Thursday, June 25, 2009

Send a NEW e-mail to Gov. Paterson NOW.

The only chance for the only retroactive Mitchell-Lama bill is if Governor Paterson calls an extraordinary session of both houses to consider S.3326-A/ A.4359-A.

Please e-mail the letter below to the 4 addressees in the Governor's office:

June 25, 2009

Governor David A. Paterson
Executive Chamber
Albany, New York 12224

Dear Governor Paterson:

I urge you to call both the State Senate and the State Assembly into extraordinary session to take up S3326 (Stewart-Cousins, et al.)/A4359-A (Pretlow et al.) This bill puts into rent stabilization all buildings that will leave or that have already left the Mitchell-Lama or project-based Section 8 program, regardless of when constructed, and closes the “unique or peculiar circumstances” loophole. It would set the rent for post-1973 buildings at the lawful rent for January 2007 (as does the vacancy decontrol bill).

This is the ONLY bill that would protect tenants in buildings already out of Mitchell-Lama, and would

  • Make affordable some 10,900 apartments in post-1973 buildings many of whose tenants are being evicted and displaced, with thousands more fighting for their homes, and

  • Keep affordable 7,215 apartments in pre-1974 buildings whose tenants are facing “unique or peculiar” increases as the landlords drag yet another case against DHCR through the courts.

These tenants cannot wait.

You know us; you know the issue. We count on you to save our homes.

Thank you.

Very truly yours,

[Your Name]

50 West 97th St.

New York, NY 10025

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rent Guidelines Board votes increases

For lease renewals whose starting date is any time from Oct. 1, 2009 through Sept. 30, 2010, the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) has ordered an increase of
  • 3% for a 1-year lease renewal, and
  • 6% for a 2-year lease renewal.
The RGB provided higher "alternative" increases for those who have lived in their rent stabilized apartment for 6 years or more - but our building has not been rent stabilized for 6 years yet, so the "alternative" does not apply to anyone in this building.

If you recently renewed your lease and it will not expire before Oct. 1, 2009 and Sept. 30, 2010, this does not concern you.

E-mail or Fax Gov. Paterson: Put Tenant Bills on Special Session Agenda!

If you have not yet done so, please email Governor David A. Paterson at once to urge that he include tenant bills on the agenda of the SECOND extraordinary session (often referred to as a special session) that the Governor plans to convene TOMORROW, Wednesday, June 24. At the moment none of our bills are on the agenda, although many legislators are pressing the Governor to include them.

The Governor has convened an extraordinary session for today at 3:00 pm, and reportedly plans to call another extraordinary session tomorrow. It very well may be that the only way we can get our bills to the floor of the Senate is on the agenda of a special session, when the agenda is set by the Governor.

The three email addresses below are for Larry Schwartz, secretary to the Governor (in effect, the chief of staff); Peter Kiernan, counsel; and Haley Plourde-Cole, assistant to Larry Schwartz.

If you have trouble getting your emails to go through, you can

  • fax a letter to the Governor at (518) 473-7619, ATTN Larry Schwartz and Peter Kiernan, or
  • phone the Governor at (518) 474-4246.

Use the letter below as a guide, but use your own words if possible.

In the subject line of your email, say something like: Special session must include tenant bills.

DON’T DELAY. No time for snail mail – so use email.


June 21, 2009

Governor David A. Paterson
Executive Chamber
Albany, New York 12224

Dear Governor Paterson:

The downstate region and our building cannot wait until 2010 or later while we lose tens of thousands of additional affordable homes for lack of legislative action. New York City and suburban counties have already lost 200,000 to 300,000 affordable apartments and we cannot afford to lose more.

In my building, tenants are fighting "unique or peculiar" increases sought by our landlords - the same landlords now in court challenging helpful DHCR regulations. We are spending thousands of dollars in legal bills to save our homes.

