Friday, December 18, 2009

December 2009 Newsletter - we keep winning!


We have wonderful victories to celebrate this holiday season:

  • U or P case: The State Supreme Court agreed with us, with the New York State Attorney General, and with the NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) and upheld DHCR's regulations that say that just leaving Mitchell-Lama is not a "unique or peculiar circumstance" justifying a rent increase.  So those of us in rent stabilized apartments have one more victory under our belts.  While the owners (Gluck and others) will appeal, the more victories the stronger our case.  Judge Alice Schlesinger wrote a very thorough opinion.

  • Appliance Surcharge Overcharge case: DHCR (the state housing agency) rule that Gluck overcharged tenants who had been paying appliance surcharges under Mitchell-Lama.  The first tenant to receive her letter is due $832.02 AND her rent will be rolled back by $33.  Click here to see two of the pages she received.  If you signed on, just wait for your letter; from DHCR - and then we'll see if Gluck pays up as ordered. (He could also appeal.) If you did not sign on but had an appliance surcharge under Mitchell-Lama that became part of your rent when we entered rent stabilization, you can still do it now. Contact Sue for information.
  • Reduction in Services case:  DHCR dismissed our "diminution in services" overcharge complaint mainly because while it was pending, we achieved virtually all the services Stellar had cut earlier: a railing for the front stairs, seating in the lobby, a re-opened backyard, a working television antenna, actual 24-hour security guard service, a new intercom system (almost finished) and window blind repair or replacement as a regular service. (The only two things we did not get were lighter-weight front doors and enlarged elevator cabs.)

And none of this could have happened without the strong support of tenants standing together - and contributing to our legal fund.

Treasurer Joan Browne and Barbara Geller are putting together a summary of each tenant's contributions for dues ($25/household for new tenants; and $10/year thereafter), and the legal fund.

We know money is tight around now, but any contribution we be welcome as we gird our loins for the next round of the U or P case and any other appeals.

Cold? If your apartment is chilly, have the staff check the radiators. Then keep a heat log: note the temperature in your apartment when the outside temperature is 55 degrees or colder, between 6 AM and 10 PM.  The inside temperature during those hours must be at least 68 degrees. Call Lucio Pedraza, the building manager, 212-222-4430, or e-mail him and then call 311 to report the problem. You are not required to give your name to 311.  Then give the 311 complaint number to Sue.

NEXT General Tenant Meeting:

Our next meeting will be on Wednesday, Jan. 20th at 8 PM in the Community Room.Old and new tenants welcome - but please bring a chair. We'll be voting for two new executive committee members (Prudence is retiring and we have one opening from earlier.) Contact Election Committee head Alitha Mobley in 5A if you need more information.

Have a great holiday and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Results of the Reduction in Services Complaint to DHCR

After Stellar took over the building in November 2004, tenants began complaining about several reductions in service.  Within the 4-year deadline of filing a formal complaint, the tenants' association filed a "diminution in services" complaint with DHCR - for a building-wide reduction in services.    And by tenants sticking together -  with that complaint pending,  Stellar finally met with us, so we asked for and got:

  • Seating in the lobby
  • A re-opened backyard
  • A stair railing that we can actually grab for the front steps
  • A working television antenna
  • 24-hour security guards who are actually there
  • repair of most broken window blinds.  (If you filed a written notice of broken window blinds at the guard's desk and Stellar has either not yet inspected them or has inspected and promised to replace - but has not yet done so, please contact the Executive Committee.)
  • A new intercom - although we still need a board showing tenants' names and code numbers (but not apartments) in the front entrance way.

We did not get lighter front doors or the elevator cabs put back to their previously larger dimensions.  (When Stellar renovated the elevator cabs a few times, it lowered the ceilings and hung panels over the existing panels on the walls, making the dimensions smaller.)

DHCR sent an inspector to the building and found that we had received most of our demands, and subsequently terminated the complaint in a letter received by those who signed on.

It ain’t perfect, but we've done pretty well!

Stay tuned.

-The Executive Committee

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tell our Legislators to Pass Our Bills!

Neighbors are sitting in the lobby this weekend collecting signatures.  We need to persuade the state legislature to pass the bills we need passed.  These include:
  • S 3326-A /A. 9230 which will put into rent stabilization all buildings that leave or have left Mitchell-Lama (and project-based Section 8) regardless of the year built, and without "unique or peculiar circumstances" increases.
  •  S.2237 / A.2005  which will repeal vacancy decontrol, so that owners may no longer remove vacant apartments from rent stabilization. The bill would re-stabilize market-rate apartments whose rents were under $5000 as of January 1, 2007 - at whatever the rent was that month.
  • And many more, that you can see at .

So please stop by the lobby between 10 and 5 to sign:
  • a postcard to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver asking him to put A.9230 on the agenda for a vote
  • a postcard to Senate Majority Leader John Sampson asking him to promote S.3326 and S.2237, and  to get them voted on
  • a petition to our Assembly Member Daniel O'Donnell - a co-sponsor of A.9230 - urging him to pressure Sheldon Silver, and thanking O'Donnell for his support; and
  • a petition to our State Senator Bill Perkins - a co-sponsor of S.3326 - urging him to persuade his friend John Sampson to promote the bills and put them on the agenda for a vote.
And since we won the first round in court of the "unique or peculiar" case, please contribute so we have enough funds for the inevitable appeals!  Contact your floor captain or treasurer Joan Browne.

Friday, December 11, 2009

More talented tenants: RENÉE & The Derelicts - Jazz

Go hear RENÉE &; The Derelicts - our own Renée Fleming and Sal Carolei - at the

P&G Bar, 380 Columbus Ave. @ 78th St., New York City, this Saturday, Dec. 12th at 10 PM.

