Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Harmon Case Challenges Rent Laws - Hear Speaker on Jan. 11, 2012

Our General Tenants Meeting presents:

Andrew Scherer*
former Executive Director of Legal Services NYC
 speaking on the Harmon case 
that challenges all rent laws.

Upper West Side landlord (and former federal prosecutor) James Harmon wants the U.S. Supreme Court to undo ALL of NY's rent laws. He claims these laws deprive owners of their property  - the ability to rake in as much money as the market will bear.  After all, who needs a level bargaining table for the 99%!  As the market-rate tenants in our building know, it's hard to bargain with a landlord for a reasonable rent when you don't have the right to a renewal lease as long as you pay your rent and don't cause a nuisance.

While the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly decided different aspects of the issue (see HousingNYC.com's explanation starting at page 37) and permitted states to regulate rents,  the Court has asked those opposing Harmon  to file briefs to say why the Court should NOT take the case and consider the question once again. 

This affects all of us - so come hear Andy Scherer and ask questions
WEDNESDAY, JAN. 11, 2012
 at 8 PM
In our Community Room
*Prof. Scherer, a, writer, teacher and legal consultant, wrote  the treatise, Residential Landlord-Tenant Law in New York  - the resource book for all lawyers representing tenants in court (for the past 16 years).

About the court and the law:

THE U.S. SUPREME COURT: Harmon has lost in the lowest and mid-level federal courts, and is now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take his case. A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court can affect the entire United States and there are no more appeals from its decisions.

The U.S. Supreme Court only takes those appeals that it "certifies" from lower courts as important. (A few other cases get there by other routes irrelevant to Harmon).  So Harmon has filed a "Petition for Certiorari" - or just a "cert"  to formally ask the Court to take his case. The Court typically grants "cert" to only about 3% of private individuals who appeal.   Often, other people and groups (not parties to the case)  file "Friend of the Court" briefs on one side or the other to persuade the Court.  Harmon's case is supported by
the Pacific Legal Foundation, the Atlantic Legal Foundation, the Cato Institute, and New York's own Rent Stabilization Association, a landlord lobbyist group.  No tenant groups have filed "Friend of the Court" ("amicus") briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court yet.

THE LAW: The U.S. Constitution states (among other things) that the government cannot take people's property without compensation.  Landlord Harmon claims that rent regulation and the Rent Guidelines Board that fixes rent increases each year are not actually "due process of law,"  and thus that the government is "TAKING" his property - the potential higher rents he'd rather be getting. 

And while all landlords already have the right under rent stabilization to kick tenants out to use their apartments for the landlord himself and his family to live in, Harmon wants the right to kick out ANY tenant to let any family member take that apartment (or perhaps, better yet, to get a higher rental income).

Please come.  Andy will talk and answer questions, and then we'll finish up this General Tenants Meeting with a few short items. 

Bring a chair and a neighbor!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

R3 Bus to Albany Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011


The Real Rent Reform Bus leaves NYC at 9:00 am sharp from Broadway and West 95th Street (outside the McDonald’s).  Be there at 8:45 AM, dress warmly and bring your lunch.

Real Rent Reform Campaign + Occupy Albany


Rally for stronger rent laws, for fair taxation that produces enough revenue to fund social programs, and for fair and independent redistricting of legislative seats. The Legislature will be in session!
Dress warmly! While tenants will be inside the State Capitol for much of the day, Occupy Albany will give us a tour of the encampment across the street from the Capitol Building.

R³ will provide donuts on the trip up – but bring a bag lunch. 

This event will be fun! 
We anticipate that the bus will leave Albany at 3:30 pm, and return to Broadway and West 95th Street by about 6:30 pm.

To sign up for a seat on the bus, contact Larry Wood of Goddard-Riverside Community Center:

Larry Wood
(212) 799-9400, ext. 216

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Have a good Thanksgiving!

And thanks to all tenants for making this a terrific tenant organization!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Summary of the General Tenants Meeting of Nov. 16, 2011

The meeting opened with a moment of silence for Richard Geller, who passed away on November 1, 2011 of skin cancer.  I relayed his wife Barbara’s statement that the outpouring of support from her neighbors made her appreciate what a remarkable community we have.

