Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Twice in the last year and a half the last 2 landlords of mine have been asked to come to our Community Board to answer questions about why they are such jerks. The last time they actually showed up, with their lawyers and PR people, and PROMISED that they weren't going to kick out or harass tenants as we feared when a big huge giant corporation bought our building (and several others in the 'hood). And it turned out to be true, because instead of trying to operate the buildings, they simply flipped them for a $24 million profit in about a year's time.

Tonight the new landlord was asked to come in to the Housing Committee of the Community Board, because in the 8 months they've owned these buildings there has been a 40% de-occupancy rate when the normal overturn on rental apartments is 5%. My building has had a 28% turnover, below the average. But today, neither the new and nefarious and mysterious investment group that owns the buildings, nor their goon management company, showed up.

In their absence, the board agreed to a motion to officially support the tenants and to "condemn the practices employed" by these types of predatory landlords.

While I don't know much about it (yet) I think that the Community Board can't actually make anybody do anything, only make a recommendation on the items that come up in front of them. I think it varies from moment to moment whether the actual decision makers take their recommendations. In any case, it's very grass roots and very interesting.

Also, on other agenda items, the Housing Committee made all the right choices - they didn't support a tax abatement request for a market-rate rental building (also on my block) and they agreed to support (in writing) the Met Foods that is being forced out of their space by NYU by increasing their rent 90-100% more than the going rate for a supermarket. The demise of the supermarket is the scary result of sky high rents that only high priced restaurants, bars and John Varvatos can afford. Combined with the incredible rising costs of food, I'm afraid we are once again going to see senior citizens surviving on cat food (which costs $1 per can in the bodega). 2500 neighbors signed a petition demanding that NYU keep the Met Foods in the space they have occupied since 1986.

On the depressing side, the chair of the Housing Committee was unaware that a law was recently passed that would allow tenants to sue their landlords for harassment. While the fines are ridiculously low (it's a civil not a criminal offense), I guess it's better than not having a law against this at all. There has yet to be a case to be tried and tested, so I don't know if this law will actually have any deterrent impact but it seems like more of a slap on the wrist and a lot of work for the tenant that isn't worth the effort. We will see.

I LOVE going to these meetings and my only problem is that 1) I don't run the show and 2) I don't get to vote. I do, however, take every chance to express my opinion, which is fun fun fun. So, I am again pledging, this time publicly, that I will commit to going to every Community Board and Housing Committee meeting until I figure out how to get onto the board so I can VOTE.

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