Friday, November 30, 2012

Stuy Town Settles Roberts Lawsuit

Tenants & electeds celebrating
Roberts victory in 2009
In 2009, New York State's highest court ruled that since owners getting J-51 tax breaks to make improvements could not de-regulate apartments, thousands of apartments at Stuyvesant Town / Peter Cooper Village had been illegally taken out of rent stabilization.  Roberts v. Tishman Speyer

But the court left it up to the owners and tenants (members of the Real Rent Reform Campaign) to come up with what the rents should actually be - while the development was being gentrified.  The tenants and owners have now come to a settlement - as a result of which, the owners have put up $68.7 million to compensate 21,250 current and past tenants.  

The New York Times reports
John Marsh, president of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenant Association, said the settlement brought “much needed resolution for residents who have had to live with uncertainty for years now.” But, he said, “These rents are still out of reach for working families, and weakened rent laws will only continue to turn our community into a place that firefighters and teachers can no longer afford.”  
“Tenants had overpaid for years as a result of illegal rent deregulation, and they have been waiting a long time for relief,” Mr. Garodnick said. “I am concerned that a significant number of tenants may be subject to rent increases under this agreement.”

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Former Judge & WSNA Organizer Promote Affordable Housing

Karen Smith

Published: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 3:25 PM CST

When a former New York State Supreme Court judge gets so riled up that she drops the F-word, it’s time to sit down, spit out the gum and take heed. That’s just what happened when the Honorable Karen Smith (of the Real Rent Reform campaign) discussed the state of affordable housing at a November 15 community forum hosted by the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club (CRDC).

Matt Kelin
After a numbing presidential election and an uninvited guest named Sandy who overstayed her welcome, Smith’s presentation was a wake-up call to a local problem in need of serious attention. She was joined by Matt Klein of the West Side Neighborhood Alliance, who provided insights regarding the planning, building and term limits of affordable housing.

“Real estate is to New York what oil is to Texas,” Smith stated firmly, “And we’re up against it. If you look at the papers and editorials, they’re demonizing us much as they use to demonize welfare recipients years back. They claim we don’t need rent control and rent stabilization even though statistics show that the median income for those in rent regulated apartments is under $35,000. Busing to Albany no longer works. They no longer listen.”

Two years ago, Smith turned in her judicial gavel for a hammer to fight for the rights to affordable housing for struggling New Yorkers — much with the same spirit as her mother, the late Esther Smith, did in fighting for housing and equal rights when she was Chelsea’s District Leader (1980-90). This apple didn’t fall far from the tree (which was in Penn South, a rare housing project that manages to comfortably keep affordability).

During the course of her work with Real Rent Reform, Smith has met with over 75 organizations, examined the problems associated with of all types of housing and is now in the process of forming a coalition under the banner of “Affordable New York.” Smith, who envisions a growing force that Albany will not be able to ignore, made the case for why the current affordable housing movement’s scope should be broadened to include all renters (co-op, condo and limited equity), home owners and public housing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tenants to Sen. Jeff Klein: Stick with the Democrats

State Sen. Jeff Klein
BRONX Times Reporter


Welcome Jeff Klein  

Dear editor,

Because of redistricting, the tenants at Janel Towers have a new state Senator, Jeff Klein.

We were ecstatic when we learned the day after the Nov. 6 election that the Democrats were on the verge of reclaiming the majority in the state Senate. For the last two decades the state Senate Republicans have done the bidding of the New York City real estate lobby, forcing through amendments that have drastically weakened the rent stabilization laws.

R3 at City Hall Rally

Some tenant advocates braved the rainstorm on Nov. 27, 2012 to attend the rally at City Hall to call on rogue State Senate Democrats to remain with their fellow Democrats in the interest of advancing a progressive agenda in Albany.

Barry Soltz of Janel Towers speaking
with Assembly Member Karim Camara at left,
and activists from R3 and from Make the Road behind
and next to him
 One of the speakers was Barry Soltz  of  the Janel Towers Tenants   Association in  the  Bronx,  now in the   State Senate  District of Jeff Klein   thanks to  redistricting.