Susan Lerner of Common Cause/NY explained redistricting. Using maps, charts and drawings, she showed clearly that drawing different shapes around the same set of voters (Democrats and Republicans) results in very different electoral districts and electoral outcomes.  Right now, our state legislators choose which voters they want in their districts – instead of voters choosing which legislators they want. 
For example, Sen. Espaillat’s district (31) on the map to the right is green, and runs along Riverside drive, with a little 
box cutting into Sen. Perkins’ district. That’s because the last time the state redistricted, the GOP wanted to ensure that then-Sen. Eric Schneiderman did not keep his seat. So his district was changed from mainly Upper West Side to mainly Washington Heights. People joked that he’d have to learn Spanish.  He did – and won the next election despite the “gerrymandering.” (A district that looks like a salamander is “gerrymandered,” named after a Massachusetts governor.) It also happened to Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries, co-head of the Mitchell-Lama subcommittee of the Assembly's Housing Committee.

Federal voting laws require redistricting after every U.S. Census -  every 10 years.

So the state legislators are drawing maps to comply with those laws – including making districts the same size.  There’s a certain amount of leeway in determining the size of an electoral district.  While the federal mandate is 1 person/1 vote, and districts for Congressional elections must be within 2% of even in terms of the number of voters, state electoral districts have a 10% leeway.

Often, the state legislature has divided up cities so that renters (who live primarily in the centers of cities) have less representation than house owners.  But renters are a “community of interest” and should make sure that our views are represented in the legislature.

Right now, state legislators are drawing up maps to ensure that incumbents in their own parties will be re-elected.  
Governor Cuomo has promised to veto such maps – and this could happen as early as the beginning of March.  It appears that the state legislature does not have enough votes to override such a veto.  It’s up to us as citizens and tenants to ensure that the governor does what he promised – and that maps are drawn as fairly as possible. These maps are available at http://www.citizenredistrictny.org/blog/  (click on "Mapping).  Shortly, that website will have interactive maps, so anyone can suggest moving a line this way or that. 

Ms. Lerner suggested that while there are more Democratic voters in the State than there are Republicans,  fair redistricting would probably lead to a smaller majority of Democrats in the State Assembly - and probably a Democratic majority in the State Senate.   It is possible that a smaller Democratic majority in the Assembly would mean that progressive caucuses would have more power, rather than less. 

No “grace period” for paying rent If rent is
paid after the first few days of the month, the landlord can take a tenant to court.  Even if the rent is paid then and the case dismissed, the landlord can do it again the next time the rent is late.  That establishes a “pattern of nonpayment” and can be a basis for trying to evict the tenant. So try to pay by the first of the month. If rent bills come late – arriving on Sat., Oct. 30 and due Monday, Nov. 1 as they did this past month – you can walk the rent bills to Stellar's office at 70 West 93rd St. Although we got letters saying payments had to be mailed, that has been revoked and you can get a receipt from Enera (“Ana”) there. She often takes lunch from 2-3 PM.

Leases can have unenforceable clauses in them – such as that
you can’t challenge the rent. Even if you sign them, that does not take away your legal rights. You can sign the statement that you will pay a Major Capital Improvement (MCI) rent increase if DHCR orders it.  (The law requires us to obey DHCR orders unless we successfully challenge such an increase in court.)

“Unique or Peculiar” CaseWe joined other tenant associations in contributing to the outstanding bill of $27,000 for the “U or P” case at the Appellate Division.  Although we did not participate before that court, our interests were protected by the lawyers (we won!) , and the lawyers need to be paid.   

Building issues – The CPTGA executive committee is having frequent meetings with building manager Lu Pedraza.  Issues we’ve taken up include:
•    Mice: Ask Carlos to plug all holes in your apartment, and sign up for the exterminator to get rid of any critters already there.
•    Elevators: Doors are iffy, #3 elevator is thumping, and there’s a buzz sound.
•    Floor tiles and torn or filthy rugs are a problem.
•    Closets: Missing pieces for repairs.
•    Outdoor: Hosing down the area where garbage has been stored
•    Outdoor: lighting during dark weather.

Financial report  - Treasurer Joan Browne gave the report - and urges everyone to stay up to date with their dues ($10/year per apartment) and legal fund contributions ($100/year).
Larry Gluck and others in the Real Estate Board of NY represent the 1%.  For the rest of us - the 99% - there are various activities to support what we need.  Check ‘em out!

Got questions? Suggestions? Contact us.

The Executive Committee
 - Sue,  sue  [at sign] janak [ dot] org
 - Na'ava, naavaa [@ sign] gmail [dot  ] org
 - Rich, richj [  at sign] aol [dot] com
 - Steve, eskoolman   [@  ]  yahoo [   dot   ]com
 - Greg, geeemurr [at   sign  ] aol [ d o t ] com

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Redistricting: Common Cause speaker at General Tenants Meeting

Learn about
  • Wednesday, November 16, 2011 
  • at 8 PM 
  • in the Community Room. 

