Fed up with state agency DHCR not following its own internal rules for handling Major Capital Improvement (MCI) rent increases, TA president Susan Steinberg threw down the gauntlet before the elected representatives at the November 2017 Tenants Association public meeting. In response, State Senator Brad Hoylman and City Councilmember Keith Powers sent DHCR a letter outlining specific instances where the agency has been either inconsistent in applying its rules or ignored them altogether.
- An MCI item must be depreciable under federal law (brick pointing is not);
- Statute of limitations is ignored—applications are filed outside of the strict two-year limit;
- Allocation for commercial tenants is often understated;
- Applications are incomplete or include documentation for buildings other than those covered by a particular MCI;
- Unnecessary consultant costs are included;
- And one of the worst—disregard for DHCR’s own requirement that the agency’s decisions be accompanied by explanations.
DHCR (Division of Housing and Community Renewal) reviews landlords’ requests for Major Capital Improvement rent increases for rent-stabilized housing. Those increases become a permanent part of the legal base rent on which lease renewal increases are figured. All apartments in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village are rent-stabilized until June 2020, when many will be removed from rent stabilization.
As of April 2018, the TA continues to challenge multiple MCIs for exterior restoration/facade work, hot water heaters, and Peter Cooper Village intercoms.
Read the letter.
At a hearing of the City Council Committee on Housing and Buildings on 3/19/18 for renewal of the city’s rent laws, TA president Susan Steinberg gave this testimony:
Speaker Johnson, Housing Committee Chair Cornegy, members of the Housing Committee, thank you for supporting the renewal of city rent laws and the strengthening of state and city rent laws by closing loopholes. I am Susan Steinberg, President of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, and we support Resolution 188-A and Intro 600-A.
STPCV contains approximately 11,230 units and 28,000 residents. In 1947, it was built as a community for people of moderate means. In 1980, my one-bedroom cost $250 per month. In 2018, despite rent regulations, a one-bedroom starts at $3,156. Figuring 30% of one’s income for rent, one must earn $126,240 to afford that one-bedroom. That’s not moderate. New York City’s average annual salary is $68,883. Our cost of living is 129% higher than national average.
So how did a rent-regulated community get from moderate to market? Through vacancy deregulation, through weakening of rent laws every time they come up for renewal in Albany, and through loopholes—vacancy bonuses, preferential rents, and lots of major capital improvements that we pay for in perpetuity—loopholes that are bleeding our community, the city, and the state of regulated renters.
To afford the rent in Stuytown today, tenants double or triple up and leave at renewal as rents rise. Two thousand units turn over every year, providing a big opportunity for a 20% vacancy bonus. That, plus multiple MCIs we pay for till death push rents to exceed the $2,700/month deregulation benchmark.
To ease the turnover burden and sting of market rates, management offers preferential rents. Forty percent of our renters are preferential. The difference between the preferential and legal rents can be hundreds or thousands of dollars. Most renters don’t understand that the landlord is allowed to raise the rent all the way up to the legal rent on renewal. The Tenants Association gets the calls from tenants suffering from sticker shock when their monthly rent increases by, say, $500.
Renters are at a disadvantage. Owners don’t worry every three years about whether they will have a roof over their heads. Resolution 188-A and Intro 600-A must be passed and rent laws strengthened to ensure that housing for hundreds of thousands of tenants is a right, not a luxury.
Thank you, Council Members, for the opportunity to testify.
The Annual Meeting of the Stuyvesant Town–Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, Inc., will be held on May 31, 2018 (time and place to come). At that time, members will vote to fill vacant seats on the TA Board of Directors.
The Board of Directors, on the recommendation of the Nominating Committee, has endorsed the following persons to be elected to vacant seats:
Other TA members interested in being elected to the Board may seek a position on the ballot by submitting a petition signed by a minimum of thirty (30) members of the TA current in their dues when they sign the petition. No more than one candidate’s name may be included on any one petition. Petitions must include the printed name, signature, address, and apartment number of each member signing the petition. Petition forms may be downloaded here.
In addition, each candidate must submit a statement indicating the following: (1) the candidate’s name, address (including apartment number), telephone number, and email address; (2) a statement that the candidate is 18 years of age or older; and (3) a summary of the candidate’s qualifications (no more than 100 words). The Nominating Committee will judge the validity of all petitions.
Petitions and other materials in PDF form should be emailed to [email protected] by March 31, 2018.
Candidates should retain their original petitions in the event they need to be examined.
Nominating Committee: Kevin J. Farrelly, Patricia Levenson, Steven Newmark, Patricia Sallin, Susan Steinberg
Wednesday, January 31, 5–8 p.m.
L Train Shutdown Informational Meeting
344 East 14th Street (14th Street Y)
The MTA and DOT are hosting informational meetings for the public to learn and ask questions about plans for the 15-month shutdown of the L train beginning in April 2019. Click here to view the flyer with times and locations.
