Friday, September 26, 2008

3 NEWS UPDATES - updated 10/5/08

RALLY FOR TENANTS' RIGHTS











Last Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008
, the Mitchell-Lama P.I.E.* Campaign (of which we are a member) - and several tenants from our building - participated in the Real Rent Reform Rally, asking for a bill to protect former Mitchell-Lama tenants from "unique or peculiar" increases, asking for a more tenant-friendly Rent Guidelines Board, and asking for an end to vacancy decontrol (making an apartment "free market rent" when it leaves rent stabilization and the landlord invests money).


The drawing will be on November 1st, and we really need to sell a lot. The prizes are great - so please offer them to friends, colleagues, co-workers, and neighbors in other buildings. Prizes:

1st Prize: Dinner for two at the Plataforma Restaurant - a Brazilian Rodizio steakhouse (all-you-can-eat unique dining experience: grilled meats, a vegetable buffet, and live music!)

2nd Prize: 4 tickets to the Big Apple Circus on November 16th at 4:30 PM.

3rd Prize: 16 AMC/Loews/Cineplex Movie Tickets (They make a great gift, too!)

Each tenant gets 2 books with 5 raffle tickets in each. The raffles cost $2 ($10 or a book). If we sell all of them, we will raise nearly $5,000! Bring money and raffle stubs to your floor captains.

The drawing is November 1st at the BAKE SALE !


NEW BUILDING MANAGER: Tobias Sahl has replaced Linda Daniel. Mr. Sahl assisted Michael Kim earlier, so he is familiar with the building. His e-mail is tsahl@stellarmanagement.com, and his assistant is Samir Hoti, shoti@stellarmanagement.com. The 93rd Street office phone number remains the same: 212-222-4430.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Rent Regulation & Us -- October 1st

The proposed Wall Street bailout needs our input: without tenant pressure, the federal government could disregard state rent laws like rent stabilization. (it did that during the previous Savings & Loan bank crisis.) So our tenants association, along with many other groups, signed onto a letter that urges any federal investment to include tenant protection.

Our tenants association has also signed onto a call for the Real Rent Reform ("R3") rally on
  • Wednesday, Oct. 1st
  • 5:30 PM
  • Harlem State Office Building (125th & Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
The R3 campaign is working to extend and protect rent regulation - including passing a state law that would protect rent stabilized tenants from "unique or peculiar circumstances" increases.

Click here for the R3 platform. And tell any member of the Executive Committee if you can attend: We'll have posters with the name of our tenants' association!


Friday, September 12, 2008

Summary of the Sept. 10, 2008 General Tenants Meeting

This summary includes UP-DATES. Check the "Electricity" section.

There was a standing-room only crowd!


ELECTRICITY

Dean Barlow of Quadlogic spoke and answered questions for nearly an hour. Here are some of the points he made:

BILLS
Billing Period: Our bills reflect a billing period ending about 4 weeks earlier. So the bill that we receive on September 1st reflects the energy used in the billing period covering the month of July. It takes a while for Stellar to receive bills from Hudson Energy and from Con Edison and then to forward those bills to Quadlogic.

What is being billed: Stellar buys its electricity in bulk from Hudson Energy and the electricity is then transported by Con Edison to our building. The savings from buying electricity in bulk are supposed to be passed along to each of us. Stellar's bill from each is summarized in a chart posted on the mail room wall and below on our website.

High rates: The NYS Public Service Commission granted Con Ed an increase of about 22% in May and another 15% for the summer months - which includes September. Hudson Energy and Con Ed increased the bills accordingly - although Hudson is supposed to increase its bill by less than the full amount permitted to Con Ed.

Stellar Management has just notified tenants that it is investigating a possible overcharge from Hudson Energy. Click here for a copy of Stellar's letter to tenants. Click here for a copy of the bills that Stellar received and paid. Note that Stellar only promises to adjust an overcharge down to Con Ed legal limit for individual tenants, rather than the bulk rate that it is getting from Hudson Energy. Sue has asked Linda Daniel why tenants would not get the bulk rate to which we are entitled.

The rates should decrease starting October 1st -which would be reflected in the December 1, 2008 rent bill.

