Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Call the Mayor & Deputy Mayor: Demand a Rent Freeze

With a mayor who campaigned for a rent freeze, and with fair-minded appointees now on the RGB, we can make 2014 the year of the Rent Freeze!  There has never been a rent freeze before. For decades, the Rent Guidelines Board has ignored rising rents and housing instability in NYC without consequence. 


Call the Mayor and Deputy Mayor and
212-788-3000 (Mayor’s Office)
212-788-8510 (Deputy Mayor’s Office)

Join us at the June 16 Rent Guidelines Board hearing (2-6 PM)
Emigrant Savings Bank Building
49-51 Chambers Street  
Contact Steve Koulish
and come to the FINAL VOTE on June 23 at Cooper Union.

Summary of General Tenants Meeting – May 14, 2014

Prudence Opperman is in rehab at Mt. Sinai after a very bad fall and resulting brain surgery.  Her daughter Roie thanks those who have expressed concern or visited. Prue welcomes visits.

Intercoms: Please give up to 2 phone numbers to Stellar at 212-222-4430 to link to your intercom, and give the intercom number to all visitors and delivery people. It’s the number next to your name on the chart in the entry foyer. If you get a phone call from the intercom, press 9 to let the person in.

Electricity: Ignore phone calls urging you to reduce your electric bill by changing providers. We have no control over that; Stellar does. 

Fire Department’s Lieutenant Frank Minetta

Lt. Minetta, a Fire Department veteran of 35 years,  left four different flyers and gave us several important pieces of information, among them:

·        In our non-combustible building, stay in your apartment if there is a fire elsewhere in the building.  (You’ll probably hear the fire truck sirens.)  So do not knock on your neighbors doors to get them to leave:  Hallways and stairwells can become smoky quickly, and the Fire Dept. takes control over the elevators.  If the fire is in your apartment, get out, close your door to stop the fire from spreading, and call 911.   (You can check for a tenant association email about it if there is a fire.)

·    Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and change the batteries when we change our clocks forward and back.  The smoke detector should emit 3 beeps; the carbon monoxide detector 4 quick beeps.  Test it monthly.  If you’re cooking something smoky, press the “silence” button, which will mute the detector for a few minutes – enough time to open a window (but don’t disable the detector)! A fire produces both smoke and carbon monoxide so both alarms could go off.  It’s a good idea to have a combined detector in your bedroom to wake you in case of emergency.  If your detector is broken, ask Stellar to replace it (for $25 or $35) for one whose battery will last 10 years. 

·     Fire extinguishers, if you have them, should be used to escape from fires, rather than to put them out. Let the fire department do that.  If something catches fire on your stove, turn off the stove and cover the pan that’s on fire.  If you spray the top of your stove, for example, that could push the fire back and up the wall.  Extinguishers last 12 years; shake them gently every few months to keep the baking soda inside from caking up.  Get only the “ABC” or “multi-purpose” extinguishers if you get any.

·     The doors to the stairwells are fire doors and must remain shut when not in use.  If you pass by one and it’s not completely closed, please close it and write a note at the guard’s desk that it did not “self-close” so it can be fixed.  Stellar building manager Niti Jakupaj said he would check them all and fix the exit doors from the stairwells  onto the front terrace so they can be easily pushed open. 

·        Gas:  Probably in the autumn, when permits come through, Stellar will be converting from using oil to heat the water in the building’s basement boilers to using gas.   The gas will not go directly into our apartments and will not affect the gas that already comes in to our stoves.  Gas will not be stored in our building: it will come from Con Edison pipes.  We will also have the 20,000 gallons of oil that we usually keep in the basement in case the weather drops below 16⁰F (when it’s too cold for Con Ed to push enough gas through its system).  If you smell gas coming from your stove, check to ensure the stove is off, open a window to air the place out if you want, and get out. Then call 911. Carbon monoxide is naturally odorless and tasteless and invisible – but by law a smell is added to it, and the carbon monoxide Stellar provides should detect any leak.

·        Surge protectors are safer than power strips, which are safer than extension cords.

·     Get obstacles out of the hallway.  Don’t keep wet boots & umbrellas, bicycles or other items in the hallway. If the hallway fills with smoke, fire fighters will not see them and you will make it harder for them to get through (and yourself or your neighbors, if the fire is in in one of your apartments).

·        Don’t leave flammable items in the compactor room.  Bring them downstairs to the large garbage room on each side of the building.  Keep papers high up on the shelf.

·        Questions? Call the Fire Department at 718-999-2541 and leave a message.

Executive Committee
Greg Murray has become an “emeritus” member as he recovers from a stroke.  We welcomed two new members to the executive committee:  Denis Hayward, who has lived here for over 30 years, and Ray Von Dohren, who has lived here for four years. Both expressed our intent to represent all tenants – rent stabilized and market. 

Meeting with Building Manager
Executive Committee members met with Niti Jakupaj, who promised to
·    Check the stairwell doors so they close by themselves and the door exiting to the front terrace has a push-bar
·        Have a staff member adjust the push bars on the building’s side doors twice a week
·        Check the elevator doors and noises
·       Ask all guests and deliverymen to use the intercom or have the doorman phone tenants to say who is coming up
·        Put “please close door” signs on the front glass doors
·      Fix the cracks in the front terrace.
If you have a crack in your terrace, please write out a requisition slip at the guard’s desk.

Politics affecting us. Tenants should write to
State Senator Bill Perkins, Suite 912, 163 W. 125th St., NY 10027,
State Assembly Member Daniel  O’Donnell,  245 W. 104th St., NY, NY 10025,

to urge them to actively support 

·      protection for market-rate tenants such as a guaranteed lease renewal and reasonable limits on rent increases,
·      repeal of the Urstadt Law, which took control over rents and evictions away from NY City and gave it to NY State, and
·      repeal of vacancy decontrol, which motivates landlords to get apartments vacant and de-regulate them.

The next Rent Guidelines Board hearings in Manhattan are June 16 (taking public testimony) from 2-6 PM downtown, and June 23 (the final vote).  Landlords know that this is the first time in years there could be a rent freeze, and they’re turning out in droves. Tenants have to support RGB members who could vote for us.  If  you plan to testify, please register first at 212-385-2934. Got to the June 16 meeting with Joan Browne & Steve Koulish.

Got questions? Ask us and join us! Just $10/year per apartment.

The Executive Committee

-          Sue Susman, president,  sue  a t
-          Na’ava Ades, secretary, naavaa [at] gmail [dot] c o m
-          Joan Browne, treasurer,  [new email coming]
-          Denis Hayward, vice president, haydenis   @ nyc DOT
-          Rich Jordan, vice president,  richj214@ A O L .  c  o   m
-          Steve Koulish, vice president,  eskoolman  [AT] yahoo  dot  com
-          Ray Von Dohren, vice president,  vondohren  a  t    comcast [d  o  t] net

Friday, May 9, 2014

General Tenants Meeting - Wed., May 14 at 8 PM - Fire Dept. speaking

Tenants old and new are welcome to the  
General Tenants Meeting 
in the Community Room 
to hear a representative of 

the New York City


talk about fire and gas safety.

We'll also be re-organizing the executive committee, so bring a chair and a neighbor!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Mayor's Proposals for Preserving Rent Regulated Apartments

Mayor de Blasio has proposed a 10-year plan to build and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing.  His proposals for rent regulation are at pages 53-54 (and it's hard to copy them directly from his website).

Check them out!

Preserve Rent-Regulated and Unregulated 
Affordable Housing

Rent-stabilized apartments are a critical component of the City’s affordable housing stock. Approximately half of all rental units are currently subject to rent stabilization, which provides tenants with important rights and regulates rent increases for more than 2.3 million New Yorkers. However, decontrol provisions implemented in 1993, along with market pressures, have resulted in the loss or deregulation of 250,000 units from the rent-stabilized stock.

Some unregulated housing offers affordable rents without the assistance of public subsidies because neighborhood market conditions keep rents low. However, because these units are not bound by regulatory agreements or rent regulations, they may become unaffordable or unavailable if the market heats up, or if operating costs increase dramatically.

Stem the Tide of Units Exiting Rent Stabilization

The majority of the units that have left the rent-stabilized housing stock were lost through high rent vacancy decontrol, which allows units to exit rent regulation when a unit is vacant and the legal rent for the incoming tenant exceeds $2,500 per month. A small proportion were lost through high income/high rent deregulation (so called “luxury decontrol” which allows units to exit rent regulation when the occupant’s annual income exceeds $200,000 for two consecutive years and the legal rent exceeds $2,500 per month). Legal rents can escalate quickly to that $2,500 trigger through annual rent increases, permissible increases upon vacancy, and/or rent increases due to Major Capital Improvements (MCIs) and Individual
Apartment Improvements (IAIs).

The state law governing rent stabilization will come before the State legislature for renewal in 2015. The City will advocate strenuously for renewal, and for strengthening rent stabilization protections. Further, the City will work with our State partners to seek to amend the New York State Local Emergency Housing Rent Control Act (LEHRCA) in order to effectively repeal the Urstadt Law and 2003 amendments, which limit the City’s role in the State rent regulation scheme.

Strengthen Protection for Tenants of Rent-Stabilized Housing

In 2013, over 30,000 New York City families were displaced from their homes as a result of eviction proceedings filed in Housing Court. The lack of legal representation for low- and moderate-income tenants facing eviction limits their awareness of their rights as tenants and makes it more difficult for them to defend themselves against actions initiated by landlords. Legal services are a critical preservation tool as they can prevent landlords from pursuing evictions simply to move their apartments out of rent stabilization. Unfortunately, the current demand for tenant legal services far exceeds supply.

We will streamline City programs that provide eviction prevention services to help ensure that tenants in rent-stabilized units stay in their homes. In addition, we will seek external funding to support eviction prevention programs and will ask private law firms to provide pro bono legal services to defend tenants facing eviction or other housing court actions. Finally, we will work with community based organizations and tenant organizations to increase tenant education in order to preserve the affordability of the rent-stabilized housing stock.

Tenants of rent-stabilized apartments may apply to the New York State Office of Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) for rent reductions due to substandard conditions or services. In order to help protect tenants’ rights and encourage landlords to provide required repairs and services, HPD will work with HCR to determine how HPD’s code compliance efforts could assist HCR with their enforcement of the rent reduction provisions.

Preserve the affordability of unregulated housing where rents may rise because of changing neighborhood conditions. 

The pipeline to preserve housing that is currently affordable because of market conditions in the neighborhood has been largely generated through individual property owners coming forward to seek a tax exemption and/or subsidies for rehabilitation. Using new outreach strategies and preservation tools, we will proactively identify and invest in these properties in order to preserve their affordability before rents in the neighborhood increase dramatically. Such investments will allow current tenants to benefit from improved units, and permit future
tenants to be assured that the unit remains affordable, even as the neighborhood’s housing values and rents increase.