Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Summary of the May 14, 2008 General Tenants Meeting

We began with congratulations to new parents Wini and Denis Hayward and the Jesse Poppick-Jaime Levy household, and a note for Glenn Richter, co-star of the documentary Refuseniks, about Jews fleeing Soviet Russia. We had a moment of silence for Osby McMillan, Carol Blaufeld (a former tenant) and Shyam Prasad, all of whom we have sadly lost in the past several weeks.
We congratulated tenant Paul Fischer, our new representative to Community Board 7. Paul is the man to go to if you have questions or concerns to bring to the Community Board.

I. Community Board Report: Recently, the Community Board has dealt with an increase in car thefts in the neighborhood: Police Precincts 24 and 20 have been alerted and have increased patrols - resulting in less crime.

II. Volunteers needed: Na'ava Ades called for volunteers: our tenants association participates in several local and city-wide groups advocating on tenant issues. We would like more people to represent our building at these meetings: it’s more fun, it helps if one person can’t go, and the more people we have, the bigger our input. These groups include

  • the P.I.E. Campaign (Protection for tenants; Incentives for landlords to stay in Mitchell-Lama; Enforcement of the Law). PIE has been working on
    • Predatory equity (private investment companies buying up affordable housing and ousting rent regulated tenants in order to pay the investors a 15-20% return)
    • Legislation to protect all buildings leaving ]Mitchell-Lama by putting them into rent stabilization with protection from “unique or peculiar” increases in rent stabilized rents
  • the Real Rent Reform Campaign, since rent regulation expires in 3 ]years. We need new laws – laws that will genuinely protect the city’s stock of affordable housing.
    • Come to the Rally on Thursday, May 22nd, from 7-8 PM at the Holyrood Church, 715 W. 179th St. (enter on Ft. Washington Ave.) - to stop the loss of rent stabilized apartments when they become vacant.
  • Rent Guidelines Board public meetings scheduled for

    • Tuesday, June 3 – 9 AM to Noon, Department of City Planning, Spector Hall,22 Reade Street, New York, NY 10007
    • Wed, June 11, 4 PM– 10 PM, NYC College of Technology, Kiltgord Auditorium, 285 Jay St, Bklyn
    • Monday, June 16 – 10 AM to 6 PM, Cooper Union, 7th St. & Third Ave., Manhattan
    • Thursday, June 19 – 5:30 PM to 11:30 PM, Cooper Union, 7th St. & Third Ave., Manhattan
These meetings will determine rent increases for our next lease renewals, so we have to go and testify. Sign up on the list to be posted in the mailroom, or just go.
Contact Na’ava Ades to volunteer.

III. Submetering – Steve Koulish noted that the building owner may legally charge up to the amount Con Edison charges its directly-metered customers, but as an ethical matter the owner should not be making a profit from submetering. Tenants who met with Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell got his agreement to introduce a submetering bill that would require building owners to reveal how much they are actually paying when they buy electricity bulk rate.

The monthly electric rate we see varies since Stellar buys electricity from a variety of sources, according to Stellar’s recently resigned Chief Operating Officer, and presumably looks for the cheapest sources. If you have friends who live in the neighborhood and are directly metered, please forward the rate each month to Steve Koulish .
The Tenants’ Association executive committee is reviewing the overcharge complaints and hopes to submit them in a couple of weeks. The work is laborious, as is the photocopying and making sure each form is correct. But we greatly appreciate all the complaints that have been filed. If you had an appliance surcharge under Mitchell-Lama and have not yet filed an overcharge complaint, please contact Na’ava Ades.
In the meantime, Steve has filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request with the NYS Energy Research & Development Agency (NYSERDA) to find out about the energy efficiency study that was supposedly undertaken about our building.

IV. O’Donnell meeting – Sue Susman, Joan Browne and Eve Posen met with Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell. He agreed to support any tenant bill we ask him to, and we have asked him to take the initiative in getting a “unique or peculiar” bill passed in the next term. It is not clear that the excellent Andrea Stewart-Cousins / Gary Pretlow bill will pass, since Pretlow has not advocated for it. Click here for a sample letter to O’Donnell. Please personalize it and send it. You can also e-mail him at

V. Pending lawsuits

“Unique or peculiar” - Gluck successfully joined his latest lawsuit ("Highbridge House et al. v. NYS DHCR") to that of Columbus House (“Columbus 95th St. vs. NYS DHCR”), but the judge recused himself (withdrew) from the case because of a conflict of interest. The joint case has been reassigned to Justice Alice Schlesinger. Click here for a chart of the cases so far.
Garage case – the Appellate Division seemed sympathetic, and couldn’t help but notice our large turnout in the courtroom: since our case was the last, we were the only people left as spectators. Our lawyer, Jacques Rose, did well.

Our legal bills continue to mount, so your $100 legal fund contributions for the U or P case are most welcome, as are the additional $100 contributions for the garage case!

VI.Building and Neighborhood Issues

  • Elevators
    • Elevator 1 is running more smoothly and quietly, to everyone’s relief.
    • Elevator 3’s noisy, scraping door will be replaced, but we don't know when.
    • We need fans and cameras in both, and Sue has told Hezi.
    • The loss of space and height is a “diminution in service” – and therefore we can make a legal case out of it before the state’s DHCR.

  • Backyard – Thanks to Barbara Garson, Barbara Geller and Lora Kahn for the flowers they planted in the backyard. We still don’t know when the backyard will be open.

  • Thanks to Barbara Geller and Santiago Modesto (“Ito”) who planted the flowers in the front.

  • Rats! We’ve seen them going into the backyard and frightening tenants there. Hezi has called an exterminator to get rid of the rats immediately. If you still see them in a week, call 311. Paul Fischer will raise the issue with the Community Board, since the rats seem to be flourishing in part because of the construction.

See you at the Rent Guidelines Board meetings on Tuesday, June 3rd (come any time between 9:30 AM and Noon to 22 Reade St. - the NYC Department of City Planning 's Spector Hall, in lower Manhattan near City Hall.