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. 
Photo provided by 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]
Na’ava Ades,  naavaa [at sign  ]
Joan Browne,  jbbrownefaison[  at sign]
Rich Jordan, rich214 [  at  sign]
Steve Koulish,eskoolman[ at   sign  ]
Greg Murray, geeemurr [use at sign]

Rent Laws Expired - Tenants Safe for Now - Call Albany

The rent laws expired on Wednesday, June 15, 2011.  Tenants are protected by their leases, and the new rent law, whenever it's passed, will be retroactive.  If you are harassed by Stellar, check the NYS HCR (which used to be "DHCR") protections, including a hot line at (855) 391-4526   and at

We need to hold out for a good deal, not just any deal.  See the statement of our State Senator, Bill Perkins.

CONTACT ALL THE PLAYERS AT ONCE:  You can reach Governor Cuomo, Senate Maj. Leader Dean Skelos, and two recalcitrant State Senators Golden and Lanza IN ONE FELL SWOOP by going to

Governor Andrew Cuomo
Phone: 518-474-8390,  Fax:  518-474-1513,   NYC Phone: 212-681-4580 
Email the Governor through his webpage:    

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos 
Albany:: 518-455-3171,   District office:  516-766-8383,  email:

And even though they're out of our district, call or e-mail these NYS Senators from NYC:
Senator "Marty" Golden: Albany-518-455-2730, Bklyn district office: 718-238-6044, email:
Senator Andrew Lanza: Albany-518455-3215, Staten Island district office-718-984-4073, email:

Tenants need stronger rent laws, which means
  • repealing vacancy decontrol  (not just raising the limit)
  • putting into rent stabilization all buildings out of Mitchell-Lama
    • regardless of when they were built
    • regardless of when they were taken out of the program
    • WITHOUT "unique or peculiar circumstances" increases.  (The DHCR regulation is not enough to protect us!)
At the very least, owners should not be allowed to take apartments out of rent stabilization "on the honor system" - not having to file any papers at all unless they feel like it.  

CALL or FAX TODAY to protect all our homes.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Albany - What do we NEED?

Since even the GOP agrees that the rent laws should be renewed, the question is WHAT will be in them aside from what's there now.

If they're left as is (the GOP plan), more apartments will be de-stabilized as they become vacant, and landlords will keep their incentive to find reasons to oust stabilized tenants.

They could be made worse - if the Legislature undoes the "Roberts" (J-51) decision, for example.

They could be made better - best if vacancy decontrol is repealed altogether; marginally better if, for example, the burden is shifted to landlords to prove they've put in improvements; better if all buildings leaving Mitchell-Lama  or Project-based Section 8 go into rent stabilization regardless of the year they were built and without "unique or peculiar circumstances" increases.

In 2003 when it was getting close to the wire to renew the rent laws, the Senate put out a pro-landlord bill and left town.  The Assembly seems to have gotten snookered: It decided it had to take that bill or the rent laws would end.

WE CAN'T LET THAT HAPPEN.  So let's hang on - calmly, deliberately - to ensure that the laws are not further weakened. 

Come to a 


Wed., June 15th (the day the laws expire) 

5 PM

In front of Gov. Cuomo's NYC office: 
633 Third Ave. (between 40th & 41st Streets) 

and if you're free on 
Monday, June 13, 2011 - Get on the bus to Albany.  It's leaving from in front of McDonald's on Broadway between 95th and 96th Streets at 10 AM.  Contact to reserve a free seat.  (You'll get free pizza for lunch in Albany!).

Sunday, June 5, 2011

What a Pot Luck Party!!!

If you weren't there last night, you missed truly spectacular food, 

great music 

-         thanks to Bobby Moorhead's   

and singing by one and all - 

and good company.
Thanks go first to the Pot Luck Planners: 
Seen in last year's photo
Debbie Gonzalez, Lydia Pitsirilos, and Maxine Soares,

who with grace and competence put the party together, did the entire set-up (with help from Rosa Delgado) and beautiful decorations, and oversaw every detail all evening.  Catering isn't their business, but you sure couldn't tell it from the smooth flow of the evening.

Thanks to Marie Squerciati and her good friend Oliva who staffed the "welcome" desk, signed everyone in, gave out name tags, collected money, directed people who were bringing food and drink - and brought a hot dish to share as well!

Thanks for food and drink 

go to:

Ruby B for lemon nut cake
Laurie B for baked chicken wings
Nicole B for tossed green salad
Chariss B for Entemann's pies
Renée B for panettone
Nery C for flan
Jurency De A. for coconut custard
Lavina E for fruit platter
Paulie F for his sheet cakes for tenants - with appropriate decoration
Bonnie F for apple pie
Sheila F for tossed salad with chickpeas
Barbara G for berry salad

Janett G for helping to distribute flyers about today's fair rent rally (it was also a blast at the First Corinthian Church in Harlem)
Debbie G for roasted vegetables
Zena and Louis G for soda
Yvonne G for corn cakes
Linda G for rugelach
Celeste H-B for home-style tiramisu
Tish H for pasta with chicken
Monica J for whole wheat linguini with pesto sauce, and mixed vegetables
Pat J for macaroni and cheese, and for a cabbage dish
Mike and Sara L for chicken scarpariello
Mona L for scalloped potatoes
Frank L for meat loaf with ricotta stuffing
Ena M for pigeon peas and rice and for turkey meatloaf
Eva Marie M for gazpacho
Brenda M for cake 
Mary M for chocolate cake
Millie M for soda
Marlene M for her famous punch
Rhonda M for cole slaw
Sylvia M for cheese cake
Jorinda M for chicken with pesto sauce
Kathie M for turkey chili
Adelaide N for pastelitos (meat patties)

Prudence O for black beans with sausage
Eric O for cupcakes that he made himself
Letty O for baked chicken
Carlos O for rice pudding
Jerry P and Florence J for 3-bean salad
Lydia P for pernil (roast pork) and rice & gandules
Sekhar R for Indian-barbecued chicken and spicy vegetables (1 spinach with onion, 1 okra, and 1 broccoli dish)
Gloria R for a Peruvian meat dish
Ann R for cupcakes
Claude S for curried lamb meatballs with sour cream, and ice for the drinks
Vicky S for flan
Jewel S for macaroni casserole
Maxine S for jerked chicken
Janie S for string beans
Winy V for macaroons
Anna and Cary W for truffled green beans with red onions
Georgina W for desserts.

And (from sources as yet unnamed):   yummy Asian noodles, scrumptious rice pudding, chocolate cake,  beverages, and more dishes!  (If your name and dish are missing from this list, just contact Sue who will add them. )
THANKS for cleaning up go to:

Winy V and Denis H (and Nicky and Katie)   
Elisa O 
Wyona P
Claude S
Cary W.

And thank to all the tenants who contributed money!   
 Our trusty treasurer, Joan Browne will tally it all up.  

A great time was had by all (including baby H. who smiled happily throughout the evening, and little Kia who sang out through her missing front teeth).

If you have photos of the event, please pass them along, and Sue will post them on the website!