‘Working-class’ Cobble Hill Towers goes market-rate in conversion deal

The Brooklyn Paper
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A historic Cobble Hill rental apartment complex built for the 19th-century working class is on the way to becoming homes for 21st-century gentrifiers.

Rental tenants of the Cobble Hill Towers — a rent-stabilized nine-building complex built in 1879 as an experiment in humanitarianism — will be offered their units at 30 percent below market rates, but vacant or unbought units will become condo homes for the new bourgeoisie.

The Manhattan-based Hudson Companies, which had been negotiating with tenants since the summer, trumpeted the pricing agreement as a milestone.

“A large group of tenants saw the opportunity to own their own home, in a residence they already know and love,” said Hudson principal David Kramer, who said he views the conversion “as the chance for middle-class Brooklyners to own their own homes and enjoy the most compelling sales prices in all of Brownstone Brooklyn.”

The six-story buildings comprise a complex with 188 units facing Warren, Baltic and Hicks Streets. Renters who choose not to buy by March 22 can still do so in the future, but at market prices, ranging between $300,000 for a studio, to $700,000 for a three bedroom.

The plan requires 15 percent of current residents to buy, and Hudson said it expects roughly 30 percent to participate. Tenants who do not buy in can remain in their rent-stabilized apartments — and Kramer said a strict non-eviction clause is in place to protect their rights.

But some tenants said they can’t afford even the discounted asking price for their units, which range from $210,000 to $500,000.

“The developer is doing what developers do, and that is to change the balance of the tenancy to their favor, and to do that, they need to move as many people as they can,” said one 21-year-resident who requested anonymity.

Tenants said they had no proof of harassment or bullying — but some said that the company has left numerous repairs unresolved, giving preference to newcomers over complex stalwarts.

“They seem to be avoiding as much work as possible,” said a renter.

Not true, said Kramer, who noted that his company has already invested $2 million in repairs, including improving security with new gates, and renovating the courtyards and lobby areas.

Regardless, renters say that the changes would dismantle the mission of utopian builder Alfred T. White, who set out to show that private developers could build decent housing for the working class and still make a profit.

“This is the last bastion of diversity in Cobble Hill,” said one 10-year tenant. “And to take these rent-stabilized apartments out of the housing pool is really harsh.”

Former residents agreed.

“The people who live in that building, there’s no way they can buy,” said Carl Rosenstock, who lived in the complex for 13 years.

But those who opted to buy said it was an offer they couldn’t refuse.

“This was probably my only opportunity to buy in Cobble Hill,” said Amanda Abry, a market-rate renter in the complex.

“Yes, I might not be the working class they envisioned in 1879, but I’m still someone who’s struggling to pay the bills,” she said.

Updated 5:23 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Tom from Cobble Hill says:
As a Cobble Hill Towers tenant of eight and a half years with 30 years of carpentry and welding experience under my belt I would be afraid to buy here at any price. I love my apartment but it happens to be part of a crumbling 130 year old complex of nine buildings Repairing the cast iron façade alone will be no easy task and will have a multi million dollar price tag. Cast iron repair requires highly skilled welders using specialized techniques. Hudson is finding out the hard way that steel and cast iron are not compatible with their half hearted attempts at repair. Future assessments should be the concern of would-be-buyers not only the asking price for the units.
March 14, 2011, 1:57 pm
CHTDweller from Cobble Hill says:
The so-called millions spent on repairs and refurbishing were only for show, The lobbies when Hudson arrived had just been re-done and were quite attractive. The new lobbies were created using such sub-standard materials that the tiles were cracking and breaking two months after the wok was finished. They also installed a laundry room which, until two weeks ago was listed in violation of building safety because after installing it without permits, they finally put the required sprinkler system in place.
As for that 30% discount that they are claiming to be using for the offering to existing tenants, my apartment lists as $560 as an outsider price. That should be an insider price of $372 . My insider price is approximately $450 . So much for being able to trust the word of Hudson. They have even tried to place blame for some of the questionable tactics on Lisa Management. Well folks, Lisa Management is a division of Hudson.
I guess my main concern, beyond keeping an affordable roof over my family's head, and not loosing the wonderful eclectic collection of people we have here, is that there are still several people who are in rent controlled (yes CONTROLLED) apartments. Some of whom have been given the impression that they will not be able to renew leases. This is a crime.
These crazy buildings stand for those who are a little different and tolerant. There have been times to go somewhere else over the many years I have been here, but 'here' being CHT is a special place that should not be lost to those who would not only look down on the former residents but on the heritage of fairness and help these buildings represented.
March 14, 2011, 3:29 pm
thomas lawrence from brooklyn heights says:
Yeah, look at the newbies across the street in Old St. Peter's Church. I don't think it was ever rental property; but the current "tenants" (owners) strike me as snobs.
That's why I agree with CHTDweller.
March 14, 2011, 10:59 pm
Insider from Cobble Hill says:
In this article, one renter notes, “They [the Hudson Companies] seem to be avoiding as much work as possible” Mr. David Kramer’s response to that is: “Not true.” Mr. Kramer’s imputation of untruth is disingenuous, especially when in the next breath he claims that his company has “already invested $2 million dollars in repairs, including improving security with new gates, and renovating the courtyards and lobby areas.” Mr. Kramer himself told the tenants that his vaunted security improvements cost between $100,000 and $150,000. And though the lobbies are attractive, the nine of them together could not possible have cost more than $450,000 to renovate. His only other significant changes were to improve the gardens and to pour concrete pads for the garbage containers, which could not have cost him too much. Even being generous, he has put no more than $600,000 or $650,000 into the buildings during the two years that he has had control of management of the Cobble Hill Towers complex.

