Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tenants & Others in Sandy's Aftermath

CBS NY News: Con Edison was reporting about 750,000 customers without electricity, mostly in New York City and Westchester County. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said 326 buildings and 59 public housing developments are in the dark.

NY Times's live blog - click it or updates.

Patrick McGeehan
Power Could Be Out in Manhattan for Days, Con Ed Says

Much of Manhattan below Midtown could be without electricity for several days after an explosion at a substation on the East River on Monday night, a spokesman for Consolidated Edison said Tuesday morning.
Click here for the rest of this article and for updates.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Letter from Tenants to HCR : What We Need

A Letter sent by 63 Organizations to New York State's Housing Agency


Regulation Comments
Office of Rent Administration
NYS Housing and Community Renewal
92‐31 Union Hall Street
Jamaica, NY 11433

RE: Recommendations for Revising the Rent Stabilization Code, the Tenant Protection Regulations, and the Rent Control Regulations.

We are tenant organizing and legal services organizations who represent the tenant community in New York City and the three suburban counties.

Enclosed [below]  is our response to Deputy Commissioner Woody Pascal’s request seeking input on new amendments to New York Stateʹs Rent Stabilization Code and Rent Control Regulations. We have attached recommendations that were first made to New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal last year. We have also attached draft regulatory language that we submitted to DHCR at the request of Commissioner Daryl Towns.

The primary purpose of rent regulation in New York City and the three suburban counties has been to eliminate abnormal rents in an overheated market. Indeed, the Rent Stabilization Law’s stated goal is to protect “public health, safety, and welfare…and to prevent exactions of unjust, unreasonable, and oppressive rents and rental agreements.”

The New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal has administered and enforced rent regulation through the Rent Stabilization Code and the Rent Control Regulations. However, in the last decade there has been an unprecedented rise in rents in New York City and the three suburban counties. This rise has been exacerbated by an enforcement system that relies on tenants to initiate complaints and a Code and Regulations that have been amended to place limitations on tenants’ capacities to challenge illegal rents. The current system for rent increases and destabilizations during vacancy is essentially an “honor system” for landlords.

We, thus, welcome the opportunity to recommend changes that would address the weaknesses in the current system. We respectfully suggest that DHCR make a historic shift in regulatory policy and practice to prevent the further loss of affordable housing and the displacement of low‐ and moderate‐income people from their homes and communities. Beginning a decade ago under a prior Administration, weak regulation and lax enforcement made it possible for unscrupulous landlords to unlawfully deregulate tens of thousands of rent stabilized units, and inflate rents in stabilized apartments to a level beyond the reach of many working families.

We therefore urge the current Administration to immediately implement the regulatory amendments we have proposed to strengthen the Code and the Regulations.

Further, while we believe that the new Tenant Protection Unit can operate without new enabling regulations, we would not oppose such amendments to the Code and Regulations if the agency decides to propose such changes.

As always, we are available to further discuss these matters, but immediate action is needed to remedy continuing displacement and the loss of affordable housing units. Thank you for your consideration of our recommendations.

Sincerely,  (click on "read more" below for the 63 tenant organization signers)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

No Landlord Tax Breaks without Tenant Protections

Urge Your Assembly Member to tell Speaker Silver

NYS Assembly Members have more rent regulated tenants in their districts than co-op or condo residents - or landlords.

So why are so many Assembly Members co-sponsoring the bad Vito Lopez bill that combines co-op & condo breaks with a bill to renew billionaire J-51 and other tax breaks for landlords and developers? It has no protections for tenants.

Urge your Assembly Member (especially if you're outside Manhattan!) to 

WRITE TO SILVER:  No tenant protections? No tax breaks for landlords!

A. 10798 merges the J-51 tax abatements (for landlords who make major repairs on their building) with a bill that many Assembly Members favor (condo and co-op tax breaks).  Speaker Silver should  separate the two bills and not pass the J-51 bill unless the legislature also passes the necessary tenant bills. 

