When Tishman Speyer offered MetLife $5.4 billion last October for 80 acres of Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan, it was, by dollar amount, the largest real estate deal in history. Tishman Speyer has a history of such deals: The Stuyvesant Town deal broke its own record from 2000 when they bought Rockefeller Center for a grand total of $1.9 billion.
One of the reasons for the huge price tag that MetLife and Tishman Speyer attached to the deal was the rarity of such a large, contiguous space of property in the middle of Manhattan. This gives Tishman Speyer the creative and developmental possibilities in the middle of Manhattan that large property owners usually enjoy only in rural or suburban environments.
Running between First Avenue and the East River, from 23rd to 14th streets, whatever Tishman Speyer does with the property will have a huge and very long-term impact on the city in general. So, what does
Tishman Speyer plan on doing with all that land?
Their plan is to more aggressively pursue the type of property improvements to the area that MetLife had already begun. During the past several years, there have been numerous battles about MetLife’s plans to bring the rent-controlled properties up to market level and even go so far as to change many of the apartments into luxury living spaces. Attempts to raise rental rates to market level followed stark increases in the property value of the area, similar to what has occurred in Alphabet City.
The Stuyvesant Town website shows what the new buyers are trying to do to the area: Pictures of young, well-to-do residents who all look suspiciously like models are shown in upscale settings like nightclubs
and coffee shops. Beneath the pictures read headlines like “… you won’t have to commute to your nightlife.” Furthermore, all of the models shown are Caucasian, despite the presence of large minority
communities throughout the area.
It seems clear that the various tenant groups fighting the abandonment of major public housing projects do not have the political power to keep the owners of Stuyvesant Town from doing basically what they please. Various elected officials, including Senator Schumer, have publicly pressed the owners of the property to consider the public’s interest. So far, however, they seem unwilling to put real pressure on the private developers to make significant changes.
In sum, Stuyvesant Town is at the center of a continuing trend in public housing in New York City: It seems like the city is fast on its way to resembling Paris and London, where there is little in the way of subsidized housing in the center of the city, and the working class is being pushed further and further to the periphery of the city.
While this fate is a shame for those that value a culturally diverse; living environment, it seems that elected officials aren’t willing to stop it.