PDA

View Full Version : Crumbling Co-op City



Kris
August 9th, 2003, 05:17 AM
August 9, 2003

Utopia's $500 Million Repair Bill

By ALAN FEUER

http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/2003/08/09/nyregion/09coop.1842.jpg
Residents and visitors at Co-op City walk past fences that keep them away from areas with falling debris. Balconies in the complex are falling apart.

Co-op City, the cooperative apartment complex built for working people in the Bronx, no longer cooperates nor works quite the way it used to.

The parking garages are collapsing. The balconies are falling apart. Many of the 80,000 windows are broken. The power plant is crippled. The elevators shudder. The roofs leak.

The sprawling complex, which sits on more than 300 acres between Interstate 95 and the Hutchinson River Parkway, is home to more than 50,000 people. If it seceded from the borough, it would form the 12th largest city in the state.

Its financial problems are equally immense. It faces an emergency repair bill of nearly $500 million. Meanwhile, its tenant corporation runs a deficit of $7 million every year.

"So where are we now?" asks the narrator of a video its managers recently made to publicize the crisis. "In a mess."

The mess is everywhere in Co-op City. The crumbling garages have forced the residents to turn their largest park into a parking lot. The crumbling balconies have forced them to erect wooden fences in front of every building, lest chunks of concrete fall on someone's head.

"We carom from crisis to crisis," said Herbert D. Freedman, a representative for Marion Scott Real Estate, Inc., which was brought in four years ago to manage the 15,000-unit complex. "There's just no time for preventative action. Crisis is all we do."

The roots of Co-op City's crisis stretch back to 1968, when the first of 35 apartment buildings was erected on the old site of the Freedomland amusement park. New York State oversaw construction under its Mitchell-Lama housing program, devised to create housing for low- and middle-income families by providing tax exemptions or low-interest mortgages.

From the beginning, construction work at Co-op City, everybody agrees, was shoddy. The heating pipes were poorly laid, the concrete badly poured. Some buildings were built without the reinforcing bars needed to make them safe.

Ever since, the residents and state officials have been arguing over who should pay for the repairs. Last month, the squabble intensified when Riverbay Corporation, the tenants' group, stopped all mortgage payments to the state.

It is this discord between the residents and state officials, as much as poor construction, that has led to Co-op City's current crisis.

The residents have said the state must give them money, but they have refused to pass an increase in maintenance fees since 1995. The state has offered more than $200 million for repairs, but residents and managers claim it is not enough. They worry that if they take the money, they will not get any more.

Co-op City occupies a special place in the imagination of New York. It is not only the country's largest cooperative apartment complex, it is a sort of working-class utopia where — at least according to its original ideals — firefighters, postal workers, plumbers, carpenters and clerks could buy affordable apartments in which to make their homes.

Even now, a three-bedroom apartment there costs little more than $12,000. The monthly maintenance fees range from $450 to $1,050. The rich do not live in Co-op City; apartments are sold only to families earning less than $100,000 a year.

Since Co-op City was founded for the working class, the fight to fix it has taken on the unsavory odor of class warfare. "We're not politically important," said Al Shapiro, president of Co-op City's board of directors. "We're the elderly and the minorities. No one loves us. The upscale areas get all the attention."

Mr. Shapiro, 63, happily describes himself as a humble plumber from the Bronx. He is a rough-edged, grouchy type, but still believes in the ideals of Co-op City.

"This is the last decent bastion of affordable housing left in New York City," he said. "We have all races here and all religions, and everyone gets along. The rest of America should work like this."

The problem with the last decent bastion of affordable housing is that it is completely broke. Co-op City owes the state more than $100 million in arrears on its mortgage. Moreover, it narrowly avoided a maintenance strike on Thursday by a staff that has long complained of being underpaid.

For more than 20 years, Co-op City ran itself; carpenters and housewives had to negotiate complicated service contracts in their spare time after dinner or at lunch. In 1999, the board hired Marion Scott, which has managed Co-op City ever since.

Although the managing agents have maintained a pleasant face in public, privately they say that even with money from the state, there is no way for Co-op City to survive without an increase in maintenance fees.

State officials say they want to continue working with Co-op City in order to resolve the crisis.

