Thursday, April 30, 2009

Supporting affordable housing & individual causes

I. HELP REPEAL VACANCY DECONTROL AND KEEP APARTMENTS AFFORDABLE IN OUR BUILDING AND THROUGHOUT THE STATE.

Michael McKee of Tenants PAC writes:

Eight weeks remaining in the legislative session!
Eight weeks left to pressure recalcitrant State Senators.
Eight weeks left to win repeal of vacancy decontrol and other pro-tenant changes [including the Stewart-Cousins bill]

The State Legislature will recess for the year on Monday, June 22 – eight weeks from today.

YOUR help is needed NOW to make sure that the tenant movement wins significant pro-tenant changes in Albany, starting with repeal of vacancy decontrol, and:

► adequate rent protections for Mitchell-Lama and Section 8 tenants (S.3326!)

► reform of the Major Capital Improvement system

► reform of the 1/40th Individual Apartment Improvement system

► closing of the owner use eviction loophole

► reduction of the 20 percent statutory vacancy bonus

► closing of the preferential rent loophole

► reform of the NYC and suburban rent boards

► home rule.

It is going to take a real effort by tenants like you, and all tenant supporters, for us to win. We are up against a powerful adversary: the New York City real estate lobby, whose lobbyists are walking around Albany with their checkbooks open.

Ask yourself: how much do I want to win pro-tenant reforms to our weakened rent laws? Then ask yourself: what am I prepared to do in the next eight weeks to help the tenant movement win?

Most of the bills we are supporting have already passed the State Assembly, but are stuck in the State Senate where we do not have adequate votes to pass them. On the most important and controversial bill, repeal of vacancy decontrol (S2237-A), we are close, very close – but we do not yet have the 32 votes necessary to pass it.

How you can help:

(1) Volunteer for phone banking

(2) Volunteer for door knocking and street canvassing

(3) Make a contribution.


PHONE BANKING
We are phoning voters who live in rent-stabilized or rent-controlled apartments in targeted State Senate districts represented by State Senators who are not supporting the
tenant agenda (see list of non-supportive Senators below).

Tenants PAC is sponsoring a nightly phone bank, Mondays through Thursdays, from 5:30 to 8:30 pm at our office at 11 Park Place in lower Manhattan (complete address below). To volunteer or for more information: (212) 577-7001 or action@tenantspac.org.

There are other phone banks operating at different locations: one in Brooklyn, and several in Manhattan: one on the Lower East Side, two in midtown, and one on the Upper West Side. To volunteer or for more information: (212) 577-7001 or action@tenantspac.org.


DOOR KNOCKING

Tenants are going to make several trips to targeted State Senate districts in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Westchester County and Nassau County. The targeted districts are those with significant numbers of rent-regulated voters that are represented by State Senators who are not supporting the tenant agenda (see list of non-supportive Senators below). We will distribute literature on the streets and in apartment buildings, urging tenant voters to put pressure on their state senators to support our legislative agenda. To volunteer or for more information: (212) 577-7001 or action@tenantspac.org.


MAKE A CONTRIBUTION

We urgently need funds to pay for the costs of running a major legislative campaign: our two biggest expenses are for printing, and buses and vans to Albany (at this point we are sending small groups of tenants to Albany every day the Legislature is in session).

Send a check to one or more of the following organizations:

Tenants PAC
11 Park Place, Suite 814
New York NY 10007
(Make check payable to Tenants PAC, or donate on line)

Housing Here and Now
339 Lafayette Street, 3d Floor
New York NY 10012
(Make check payable to Housing Here and Now)

Met Council on Housing
339 Lafayette Street, 3d Floor
New York NY 10012
(Make check payable to Met Council on Housing or donate on line)

NYS Tenants & Neighbors Coalition
236 West 27th Street, 4th Floor
New York NY 10001
(Make check payable to Tenants & Neighbors or donate on line)


State Senators who should, but do not, support the tenant agenda:

(1) Craig Johnson (Democrat)
7th State Senate District, NW Nassau County
(Great Neck, Port Washington, Floral Park, Bellerose, Mineola, Carle Place)

(2) Martin Malave Dilan (Democrat)
17th State Senate District, Brooklyn
(Williamsburg, East Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bushwick, Clinton Hill,
Wyckoff Heights, Broadway Junction, Highland Park, Cypress Hills)


