City Council Deal Saves Mayor’s Controversial Zoning Plan: Here’s What You Need to Know

by Barbara Eldridge - March 16, 2016

Mayor de Blasio has won.

He and the City Council have hammered out a compromise on the mayor’s contentious affordable housing plan — the one some Brooklyn residents feared would wreck their neighborhoods with tall buildings and out-of-control rents. Now the City Council is expected to vote yes on it next week, according to the New York Times.

The compromises won by the City Council will make the affordable units more affordable, in addition to lowering the height cap of new buildings in some areas. These and other changes were enough to satisfy the City Council that the plan will be a boon for affordable housing in the city.

The mayor has agreed to alter his zoning proposals:

  • New affordable housing units will be less expensive — the mayor agreed to lower income requirements at both the top and bottom of the required range, with future residents earning between 40 percent and 115 percent of area median income rather an 60 percent to 120 percent.
  • The percentage of affordable units will be smaller. Developers would be required to set aside 20 to 30 percent of developments for affordable units on sites that take advantage of a rezoning — not 25 to 30 percent, as originally proposed.
  • The city will study new ways to create affordable housing units with even lower income requirements, possibly creating new additional programs to work in conjunction with developers.
  • Parking lots in transit-starved neighborhoods and near senior housing will not be made available to developers.
  • New buildings constructed under the regulations will have a lower height cap in some areas.
  • Last year, Brooklyn’s community boards mostly rejected the plans, as did the borough president and Brooklyn Borough Board — many citing issues of affordability and fears that implementing the plans would only speed up gentrification and displacement. The City Planning Commission then approved the proposals, but it’s the City Council’s ULURP vote that makes the official decision whether to implement them.

    Mandatory Inclusionary Housing would require developers to set aside a standard percent of developments for affordable units on sites that take advantage of a rezoning.

    Zoning for Quality and Affordability would alter the zoning code, changing the bulk of buildings by increasing height limitations and easing setback restrictions, among other amendments to the current code.

    Another part of the plan is a proposed rezoning of East New York. The local community boards and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams rejected it. As well, the local City Council members said they opposed it. The Times story about this week’s compromise did not specify if City Council intends to approve that too as part of the deal.

Full article in Brownstoner

For Holdout Renters, Condo Conversions Can Be Messy

By C. J. HUGHES - March 13, 2015

In New York, elbowing aside others to make money in real estate is as old as the founding of the city itself.

And for every rental building that has been converted to a co-op or condominium over the years, there have been tenants who have felt the sharp jab.

This time around, with apartment sales on the upswing and the number of rent-regulated tenants on the decline, many of the buildings that developers are converting from rental to condo are large and located in areas that are pricey and desirable. And unlike the 1980s, when scores of buildings were converted to co-ops, the fabulous insider deal no longer exists. 

But some things remain constant. Those who insist on hanging on to their rental apartments can expect a noisy, dusty mess. “This is one of the hairiest times for renters that I’ve seen in my career,” said Kevin R. McConnell, a real estate lawyer who has focused on tenants’ rights since the 1980s. “There’s tremendous upheaval in the market.”

To their defenders, conversions are hardly an across-the-board bogeyman. They note that many renters move away after a few years anyway, as part of the natural ebb and flow of buildings. Still others, they say, wind up with fancy condos purchased at a discount. And the renters who remain often benefit from spiffed-up facades, upgraded swimming pools and new elevators.

Full article in The New York Times

Your rental building's going condo. Now what?


We don’t envy the tenants of 22 River Terrace, a 342-unit apartment tower in Battery Park City. The new owner plans to take it condo, and is relying on an unusual clause in the tenants’ leases to kick them out with a mere 90 days notice. 

Fortunately for the rest of us, such clauses are extraordinarily rare. Most of the time, when a building goes condo, renters are given the option to remain as tenants or purchase their apartment at an insider price, which is typically at least 5 to 10 percent lower than what they'd pay on the open market, says real estate attorney and buyout expert Steven Wagner of Wagner Berkow

Here's how the process usually plays out--and how not to get played if it happens to you.

Size up the plans

Before a developer can convert a building and start selling condos, they must get their "offering plan"—which describes the development plans in mind-numbing detail—approved by the New York Attorney General’s office. 

As a tenant, the first you'll see of this is the "red herring," a preliminary plan that earned its name because the words on the cover are bright red. (Yes, that’s what passes for a joke in bureaucratic circles.)