(No cover, no minimum, just jazz).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

We Won (1st Round of) U or P Court Case!

On November 25, 2009, Justice Alice Schlesinger of New York State Supreme Court (the lowest state court of general jurisdiction)
  • ruled that DHCR's November 2007 regulations on "unique or peculiar circumstances" are valid, and
  • sent the case back to DHCR to determine within 150 days the thousands of "unique or peculiar" applications pending regarding 24 buildings state-wide.

Click here for a copy of the decision.
Read below for a SUMMARY.

THANKS to our lawyer, DAVID RATNER of Hartman, Ule, Rose & Ratner, for doing a terrific job!


Justice Alice Schlesinger of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan ruled on November 25, 2009 in favor of the tenants in the Columbus 95 and Highbridge House cases.

Her decision states that:

(1) the KSLM (Westgate) decision only gave landlords the right to APPLY for "unique or peculiar circumstances" rent adjustments, not an automatic right to GET such increases.

(2) DHCR's Nov. 2007 regulation is valid. That regulation states that just leaving Mitchell-Lama is not by itself a "unique or peculiar circumstance" but landlords may apply to DHCR for increases based on individual apartment issues (or building-wide based on "hardship").  (The regulation can be found at - and scroll down the page. )   The court said:

  • The DHCR regulation is consistent with the KSLM decision by the State's highest court, the Court of Appeals.

  • The "aside" by the Appellate Division (the mid-level court) about whether leaving Mitchell-Lama is a "unique or peculiar circumstance" is not binding, in part because it is based on three letters from DHCR responding to a speculative (hypothetical) question in a different matter. (Similarly an "aside" - legally called "dicta" - by Judge Stone earlier in this case is not binding because it was superfluous to what he was actually ruling on.) It is also not valid because the Court of Appeals did not reference that point in modifying the decision.

  • The DHCR regulation is within that agency's legal mandate, filling in the blanks left by a statute.

  • The DHCR regulation is consistent with the history of how DHCR has applied laws with the phrase "unique or peculiar circumstances" historically. The judge went back to the 1951 Rent Control Plan, a state report, where the phrase was first used, and followed it up historically, showing that it was used only for individual apartments and NOT across the board. Most tellingly, a DHCR Bulletin of that year said U or P increases would not apply "where the maximum rents had been reduced by Federal authorities . . .during a period of Federal regulation before the building became subject to the New York State regulations jurisdiction. The Commissioner opined that, since the rents had been set pursuant to Federal laws then in effect, the circumstances cannot be considered 'unique or peculiar' so as to warrant a rent increase upon the building's entry into the State regulatory system." (page 20 of the decision.)
(3) Where a law (including a regulation) changes while an application is pending, generally the NEW law applies. In this case, there is no difference between the new regulation and DHCR policy before that regulation.

(4) The DHCR regulation is constitutional (the regulation was within DHCR's authority), so the court dismissed the owners' claims of unconstitutionality.

Justice Schlesinger's orders -  as concerns us:

(A) She lifted the stay (hold) a former judge had imposed on DHCR, and ordered DHCR to DECIDE THE U or P APPLICATIONS WITHIN 150 DAYS for all 24 buildings whose applications are pending - including ours.

(B) She did NOT order DHCR to apply its "old" (pre-regulation) policy, in part because that is not legally required, and in part because the old policy and the new regulation apply the same policy.


  • Central Park Gardens (West 97th St. Realty Corp.)
  • Columbus 95 (Columbus House)
  • Axton Owner LLC (New Amsterdam)
  • Columbus Manor LLC
  • Town House West, LLC
  • Westview (765 Amsterdam Ave LLC)
  • Westwood House, LLC

  • Highbridge House Ogden, LLC (formerly Highbridge House) - Bronx
  • Noble Mansion Associates LLC (Bronx)
  • Stellar 2020 LLC (Boulevard Towers I) (Bronx)
  • Stellar Bruckner, LLC (Bruckner Towers) (Bronx)
  • Janel Towers LLC (Janel Towers) (Bronx)
  • Stellar Morrison LLC (Bronx)
  • Stellar Sedgwick LLC (1889 Sedgwick) (Bronx)
  • Stellar Undercliff, LLC (Undercliff) (Bronx)
  • Stellar 341 LLC (Prospect Towers) (Brooklyn)

  • Stellar Hempstead (Hempstead, NY)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

And as you digest, you can review the summary of our last meeting:

I.  Appliance surcharge overcharge complaints
Our lawyer filed these Monday, November 30, 2009,  along with the brief that he wrote.
  • Thanks to the more than 100 tenants who provided the requested "additional information" for DHCR, and letters to our attorney.
  • Thanks to Barbara Geller, Ana Soto, Gregory Murray, Luciane de Andrade, and Rosa Delgado, without whom we could not have completed this monumental task.

II.  Elections: At our January 20, 2010 meeting we will elect two new Executive Committee members. One will replace the irreplaceable Prudence Opperman, who has been serving for several years, but is retiring for reasons of health.  The other will fill the space left a few years back when the wonderful Zena Gonzalez resigned (also for health reasons).

Candidates so far are:
  • Richard Jordan, a floor captain and board member
  • Greg Murray, a floor captain and indispensable tenant helper for the overcharge complaint responses.
You will be able to read their short bios and see their photos on the mailroom bulletin board.

III. Pot Luck Party:  We're moving it to the spring, and hope to have it outdoors in the backyard.  If you are interested in participating, contact Sue.

IV. Albany & Politics
With Pedro Espada, one of the "Gang of Four" as head of the State Senate's Housing Committee, it is not clear what tenant bills can get passed.  But tenants and our advocates are working hard to get these bills through in January:
  • Stabilization for All (S 3326-A /A. 9230 (same as 4359-A) - Makes rent stabilized any building leaving Mitchell-Lama or Sect. 8 project.  Sponsored by Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal and State Senate Andrea Stewart-Cousins, this would put into rent stabilization any building leaving or that has left Mitchell-Lama or a Section 8 project without regard to the year built, and without "unique or peculiar circumstances" increases.  That would end our law suit!
  • Repeal vacancy decontrol (A 2005 / S 2237 / S 5111 (Rules Committee) – Repeal Vacancy Decontrol ), also sponsored by Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal and State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins. The bill would bar landlords from taking vacant apartments out of rent stabilization even if they are renovated.  And importantly for market rate tenants, this bill would put their apartments back into rent stabilization apartments at the rents as of  January 1, 2007. 
We will be meeting with Assembly Member Daniel O'Donnell and with State Senator Bill Perkins in December
  • to thank O'Donnell for passing a bill in the Assembly that would roll back any "Major Capital Improvement" increases once they are paid for.  (Right now, those increases become a permanent part of rent stabilized rents)
  • to thank O'Donnell and Perkins for signing onto the Stabilization for All (Stewart-Cousins) bill
  • to urge them to persuade their leaders (John Sampson in the Senate and Sheldon Silver in the Assembly) to put our bills on the agenda.
If you would like to participate in these meetings, contact Sue.

Have a great holiday, and save the date for our next General Tenants Meeting on January 20th.

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

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Come to the General Tenants Meeting - Wed., Nov. 18 at 8 PM


8 PM


We'll be discussing the Appliance Surcharge Overcharge Complaint, elections for two Executive Committee positions, building issues, and how we can change the law - again.*
* Come to the kick-off for  "LOBBYING IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD"  
by the Mitchell-Lama P.I.E. Campaign and the Mitchell-Lama Residents Coalition

Thursday, November 19th, 2009
6 PM - refreshments
6:45 PM - meeting
at the Community Service Society, 105 E. 22nd St, New York, 10010 at Park Ave. 

with Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, chair of the Assembly's Mitchell-Lama Subcommittee, and sponsor of
  • the bill to repeal vacancy decontrol AND
  • the bill to put all developments leaving or that have left Mitchell-Lama into rent stabilization without "unique or peculiar" increases.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Submetering Overcharge Complaint: How to Answer DHCR

DHCR is sending those who filed complaints copies of their "Resident Ledgers" and leases or lease renewals from Stellar.  Use those to fill out your forms (Answer, Rent Payment Information, and Other Charges/ Fees), which you can download by clicking here.  (You can type directly into the forms.)

If you need help:

Tenants Luciane DeAndrade , Ana Soto , Barbara Geller, Rosa Delgado , Greg Murray and,  Sue Susman  are available to help if you contact them by e-mail to arrange a time.

Once you have the forms filled out 
(1) sign and date pages 1 and 3 in BLUE ink.
(2) attach Stellar's Resident Ledger (or see below if you have not received it)
(3) attach copies of your lease and lease renewals covering the period from Dec. 2004 to the present.

If you have not gotten Stellar's Resident Ledger from DHCR yet:

Look at a model of the pages of charts: Click here.

For a template of the forms into which you can TYPE IN your information, click here.

Download and then fill in DHCR pages 2 and 3.  Start from December 2004 (at the bottom of the column with all the xxxx) and then go to January 2005, and on from there.

If you never got a DHCR request for additional information, make sure to fill in the Answer page (page 1)   After you have filled out the rest, check off on the ANSWER sheet what you have attached, and date and sign this paper in BLUE INK.

Page 2:  In the "Lease" section, fill in your lease amounts and lease renewal dates in chronological order.  The lease that covers December 2004 should say in the comments section "Mitchell-Lama lease".

Page 2: In the "Rents" section, fill in the rent that you paid MINUS ANY APPLIANCE SURCHARGE.
  •  While we were in Mitchell-Lama, that would be either your "base rent" or your base rent plus any "modified lease" addition - otherwise known as an income surcharge.
  • Once we entered rent stabilization (for most people the first rent stabilized bill was March 2005), enter only the "base rent."
  •  Beginning March 2008, we paid our own electricity. Do NOT include the electricity bill. Just include the base rent.

Page 3: In the "Other Charges / Fees" section, only enter  the APPLIANCE SURCHARGES you paid. Unless you got a new refrigerator or stove from Stellar after January 7, 2005, you had no appliance surcharges after March 2005 - so just enter them for December 2004, January and February 2005.  In the left-hand-column, state "appliance surcharge.  If you're not sure of the amount see this chart:

Appliance Surcharges in effect at the time we left Mitchell-Lama

Air Conditioner

  • up to 7,500 BTU: $17.70
  • 7,500 to 10,000 BTU: $22.91
  • over 10,000 BTU: $31.25
Dishwasher: $6.40

Frost-free refrigerator: $12.25 (based on agreement between Stellar
and DHCR as a condition of buyout).


Date, print your name, and sign the bottom of page 3 IN BLUE INK.


(1) LEASE & LEASE RENEWALS:  A copy of the FIRST PAGE (just the part showing your name and apartment number and the dates) of your original lease for that apartment, and copies of the renewal leases for that apartment.   We need documents from December 2004 to the present.
  • If you don't have your leases, you can substitute your Apartment Rent Registration Form for that year.
(2)  IF you have not received DHCR's mailing containing Stellar's Resident Ledger,  you can submit rent stubs from December 2004 to the present.  Tape them in chronological order (as many as you can fit on a page) on sheets of paper that have your name, your docket number (WE 410____R - and fill in the blank) and your apartment number.  Make photocopies (or bring them to us to be photocopied).

Give the final copy to the person helping you to fill out the papers or bring them to 15T.   You will get a pdf file of the scanned-in document and all attachments for your files.

