Thursday, December 16, 2010

Summary of Nov. 17, 2010 General Tenants Meeting

The meeting began with State Senator Bill Perkins giving some general information about what he does and the legislature, and then focusing in on questions.  Sue noted that Sen. Perkins is one of the few senators who stood up for tenants when no one else would. 

Given the uncertainty of which party would control the State Senate at the time, he was unwilling to speculate about specifics. (He was confident that the Democrats would win all three disputed seats, but in fact only one went to the Democrats while two went the Republicans – with one of those still being contested.)

He urged that tenants be active in the coalition (the Real Rent Reform – or “R3” campaign) of tenant groups and that we tell our representatives loud and clear what we want and need.  He said he expected angry letters on his desk by January 1st from tenants – letters he could then show John Sampson (who would have been the Democratic majority leader had the Democrats held the majority).
And he said we should tell Governor-elect Cuomo what we need.

As a consequence, the tenant association has maintained its membership in the R3 Campaign (this year they required $500 dues, which our board approved in its December 8, 2010 meeting).   Steve Koulish has joined R3’s Legislative Committee and Sue Susman is on the Communications Committee. 

And part of the very first R3 action is to send holiday cards to Governor-elect Cuomo telling him what we need to make our New Year happy:
  1. Renewal of the rent regulation laws, which expire in June 2011.  (They are always renewed, but with anti-tenant people holding the State Senate, the laws may well be diluted further, in the landlords’ favor.)
  2. Repeal of vacancy decontrol (that lets owners take apartments out of rent regulation once they’re vacant and if the owner makes improvements to raise the rent to $2000 or more).  It could put market rate tenants back into rent stabilization, and
  3. Protection of tenants in former Mitchell-Lamas and Section 8 buildings from big rent increases.
(Check out the R3 Facebook page too!)

So tenants later arranged to gather in the lobby on Saturday, Dec. 18 and Sunday, Dec. 19  to share a little holiday spirit and collect holiday cards.

Steve Koulish then announced that we’ve won the submetering overcharge case.  Stellar has credited those tenants who already received DHCR orders resolving their cases.  Those who have not yet filed still have time.  If you had appliance surcharges under Mitchell-Lama that were rolled into your first rent stabilized rent, contact Sue for help putting the complaint together.  Your first step: get a copy of the tenant ledger from Stellar Management down at 70 West 93rd Street.  Then call Sue to set up an appointment.  Why pay more than you have to?

Since tenants got back hundreds and in some cases a few thousand dollars (those who paid more in appliance surcharges got back more), we urge that those tenants and others contribute $100 (each year) toward the legal fund that made it possible.

The Major Capital Improvement (MCI) application that Stellar filed is still pending.  Our lawyer filed his response in September- and we have not heard anything yet.  It may well be that there will be some increase, but we hope it will substantially below the $18 per room that Stellar requested.  This will not affect market-rate tenants.

Joan Browne gave a financial report – and thanked Rosa Delgado and Debbie Gonzalez for their fundraising work on October 30th at which we raised over $4000.

Save the date:  Monday, Jan. 3, 2011, join the R3 campaign’s candlelight vigil (with handwarmers, we hope!) in front of City Hall at 6 PM.  Several of our elected officials will be there to set forth what we really need – and to point out that despite the fairy tales of landlords and the now-indicted Pedro Espada, rent regulation is not a subsidy, but a way to level the playing field between tenants and landlords. 

Our next General Tenants Meeting will be January 19, 2011 at 8 PM in the Community Room.  Old and new tenants welcome!