So I urge that in any extraordinary session that you call, you include the following essential bills on the agenda:

► S2237-A (Stewart-Cousins, et al.)/A2005 (Rosenthal et al.) This bill repeals vacancy decontrol and re-regulates most apartments that have been deregulated due to high rent vacancy decontrol during the last 15 years. (Passed Assembly)

► S3326 (Stewart-Cousins, et al.)/A4359-A (Pretlow et al.) This bill puts into rent stabilization all buildings that will leave or that have already left the Mitchell-Lama or project-based Section 8 program, regardless of when constructed, and closes the “unique or peculiar circumstances” loophole.

► S745-A (Krueger et al/A1928 (O’Donnell et al.) This bill makes rent increases for Major Capital Improvement rent increases temporary surcharges. (Passed Assembly)

Failure to enact these bills this year would make the already severe housing crisis in downstate New York far worse. There are many other important bills, but these three will stop the bleeding.

Please take this necessary step to reverse the phaseout of our rent and eviction protection laws, preserve the remaining affordable rental housing we have, and protect tenants from eviction.


50 West 97th St.

New York, NY 10025

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Summary of June 10 General Tenants Meeting


A Republican coup in the State Senate may kill or delay the laws that we need.
  • The Stewart-Cousins / Pretlow bill, S.3326 / A.4359, would put current & former Mitchell-Lamas into rent stabilization without "unique or peculiar" increases and without regard to the year they were built.
  • The bill to repeal vacancy decontrol would put back into rent stabilization all apartments de-regulated in this building (and elsewhere in NYC) from Jan. 1, 2007 on when the rents on those vacant apartments was raised to $2000 or more.
At this writing, a court has refused to step in to stop State Senator Pedro Espada from assuming the presidency of the Senate while the two side negotiate. Senators Espada and Monserrate, both nominally Democrats, switched their support to the Republicans after the Democrats refused give Espada the $2 million he demanded for his political club. Billionaire Tom Golisano is reportedly behind this switch. Monserrate, responding to constituent pressure, has now switched back, leaving the Senate in a 31-31 tie. The Republicans have rejected a 50-50 power-sharing proposal, and it is not clear what, if any, work will actually get done.

LAWSUIT in the Highbridge House /Columbus 95 "unique or peculiar" case

Given the chaos in the state legislature, this suit is more important than ever. At the June 3rd hearing, Justice Alice Schlesinger first heard the landlords argue that the DHCR regulation (that just leaving Mitchell-Lama is not a "unique or peculiar" circumstance justifying a rent increase.)

The judge noted that the state's highest court decision in the Westgate case (KSLM-Columbus Apts. v. DHCR) gave landlords the right to apply for a "U or P" increase, but not the right to get one. That is up to DHCR .

At the hearing, DHCR argued that it had the authority to either decide each individual application or to issue a policy regulation, and it chose to do the latter, as permitted by the Court of Appeals. For more details, click here, or check out a chart of the case to date.

We do not know when the judge will issue her decision.


We need ZERO increases this year, given the economy and the reduced price of heating oil (Even City Council Speaker Christine Quinn urged that in the NY Daily News. ) Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Assembly Member Deborah Glick, among others, have testified calling for a rent freeze.

Tenants have to show up to make a difference. You don't have to speak, but if you want to, please check out the talking points.

Tenants were hijacked by the coup d'├ętat in Albany. We need to stand up in New York City.

The hearings are:

Monday, June 15 - PUBLIC TESTIMONY
4-10 PM
Main Theatre of Hostos Community College / CUNY
450 Grand Concourse, Bronx

Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - PUBLIC TESTIMONY 10 AM - 6 PM (There is some talk about extending the Wednesday hearing into the evening, so that members of the public can testify after work)
The Great Hall at Cooper Union (basement)
7 East 7th Street at corner of 3rd Ave.

FINAL VOTE - No testimony Tuesday, June 23, 2009 5:30 - 9:30 PM
The Great Hall at Cooper Union (basement)
7 East 7th Street at corner of 3rd Ave.


We have a new building manager, Lu Pedraza, 212-4430, assisted by Basil Chapman. Their boss, Smajlje (pronounced "Smiley") Srdanovic, has taken an interest in the building (after the threat of a rent strike in another Stellar building). Lu and Smajlje are meeting with the tenants' association executive committee regularly. Smajlje is pictured at right:

Two issues that we are raising with them are:

(1) Lease Renewal Delays
- The law is that for rent stabilized apartments, the owner must give written notice of renewal by mail or personal delivery not more than 150 days and not less than 90 days before the existing lease expires, using a DHCR Renewal Lease form.

