Today’s news:

Millbank may have buyer

The distressed buildings in the Millbank Portfolio have a potential buyer who could lift the slums out of disrepair.

While nothing has yet been finalized, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s office confirmed that Scarsdale-based real estate owner and manager Steven Finkelstein is a potential buyer of the distressed portfolio, which includes 548 apartments scattered throughout the northwest Bronx. Finkelstein, who already owns 31 apartment buildings in the borough, is working on a deal to purchase the debt on the Millbank portfolio and is hammering out details of the deal with community organizations and the city that according to published reports, is valued at $28 million.

“We understand that there are details still being worked out and we are hopeful that an agreement will be reached that is fair to all parties involved,” said Eric Bederman, spokesman for HPD. “As always our main concern is that any agreement provides for the long term affordability and rehabilitation needs of the properties, and what we have seen throughout this process from the prospective purchaser, the tenants and advocates is very encouraging.”

According to sources close to the negotiations, Finkelstein has been very cooperative in working with HPD, tenant advocates and the tenants themselves, and has a business plan in place that could rehabilitate the buildings need.

The portfolio of apartment buildings fell into distress after they were purchased during the housing boom by Millbank Real Estate in 2007.

Millbank defaulted on a $35 million mortgage, leaving the buildings to deteriorate and with little or no repairs and maintenance being done until the city stepped in with funding when conditions became unbearable.

The buildings in the Millbank Portfolio are located at 3018 Heath Avenue, 2264 Grand Avenue, 2500 University Avenue, 75 West 190th Street, 2505 Aqueduct Avenue West, 2785 Sedgwick Avenue, 2770 Kingsbridge Terrace, 1576 Taylor Avenue, 686 Rosewood Street and 3215 Holland Avenue.

“If this deal goes through, it is not the full victory that I would have mapped out, but it is the best deal that’s been on the table so far,” Quinn said. “It’s hard to cheer for this deal when it’s not everything the tenants have told us they needed, but it is progress. We know the tenants are between a rock and a hard place.”

Quinn said that tenants are concerned that if the current deal falls through, there might not be another offer, or one as good as Finkelstein’s.

“I support whatever decision they might make, and will continue to oversee the progress of the repairs in the months to come,” Quinn stated. “What’s most important is these tenants are heralded for their fortitude, their commitment to themselves, their homes, their neighborhood. The progress that was made with this deal would have never happened if it were not for their will to improve their homes and lives.”

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