Date: Fri, 06 Mar 1998 11:19:25 -0500
Subject: TENANT PROTECTIONS: the next battlefields


TENANT PROTECTIONS: THE NEXT BATTLEFIELDS
(also see below: CommBoard 4 Says "NO" to Eighth Avenue Rezoning)
for more information, see:
Hell's Kitchen Online at http://hellskitchen.net


Tenant front-line battles are usually waged in the context of rent
regulations, HPD, DHCR or Housing Court. But threats to tenants exist
elsewhere. Stable tenant protections depend on stable real estate pressures
and stable neighborhoods.

Zoning, Building Codes, Development Rights, Financial policies and
Community Review procedures could very well be the next battlefield. These
issues affect whole communities and to deal with these issues, tenants must
find common ground with home and co-op owners, and small business.

TRANSFER DEVELOPMENT RIGHTS (TDR OR "AIR RIGHTS")

Air Rights from preservation-worthy buildings may soon be able to float
anywhere in expanded districts and targeted to low-rise, working-class
neighborhoods—feeding real estate speculation. When combined with
permissive banking policies and give-away government, this can be a
dangerous tool to undermine neighborhoods.

TDR CAN SET A PRECEDENT WITH CITY-WIDE RAMIFICATIONS.

Various scenarios are possible anywhere unused development rights exist.
Developers could collect development rights from any combination of sending
sights and transfer them to receiving sites. Cemeteries, railyards,
utilities, churches, existing apartment complexes, single-family homes or
other built-up areas might have available development rights. Up till now,
TDR is restricted to relatively small historic districts. Current proposals
will create vast receiving districts. New York politics are such that what
seems impossible or improbable today is the reality tomorrow.

TDR CAN BE AN DEVELOPMENT TOOL TO UNDERCUT ZONING

TDR is most often used in preservation efforts—to compensate owners of
landmarked properties, but new proposals clearly target certain areas as an
economic development tool and this changes the entire flavor of how TDR can
be used (or abused). Zoning is the tool used by the city to uniformly
induce development in a predictable and desirable manner; TDR can create
spot zoning and undermine the overall “well-considered plan.” If allowed,
other low-rise, low-density middle-income communities could be at risk. TDR
can also invade communities oriented towards single-family homes.

TDR CAN CREATE “AS-OF-RIGHT” ZONING

Community review and meaningful community participation is essential to
development and siting decisions in New York City neighborhoods. New
proposals can sidestep ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) as
mandated by the City Charter.

CITY CHARTER REVISION

Both the Mayor and City Council are forming Charter Revision Commissions
where many land-use protections are vulnerable.

CASE EXAMPLE

Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen is a low-rise, low-to-middle income neighborhood on
Manhattan’s west side from 34th to 59th Streets and from 8th Avenue to the
Hudson River. 

The Special Clinton District (SCD) was created in 1973 in response to
threats of over-development and with the goals to maintain the residential,
low-rise and small business character of the neighborhood. The Preservation
Area limits construction to 7 stories, but the Perimeter Area (150 feet
west of Eighth Avenue) allows taller buildings. With Times Square’s
resurgence, Eighth Avenue has become attractive to developers, but the SCD
limits development’s westward movement.

NYC Planning Department proposes to rezone Eighth Avenue, allow larger
buildings in the Perimeter Area of Clinton through the wide application of
the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR).

PRIMARY PROVISIONS OF PROPOSAL

-- Increases height and bulk of Buildings (by 44% over the base zoning, now at 20%)

-- Transfer of Development Rights from landmarked theaters

-- Effectively unmaps part of Clinton

-- Undermines the existing Inclusionary Housing Bonus by offering
alternative zoning incentives (transfer of development rights) to developers

EFFECTS OF PROPOSAL

-- Allows skyscrapers of 40-50 stories within Clinton

-- Impacts environment: air, sunshine, noise

-- Creates automobile and pedestrian traffic

-- Increases load on the infrastructure (subway, sewage)

-- Drives out “mom & pop” small businesses

-- Drives up residential rents, increases harassment of tenants

-- Decreases overall affordable housing

-- Changes the character of the neighborhood.

PROBLEMS RAISED BY THE CLINTON COMMUNITY

-- The proposal is now going through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure
(ULURP), but the community was denied meaningful input into shaping the plan.

-- The Perimeter Area is as much a part of Clinton as the Preservation Area
and the effects of such over-development will ripple through the entire
community.

-- City Planning maintains 2.4 million square feet of new development will
have no adverse environmental affects, but it failed to conduct an
Environmental Impact Study.

-- Overall, the plan calls for one community to bear the cost of
subsidizing a private industry; should be by the entire city.

THE THEATER CONNECTION

The Broadway theater is a cyclical industry and does have long-term
problems, but the zoning proposal is just a convenient rational to mask
development. The Clinton community supports the performing arts in many
ways (i.e., Manhattan Plaza and Theater Row). Over 3,000 theater
professionals call the neighborhood home. But the proposed solution is
wrong in that it will devastate the very neighborhood where many actors
settle (and need affordable housing). Clinton should remain a home for
performing artists and not be a subsidy for the arts.
How the Plan is supposed to work

Our analysis shows that the theater industry as a whole would be
shortchanged as there are serious questions whether the funding will become
available or that even with sufficient funding, if the Broadway commercial
theater would become a stable and growth-oriented industry. 