"Redistricting" means drawing the lines to determine each electoral district - to elect members of the U.S. Congress as well as for State offices.  It happens every 10 years when the Census Bureau comes up with its report.  How it happens determines whether those who represent us will be the "same old same old" incumbents, or people who will really speak for us.  (Sometimes they are in fact the same, but not always!)  

Come and learn
  • how it affects us as tenants, as Upper West Siders, as neighbors, as New Yorkers
  • what we can do to affect the process of redistricting.
Bring a chair and a neighbor!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sad News: Richard Geller died.

The tenants' association mourns the loss of our dear friend and neighbor Richard Geller and gives our condolences to his wife Barbara, his  son Jason and daughter-in-law Mikiko, his daughter Lisa, his brothers Harold and Allen, and to his many extended family members.  Below is an obituary prepared by his family.

Richard B. Geller
(August 20, 1946 – November 1, 2011)

Richard, age 65, died Tuesday afternoon, November 1, 2011,  at the NYU Langone Medical Center hospital after a hard-fought battle with melanoma cancer.  During his final hospital stay, he was almost constantly surrounded by as many family members as his room could hold.  His unconditional and unwavering love, generosity, support, loyalty, and tireless passion for family, friends, and teaching math forever enhanced and changed the lives of those who knew him well. 

Richard was born on August 20, 1946, in Brooklyn, New York. The oldest of three sons, he taught his brothers games like chess and billiards. He loved his brothers deeply, and maintaining relationships with them was a priority throughout his adult life.   His father discontinued school after 8th grade but believed in the importance of education and wanted his sons to pursue college and graduate school. After graduating from Midwood High School in 1963, Richard attended Brooklyn College and graduated in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics.  He later enrolled in a masters degree program in Statistics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.  During these college years he was involved in civil rights and anti-war protests.   To avoid the draft, he left graduate school after one year to pursue a career in teaching and to earn a masters degree in education.
Richard soon married and became the father of two children.  Through tough times and good times, his love for his children never wavered.  He was driven by a desire to promote their present and future happiness, to support their pursuit of their own dreams, and to solidify extended family ties.   He also loved his daughter-in-law as his own.  Regardless of where his children moved as adults, including San Antonio, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Guam, Korea, Tokyo, Nagoya, and Okinawa, he made visiting a priority. His no-nonsense directness and honesty, while sometimes blunt, was always motivated by the best of intentions.  They never had to guess about what he thought and knew they could always count on him with no strings attached.

No one knew Richard’s romantic side better than the love of his life Barbara.  At the time they met he was rapidly evolving into a connoisseur of fine foods and a gourmet cook, characteristics Barbara greatly appreciated. He proposed to Barbara in Switzerland at the most famous restaurant in the world, Girardet.  Barbara was totally surprised and thrilled.  When she accepted, he characteristically ordered the most famous champagne in the world, Dom Perignon.   From then on they always celebrated life’s big events by cooking feasts at home, or dining at the best restaurants, including Lutece, Raos, and Bouley.  He personally knew some of the best chefs in New York.

After their marriage, he became an uncle and jumped into his new role with both feet.  Despite geographic separation up to a thousand miles, he was a cheerleader at most significant competitions, performances, and events, often carrying a bag of math problems to work on during down times.  He visited his young nephew in Delaware so often that his nephew thought he lived at the Christiana Hilton.  He provided invaluable support, and a home away from home, to his niece from Wisconsin, who attended college and graduate school in New York City.  He welcomed all his nieces and nephews in his apartment at every opportunity, showing them around New York, cooking special meals, playing games, and making jokes.   He gave them his time, and they knew he loved them. 

Math was his passion, and he found his calling as a math teacher, a job he performed with great enthusiasm for forty three years.  His students became like a second family, and he was always thinking about their future in everything he did.  While some saw him as overly strict or ornery, he worked tirelessly for them without regard to recognition or popularity.  Nonetheless, he was recognized with innumerable awards and recognitions for teaching and coaching.  In recent months, Richard said the main thing that helped with the cancer pain and fatigue was teaching.  He continued to work even from the hospital on his death bed, and in the hours before his death he was talking in his sleep about teaching a lesson.   He seemed to sleep well that night!

Family, math, and food were not his only passions.   He also loved sports, especially the Giants, Rangers, Knicks, and Mets, international travel especially to France, and cycling (he rode 12 miles to and from Stuyvesant High School every day and took several long biking adventures including a 400 mile journey along the Erie Canal and many European bike trips with his wife Barbara).  However, what he wanted most in life was to express his love for teaching math and his love for his wife and family.  Although he always said “Math is #1 and Family is #1”, for him, love was really #1.   And this is how he will be remembered.