"What we want to do is recapitalize Co-op City and provide them with the funds to get it done," said Sally Crockett, a spokeswoman for the state Housing Finance Agency. "Despite our best efforts, we haven't been able to move forward and, yes, that is frustrating for us."

Nearly a decade ago, there were murmurings that Co-op City ought to privatize. The argument was that, if apartments there were allowed to float to market rates, some residents would sell and a cut would go to Riverbay's account.

Mr. Shapiro, initially a critic of privatization, has grudgingly come around. Although he said that it was repugnant that a young family might one day have to pay far more for an apartment than he once did, Co-op City needs the cash. "It's morals versus economics," he said.

Even with Mr. Shapiro's reluctant support, there is little chance that Co-op City will soon go private. In a recent vote, 80 percent of the shareholders said they did not want to privatize. In a separate vote, nearly half the residents refused to create a committee that would simply explore the issue.

In the meantime, concrete falls from balconies. A back-up generator keeps the hot water flowing in winter. And sometimes, when the up button is pressed on certain elevators, they go down.

In a few more days, Co-op City's largest open space, the Greenway, will be covered in asphalt. With six garages closed for repairs, the space is needed to park hundreds of stranded cars.

"It used to be beautiful here," said Crissa Skarimbas, Co-op City's director of community relations, as she stood near the Greenway the other day. Steamrollers lumbered across the torn-up sod. The stink of tar was in the air.

"People used to come here and picnic, chill. It was nice," she said. "You know what we all are going around singing these days? That old Joni Mitchell song: `They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.' "

http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/2003/08/09/nyregion/09coop.large.jpg
Workers are turning the largest park in Co-op City, in the Bronx, into a parking lot because the garages are crumbling.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

ZippyTheChimp
August 9th, 2003, 10:02 AM
Some buildings were built without the reinforcing bars needed to make them safe.

Almost unbelievable.

Freedom Tower
August 9th, 2003, 10:15 AM
That's ridiculous. Doesn't it violate some law to not reinforce the building properly? Also, instead of paving over the park can't people just park on the grass until repairs are done? It'd save money and keep the park nice.

(Edited by Freedom Tower at 9:22 am on Aug. 9, 2003)

DaCrystallineAngel79
September 14th, 2003, 07:30 PM
I live there and it sucks. :evil:

Kris
October 18th, 2003, 10:54 PM
October 19, 2003

CO-OP CITY

To Make the Sale, First Fix the Roof

By SETH KUGEL

http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/2003/10/19/nyregion/19coop.184.jpg
The issue of going private is off the table, but there are new concerns at Co-op City in the Bronx.

The biggest issue in the rambunctious world of Co-op City politics the past few years has been privatization. Should Co-op City, which, with 50,000 residents, has more people than Scarsdale and Mamaroneck combined, remain within the state's Mitchell-Lama subsidized housing program? Or should residents be allowed to sell their shares at market rates? It has been a heated battle.

Now everyone can cool down: the issue of going private is off the table. The president of Co-op City's directors, Al Shapiro, says it will not be reconsidered for at least five years.

But the decision, made this month, is not a victory for those who opposed privatization. It merely recognizes that the infrastructure of the complex, built in the 1960's, is in such bad shape that Riverbay Corporation, which runs Co-op City, must focus on getting state financing to renovate it.

Co-op City members buy shares at well below market rates and pay carrying charges that are used to run the complex and pay off the mortgage. The state is currently negotiating with Co-op City to refinance the $200 million left in the mortgage and arrange for $250 million to $300 million in loans to rebuild crumbling garages and balconies, replace roofs, modernize elevators and much more.

Sally Crockett, a spokeswoman for the state's Housing Finance Agency, said an agreement was imminent. Mr. Shapiro is more skeptical. "We're analyzing to see if we can afford their magnanimous gesture," he said, an ironic suggestion that the state has not been generous enough. "If we can live with it, we can do it." The latest version would install a construction monitor for the renovation, in part because the original work was so shoddy.

Perhaps the last straw in the decision to abandon privatization was the emergency closing of five Co-op City garages last summer. It forced officials to order large grassy areas paved over so cars could park. "The idea of putting it off for five years is that within five years you will have done what you have to do," Mr. Shapiro said. "You'll have a more attractive and marketable place. It's difficult to try to sell to people when you have cars parked on your greenway."