If you can’t attend this meeting, there will be one on Wednesday, February 14, 5–8 p.m., at Our Lady of Guadalupe, 328 West 14th Street.
Monday, February 5, 7 p.m.
Transportation Committee Meeting (Community Board 6)
433 First Avenue, room 220 (NYU School of Dentistry)
2. A proposal by the Dept. of Transportation to install crosstown protected bicycle lanes on East 26th and 29th Streets.
3. Presentation by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and NYC Dept. of Transportation on the plans for the coming L train Canarsie Tunnel shutdown.
Wednesday, February 14, 10 a.m.–12 p.m.
SCRIE/DRIE Rent Freeze Workshop
Community Center, First Avenue Loop
RSVP (212) 633-8051
You may be eligible for a rent freeze if:
- You’re at least 62 years old, OR
- You receive SSI, SSDI, a VA disability pension or compensation, or disability-related Medicaid if you have received either SSI or SSDI in the past.
- Your total household income is $50,000 or less, and you pay more than a third of the total monthly household income to rent.
What you should bring to apply:
- Proof of your date of birth (driver’s license or birth certificate or passport or government ID).
- Proof of income for yourself and all household members for 2017, including W-2 forms, 1099 forms, pension or SSI/SSDI statements, etc.
- Your prior and current lease, signed by both you and your landlord.
- Any notices of Major Capital Improvement charges you have received in the past two years.
Co-sponsored by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and Council Member Keith Powers
Tuesday, February 20, 6–7 p.m.
Managing the Legal and Financial Issues of Cancer
Perlmutter Cancer Center, 160 East 34th Street, 11th floor, room 1121.
This lecture is meant to increase survivors’ understanding of their financial and legal challenges and of their rights in dealing with them. All NYU Cancer Center lecture events are free, but registration is required. For more information, consult NYU Langone’s website.
Tuesday, February 20, 6:30 p.m.
13th Precinct Community Council
230 East 21st Street (between Second and Third Avenues)
The Community Council provides a forum for community members to work with local police officers to address safety and quality of life issues that affect us all.
The Nominating Committee of the Stuyvesant Town–Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association (the “TA”) is soliciting candidates for election to the TA’s Board of Directors. The election will take place in May 2018.
This is an excellent opportunity for the community-minded to participate in a meaningful leadership role and help make decisions that have a positive impact on your neighbors and yourself!
Deadline for submission of applications for Director is January 21, 2018.
Requirements for Director:
- A resident of Stuyvesant Town–Peter Cooper Village;
- 18 years of age or older; and
- Member of the TA.
In addition, candidates should be prepared to commit to a monthly board meeting, and other phone or in-person TA meetings as needed, as well as provide general guidance to the Board throughout the term.
To be considered, interested TA Members must submit to the Nominating Committee by January 21, 2018, a résumé or biography—maximum of two pages—stating your qualifications to serve as a director, including past community activities, relevant professional or work experience, and why you are interested in serving on the Board. Include your best contact phone number and email address. Applications should be submitted via email to [email protected]
The 2018 ST/PCV TA Nominating Committee:
Kevin Farrelly, Patricia Levenson, Steven Newmark, Patricia Sallin, Susan Steinberg
Now that it’s officially winter, some tenants are complaining that their apartments are not getting enough heat. If legal temperatures (see graphic below) are not maintained:
- Call management to report the problem. The city asks you to try to resolve the problem with management first—it is your responsibility to notify the landlord. The city advises you to keep a record of all contact with the landlord.
- StuyTown Property Services has said it will provide an indoor thermometer on request, or you can buy one on your own. Keep a chart of exact dates, times, and temperature readings wherever your apartment feels cold. This is your evidence.
- Call 311 to report the landlord’s violation (you must provide contact information). Call repeatedly. An inspector should eventually come, although you may not be alerted in advance. You can also file a complaint online at http://www1.nyc.gov/311/.
- Get other neighbors without sufficient heat in your building to call 311. Everyone should call repeatedly, at least once every day the condition is not corrected.
- Call the state’s Tenant Protection Unit at (718) 739-6400, and ask them to send you their Heat and Hot Water Complaint form. Get as many other apartments as possible in your building to sign on, demanding an order to restore heat and a reduction and freeze in all the rents.
How does HPD respond to heat complaints? According to its website:
If a tenant files a 311 complaint related to heat, HPD attempts to notify the building owner or managing agent and may also attempt to contact the tenant to see whether service has been restored. If service has not been restored, an HPD inspector will go to the building to verify the complaint and issue the appropriate violation.
If an owner fails to restore heat after receiving a violation, HPD’s Emergency Repair Program (ERP) may contract with private companies to restore essential services and bill the owner for the cost of the repairs, plus related fees. More...
