Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Annual West Side Tenants Conference - Sat., Nov. 1

Come for the terrific workshops, breakfast, lunch, and community - all free.  It's a terrific resource!

West Side Tenants' Conference 
  • Saturday, Nov. 1st, 2014
  • 9 AM to 4 PM 
  • at the Fordham Univ. School of Law at Lincoln Center, 150 West 62nd St. at Columbus Ave.  (Trains: A,B,C,D,1;  Bus:  M11,5,7,10,20,37,57, 104)
RSVP: 212-716-1659.

Monday, October 27, 2014

NYS Atty. Gen. puts "tenant relocator" out of busines (and more articles of interest)

Michael McKee's Articles of Interest to Tenant Advocates ARTICLES OF INTEREST TO TENANT ADVOCATES:




Renters March Great!

Photo from Jose Louis' facebook page. 
Photo from Socrates Solano's facebook page
















The rally at noon had terrific music and chants, and good speakers, including Congressman Charles Rangel who compared 80% market rate-20% affordable apartment buildings to hospitals in which only 20% of the room were for sick people. Several speakers called for the repeal of vacancy decontrol - since allowing landlords to de-regulate vacant apartments depletes New York City's stock of affordable housing and motivates the harassment so many tenants suffer

Additional speakers (in alphabetical order):  Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Adriano Espaillat (a major organizer of the event), Assembly Member Herman "Denny" Farrell, Public Advocate Tish James, Council Member Mark Levine, Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Attorney John Gorman, and several tenants - all moderated by Tenants & Neighbors' Delsenia Glover.   Apologies to anyone missed here.  (With the music and crowd's enthusiasm, it was hard to see and hear all the speakers.)  

The Renters March was co-sponsored by The Black Institute, the Goddard-Riverside Community Center, the, Northern Manhattan Improvement Coalition, P.A.'L.A.N.T.E., the 
Riverside Edgecombe Neighborhood Association, Tenants & Neighbors, and We Act, among others. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Saturday, Oct. 25 - Tenant March!!

Join the Tenants March 
  • Noon - 3333 Broadway (135th St.)
  • 1 PM - march to Dyckman Street

Why is electrical submetering "additional rent"?

Electrical submetering means landlords buy electricity in bulk and charge tenants according
to the amount each uses, based on a remotely-read meter in each apartment.  In buildings that are heated by electricity, the electric bills can be enormous - particularly where the tenants cannot control how much heat they are getting and the buildings are not energy efficient.

Where tenants can't pay their electric bills, should they face a cut-off of electricity (as would happen if they had a direct contract with Con Ed), or will they be evicted?  The state's housing agency has a standard lease that lets landlords evict tenants.  That should be changed. 

Read excerpts from a FEDERAL (as opposed to STATE) court that just dismissed a case on technical grounds that Yonkers Riverview tenants brought against the federal government's HUD and  the NYS Homes & Community Renewal (formerly DHCR) about submetering evictions.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Affordable Units" are not so.

Mitchell-Lama Residents' Coalition Newsletter, October 2014

‘Affordable’ housing in Hell’s Kitchen; new Gotham complex seeks renters

More evidence emerged recently that “affordable” housing units, offered by landlords as a result of benefitting from a government program, are less and less affordable even to the city's middle-income residents.  The latest example: Gotham West, a giant development on Manhattan's mid-west side, familiarly known as Hell's Kitchen, or Clinton.

and  Affordable units in Brooklyn’s hip areas remain vacant.

Click on the link for the full newsletter. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

City electeds oppose Astoria Cove's cost & insufficient affordable housing

From Michael McKee (with additions) : 




Economic growth demands affordable housing

Capital
By Ryan Hutchins 2:42 p.m. | Oct. 21, 2014

Mayor Bill de Blasio sought on Tuesday to connect his progressive values to the needs of industry, telling thousands of executives at a global real estate conference that New York’s business growth demands solutions to ensure everyone can find a place to call home.

Send a Card to Cuomo

Send a card to Governor Cuomo:
Dear Governor Cuomo,

For this coming legislative session, my neighbors and I urge you to compel Democratic Party unity.  We have seen the “Independent Democratic Conference” undermine passage of pro-tenant laws.  We need you to support
  • Repeal of vacancy decontrol so our grown children can have affordable homes.
  • Repeal of the Urstadt Law so the politicians who vote on our rent laws are accountable to us.  
  • Limits on Major Capital Improvement increases.
We trust you will stand by us.