Focus has now shifted to working with the state. If the two sides come to an agreement, it will probably mean a rise in the carrying charges that co-op members pay, something that will make few residents happy.

The issues and their complexity continue to anger, befuddle and escape Co-op City residents, at least the sampling interviewed Thursday morning during rush hour.

"It's just awful; it's been that way for so many years," said Barbara Brown, a retired nurse who has been a resident since 1969. "It upsets me to even talk about it."

Irwin Fisher, a 20-year resident who works at Barnes & Noble, added: "I know privatization has been tabled. But I had no idea whether it would be good or bad."


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Kris
October 29th, 2003, 08:26 PM
Troubles for Co-op City, and Middle Class Housing in NYC (http://www.gothamgazette.com/article/issueoftheweek/20031013/202/555)

Ninjahedge
October 30th, 2003, 12:43 PM
OK, there are LOTS of problems with this.

First off, this was a government funded project to put up something only slightly better than a housing project. No naturally the contractors milked it for all that it was worth.

The Engineers were probably not paid to oversee everything, and workers on a project this large will try to get away with ANYTHINg to make their workday easier, and their bosses bottom line cheaper.

Now you say that someone should be responsible. Well, they are. Problem is, you prove who it is. As I sit here on another construction delay issue in which 440 RFI's (Or "requests for information") are sitting on my desk with over 2000 pages of "what about this" kind of questions, delineating exactly who is responsible for what takes a long time in the private sector.

Now in the PUBLIC sector, it takes even longer and it takes more time.

So don't think that any restitution will be awarded for any shoddy buisness practices or construction procedures. None that they will see.

Now, although I feel for these guys and what they are going through, I don't see where it is the states responsibility to bail them out. They are voting no to $200M worth of funding that could, at least, repair the rooves, and maybe get the basic STRUCTURAL deficiencies taken care of, but no. They reject that because they think that will be all they get.

ALL THEY GET??!? WTF?

So their solution is to not pay the mortgage.

That's just GREAT! Not only will the people there not pay more to get themselves out of trouble, they won't pay anything to pay for the housing they got cheaper than a parking spot.

Solution? No real easy one here. You up the maintainance, you are just charging them rent at that point. I think some sort of labor commune should be established requiring some sort of public service from each of the tenants/owners living there. No more than say 3hrs/wk or the like. Everything from mopping the floors to patching the concrete spalling on the garage walls.

If they opt out of that, their maintainance fee would go up by a certain ammount.

The maintainance itself should be used for materials and equipment, not for an external contractor.

I wnat to just say to heck with them all, but that does not help things. There are a lot of people there that would be unfairly hurt if nothing was done. But, in all fairness, asking the state to bail them out and CONTINUOUSLY voting down any additional contribution from their side is greedy and selfish.

For every hard worker there, they probably have 2 that do not respect what they have been given there and try to get whatever is handed to them.

It is human nature. Why work for something that you can get for free? That would be stupid! :(

Agglomeration
November 3rd, 2003, 11:29 AM
I know. I've been to Co-op City and from what I've seen it's not in very good shape. If something isn't done soon it will become the very ghetto that its residents fled when they moved here. And how could people be so selfish to vote down the very aid they're being offered from the city? It boggles the mind.

Kris
January 30th, 2004, 04:36 AM
January 30, 2004

Albany Pact Would Refinance Co-op City

By ALAN FEUER

Co-op City, the sprawling apartment complex in the Bronx, has reached a $475 million agreement with the state to refinance its crushing debt and to receive new loans to fix its crumbling facades, broken windows and collapsing parking garages.

At a news conference yesterday, local officials said that the state's Housing Finance Agency and the Division of Housing and Community Renewal had agreed to refinance Co-op City's $192 million mortgage and to lend its struggling management company about $275 million for capital repairs.

The agreement, which has not yet been formally approved by the state, is the biggest step in years toward calming the often bitter wrangling between Co-op City's 50,000 residents and state officials who oversaw its construction in the 1960's under the Mitchell-Lama housing program. The agreement also comes at a crucial moment for the mainly working-class complex, which is so big it would form the 12th-largest city in the state if it seceded from the Bronx.