  Click here for the video.   (Posted  by  videographer Rafael Martinez Alequin on November 28, 2012 on the   YourFreePress blog, this captures just   the end of Barry's terrific speech.)
Karen Scharff, Exec. Dir.
Citizen Action NY
photo by Louis Cholden-Brown

Stuart Applebaum, pres.
Retail, Wholesale & Dept. Store Workers Union

Photo by Louis Cholden-Brown

Sponsored by: Citizen Action of New York, Communication Workers of America, Community Voices Heard Power, Democracy for America,, New York Communities for Change,  Progressive Change Campaign Committee, the Real Rent Reform Campaign, SEIU 32BJ, Strong Economy for All, United New York, the Working Families Party .

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Will the J-51 bill get passed with no tenant protections?

Contact Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver:  No tax breaks for owners without protection for tenants!

Why? Read: 

J-51 Stalemate
Will Tax Break Trump Rent Reform?
By: Michael McKee
Published:  July 2012

For once, tenants and their allies in the state legislature had some leverage this year. The J-51 tax-subsidy program for landlords expired last December 31. The program was designed to help owners make fire and safety improvements to rental buildings, but it now is largely a giveaway to landlords and market-rate housing. Since then, the city of New York has not been able to give out any new J-51 subsidies. (Existing J-51 contracts are not affected.)

Pro-tenant state legislators and tenant advocates set out to do two things during the 2012 legislative session: to direct J-51 subsidies away from market-rate housing and toward truly affordable projects, and to use renewing the program to win pro-tenant changes to the rent-regulation laws.

In the spring, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) looked tenant advocates in the eye at a meeting and pledged that his house would not renew J-51 unless the Senate Republicans agreed to significant reforms to the rent laws. The city of New York weighed in with a bill that included some good but modest reforms, by making high-value co-ops and condos ineligible.

Stand Up for Progressive NY - Tues., Nov. 27, 2012

                        STAND UP FOR A                       
                             NEW YORK                         

New York City
The Steps of City Hall
Tuesday, November 27th
12:00 pm
Contact: Gregory Fries

(There's a rally at the same time  at the Rockland County Office Building, 
11 Hempstead Rd. , New City, NY 
Contact  Ari Kamen, 
for more inforation. Click here for a Rockland flyer.)

Election Day, New Yorkers voted for a
progressive agenda in Albany.  Let's stand up for a
Senate that can make the change we voted for.
SPONSORED BY: Citizen Action of New York, Communication Workers of America, Community Voices Heard Power, Democracy for America,, New York Communities for Change,  Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Real Rent Reform Campaign, SEIU 32BJ, Strong Economy for All, United New York, Working Families Party

Raise the minimum wage. Public financing of elections. Criminal justice reform. Tenants rights. Education funding. Reproductive health. Gun control. Jobs and infrastructure. Immigrant rights. Ban on hydrofracking. The list goes on

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Soul-Selling required for GOP to control State Senate?

 Last Updated: 11:36 PM, November 14, 2012
 Posted: November 15, 2012
People sell their souls all the time.
But in public?

Meet Simcha Felder, the Brooklyn Democrat who was elected to the state Senate last Tuesday, and who, quick as a wink, decamped to Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ pirate crew.
It was strictly business, says Felder.
The ex-city councilman — who’s lately been working for that paragon of integrity, City Comptroller John Liu — made it plain while campaigning that he’d deliver his seat to whichever team gave him the most stuff.
Now, transactional politicking is what Albany does best.
Matter of fact, it’s not the first time that Skelos has tempted feckless Democrats to his side of the aisle.
Simcha Felder
 And while it’s not known precisely what Felder got in exchange, his flip leaves the GOP with 31 Senate seats and Dems with 30 (with two races still to be decided) — making it possible for Skelos to retain control of his chamber.

But the Brooklyn pol’s marketing of his principles is just par for the course in Albany. Who can forget the last time Senate Republicans purchased seats from Dems?
That was back in 2009, when Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada sold their loyalties to Skelos & Co., ending Democrat Malcolm Smith’s reign as majority leader.
Skelos retook the title in the deal, and Espada got to be Senate president pro tem and acting lieutenant governor.
In the end, of course, the double-dealing duo reneged — after Dems upped their offer and agreed to leadership changes. (To no one’s surprise, both men were later convicted of unrelated criminal charges.)