Click on the legislators' names to see the great letters already sent by Assembly Members Daniel O'Donnell, Herman Farrell, Keith Wright, Guillermo LinaresNaomi Rivera, Deborah Glick and Jeffrey Dinowitz.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A SAMPLE LETTER for ASSEMBLY MEMBERS WHO ARE CO-SPONSORING A.10798, and one for those who did NOT sponsor A.10798, or see the samples below. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

CASA/New Settlement KNOW YOUR RIGHTS workshops

CASA/New Settlement in northern Manhattan, the Bronx, and Westchester, is having a 
"KNOW YOUR RIGHTS" series of workshops in English and Spanish:

From CASA/New Settlement Apartments’ Community Action for Safe Apartments:

CASA is excited to announce our SECOND Know Your Rights Workshops Series!  Last year, we educated over 114 Bronx Tenants, with 65 tenants receiving legal advice! Thank you for all of your support to make these workshops a success.

The workshops cover a wide range of housing issues, as well as education and the police.  Every time there is a workshop, there will also be a housing legal clinic, made possible by the Urban Justice Center, Bronx Legal Services, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and The Legal Aid Society.  

Any Bronx tenant  with a housing question is welcome—though we are asking that they RSVP so that we can ensure to have enough lawyers present.

Our first workshop in this series, Know Your Rights and Responsibilities as a Rent Stabilized Tenant, is THIS Saturday, October 27th, from 11am-2pm at 35 Marcy Place.  Please see the attached flyers and calendar of workshops/legal clinics.  Please forward widely!

For more information, contact:

Susanna Blankley, Director of Housing Organizing
CASA: Community Action for Safe Apartments

Monday, October 15, 2012

Tell DHCR We Need Stronger Tenant Protection Regulations

Join us in signing onto a city-wide letter!

The NYS Housing and Community Renewal (HCR) agency has asked tenants and landlords to propose new regulations.   From Tenants & Neighbors and last year's Working Group on HCR Regulation: "HCR should change its regulatory policy and practice to prevent the further loss of irreplaceable housing resources and the displacement of low and moderate income people from their homes and communities.  

"Lax regulation and weak enforcement have made it possible for unscrupulous landlords to unlawfully deregulate tens of thousands of rent stabilized units, and inflate even rent stabilized rents to a level beyond the reach of many working families."

Tenants & Neighbors and the Working Group on HCR Regulation have crystallized what tenants need. Join all of us in responding together, or tell DHCR directly:

Click here for T&N's memo "New Rules for Stronger Enforcement," click here for T&N organizer Sam Stein's testimony to HCR, click here for the testimony of Ezra Kautz of Make the Road, and see the main points below from the Working Group.)    Click here for the testimony of Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal. 

Click on "read more" for the full changes tenants need. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Billionaire Developers Offered Tax Breaks - But No Help for Tenants?

A tax break for billionaires for specific luxury apartment developers in Assembly Bill A.10798 - but  NO protections for tenants. Speaker Silver, what happened to your promise? 

Why does this bill have 
  • NO limits on MCI increases; 
  • NO City Council input into the mayor's Rent Guidelines Board appointments; 
  • NO limits on rent controlled apt. increases; 
  • NO preferential rent limits? 
NBC News: 
Billionaires get 'low income' tax breaks in NYC condo Tower

Friday, October 5, 2012

DHCR seeking comments on rent regulations

New York State's housing agency, (D)HCR,  is seeking comments on more rent regulations between now and October 26, 2012. 

Woody Pascal, Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Rent Administration is writing to tenant and owner groups that DHCR is considering new amendments to the

  • Rent Stabilization Code
  • Tenant Protection Regulations, and
  • Rent Control Regulations.
The building owners want 

  • quicker de-regulation of apartments whose rents reach $2500 and whose inhabitants' income is over $200,000 for 2 consecutive years
  • "clarification" of how to oust a tenant by proving the apartment is not the tenant's prime residence
  • more efficient rent increases through Major Capital Improvements and Maximum Base Rent (for rent controlled tenants);
  • easier standards for improving their property.