And NONE of his “improvements” have addressed critical issues like the condition of the roofs, the deteriorated bluestone stairways (down which one elderly tenant tumbled), the dangerously unstable parapet walls hanging over the adjoining Warren Mews properties, and the cast-iron portions of what the NY Times calls the “distinctive *wrought-iron* breezeways and features.” The tenants themselves had to force him to undertake an adequate survey of the condition of the fire escapes. For over a year he has refused to repair the second floor walkways of the 140 Warren building, where without Landmarks Commission permission he had the bluestone torn out in a failed attempt to replace it with concrete. Furthermore, the comprehensive window plan he slipped past the Landmarks Commission shifts the costs of replacing the many damaged window inserts that the tenants’ Engineer’s Report documented onto apartment occupants and future buyers, while conveniently ignoring the replacement cost of the wooden window surrounds, which will certainly cost half again as much as the inserts themselves.

The only way Mr. Kramer can have put anything like $2 million dollars into the Cobble Hill Towers complex is if his calculations include monies spent on lawyers fees for the preparation of the red herring and offering plans he developed, renovations of the approximately 30 apartments he has caused to be vacated (most of which he can reclaim as business expenses), two years of wages for Cobble Hill employees, lawyers fees for his “negotiations” with tenant buyers, fees for the preparation of the window plan he submitted to the Landmarks Commission, and perhaps the cost of the heating oil he was forced to buy last winter.

Having read the many recent articles and comment threads concerning the Cobble Hill Towers conversion, with regard to Mr. Kramer (and Hudson Companies) it does seem valid here to note Caveat Emptor (Let the Buyer Beware).
March 15, 2011, 10:31 am
tenant from cobble hills says:
I live on Hicks Street and tenants had no heat or hot water this morning. At the price that they are charging for these apartments isn't that something that tenants are SUPPOSED TO GET? Geez!
March 16, 2011, 4:40 pm
concerned tenant from cobble hills says:
Hudson has hung signs all over the building "Historic Condos for Sale". At this present time there are not enough insiders that have purchased their apartments to declare the plan effective. Does that mean that they will start selling empty apartments to the public before they are supposed to? Does the general public know exactly how many "insiders" have purchased or will they be told somethng differently when they come to an Open House. They have "claimed that they have enough to go ahead with their plan however that is just another big lie that they have fabricated. Are we ever going to know the real truth? Hudson plans to push this through no matter what.
March 18, 2011, 3:04 pm
stinky steve from Dyker Heights says:
Thanks to all the commenters about the condition of the 130 yo building. Can you guys talk more about what's wrong with the place and noise problems being that it overlooks the BQE on one side? I'm looking at owning my first home and this is somewhat within my price range. Everything else is super ridiculous in downtown Brooklyn. The apt I was interested in is 419 Hicks, #5A.
June 20, 2011, 3:59 pm
Cindy from Morningside says:
Hi Steve, did you decide to buy? If so, has the building gotten better? I'm thinking of buying into the building.
April 3, 2018, 8:08 pm

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