with the Riverton Tenants Association said it was clear that there are new speculators wishing to do just that.

“The only way to secure the future of the Riverton as affordable housing is for the lenders to sell it not to whoever makes the highest offer, but to a responsible purchaser at a price that is supportable based on the building income with the current tenants in place,” she said.

Cynthia Allen, the president of Riverton Tenants Association said that they look forward to having discussions with CW Capital and Wells Fargo about the long-term future of Riverton.

“They need to turn around and do right by us,” she said. “We, the tenants, have the greatest stake in what happens here. We deserve a seat at the table.”