The attorney general's office has to wait four months before reviewing the red herring, which gives tenants time to  evaluate the specifics of the plan and negotiate a better deal. While it's legal for a developer to craft a plan that involves evicting the tenants, those kinds of projects are virtually non-existent these days, Wagner says. 

After that, the attorney general and the developer spend up to two months ironing out any issues in the red herring. Once the agency accepts it for filing—which is different from the final approval for the development—the document is called a “black book.” (And yes, it does have black letters on the cover.) At that point, the developer can start selling the condos, including to existing tenants.

Lawyer up

Typically, tenants hire an attorney to do the negotiating with the developer. They’ll also hire an engineer or architect to inspect the building and uncover any issues that aren’t disclosed in the red herring.

Full article on Brick Underground

New York Builders Paying Huge Buyouts to Tenants in Their Way


Tishman Speyer Properties, one of New York City’s most active real estate developers, had bought two parcels of land on the Far West Side of Manhattan to clear the way for a 2.8-million-square-foot office tower planned for Hudson Yards.

Standing in the way, though, were the occupants of two apartments on the site. So this year, the developer turned to a lubricant that can be counted on to ease New York City tenants out of their rent-regulated units — a buyout, in this case, for $25 million in total to three tenants.

In New York’s exceptionally lucrative real estate market, multimillion-dollar buyouts are becoming more common, lawyers who negotiate for tenants and property owners say.

Full article, published by The New York Times on December, 24 2015

Landlord Illegally Subdividing Units at Prospect Heights Building: Tenants

By Rachel Holliday Smith

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — The landlord of a 1920s-era Eastern Parkway building has been illegally subdividing a number of units, then turning around and listing them as rental properties, tenants say, prompting the city to slap the building with a series of stop work orders.

The Department of Buildings ordered construction to cease at 85 Eastern Parkway last month, after tenants — many of them rent-stabilized — complained that work had been underway for more than a year to split some of the building’s larger apartments into a pair of smaller units.

Full article, published in on December, 23 2015

Tenants claim BK landlord tried to illegally subdivide units

Prospect Heights landlord Mordechai Nagel reportedly illegally subdivided a number of units in his 1920s-era building and listed the scaled-down sub-units as rental properties — prompting a series of stop-work orders from the city’s Department of Buildings. Construction ceased at 85 Eastern Parkway last month after tenants in the building, many of whom are rent-stabilized, complained that work had been underway for more than a year to split several of the property’s larger apartments into smaller units. 

Full article in The Real Deal, published on December, 23 2015

New Yorkers are fighting to save their city’s soul

Posted Thursday 2nd April, 2015 Text by Alex King

Gentrification is suffocating New York’s creative culture. We spoke to #SaveNYC campaign founder Jeremiah Moss to find out why it’s time to fight back.

A strange force is spreading across New York, turning the city’s chaotic, technicolour mass of humanity and culture a dull corporate beige. It’s called gentrification, and it plays out on many levels: from the closing of mom and pop stores, attempts to hide (but never solve) social ills such as homelessness and the expulsion of the poor and minorities, to the unstoppable spread of bougie brunch spots and the tearing apart of long-established communities.

New York City is devouring its children and all we have to show for it are chains: endless hotel, restaurant and store chains.

Full article on Huck

Meet the cute therapy pups helping kids learn to read

By Mary Huhn January 9, 2015 | 6:54pm

Small and cozy, powerHouse on 8th in Park Slope is usually library-quiet as shoppers peruse the bookshelves. But on a recent Friday morning, 25 kindergarteners took over the store to read to their pals Barker, Willow, Karat, Rupee, Bica and Toffee.

The students from PS 107 are mingling with specially trained mutts from the Good Dog Foundation, a local organization that hosts reading programs throughout the tri-state region with help from their therapy pooches.

Katherine Eban, founder of the school’s Beast Relief committee, got the idea to bring dogs, kids and books together from a Cape Cod, Mass. library, which held similar events during her family’s summer vacations.

“My kids absolutely love it,” says Eban. “I was struck by how focused the kids seem to be on their ‘mission’ of reading well to the dogs.”

At Good Dog, volunteer handlers and their dogs must complete an 11-week training program to become certified.

“We work with students just beginning to read, students struggling to read and older students who are learning English as a second language,” says Alexandra Fine, a senior development and communications associate at Good Dog.

