Upper West Side Building That Won't Let Rent-Stabilized Tenants Use the Gym Is In All Sorts of Trouble

James_Stonehenge_Village.jpg
Image via Public Advocate's Office
Letitia James, center, rallies with tenants and other elected officials outside Stonehenge Village on Tuesday.
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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13 comments
bonjour02138
bonjour02138

Is this the way a DEMOCRACY  is supposed to work? SHAME to all the BOURGEOIS living in the building. Get real! By BOURGEOIS I mean those who are paying $2.500 per month or more. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity from Cambridge, MA!

NYCGirl
NYCGirl

The building management is CORRECT. Read your rent stabilization laws. If somewhere in the future the building management decides to close the gym, the high rent folks have no say, BUT the rent stabilized tenants can petition a "loss of services" and get their rents legally reduced. The bulk of the tenants may vote to close the gym and rather have a playroom, extra laundry room, or whatever in the same space - but even then the RS folks can petition for a reduction in services and therefore get a reduced rent. This is not discrimination, this is business. Discrimination is charging a new tenant $2,500 for the same apartment a long time tenant is paying $500!!

toniotrex
toniotrex

I have no sympathy! In this life you get what you pay for.  The building is beautiful and if I were a rent stabilized tenant I would appreciate what I have and keep quiet.  Imagine if a garage was attached to the building and only a  limited amount of spaces Only for Fair Market renters, would they be okay with that if the space costs $700 per month or would they expect a space for $50 per month? If the stabilized renters want Fairness why don't they stop passing their apartments to their family when they leave and let outsiders in? It seems they want to monopolize that too!  Where's the room for the New Yorker who wants an apartment. Be fair and appreciate what the fair market renters pay because if it weren't for the fair market renters than that building wouldn't look as beautiful as it does.

Jordan Acevedo
Jordan Acevedo

Scumbags. Just another example of the tale of 2 cities. Wheres public advocate De Blasio now??

Tommy Haynes
Tommy Haynes

I have been involved with co-op boards .In addition to how elitist this is , it's always a BAD idea to try to pull this stuff. Also the craggidity old guy paying $75.00 a month in the rent controlled apartment who has been in the building since WW2 isn't going to use the gym anyway so it's a win win to just include him , you look good , you avoid creating resentment between the tenants which could cause you more problems.

Ellen Ripstein
Ellen Ripstein

Wow. My building went condo and has a gym. Everyone can join, but it's not free (pretty cheap, though). I've paid the last few years just so I have no excuse for hardly ever using it.

sue.susman
sue.susman

Thanks for the article.  Rent stabilization is not a subsidy that tenants "receive."  It's a market-balancing system designed to level the playing field between tenants and landlords. If landlords couldn't de-regulate vacant apartments easily, there would be more than the current ~50% of all NYC apartments being stabilized for the 99% of New Yorkers. 

toniotrex
toniotrex

It is a tale of two cities! Why should the fair market renters pick-up the tab for the stabilized renters.  Pay and you shall receive.  Hard work that leads to success does not mean that the wealth has to be shared with people of less income.  The more people with less get the more they want.  I'm not rich but hope someday I will be.  For now, I make due with what I have and not with what is given to me.  I don't like handouts and that what these stabilized renters are getting.  They practically live there for free and want more. I bet these stabilized renters would take a payout to opt out of their forever lease and screw the next person but complain if it happened to them.

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