As Manhattan College residents at Overlook Manor ended their semester, they were given the official news, after the first notice in the fall semester, to pack their bags in exchange for a proposed affordable housing space.
The Stagg Group, who builds affordable housing, snatched up the Manhattan College 95-unit, 400-bed dorm for $18 million.
“The college has decided that selling Overlook Manor at 3801 Waldo Ave. was in the best interest of the school given recent renovations to much of our on-campus housing,” said David Koeppel, director of media relations. “Since we have further enhanced and modernized our other facilities, it was determined that we no longer had a need for Overlook.”
The dorm had been on the market for quite a while. This came at the same time when Horan Hall students were directed to move to another dorm as the college set up renovations there. Horan was also one of the few apartment-style buildings the colleges owned, including Overlook.
Ronald Grey, vice president of student life, told the college paper The Quadrangle Overlook was outdated and they wanted to improve the quality of life for Manhattan College students.
The plan was to renovate the apartment-style building into something like Chrysostom Hall — their freshman-only residence hall that holds approximately 100 first-year students in the four-floor building.
Chrysostom has such amenities as study rooms, a recreation room with pool tables, Ping-Pong and other games. Additionally, it has a lounge with flat screen TVs and study rooms for quiet work and small group projects.
For now, the college will not purchase or build another resident hall anytime soon.
“While we understand the financial challenges faced by Manhattan College, it is disheartening to witness the prioritization of financial gain over the welfare of the community it has been a part of for a significant period,” said Michael Dancheck and Ronald Hard, who represent owners and resident of The Waterford condominium across the street from Overlook.
It is unclear if the college sold the property because of financial concerns. Covid-19 hit the college hard as more than 80 percent of its revenue — room and board — shrank in 2020. Manhattan College had a budget shortfall of as much as $10 million. That same year the college furloughed more than two-dozen employees.
But since then, it has been expanding and renovating more buildings thanks to alumni donations, including a new purchase on Waldo Avenue and West 240th Street for a student park next door to Karl’s auto shop.
With the sale of Overlook, residents are worried Stagg would play a bait-and-switch to site the affordable housing promise into a homeless shelter.
Councilman Eric Dinowitz met with Manhattan College, and together, they discussed the intentions for Stagg to build a new affordable housing site.
“Riverdale — absolutely needs more affordable housing, there no doubt,” Councilman Eric Dinowitz said. “I’m absolutely against another single men shelter,”
“Stagg Group’s track record of converting buildings into homeless shelters raises significant alarms,” the Waterford board said.
In 2017, a Kingsbridge apartment complex at 5731 Broadway transitioned to a home for homeless families.
“We were the victim of a classic bait and switch,” Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz told The Press that year.
The possibility of using the building to accommodate migrants raises further questions, the board wrote to The Riverdale Press.
The college assured the Councilman that the Waldo Avenue property would not be used for a shelter. And he hopes it will remain that way.
Stagg could not be reached for comment.
“We implore Stagg to exhibit transparency by providing concrete assurances that Overlook dorm will indeed be utilized exclusively for affordable housing, as it claims,” the Waterford board said