Reading to dogs can help boost kids’ confidence and get them excited about reading.

“Some children feel anxious about reading in front of other students. It can be daunting,” says Fine. “Dogs patiently listen as students practice their skills in a supportive environment with a non-judgmental, furry listener. [It] makes reading enjoyable and fun, instead of scary.”

Willow, a 4-year-old white standard poodle with orange-painted nails, is particularly popular. One girl hugs and kisses her, as the owner, Alison Kelley [Tenant at 85 Eastern Parkway], tells students that Willow has a skateboard. Across the room, Oscar looks up from “Harry the Dirty Dog” to ask Toffee, a 1 ½- year-old Yorkshire terrier, if he takes baths. His owner, Karen Osorio from Forest Hills, Queens, replies yes, and that he “wears a shower cap.”

Upstate at Rockland County’s Hudson Valley Visiting Pets’ similar program, “Paws for Reading,” the sessions are limited to one kid and one “Pet Partner therapy team, “ consisting of a dog and the animal’s handler, says Risa Hoag, director of the Hudson Valley program.

Paws for Reading is an affiliate of the Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) program developed in Salt Lake City 15 years ago. Hoag, a licensed R.E.A.D. instructor, got involved a decade ago when she saw how her pet, Annie, now 11, gravitated to a relative with cancer. “She put her head in her lap and it felt like she understood her and wanted to make her better.”

More Than 600 Homes Added to Crown Heights Historic District

CROWN HEIGHTS — History buffs, rejoice!

More than 600 Crown Heights homes have joined the neighborhood’s historic district after the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission approved a third landmark designation in the area on Tuesday.

The LPC unanimously approved the third phase of the Crown Heights North Historic District at a hearing Tuesday morning after a brief presentation about the architectural and historical significance of the area, located mostly between Brooklyn and Albany avenues to the west and east and Pacific Street and Lincoln Place to the north and south.

“I am very excited about this … all of us here [at LPC] are happy to bring it to fruition,” said LPC chair Meenakshi Srinivasan before the vote, adding that the district “has truly an amazing collection of buildings and styles that are very, very cohesive.”

Included in the 640 buildings in Crown Heights North Historic District III are three homes where Rep. Shirley Chisolm once lived, some of the borough’s first multi-family homes called “Kinko Houses” and a variety of 19th- and early 20th-century townhouses.

Full article by Rachel Holliday Smith | March 24, 2015 3:55pm | Updated on March 24, 2015 4:20pm


New, but Far From Perfect Construction Defects Follow a Brooklyn Building Boom

It took just three years for balconies to crack and concrete to flake from the facade of one Brooklyn condominium. Another building was prone to flooding, because the storm drainage system was never connected to the sewage system. With buildings rising at a pace not seen in years, some fear that shoddy construction could be making a comeback, too. 

As developers feverishly break ground on projects to cash in on soaring property values, lawyers, architects and engineers say they are fielding more calls from residents complaining of structural defects in newly built homes. There is growing concern that some developers are repeating the mistakes of the last housing boom and delivering substandard product. As more residents settle into new buildings, the trickle of calls could soon turn into a flood. 

“My phone is ringing already on projects that were just completed,” said Steven D. Sladkus, a Manhattan real estate lawyer who says his firm has dozens of active construction defect cases. “Uh-oh, here we go again.”

When the housing market collapsed in 2007 and coffers ran dry, many developers were left scrambling to complete projects. Some cut corners or abandoned developments, leaving others to finish the work. The result was a spate of poorly built developments followed by a rash of lawsuits from angry buyers. But the number of complaints dwindled when the recession took hold and new construction stalled, leaving only the most seasoned developers to continue to build. 

Now, in today’s increasingly heady housing market, untested developers are eager to get in the game, and some of those who built problematic buildings in the past are breaking ground again. “It’s like the developers did not learn their lessons,” said Adam Leitman Bailey, a Manhattan real estate lawyer who has noticed an uptick since the start of the year in complaints from residents of newly built buildings reporting problems with elevators, water infiltration and inadequate insulation.

Full article by Ronda Kaysen on March 6, 2015 in the New York Times

Does the New Crown Heights Starbucks Threaten Small Neighborhood Businesses?