In short, Co-op City is a wreck. Its balconies are falling apart. Many of its 80,000 windows are broken. Its power plant is crippled. Its elevators shudder. Its roofs leak.

The huge collection of apartment towers, which sits on more than 300 acres between Interstate 95 and the Hutchinson River Parkway, suffered perhaps its worst blow last July when six of its eight parking garages were deemed unsafe and were closed. The closings set off a parking emergency as nearly 7,000 people were left with nowhere to put their cars. To accommodate them, Co-op City's board of directors agreed to turn their largest park into a parking lot.

Officials of the Riverbay Corporation, Co-op City's residents association, said that Assemblyman Stephen B. Kaufman, who represents their district, and Adolfo Carrión Jr., the Bronx borough president, were instrumental in working with the state in a time of financial hardship.

"This is a very, very, very remarkable day for me," said Al Shapiro, a plumber who is the corporation's president. "I am grateful to these officials for their help."

Mr. Kaufman noted that the state had also agreed to reduce by nearly a third the money it claimed Co-op City's residents owed in arrears. Whereas the state once claimed that residents owed some $154 million, it will now accept $57 million, which is repayable starting in 2014, he said.

Tracy Oats, a spokeswoman for the Housing Finance Agency, refused to comment on the agreement, saying the agency's board had yet to formally approve it.

The state loan would allow Co-op City not only to rebuild its garages and fix its crumbling balconies, which have forced residents to set up wooden fences in front of every building, lest chunks of concrete fall on someone's head. It would also allow them to buy new boilers and turbines to generate their own electricity.

Mr. Kaufman said it was possible that the equipment might someday allow Co-op City to sell surplus power to the surrounding neighborhood.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Kris
February 6th, 2004, 03:07 AM
February 5, 2004

MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG ANNOUNCES TAX BENEFITS FOR CO-OP CITY TO HELP FINANCE NECESSARY REPAIRS

$14 Million Property Tax Savings To Assist Bronx Development In Making Needed Repairs To Residential Buildings, Parking Garages And Heating Plant

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced that the City will make J-51 tax benefits available to Co-op City, a 15,372 unit State-sponsored Mitchell-Lama residential complex in the northern Bronx that was completed in the late 1960s. The complex has deteriorated and needs extensive renovation; substantial repair of the residential buildings has been completed but other structures including a collapsed parking garage, still need rehabilitation. An amendment to the rules governing the J-51 program will enable the housing complex to qualify for J-51 tax benefits by providing alternate means of documenting completion of rehabilitative work. The $14 million in estimated savings realized through property tax abatement over twenty years would fund other critical rehabilitative work to the complex including new windows and extensive structural repairs to the parking garages, residential buildings and its heating plant. Co-Op City, comprised of thirty-five high-rise buildings and 472 townhouses with three shopping centers, eight parking garages and schools, is home to an estimated 55,000 people. Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) Commissioner Jerilyn Perine, Assemblyman Stephen B. Kaufman, and Co-op City Shareholders' Association, RiverBay Corporation President Al Shapiro joined the Mayor for the announcement.

"Preserving the City's stock of middle income housing is crucial to making New York more livable for our hard working families and more attractive to new businesses, and today, our Administration takes another important step in preserving Mitchell-Lama housing by assisting in infrastructure improvements at Co-op City through the provision of J-51 tax abatements and tax exemptions," said Mayor Bloomberg. "This is also at the core of our Administration's housing plan, which will build or rehabilitate 65,000 units of affordable housing in our City over a five year period and includes $50 million in capital improvements to Mitchell-Lama developments that cannot afford conventional financing."

"This tax benefit will enable the preservation of Mitchell-Lama housing and facilitate additional repair work by the management company," said HPD Commissioner Jerilyn Perine. "This is a small investment that will yield a large return by providing additional funds to preserve affordable housing for the residents of Co-op City."

HPD has been working with Co-op City's management to prepare J-51 applications based on approximately $70 million of completed rehabilitative work; major repair of the plumbing, heating and electrical systems, asbestos removal, roof repairs and window guard installation are expected to generate over $14 million in tax abatement benefits. In addition, Co-op City is undertaking elevator modernization that will be receiving J-51 benefits as the work is completed on a building-by-building basis.

