Friday, February 27, 2009

Urge our electeds to end "U or P" rent hikes permanently.

The bill soon to be proposed by State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins would put all rental buildings leaving Mitchell-Lama and leaving Section 8 projects into rent stabilization
  • without "unique or peculiar" increases (landlords are asking up to 5 times the current rents)
  • without regard to when the building was built (the current law only protects pre-1974's)
  • even if it was removed from Mitchell-Lama before the bill was passed.
That bill would keep affordable all of the buildings that have recently been removed from Mitchell-Lama on the Upper West Side - and would deter efforts to remove those whose tenants are fighting to stay in the program- such as Trinity House.

Our state legislators are supportive, but the bill will not get passed unless they persuade their colleagues to support it too.

We will be meeting with Senator Perkins (and possible Assembly Member O'Donnell) on March 6th and want to bring letters from tenants and a petition with us.

Please sign the petition and letters in the lobby this weekend. And if you can't make it, please:

Click here to print out and sign a letter to Assembly Member Daniel O'Donnell.

Click here to print out and sign a letter to State Senator Bill Perkins.


You can give the letter to Sue in Apt. 15T, or mail it directly.

You can also telephone or e-mail to urge their support for this bill:

Assembly Member O'Donnell
Phone: 212-866-3970
OdonnellD@assembly.state.ny.us

State Senator Perkins
212-222-7315
perkins@senate.state.ny.us


This could end "unique or peculiar" increases for all rent stabilized tenants in 65 Mitchell-Lama buildings!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Support the REPEAL of Vacancy Decontrol

Repealing vacancy decontrol is very important:

Vacancy decontrol permits landlords to take vacant apartments out of rent stabilization forever by raising the rent to $2000 or more through "improvements" to the apartment. This has led to the loss of some 25 rent stabilized apartments in this building - lost as affordable housing forever (unless the market-rate tenants successfully challenge the original rent increase to $2000).

And vacancy decontrol has led to the loss of thousands of affordable apartments across New York City as landlords who over-borrowed to buy buildings for a quick profit have to oust as many rent-regulated tenants as possible in order to pay their mortgages and bills.

One of many organizations working in the Real Rent Reform Campaign has posted an on-line petition to persuade the NYS Senate to pass a bill to repeal vacancy decontrol. (The State Assembly has already done so. Click here for recent NYS Assembly bills.)

You can click here to sign the petition.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Submetering Stay for 4 Electrically-Heated Buildings (not ours)

Our building was submetered in January 2008. But other buildings coming out of Mitchell-Lama are just facing that now. And in buildings whose heat is electric, it is a very serious problem.

Persuaded by tenants, tenant advocates, lawyers, and legislators, the New York State Public Service Commission has just stayed (halted) the implementation of its previous orders permitting electrical submetering in 4 developments:
  • Frawley Plaza at 1295 5th Ave.
  • Roosevelt Landings - formerly known as Eastwood - on Roosevelt Island
  • Metro North and
  • Schomburg Plaza.
There were at least 4 reasons for staying submetering. The reasons cited include:
  1. Heat is electric, but the buildings lack basic energy efficiency to hold the heat in, and tenants cannot control how much heat their apartments get.
  2. Many tenants are elderly or disabled; the lack of heat would harm them, and many rely on electrical medical equipment, including oxygen.
  3. The "shadow bills" (preliminary bills given to tenants before their first actual bill) show increases far in excess of what DHCR requires be rolled back for buildings whose electricity used to be included in the rent. In some cases, the shadow bills are over $1000.
  4. The landlords are inserting clauses into leases that say that non-payment of electric submeter bills is the same as non-payment ofrent and grounds for eviction.
This stay is not permanent but it is a great first step.

The elected officials who got involved include:
Congressman Rangel
Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito
Assembly Member Micah Kellner
and Council Member Jessica Lappin.

The tenant advocates and lawyer include:
Ellen Davidson, Legal Aid attorney
Lynne Strong Shinozaki of Eviction Intervention Services
Dina Levy of the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board
Amy Chan of Tenants & Neighbors.

It's great to see what activism can accomplish!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Concerned about our buses?

The MTA intends to raise our transportation fares in 2009, AND to make deep and probably irrevocable cuts in service to our neighborhood, including
  • the complete elimination of the M10 bus line
  • elimination of overnight service on M104 and M96, and
  • decreased service on west side subway lines.
Click here for a fuller list of proposed cuts.

