Monday, January 26, 2009

Judge Bars Gluck from Leaving Court Case

Judge Alice Schlesinger Ruled on January 26, 2009 that Gluck May Not Withdraw From the "Unique or Peculiar" Court Case.

Gluck and his colleagues in the "Highbridge House" case (our case concerning "unique or peculiar circumstances" increases) had agreed to a schedule of filing various motions (requests to the court). (Click here for background on the case. ) But instead of filing the motion that was due in January (a motion for summary judgment), Gluck and his colleague landlords in court asked for permission to withdraw their case in order to let DHCR determine the pending "unique or peculiar" applications.

Justice Schlesinger denied that request. So both the Highbridge House case and the Columbus 95 case (about Columbus House at 95 West 95th Street) will continue together before her. Click here to see her decision.

SOME OF THE REASONS THE JUDGE GAVE FOR DENYING THE LANDLORDS' REQUEST TO LEAVE THE CASE:

1. Harm to Tenants and DHCR if the Landlords Withdraw:
Tenants and DHCR had moved to dismiss the Columbus 95 case, but they agreed to withdraw their motions once the court set up a schedule including the landlords filing a motion for summary judgment instead.
So it is unfair to the tenants and to DHCR to permit the landlords to withdraw now. ("Summary judgment" means a decision by the court based on the law, rather than the facts. This is done where everyone agrees on the facts - as is true in our case.)

In addition, DHCR says that even if the case were sent back to DHCR now, there is no guarantee that it would be decided before the April 22, 2009 argument scheduled in the court case. And DHCR says it is still bound by a temporary restraining order imposed by Justice Stone stopping DHCR from considering any U or P case.

2. Public Interest:
Public interest would be harmed by the withdrawal. The judge noted, "Hundreds (if not thousands) of tenants are parties here and they have reportedly incurred considerable expenses in this action. And thousands more will be affected by the determination of the issues in this case." So it is better to handle this now.

3. Judicial inefficiency:
If DHCR does consider the U or P applications, it will likely apply the new regulations and that will lead to the landlords going back to court for a determination of the very same issues now before the court. That would be a waste of resources. Let's consider the issues now.

4. Change in the Political Landscape
The landlords' lawyer argued that they "had decided not to pursue the litigation once they realized that the newly elected state legislators had the power to undo any judicial victory by changing the law." The court pointed out that they could have made that claim right after the November election, and not just a few days before the landlords' deadline for filing a summary judgment motion.

5. Landlord Inconsistency: They are asking to get out of the case now, but were doing everything they could to get into it and keep it going before. Only now that they have a summary judgment motion due, they are asking to get out of the case.

Some examples the court gave of how the landlords have pushed ahead with their case until now:
  • When Justice Rakower (in an earlier case) told Gluck that DHCR could take its time and had to decide the U or P applications itself, Gluck avoided letting DHCR do that by starting a different case - the one that ended up before Justice Stone and then before Justice Schlesinger.
  • Gluck and his fellow landlords asked the court to join their case with the pending Columbus 95 case.
  • Gluck and his fellow landlords tried to withdraw from the case earlier when he learned that Justice Stone was recusing himself (stepping off the case) because his wife was represented by Gluck's lawyer. But when the case was assigned to Justice Schlesinger, Gluck and his colleagues no longer sought to withdraw. Instead, they asked for discovery (the chance to get information from their opponents) - something typical of continuing the case.

THE UPSHOT: The landlords' motion to withdraw from the case is denied, and the court gave them a second chance to file their motion for summary judgment within 10 days.

STAY POSTED FOR OUR COURT HEARING ON THE LANDLORD'S SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTION. (It might be April 22, 2009.)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Concert by one of our tenants: Marnie Breckenridge


One of our new neighbors on the 11th floor west, Marnie Breckenridge, will be signing at Trinity Church on Wall St and Broadway on Thursday, January 29th from 1-2PM. (The photo on the left is from her website, and not taken around the building!)

Marnie is an internationally known opera singer.

If you're interested in going with other tenants, contact Barbara Geller, barbaragellernyc (type the "at" sign) .com.

Here is the link to the performance:
http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/calendar/index.php?event_id=42781 .

Take the 2 or 3 subway to the Wall Street stop. For those who cannot travel to the concert, it is available through a podcast.

The concert is free to the public. It is part of an ongoing program at Trinity Church and St Paul's Chapel downtown.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Summary of General Tenants Meeting on Jan. 21, 2009


I. COURT CASES - We're on a roll!

Garage - We won the garage case, which means that all tenants who had spaces while we were still under Mitchell-Lama will keep those spaces under rent stabilization - and not whatever the market will bear. Our attorneys are contacting Stellar's lawyers about those tenants who applied but never got into the garage while we were still under Mitchell-Lama.

"Unique or Peculiar Circumstances" - After claiming that he did not want the state's housing agency, the Division of Housing & Community Renewal (DHCR), to decide the pending applications for "unique or peculiar circumstances" increases under the new regulations, landlord Larry Gluck has changed his mind. He and the other landlords whose buildings are part of the "Highbridge House" case (including ours) have asked the judge for permission to withdraw their court case and instead let DHCR decide.