Monday, October 5, 2009


DHCR and Stellar Management have responded to our complaint about submetering.  That complaint says that when the building became submetered, Stellar should have rolled back the appliance surcharge amounts that became part of our base stabilized rents.

DHCR requests more information from each of the 115 or so tenants who signed a complaint. 

BUT even if you haven't received your DHCR packet yet,  we need you to SIGN TWO LETTERS  (asking for an extension of time and authorizing our lawyer to represent you)

and get them to the Executive Committee members as soon as possible.  Click on the words "SIGN TWO LETTERS" for a copy of each letter.

THEN, get together as much as you can of the following:

  1. copies of all leases and lease renewals from December 2004 to now
  2. rent stubs from December 2004 to now
  3. your checkbook records
  4. cancelled rent checks or money orders from December 2004 to now.
You will need as many of those documents as you can find to fill in the sheets that DHCR has sent.  To fill them out:

  1. On the back of the "Answer" sheet ("Page:02"), in the top section about leases, write in the dates of each lease renewal between December 2004 and the present.

    Here are some important dates to remember as you fill in the charts:
    January 7, 2005 - we left Mitchell-Lama and entered rent stabilization. So the rent bills for December 2004 and January 2005 list any appliance surcharges SEPARATELY. Just put down the rent (with any income surcharge), but do NOT list the appliance surcharge on this page for those two months.

    January 1, 2008- Submetering began, so Stellar rolled back our rents according to DHCR per-room requirements as of March 1, 2008. So unless your new lease began that January, February or March 2008, your rent would have gone down in March.

  2. On the bottom of that same page, fill in the rents you paid from December 2004 to the present - going month by month. Start with the very lower right-hand corner (December 2004).

  3. On the next page, entitled "OTHER CHARGES/FEES" (it is "Page:03"), look at the spaces for December 2004 (all the way at the bottom right) and January 2005 (top right). In those spaces, fill in the APPLIANCE SURCHARGES you paid under Mitchell-Lama. Those are the same surcharges that became part of your stabilized rent the next month.
  4. After you have found all the documents you can, you can fill in the FRONT of the "ANSWER" sheet. Print: "Attached please find the following documentation in support of my rent overcharge complaint:" and then list the items that you have found, one by one. For example, "Attached please find the following documentation in support of my rent overcharge complaint:

    • rent stubs for January, February, April, December 2006;
    • rent stubs for March, April and November, 2007;
    • Cancelled rent payment checks for December 2004, February 2008, and January through June 2009"
We will be responding TOGETHER through our lawyer rather than individually - but our lawyer cannot help unless he has the information from each of us. We will have tables in the lobby (NOT Oct. 10-11) to collect the documents.  If you can sit at a table the weekend of Oct. 17-18, please contact Sue and stay posted for the schedule of table sitting.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Summary of Sept. 16th General Tenants Meeting



Background Our building an tens of thousands of others in New York City, Westchester, Nassau and Rockland counties are under rent stabilization. The law that puts us under rent stabilization must be renewed in 2011. The fight to renew it - in the 2010 legislature - is the background for current struggles to expand the coverage of rent stabilization and to prevent landlords from removing tens of thousands of apartments from rent regulation.

Click on for a terrific article in Met Council on Housing's newsletter, Tenant/Inquilino, on the Albany situation.

There are 3 bills very important to tenants in this building - including market-rate tenants.

1. Promoted by the Real Rent Reform Campaign (of which we are a member) and Housing Here & Now (R3/HHN), the bill would repeal vacancy decontrol - a landlord's right to take a vacant apartment out of rent stabilization by raising the rent to $2000. Importantly for market-rate tenants, the bill would re-stabilize your apartment at the January 2007 rent (with one exception for apartments de-regulated before that date whose rent was $5000 or more). This bill would reduce landlord motive for ousting stabilized tenants from their apartments. The bill has passed the State Assembly but not the State Senate.

2. This bill would put into rent stabilization all buildings that
leave or have left Mitchell-Lama without regard to when they were built and without the "unique or peculiar circumstances" loophole that we've been fighting in court. (So far the trial court has not ruled in the case.) The bill has not passed either house of the state legislature, but we have a new sponsor in the Assembly and the hope of more action in the Senate - if not this year, then in the January term. This bill is second on the R3/HHN agenda.

3. This bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Daniel O'Donnell, would
roll back rent increases for "Major Capital Improvements" once they are paid for. The bill passed the Assembly but not the Senate.

No important tenant bills were on the agenda when the State Senate reconvened on Sept. 10th (having been hijacked earlier in the summer) - although a big tenant presence made the senate leaders sit up and take notice. The State Senate and Assembly may reconvene at the end of September and take up the big tenant bills. If that is likely, we will need an even bigger tenant presence in Albany. So we may call on you to go up, or to sit at a table in the lobby and sign your neighbors up to go.


Jewish Home & Lifecare (JHL) on 106th Street asked the City Council for an exemption from new zoning rules that would limit building heights. The exemption was granted so that this community facility could built tall luxury housing to support its mission as a nursing home. However, JH is now planning to swap its 106th Street site with Chetrit and Gluck for the parking lot between Park West Village and the library on 100th Street. So there are three concerns:
  1. Whether the City Council will remove the zoning exemption and limit the building height on 106th Street since the beneficiary is a private developer, and
  2. Whether JHL, should be allowed to build a 22-story facility reducing open space
  3. Whether any latitude should be given to JHL which awarded a "much below average" rating (June 2009), unless it fulfills its mission to patients.
Our elected officials are working on the first issue; so far only a coalition of neighborhood groups including the Park West Village Tenants Association and Westsiders for Public Participation are working on the second and third. See for more information.

The Central Park tennis court concession owner has received permission to install a bubble cover (held up by blown air) for winter games. Now he's looking for money with which to do it.


What we've won so far . . . Our complaint of reduced services to the State's Division of Housing & Community Renewal (DHCR) has pressured Stellar to
  • reopen the backyard
and provide
  • seating in the lobby
  • an updated TV antenna, and
  • a new intercom that should be finished at the end of September.
Since the CPGTA's Executive Committee has been meeting with Stellar monthly, we've also gotten
  • an updated mail directory,
  • second bins in the compactor rooms,
  • laundry room window screens, and
  • anti-pigeon spikes on the roof.
We're still working on window blinds and repaired hallways.

Bathroom vent filters on the roof are supposed to be cleaned more regularly. The vents suck air out (the fans are supposed to work intermittently, not full time), so you may see dirt on the room side of the grille, which you can wipe off. If you see dirt blowing
into your apartment, contact Carlos. Please do not cover the vent: if you do, you will create a loud noise and tremendous suction in the vents of other people in your apartment line. (It's also a good idea, healthwise, to always have air pulled through the apartment - especially in months when you keep the windows closed.)

If you have soapy water coming from your kitchen sink drain, tell Carlos.
Please put all repair requests in the book at the guard's desk.

Financial Report
: Treasurer Joan Browne reported on our finances and will be issuing updated statements to tenants who have recently contributed. We're asking for annual dues of $25/household for new tenants and $10 thereafter, and $100 in legal fund contributions.
Fundraising: We're hoping for a raffle again this year with Prudence Opperman and Rosa Delgado leading the way. We've had successful raffles of restaurant meals and Broadway shows in the past, so stay tuned.

Pot Luck Party:

It will be December 12th in the Community Room - and we need volunteers. Please contact Sue.

The Executive Committee
Sue Susman, president, sue [at]
Na'ava Ades, vice president, naavaa [at]
Joan Browne, vice president & treasurer, jbbrownefaison [at]
Steve Koulish, vice president, eskoolman [at]
Prudence Opperman, vice president, prueward [at]

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tenants Meeting - Wed., Sept. 16th, 2009

Come to the


WED. , SEPT. 16th

8 PM


Partial agenda:

  • ALBANY REPORT - and how it affects rent stabilized and market-rate tenants.
  • NEIGHBORHOOD REPORT - new development planned, less open space
  • BUILDING REPORT - what we've won so far . . .
  • Fundraising

Bring a chair and a neighbor!

Old and new tenants welcome.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

In the neighborhood . . . Gluck & Chetrit fire unions

and plan on a 22-story (or more!) nursing home in what is now the parking lot behind Park West Village on 100th Street. See last article below.

West Side Spirit, August 6, 2009

Columbus Sq. Labor Fracas

Cost-saving switch to ‘open shop’ draws fire from unions, Board 7

By Matt Joseloff

August 5, 2009

Rats and pigs are the newest tenants of the Columbus Square rental complex, along Columbus Avenue in the upper West 90s. The giant inflatable rodent, which at press time had been replaced with a cigar-smoking pig, are both the handiwork of local labor unions protesting the switch to non-union workers at the construction site. Co-developers the Chetrit Group and Stellar Management made the change at the beginning of July.

Because contractors use local labor when dealing with a union workforce, many of the hundreds of replaced workers were residents of West

Union representatives surround a giant inflatable rat. photo by Andrew Schwartz

Union representatives surround a giant inflatable rat. photo by Andrew Schwartz

Harlem and Upper Manhattan, said Andres Puerta, organizer for the New York District Council of Carpenters. Puerta added that the new workforce receives a quarter of the prevailing union wage—between $20 and $40 an hour—and no health care, pension and vacation time. He also complained that while developers said the move to non-union labor was necessary to reduce costs, none of the savings is being passed on to residents.

“This is a total money grab in the midst of a community that needs good wages and good benefits,” Puerta said.

The developers, who characterized the new workforce as “open shop,” rather than non-union, said the change was ultimately a cost decision.

“We decided to go open shop and choose the most qualified and fully licensed subcontractors at a cost effective price point. We met with several of the major trade unions in advance of our decision to go open shop to see if we could reach a project labor agreement which would make these projects economically viable. We were unable to reach a compromise that worked with the economics of the project in today’s market,” said Peter Rosenberg, development director at Stellar Management, in an emailed statement.

Asked how the cost savings would be passed down, Rosenberg said that the additional housing supply at Columbus Square would help relieve demand side pressure on housing, positively impacting area rents. However, the developers did not clarify how non-union labor would allow more housing to be built than a union workforce.

A spokesperson for the project, Talia Mann, said that the companies as a matter of policy do not disclose compensation paid to employees and subcontractors.

The developers and unions are not engaged in negotiations, and union members are currently picketing the site.

“Since we commenced construction of Columbus Square in 2006, we have employed hundreds of union workers and logged nearly a million hours of union labor in the various the building trades. We have and continue to employ only the most qualified and fully licensed subcontractors,” Rosenberg said in an email.

Helen Rosenthal, chair of Community Board 7, said she was concerned about safety because union laborers are often better trained than non-union workers. At press time, she was planning on proposing a resolution to the board’s steering committee on Aug. 5, calling on the developers to hire back the union workers at prevailing wages and benefits.

“It’s for the safely of the workers and the residents and anyone walking around that area,” Rosenthal said.

The full board will vote on the resolution at its Sept. 8 meeting.

The Columbus Square development includes five luxury rental towers, running along Columbus Avenue from West 97th to 100th streets. According to spokesperson Mann, Columbus Village, as many residents know the development, was a name conceived by retail brokers to market the storefronts that are part of the project.

With additional reporting by Charlotte Eichna.