Richard was preceded in death by his parents, Morris and Minnie.  He is survived by his wife, Barbara, brothers Harold and Allan, daughter Lisa, son Jason and daughter-in-law Mikiko.   He is also survived by brothers- and sisters-in-law Art, Jean, David, Donna, Sue, Jim, Rob, and Tricia and by his nieces and nephews Katie, Dan, Alex, Sarah, and Emma. 

His family wishes to thank Dr. Anna Pavlick and the entire incredible team at the NYU Clinical Cancer Center for their willingness to find the best possible experimental treatments for Richard and their unwavering emotional support.  They also want to thank Dr. Amy Lewis and the research team at Genentech for their steadfast advocacy and support for Richard every step of the way.

A memorial was held Friday November 5, 2011 at Riverside Memorial Chapel, 180 West 76th Street at Amsterdam Avenue.  The family received visitors beginning and showed a short film of Richard’s farewell to his Stuyvesant High School students and community before the memorial itself.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to a scholarship fund at Stuyvesant High School set up in Richard’s name.  Checks can be made out to Richard B Geller Memorial Scholarship for Mathematics and sent to Barbara Geller, 50 West 97th Street #11T, New York, NY 10025.

1. YouTube video of Richard Geller's Stuyvesant Graduation Speech

2. NY Times article

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Building Issues - Report of Oct. 13 Meeting with Builidng Manager

Executive Committee members of the Central Park Gardens Tenants' Association met with Lucio Pedraza, the building manager, on Thursday, October 13, 2011.  There will be a follow-up meeting in two weeks.  Below is what we discussed and the proposed resolution to each issue.


MICE (and RATS in ground-floor compactor rooms)  - Stellar will send a notice to all  tenants to sign up for the building staff to plug all holes in your apartment with steel wool and special foam - including around your air conditioner (inside the sleeve) if you're on a lower floor.   Please take advantage of this and get your apartment mouse-proofed (even if you have not seen a mouse).
The exterminator should be here twice a week. We told Lu the exterminator did not come last Saturday at all). He said it's a new extermination company whose contract begins this coming week.  
Given rat-sightings in the ground floor compactor rooms, Lu will have rat bait traps put all around them.

If you have mice in your apartment, put your name on the list for the exterminator at the doorman's desk. If the exterminator just puts down traps, tell Carlos you need the whole apartment sealed with steel wool and foam.  Apartments with infestations get priority.

The most common holes are found:
  • around the gas pipe leading to the stove
  • around the 2 pipes inside each radiator
  • around pipe under your kitchen sink - and any other cabinet opening into the building's insides
  • in closets where there are holes into the interior infrastructure of the building - such as holes for telephone wires, or incompletely sealed walls
  • around the air conditioner inside the sleeve facing the balcony.  If you live on the 2nd floor, DON'T leave your balcony door open unless you have a screen door (purchased individually from your own source).

ATM – Stellar will move the ATM into the mailroom.  It will take a little while since Lu has to put in a job order for the outlet to be installed. This should help both security (so no one outside can see a tenant take cash out before exiting the building, and so only tenants know it's there) and appearance.

BUILDING SECURITY – Lu will remind the doormen to either tell visitors & deliverymen to ring intercom or the doorman will CALL upstairs. Lu will give the doorman TWO lists: one by tenant names (already there) and one by apartment number.   Tenants should tell delivery people their names and intercom numbers - rather than apartment numbers.  The tenant or doorman can tell the person the apartment number.

INTERCOM NAMES: The list will be corrected to include all tenants named on lease, in their own alphabetical order. (Now it's "Husband, H. and Wife, W." so someone just looking under "W" wouldn't find the second last name.)

RECYCLING  - Since some tenants noticed building staff shoving recyclables down the chute,  Lu will remind staff to keep recycling separate - or Stellar gets a fine.

HALLWAY CARPETS – Lu will tell the building staff to clean carpets more thoroughly, and to dust the moldings on hallway walls.

TILES NEAR ELEVATORS -  Lu is looking for tiles to replace    those that are chipped.

SIDEWALK WASHING NEAR GARBAGE BINS– Lu will instruct the staff to hose down the sidewalk outside the east side ramp.  Apparently the manager of the neighboring building has also complained.  Sometimes the city's Sanitation trucks spill the contents of the bins as they are tipped up by the truck lifts.

WEST SIDE RAMP - Lu will check a report of cracked cement on the left wall going up to the building. 

