Just before the state legislature ended its session in June, it passed a bill authorizing the New York City Council to renew the property-tax exemption for the 2,820-unit Penn South co-op in Chelsea, provided it maintains its status as affordable housing.
The bill was sponsored by Assemblymember Richard N. Gottfried and state Senator Brad Hoylman, who represent the neighborhood. With Council approval, Penn South’s tax exemption, “which is crucial to its continued affordability,” Gottfried said in a statement, would continue for up to 50 more years.
Penn South, opened in 1962, was built by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, now Workers Unite. It is a limited-equity co-op, meaning that residents own their apartments but can’t sell them for a profit. Cooperators have voted three times against converting to a market rate co-op, forgoing personal profits in order to ensure affordable housing for future generations. In exchange for keeping costs low—maintenance charges for a two-bedroom apartment are less than $1,000 a month—they receive property-tax breaks and other incentives.
“As a landmark of affordability and community solidarity,” Gottfried said, “it stands unique among more and more multimillion-dollar high-rises.”
“I moved into Penn South in 1991, and, as someone who has lived in almost every neighborhood in this city, I can truthfully say, Penn South has proved to be just about everything I could possibly want or need in a home,” says longtime Met Council activist Gloria Sukenick, praising the complex’s rapid repairs, green spaces, and community programs like its ceramics workshop. “And my monthly maintenance charges resemble the affordable rents we paid many decades ago that are a distant memory to most New Yorkers. There is a lesson in there somewhere!”