Tenants want 
  • an end to Major Capital Improvement increases once the improvements have been paid for
  • quicker responses to complaints about reduced services
  • stronger standards to protect tenants with preferential rents
  • easier and clearer procedures for establishing and calculating overcharges;
  • easier succession (which resident takes over the apartment if the tenant named on the lease leaves)
  • stricter standards where the landlord plans demolitiion (often as a way of getting out of rent regulation)
  • stricter standards and time limits for Individual Apartment Improvement rent increases
  • stronger anti-harassment enforcement
  • more help for the elderly and the disabled. 

Send your comments to the Regulation Comments, Office of Rent Administration, 92-31 Union Hall Street, Jamaica, NY 11433; or may be emailed to

Affordable Housing Gets Back Burner in Chelsea

Some sour on affordable housing as Chelsea Market deal sweetener 

Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 12:47 PM CDT 

On September 5, the City Planning Commission (CPC) gave its unanimous approval to a plan which would allow the vertical expansion of Chelsea Market — after the iconic building’s owner, Jamestown Properties, agreed to a number of scalebacks and sweeteners. 

 Most significantly, the CPC further clarified plans — first proposed by Community Board 4 (CB4) during its June 6 full board vote — to build affordable housing somewhere in the CB4 area, preferably in Chelsea. Funding for such an effort would be drawn from money long ago earmarked for the High Line Improvement Fund (HLIF). Seen by some as a palatable local “get” in exchange for the City Council’s approval of Jamestown’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) application, other community and tenant advocacy groups are sour on the deal — calling it an unlikely scenario, given the fact that housing promised during the creation of 2005’s Special West Chelsea District (SWCD) never materialized.

 “It’s not that we all don’t want affordable housing in Chelsea,” stated Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, “but we shouldn’t have to pay for it twice with two upzonings that this neighborhood doesn’t want or need.” 

 At a rally held on September 28 at the 15th Street and Tenth Avenue side of Chelsea Market, Berman was joined by more than two dozen activists from such wide-ranging groups as Save Chelsea, Tenant PAC, London Terrace Tenants Association, Chelsea Reform Democratic Club (City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s club), Chelsea Coalition on Housing, Greenwich Village Community Task Force and Council of Chelsea Block Associations. They met to express solidarity in their opposition to the “two egregious towers” which Jamestown seeks to build on the Ninth and Tenth Avenue ends of the block-long complex. Berman noted that such construction is prohibited by the current zoning, but allowed by the CPC-approved upzoning. 

Berman is a former member of CB4’s Affordable Housing Task Force, which was charged with overseeing the fulfillment of the city’s affordable housing commitments from the massive West Chelsea and Hudson Yards rezonings of 2005. But he said that the city did not keep its word. 

 At that time, Berman explained, the city promised that in return for rezoning the SWCD area, “filling it with huge buildings of luxury housing,” they would generate 27 percent affordable housing: 100 units targeted for middle- and moderate-income families. The designated location was on West 18th Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenue — a parking lot on Fulton Houses, which was then (and still is) owned by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). 

 Set forth in the Special West Chelsea Points of Agreement, as reached between the mayor and the City Council, “All units will be permanently affordable…A portion to be developed may be set aside for NYCHA residents or households on the waiting list through Section 8.” (Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937 authorizes the payment of rental housing assistance to private landlords on behalf of low-income households.) 

 However, after the City Council passed the upzoning, the community was informed there was no money to build it. “They said, ‘We didn’t know it was going to cost money to purchase the land. We can’t deliver,’ ” recalled Berman. “Now the city is saying, ‘If you let us upzone more of your neighborhood, with more unwanted towers in Chelsea, we’ll finally give you the money.’ They are asking us to pay a second time for what was owed us seven years ago.”  [Emphasis added]

Click here for the rest of the article.