Thursday, September 14, 2017

Summary of the General Tenants Meeting - Sept. 12 2017

This summary integrates what happened at the General Tenants Meeting with a meeting on Sept. 13th with building manager Niti Jakupaj and the tenant association's executive committee.

Despite it being election day, a good tenant turnout greeted Yegal Shamash, Assistant Commissioner for Investigative Engineering Services at the NYC Department of Buildings (DoB), and Ophelia Phipps, the DoB's Liaison for Intergovernmental and Community Affairs.

Mr. Shamash explained that of the million buildings in NYC,  his department only regulates 14,000 (those over 6 stories). Lower buildings were omitted primarily for political reasons - when politicians didn't want to anger smaller building owners. Of those 14,000,  many were built like ours, in the 1960's. 

This building has "cavity" walls: an outer layer ("façade"of brick tied to an inner layer - probably of cinder block.  The ties connecting the two walls are metal rods, but builders have been known to have skimped on the number of ties when buildings like this one went up. (We have no specific information on the ties for this one.)

Stellar Management, as the building owner, is responsible for knowing the building code's requirements and the rules that interpret it.  

One of the legal requirements is the Façade Inspection Safety Program (FISP) - which mandates a façade inspection every 5 years for every building.  An engineer or architect hired by Stellar must file a report with the DoB. The FISP department then reviews the report:  Is the building safe for the next 5 years,  unsafe, or "safe with a repair and maintenance program" (SWARMP) ?  

In a 2012 report, our building was found to be SWARMP, with some work required.

What Stellar is doing, including some balconies.

So Stellar is renewing the mortar between the bricks to prevent water from getting into the
cavity.  It will also repair balconies as needed.  An external inspection was done not long ago to check for loose concrete and insecure railings.  Stellar will notify tenants whose balconies will be fixed.  But YOU should notify Stellar if you believe your balcony needs repair.  

DoB rep Ophelia Phipps was also there to answer questions, and she said she would try to get us the report Stellar filed about what work it is planning to do. The "stop work" order for the scaffolding was issued because Stellar changed scaffolding contractors mid-stream, and the first contractor notified the DoB that he was no longer responsible for that work.  The stop-order has been lifted, so work is resuming. 

The work should take until January or February, weather permitting.  The scaffolding will remain up while the work is being done.  At some point, the scaffolding may be moved from the back to the front - or additional scaffolding will go up in the front.

Security: Building manager Niti Jakupaj said he would look into netting or some other security measure to deter would-be thieves from climbing the scaffolding into apartments, particularly on the lower floors.  


Under State law (DCHR Fact Sheet 24), the landlord may get a permanent Major Capital Improvement increase for brick pointing.  It is odd that the State legislature thinks landlords need the incentive of a rent increase to perform legally-required work.  So tenants in our building and some neighboring buildings are signing a petition to our State Senator Brian Benjamin and State Assembly Member Daniel O'Donnell, seeking to end this incentive and stop MCI's for legally-required work.  (We'd like to see an end to all MCI's being permanent rent increases, but that probably would only be possible during a year that the rent laws are being renewed - not this one.)

How much? 
Last time (façade work in 2007), Stellar asked for an MCI of $155,000.  We won against that because DHCR had ruled it was part of what Stellar should pay for, coming out of the capital improvement fund created from our rents under Goodstein.  But we won't have that protection now. 

Given inflation, the estimated cost is roughly $174,000.  To calculate an MCI increase, the full amount is divided by 109 (the number of months in 9 years), and then divided by the total number of rooms in the building - with a special formula for commercial tenants. 

The permanent rent increase for rent stabilized tenants would come to roughly 
1 bedroom apartments: $70/year
2 bedroom apartments: $90+/year
3 bedroom apartments: $115/year.

That increase would become part of the base rent on which all lease increases are calculated. 

Can we block an MCI?

We can only block it  entirely if we get the law changed before Stellar files for the MCI (it has two years from completing the work to apply), or if 
  • the work does not deal with the Department of Building's  "SWARMP" (work to be done) requirements from the 2012 report,
  • the work done does not deal with other safety issues in the façade and balconies. 
That requires tenant vigilance.  

IF you have a balcony (terrace) issue, please notify Stellar Management, Carlos, or our tenant association's executive committee right away.

IF an MCI is granted, tenants on SCRIE and DRIE must file an Adjustment of Abatement form to avoid having their rent go up.   If you're 62 or older, have an annual income no more than $50,000, and are paying (or will soon pay) at least 1/3 of your income in rent, contact us for help in getting on SCRIE.  


Check whether the cameras on your floor will see more than a foot into your apartment. Hold the door open (you can put a chair or wastebasket in it) and step under the camera to see if you can see in.  If so, tell Sue right away:  the final adjustments will be made shortly.

The cameras are motion-operated, and will not be regularly monitored. The monitor for some of the images is in the super's office.  About 1-2 terabytes per month will be stored. There is no audio.  The stored data will be used for police investigations and for Stellar to pursue cases against tenants (for example claiming that the tenant doesn't actually live there, or the tenant is doing an "AirBnB" type rental).    

Cameras will be put in the stairwells soon.

RENT PAYMENTS ON LINE:  Stellar is working to make this available to all tenants as an option.  They will send us a letter and note on the rent bill when it is available.

Stellar will look into the rampant inefficiency in misplacing parking tax exemption forms and not returning counter-signed leases to tenants within 30 days.


Front door security: The building's guards/doormen are supposed to either call upstairs to let you know that someone wants to come up, or require that a visitor use the intercom.  The intercom requires that the person press the 4 digits for your name. It will then ring on the telephone number you have given Stellar for that purpose.  When you answer the phone, find out who it is.  Press "9" to let the visitor in.  Niti will make sure all the doormen are properly instructed on that and the rest of their duties.

Carpets: Building manager Niti Jakupaj is trying to get Stellar to replace all the carpets, so he is working on contract proposals.  It's not clear that Stellar will approve the proposals.

Elevators: Niti took our complaints and said the elevator company will look into them. He is working on a proposal to replace the hard-to-clean gold-tone elevator cab decor with silver tone, as at 70 West 93rd Street.  

Fire Doors and Side Doors: Niti will re-check these to make sure they close properly. 

Laundry: Niti will check with the company that provides the machines about the frequent breakdowns, especially of the double-loaders.