By Irene Chidinma Nwoye Thu., Oct. 16 2014

The coffee tension brewing in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, started after Starbucks opened a new location right beside a four-year-old coffee shop, the Pulp and the Bean. Owner Tony Fisher is not necessarily scared of the competition. But he believes Starbucks will usher in even more commercial chains, causing the rent prices in the already expensive neighborhood to continue to soar. While Fisher appears visibly unfazed by Starbucks' presence, the anti-big-business slogans occasionally scrawled on chalkboards in front of his stores betray his fears about working next door to a corporate Goliath.

On September 25, only about five days after its neighbor began operations at 341 Eastern Parkway, the Pulp and the Bean's chalkboard read, "Everytime coffee is not bought here, a baby crys [sic] somewhere in the world." On a different day, the board at Fisher's other store, Bob and Betty's (an organic-foods market on the other side of the Pulp and the Bean), read: "Support big families not big business. Buy local."

There is no shortage of Starbucks in New York City. Last year, there were 283 Starbucks in the city (up from 272 in 2012 and 245 in 2009), according to the Center for an Urban Future, a NYC-based think tank that traces economic growth in New York State for policymakers. New Yorkers have grown accustomed to seeing a Starbucks every quarter of a mile, and the coffee company has evolved into a socioeconomic symbol.

Starbucks is often regarded as the last phase of gentrification in neighborhoods in the city. According to one Business Insider reporter, a new Starbucks suggests that a neighborhood is "up-and-coming," "a smart real estate bet." And the real estate part is one of the reasons Fisher is concerned. Rent prices in Crown Heights have risen in recent years.

"Two years ago [the rent was] $35 per square foot on Eastern Parkway," Fisher says. Now it's valued at $100 per square foot. "Starbucks will attract other corporate entities and rents in the neighborhood will go up," he adds.

Full article on The Village Voice Blogs

Why Zoning for Greater Density Will Fail to Make Housing More Affordable

by Jim Russell

Gentrification is an urban policy problem in need of a theory. Instead of theory, we have the geographic illusion of local: The current landscape is the result of community decisions. Gentrifiers, outsiders who move into a neighborhood, cause real estate prices to appreciate and displace more tenured residents. One way to make housing more affordable is to increase supply in the gentrifying neighborhood. Rising demand is a market signal to build. To make the market model more sophisticated, we can consider household income. The quantity of people seeking to live in a certain neighborhood isn’t appreciably greater than previous years. But the quality of income migrating into a neighborhood may be much greater than most residents earn. Regardless, supply and demand is still local. Conceivably, poorer residents could access better paying jobs in order to compete with newcomers for housing.

Full article in Sustainablecitiescollective on 8 July 2014

Behind Atlantic Yards Housing Deal, Some Big Shifts

By: Norman Oder

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio took credit for dramatic news announced June 27 regarding the controversial Atlantic Yards project, which, despite the opening of the Barclays Center in 2012, had delivered none of the affordable housing that was a huge selling point when the project was unveiled in 2003, approved in 2006, and re-approved in 2009.

They announced a deal, responding in part to a threatened fair-housing lawsuit by community groups, that promised the 2,250 subsidized apartments (of 6,430 total) would arrive by 2025, ten years before the 2035 “outside date” agreed to in 2009. That’s still slower than the ten-year buildout long touted by developer Forest City Ratner.

"Today we are… expediting the construction of thousands of units of affordable housing in Brooklyn,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This agreement is a win for the state and most importantly for Brooklyn residents.”

“The agreement means two 100-percent affordable buildings will go in the ground starting next year,” said de Blasio, “with units serving a more diverse range of families.”

Those statements, bolstered by endorsements from community groups that pushed for a faster timetable and some local elected officials, obscured some key changes that bolster the developer and satisfy the city’s hunger to count affordable units, as well as one that addresses a flaw in the first tower being built on the site.

First key change: affordability

First, as emerged later that day, 390 of 600 units in the two all-affordable towers will go to households earning more than $100,000, a departure from the long-promised configuration that distributes the units more among low-, moderate-, and lower-middle-income households. Rents for two-bedroom subsidized units might approach $3,000.

The two towers will include 180 low-income units, serving families earning up to $51,540 (as of 2013) for a household of four. But that 30 percent share of total affordable units is less than the 40 percent share long promised in the Housing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Forest City Ratner signed with ACORN in 2005 and incorporated into the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). The upper middle-income affordable “band” (serving a four-person household, earning up to $141,735) was supposed to represent 20 percent of affordable units, but in these towers will represent 50 percent. The moderate-income band, 20 percent in the MOU, would instead be 5 percent.

Read the full article in the Brooklyn Bureau on (July 3, 2014)

Brooklyn now the borough of kingly prices


An $18 million triplex penthouse for sale in the Clock Tower Building in DUMBO is part of the increasingly expensive condo offerings in Brownstone Brooklyn and the trendy neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

Move to Brooklyn — and bring your checkbook.

The average cost of condos in the borough’s most popular neighborhoods has topped $1 million for the first time, a new report shows.

Sales prices for the second quarter crested that watermark as the supply for townhouses runs low, forcing homebuyers to dig even deeper into their deep pockets for an alternative.

“I wish we all had crystal balls to see what happens next,” said Aleksandra Scepanovic, managing director of Ideal Properties Group, the brokerage firm responsible for the analysis.

The report tracks sales over the past three months in Brownstone Brooklyn and the red-hot neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, increasingly home to the city’s tastemakers.

Buyers in the two trendy nabes were willing to pay, on average, more than $1,000 a square foot to live along the treelined streets or in repurposed warehouses. That’s a steal compared with the luxury listings popping up in the borough.

A stunning, six-bedroom penthouse at 360 Furman St. overlooking Brooklyn Bridge Park is being marketed by Sotheby’s for an asking price of

$32 million. The amenities include a movie theater, a wine cellar and a master bath the size of a studio apartment.

Too much? The second most expensive condo is a 7,000 square-foot triplex in DUMBO’s iconic Clock Tower Building listed at $18 million.

Traditionally, townhouses had been king in neighborhoods like Park Slope, Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights, but there just aren’t enough of them to keep up with demand, Scepanovic said.

The same is increasingly true of condos as some buyers switch gears. Open houses routinely draw 100 people or more, and overall prices jumped 27.5% during the past 12 months, according to the report.

“We’ve got condos that we’re selling for $300,000 and condos we’re selling for $10 million,” Scepanovic said.

“The question is, where is that middle ground?”

Stash Pad

By Andrew Rice

The New York real-estate market is now the premier destination for wealthy foreigners with rubles, yuan, and dollars to hide.

The buyer, an Italian, was in town for a week, with a million or so dollars to spend. We met one Sunday morning at 20 Pine, a Financial District condo building. She wore a red scarf, jangly jewelry, and a pair of lime-green sunglasses perched atop her curly hair, and she told me she would prefer to remain anonymous. Working through a shell company, she was looking to anchor some of her wealth in an advantageous port: New York City.

The building’s lobby, designed in leathery tones by Armani, swirled with polylingual property talk. As the Italian and I waited for her broker, an Asian man sitting on a couch next to us asked, “You see the apartment?” But he didn’t wait for an answer, leaping up to join a handful of women speaking a foreign language heading toward the elevators.

After a few minutes, a fashionably stubbled young man swung through 20 Pine’s revolving door: Santo Rosabianca, a broker with Wire International Realty. The firm, run by Rosabianca’s brother Luigi, an attorney, specializes in catering to overseas investors. A first-generation American, Santo greeted the buyer with kisses and briefed her in Italian. She was searching for a property that would generate substantial rental income. “Wall Street is not my favorite place,” she told me. “But he says it is very good for rent.”

Like several other buildings she was being shown, 20 Pine was developed at the height of the real-estate bubble. After the crash of 2008, it became an emblematic disaster, with the developers selling units in bulk at desperation prices, until opportunistic foreigners swooped in with cash offers. The salvage deals are long gone, but 20 Pine retains its international appeal. The one-bedroom the Italian was looking at, on the 27th floor, had a view of the Woolworth Building, sleek finishes, a bachelor-size kitchen, and access to an exclusive terrace reserved for upper-floor residents. It was first purchased by an investment banker in early 2008 for $1.3 million, was resold in 2011 for $850,000, and was now back on the market for close to its prerecession price. Rosabianca told the Italian it would rent for more than $4,000 a month, enough to assure a healthy cash flow while its value appreciated. “There’s really no safer way to get that kind of return,” he said, “than in New York City real estate.”

Read the full article in the New York Magazine (June 29, 2014)

Defining ‘affordability’ upward

By Ryan Hutchins

It was late April and Helen Rosenthal—Upper West Side progressive, City Council freshman—was not pleased with what she was hearing.

TF Cornerstone had brought plans for its latest Manhattan megaproject, with more than 1,000 units in Hell’s Kitchen, to the City Council’s Land Use Committee for approval. Planning officials clearly hadn’t wrung enough value out of the developer, Rosenthal believed, and decided more could be done.

And so it was. The Council generally defers to the local members on such matters, so Rosenthal was able to cut a deal with TF Cornerstone. It meant more “affordable” housing, to the tune of 10,000 square feet, and a guarantee that a preschool would be built on the site, which is now expected to cover some 900,000 square feet.

But Rosenthal looked at the neighborhood surrounding the West 57th Street development and thought it wasn’t enough. She felt there was a need for moderate-income housing that could go to people who live in the community now. Extell Development’s massive Riverside Center South project on the Hudson River, between West 59th and 72nd streets, is already slated to include hundreds of units for lower-income families.

So, in an unusual move, Rosenthal told TF Cornerstone that the threshold to qualify for the least-expensive units—the ones that would be set-aside for some of the poorest New Yorkers—should be raised.

She increased the eligibility cut-off from 40 percent of area median income, or A.M.I., to 60 percent. That means a family of four making about $33,500 per year would have met the threshold under the original plan, but that same family would need to make at least $50,300 to qualify under Rosenthal’s revisions.

“I said to the developer, ‘we’re done with the [40] percent lower income,’” Rosenthal recalled recently as we lunched at a Lenny’s near City Hall. “‘We’re giving you a break, because we’re going to make it at 60 percent A.M.I., not [40] percent. So you’re going to get a little more rent from these people.’”

That allowed her to negotiate more “affordable” units for much-higher-income families. Rosenthal told the developer to dedicate 10,000 square feet, or about 20 more units, for moderate-income households. She said all those apartments had to be big enough for families. “I don’t want any single-bedroom ones,” she said. Those new units will be dedicated to households making between 175 percent and 230 percent of the A.M.I.

Those numbers are so high they’re off the chart in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, quite literally. The plan defines “middle income” up to 165 percent. What does that actually mean? The range encompasses families of four earning between $147,000 and $193,000 per year.

Full article on Capital (30 June 2014)

Crown Heights Tenants Plan March on Landlords in Bid to Prevent Rent Hikes

By Rachel Holliday Smith on June 5, 2014 5:03pm @rachelholliday

CROWN HEIGHTS — Residents are planning a march this weekend to demand a halt to soaring rent hikes — and put their landlords on notice that they expect better treatment.

Members of the Crown Heights Tenants Union will march this Saturday through the neighborhood “to show how Crown Heights is becoming unaffordable,” starting at Washington Avenue and Eastern Parkway at noon and ending at Brower Park, according to the group’s website.

The Crown Heights Tenants Union formed last fall to organize as many renters in the area as possible, said Cea Weaver, 24, a Crown Heights resident and organizer with CHTU. She said the group now has roughly 30 tenant associations on board with the union’s list of demands, which they will deliver to their landlords during the march.

Among the demands include urging landlords to be more responsive to tenants' requests for repairs. They also want landlords to automatically renew leases unless otherwise notified by tenants, as well as the right for tenants to obtain a rent history to inspect whether the rent amounts have been improperly increased at any time in the past, according to the document.

But the larger goal of the rally, Weaver said, is to make their demands heard beyond Crown Heights in the runup to June 23, the date set for the Rent Guidelines Board to vote on rent increases for rent-regulated apartments for the next five years.

“We are really hoping to building momentum for that citywide issue, [while] at the same time, letting the landlord know we’re here, we want to work with you, these are the things we want you to do to work with us,” Weaver said.

Members of the 85 Eastern Parkway Tenants Association in Prospect Heights will lend their support at the march to say “enough is enough,” said Isabelle Broyer, 47, a worker at the United Nations and a member of the association. After her landlord submitted plans to double the size of her apartment building without alerting tenants, she attended one of CHTU’s monthly membership meetings.

“They really have an agenda,” she said. “It’s not just for complaining about the situation. They’re really trying to do something about it.”

Full articles here (Dnainfo, June 5, 2014)

Neighbors Win Fight to Have a Towering Eyesore Demolished

The owner of a house in Homecrest, Brooklyn, requested permission from the city to make “a horizontal and vertical enlargement to an existing two-story, one-family residence.”

