Rent stabilized tenants in this building pay for services that have not been provided, including
24-hour security (the doorman is often absent and the doors often open)
a reopened backyard
window blinds repairs and replacement
a safe front stair banister
a consistently working intercom
Since the law prohibits landlords from cutting the services of rent stabilized tenants (unless the landlord also cuts the rent), and complaints are strongest if
filed within 4 years of entering rent stabilization
with many tenants signing on
the Central Park Gardens Tenants' Association filed a complaint for reduction of building-wide services with the New York State Division of Housing & Community Renewal (DHCR). Submitted on December 22, 2008, it is within the four years since we left Mitchell-Lama and entered rent stabilization on January 7, 2005. (Click here to read the complaint - but it may take a while to open since it is over 50 pages long. You need Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer to see it - and can download it for free. As of mid-February, it had been assigned Docket Number WL-430021-B)
And 165 tenants signed onto the complaint! - representing about 3/4 of the rent stabilized tenants in the building - and that was just those who were available to sign within a two-day period. Those signatures make the complaint much stronger.
THANKS to all those who signed on and who supported the effort by documenting problems with your e-mails and notes, and by sitting at tables, collecting signatures.
The complaint may well take a year to resolve. We hope that Stellar will provide the services for which we are paying.
Tenants PAC is doing phone-banking to try to keep the "Gang of 3" elected state senators from hijacking (or blackmailing) the Democratic party in the State Senate. If the Democrats do not control the State Senate, the chance of pro-tenant legislation drops dramatically!
Volunteer for the Phone Bank to dis-arm the "Gangsters" : Michael McKee of Tenants' PAC writes:
We will continue phoning voters who live in rent-regulated apartments in the districts of the three rogue Democrats who are jeopardizing Democratic control of the New York State Senate.
Monday, December 22 - from 5:30to 8:30 pm
We will phone into the Bronx districts of Ruben Diaz Sr. and Pedro Espada Jr.
We need Spanish-speaking phone bankers.
Tuesday, December 23 - 5:30 to 8:30 pm
We will phone into the two Bronx districts as well as the Brooklyn district of Carl Kruger.
We need Spanish-speaking and Russian-speaking phone bankers.
Location: Tenants PAC 11 Park Place, Suite 814 (between Broadway and Church Street, ½ block west of City Hall Park) We know that the holiday season is a difficult time for anyone to volunteer for this campaign. But this is what we must do to protect and promote the tenant reform agenda in the 2009 session of the State Legislature.
Our only hope of enacting legislation to improve tenants’ rights and preserve our dwindling supply of regulated rental housing is to help the Democrats become the majority party in the State Senate. By rights the Democrats are the majority, having won (with the help of many tenants) 32 seats to 30 Republican seats. But the three rogue Democrats are withholding support for a Democratic majority, which could result in the Republicans remaining in control even though they are now the minority. This is unacceptable.
In June 2008, the Rent Guidelines Board issued an order that those renewing their rent stabilized leases effective October 1, 2008 through September 30, 2009 had to pay
4.5% increase for a 1-year lease, or
8.5% increase for a 2-year lease
BUT the RGB also said that those living in their rent stabilized apartments for 6 years or longer whose rents were under $1000 had to pay the higher alternative increase of $45 for a 1-year lease or $85 for a 2-year lease. If a tenant was paying $500 a month, an increase of $45 would come to 9% and an increase of $85 would come to 17% ! That's steep.
While the Legal Aid Society is suing to undo that provision, Legal Aid attorney Ellen Davidson persuaded the state's housing agency, the Division of Housing & Community Renewal (DHCR), that this "alternative" increase does not apply to tenants whose buildings were not in rent stabilization 6 years ago. (Click here for a copy of DHCR's Opinion Letter.) That means we are protected since we entered rent stabilization in January 2005.
Stellar Management has not sought the alternative minimum -- as far as the tenants' association knows. If your lease renewal (for a lease starting any time from Oct. 1, 2008 through Sept. 30, 2009) did ask for that higher amount, please contact the Executive Committee.
SET-UP CREW AND DECORATORS Alitha Mobley, Flora Francis, Lydia Pitsirilos, Mary McLaughlin
GREETERS Ruth Ellin, Debbie Gonzalez, Celeste Hewitt, Shirley Johnson, Brenda Marshall, Delores Palleja and Marie Squerciati. They greeted people at the door and brought plates of food to some shut-ins.
POT LUCK PLANNERS Marion Kufert, Barbara Geller, and Mary McLaughlin, who joined Sue Susman.
