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Are Mars Bar Building Tenants Really Getting $10 Luxury Apartments?

Anyone who's ever glanced at New York City real estate was aghast at recent reports from Crain's and the New York Post that say tenants of the apartments above the soon-to-be-demolished Mars Bar will receive $10 residences in the new luxury space to be built in its stead. But after talking to residents who were unaware of that super cheap figure, we decided to investigate further to see if they really were getting $10 digs.

John Vaccaro, 81, told us last Tuesday that he didn't know about the $10 pricetag, but did know that he would be receiving an apartment in the new building. He said he wasn't sure how much he would be paying for the new apartment at 11 Second Avenue. (The new building will occupy 9 and 11-17 Second Avenue.) In fact, all of the building residents we spoke with were reticent to talk about specifics, mostly due to the fact that they didn't yet know them.

"We are going to get a new apartment, and in the meantime, they are giving us a little bit of money to find a new place, which I'm looking for," said Vaccaro, a former a theater director. "I have to be out by the end of the month."

Sitting in his expansive loft among stacks of his possessions being readied for the move, he would not specify how much money he was going to be given for the interim living arrangement. A spokesman for the Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) wrote in an email that the developer is paying for all costs associated with temporary relocation.

Another resident of the building reached by phone, who did not wish to be named, had not heard about the $10 cost of the new apartments either, and a third resident also expressed confusion about the dollar-amount.

A March report from the City Planning Commission says that "qualifying returning households would be given the option to purchase an affordable unit at a nominal price," and yesterday the HPD, which develops affordable housing in the city, also used the term "nominal price."

"The $10 deal has been morphed a little over time," Press Secretary at the Manhattan Borough President's office Audrey Gelman wrote in an email. "In our recommendations, we refer to the deal as a 'nominal amount.'"

So while $10 is an easy number to pin to the deal, it is, at its core, not that simple.

According to the HPD, out of 13 affordable units that will be available for purchase in the new building, nine are set aside for the building's current occupants, who will receive the "nominal price" deal. If tenants choose to buy, they cannot resell to a higher bidder: the apartments remain affordable. The current tenants also have the option to rent.

Over the last week we left multiple messages for a representative from the developer, BFC Partners, but have not heard back. If you know anything else about the building arrangement, let us know.

Mars Bar and the apartments above are set to be demolished in August.

Willis Plummer contributed reporting.


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