Gale Brewer Admits The St. Louis Project
Poses Danger To Neighborhood Children
A real estate broker trying to sell an apartment in a prominent building recently called me. The conversation was most revealing.
His buyer had expressed misgivings about moving to our neighborhood because they have children, and they were concerned about the St. Louis project at 319 West 94th Street.
To address these concerns, the broker called our City Council Member Gale Brewer.
Ms. Brewer said: “The original plan would have made it dangerous for children to live in the neighborhood. I would not have recommended that your buyer bring children here.”
Testifying before the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals, (2008) with many of our Neighbors in attendance, Ms. Brewer, speaking on behalf of Lantern Group, the project’s developer, said:
“I am aware of the many concerns and complaints raised by the community and the St. Louis tenants, and I agree that Lantern needs management. But, I am here today to give my full support to this project and urge you (BSA) to approve it.”
Open mouth, Ms. Brewer. Insert foot.
For a City Council member to admit that she violated the community interest—more than 1,000 neighbors petitioned against it, $250,000+ was raised to defeat the St. Louis—to support, indeed, shill for a project that she, Brewer, knew endangered children is an act of depraved corruption.
CBS News did two exposes about the condition of the building, which was filled with vermin, bedbugs, had holes in the floors, feces in the bathroom.
CBS reported on the environmental engineer’s report commissioned by our law firm found 5-10x the legal maximum for lead (children live in the building). The report stated the building probably had asbestos in the roof, basement and pipe wrappings—all areas proposed for construction while tenants would live there.
$39 million from taxpayers to convert an SRO into…an SRO!
To this day, the abuse of the remaining tenants in the St. Louis has been documented in the media. The developer can get six times the rent by forcing out these tenants (working poor) and replacing them with New York-New York III program severely mentally ill ex-cons with drug and alcohol addiction—or as the City HPD calls it, “Affordable Housing For New Yorkers.”
Going back to the Brewer-broker conversation, she claimed that the “new plan” might be “less dangerous,” and that the broker should speak to Jessica Katz, executive director of The Lantern Group, the developer of the St. Louis.
To our best knowledge, the new plan is less of the same—our lawsuit resulted, by Lantern’s own admission, in lopping off three stories (7 rather than 10) and about two dozen less units. The project would still not have the type of services for this population to ensure that this building would be anything close to good neighbors. (Shudder)
So the broker did try to reach Jessica Katz of the Lantern.
But Jessica Katz, the former HPD assistant commissioner who, while working for the City arranged all the complex City, State, Federal-private tax credit (LIHTC) financing for the $39 million for Lantern, then became the Lantern executive director, was gone.
I turned on the TV News and saw HPD officials from the agency’s Affordable Housing Program (where Jessica had worked) frog marching for the cameras, because City Investigations Dept. caught them taking six-figure bribes from developers.
Which leaves us to wonder, was Jessica’s sudden departure due to the HPD scandal?
Did Lantern do something suspicious with HPD? Is an investigation imminent?
Is it ethical that the project’s loan officer went to work for the loan recipient?
Why did Gale Brewer so staunchly advocate for this project in the face of such united community opposition?
Does anyone realize that in 2005, the St. Louis was about to be used as a dorm for a major college in Morningside Heights (without displacing existing tenants). Until Gale Brewer called the school and threatened them. They even forfeited their deposit.
What was in it for Gale? Why is she so interested in protecting a developer of such questionable reputation and not protecting the tenants?
It’s time the neighborhood and the St. Louis got some answers from Gale.
For the sake of our beautiful neighborhood, I ask that everyone take a few minutes to call Gale Brewer’s office. Let them know that you care and demand accountability.
ASK: Why, if Gale knew the initial project was bad for children, why did she support it?
Also, ASK: Will Brewer initiate an investigation into Lantern and Jessica Katz’ relationship with HPD?
HOW TO REACH Council Member GALE BREWER, Call:
District Office Phone
Legislative Office Phone
If you want to learn more about how “dangerous” this project is, and how bad the tenant-abusers at Lantern are, read the links below.
Neighborhood In The Nineties
James Panero writes in the Daily News:
In the case of St. Louis Hall, a six-story residence on W. 94th St., supportive-housing developers known as Lantern Organization and its for-profit wing, the Lantern Management Group, have a blockbuster at their disposal called “NY/NY III.” In 2005, Mayor Bloomberg and then-Gov. George Pataki started this initiative to house the city’s most high-risk group of homeless single adults, with problems ranging from persistent mental illness and chemical addiction to HIV/AIDS. While pursuing a noble goal, the champions of NY/NY III failed to anticipate how supportive-housing speculators would use NY/NY III as a weapon to intimidate existing residents.
Also read Megan Finnegan’s West Side Spirit article about tenant abuse at the StL: