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) 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  (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