HPD published notice of the adoption of an amendment to the J-51 rules that will provide Mitchell-Lama developments with at least 15,000 dwelling units the flexibility to prove completion of construction by documentation other than required Buildings Department sign-off. The new rule recognizes the fact that rehabilitation work done on such an extensive scale at large Mitchell-Lama developments makes the filing of documentation necessary to complete a J-51 application lengthy and cumbersome. For the very same reasons, HPD amended its J-51 rules in 2000 to give such developments twelve additional months to complete their J-51 applications so that they might qualify for these much needed tax exemptions/abatements. The latest amendment took effect on January 23, 2004. The J-51 tax benefits were approved on that date. The tax benefits will take effect on April 1, 2004.

Separate from the J-51 tax benefits being provided to Co-op City, the Mayor's New Housing Marketplace plan includes $50 million in capital improvements to Mitchell-Lama developments that cannot afford conventional financing. In addition, in October of 2003, the Mayor proposed new protections for Mitchell-Lama residents who might otherwise be vulnerable to large rent increases and potential eviction if their landlords opt to buy out of the program. The State legislation being proposed by the Mayor would extend Rent Stabilization protections to 32,000 apartments in Mitchell Lama developments built after 1974, and provide all tenants with rent regulation protections regardless of the initial date of occupancy. In return, owners would be entitled to real estate tax relief for those apartments that would be newly regulated, and the proposed bill would provide financial incentives to owners to remain in the Mitchell-Lama program by allowing them to increase their return on equity while maintaining Mitchell-Lama guidelines on tenant income and occupancy. The Administration will work with its State legislators to introduce the bill in the 2004 session.

www.nyc.gov

Merry
September 9th, 2009, 08:53 AM
Co-op City gets hammered

By Daniel Massey

September 6, 2009

http://s3.amazonaws.com/trd_three/images/117039/co-op_city_articlebox.jpg
http://therealdeal.com/newyork/articles/co-op-city-hardest-hit-nyc-neighborhood

Manny Santana is sweating out the recession—literally.

Revenues at his Bartow Florist Boutique in Co-op City are off by 50% this year, leaving Mr. Santana struggling to keep up with his rent. Determined to tough out the recession, he's decided there are some things he'll just have to do without, like air conditioning.

So on a recent afternoon, with the mercury reaching the 91-degree mark in the north Bronx, he waited, sweltering, for customers. After an hour without a single patron, a young woman came in and haggled over the $2.99 price of a Betty Boop gift bag, offering $2.

“This is my worst August ever,” says Mr. Santana, who has owned the shop for five years. “I'm getting hammered.”

Dramatic worsening

So are many of his neighbors in the working-class enclave of Co-op City, where joblessness hit 12.3% in July, up sharply from 7.5% a year earlier. In fact, the 35 high-rise apartment buildings and the surrounding blocks that make up ZIP code 10475 rank as the city's postal area hardest hit by the recession, according to data compiled for Crain's by research firm ESRI.

It's something Vincenta Lopez has seen firsthand. The former comptroller for a Wall Street law firm opened Lor-Nel Baskets, a party favor store, 18 months ago. For the first six months, things went smoothly, but then last summer, the bottom fell out of her business.

“By the end of the year, I couldn't even cover my rent,” she says. “I had some reserves in case of emergency, and this is the emergency.”

Co-op City managers have seen the shift as well. They report that residents' maintenance payments have increasingly been arriving late. In July, 1,966 late fees were assessed on the more than 15,000 apartments in the complex, up 13.5% from the year before. The number of families moving out of Co-op City has fallen slightly, an indication that residents are struggling to line up mortgages or would rather stay in affordable Co-op City—where maintenance, including utilities, is as low as $552 a month for a one-bedroom apartment.

“It's a good place to weather the recession,” says Vernon Cooper, Co-op City's general manager. “You get a good bang for the buck living in Co-op City.”

Given its reputation as a home to many employees of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the post office and other public sector agencies, Co-op City would seem to be an unusual place to see such a surge in unemployment. After all, the government's job rolls have actually risen in the downturn.

