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!

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