Neighborhood Intel

Keeping stabilized tenants out of the gym is harsh, yes, but is it discrimination?

By Virginia K. Smith  | April 24, 2015 - 12:59PM

The latest in the ongoing gym drama at Stonehenge Village, an UWS building that's barred its rent-stabilized tenants from using the fancy new gym: The city's Human Rights Commission is now investigating the policy as an age discrimination issue, Crain's recently reported. According to tenant complaints, the majority of rent-regulated tenants being kept out of the exercise facilities are over 65.

The complaint is set for a hearing—and has the backing of public advocate Letitia James, among other city officials—but does it hold any legal water? As we've written previously, policies like this or the "poor door" are distasteful, yes, but generally legal. (And if the 88,000 recent applicants to the UWS' notorious "poor door" building are any indication, it's not much of a deterrent for New Yorkers in search of affordable apartments.) Landlords are only obligated to maintain existing services for rent-stabilized tenants, not include them in new amenities added into the building. Moreover, rent-stabilized tenants aren't considered a "protected class" in discrimination suits. 

That last point likely explains the new age discrimination angle, but time will tell if that passes muster with the HRC. "The broad statement that [the stabilized tenants] are older doesn't work unless you really can show it," says real estate attorney Steve Wagner of Wagner Berkow LLP. "If it is the case that all of the market-rate renters are younger and all of the people in the affordable apartments are over 65, then there may be something to do about it. But I would think, however, that the Human Rights Commission would see whether or not there were any young people in the affordable housing who are being treated the same. Or on the flip side, if there are older people in the market-rate apartments that are also being kept out of the gym."

In other words, if the stabilized tenants want to get access to that gym on the grounds of age discrimination, they're going to need the cold, hard data to back it up. 


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