Councilman Larry Seabrook, a Democrat who lives in and represents the area, says that many Co-op City residents also had jobs in construction or jobs linked to finance.

“The impact of the financial crisis has an effect on Wall Street, but it has an effect on Co-op City Boulevard as well,” he says.

The city has shed 37,200 financial sector jobs, 27,100 professional services jobs and 9,400 construction jobs since employment peaked in August 2008. Mr. Seabrook says that in recent months workers from those industries have been streaming into his office with résumés, seeking assistance. In another sign of the ebb tide in employment, weekday express bus ridership from Co-op City into Manhattan fell by 4.6% over the 12 months ended May 31.

The downturn is also having an impact on the newest generation of residents entering the work force. On a hot afternoon, three friends sat in the stairwell of a community center on Dreiser Loop, taking refuge from the heat. Derek Little, a 19-year-old, said he's been unable to find work since graduating from Bronx Health Sciences High School in June. He reported that of 30 of his friends who grew up together in Co-op City, only four have landed jobs, mostly in retail and food service.

“We're looking for jobs, but nobody's -hiring,” Mr. Little says.

Giving up the search

Mr. Little's experience mirrors that of many other African-American men in the city, a group whose unemployment rate skyrocketed to 18.8% in the first six months of the year, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by the Fiscal Policy Institute. When African-American men who have given up looking for work and those involuntarily working part-time are included in the total, the unemployment rate is 26.9%.

“It almost doesn't make sense to search,” says Mr. Little.

One of the problems in attracting resources to cope with the problems in 10475 is that it has not been a ZIP code where city officials expected to see trouble. For years, such efforts have focused on the South Bronx.

“When you have double-digit unemployment in an area like Co-op City, it's astronomical,” Mr. Seabrook says. “We're going to have to focus people's attention on the fact that it's the entire Bronx and not just the South Bronx that needs help.”

http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20090906/SMALLBIZ/309069974

EastMillinocket
January 13th, 2014, 08:11 PM
New York times
http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/01/14/nyregion/train-service-could-wake-up-sleepy-co-op-city.html?from=homepage

THE APPRAISAL
Train Service Could Wake Up Sleepy Co-op City
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2014/01/14/nyregion/14APPRAISAL/14APPRAISAL-articleLarge.jpg (http://mobile.nytimes.com/images/100000002648183/2014/01/14/nyregion/train-service-could-wake-up-sleepy-co-op-city.html?from=homepage)
Co-op City, with about 50,000 middle-income residents, sprawls across 338 acres in the northeastern Bronx.
JOSHUA BRIGHT FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES



(http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/01/14/nyregion/train-service-could-wake-up-sleepy-co-op-city.html?from=homepage#modal-sharetools)