More than eight years later, what began as a humble brick bungalow, perching modestly between its low-slung brick and wood neighbors, has swollen into a five-story skeletal tower that looms over the street and smothers the collapsed bungalow below. It is half-finished, with a rib cage of metal beams exposed beneath temporary white cladding and gaping windows punched out in front, but it looks instead as though it had been half-demolished by an errant torpedo.

In the words of one neighbor: “It’s the ugliest thing I ever saw. Who in the world builds a house like that?”

The city said this week that a lawyer for the owner, Joseph Durzieh, had, at long last, agreed to accept the Buildings Department’s demands that the structure be demolished. But neighbors remain skeptical that the scourge of their quiet block will finally meet the wrecking ball.

Over the past decade, those neighbors have endured the mice that scurried into their kitchens. The raccoons rummaging through the garbage. The stray cats colonizing the front yard-turned-junkyard. The flies.

But most maddening of all, the neighbors said, was the seeming inability of any authority — despite years of complaints, departmental audits and a stop-work order — to rid them of the eyesore that is 1882 East 12th Street.

Full article in the New York Times (1 May 2014)

Up in Years and All but Priced Out of New York

Nubia Chavez and Manuel Acuña have been bouncing from rental to rental around New York City like millennials. They recently decamped to a $700-a-month room in a Queens apartment, with a shared bathroom and no access to the kitchen except to make coffee.

But Ms. Chavez, a housekeeper, and Mr. Acuña, a retired building porter, are not in their 20s. They are 65 and 72, and they say they are tired — of the moving, of the lack of permanency and of a lifestyle not suited to their age.

“I want to live in my own place,” Ms. Chavez said. “No more rooms.”

Jennifer Stock, 33, has been looking for a place for her ailing 89-year-old father after his assisted living residence in Park Slope, Brooklyn, announced it would shut down by this summer.

And in Astoria, Queens, Norma and Rodolfo de la Rosa recently put their names on a waiting list for an affordable residence for older adults because, they say, their Social Security checks cannot keep up with rent increases. The list has nearly 4,000 names.

Finding adequate housing has become an all-consuming preoccupation for many older New Yorkers, a group whose explosive growth and changing housing needs pose new challenges for the city. As serious as New York’s affordable housing shortage has become, the squeeze has been perhaps harshest on older adults. At a certain age, substandard living conditions become less tolerable, walk-ups are no longer viable, even stabilized rents become too high, and the need for housing with special services grows.

Full article in New York Times (29 April 2014)

Brooklyn landlords illegally harassed, targeted rent-stabilized tenants: suit

A group of Brooklyn tenants have filed a federal lawsuit against two landlords, accusing the defendants of illegally trying to force them out of their rent-stabilized apartments to make room for new renters who pay market rates.

The Flatbush Development Corporation and the Flatbush Tenants Coalition, along with 11 named tenants, filed the housing discrimination case Monday in Brooklyn federal court.

They’re seeking unspecified damages, according to the suit.

Most of the plaintiffs — who live in three buildings on Hawthorne Ave. and Brooklyn Ave. in Prospect Lefferts Gardens — have resided in the complex for decades, according to court documents.

The suit alleges that landlords Yeahaya “Shay” Wasserman and Yitzchock Rambod, Homewood Gardens Estates LLC and Eastern Hawthorne Realty 651 LLC have violated the Fair Housing Act as well as city and state human rights laws.

The landlords targeted longstanding black tenants who lived in rent-stabilized apartments, the suit contends.

The plaintiffs pay anywhere from $600 to $1,400 a month for 52 three-bedroom units in the three buildings, according to the lawsuit.

Calls to the offices of Wasserman and Rambod were not returned Tuesday. Their office at Eastern Hawthorne Realty was closed for Passover, a sign said.

The tenants, represented by lawyers from Legal Services NYC, say they were the victims of a systematic pattern of harassment, neglect and frivolous housing lawsuits designed to force them out to make room for new tenants paying double the rent.

The group claims the landlords, who bought the buildings in 2009, have neglected to do repairs in black-occupied units.

The defendants have also taken tenants to housing court with falsified claims and left rent checks uncashed in an attempt to evict rent-stabilized residents, the lawsuit asserts.

Black tenants were also forced to get rid of pets and washing machines, the suit says.

Full article in The Daily News, Brooklyn Section (15 April 2014)