Taxes: We have been charged taxes on the electricity we use since the beginning, but only the rent for September 2008 shows the tax. Before this, it was simply included in the rate for electricity. From now on, it will be shown separately on our Quadlogic statement.

METERS

Dean Barlow asserted that the meters either work properly or don't work at all. (When they don't work at all, they say "888888" or "00000.") To prevent tampering, the meters cannot be stopped and cannot be re-set each month.

Each meter, which Stellar purchased, contains a computer that reads the kilowatt hours (kilowatt = 1000 watts; kilowatt hour = number of kilowatts used in 1 hour) running through your wires. Every midnight, the full number of kilowatt hours used is sent to a computer on the ground floor of our building. That is read remotely by Quadlogic.

Dean first said that after each meter was installed, someone from Quadlogic came to inspect it - but he learned that that did not happen in this building. However, a Quadlogic Inspector will be in our building on September 19th so if you think there is a problem with your meter, ask Ms. Daniel, our building manager, about whether an inspector can come to your apartment. However, she says tenants will be charged for each inspection - and that seems to be the situation if it turns out there is no problem with your meter.

Check Your Meter's Accuracy:

  • On the dates the meter is read each month (Sept. 2, 2008; Sept. 30 or Oct. 1, 2008; October 30, 2008, and Dec. 3, 2008), note the number of kilowatt hours your meter reads. When you get your Quadlogic bill, see if that is roughly the number of kilowatt hours under "Current Reading." If the bill states number significantly different than your meter did at the end of that billing period, contact Linda Daniel and ask her to get Quadlogic to inspect it.
  • Note down how much electricity is used over 1 hour in your apartment. (Note the meter reading at the beginning and at the end.) Then shut off all the circuit breakers in your apartment including the refrigerator, for another hour. (You will have to re-set your clocks and your VCR, etc. when you have finished.) If the meter shows an increase after that hour, there is some other source of electricity outside your apartment that is being read on your meter. OR
  • Unplug every item (while leaving the circuit breakers on), and see if the meter moves after an hour. OR
  • Buy a meter that measures watts such as Kill-a-Watt. Plug it into the wall and plug your appliance into the meter. It will show you have many kilowatts your appliance uses in the course of an hour. Then add up the kilowatt hours to get a ballpark sense of how much electricity you are using.

REDUCE YOUR BILL

  • Don't stand in front of an open fridge thinking about what to eat.
  • Keep air conditioners at 78 degrees or higher.
  • Replace the lightbulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs or LEDs.
  • Shut things off when not using them, and if you will be away, unplug the microwave, TV, computer, etc.
  • High use items: big-screen TVs, refrigerators, air conditioners.
  • Click here for Con Edison's energy-saving suggestions .
PROBLEMS
If your bill states more kilowatt hours than your meter, ask for an inspection. One tenant found she was charged for the wrong meter.
Poorly-wired appliances leak electricity. If that may be a problem (for example a friend of building staff person who is not an electrician set up an appliance or light for you), ask Carlos to check it with the type of meter that Con Ed uses to find leaks.

Click here for information on How to clean up a broken Compact Fluorescent Bulb.

SUBMETERING OVERCHARGE COMPLAINTS

Contact Na'ava in 12K to pick up your receipt from DHCR if you have not already.


MOMENT OF SILENCE

We remembered Marie Bruce, who died in June 2008, and Laurie Shlafmitz who died a year ago in August 2007 - but whose death we could not confirm until recently.


Each floor captain should have picked up one copy for each tenant. If you did not get one, you can click here to read it or contact your floor captain. Floor captains, please contact Na'ava if there is a problem. There is one correction: The security deposit for renting the Community Room is $50 (not $15).

Please check the handbook before calling us. (If you call Sue, please do it after 10 AM and never between 5 and 7:30 PM.)


LEASE RENEWAL

If your new lease term begins any time from October 1, 2008 through September 30, 2009, Stellar may charge you 4.5% for a one-year lease renewal or 8.5% for a two-year lease renewal. If Stellar tries to charge you the alternative $45 or $85 increase, please let Sue know. That minimum only applies to apartments whose rents are under $1000 and whose occupants have lived in their rent stabilized apartments for 6 years or more. Since our apartments were not rent stabilized 6 years ago, this should not apply to us.


POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS

Tenants filled out postcards for State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Vito Lopez, Chairman of the Assembly's Housing Committee, urging their support for A. 7811, a bill that puts all buildings leaving Mitchell-Lama or project-based Section 8 into rent stabilization - regardless of when they were built and without "unique or peculiar increases. This is the only pending bill that is retroactive and would therefore apply to all former Mitchell-Lamas. If you did not fill out a postcard, please e-mail them and ask them to support A.7811. Tell them how a "unique or peculiar" increase would affect you.

There is a Real Rent Reform (R3) Campaign rally on

  • October 1st
  • 5:30 PM
  • at the Harlem State Office Building, 125th St. and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
The R3 Campaign program includes
  • passing the Andrea Stewart-Cousins bill (A.7811) protecting former Mitchell-Lamas
  • changing the composition of the Rent Guidelines Board so it more reflects tenant needs
  • ending luxury decontrol, and
  • bringing home rule back to NYC - letting the City control rents, not the State.
LEGAL DEVELOPMENTS

GARAGE CASE - We keep winning, and Gluck is again trying to appeal to the state's highest court. That requires the court's permission, so we will not know for a while whether it will be allowed. If and when we win, we will then deal with rent stabilization increases for a few dollars retroactive to our entering rent stabilization - for those tenants who had spaces at the moment we entered rent stabilization. At that point we can work with tenants who were wrongfully denied spaces while we were still under Mitchell-Lama.

"UNIQUE OR PECULIAR" CASE - Gluck's case, known as "Highbridge House," has been joined to the case brought by landlord Witkoff for Columbus House (known as "Columbus 95"). The case is before Justice Alice Schlesinger.

Following the death of our attorney Jacques Rose, legal actions were suspended for several weeks. We continue to be represented by two of that law firm's partner's, Carol Ule (who helped us as we left Mitchell-Lama) and David Ratner, specializing in court actions.

There are new developments now that the landlords have asked the judge to withdraw from the case (her law secretary used to work for our lawyers some years back and about 10 years ago she wrote a letter regarding Westview to its landlord about leaving Mitchell-Lama). The hearing on that motion will be October 22nd. Assuming she does not withdraw, the judge can then deal with the two pending motions to dismiss the landlords' actions.

Our tenants' association and 8 others have intervened in the case as parties. That means that information about our building can be presented, and our lawyers participate in every conference and hearing. The NYS Attorney General has also intervened to defend the constitutionality of the state regulations that bar "unique or peculiar" increases just because a building leaves Mitchell-Lama.

We're working to encourage a few other tenant associations to join and share our lawyer to reduce the costs.

FUNDRAISING

Treasurer Joan Browne read out our balance and expenses. Please keep those legal fund contributions coming now that the cases are going full swing!

Rosa Delgado and Prudence Opperman have organized a truly great raffle.

1st Prize: Dinner for two at the Plataforma Restaurant - a Brazilian Rodizio steakhouse (all-you-can-eat unique dining experience: grilled meats, a vegetable buffet, and live music!)

2nd Prize: 4 tickets to the Big Apple Circus on November 16th at 4:30 PM.

3rd Prize: 16 AMC/Loews/Cineplex Movie Tickets (They make a great gift, too!)

Each tenant gets 2 books with 5 raffle tickets in each. The raffles cost $2 ($10 or a book). If we sell all of them, we will raise nearly $5,000! Bring money and raffle stubs to your floor captains.

The drawing is November 1st at the BAKE SALE !



POT LUCK

Save Saturday, December 13th. Start planning your menus!
Sue Susman, Barbara Geller and Mary McLaughlin are this year's Pot Luck Planners.

ELEVATORS
We have no idea when they will be finished. If an elevator is stuck on a floor, try to "unpress" the call button on the panel on that floor. Call the doorman: 212-663-5420. Call 311.


JOIN US - LET'S KEEP OUR COMMUNITY STRONG!

The Executive Committee
Sue Susman, Na'ava Ades, Joan Browne, Steve Koulish and Prudence Opperman.