Sincerely,
[signature above printed name]

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Will Inclusionary Zoning Foster Gentrification?


Samuel Stein

De Blasio's Doomed Housing Plan

Solution should be expand & maintain public housing, expand rent controls, community land trusts

And to avoid gentrification, consider a Community Land Trust.  See Many In East Harlem Say No.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tenant blacklist, AirBnB, JP Morgan seeks public subsidies for building

Election Alert: not many days to go!

Tenants Political Action Committee:

On Tuesday, Nov. 4th, there will be a statewide election for governor, lieutenant governor, state comptroller, attorney general, and all 213 seats in the state legislature.

Help the Democrats take control of the New York State Senate to reverse the phaseout of our rent protection laws, and win pro-tenant reforms. If the Republicans are in control again, we are in serious trouble when the rent laws come up for renewal next June.  You can phonebank (see below), contribute money, and knock on doors. 

Michael McKee's articles of interest, 10/20/2014

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Home Rule for NYC !

 Home-Rule Demand Grows   (See Met Council on Housing's Tenant/Inquilino) 

“Want to clean up Albany? Get the landlords out!”    

      by Kenny Schaeffer 10/8/14  

When Bill deBlasio accepted the endorsement of the Tenants Political Action Committee in front of Stuyvesant Town during last year’s mayoral campaign, he pledged he would fight to regain New York City control over our rent and eviction laws in the same way outgoing mayor Michael Bloomberg had fought for mayoral control over schools.

Michael McKee's articles of interest, 10/16/2014

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Where are the rent regulated apartments in NYC and who represents them?

From the Community Service Society:

THE GEOGRAPHY OF RENT REGULATION IN NEW YORK CITY

by Tom Waters



There are nearly 1 million rent regulated apartments in New York City, which offer important affordability protections for tenants. The current law governing rent regulation will expire in June 2015 and will be up for renewal by the New York State legislature in its new session, beginning this January. The question before legislators will be whether to strengthen the existing law by preserving existing units and protecting affordability; or whether to allow the ongoing process of vacancy deregulation by which previously regulated apartments become subject to market rates.  

We argue that the changing geography of rent regulation in New York City should inform this debate. As such, we have estimated the numbers of rent-regulated apartments (including both rent control and rent stabilization) for each legislative district in New York City. These estimates were made by allocating apartments from the New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey’s sub-borough areas into legislative districts in proportion with local population as measured at the level of Census tract in the 2010 Census.



Gotham Gazette: Video of a Bed-Stuy squatter residence

Monday, October 13, 2014

Public $ + private developer renovating East New York buildings


East New York facelift underway for 63 buildings

A private developer backed by financing from city and state housing agencies is overhauling 468 rent-stabilized apartments in the Brooklyn neighborhood.

 
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
 
Monday, October 13, 2014, 2:00 AM
Home sweet renovated home.
An ailing cluster of affordable apartment buildings in East ew York is getting a long-awaited overhaul.
“It makes you feel good,” said Cherise French, 36, who lives in one of the spruced-up two-bedrooms. “You can sleep in peace.”

French’s home on Williams Ave. is part of a 63-building package of subsidized apartment complexes scooped up by a private developer and financed by city and state housing agencies and Goldman Sachs.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

New Policy: In "80-20" buildings, 20% of apartments could stay permanently affordable

"80-20" buildings are those whose owners got tax breaks or special financing on condition that at least 20% of their rental apartments start out affordable.  Unfortunately, when the tax breaks expire, so does the affordability.  That may change for some of those buildings.
Policy Change Could Benefit New York’s Landlords and Tenants,
NY Times, by Mireya Navarro, Oct. 9, 2014
Excerpt:  In a policy shift that could help New York City retain its existing supply of affordable housing, the state will allow owners of hundreds of mixed-income rental buildings to sell most of their apartments as long as they permanently preserve their low-income rentals or increase their number. 

[see also The Real Deal ]

City Housing Negotiations: Can Affordability Be Preserved?


Big Tests Ahead for de Blasio

The mayor faces serious challenges to his agenda on affordable housing, rezoning and neighborhood development
October 01, 2014
By Adam Pincus

Excerpts: One of the biggest tests in this arena is dealing with the giant 11,200-unit Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village complex on Manhattan’s East Side, and the 3,962-unit Upper Manhattan and Roosevelt Island package known as the Putnam portfolio.  . . . . [Stuyvesant Town / Peter Cooper Village's] tenants are working with Brookfield Property Partners on a tenant-led purchase bid that would include a condominium conversion and affordable housing preservation.