After the renewal offer is made, the tenant has 60 days to choose a lease term (one or two years), sign the lease, and return it to the owner. If the tenant does not accept the renewal lease offer within this 60-day period, the owner may refuse to renew the lease and may proceed in court after the expiration of the current lease to evict the tenant.

When a tenant signs the Renewal Lease Form and returns it to the owner, the owner must return the fully signed and dated copy to the tenant within 30 days. If Stellar does not return your lease to you within that period, call or e-mail Lu Pedraza and Jasmine Ferrer at Stellar's main office, 212-406-0030. If they still do not return your signed lease, contact the Executive Committee of the tenants' association, and then file DHCR Form RA-90, available here or if you call DHCR at 212-480-6238.

(2) Rent bill errors
Payments made after the 17th of the month will not be reflected in the next month's bill because of lag-time required for preparation of the bill.

If you have another type of error and get no satisfaction from writing to Stellar by certified mail, return receipt requested, with copies of your payment (such as checks) and your rent bills, please contact the Executive Committee of the tenants' association.

If the problem has to do with submetering, please contact Board members Maria Acevedo (5P, 212-866-6847) or Richard Jordan (4R, 212-866-1070). Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4


are now installed on the sides of the front steps. The east ramp railing will be supported by stronger bracers.

The concrete has been repaired on the west ramp.Stellar will provide benches for the lobby.

Smajlje says that the elevator ceilings cannot be raised to enable tenants to move out furniture that we moved in. Since that diminishes the service that we had before we entered rent stabilization, that fight may continue.

A wheelchair ramp will be installed inside the garage providing access to the east side elevators.

Stellar will replace the intercom system within 4 months. Because it is expensive and difficult to tear out and replace existing wiring, they will install a system that will ring on whatever local phone number you give Stellar. You may require call-waiting if you expect people to buzz the intercom while you are on the telephone (or using the phone for your computer). Smajlje agreed that Stellar would pay what he called "2 or 3 dollars" for call waiting for seniors and the disabled (those on SCRIE & DRIE and some others) by reducing their rent bills by that amount - but Prudence Opperman learned that it would cost roughly $7 to add call waiting under her plan. So we will raise this with Smajlje again.

For repairs, list what you need in the book at the guard's desk or call Stellar's local office, 212-222-4430, as you prefer. For major jobs like painting, call Stellar's office.

Stellar will install rooftop pigeon spikes over sections of the building where balconies stick out. Tenants report that tying plastic bags to the balcony railings has been unsuccessful in deterring pigeons. More seriously, tenants report pigeons roosting in or on air conditioners. If you observe that, please ask the building staff to install wire mesh or some other protection around your air conditioner.

Stellar will paint the Community Room. The tenants association will pay for 3 large ceiling fans, which Stellar will install. This should make the room cooler during warm moths, without the very loud noise of the one large exhaust fan already there.

The backyard is re-opened between 9 AM and dusk, and the benches will be repaired. The backyard is accessible through the Community Room. (You can always get out of the backyard through the side gates - but please don't let anyone in that way.) The backyard is also available to those renting the Community Room for a function until 11 PM - but never with amplified music since noise carries to all the apartments facing the back. We hope it will be a quiet spot for all tenants.

If you're interested in joining the gardening committee for the backyard, please contact Barbara Geller, 11T, 212-864-4085.

Stellar will provide a second blue recycling bin for each garbage room, and post a flyer (prepared by the "Security & Etiquette Committee" - now searching for a better name) reminding neighbors to rinse plastic, glass, aluminum & o ther metal before recycling, and to break down pizza boxes - all to minimize roach infestation.

Stellar will also provide the doormen an instruction sheet that will include keeping doors closed and locked - especially when they leave their post for even a minute - and to actively query those coming in behind tenants. Please remember to close doors behind you, and prop them open only for active deliveries or moving big objects in or out.


