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 . . .

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).

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.

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.

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.

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