On Jan. 26, 2009, Judge Schlesinger denied Gluck's request to withdraw from the case: it would harm tenants and the public interest, delay a court dealing with the issue, and is inconsistent with what the landlords have been doing in this case all along. So Gluck has a short time (1o days from Jan. 26th) to move formaly to have the issue decided as a matter of law. The hearing may be April 22, 2009 - but it could change.

II. STATE POLITICS

A. Federal level: Alitha showed off her Obama hat and shirt to great applause. We should support those in federally-supported housing by asking Congressman Rangel to ensure that the "stimulus" package includes support for public housing in the Public Housing Capital Fund (see below). The next budget should provide enough money for Section 8 housing, and ensure that tenants in buildings that are foreclosed do not lose their homes.

Under the Public Housing Capital Fund, $5 billion for building repair and modernization would include critical safety repairs. Every dollar of Capital Fund expenditures produced $2.12 in economic return. $4 billion of the funds will be distributed to public housing authorities through the existing formula and $1 billion will be awarded otherwise.

B. State Level:

1. The Democrats are in the majority in both houses of the state legislature. The new Senate Majority Leader is Senator Malcolm Smith. However, because of what seemed perilously close to extortion, one member of the notorious "Gang of 3" - Pedro Espada - is the new head of the Senate's housing committee. This means that tenants have to work through Senator Smith to get pro-tenant bills to the floor of the Senate for a vote. (Unlike in the previous Senate, committee chairmen will no longer have the power to prevent bills from coming to the floor for a vote.)

If you are interested in learning more about the changing political landscape in Albany, come to a meeting of the Mitchell-Lama Residents Coalition
  • on Saturday, January 31st,
  • from 10 AM to noon
  • at the Musician's Union, 322 W. 48th Street (near 8th Ave.) in Manhattan. 32
2 W. 48th St. (near 8th Ave.), ground floor, Club Room

2. The bills we need passed soon:

  • "Stewart-Cousins" bill - This 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 circumstances." This bill is retroactive, so if it passes, not only will we be protected, but market rate tenants in our building will become rent stabilized as well.


  • Repeal of Vacancy Decontrol

What it is:

Vacancy decontrol is a law that permits landlords to take apartments out of rent regulation (including rent stabilization) once the apartments are vacant and the rent is increased to $2000 or more a month. To increase the rents, landlords get an automatic "vacancy" increase of about 20% or more (depending on how long the previous tenant lived there), and 1/40 of the cost of any renovations. Landlords do not have to show those amounts unless the NEXT tenant to move in challenges the rent.


Why it's a problem:

Since landlords can deregulated apartments forever, they have a strong incentive to try to
get rent stabilized tenants out. In some cases that has resulted in harassment, phony court cases (claiming someone doesn't actually live there as their prime residence or that the rent was not paid even when it was), and other techniques. The result is a massive loss of the city's stock of affordable housing.

What we can do:

On January 26, 2009, the NYS Assembly will pass a bill to repeal vacancy decontrol. On January 27, 2009, tenants are going to Albany to lobby those members of the other house in the state legislature, the State Senate, to persuade them to pass the bill. Governor Paterson will sign it if both houses pass it. If you're interested in going, contact info@housinghereandnow.org.





III. BUILDING ISSUES


A. Elevator - If the noise bothers you, please contact Tobias Sahl, the building manager.


B. Icy steps & front terrace - If you notice that the front steps, ramps, or front terrace are icy where people have to walk, notify a member of the building staff. If they do not clean it within a short time, call the management office. If that does not work, call 311. This is dangerous. (Note: You can tell the 311 operator that you'd prefer the call to be anonymous. The operator will give you a Service Request number. Please give it to a member of the Executive Committee.)

C. Apartment doors - If your door or any other part of the apartment provided by Stellar is defective, they will fix or repair it without charge. But they must first decide that it is defective, so call the office for an inspection.

D. Garage entrance lock - Carlos said he will get it repaired.

E. N-line pipe
- Carlos has been notified that the pipe needs to be cleaned by a plumber.

F. Carbon Monoxide alarm
-
If it goes off
  • open a window immediately
  • shut off your oven if it is on
  • call the building staff to check the problem.

Sometimes the problem is that some white gunk collects on the pipe between your oven and your broiler, and results in carbon monoxide escaping.

Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless and can kill you, so do not ignore the alarm.

_____________________

Let's make sure that our newly elected officials hear our voices loud and clear!

The Executive Committee,
Sue Susman, sue [type the "at" symbol] janak.org
Na'ava Ades
Joan Browne
Steve Koulish

Prudence Opperman

Sunday, January 18, 2009

General Tenants Meeting this WEDNESDAY, Jan. 21st


Come speak up at the


GENERAL TENANTS MEETING

this

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 21st

8 PM

in the Community Room

  • There have been some developments with the "Unique or Peculiar Circumstances" case.

  • Latest on the Garage case.

  • Politics:
    • Obama is in the White House- how will that affect housing?
    • We have a newly-Democratic-majority State Senate - but what will it mean for us ?

  • Annual financial report
  • Building issues
  • What's on your mind?

Bring a chair and a neighbor!