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

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