Come to a STATE SENATE HEARING on these cuts
Thursday, February 19th
3 PM
at the State Office Building, 163 W. 125th St., 8th Floor
hosted by State Senators Bill Perkins and Martin Malave Dilan.
Click on the link for more information and to sign up to testify.

Come to a Budget & Legislative Forum at Goddard-Riverside Community Center
Wednesday, February 25th
2-4 PM
593 Columbus Ave


Sign a petition. Many neighbors have just signed a petition addressed to our New York State legislators, asking them to increase funding to the MTA so as to minimize fare increases and eliminate proposed service cuts.

PETITION

To: Our New York State Legislators:

We community stakeholders of the Upper West Side, Morningside Heights, Harlem, and nearby neighborhoods, call upon you to vote in favor of the Ravitch Commission recommendations, so that the MTA will not be forced into dramatically raising our bus and subway fares, while at
the same time eliminating our M10 bus line entirely, eliminating overnight service on our M96 and M104 bus lines, reducing service on our 1, B, and C subway lines, and raising fares for Access-A-Ride users.

Seniors, disabled persons, and working people of our community depend upon dependable and affordable bus, subway, and Access-A-Ride service as their lifeline. We are counting on you, our elected leaders, to preserve our public transportation now.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

To sign on, click the link below.

http://www.petitiononline.com/cash4mta/petition.html

Credit goes to Cynthia Doty (District Leader for Three Parks Democrats), Paul Bunten (the Park West Village neighbor who founded Westsiders for Public Participation concerning the construction), and Cathy Unsino, a disability rights activist, for working on this issue and developing and publicizing the petition.

Our elected officials have added their voices to our petition (below) with their own letter:

Letter from Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito, Assembly Member
Daniel O'Donnell, State Senator Bill Perkins, and Congressman Charles
Rangel:

February 9, 2009

Mr. Howard H. Roberts, President
MTA/ New York City Transit
2 Broadway, New York, NY 10004

Dear Mr. Roberts:

As elected officials representing the vast majority of constituents
who ride the M10 bus, we write to officially voice our steadfast
disagreement with MTA's intent to eliminate this transportation
option. This bus provides local service between Harlem and Penn
Station, and is to our knowledge, the only bus line that runs along
Central Park West.

This elimination would adversely impact many of our constituents; in
particular the elderly, the school-age youth who ride the M10 on a
daily basis, and the disabled. New Yorkers fought long and hard to
gain accessibility on buses for the disabled, as not all train
stations [are equipped] to serve this population. This elimination
would seriously set back the progress made in service to this
vulnerable population; and directly impacts their quality of life and
that of our senior.

As today's statistics support, the public's need for buses and trains
keeps growing. In the past fifteen years bus ridership has increased
by 64 percent. The decision to diminish service is both contrary to
these facts, and in keeping up with a growing City population.

While recognizing that these are challenging economic times, your
decision to completely eliminate this bus route as a means of cutting
cost is seen as yet another attempt to close a monetary gap on the
backs of the disenfranchised. The majority of the riders this
decision disproportionately targets and low and moderate income New
Yorkers; and we simply cannot allow this to happen.

Whatever factors MTA weighs in when making this decision, we trust
that with the mounting outcry from the many riders impacted and their
supporters, that MTA will reconsider this injurious decision. We
welcome the opportunity to discuss this serious matter further.

Cordially,

Melissa Mark Viverito, Council Member, District 8
Daniel O'Donnell, Assembly Member
Bill Perkins, Senator
Charles B. Rangel, Congressman

cc:
Speaker Shelly Silver
Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith
Helen Rosenthal, Chairperson / Community Board 7
Patricia Jones, Chairperson / Community Board 9
Hon. Franc Perry, Chairperson / Community Board 10

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Landlords take next legal step in court

The owners of the 16 buildings in the Highbridge House case (including our building) responded to the court giving them 10 days to file a Motion for Summary Judgment by this week - and filed it on February 5, 2009.

This motion claims that the court should declare invalid the DHCR regulations adopted in November 2007. Those regulations say that just leaving Mitchell-Lama is not a "unique or peculiar circumstance" justifying an increase in the starting rent stabilized rents.