If you have additions for the meeting in two weeks, tell a member of the Executive Committee

Na'ava Ades
Joan Browne
Rich Jordan
Greg Murray

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Summary & Update - General Tenants Meeting - September 2011

Sept. 21, 2011 Meeting Summary & Update

Building & Neighborhood
CPG Tenant Handbook --  the latest edition is available.

SCRIE - Senior citizens who are in the SCRIE program may find their accounts messed up: for some reason, the City did not pay many landlords the difference between what SCRIE tenants pay and the legal rent.  If you have a problem, contact SCRIE through 311, or call attorney Joyce Goodman at Assembly Member Daniel O'Donnell's office to set up an appointment: 212-866-3970 (it's free).  
Mice: If you’ve seen them or their droppings in your apartment,

1.    Write your name on the exterminator list at the guard’s desk.
2.    If the exterminator or maintenance man just gives you traps, say you need the entry points blocked.
3.    If they don’t do it or you still find mouse droppings or other signs of rodents, contact Lu Pedraza, the building manager: 212-222-4430, lpedraza@stellarmanagement.com.

Bedbugs: If you don’t see flecks on your bed, don’t worry about bedbugs.  If you do, follow the procedure above.  If Stellar asks to inspect your apartment, let them: it could be that an apartment above or below or near yours was infested, and they want to prevent further spread.  Do not use commercial sprays yourself.  You can poison your family without killing bedbugs.

Security - Tell all delivery men they will not be allowed in unless they dial your intercom code (you can find it on the list in the entry foyer).  When they dial it, the phone number you gave to Stellar will ring, and you can talk to the person as on a regular phone call.  To let them in, press 9 and then hang up.  If the local Chinese restaurant asks for your apartment, say your code instead (for example, “1234”).  If your name is on the lease but is not listed separately on the intercom, contact Ana at 212-222-4430.

ATM in the lobby -
We were not consulted and they are not illegal in common areas of a residential building - although the mailroom would be a less conspicuous place.  The machine charges a $2 fee.  The location is obtrusive and tenants have commented that it’s tacky, giving the lobby a “convenience store” look.  The tenant association executive committee will be discussing it shortly.

Plumbing disasters – please don’t put a washing machine in your apartment!

Tenants in the S-line have had their share of disasters recently:  the roof leaked during storms, and  Tropical Storm Irene left puddles and damp walls.  

Further, the apartments below the 5th floor have been getting filthy, sudsy water (replete with hair and lint) bubbling up through their kitchen sinks - possibly from a portable washing machine in their own or neighboring lines. Unfortunately, our plumbing is not built to filter the dirty water of that magnitude, and the tenants below are suffering a health hazard. 

Parking -   Thanks to Rosa Delgado and Community Board 7 for restoring angle-parking to the east end of our block – by getting ambiguous signs removed and putting an end to ticketing for that reason.

Victories and Ongoing Battles
 “Unique or peculiar” caseTenants have won, based on a regulation & (D)HCR order denying Stellar’s 2005 application to raise the rent stabilized rent based on Gluck’s 2005 application to the state’s housing agency, Homes & Community Renewal (formerly “DHCR”).  This regulation and court decision affect 17,980 units in and around NYC.  Not bad!  But it could change for other buildings unless the state passes a statute – and not just a regulation that interprets a statute.

Redistricting -   Right now, the state legislature is determining New York State’s state and federal voting districts.  This affects tenants:  if the legislature creates a new district upstate, for example, that will give even less voice to the more-highly populated downstate area – tenants in big apartment buildings, for example.   If the legislature insists on violating recent state law and counting prisoners as “residing” in their prisons (where they can’t vote) rather than where they are from, those of us in NYC get less of a voice.  

What you can do:  Contact LATFOR (Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research & Reapportionment) and let them and Governor Cuomo know you want an independent commission that does not guarantee incumbency (as all of the last redistrictings have done). 
250 Broadway — Suite 2100
New York, NY 10007

Rent Guidelines Board - Every June, the RGB decides the percentage rent increases for lease renewals going into effect any time from the following Oct. 1st to the next Sept. 30th. 

This past June, the increases were 3.75% for a 1-year renewal, and 7.25% for a 2-year renewal.  This is among the highest in a long time. 

Worse, the state’s highest court upheld the RGB’s power to create a special “class” of tenants who will get higher increases. (When they did this in 2008, it only affected buildings that had been rent stabilized for at least 6 years.  Since ours left Mitchell-Lama in 2005, that order did not affect our building.)
So we have to work with other groups in the Real Rent Reform Campaign to keep rent increases down (including MCI’s), to keep buildings in rent-regulation, and to preserve affordable  homes for the next generation.  Steve Koulish and Na’ava Ades are our representatives to the R3 campaign so far.  Are you interested in participating?