Meanwhile, Brookfield is at the center of another large affordable housing preservation tussle.
The Toronto-based property giant signed a contract during the summer to purchase the nearly 4,000 units in the Putnam portfolio from a group led by the New Jersey-based Urban American Management.
Almost half of those units are occupied by tenants holding a less common version of the federal Section 8 housing voucher, which in this instance remains with the tenants. That means if the tenants move, their former apartment becomes market rate.
Housing advocates want the city to preserve these units as permanently affordable.
“We would like to see some kind of preservation plan for the buildings,” said Katie Goldstein, executive director of the housing advocacy group Tenants & Neighbors.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Owners who rent to Columbia students try to oust regulated tenants

Common technique motivated by vacancy decontrol

NY Press
In Columbia Apartment Battle, It's the Long-Term Renters Who Pay 
(The whole article is worth reading - not just this excerpt.)

Excerpt: Mejia told The  that this summer, the landlord refused to renew her lease, and sent her a 30-day vacate notice in July. When she didn’t budge, the landlord used images from the hidden camera as the basis of an eviction suit that was launched against her in housing court. She often leaves the apartment to visit her elderly mother, who lives next door, and if the landlord could convince the court she wasn’t using her rent-stabilized apartment as a primary residence, Mejia could be evicted.
She hired a lawyer for about $1,500 and the case was dropped, she said. A few weeks later a new lease arrived in the mail. Then in September a man dropped by the apartment and offered to pay her $75,000 to move out. She didn’t bite.
____________________________

End vacancy decontrol, end harassment. 

100 worst landlords - and tenant resources

NYC Public Advocate Letitia James has just published this year's 100 Worst Landlords in a Landlord Watchlist  website that includes tenant rights, resources for landlords, and the ability to search by address.



Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Landlord Leonard Litwin is Cuomo's biggest donor.

State of Politics: $22 million of Cuomo’s $45 million came from only 331 donors who contributed $40K or more. 

Leonard Litwin, LLC loophole master, is Gov. Cuomo’s biggest donor at $1 million, and also gave $470K to the Democratic party & Lt. Gov. candidate Kathy Hochul

Tenants PAC: Oct. 4 2014 alert

 TENANT ALERT from Tenants Political Action Committee

October 4, 2014: The election for governor, lieutenant governor, state comptroller, attorney general, and all 213 seats in the state legislature is one month from today: Tuesday, November 4.

Tenants need to focus on the fight for control of the New York State Senate, because the fate of tenant legislation inevitably depends on the outcome. If the Democrats win a majority, we will have a chance to reverse the phaseout of our rent protection laws, and win pro-tenant reforms. If the Republicans are in control again, we are in serious trouble when the rent laws come up for renewal next June.

Michael McKee's Articles 10/4/14

NYS' Tenant Protection Unit settles with Bklyn landlord over harassment

NY Times

Excerpt: 

The accusations against the landlord, Yeshaya Wasserman, involved alleged practices in eight rent-regulated properties with 181 apartments in Flatbush and Crown Heights. The state investigation targeted practices that tenant advocates say have become more commonplace in fast-changing neighborhoods where the market now can demand rents many times higher than those paid by long-term residents.

Some of Mr. Wasserman’s tenants have lived in their apartments for more than 20 years and pay less than $1,000 for three-bedroom units, said representatives of the Flatbush Tenant Coalition, which aided the state investigation. Some tenants complained that the landlord did not cash their rent checks, a tactic that officials said relies on the expectation that tenants will not have the money to pay the back rent when it is finally demanded of them. Other tenants said the landlord cut off heat and hot water or took them to housing court on frivolous charges.




Tuesday, October 7, 2014

All tenants have rights - link to Gothamist blog: Jake Dobkin

The Gothamist:  Should I be scared to ask my landlord for repairs in a super-cheap apartment? 


EXCERPT:   Our satanically complex housing law affords you many rights and protections. I emailed my dad, well-known tenants-rights lawyer Steve Dobkin, for more. He replied:


"Regardless of whether your apartment is rent controlled (highly unlikely)-rent stabilized-or rent subsidized, or none of the above, as a tenant in New York you have a right to a habitable apartment, and the landlord is responsible for providing basic services and necessary repairs. Don't worry about looking a gift horse in the mouth or pissing the landlord off. What concerns me is that your story about renting an apartment on the UWS for $800 a month suggests that you may be suffering from delusional thinking and in serious need of therapy. The alternative is that you actually did win a lottery for a subsidized apartment. You would have needed to fill out a detailed application at some point. Try to remember."


