Penn South Votes to Stay Nonprofit Until 2030

The Penn South housing complex in Chelsea, one of the largest nonprofit co-ops remaining in the city, voted overwhelmingly April 21 to stay nonprofit for another eight years, until 2030.

The vote came on a proposal to accept more than $25 million in loans from the city to help finance renovating the complex’s heating and air-cooling system. In exchange for the loan, the city insisted that the 2,820-apartment complex extend its commitment to remaining nonprofit for another eight years, past the previous expiration date of 2022. It would also extend Penn South’s real-estate tax abatement until 2030.

With almost 60 percent of cooperators casting ballots, the deal received 87 percent of the vote.

The City Council approved the deal in May. Many cooperators still want to eliminate a provision that would again raise the prices new members pay to buy their apartments, from the current $12,000 per room to $18,000 per room. They say that would divide the community and undermine long-term support for remaining nonprofit.

Penn South cooperators own their apartments, but cannot sell them for a profit. If they move out (few people do—a joke among the mostly elderly residents is that “no one leaves here in a moving van”), they can either pass their apartment to a family member or sell it back to the co-op. The waiting list is years long.

Penn South, which consists of 10 21-story buildings in the West Twenties, was built by the garment workers’ union in 1962 as affordable housing for its members. With the decline of the clothing business in New York, it was opened to the general public. It has voted twice before to stay nonprofit, in 1987 and 2001.