Finally, tenants can file for a rent reduction based on lack of heat (see DHCR Fact Sheet #15, Heat and Hot Water, http://www.nyshcr.org/Rent/FactSheets/orafac15.pdf). The form may be obtained at http://www.nyshcr.org/Forms/Rent/HHW1.pdf. This is where your record keeping will be necessary—you will be required to attach a report from the agency to which you have complained (311).
We've all seen the empty storefronts as small business after small business is forced out due to rising rents. State Senator Brad Hoylman is hosting a town hall on the topic with Jeremiah Moss, author of the book and blog Vanishing New York. See the flyer for details.
Please join us at an open meeting for tenants on Sunday, November 19, at 2 p.m. Doors open at 1:30 p.m.
Baruch IS 104, 20th St. between First and Second Aves.
Open mic Q&A—bring your questions
What’s happening in the community and around us? Plenty! Find out what it means for you.
Topics include updates on:
Contaminants under the property—Con Ed’s remediation plan
Mount Sinai Beth Israel
On the waterfront: the resiliency project and ferries
Also, updates on existing and future issues affecting you from
Outgoing City Council Member Dan Garodnick
City Council Member–elect Keith Powers
State Senator-to-be Brian Kavanagh
State Senator Brad Hoylman
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer
Councilmember Dan Garodnick has put together an FAQ about the MGP situation.
History: Before ST and PCV were built, parts of the site were occupied by manufactured gas plants to convert coal and oil into gas and store it. The process created by-products and waste, which are still underground. Three sites are in ST, and one is in PCV.
Now: For over 10 years, Con Ed has sampled our indoor air—they say it’s OK. Con Ed has also checked for evidence of MGP-related impacts below the ground surface—they say they’re at least 5 feet below the surface with the majority much deeper.
The plan: Con Ed plans to remove the MGP material, and there will be policies to prohibit and prevent exposure to any materials that remain on-site. Also involved are the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation and the NYS Dept. of Health.
This is a necessarily brief summary, so please go to this website. Click on the fact sheets for a two-page summary of the situation. The decision documents contain more information, including helpful maps on the last page. Materials are also available for viewing at the Epiphany branch of the New York Public Library, on E. 23rd St.
And come to the meeting on Wed., Nov. 1, at 7 p.m. at MSBI's Podell Auditorium to hear more and voice your concerns. The public review period will be extended until Dec. 1.
The Podell Auditorium is located in MSBI's Bernstein Building, 10 Perlman Place. That's one block west of First Ave. between 15th and 16th Sts.
Note: Some of the information contained here is taken from the Con Ed fact sheets.
We challenged MCIs: The TA filed a Petition for Administrative Review (PAR) with the state’s Division of Housing & Community Renewal for exterior restoration work on several Peter Cooper buildings. The outcome of this legal action will ultimately affect residents of other Stuy Town or Peter Cooper buildings that have undergone or are currently undergoing work on their façades. Despite our filing a PAR, DHCR jumped the gun and approved a few of the applications. The TA’s attorney is filing objections.
We educated management how not to collect retroactive MCI charges: An under-door notice from management to residents of one Peter Cooper building hit by the façade MCI advised that the MCI rent increase would appear on September rent bills and that the retroactive increase (20 months) would be billed as a lump sum. That’s illegal, we explained to management. DHCR regulations state that monthly and retroactive MCI charges combined cannot be more than 6% of the rent at the time the MCI application was filed. Furthermore, landlords can’t charge any retroactive while there is an active PAR, which is the case for all the exterior restoration applications. This is why the TA needs you to alert us when you receive a management communication.
We went to bat—again—for key cards without your name on it: When a tenant recently requested a key card without his name on it, Resident Services claimed he didn’t have that choice. Not so! We quickly clarified the issue with management. The TA won a court ruling on this matter 12 years ago, when MetLife switched from metal keys to electronic key cards. DHCR agreed that having names and photos compromised security. Want a card without your name on it? All you have to do is ask—it’s your legal right.
We stopped reconfiguration work being done without work permits: The TA’s report to the Department of Buildings stopped work on five Peter Cooper apartments that were undergoing major work without permits. Checking on tenant reports of noise, vibrations, and cracking walls, we found that “reconfiguration”—turning the kitchen into a bedroom and creating a kitchenette in the living room—had started without required permits from the DOB. Management had to stop work until the permits were issued.
We arranged a meet and greet for the candidates for our City Council district: A sizable crowd of residents turned out Saturday, September 9, on the Oval to put questions directly to the primary candidates for City Council. We thank StuyTown Property Services for providing the venue.
We hosted a presentation on active shooter situations: FBI Special Agent Jim Kim gave a presentation on active shooter survival strategies.