(3) Martin Golden (Republican)
22nd State Senate District, Brooklyn
(Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Gravesend, Ocean
Parkway South, Sheepshead Bay, Gerritson Beach)

(4) Diane Savino (Democrat)
23rd State Senate District, Brooklyn/Staten Island
(Sunset Park, Bay Ridge, Coney Island, Grasmere, Rosebank, Grymes
Hill, Clifton, Stapleton, New Brighton, Livingston, Port Richmond)

(5) Carl Kruger (Democrat)
27th State Senate District, Brooklyn
(Midwood, Gravesend, Flatlands, Sheepshead Bay, Ocean Parkway, Mapleton)

(6) Pedro Espada (Democrat)
33rd State Senate District, Bronx
(Tremont, East Tremont, Kingsbridge, Kingsbridge Heights, University
Heights, Fordham, Mount Hope, Norwood, Van Cortlandt Village, Bedford
Park)

(7) Jeffrey Klein (Democrat)
34th State Senate District, Bronx/Westchester County
(Throgs Neck, Westchester Square, Morris Park, Pelham Parkway,
Eastchester-Bronx, New Rochelle, Mount Vernon,
Eastchester-Westchester, Yonkers, North Riverdale, Woodlawn, Norwood,
Belmont Park)

If you know people in their districts, please ask them to call their senator!

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Michael McKee, Treasurer
Tenants Political Action Committee
11 Park Place, Suite 814
New York NY 10007
(212) 577-7001
mmckee@tenantspac.org
____________________________

II. Tenant Luciane de Andrade of Apt. 9D will be participating in the Vision Walk to raise support for the Foundation Fighting Blindness.

Friday, April 24, 2009

City Council Hearing on Predatory Equity


On Monday, April 27, 2009, the City Council held a hearing on Predatory Equity - including about our landlord, Laurence Gluck of Stellar Management.


Predatory Equity occurs when investors buy affordable buildings knowing that what all the tenants pay together (the "rent roll") cannot support their investment or pay the high returns they expect. The only ways to get that money are to
  • oust rent regulated tenants (through eviction, bribes, and harassment)
  • sell or refinance the building immediately for more money (no longer possible in this market) - as Gluck did for the Riverton in Harlem, or
  • let the building maintenance and infrastructure go to seed.
The City Council hearing was packed to the rafters, as tenants from every borough looked through the Predatory Equity Survival Guide - a terrific, easy-to-understand pamphlet.

Click on the publication below for newspaper reports on the hearing:

The New York Post, Foreclosing in on 90,000 Apartments

The New York Times, Housing & Economy

The Indypendent
, Foreclosures Could Loom for Rent-Regulated Buildings.

For more information on this hearing, click here.

Report on the NYS Assembly Hearing

What a turnout at the April 23rd NYS Assembly Hearing on Mitchell-Lama laws! This building did itself proud. We had Rosa & Paul Delgado, Flora Francis, Barbara Geller, Richard Jordan, Gregory Murray, Eve Posen, and possibly more (Denise Rivera was supposed to have come after Sue left at 3:15).

Mitchell-Lama tenants and co-op residents packed the NYS Assembly's Housing Committee hearing on Mitchell-Lamas.

Click here for some of the testimony given. The first set concern rentals; the last one is about co-ops.

Amy Chan of Tenants & Neighbors and the P.I.E. Coalition brought bright stickers for tenants to wear saying "S.3326" - the number of the Stewart-Cousins bill. (That's the bill that puts all buildings leaving Mitchell-Lama into rent stabilization without "unique or peculiar" increases, without regard to when they were built, and without regard to when they were or will be taken out of the program.)

More than 50 tenants - including seven from our building - came in support of the bill, including its Assembly companion bill, newly-introduced by Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal.

Chairman Vito Lopez seemed a bit nonplussed at the complete unity: all the tenants supported the same bill, as well as A.6706, the moratorium of all buy-outs (including co-op privatization) until 2011. In contrast to past hearings, he noted that contracts and arrangements of all sorts are routinely changed by the Legislature: that's what legislatures do. (Since that had been a basis for his earlier concerns about the Stewart-Cousins bill, that may be of some help to tenants now.)