In New York, a "habitable" apartment includes heat, hot water, electricity, gas, a working bathroom and kitchen, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and a number of other features. What's more, it means the absence of vermin, mold, peeling paint, smells or fumes, etc. You can't be evicted for asking your landlord to fix any of that stuff, and you shouldn't feel bad about asking for it. If the apartment is stabilized, that was reflected in the price the landlord paid for the apartment building, or, if it's subsidized, in tax breaks and other government support the landlord receives each year. By asking for basic services, you are not asking for anything you aren't entitled to, or receiving anything the landlord is not obligated to provide.


On the other hand, as any NYC tenant knows, asking and receiving are two different things


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Southbridge Tower's Vote to Leave Mitchell-Lama





Debating Privatization:
Southbridge Tower Votes

by September 17th, 2014 

Last year’s mayoral election vaulted the growing need for new affordable housing to the center of discussion over New York City’s future, and Mayor de Blasio released an ambitious plan earlier this year, pledging to create or preserve 200,000 units in the next ten years. But public discussion of the plan thus far has almost exclusively focused on the creation of new housing rather than the preservation of existing units. In a city where land for new construction is at a premium, maintaining assets already in place is crucial. According to a Community Service Society report released in January, the city lost 385,000 units of affordable housing between 2002 and 2011, far outpacing the 165,000 units that the Bloomberg administration aimed to create and preserve. If the loss of affordable homes continues at this rate, plans for new construction will fail to replace diminishing supply, let alone meet our growing city’s demand for more affordable housing. 
. . . To residents of Southbridge Towers, the vote over whether to opt out of Mitchell-Lama transcends the citywide conversation on affordable housing, replete with numbers, prices, and policy intricacies. The upcoming vote will have major personal repercussions for their homes, financial futures, and community culture. 

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL BLOG PIECE.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Bill doubles harassment fines. Is it enough?

NY Press
Bill Highlights Issues For Harassed Tenants

Lawmakers hope increased penalties for tenant harassment will deter unscrupulous landlords

by Daniel Fitzsimmons

September 30, 2014

A recently passed measure in the city council that toughens penalties for landlords found guilty of tenant harassment is receiving mixed reviews from affordable housing advocates, who say increasing penalties against unscrupulous landlords is a worthy cause, but more must be done.

The legislation, sponsored by council members Margaret Chin and Jumaane Williams, actually amends a pre-existing bill that levied a $5,000 fine to landlords found guilty of harassment. The amendment doubles that fine to $10,000 and will also result in the guilty landlord’s name being posted to a public list on the city’s Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development’s website.

Sue Susman, president of the Central Park Gardens Tenants’ Association, who also runs a popular mailing list on affordable housing issues and is considered a communication hub in the affordable housing community, said the amendment is an important step in the right direction but that the definition of what constitutes harassment must be broadened.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Big real estate $$ trying to defeat pro-tenant candidates

Michael McKee writes: "All three of the Democratic candidates that the Real Estate Board of
New York (REBNY) is targeting for defeat are pro-tenant, and are priorities for Tenants PAC. "


Crain's Insider

REBNY jumps into Senate battle

Share

OCTOBER 2, 2014 4:32 P.M.

Jobs for New York Inc., an outside spending group that poured $8 million into New York City’s 2013 elections, is now poised to help Republicans in the high-stakes battle for the state Senate, records show.
. . . . 
The treasurer of the new state-level group is William Auerbach, the chief financial officer for the Real Estate Board of New York, which ran the 2013 city-election effort for the real estate industry. On Wednesday, records show, Jobs for New York's city-level committee transferred nearly $9,000 in leftover funds into its new state-level unit.


Senate Republicans, who are struggling to hang on to power in Albany, have pursued policies friendly to the real estate industry, while Democrats are mulling pro-tenant policies if they regain the Senate. With the state Assembly solidly in Democratic hands, the outcome of the races for the Senate will determine the fate of many bills in the next two years. For instance, REBNY opposes a bill that Manhattan state Sen. Brad Hoylman recently introduced to raise taxes on pricey apartments whose owners' primary residences are elsewhere.