Saturday, January 28, 2012

Neighbor: Pat Neely performs Feb. 16

Gotham Early Music Scene

Abendmusik ~ Thursday, February 16 at 7 pm

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church 65th Street and Central Park West

Suggested donation
$20 ~ General
$10 ~ Students $ Seniors
Email for more info or call 212-877-6815
Germany Finds its Voice in the 17th Century   
Mezzo Soprano: Jacqueline Horner Kwiatek
Featuring Jacqueline Horner Kwiatek, mezzo soprano
Judson Griffin and Małgorzata Ziemnicka, violin

Patricia Ann Neely, Carlene Stober, and Elizabeth Weinfield,
   viola da gamba

Rick Erickson, chamber organ
 . . . .
This concert features the repertoire of Scheidt, Schutz, Buxtehude, Rosenmuller, Hammerschmidt, Schwartzkopf, and Leopoldus I; composers influenced by the continental Europeans.  . . . The concert features the mezzo soprano Jacqueline Horner Kwiatek.
Hammerschmidt – Paduan and Gailliard in d minor
Buxtehude – Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin
Rosenmuller – Sonata @ 5, In te Domine, and
     Lieber Herr Gott
Schutz – Erbarm dich mein
Schwartzkopf – Pieces à tre viole di gambe  
Scheidt – O, nachbar Roland
Leopoldus I – Regina Coeli

Friday, January 20, 2012

Building Update - following meeting with Stellar

At the Jan. 20, 2012 meeting of the tenant association's executive committee with building manager Lu Pedraza and the super, Carlos Martinez,  we touched on several items:

FIOS v. Time Warner Cable:  Lu is working to get Verizon's FIOS wiring into the building - to provide an alternative to Time Warner Cable. Getting it done is not automatic (although Lu has arranged to wire a few other Stellar buildings) because wiring would have to touch or go through some other neighborhood buildings and those managements need to approve it and get it done.
Carbon Monoxide: If your carbon monoxide monitor is not working, write your name in the book for repairs in the lobby and ask for a free replacement.  If your carbon monoxide alarm goes off while your oven is on, get your stove checked. Carbon monoxide has no smell and can kill you.  Unfortunately, the City Council just voted that landlords may charge $25 for a replacement. So if you can find it cheaper elsewhere, buy it.

Laundry:  Carlos will call Coinmach to get more cards put in the machine for those who lose theirs.  (Carlos also has a few, but they're running low.)  Put your name on your card in magic marker so that if you lose it and an honest neighbor finds it, the card can be returned to you.

Smoking in Stairwells
: Please don't.  Lu was reluctant to put smoke detectors in the stairwells because they go off frequently and that drives many tenants nuts.    
Also, as we have all discovered, both the delicious smells of our neighbors' cooking and the irritating smells of their hobby paints and cigarettes come through the walls - including to the apartments above and below.  So please be considerate:  use an exhaust fan that draws the odors outside.  To make the fan work best, limit the smelly activity to a single room with the door closed and then turn on the exhaust fan.

Intercom List
: Lu has asked Fran Schiff (the Director of  Operations) to OK a revision of the intercom list so that every tenant named on the lease has his or her own listing.  Right now, friends can only find some tenants if they know the last names of their roommates.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Occupy REBNY - Thurs., Jan. 19 at 6 PM

From the Real Rent Reform Campaign and Met Council on Housing:

Occupy REBNY  
(the Real Estate Board of New York) 

outside its meeting at the 
  Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 6 PM
53rd St. and 6th Ave.

Protest REBNY - New York's biggest landlord lobbyist, which is calling for:
  • further weakening our rent regulation laws 
  • millions in tax breaks for developers and landlords 
Thursday, Jan 19, 2012 - NY Hilton Hotel - 6 p.m.
Meet at West 53reet Street & 6th Ave

,D,E to 7th Ave, N,R,Q to 57th St, 
F to 57th St., 1 to 50th Street 

Tenants are the 99%! And if any entity embodies what's wrong with the power of the wealthiest 1%, it's the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) New York's largest landlord and developer lobbyist group. This evening they'll be schmoozing the city's and state's top politicians, asking them to further weaken rent-regulations, and to renew of a $257 million per year tax break for landlords. How powerful are these lobbyists? Gov. Andrew Cuomo snuck out for lunch with them last week, and tonight's event will be packed with New York's top politicians and  power brokers. Make sure they hear from tenants, too! Join R3 (including our tenant association, Met Council on Housing,  Tenants & Neighbors and 50 other groups) as we protest for stronger rent laws and for better enforcement of our existing tenant protections!


Rally at REBNY’s Annual Gala to tell them that the 99% will no longer subsidize the 1%

WHO: You, plus many other tenants and advocates for working families

WHAT: Protesting REBNY’s attacks on renting families, weak rent laws, and landlords’ outrageous demand for a quarter BILLION dollar tax break

WHERE: The NY Hilton Hotel, at 53rd St & 6th Ave.

WHEN: TONIGHT - Thursday, January 19th at 6:00 PM

No more massive tax breaks for the 1%! Don’t renew J-51!*
End Vacancy Destabilization of Rent Regulated Apartments
Pass MCI Reforms Now!
Stop the Landlords “Preferential Rent” Scam!