Gluck's lawyer took the opportunity to add the landlords' arguments as to why the judge who now has the case, Justice Alice Schlesinger, should have recused herself (stepped back from the case). The judge had found those arguments unconvincing and denied the landlords' motion for recusal:

The judge's law secretary once worked for the law firm that represents our tenants association, and once wrote a single letter on behalf of one of the other tenant associations involved in this case. That letter concerned when the building would leave Mitchell-Lama, and had nothing to do with "unique or peculiar circumstances." The judge noted that she - and not her law secretary - made the decisions in her courtroom.

The motion is now set to be argued on April 13, 2009.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

State Assembly Passes Pro-Tenant Bills - Now Up to State Senate

On February 2, 2009, the NYS Assembly passed 10 pro-tenant bills (not including the needed Stewart-Cousins bill).

The most prominent bill is the repeal of vacancy decontrol. That decontrol has been a serious motive for landlords to try to oust tenants from rent regulated apartment.


Below are some of the bills that may affect us. The summary of most of the bills comes from the Real Rent Reform Campaign.




MITCHELL-LAMA and “UNIQUE or PECULIAR”

A 857 Barring “Unique or Peculiar” Increases for Pre-1973 Mitchell-Lamas That Enter Rent Stabilization After This Bill Becomes Law - Sponsored by Bing, Lopez V, Greene, Millman, Markey, Rosenthal, Benedetto, Wright, Camara, Espaillat, Benjamin, Pheffer, Titone, Jeffries, Maisel, Lancman, O’Donnell, Dinowitz, Kavanagh, Rivera P, Titus, Cymbrowitz, Spano, Powell


This bill will protect the thousands of households in pre-1974 buildings that leave the Mitchell-Lama program and enter into the rent stabilization system. A provision of the rent laws allowing landlords to apply for an extraordinary rent increase due to “unique or peculiar circumstances” has been misused as landlords have sought large rent increases. This bill exempts former Mitchell-Lamas from this provision, establishing the last rent charged (including surcharges) under Mitchell-Lama as the initial legal regulated rent. This bill is not retroactive although it will probably protect us or other tenants in 24 buildings with pending “unique or peculiar” applications – including the 16 buildings currently in court on the matter. We need the Stewart-Cousins bill.*

------------------

*If you're interested in getting the Stewart-Cousins bill passed, come to P.I.E. Campaign Strategy Session on Monday, February 9th at the Community Service Society, 102 E. 22nd St. (Take 2, N or Wtrain to 23rd St.)

6 PM - refreshments and networking

7 PM - workshops

---------------------

A 1687 Putting post-1973 buildings leaving Section 8 into rent stabilization without “U or P” increases. - Sponsored by Lopez V, Silver, Bing, O’Donnell, Perry, Ortiz, Spano, Powell, Wright, Kavanagh [This does not affect our building, which was built before 1974.]


This bill allows post-1973 buildings in New York City and the three suburban counties of Nassau, Rockland and Westchester with project-based rental assistance under the federal Section 8 program to become subject to the NYC Rent Stabilization Law or the Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1974. The bill further bars landlords from applying for rent increases based on unique or peculiar circumstances. The same protections are needed for post-1973 Mitchell-Lama rental buildings. The bill passed 103 to 41. (There are 109 Democrats and 44 Republicans in the State Assembly.)


RENT STABILIZATION

A. 2005 - Repeal Vacancy Decontrol - Sponsored by Rosenthal, Silver, Brennan, Lopez V, Lentol, Wright, Diaz, Jeffries, Bing, Latimer, Camara, Brook-Krasny, Peralta, Boyland, Greene, Kellner, Lancman, Schimel, Maisel, Kavanagh, Gottfried, Dinowitz, Millman, Mayersohn, Powell, Lavine, Colton, Nolan, O’Donnell, Titus, Farrell, Ortiz, Espaillat, Benedetto, Hooper, Jacobs, Robinson, Rivera N, Zebrowski – Multi-sponsored by Benjamin, Bradley, Brodsky, Cook, Glick, Jaffee, Markey, Meng, Peoples, Perry, Pheffer, Pretlow, Rivera J, Spano, Weisenberg


This bill is the single most important step the Legislature can take to reverse the loss of our dwindling affordable rental housing stock in the downstate metropolitan region. A2005 repeals vacancy decontrol as it applies to New York City and the suburban counties of Nassau, Westchester and Rockland, for both rent-controlled and rent-stabilized apartments. The bill also re-regulates at least some of the units that have been decontrolled. This bill passed 91 to 52.


