Dozens of residents of an Upper West Side apartment building joined local politicians Tuesday morning to protest the building management's policy of prohibiting rent-stabilized residents from using the building's new gym.
The rally, at Stonehenge Village on 97th Street near Amsterdam Avenue, comes as Public Advocate Letitia James said that her office will file a complaint against Stonehenge, which owns and manages 22 residential properties in the city.
“This policy is prejudiced, unlawful, and in violation of fundamental civil rights,” James said at the rally.
Approximately 60 percent of the residents of Stonehenge Village are rent-stabilized—which, according to a new building policy, means they can't use the gym. A statement given to residents at a Feb. 10 tenants meeting said that “the gym 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.”
“When I first saw them building the gym I was excited,” William Saxton, a resident of Stonehenge for more than 20 years, said. “I was definitely planning on using it.”
“This is a fight that we shouldn't have to have,” Jean Green Dorsey, another resident, said. “We will not be treated as second-class citizens in our own home.”
The rent-stabilized tenants are from the building's days as a city-managed Mitchell-Lama affordable housing property. According to a DNAinfo article published Feb. 24, Stonehenge took over the building in 2006, promising to maintain the existing rent-stabilized units but offering new units at market rates. Stonehenge's website lists rents in the building starting from $2,450 per month for a studio.
A slew of local politicians, including District 7 City Council member Mark Levine, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, GS '97, and State Sen. Bill Perkins, joined residents at the rally to oppose the policy.
“We as elected officials stand firm that this is not okay,” Brewer said. “This type of action is absolutely not allowed in our city.”
“We will not accept any form of segregation, whether with respect to race, age, or income,” Perkins said.
Residents said that after the gym opened, building management put a sign on the door—that was later taken down—that said, “The Gym is open for tenants that have been approved. Please do NOT hold the door open for other residents.” Residents who do not have access to the gym cannot open the door with their keycards.
“It's hard to believe that we're still facing this in 2014,” Levine 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,” Stonehenge spokesperson Marcia Horowitz, said in a DNAinfo article published Tuesday.
James said that the policy would set a dangerous precedent for limiting civil rights if action is not taken.
“What's next, using separate doors?” Theda Palmer Saxton, resident of the building, said.
“What kind of city do we want to be?” Levine said. “We want to be a diverse, multicultural, multi-income city, and if we can't work it out in buildings like Stonehenge, then we are facing a tide of problems.”
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