By SHARON OTTERMAN
January 13, 2014It is quiet in Co-op City (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/06/realestate/06live.html), the nation’s largest housing cooperative, even though some 50,000 people live there. So quiet that the sound of footsteps crunching on icy sidewalks was louder than the wail of distant police sirens on Friday afternoon. So calm that fewer than a dozen people boarded the express bus, the fastest link to Midtown Manhattan, for its hourlong 2 p.m. trip.
This middle-income development, with 35 high-rises and clusters of townhouses, is isolated from the rest of the northeast Bronx by two expressways and the Hutchinson River. The nearest subway stop is a local bus ride or a 20-minute walk away. With its own shopping center and schools, it is self-contained, so much so that some residents say it has been years since they have been to Manhattan.
A plan is afoot that might shift all that. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, in his State of the State address last week, revived a transportation proposal (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/09/nyregion/cuomo-supports-metro-north-expansion-in-the-bronx.html?_r=0) that has long been discussed: the creation of a new Metro-North (http://www.mta.info/mta/planning/psas/pdf/CoopCity_120924.pdf) rail spur that would link the New Haven line with Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan, with stops in Co-op City and three other eastern Bronx communities along the way.
If the spur is ever completed, Metro-North says commuters could travel from Co-op City to Penn Station in 27 minutes, and to Stamford, Conn., in 31 minutes, providing a new link for Bronx workers to employers to the north and the south. It could also start a transformation in Co-op City, which remains, residents said, a bit of a real estate secret: It is a safe, leafy place where a three-bedroom co-op costs $27,000 to buy and less than $1,500 a month in maintenance fees.
Tatyana Markaryan, for example, has lived since 1993 in a 21st-floor two-bedroom apartment with a balcony. She and her family have elected to stay even as many of her fellow Russian immigrants have prospered and bought houses in Westchester County. Her younger daughter attends public school in Co-op City, and her older daughter now goes to Lawrenceville, the selective New Jersey boarding school.
“I really find it to be a great deal for the price compared to other places, and I really don’t know why other people think poorly of this part of the Bronx,” Ms. Markaryan said. From her balcony, she can see the Empire State Building on one side and the bay on the other. “The view is magnificent,” she said. “The addition of the Metro-North would be another plus.”
Yet not everyone in Co-op City is as enthusiastic about the proposed train station, which would be built over existing Amtrak rail tracks near Co-op Section 5, the southernmost part of the 338-acre development. In part, that is because the express bus to Manhattan, which costs $6 each way, is convenient, stopping throughout the development, then at multiple stops along Fifth and Madison Avenues. And Co-op City is so large that the new train station would still be a local bus ride away for many residents.
Commuting patterns have been carved over time by the express bus route and access to the No. 5 and 6 trains, which people are used to. “I don’t know how many people are going to get on that stop; I don’t really see a lot,” Robert Jones, 59, a retired postal worker, said on his way home after a morning in Manhattan.
Because units can come with parking spots, Co-op City also has a car culture more suburban than urban. Sheldon Daniels, 43, for example, drives every evening to his FedEx job on Leroy Street in Lower Manhattan. He may use the new train, he said, but then again, he may not.
Mr. Daniels and his family pay $1,500 a month for maintenance, electricity, gas and parking for their three-bedroom duplex townhouse, which his family inherited. It is a great deal, he said. “I love it. I love Co-op,” he said, expressing an enthusiasm seldom heard in New York real estate circles as he walked with his 2-year-old daughter to make the monthly payment.
Elaine Savlowitz, 85, has a different idea for how the Metropolitan Transportation Authority could use the minimum $1 billion that state officials estimate the train spur would cost. Ms. Savlowitz would rather see the restoration of local bus service that was cut several years ago. The cut placed Bronx landmarks like the New York Botanical Garden and Lehman College out of reach for her, because a trip there now requires a difficult change in buses.
Roughly 12,000 of Co-op City’s residents are over 60, and some, like Ms. Savlowitz, have been there since the development opened 40 years ago. “For the first 30 years I lived here, the botanical gardens were like my backyard,” she said.
Co-op City, managed by RiverBay Corporation, is a Mitchell-Lama development (http://www.nyshcr.org/Programs/mitchell-lama/), a form of subsidized affordable housing for middle-income buyers. The sales prices are fixed, based on $4,500 for each room in an apartment, and there aremaximum and minimum income requirements (http://www.riverbaycorp.com/newrb/Sales%20application%20letter%2010-22-13.pdf) for buyers. For a five-room apartment, for example, the income range for a family of four is $35,000 to $116,000 a year.
But while hundreds of people are on waiting lists, the wait can be as little as a year for some size apartments, which is shorter than at some other Mitchell-Lama developments, according to a state website (https://www1.dhcr.state.ny.us/AutomatedWaitingList/GenerateWaitlist.aspx) that estimates waits.
State officials say they hope to use federal funds for some of the cost of the train line, arguing that it would create a critically needed transportation redundancy for Metro-North in case of a disaster. The most recent capital plan for the transportation authority included $41 million for planning and designing the line.
Although the full funding for the project has not been secured, Cindy Tolentino, 41, who works at the main post office on Eighth Avenue across from Penn Station, hopes that the state gets it. She now takes the 5:30 a.m. bus from Co-op City to get to work by 7:30 a.m. “It would be wonderful,” she said.
There was also no argument from the teenagers working on laptops at the sleepy Co-op City public library branch last Friday, looking sullenly as if they would rather be anywhere else. “We’re in the middle of nowhere here; it’s boring,” said Brianna Rivera, 17. “Putting a train through Co-op,” said her 17-year-old friend, Glenn Deets, would be “amazing.”