Nor is Felder the only Dem who’s been on the market since last week’s election; Smith himself is reportedly “open” to joining the GOP. (Maybe he learned from ’09.)
So, too, are four Democrats who formed their own caucus last year.
And it’s not just seats for sale — but actual legislation, too. (Never mind Gov. Cuomo’s boasts of having ended sleaze and dysfunction in state governance.)
Just another day in the Albany office.
At least Felder’s “honest” about it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Undoing the Vote - Felder Changes Party Alliance

Albany Times Union

Party switch key to GOP Senate control

Felder's move leaves GOP one vote from dominating chamber
Published 11:52 p.m., Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Standing next to photo of pipes covered with pigeon mess, Council Member Simcha Felder holds a press conference , Monday Nov. 12 , 2007, announcing legislation to ban feeding pigeons, City Hall, New York.  (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews) Photo: Bebeto Matthews / AP
AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews
ALBANY — Republicans took a step toward maintaining control of the state Senate majority Tuesday when a Brooklyn Democrat announced he would join their conference.

The announcement by Simcha Felder, an Orthodox Jew who met with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Long Island, earlier in the day, brings the GOP conference just one person shy of the 32 votes it needs to dominate what will be a 63-seat chamber.
 . . . .

Felder's decision — announced in a statement to YNN's "Capital Tonight" — brings the GOP to 31 votes. Republicans are now pinning their hopes on Assemblyman George Amedore's race against Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk in the 46th District, which stretches from Amsterdam to Kingston through Albany and Greene counties. Amedore, R-Rotterdam, trailed Tkaczyk by 139 votes on election night. Elections officials in the five-county district began a recanvass of voting machines on Tuesday, which yielded no changes after a review in Albany and Schenectady counties.
Democrats remained confident Tkaczyk's lead, as well as those in several other races from last week, would hold.
"The voters sent a clear message on election night that they want the Senate led by a Democratic majority," said Mike Murphy, a Democratic spokesman. "We are confident that when the Senate convenes in January, there will be that Democratic majority and we look forward to working with Governor Cuomo to achieve the progressive agenda he has laid out."

There is another variable: The four-member Independent Democratic Conference. Democrats will not be able to assemble a 32-vote majority without securing the IDC, whose members seceded from the main body of the conference in January 2011, citing what they called "dysfunction." When Democrats held a thin majority in 2009 and 2010, legislative proceedings were often frustrated when Democratic leaders struggled to corral all 32 members for key votes.
The IDC's de facto leader, Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein, has been quiet about his intentions. While he and other Democrats have had sharp words for each other over the past 22 months, they — and Republicans — have been singing a softer tune since Election Day.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Negotiations to Sell Out State Senate?

With paper ballots throughout Westchester and points north in New York being counted and re-counted,  state legislators are wondering who will dominate the State Senate.

Even if Democrats win, some are negotiating with the Republicans . . . which could be bad news for tenants.

From City & State:

Al Sharpton, MSNBC Talk Show

Sen. Jeff Klein
* Talk-show host Al Sharpton’s involvement in efforts to put the state Senate back in Democratic hands could drive the four Independent Democrats to caucus with Republicans, the Post’s Fred Dicker learns:

* Bronx Democrat Jeff Klein and Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos met to discuss what it would take to form a coalition government, the Daily News’s Ken Lovett reports:

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gov. & Mayor: Help NYCHA tenants after Hurricane Sandy!

Photo of Occupy Sandy by Piotr Redlinski
for The New York Times
The ongoing neglect of the public housing along the coastline of New York City following Hurricane Sandy is a shame on us all.  Occupy Sandy is helping out.  But more help is needed.   

Greater NYC for Change has prepared a letter to Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg.  R3 has signed on along with many other groups.  Have you?

