Upper West Side Building That Won't Let Rent-Stabilized Tenants Use the Gym Is In All Sorts of Trouble
Letitia James, center, rallies with tenants and other elected officials outside Stonehenge Village on Tuesday.
Image via Public Advocate's Office
On Monday, all hell broke loose for Stonehenge Village, a luxury apartment building on the Upper West Side, when DNAInfo reported that the management wouldn't allow its rent-stabilized tenants to use a newly-installed gym. About 60 percent of Stonehenge's tenants receive rent stabilization; the building was previously part of the Mitchell-Lama affordable housing program.
A publicist for the Stonehenge company, Marcia Horowitz, defended the no-gym-for-poors policy to DNAInfo, telling them, "The small gym we built and opened this week is different in that it is aimed specifically at new and prospective tenants who expect certain amenities and incentives that are commonly available to market-rate renters."
Now Stonehenge has a much bigger problem on its hands than a handful of disgruntled tenants they clearly don't much like anyway: in a rally in front of the building yesterday, flanked by a number of elected officials, Public Advocate Letitia James called Stonehenge's behavior "appalling" and "segragation," and promised to file a complaint with the New York State Human Rights Division.
In a release sent out yesterday afternoon, James blasted Stonehenge's management, saying "The lack of transparency on behalf of management, and lack of respect afforded to these residents is appalling. Stonehenge's rent-stabilized tenants hold 60% of the building's units. Many of them lived here when the building operated as a Mitchell Lama. We will not accept segregation in New York City."
Manhattan Borough president Gale Brewer was equally steamed, saying in the same release that "unequal access" to amenities like the gym is "just wrong." New York City Council Member Mark Levine and New York State Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell were also displeased, with Levine saying that Stonehenge's upstairs-downstairs approach to gym membership "sets a dangerous precedent at a time when such mixed-income buildings are becoming more and more common. We call on Stonehenge Management to immediately reverse this policy so that all residents can live as equals in their home."
That doesn't look likely to happen, at least not without a fight. In a followup with DNAInfo, building spokesperson Horowitz said, "We are a responsible building owner and manager and we want to assure all interested parties that everything we have done regarding this matter is in full compliance with all laws."
That must include a sign that was reportedly posted on the gym door and later taken down, which sternly warned the market-rate tenants not to hold the door open for their lesser neighbors. It read, "The Gym is open for tenants that have been approved. Please do NOT hold the door open for other residents."
While most of the market-rate tenants seem happy to share their gym facilities, CBS did manage to find one tenant who's happy with the status quo. Miriam, a market-rate-paying tenant who understandably did not want to attach her last name to her fun and democratic opinions, told the station: "I kind of think it is fair, because the people who do pay more should maybe get more amenities for the building."
Besides the expected human rights complaint from James' office, Tenant Association President Jean Green Dorsey told the Daily News she'll also file a complaint in housing court against the property management company.
It really would've been easier to just let everybody use the gym.
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