Rent Stabilization - Rent stabilized tenants have rights, including rent reductions for service reductions, and the right to a guaranteed lease renewal.

Non-stabilized tenants have only 4 years from the date their particular apartment was taken out of rent stabilization to apply to get back in.  They can call HCR (718-739-6400) to find out the last rent stabilized rent. Then they can calculate (use Home Depot prices) the work done to renovate the apartment.  Only if 1/40th of the cost – added to 120% of the last rent stabilized - comes to $2000 should that apartment be de-regulated. (For renovations since June 2011, it must be 1/60th of the cost, bringing the rent to $2500.)  Contact the tenant association for details.

Got ideas or suggestions? Contact us!

The Executive Committee

Central Park Gardens Tenants’ Association
-    Sue Susman, president, 212-866-1616, sue[  at]  janak.org
-    Na’ava Ades, vice president, 212-666-9591, naavaa [ type the "@" sign] gmail.com
-    Joan B. Browne, treasurer, 212-864-3612, jbbrownefaison[  at  ] att.net
-    Rich Jordan, vice president, 212-866-1070, richj214[ [at]  aol.com
-    Steve Koulish, vice president, 212-866-8280, eskoolman[ type @ ] yahoo.com
-    Greg Murray, vice president, 212-866-3552, geeemurr[   at   ]aol.com


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Come to the General Tenants Meeting - Wed. Sept. 21, 2011

All tenants are welcome to the
Wed., Sept. 21, 2011
8 PM - in the Community Room

We'll talk about . . .

Victory in the "U or P" case!

Bedbugs, mice - and fighting the problems we have in common together.

Redistricting - it affects tenants!

and the HEAT SEASON  begins Oct. 1st.

- The Executive Committee
Sue Susman, sue [ at]  janak.org
Na'ava Ades, naavaa [at  ] gmail.com
Joan B. Browne, joanbbrownefaison[ @] att.net
Rich Jordan, richj214 [ at  ] aol.com
Greg Murray, geeemurr  [@  ]aol.com
Steve Koulish, eskoolman [at   ] yahoo [ dot] com

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tenant on US Musical Tour to Middle East / North Africa

Tenant - and drummer - Danny Mallon will be going on a State Department tour to bring American music to parts of the Middle East and North Africa.  See his blog.  Have a great trip!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

When Gluck (Stellar Management) took this building out of Mitchell-Lama in 2005, he applied to the state housing agency to quintuple our first rent-stabilized rents based on a provision in the law called “unique or peculiar circumstances.”  What were those circumstances?  That he took the building out of Mitchell-Lama and lost the tax abatement that went with it.

Under Governor Spitzer, the state’s housing agency issued a regulation that says that just taking a building out of Mitchell-Lama is not by itself a “unique or peculiar circumstance” justifying a rent increase.  (A regulation interprets a statute.  It’s the law, but not as strong as a statute, and can be more easily changed.)

So Gluck - on behalf of several buildings he took out of Mitchell-Lama -  and a few of his fellow-landlords sued the state, claiming the regulation was not valid.   

DHCR (now called NYS Housing & Community Renewal) answered, and several tenant associations, including ours, joined in to defend the regulation. We also worked hard to get other tenant associations to join us.  It was a complicated case!

The lower court supported us.  Then the mid-level state court supported us. 

In the meantime, Gluck withdrew from the case - and DHCR denied the “U or P” increase application Gluck had filed when we first left Mitchell-Lama.  

Finally, the last landlord involved in the case decided not to pursue his appeal.  (His deadline was July 25, 2011.) 

So it's over - at long last - and WE WON!!!!

We will still get rent increases with lease renewals and in some cases for Major Capital Improvements.  But as long as we stand together, we can fight to keep all our homes affordable.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Rent Guidelines Board increases

The Rent Guidelines Board has issued its order determining the percentage increase for lease renewals that go into effect any time from October 1, 2011 through September 30, 2012.

If your lease will not be renewed during that period, you don't have to worry about this.

If you renew your lease for 1 year, the increase will be 3.75% over your current base rent.

If you renew your lease for 2 years, the increase will be 7.25% over your current base rent.