The list is growing:

Advocates for Justice
Association of Tenants of Lincoln Towers
Astoria Recovers
B'nai Jeshurun
Bay Ridge Young Dems 
Brooklyn for Barack
Brooklyn Movement Center
Center for Working Families
Center for Working Families 
Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats
Central Park Gardens Tenants' Association
Chelsea Midtown Democratic Club 
Chelsea Reform Democratic Club
Chelsea/West Village for Change
Citizen Action of New York City
Click and Improve, Inc.
Cooperators United for Mitchell-Lama
Democracy for New York City
Democratic District Leader, 69th AD/Part B
Doctors for America
Downtown for Democracy
Downtown Independent Democrats
East End Cares 
Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club
Flatbush Tenant Coalition @ FDC.
FoodBank of New York City
Goddard Riverside Community Center
GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side)
Greater NYC for Change
Hell's Kitchen for Obama
Human Services Council
ICNYU: The Islamic Center at New York University
Independence Plaza North Tenants Association
Institute for Rational Urban Mobility
Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing
Make the Road
Make the Road NY
Manhattan Young Democrats
McManus Democratic Club 
Met Council on Housing
Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign
Mitchell-Lama Residents Coalition
Mount Vernon United Tenatns
MoveOn (not likely, but still)
New Latino Movement NYC
New Leaders Council
New York City Parents Union
New York Latinos for Obama
Occupy Sandy
Progressive Democratic Club of East Harlem
Prospect Heights Dems for Reform
Queens Mamas
Real Rent Reform Campaign
Red Hook Initiative
Riverside Edgecombe Neighborhood Association
Stonewall Democratic Club of NYC
Tenants PAC
Transit Forward
Tribeca for Change
Upper West Side Democrats for Progress
Upper West Side Democrats for Progress.
Village Independent Democrats
Village Reform Democratic Club
Womens Information Network NYC
Working Families Party

Friday, November 9, 2012

Dems May Take NYS Senate!

As a result of the 2012 elections, pro-tenant legislators might be taking the NYS Senate!

(Almost).  In the past, the Senate it has been dominated by Republicans (generally from upstate, with few tenants and little rent regulation), except for a short period when Democrats held a slim majority.  (But the four "extras" decided to sell themselves to the highest bidder  - the GOP.  Three of the four are now in prison.)  Now it looks like the Democrats have taken the Senate majority.  Assuming they hold strong, we could get real rent protections. 

 "Republicans currently hold 33 of the 62 seats in the Senate. On Tuesday, Democrats had clearly won 31 seats and Republicans 30 in a chamber that will grow to 63 seats next year because of redistricting." NY Times.

The 2012 Election
That may not be enough for the GOP to prevail. With a lot of support from Tenants PAC and individual tenants, Democratic Senators may have the majority.  These legislators may make the difference since they've now been elected to the State Senate:

  • Joseph Addabbo (D) in Queens
  • George Latimer (D), currently an Assembly Member, in Westchester
  • Ted O'Brian (D), in Rochester
  • Terry Gipson (D) (Poughkeepsie)
  • Cecilia Tkaczyk (D) (Mohawk & Hudson Valleys) - is still fighting for the seat, just a few votes ahead of her opponent. 

Yay, Tenants PAC!

Tenants Active Against Landlords/Banks in Predatory Equity

The Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB) has a great video of tenants and elected officials fighting "predatory equity."   That's where a landlord obtains a mortgage for much more than the building's rent payments are worth (hoping its value will increase). To pay the mortgage, the landlord must either 

  • get rid of tenants paying affordable rents and bring in higher-paying tenants, or 
  • stop maintaining the building.
If the tenants fight back, the landlord sometimes walks away - forfeiting the mortgage, leaving the bank in charge and the tenants with nothing. 

Then the tenants REALLY have to fight.  So watch the UHAB video for a great example. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Phonebank: Make the NYS Senate Pro-Tenant

The NYS Senate has been dominated for many years by anti-tenant legislators.  Help change the State Senate's point of view by working for the election of pro-tenant legislators.

JOIN TENANTS PAC in a PHONEBANK for George Latimer, an Assembly Member running for the State Senate from Westchester.

What: Phonebank - please bring your cell phone and a charger. You'll be calling neighbors in Westchester.

When: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 (after you vote!), 11:30 AM - 8:30 PM

Where: 410 Columbus Avenue at 79th Street (a storefront) in Manhattan.