The meeting was somewhat overwhelmed by roughly 15 residents of East Midtown Plaza Co-op who all spoke supporting privatization. (They were joined by two members of the Cadman Towers Co-op board) They described their "investment" in their Mitchell-Lama co-op apartments as equity, and noted the things they could do if their investments represented the current market value of the apartments. As pointed out by Assembly Member Michael Benjamin - and in the excellent testimony of Jeanne Poindexter, a resident of the same development who opposes privatization, Mitchell-Lamas were built to provide affordable housing, not to provide equity to private residents. In fact the "deal" - or the contract - stated that they could not sell their apartments for more than they paid for them. And as Bernie Cylich noted, the return on their "investment" was low-cost housing, including low maintenance costs made possible by tax abatements and low-interest mortgages over decades.

By about 3:15 PM, there were many tenants and a few cooperators left to testify, but attendance was dwindling.

Chairman Lopez kept repeating the need to listen to both sides of the story - but evidently there was no other side to support for S.3326.

Tenants have to keep up the pressure to make that bill a reality. Our building is part of the P.I.E. Campaign, so we're working hard on it. If you want to participate, contact Sue.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

2 Important Meetings on Rent Stabilization and Mitchell-Lama

(1) Join our elected officials at a rally / town hall meeting to REPEAL VACANCY DECONTROL.

That is the law that lets landlords take vacant apartments out of rent stabilization if they claim to have made improvements.

  • Wednesday, April 22nd
  • 7 - 9 PM
  • Church for All Nations, 417 W. 47th St., between 9th & 10th Aves.

(2) Come testify - or just sit there and be counted - at the NYS Assembly Housing Committee's hearing on Mitchell-Lama laws. We have to make Chairman Vito Lopez enthusiastic about the Stewart-Cousins bill, S.3326.

It is the ONLY bill that is retroactive, and therefore would protect us from "unique or peculiar" increases - and cut our legal bills!

  • Thursday, April 23rd
  • 11:30 AM through about 5:30 PM (you do not have to be there all day!)
  • 250 Broadway, 19th Floor, in the Assembly Hearing Room
Bring a photo ID to get into the building.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Summary of the April 15, 2009 General Tenants Meeting

There was a great turnout - despite it being the last night of Passover and during a school holiday - and two neighbors came from other buildings. We began with an . . .

ANNOUNCEMENT:
Come testify - or just sit down and be counted - at the

NYS Assembly Housing Committee's Mitchell-Lama subcommittee hearing on
Thursday, April 23rd at 11:30 AM

Sue Susman is driving down at 10:30, so contact her - or just come down yourself. Bring ID in order to be admitted to 250 Broadway, Room 1923 (19th floor Assembly Hearing Room).




CONDOLENCES:
The meeting began with a moment of silence for Agnes Terkeltaub, Joseph Rios and Charles Arndt, who passed away since the last meeting.



WHO GETS THE APARTMENT IF SOMEONE DIES: As many long-time tenants in our building pass away or move to nursing homes, be aware of who is entitled to get the apartment. The tenant on the lease is called the "primary" or "named" tenant. The law says that someone who has been living in a family (or family-like) relationship with the tenant on the lease for at least 2 years just before the named tenant vacates the apartment (by moving out, moving to a nursing home, or dying) may "succeed to" (take over) the lease in her or his own name.
Getting the lease in the remaining person's easier if he or she is the spouse, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, sister or brother of the named tenant. (Nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and other "significant others" must go to some length to prove that they have always acted as family, shared their bank accounts, etc.). And make sure that you and your spouse are both on the lease. In a rent stabilized apartment, the landlord must put both spouses on the lease on request, with a copy of the marriage certificate, under 9 NYCRR 2522.5(g).

If the landlord tells you that you may not stay in the apartment if the named tenant dies, please do not give up before consulting a member of the Executive Committee or an attorney.

ELECTION: Congratulations to Richard "Duke" Jordan. Richard was elected to fill the vacancy on the Board until the next general election. There were 34 votes for him (and one write-in vote for Mary Martin - who is already on the board). Board members will be meeting on Wednesday, May 27th at 8 PM in the Community Room.

FINANCIAL REPORT: Treasurer Joan Browne gave the financial report, and announced that individual reports for each tenant will be distributed shortly. Those reports will be based on contributions before April 15th. Floor captains should make sure to turn in all contributions to Joan in 12F as soon as possible after getting them. Please contribute:
  • $10/apartment for annual tenant dues ($25 for the first year)
  • $100/apartment for legal fund contributions this year.