Theater owners would sell development rights anywhere within the expanded
Theater Subdistrict (the market rate is about $50/Sq. Ft.). Of that,
$10/Sq. Ft. would go into the Theater Subdistrict Fund, administered by a
new not-for-profit (The Broadway Initiative). Interest from this fund would
pay a portion of the Broadway Initiative’s anticipated $10 million per year
operating budget. The remaining $9 million per year is hoped to come from
state and city money and contributions from Broadway Initiative members
(producers, unions/guilds and others). The Broadway Initiative proposes to
make financial loans, operating subsidies and investor indemnification to
commercial productions; audience development and theater preservation.

ALLOWS THEATER OWNERS TO ESCAPE THEATER USE PROVISIONS:

-- on a temporary basis after 5 years (renewable up to 3 years)

-- permanently after 25 years (not allowed by current provisions).

QUESTIONS RAISED ABOUT THE THEATER CONNECTION OF THE PROPOSAL:

-- No city/state funding is committed or even proposed

-- No Broadway Initiative members have made dollar commitments

-- Revenue comes from resources that are non-committed or limited; if any
one of the revenue streams become nonexistent, could the plan survive?

-- Broadway Initiative is untested, with no track record

-- A not-for-profit would be funding commercial ventures

-- Theater would be subject to real estate cycles and politicians could
influence play funding

-- What would happen if the real estate market goes belly-up?

-- It may take years to build up the endowment, and the value of the
endowment will be worth less in real terms in future years if interest is
used for operating expenses. In the future, will it take much more money to
accomplish the same goals (TDR is a finite source of revenue).

-- Should one neighborhood bear the cost; or should support for the arts be
by the entire city?Additional information is available at
http://hellskitchen.net 

==================================================

COMMBOARD 4 SAYS "NO" TO EIGHTH AVENUE REZONING
March 5, 1998

Community Board 4 soundly rejected the Eighth Avenue Rezoning 
Proposal Wednesday night (March 4). The vote was unanimous 
(32-0) with no abstentions.

The proposal would rezone Eighth Avenue from 42nd to 56th Streets
allowing developers to build much taller and bulkier buildings
on the west side of Eighth Avenue through the wide application of
"Transfer of Development Rights" (or "Air Rights").

Mayor Giuliani and City Planning Commissioner Joe Rose have claimed 
the plan would "save the theater" by siphoning off a portion of 
the proceeds of the sale of the air rights over landmarked Broadway 
theaters into a fund allegedly to "preserve" the theaters. Details 
of the proposal can be found on Hell's Kitchen Online at 
http://hellskitchen.net

But Clinton residents uniformly stated they didn't buy this
notion. Resident after resident, in three hours of public
testimony Tuesday and Wednesday nights, repeated over and
over again..."it's not about theater, it's about real estate."

Several Clinton residents who are also "working actors" agreed.
"I don't want it, I don't buy it, no one asked me" said one
local actor. Another resident drew chuckles from the crowd when
she referred to Broadway theater owner Robert Nederlander as
"Mr. NEED-MORE-LAND-ER." Many Clinton block and tenant 
associations had also passed resolutions opposing the
proposal.

Several Clinton participants read the position paper of the
Clinton Special District Coalition (CSDC) which has taken the 
lead in organizing community opposition to the proposal. CSDC
also presented to Board 4 a petition signed by over 1,250 
individuals in opposition to the proposal.

West side elected officials stated their objection to the
rezoning plan. Senator Franz Leichter, Assemblymen Richard
Gottfried and Scott Stringer and City Councilman Tom Duane
all appeared in opposition. City Councilperson Ronnie
Eldridge and Borough President C. Virginia Fields and Senator
Catherine Abate have also stated their views of opposition.

CSDC member Gilbert Annoual stated, "The plan was 
announced without community input, it is missing vital 
information and fails to consider the impact on Clinton. The
Mayor and City Planning Commissioner Joe Rose have been very 
unreasonable in forcing this irrational plan on the Clinton/
Hell's Kitchen neighborhood." City Planning has stated that 
the proposal will have no impact on the Clinton neighborhood 
and did not prepare the normally required Environmental 
Impact Statement."

John Fisher of CSDC, stated, "This community is united and 
galvanized. We've seen several attempts by the administration and 
others in the last few weeks to undermine community oppostion, 
but the Clinton/Hell's Kitchen community spoke for itself Tuesday 
and Wednesday nights. We also very much appreciate the support from 
our neighbors in Chelsea."

Speaking in favor of the zoning proposal was Anne Zimmerman from
the Broadway Initiative (the group which would benefit from the
proceeds of the sale of development rights) and Lee Silver (from
the Shubert Organization and a member of Board 5. The Shubert
Organization would also benefit from the zoning change).

