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NEW YORK CITY-Starrett City’s owners can refinance the Brooklyn apartment complex and keep it in the Mitchell-Lama housing subsidy program for 30 more years under a bill passed Monday afternoon by the New York State Assembly. The measure must still be voted on by the State Senate, which Gov. David Paterson has ordered into special session following two weeks of a deadlock over the chamber’s leadership.

A spokesman for Starrett City Associates, the investors group which owns the 46-building, 5,881-unit complex, tells GlobeSt.com, “This is something we’ve worked on for some time. We’ve always intended to preserve Starrett City as affordable housing, and this is another way to do it.” In recent years, the owners had sought a buyer for Starrett City, but took it off the market in February after a series of deals fell through. At the height of the market, Starrett City Associates hoped to get more than $1 billion for the 153-acre complex.

Under the provisions of Assembly bill A-8838, Starrett City Associates may refinance the complex in excess of its actual project cost, provided that the group complies with Mitchell-Lama guidelines for 30 more years and does not increase rents to pay for “any subsequent debt produced by the project.” The bill creates a $40-million dedicated fund for capital improvements to the residential tower structures and to individual units, which comes out of the loan proceeds.

Among the capital improvements that will be paid for out of the fund are replacement of apartment unit refrigerators, dishwashers, kitchen cabinets, counters and bathroom vanities; replacement of damaged and older vinyl floor tiles in common areas; tower and garage structure repairs; and replacement of substandard windows. Tenants at Starrett City will have input into how the capital improvement money is spent through a series of bi-monthly meetings between elected officials, the project’s owners and members of the residents’ association. In addition, Starrett City Associates must obligate the funds dedicated to capital improvements within three years.

In a statement, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says the legislation “guarantees that Starrett will remain diverse and affordable.” It was sponsored by Assemblywoman Inez Barron (D-Brooklyn). Starrett City has been in the state’s Mitchell-Lama program since it opened in 1974.

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