MUSIC PROVIDERS Alisha Rieck Dopkin for the recorded music and Lauria Koulish whose piano playing and singing kept Sue on pitch.
CLEANUP CREW MEMBERS Sharon Davis, Andrew Dubin, Denise Lynch, Sean Lynch, Wyona Purcell, Cary Webb and friends.
And to EVERYONE who brought food, donated food, let others bring food (Ruth brought Lenore Richter's vegetables), and ate!
Sign onto the Reduction in Services Complaint for DHCR.
Friday, Dec. 12th, 3 PM - 7 PM in the lobby Saturday, Dec. 13th, 11 AM - 6 PM in the lobby and at the Pot Luck Party
The complaint includes security lapses (including the heavy front doors), window blinds, the front stair banister, reduction in elevator size, and the backyard. We have a deadline of January 2009 : the complaint must be in before we have been rent stabilized for 4 years. And we need YOU!
(2) ALL TENANTS:
POT LUCK PARTY !!! 6 PM - 9:30 PM in the Community Room
Virtually every tenant association in NYC is supporting the
RALLY TO END VACANCY DECONTROL
Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008
6:30 - 8:30 PM
at the Society for Ethical Culture, 2 W. 64th St.
With the new State Senate term beginning in January, there is a chance to change this law. So come to the rally and tell our elected officials, who will be there listening.
This is important because under current law, every time an apartment goes vacant, the landlord can invest some money, claim he invested more, and take the apartment out of rent regulation forever.
Note that "vacancy decontrol" has nothing to do with how rich or poor the last tenant was who lived there. It is a way to reduce the number of affordable apartments in New York City for those who need them.
JOIN PRUDENCE IN THE LOBBY BETWEEN 5:30 and 6 PM on TUES., DEC. 9th and you can all go down to the rally together!
At the December 4, 2008 hearing, held by the NYS Assembly's Housing Committee, there were several notable developments and comments:
Chairman Vito Lopez said that he endorsed the Andrea Stewart-Cousins / Gary Pretlow bill, A.7811/ S 5284. That bill is far better (from tenants' perspective) than his original bill. The Stewart-Cousins/Pretlow bill would put ALL developments - regardless of when built - into rent stabilization on leaving Mitchell-Lama or Section 8, with "unique or peculiar circumstances" increases, and is retroactive. This is great news for us - although not great enough until the bill is actually passed. But since Lopez had not supported the bill earlier, this is progress.
Those in the know suggested that there is a good likelihood of this (or a similar) Mitchell-Lama bill getting passed this term.
HPD Commissioner Shaun Donovan commented on the problems of overleveraging - or "predatory equity", including the displacement of tenants, decrease in maintenance and even abandonment. Read all about overleveraging and Stellar Management's owner, Larry Gluck, in The Real Deal article, "Luck of the Gluck."
Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal asked DHCR to keep a database of owners who evict rent regulated tenants on the claim the owners want to live in those apartments - and then buy another building and another and do the same thing.
Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries suggested that DHCR & HPD look into whether brand-new "luxury" housing - much of it vacant - could be used for tenants displaced by its construction.
Below is the testimony Sue was invited to give.
Testimony of Sue Susman, president, Central Park Gardens Tenants' Association
New York State Assembly's Committee on Housing
December 4, 2008
As president of the Central Park Gardens Tenants' Association, I thank Chairman Vito Lopez and all of the members of the Assembly's Housing Committee and Mitchell-Lama subcommittee for the opportunity to testify before you today.
We are here today because of the economy:
As we read in yesterday's New York Times, and as stated earlier today by Commissioners Van Amerongen and Donovan, the lack of money is hurting the construction of affordable housing throughout New York City.
As we know from our friends and neighbors, it is hurting individual tenants who are finding themselves jobless or on reduced hours and lower pay. In my building it means that a tenant who has just lost her full-time job is posting notices in the building to sell everything she owns to pay the rent. It means that I received calls in November from tenants in my building asking for referrals to free tenant lawyers. It means that saving Mitchell-Lama and other affordable housing is more important than ever.
It also means that landlords, like Larry Gluck of Stellar Management, who bought our building and others at inflated prices with inflated dreams of profit, find themselves defaulting – as at the Riverton Apartments in Harlem – or having to figure out ways to oust rent regulated tenants. After all, free market tenants – three or for unrelated individuals who have to share an apartment – are often the only ones who can even temporarily afford the higher rents that pay Stellar's mortgage. In our building there is a lot of turnover as new tenants find they cannot in fact pay those rents. But the rent rolls of regulated tenants cannot meet that bill.