SECURITY & OTHER BUILDING ISSUES:
We have a new Building Issues committee:
Prudence Opperman, Na'ava Ades, Sheila F/, Cynthia H. , Marlene M, Dan B. and Dawn S. If you are interested in participating or have an issue you want raised, please contact Prue.

This committee will deal with many issues, including:

  • Safety and good neighborliness: Please be careful not to throw (or let drop) cigarettes or other refuse from your balcony or bedroom windows; the wind carries them to other people's balconies, and lit cigarettes have been known to spark fires on things or people !
  • Side doors: They are for exit only. Those with difficulty walking may get a key from the super to use them for entry - but please don't hold them open for others: there is no camera or other security there.
  • Front doors: Make sure they are closed behind you, whether you are going in or out.
  • Protect yourself from losing your pet or your apartment: Clean up after your dog - especially for the terrace in front of the building!


  • The laundry machines are more expensive and less efficient.

GARAGE: Long-time garage tenants won the right to keep their spaces rent stabilized. Those who applied to get into the garage while we were still in Mitchell-Lama but were illegally not admitted (the book in which they wrote their names mysteriously disappeared the minute we left Mitchell-Lama) could bring a lawsuit, and will have to contribute money if interested in pursuing this. Please contact Steve Koulish for details.

GUEST SPEAKER: TOM WATERS
A housing analyst for the Community Service Society, Tom clearly explained how the current economy affects our landlord and ourselves. He noted that Larry Gluck's situation is a smaller version of what has happened in the larger economy:
  • People bought houses or buildings on the premise that they would keep increasing in value.
  • When the buildings stopped increasing in value (because their cost far exceeded their actual worth), the owners were in trouble - and so were (are) the banks that lent to them.
When Larry Gluck bought the Riverton development in Harlem for about $125 million, he assumed the price would keep going up. So did the banks with whom he and his partner refinanced: they took out mortgages for another $250 million. With that, they repaid the first $125 million, took about $70 million for themselves, and likely assumed that they could either refinance, sell the property, or replace many of the rent-stabilized tenants with free market tenants. (Those were the only ways to repay the $250 million.)

Now they are in foreclosure, the property is not being maintained as well, and tenants fear what will happen to them.

This is an example of "predatory equity" - what happens when those expecting large returns on their money invest in buildings whose rental income cannot repay that investment. The only possibilities are to oust the regulated tenants in order to raise the rent, to immediately sell or refinance the building, or to seriously reduce maintenance.

Tom and other tenant advocates (through the Partnership for Affordable Housing) are urging the federal government to include tenant protection when a landlord is facing foreclosure. The governing is giving money to banks under the Public-Private Investment Program (PPIP). One scenario is that banks would cut the debt building owners owe. While this may not please tenants, it could protect them, and might minimize resistance to other Obama programs.

Tom emphasized the importance of testifying - or at least being present - at the April 23rd NYS Assembly hearing on Mitchell-Lama housing issues. Unless tenants stand up and be counted, the housing committee will not support the Stewart-Cousins bill, S.3326 and the moratorium on all Mitchell-Lama buyouts, S. 2171/A.6706.

Tom prepared a slide show, which we hope to link to this site shortly.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

General Tenants Meeting - Wed., April 15th at 8 PM

Come to our GENERAL TENANTS MEETING
April 15th
8 PM
in the Community Room




  • Tom Waters will speak and answer questions on how today's economic and political scene affects our building and others like it.
  • We will vote to fill a Board vacancy until the next general tenants election. So far the only candidate is Richard Jordan. If you are interested in running, please contact someone on the Executive Committee (Sue, Na'ava, Joan, Steve, and Prudence).
  • Discuss building issues.


PLEASE BRING A CHAIR: A few tenants in neighboring buildings may join us, so our chair shortage will be more serious.

________________

*Tom Waters is a Housing Policy Analyst at the Community Service Society, where he does research, advocacy, and coalition-building on affordable housing policy., including for Mitchell-Lama and project-based Section 8 through the P.I.E. Campaign and the Partnership for Affordable Housing. His published works include the “Closing the Door” report series on the state of privately-owned subsidized housing in New York.