Huge NYC apartment complex misses loan payment

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The joint venture led by Tishman Speyer and BlackRock Inc that owns New York City's vast Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village apartment complex on Friday said it missed making its full loan payment, moving the deal one step closer toward possible foreclosure.

Credit agencies had warned that the joint venture, has seen the complex's value collapse by more than half since buying it for $5.4 billion in 2006, would likely default as it burned through reserves during a court battle over whether it could deregulate rents and raise them to market prices as swiftly as planned.

Tishman Speyer and BlackRock , the lead partners in a joint venture ownership of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, announced that the joint venture will not make today's scheduled full debt service payment to its senior lenders, the companies said in a statement.

The payment lapse could set in motion a foreclosure process, but many experts said that is unlikely -- at least in the near term, given the anemic real estate market. The property is now valued at $2 billion or less, according to appraisers, so a swift foreclosure would mean lenders could lose even more money.

The joint venture missed Friday's full payment on $3 billion of senior mortgages. The debt was securitized into commercial mortgage-backed securities, and in November the loans were transferred to a special servicer, signaling a default or the risk of imminent default.

The Stuyvesant Town owners have been in negotiations with the special servicer, CWCapital, which can restructure loans or foreclose. Alternatively, the joint venture might opt for a bankruptcy to thwart a foreclosure, real estate experts said.

The joint venture has been engaged in discussions with CWCapital, the special servicer acting on behalf of the lenders, and hopes to continue good-faith negotiations toward a potential restructuring of the debt, Tishman Speyer-BlackRock said in statement.

A joint venture spokesman declined further comment.

Experts said the talks could be lengthy as there are layers of equity, senior and junior debt investors and the special servicer only represents the senior debt holders.

If they were going to take action one way or the other, I'm not sure they couldn't have taken it yesterday or the day before, Sheri Chromow, a partner in the real estate group of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, a New York-based law firm that does not represent any of the players in the battle.

The joint venture, which bought the 1940s-era complex near the peak of the real estate market, struggled to keep the deal afloat as property values declined during its lengthy court fight with tenants over whether it could raise rents.

In October, New York's top court ruled that the joint venture had wrongly tried to raise apartment rents rates to higher market levels.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilman Daniel Garodnick, who lives in the complex, said they were concerned about any negative impact on the community.

The joint venture said tenants would not be affected. Today's announcement has no immediate impact on tenant services or the day-to-day operations of the community, it said.

Garodnick called on mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to use the leverage they gained by buying about $2.1 billion of the deal's $3 billion of debt to safeguard tenants, noting the two companies were saved by taxpayer-funded bailouts.

A spokeswoman for Freddie Mac, Patti Boerger, said by email she could not detail the company's investment, but said it has no right to take part in restructuring talks.

As a senior investor, Freddie Mac does not have the legal right to compel and would not be consulted regarding modifications to the first mortgage, she said. Ultimate control over modifications made to the first mortgage is vested with the special servicer, CWCapital.

Fannie Mae officials were not immediately available for comment.

(Editing by Leslie Adler)

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