LOCAL No. 46

New York and Vicinity
NEW YORK, N.Y. 10021
Telephone: REgent 7 - 0500-0501-0502


We want to advise the public that certain facets of the work being performed at this site are not being performed by skilled building tradesmen. This work is being performed by persons who are receiving far less than the prevailing area wage rate and who also are not receiving the fringe benefits generally received by individuals performing this kind of work in the Greater New York City area.

This is a matter of great concern to our union. Employees on this job are performing work and are not receiving the wages and fringe benefits paid to skilled craftsmen in the Greater New York City area for the performance of such work. The contractors on this job are attempting to reduce our area standards by underpaying employees for construction work.

We urge you to withhold your support and patronage of this establishment. We urge the general public to support us in our effort to maintain our wages and fringe benefits. We urge you to communicate with the owners of this establishment and express to them your opposition to their attempt to reduce our area standards.

We thank you for your support.

West Side Spirit

Jewish Home Land Swap

Nursing home move to W. 100th St., with Chetrit getting W. 106th parcel

By Dan Rivoli

August 13, 2009

Representatives from Jewish Home Lifecare, an organization that provides health care for seniors, met with community groups on Aug. 12 to unveil a proposal to redevelop its West 106th Street nursing home in Park West Village, on West 100th Street.

To bankroll the new nursing home, a project that has long been in the works and was originally planned for the south side of West 106th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, Jewish Home was going to sell part of its property to a developer. But with the economy faltering and developers reluctant to buy, the only offer came from Joe Chetrit, who has taken community heat for his Columbus Square project, consisting of five luxury rentals and retail space at Park West Village.

Building 1 is a rendering of the 22-story nursing home Jewish Home plans to build on West 100th Street.

Building 1 is a rendering of the 22-story nursing home Jewish Home plans to build on West 100th Street.

In the deal, Chetrit will own Jewish Home’s current property, at 120 W. 106th St. Jewish Home will then build its proposed 22-story nursing home on top of land that was to be used for 180 parking spaces, on West 100th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues. Those spots will be moved to an indoor parking area without an increase in rates for owners. Newly built park space, gardens, outdoor seating and an indoor auditorium for the nursing home residents will also be open to Park West Village residents.

“Relocating to West 100th Street will have a net positive impact on Jewish Home’s Upper West Side clients, family members, employees and neighbors,” said Bruce Nathanson, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Jewish Home Lifecare.

By building a new facility elsewhere, Jewish Home can continue to operate at full capacity without staff layoffs and construction disruptions for its residents.

However, community groups fear that Chetrit will build a massive luxury tower on Jewish Home’s West 106th Street property because of the 2007 Upper West Side rezoning plan.

That year, Jewish Home collaborated with community groups in a deal with the City Council that carved the nonprofit’s parcel out of the 51-block Upper West Side rezoning plan, which drastically reduced neighborhood building heights. The concession was meant to allow the nursing home to rebuild a larger, state-of-the-art facility that could update the service provided to clients.

“We had a whole deal and process. We spent a long time putting it together,” said Blanca Vazquez, co-coordinator of the Manhattan Valley Preservation Coalition, which worked on the 2007 zoning compromise. “And now, everything is out the window and up in the air.”

Vazquez said the group was upset by the deal because the exemption was based on Jewish Home’s goodwill with the community and the promise of a community facility.

“This is not a simple swap or trade,” Vazquez said. “They made a commitment to community use.”

Although Jewish Home’s nursing home will now be located elsewhere, Chetrit will still be allowed to build tall, market-rate residential towers without zoning restrictions, per the 2007 agreement.

Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell, who opposed Jewish Home’s exclusion from the rezoning plan, said he was troubled by the new proposal.

“The City Council carved out an exception for that site on West 106th Street because it was to be used for health care facility,” O’Donnell said. “Now, that exception seems to be used for a for-profit housing developer. It’s changing the rules in the middle of the game.”

O’Donnell is calling on the Council to have Jewish Home’s West 106th Street property conform to surrounding zoning.

“If someone wants to build a for-profit development, they should build within the context [of the neighborhood],” O’Donnell said.

Update on latest meeting with Stellar Management

Members of the tenants' association's executive committee met with Stellar representative on August 12th about building issues. Here are a few of the items:


On August 11, 2009, at our request, Stellar put a new SECOND bin for recyclables in each compactor room. Unfortunately, people on

2 East, 3 East, 5 East and 5 West, 8 West, and 9 West

took the second bin between their installation and the next morning. Those tenants may not have known that the bin was there for all tenants and thought it was being thrown out. If you happen to have taken one, please put it back so we'll all have more capacity for recyclables.

Clean cans go in the smaller bin. Clean plastics, glass and aluminum go in the other can, and paper goes on the top shelf. Please do not leave anything with food on it in the compactor room, since that attracts roaches. (Crush pizza boxes and put them inside bags and put the bag down the chute.)


If the bathroom vent is spewing dirt in rather than sucking it out, please notify Carlos. There are dirt-trappers around each suction fan on the roof, and Stellar promises they will be cleaned.

(which hasn't been showing Channels 2, 4, 5, and 9) should be fixed within 2 weeks. Cable customers are unaffected.

Those who have difficulty walking will be getting new keys that cannot be copied for the side doors. That means the locks will be changed.

BACKYARD CLEANUP - The backyard is supposed to be cleaned up - and the bins on the east side will be put in the sheds. (The west side shed has machinery in it that Stellar says it will try to move.)

STAIRWELL DOORS TO BE CHECKED FOR FIRE SAFETY - Stellar will check to ensure that all stairwell doors open and close at the required legal pressure.

A few other items were discussed and we'll be presenting the whole thing at the General Tenants Meeting on September 16th.

See you then.