Remember that your base rent was increased permanently because of the MCI based on the number of bedrooms in your apartment:

    • 1 bedroom = $23.01  (retroactive amount for 10 months is $230.10)

    • 2 bedrooms = $30.68 (retroactive amount for 10 months is $306.80)

    • 3 bedrooms = $38.35 (retroactive amount for 10 months is $383.50).
So that permanent increase is now part of the base rent and the RGB percentage increase for a lease renewal this year (not all tenants are renewing between Oct. 1, 2011 and Sept. 30, 2012) is based on that new total.

If you did not pay the full retroactive amount the first month (most people did not, and it makes no financial difference),  you also have on your rent bill part of the payment for the RETROACTIVE amount we owe (10 months' worth of MCI - from the date that Stellar applied for it to the date Stellar actually began charging it).  That part will bring the total increase (permanent MCI payment + partial payment of 10 months' retroactive MCI) to 6% of your previous base rent.

The partial payment is NOT considered in determining your new lease amount.  (If you find that it has been added, contact Jasmine Ferrer, jferrer@stellarmanagement.com, to get it corrected.)

Once the partial payment has paid off the full 10 months of retroactive payments,  that amount will no longer be added to your rent bill.


SENIORS & DISABLED:  You may qualify for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption or the Disability Rent Increase Exemption.  If you do, you must APPLY, then be APPROVED, before your rent will be frozen at its current level. Nothing happens automatically.

To qualify:

(1) You must be paying (or about to pay with a new lease) at least 1/3 of your income in rent, AND

 (2) SENIORS: The tenant named on the lease must be at least 62 years old, and the household income must be no higher than $29,000.
(3) DISABLEDThe tenant named on the lease (or the spouse or domestic partner) must have a disability that is recognized by the government (Social Security, Veterans' Administration, etc.), and the household income must be no higher than
  • $19,284 (single-person household) or 
  • $27,780 (for households consisting of two or more members).

Monday, June 27, 2011

New Rent Law Passed - No Weakening, Slightly Stronger


The new hodge-podge bill including the rent law, (S5856/A8518) passed both houses of the the State Legislature and was signed into law by Governor Cuomo that evening, June 24, 2011.

This is the first renewal in many years that does not weaken the rent laws.
  • It renews the law for 4 years.
  • The law raises the rent level for de-regulation to $2,500 (from the current $2000) - so
    • in VACANT apartments, the rent must be at least $2500 before an owner can de-regulate it, and
    • in OCCUPIED apartments, the rent must be at least $25000 AND the household income must be at least $200,000 for two consecutive years
    before the owner can take it out of rent stabilization.
  • The law requires owners to file papers with Until now, it's been on the honor system and filing papers is not required - so no one really knows
    • how much money the landlord claims was put in to raise the rent to the de-regulation level, and
    • how many apartments are being de-regulated.
  • The law provides that in buildings with 35 or more units - like ours -  only 1/60th (not the current1/40th) of the cost of improvements to an individual apartment can be added permanently to the rent. This would affect both an occupied apartment (if the tenant gets a new stove from the owner, for example), and to a vacant apartment if the owner is trying to raise the rent to get it de-regulated. 
  • The law leaves the Roberts J-51 decision intact: It remains illegal for landlords to take apartments out of rent stabilization while receiving J-51 tax breaks over a period of years.

From Michael McKee of Tenants PAC and a leader of the Real Rent Reform Campaign:

S5856/A8518 passed both houses of the State Legislature on Friday evening, June 24, and was signed into law that evening by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

It is now known as Chapter 97 of the Laws of 2011.

This omnibus bill linked several related/unrelated issues, making it harder for members to vote no:
  • a 2 percent property tax cap for upstate and suburbs;
  • renewal and slight enhancements of the rent laws (and renewal of the coop laws without changes);
  • limited relief from unfunded mandates that the State has imposed on local governments; and
  • renewal and enhancement of the 421-a tax giveaway to developers of luxury housing.
This is why legislators describe this kind of end-of-session bill as "One Big Ugly." No one likes voting for parts of it.

The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 57 to 5, with five Democrats voting no: Ruben Diaz, Sr.; Adriano Espaillat; Shirley Huntley; Kevin Parker; and Bill Perkins.

The bill passed the Assembly by a vote of 120 to 15. Several suburban Democrats voted no, all citing their opposition to the property tax cap and the negative impact it will have on the public school system. Cathy Nolan of Queens made the same objection in voting no. Inez Barron of Brooklyn was the sole Assembly Member to cite the weak rent protections in the bill in explaining her negative vote. Several New York City Democrats complained that the bill was inadequate in terms of tenant protections and preservation of affordable housing, but voted yes.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Summary of General Tenants Meeting May 11, 2011

May 11, 2011 – with Updates to June 16, 2011!