Of course, costs are not a "do-or-die" problem for rental buildings that remain in Mitchell-Lama. As you know, there are tax abatements, the owners' return on investment is guaranteed, tenants pay a minimum to accommodate those costs, and those who can afford more pay more. Once the landlords' investment return and costs (including the mortgage payments) are covered under Mitchell-Lama, there is no rent increase. Landlords' books are open to the supervising agency which makes the determination. That is not the case with rent stabilization (at least not unless there is a change), and I urge that any bill concerning Mitchell-Lamas not abandon both the sliding scale aspect and the open books. We have all seen the costs of economic deregulation, and they aren't pretty.
Mitchell-Lamas were and have been uniquely successful as affordable housing, as ethnically mixed housing, as a stable based for new neighborhoods.
So, given the economy and the developments' success, saving them is crucial.
There are different ways to do it, among them barring owners from taking buildings out of Mitchell-Lama if the rent rolls of existing tenants would not support the building's costs under the prospective mortgage. Another way, given the current housing emergency, would be to extend the period during which a building must remain in Mitchell-Lama. A third, already in effect to some extent, is to provide funding for repairs to rental as well as Mitchell-Lama co-ops at low rates with a mandatory extension of time during which the development must stay in the program. And I'm sure you have other possibilities in mind.
But there are already thousands of apartments that have been taken out of Mitchell-Lama. What happens to those? – and when I say "those" I really mean "ours" since my building is one of the many taken out of Mitchell-Lama.
Owners of the pre-1974 buildings, those that automatically go into rent stabilization, have applied to raise the initial rent stabilized rents to market rate. Relying on their interpretation of the "unique or peculiar" clause of the Emergency Tenant Protection Act, they have challenged DHCR's excellent regulations in repeated court actions.
Tenant associations have joined the cases in order to ensure that our voices be heard – and that is costly. Our association is spending some $30,000 a year in legal fees, and that is with splitting the cost with other buildings.
And tenants in developments built from 1974 on are in even worse shape, having no protection other than what they might be able to negotiate – as landlords foster dummy tenant associations, refuse meeting space to the actual associations, and otherwise hinder real
1. COST THE STATE NOTHING, so the taxpayer gets a bargain and affordability can be maintained.
2. APPLY TO BUILDINGS REGARDLESS OF THEIR DATE OF CONSTRUCTION: By
making rent stabilized all developments being removed from Mitchell-Lama and project-based Section 8, and barring "unique or peculiar circumstances" increases, tens of thousands of units of affordable housing would remain affordable. That serves the explicit purpose of the 1974 Emergency Tenant Protection Act: to sweep tens of thousands of unregulated apartments into rent regulation and to keep apartments affordable.
3. BE RETROACTIVE: As I speak, tenants in 24 developments removed from Mitchell-Lama are involved in or affected by litigation concerning "unique or peculiar circumstances" increases. And thousands of tenants in post-1973 buildings are flailing about for a safety net. So we need a statute that is retroactive. If it is not retroactive, it will not help us. And the value of a non-retroactive statute diminishes to zero as more and more developments leave Mitchell-Lama.
One bill, A.7811 / S 5284, proposed by Assembly Member Gary Pretlow and State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins in the last term, provided for such coverage and retroactivity – so that tenants whose buildings did not enter rent stabilization on leaving Mitchell-Lama would enter
it now at their current rents.
4. NOT PENALIZE TENANTS: I am aware of one proposed bill putting only post-1973 buildings into rent stabilization without "unique or peculiar" increases. Aside from the failure to protect the pre-1974 buildings, that bill would penalize tenants who, though they know they
are unqualified, must apply for Section 8 enhanced vouchers or face an immediate market-rate rent increase. It seems to me that is playing with the purpose of Section 8 and using taxpayers' money for landlord profit. Such money might be better used in a tax abatement to encourage landlords to keep developments in their respective programs, or for investment in existing and future affordable housing.
5. BE SIMPLE: I know that Chairman Lopez, a long-time supporter of affordable housing, is also a long-time supporter of simple bills. The bill that my tenants' association supports is very simple: It puts all buildings leaving Mitchell-Lama or Section 8 projects into rent stabilization without unique or peculiar increases, applies retroactively and prospectively, and costs the state nothing.
On behalf of the Central Park Gardens Tenants' Association, I urge that this Committee endorse and promote this bill that the entire New York City tenants movement supports. We need your help.