Since the committee was formed, some vandalism has lessened - including the dangerous, lit cigarettes floating from one balcony to the next. The committee will ccontinue to work on issues important to keeping this a respectful and pleasant community. Contact Prudence at 212-866-9436 if you have suggestions, or want to join the committee.

The meeting unanimously elected Sharon Davis to the board after Jesse Poppick resigned for lack of time. (Sharon had left the Board a while back.)

GARAGE: Would-be garage tenants who were here at the time we left Mitchell-Lama should contact Steve Koulish, 212-866-8280, about pursuing the lawsuit.

FINANCES: Treasurer Joan Browne explained that due to glitch in updating the contribution spreadsheet, some contributions for 2008 were deleted. Amended contribution sheets are being distributed to affected tenants. If you have a problem with the contributions statement you received, please contact Joan in Apt. 12F, 212-864-3612.

We're asking for
  • Dues for first-time members: $25 / apartment
  • Dues for all others: $10 / apartment
  • Legal Fund contributions for 2009: $100.
All contributions are gratefully accepted, and please get a receipt from Joan or from your floor captain.

Thank you!

The Executive Committee

Sue Susman, Joan Browne, Na'ava Ades, Steve Koulish, Prudence Opperman

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rally against Sen. Espada FRIDAY, JUNE 12 in the Bronx

Protest Senator Pedro Espada’s Betrayal of Tenants
Friday, June 12, 11:30 am
400 East Fordham Road, at Webster Ave.
In front of Senator Espada’s empty “District Office”

By joining with the Senate Republicans, Espada ensures defeat of important legislation to protect affordable housing in New York!

Why in the Bronx: Because he represents that district (although living in Mamaroneck), and Bronx tenants are especially likely to face serious challenges finding safe, decent, and affordable housing. But we all need the Stewart-Cousins / Pretlow bill that the Republicans and landlords oppose. And we all need the repeal of vacancy decontrol, which will re-regulate many of the apartments that have been de-regulated through vacancy decontrol - like the market-rate apartments in this building.

Recently, Bronx tenants and their allies had been hopeful that a Democratic controlled State Senate would pass important legislation that would help protect tenants and preserve affordable apartments.

This legislation would have been especially important in Senator Espada’s district, which has 77,000 rentregulated apartments and 4,400 Mitchell‐Lama apartments.

In handing the State Senate over to Republican Leadership, Pedro Espada has directly halted legislation that would have helped tenants in his district, and all over New York City.

This rally is sponsored by Housing Here & Now, the Mitchell-Lama P.I.E. Coalition, Latinos for Affordable Rent Coalition, North West Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, CASA – New Settlement (Community Association for Safe Apartments) and more groups.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Republican Coup in State Senate Jeopardizes Tenant Bills

Landlords said they were "pleasantly thrilled" (NY Daily News) when State Senators Pedro Espada (facing ethics charges) and Hiram Monserrate (facing criminal charges for domestic violence) threw their lot with the Republicans, upsetting the Democrats' 5-month-old control of the NYS Senate.


Money seems to have been the main issue.

According to Crain's New York,

[Former Senate Majority Leader Malcolm] Smith’s spokesman, Austin Shafran, said on the New York Post’s Fred Dicker’s radio show Tuesday morning that the Democratic leader’s refusal to approve Mr. Espada’s requests for funding was what drove the Bronx senator into the GOP’s arms. “He was trying to give $2 million to sham groups,” Mr. Shafran said.

The lawsuit that landlords brought to overturn the state housing agency's regulations is now even more important. Gluck and other landlords sued the Division of Housing & Community Renewal to overturn the November 2007 regulations that say that just leaving Mitchell-Lama is not a "unique or peculiar circumstance" justifying an increase in the starting stabilized rent.

Hear all about the June 3rd hearing at our tenants' association meeting this

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 10th at 8 PM in the Community Room.

Other items on the agenda are
  • our new building manager
  • what we've won so far through our DHCR complaint on reduction of building services
  • finances
  • Rent Guidelines Board hearings
  • and more!