Gluck says take the money even if not necessary

NY Post


click to enlarge

Last updated: 11:39 am
August 13, 2009

First it was the banks and automakers that got a helping hand from Uncle Sam -- and soon some New York City apartment complexes could get one, too.

A bill winding its way through Congress proposes to prop up deteriorating apartment complexes by injecting $2 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program into an effort to stabilize multifamily properties in default or foreclosure.

The bill, which is called the TARP for Main Street Act and was sponsored by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Rep. Nydia Velasquez (D-Brooklyn and Manhattan), would use TARP funds that have been returned by banks and plow it into programs that, according to the bill, would create "sustainable financing" for the complexes as well as provide funding for property rehabilitation.

The House is considering the measure, which focuses on apartment buildings with units that are either rent stabilized or receive government subsidies.

Many developers during the housing boom bought rent-regulated apartments by borrowing against the properties themselves and betting they could make hefty returns by converting them into market-rate buildings.

However, thanks to the recession and the collapse of the real estate market, many developers are now struggling to make mortgage payments, let alone finance repairs and upkeep of the properties they own.

"Just about everyone who purchased an asset in 2006 and 2007 is under water, especially the rent-stabilized complexes bought in upper Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn," said Dan Fasulo, managing director of Real Capital Analytics, a real estate research and consulting firm.

There already have been casualties. Larry Gluck of Stellar Management and partner Rockpoint Group last October defaulted on their loan for Riverton Apartments in Harlem.

More recently, developer Kent Swig lost control of Sheffield57 to hedge fund Fortress Investment Group after he defaulted on loans used to convert the former rental building into a condominium.

According to data released last month from Real Capital Analytics, 120 properties in Manhattan, including 84 apartment buildings, were considered "troubled."

Dina Levy of the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board said 70,000 New York City apartments, or about 6 percent of the city's roughly 1.2 million rent-regulated units, are at risk of deterioration in part because of the market crunch.

Despite those numbers, Gluck, who in addition to Riverton also bought 16 Mitchell-Lama buildings , told The Post that the situation facing developers isn't as dire as some would believe.

Indeed, Gluck said many loans don't need a bailout because large local lenders are working with developers to prevent complexes from defaulting.

Nevertheless, Gluck, who stressed he maintains his properties, said the bill sounded like a good idea, and that real estate developers might as well collect from the government since everyone else was already getting handouts. [emphasis added]

"As long as there is a long list of people out there with their caps in hand, why should everyone else be getting a free run?" Gluck said. "If it staves off some bank foreclosures, it is good for real estate and good for tenants."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lease Renewal Information

The Division of Housing & Community Renewal (DHCR) requires landlords to provide a lease renewal form to rent stabilized tenants between 150 and 90 days before the current lease expires.
DHCR has a wonderful page explaining that if you get your lease renewal late, you can choose when you want it to start: the original date or 3 months from the date you actually received it. There is other useful information there as well:

If you have NOT gotten your lease renewal form a week before that 90 days expires, first e-mail or call Cheryl Casas and Francine Schiff at Stellar Management: and If you do not get the form on time, file DHCR form RA 90 with DHCR - by certified mail, return receipt requested and make sure to keep a copy.

Please send a copy of your e-mail to Stellar to the executive committee of the CPG Tenants' Association . We need to know how often these delays are happening.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

June rent bills - Computer glitch affects some tenants

From Stellar Management's Basil Chapman, assistant building manager:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Basil Chapman <>
Date: Fri, Jun 26, 2009 at 9:46 AM
Subject: Rent receipts

Good Morning Ms. Susman

I just wanted to inform you that there was a computer clitch in our
system and tenants are receiving their rent statements stating that
last months rent was not received in their account. I just want you to
know that this information is not correct. I am informing all tenants
that call about this situation and I am letting them know when last
month rent was posted to their account. Just wanted to keep you
informed of what is going on.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Can you go to Albany this coming week?

Espada back in Democratic fold; State Senate functions again

Renegade State Senator Pedro Espada of the Bronx decided to rejoin the Democrats - giving them once again a 32-30 majority in the Senate. As part of the deal, he becomes Senate Majority Leader, while Malcolm Smith becomes Senate President and John Sampson is Democratic Conference chairman.

Hiram Monserrate (who had gone over to support the Republicans and then flipped back) is the new head of the Housing Committee - replacing Pedro Espada. Monserrate has been a strong tenant advocate, if otherwise erratic.

MARKET RATE TENANTS: The bill to Repeal Vacancy Decontrol will be voted on. It will put back into rent stabilization all apartments that have left stabilization through vacancy and the resulting increases. The rents would be rolled back to the January 1, 2007 rent.

RENT STABILIZED TENANTS: The Stewart-Cousins bill, S.3326, is expected to be voted on next week. (It has not yet passed either house of the legislature.) This bill would get rid of the "unique or peculiar circumstances" increase once and for all.

So tenants need a big presence in Albany.

There will be vans going up every day - with a big push for Wednesday, July 15th. If you can spare the day, please contact Maggie Russell-Ciardi of Tenants & Neighbors at .

Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy July 4th !


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Albany circus continues; tenant issues ignored

One view of what's happening from Tom Robbins of the Village Voice :

Senate Coup Plotters' Hidden Agenda

Tabloids call it a circus, but the lobbyists' goal is to squelch reforms

By Tom Robbins

Tuesday, June 30th 2009 at 1:13pm

The tabloid version of the Great Senate Stalemate of 2009 goes something like this: Those bozos in the State Senate—who can't be trusted even on a good day to get their lunch orders straight—brought the people's business to a screeching halt over a petty internal dispute about who got to wield the gavel at meetings.

There is just enough of a patina of truth to this comic-book description of the Albany shutdown to convince a lot of otherwise sensible citizens to lather up in rage. After all, this is the same corps of elected officials that has managed to incur a higher rate of criminal indictment than many of New York's toughest neighborhoods. Who were these dolts? How dare they pose as leaders? Throw them all the hell out.

