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. 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 firstname.lastname@example.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