A.860 - High Income Decontrol Raised to $2700 Rent and $250,000 Annual Income. Sponsored by Bing, Lopez V, Glick, Peralta, Millman, Rosenthal, Kavanagh, Dinowitz, O’Donnell, Colton, Maisel, Wright, Titus, Ortiz, Powell


It is reasonable to adjust the rent and income thresholds for high income rent decontrol (often referred to inaccurately as “luxury” decontrol). We propose that in addition to the reasonable adjustments contained in this bill, an income threshold based on household size be adopted, and that elderly tenants and tenants with disabilities be exempted as promised by former Governor George Pataki. We also suggest that this provision should be repealed outright.


A. 1686 - Landlords' Vacancy Bonus Reduced from 20% to 10% Maximum - Sponsored by Lopez V, Gottfried, Rosenthal, Kavanagh, Wright, O’Donnell, Ortiz, Powell


This bill reduces the statutory vacancy bonus enacted in 1997 from a maximum of 20 percent for a two-year lease to a maximum of 10 percent, and limits collection of the bonus to once in any calendar year. This is a step in the right direction. The statutory vacancy bonus has been quite destructive. The bill should be amended to reduce the bonus to 5 percent, and to eliminate the additional rent increase on top of the bonus (six-tenths of one percent per year if it has been eight years or longer since the last vacancy increase). An alternative would be to repeal the statutory vacancy bonus entirely, and to give the power to impose a vacancy allowance to the New York City and suburban rent boards, as contained in the Rent Board Reform Act of 2008 as introduced by Senator Duane and Assembly Member Latimer. If there is to be a statutory vacancy bonus of any amount, language should then be added to state law to make it clear that the local boards do not have the power to impose additional vacancy allowances on top of the statutory vacancy bonus, as both the Westchester and Nassau ounty boards have done.


A. 1928 - MCI SUrcharges Exprie When Cost Paid. Sponsored by O’Donnell, Lopez V, Silver, Glick, Ortiz, Gottfried, Kavanagh, Rosenthal, Farrell, Perry, Pheffer, Spano, Powell, Titus


This bill makes rent increases for Major Capital Improvements a temporary surcharge, so that when the tenant has paid off the entire cost of the improvement after seven years, the surcharge expires. This is a long overdue bill, and basic justice.


Preferential Rent Correction - Sponsored by Jeffries


This bill corrects a late-night change that was inserted into the rent laws in June 2003, which allows landlords to disregard a “preferential” rent (a rent charged that is lower than the legal regulated rent) when renewing a lease under the Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1974 or the NYC Rent Stabilization Law of 1969. Prior to this change, landlords were allowed to jump back up to the legal rent upon vacancy, but were required to renew based on the lower preferential rent. Many tenants have been hit with huge rent increases as a result, forcing them to vacate and thereby allowing the landlord to collect another 20 percent statutory vacancy bonus. Some landlords falsely register a higher rent than the legal rent with the NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal, then wait before jumping back to the legal rent, whereupon the tenant finds herself precluded from challenging an illegal rent because of the four-year rule (this argues for legislation restoring the four-year rule to its pre-1997 status). According to DHCR, there are currently 150,000 stabilized units with preferential rents.


REPEAL THE URSTADT LAW
(GET NYC CONTROL OVER NYC RENTS)

A 1688 Repealing the Urstadt Law- Sponsored by Lopez V, Silver, Wright, Dinowitz, Latimer, Perry, Kavanagh, Boyland, Kellner, Lancman, Millman, O’Donnell, Pheffer, Titus, Ortiz, Spano, Powell

This bill repeals the so-called Urstadt Law of 1971, named for Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s housing commissioner Charles J. Urstadt, and by doing so restores full home rule powers over rent and eviction laws to the New York City Council and Mayor. This bill is long overdue and should be enacted promptly.


HARASSMENT OF TENANTS

A 2002 - Raises Penalties for Tenant Harassment - Sponsored by Silver, Lopez V, Jeffries, Jacobs, Kellner, Bing, Rosenthal, O’Donnell, Farrell, Wright, Rivera N


This long-overdue bill increases civil penalties for tenant harassment by landlords and for violating an order of the state housing commissioner. Too many bad landlords treat such fines as the cost of doing business.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Crain's New York on Larry Gluck

Click here to read an article on Larry Gluck by Theresa Agovino in Crain's New York Business. You can provide a comment at the end of the article.