Naturally, the biggest promoter of this tale is the New York Post, which quickly dubbed the standoff a circus and then gleefully provided a clown to wander the capitol halls. The Daily News also got into the act, firing up its readers with its "Don't Pay the Bums" campaign.

In these accounts, the fact that there are hugely important stakes for everyday New Yorkers in the outcome of the Senate fight is barely mentioned. Nor is the embarrassing truth that what transpired in Albany in the past month is the local version of a banana republic coup. In this case, the conspiring generals were lobbyists and one very power-hungry billionaire, Tom Golisano . Their goal was no different from that of those democracy-fearing Iranian mullahs: to overturn the results of a popular election.

The threat to power here was the slim Democratic majority that won control of the Senate last fall for the first time in more than 40 years. Consider the timeline: The plotters launched their coup on June 8, the day before the Senate's housing committee was due to consider legislation—given a good chance of passage—that would curb rent hikes on hundreds of thousands of city apartments. Worse, it was even possible that the new majority might vote to give control over New York City housing policies to the city itself. Imagine that? Home rule! For the real estate and landlord lobby, which had long held full sway in the Senate, this was an impossible state of affairs. A pair of renegade Democrats were recruited at a still undisclosed price. The rebels stepped across the aisle to vote the Republicans back into power, thus ensuring that there would be no further incursions into the business of real estate profit or any other sacred Albany cows.

Despite its often clumsy and muddled performance during its short-lived reign, the Senate's new Democratic majority became a target of fear and loathing for the state's traditional powerbrokers. That's because on the occasions that they did get their act together, the Democrats showed what a progressive coalition might achieve.

One of those moments came a few weeks before the hijacking, when they voted to reverse course on one of the most repugnant episodes in legislative history, the Rockefeller drug laws. These mandatory and draconian prison sentences for even first-time, nonviolent drug offenders had long been widely viewed as costly and ineffective. Passed in 1973, they were a means for then-governor Nelson Rockefeller to add some law-and-order luster to his presidential dreams. Rockefeller never got to be president, but tens of thousands of New Yorkers paid the price for his ambitions, spending the best years of their lives behind the grim walls of places like Dannemora and Bedford Hills.

Even as a groundswell of opposition grew, opponents hit a brick wall in the form of the Republican-controlled state Senate. Leaders there saw little benefit in passing legislation that mainly served urban Democrats. They offered their standard retort to such change: Why bother?

That veto power ended abruptly this year when Democrats took power. The legislation's chief sponsor in the Senate was Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat representing upper Manhattan and the Bronx, who had long championed the reforms. This year, he became the new chair of the Codes Committee with jurisdiction over criminal justice issues. With the backing of majority leader Malcolm Smith, ending the onerous laws became the first order of business. Senate Republicans predictably voted as a bloc against the changes. Democrats, exercising their narrow majority, pushed them through, along with new funding for addiction treatment.

Democrats, led by Liz Krueger of Manhattan, had also long sought a hike in the basic welfare grant, which had remained at the same level for almost 20 years. Republicans, in turn, had long blocked it, applying their usual logic: Who benefits? Not us. After Governor David Paterson sought the increase in the budget, the new Senate voted for the raise. Republicans again voted in solid opposition.

Other changes won by the new majority were small, but telling. Brooklyn State Senator Velmanette Montgomery became the new chair of the Social Services Committee. She had tried for eight years to win passage of a measure barring prison officials from shackling pregnant female prisoners when they are in labor. "The practice is barbaric and unconscionable," said the even-tempered Montgomery. The bill had repeatedly passed in the Assembly, where it was sponsored by Nick Perry, a Democrat from East Flatbush. "It kept dying in committee in the Senate," Perry said after the bill's passage. "I just couldn't understand it. The excuses I got made no sense."

Democratic control of Senate committees also brought the power to shine a spotlight in places Republicans had preferred to leave dark. On May 29, 10 days before the coup shut everything down, Harlem Senator Bill Perkins, new chairman of a committee overseeing state authorities, held the Senate's first public hearing on the massive $4 billion Atlantic Yards project.

The Forest City Ratner deal was made possible by an official sleight of hand that allowed it to skirt city land use regulations. Under Republican control, the Senate asked no questions. Even at the hearing, they still offered protection. Brooklyn's lone GOP senator, Marty Golden, burst into the hearings late and, backed by cheers from building trades workers, proceeded to mock Perkins and Montgomery, in whose district the project sits, for "holding the project hostage."

Before the coup squelched their chances, there was strong hope for several valuable measures. At the top of the list was long-stalled state campaign finance reform. A bill introduced in the Senate by Schneiderman, and by Jim Brennan of Brooklyn in the Assembly, proposed to cut the maximum allowable donation to statewide office seekers from $56,000 to $7,500; Senate and Assembly contributions would be cut to a third of their current levels. Diane Savino, a Democrat from Staten Island and Brooklyn, was hopeful as well of winning passage of a bill—pending for five years—to give domestic workers some rudimentary on-the-job protections, such as time-and-a-half pay for work over 40 hours, and a day off for every seven days worked.

The coup also shut down efforts by Schneiderman to win passage of legislation that would let modern technology help cops fight gun crimes. His bill would mandate that guns sold in New York include a new microstamping process that imprints a serial number on every bullet fired. This lets police trace bullets used in crimes even if the gun itself can't be found. The NRA opposes the move, and at the gun lobby's behest, Golden, an ex-cop, introduced his own bill seeking to bury the measure with "further study."

Thanks to last month's intervention by Albany's powerbrokers, the NRA need fret no longer. And with the tabloids running interference, the true victims of the Senate coup will never know what hit them.