The backyard looks great! Thanks to Barbara Geller, Lora Kahn and Helen Merber for plantings in the backyard. 

Their gardening enhanced the Pot Luck Party on June 4th – until the rain drove some folks indoors again.  Thanks to Maxine Soares, Debbie Gonzalez and Lydia Pitsirilos for a wonderful party.  Please check the mailroom board and this website  for thanks to all the people who made it great!

The vacancy on our advisory Board has been filled by floor captain Marlene Melton. 
Marlene Melton
There were originally two candidates: Sheila Friedling  and Marlene, but Sheila deferred to Marlene.  With only one seat and only one candidate, Marlene won by acclamation. All floor captains are invited to Board meetings – whether or not they’re officially on the board.  The next BOARD meeting will be October 12, 2011. 

We mourn the passing of our neighbor Floyd Torrence, and give our condolences to his wife Linda Tyler.

The Real Rent Reform Campaign has been working hard – but as of the date of this writing,
Albany negotiations continue.  The rent laws expired but tenants with leases are protected, and NYSHCR (the agency that has replaced DHCR) promised to protect tenants if harassed by their landlords.  The State Senate wants weaker rent laws, the Assembly and the Governor want stronger protections – and the Governor has said he’ll keep the Senate in Albany until a law is passed.

The rent laws have gotten worse (aside from Albany) with a decision by the state’s highest court, Casado v. Markus.  The court ruled that the Rent Guidelines Board may create special categories of renters to get higher increases.  In 2008, they said a rent stabilized tenant whose rent was under $1000 and who had lived in that apartment for 6 years or more had to pay a flat dollar increase that was higher than the percentage increase for other tenants.  We don’t know what they’ll do this year – but they’ve proposed :
  • 1-year lease renewal increase of 3.25% to 5.75%
  • 2-year lease renewal increase of 6.5% to 9%!!
  • AND an additional possible one-time “fuel adjustment” of 1% increase that would not be considered in calculating future increases.
The RGB's vote this June applies to  tenants whose lease renewals go into effect any time from October 1, 2011 through September 30, 2012.
Come to the RGB hearings.  The final vote is June 27, 2011 starting at 5:30 PM at Cooper Union’s Great Hall in the basement.  There is a rally to protest high increases starting at 4:30 PM at 7 E. 7th St. (3rd Ave. /Astor Place). 

Joan Browne gave a financial report.  Our bank account is doing better thanks to people donating to our legal fund ($100/ apt.) and paying membership dues ($25/apt.  for new tenants and $10/apt. thereafter).

Stellar has filed an appeal seeking more money under the Major Capital Improvement (MCI) for submetering.  Our attorney filed a response.  We think we’ll win.


Eligible for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) or the Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE)?  Rent stabilized tenants who are eligible should apply now! It will freeze your rent at its current level (or 1/3 of your income - whichever is higher).

SCRIE:  Tenant on lease is 62 or older, household income is no more than $29,000, and tenant is paying at least 1/3 of income in rent – or will be with new lease renewal. Contact One-Stop  (Amsterdam between 96th and 97th St. above Associated), 212-864-7900   or Goddard-Riverside on 89th & Columbus, 212-873-6600.

DRIE:  Tenant is disabled according to the government, household income is no more than $19,284 (single-person household) or $27,780 (for households of two or more members); and tenant is paying at least 1/3 of income in rent  - or will be with new lease renewal. Contact Joyce Goodman at Assembly Member O’Donnell’s office (212-866-3970).

Submetering: If you haven’t filed your papers yet, do it.  It takes about a year to come through. Contact Sue. 

Building issues: 
  • Mice: Write your name in the book for an exterminator.  If the exterminator comes a second time, insist he seal off the pipe behind the stove and the pipe under the sinks, and any other entry points.
  • Try to avoid smoking directly in front of the building – and please, no butts on the ground
  • Bedbugs: If you think you have them, call Stellar to inspect.  Stellar will send an exterminator to all surrounding apartments without mentioning your name.  Let’s nip this in the bud.

Come to our next General Tenants Meeting on September 14, 2011 – and contact any member of the Executive Committee (or your floor captain) with questions and suggestions.

The Executive Committee

Sue Susman,  sue [at sign] janak.org
Na’ava Ades,  naavaa [at sign  ] gmail.com
Joan Browne,  jbbrownefaison[  at sign] att.net
Rich Jordan, rich214 [  at  sign] aol.com
Steve Koulish,eskoolman[ at   sign  ] yahoo.com
Greg Murray, geeemurr [use at sign] aol.com