*J-51 is a tax break that landlords get for making improvements to their buildings - on top of federal credits and MCI rent increases.  The good part of J-51 is that tenants in buildings that have them must stay rent regulated while the tax breaks last. (That will not end if J-51 is not renewed.) The bad part is that it is $257 million that the state needs to keep up other services.

Vacancy Destabilization occurs when a landlord "improves" a vacant, rent-regulated apartment and then claims that the improvements have raised the rent above $2000 (through June 2011) or $2500 (after June 2011) - enough to take the apartment out of rent regulation and charge whatever the market will bear. Because of this vacancy decontrol, thousands of apartments become permanently de-regulated every year, and most New Yorkers find the rents hard to pay.

MCI reforms include ending the rent increase for a Major Capital Improvement once the improvement has been paid for, and not permitting MCIs for building maintenance, like brickwork.

Preferential rent exists when the landlord (usually in the outer boroughs) has registered the regulated rent at one level, but charges a particular tenant a lower rent.  That's not bad - unless the landlord then raises the rent back to the original higher rent with a Rent Guidelines increase with a new lease.  The tenant who could afford the original rent then finds she can't afford the new one.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Summary of General Tenants Meeting of January 11, 2012

Andy Scherer on The Harmon Case

A full house - including City Council Member Gale Brewer, Community Board 7 president Mark Diller, CB7 Housing Committee co-chair Nick Prigo, and Community Free Democrats district leader Joan Paylo - heard Prof. Andrew Scherer talk about the Harmon case.   James Harmon, an Upper West Side landlord, is trying to appeal his (so far losing) case to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the nine justices to overturn all rent regulation in New York. 

Prof. Scherer noted that although NYC (represented by the Corporation Counsel - or "Corp. Counsel") and NY State (represented by the Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman), responded when Harmon first brought the case to the lowest and middle federal courts, they did not even bother filing papers when Harmon filed his appeal.  The Court had essentially decided this issue approximately 100 years ago in favor of rent regulation, and there was no point, they thought. 

Unfortunately, the US Supreme Court has asked the Corp. Counsel and the NYS Attorney General to file their opposition explaining why the Court should not hear this case.  This is somewhat alarming:  Since the law has been settled on this point, the only reason for the Court to hear the case at all is that it would consider unsettling the law.  

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, some conservative think tanks (the Atlantic Legal Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Pacific Legal Foundation, and New York's Rent Stabilization Association, a landlord lobbying group) seized upon Harmon's efforts as the next step in getting rid of as much regulation as they can.  These groups are providing Harmon legal support.  "Don't regulate the environment or Wall Street, or, now that you mention it, rents either" they cry. "Businesses will do it themselves!"  They don't care about the 2.5 million people in those apartments. Even the Wall Street Journal has weighed in, urging the Supreme Court to hear the case.

Harmon claims that preventing him from making as much money as the market will bear deprives him of property without just compensation - in violation of the "takings" clause of the U.S. Constitution's 5th Amendment.  To date, the only time the Supreme Court has upheld a landlord's claim in this context is when the government physically forced something or someone in the landlord's property (that case was about a cable television wire). Harmon, who rents out his 6 apartments to tenants as a business, is pretending that the human beings to whom he rents his apartments are unwanted physical intrusions imposed by the government.  Not those to whom he's charging market rent - they're presumably wanted.  Only those who are not paying what he'd like to collect.

As a NYC landlord who inherited the building with its rent stabilized apartments and who could, under NYS rent stabilization law, take over the entire building for his own family's use if he wanted to (ousting the tenants in the process), he is only interested in the dough.  He and other anti-regulation types ignore the fact that "while the rest of the investment community suffered from the meltdown of 2008-2009, owners of rent-stabilized properties realized an average increase in net operating income of 5.8 percent." (Source: Tim Collins, former Executive Director of the Rent Guidelines Board, writing for Met Council on Housing's Tenant/Inquilino, Dec. 2011. That article is an excellent explanation of the Harmon case!)
It is not that likely the Court will take this case when it has thousands of others to consider, and this has been settled law for almost a century. But IF the Supreme Court decides to consider the case, it probably will not actually be heard until the next Supreme Court term beginning the first Monday of October 2012.     And IF the Court agrees to hear the case, tenants have to respond.  NYC's Corporation Counsel and the NYS Attorney General will defend the constitutionality of the law.  But tenants will need to speak for ourselves both politically and in an "amicus" (friend of the court) brief.  Fortunately, Prof. Scherer and other lawyers stand ready to write.  And the tenants voted unanimously to support an amicus brief.

2012 Dues: Tenants are the 99% - but we still have to collect money.  So if you haven't yet paid your 2012 dues ($10/apartment), your floor captain and treasurer Joan Browne will happily accept them - and legal fund contributions ($100/year per apartment).

Trouble paying the rent? Legal problems? If you can't afford a lawyer, go to  You can also contact attorney Joyce Goodman in the office of Assembly Member Daniel O'Donnell, 212-866-3970, who helps people for free with benefits and tenant problems.   You can find landlord-tenant lawyers (who must be paid) at 

Upcoming event: Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012, Occupy REBNY (the Real Estate Board of NY) at 6 PM in front of the NY Hilton at 53rd St. and 6th Ave. The Real Rent Reform Campaign will be there and you should be too. 

Clout:  It means getting politicians (and judges)  to listen - and that means people in large numbers, since we vote.  (Unfortunately, just reading informative newsletters on line isn't enough!)  

Every one of us counts.  

If you have questions or suggestions, contact us!

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