Tenants Sonia Walker, left, and Jennifer Lugo-Walker study the project plans for the 10-story apartment building, below. (Photo above by Sarah Klepner. Click to enlarge)
By SARAH KLEPNER
About 30 residents of Red Bank’s Grandville Towers highrise turned out for a special meeting of the borough Rent Leveling Board Wednesday, anxious about renovation plans and their effect on rents.
Tom Arnone, vice president at he PRC Group
, the building’s manager, presented an overview of the the work that pending RLB approval of rent surcharges would be done in three phases expected to last a total of about 14 months, starting in September.
As previously reported by redbankgreen, the plans call for an entirely new concrete facade, new windows and entry doors throughout the 91-unit building, the creation of a new pool and fitness center and more.
Under the boroughs rent control law, landlords are allowed to impose rent surcharges for capital improvements, but not regular maintenance, according to board attorney Gene Anthony. One of the decisions the board will make is whether each component of the planned work is a capital improvement or simple maintenance, he said in March.
The audience was a little restless during Arnone’s presentation, calling out answers to questions that the board was asking and getting hushed by Anthony.
After Arnone’s presentation detailing the changes, the board took a 10-minute break, during which about half of the residents left. Speaking during the break, Grandville resident Thomas Hermida observed, “It’s a kangaroo court- they’re wearing us out.”
“One major concern is that a lot of the improvements are aesthetic and not necessary,” said tenant Juliane Randazzo. Pointing to the itemized list of costs distributed by PRC, she asked, “Window treatments in the lobby for $2,200? Are they using silk curtains?”
Randazzo and Hermida were among seven residents who directed questions to Arnone during public comment. Concerns included why the work is being done now, after many years without any improvements, and what will happen if the building converts to condominiums.
Anthony responded: “When it comes to capital improvement surcharges, there’s no distinction between apartments and condo conversions.”
One resident asked about mold remediation, to which there was no direct response. Another expressed concern about disruptions caused by the work, and one questioned the quality of the work.
“I had my windows replaced, I had my door replaced. It wasn’t done right,” said Serge Comito. What guarantees it will be done right?”
“My commitment is to make this a one-shot deal,” Arnone replied.
Teresa Knox wanted to know when residents would start paying the surcharges. Arnone said that surcharges would be imposed after each phase of work is done.
PRC will be covering the cost of the work, estimated at $3.6 million, through loans. “Rent surcharges are for recovery of funds to be spent, so if they’re not spent, you won’t be charged,” Arnone said.
Last month, the real estate brokerage HFF announced
it has arranged $37.9 million in financing for five PRC properties statewide totaling 727 units, including the 91-unit Grandville Towers.
The next hearing on the matter is scheduled for May 30 in the council chamber at borough hall.