The next step in the process will be a vote by Community Board 5
this next Thursday, March 12 at 6 p.m. at the Dubinsky Student
Center, Fashion Institute of Technology, Bldg A, 8th Floor,
227 West 27th St. Northeast corner of 27th St and 8th Avenue.
All Clinton/Hell's Kitchen residents are encouraged to attend 
and ask our neighbors in Board 5 to support our community.

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Date: Sat, 07 Mar 1998 12:02:41 -0500
Subject: The Vacancy Rate: Apocalypse Soon?

THE VACANCY RATE: APOCALYPSE SOON?

Can Landlords Warehouse Enough Luxury Apartments to 
“Eliminate Housing Shortage” and End Rent Regulations?
By Tim Collins, from Tenant/Inquilino

Recent changes in New York's rent laws that increase the
number of high-rent apartments may well jeopardize the very
existence of the entire rent-regulation system.

An increase in the number of apartments renting at market
rate will raise the number of apartments being held empty
by owners, as they wait for tenants willing to pay $2,000
or more a month. A rise in the number of empty luxury units
could push the citywide vacancy rate over 5%-which would
trigger the automatic-decontrol provisions of the rent
laws. This is the Trojan Horse strategy, which the
opponents of rent regulation hope will accomplish what they
could not manage in an open public debate.

New York's system of rent stabilization and rent control
rests upon the assumption that a housing emergency exists.
That emergency is defined solely as a shortage of available
dwelling units, as measured by periodic vacancy surveys in
each locality with rent regulations. The critical figure at
issue is the percentage of rental units that are vacant and
available for rent.

Under rent stabilization, if a city's vacancy rate exceeds
5%, the emergency must be declared at an end there. One
appellate-court decision suggests that rent stabilization
may not be preserved even for sub-classes of apartments-for
example, apartments renting for $500 or less-with a vacancy
rate of less than 5%, if the overall vacancy rate for the
locality exceeds 5%. Under rent control, if the vacancy
rate exceeds 5%, the law appears to permit a continuation
of controls subject to "orderly decontrol, with due regard
to prevent uncertainty, hardship and dislocation."

Under rent stabilization, if the emergency is declared at
an end, landlords would be permitted to increase rents to
any amount as tenants' leases expire; they could also
simply refuse to renew existing leases. This would mean a
termination of rent and eviction protections for all
apartments within a few years of the declaration.

The most recent Housing and Vacancy Survey, conducted in
1996, found a vacancy rate of 4.01% (up from the 3.44% rate
posted in 1993). The survey is based on interviews of some
18,000 households conducted by the US Census Bureau and
paid for by the city. Given existing trends and the effects
of recent legislative changes, a vacancy rate of 5% could
easily be surpassed in the next survey, scheduled for 1999.
In sum, there is a real possibility that rent stabilization
will cease to exist within the next three to four years.

By permitting sharp increases in rents for vacant
apartments and expanding luxury decontrol, the so-called
Rent Regulation Reform Act of 1997 may cause the vacancy
rate to climb over the 5% threshold. The analysis is
simple. The new vacancy-bonus provisions will send all
stabilized rnts up sharply upon vacancy. About 9% of
rent-stabilized apartments become vacant each year. In
addition, the new laws allow market-rate rents for
apartments which reach the $2,000 mark upon or after
vacancy. Under the new law, an empty apartment formerly
rented by a 10-year occupant paying $1,600 per month could
be fully deregulated.

Apartments with far lower rents could also undergo
deregulation if the owner is willing to invest in
improvements. The new law also severely weakened
protections against illegal overcharges, so landlords who
disregard the limits on raising rents are much more likely
to get away with it. As the number of high-rent apartments
grows under this liberal deregulation policy, many units
will sit on the market for longer periods and create a
misleading statistical picture of housing abundance.

Doubling-up rises

When rents rise, fewer people can afford to relocate, and
they are also more likely to double up with friends or
family. This will cause more empty units to stay on the
market longer, as owners hold out for their price. In this
way a 4% vacancy rate can be easily bumped over 5%.

There appears to be two ways to prevent this from
happening. First, many who are familiar with how the
triennial vacancy surveys measure vacancies suggest that
they may overstate the number of true vacancies: A more
refined methodology, they suggest, would hold the rate
below 5%. Second, the 5% vacancy rate itself is a myopic
way of defining a housing emergency, and so changing the
laws to incorporate other factors is warranted.

Those who find fault with the survey suggest that a few
reasonable corrections in data-gathering and interpretation
techniques will show a much lower vacancy rate. There is
some evidence that they are correct. Upon close
examination, the statistics seem strange indeed. According
to the 1996 Housing and Vacancy Survey ("HVS"), in New York
City there were over 20,000 apartments vacant and available
for rent with asking rents of less than $500 per month.
Anyone who has shopped for an apartment in the five
boroughs will readily recognize that this figure is absurd.
The vacancy figures include over 6,000 Housing Authority
apartments, where the waiting list exceeds 336,000
families-not exactly a portrait of a healthy market with
plenty of affordable units.

Warehousing rampant

Moreover, of the 81,000 apartments counted as vacant and
available for rent, over 17,000 had been on the market for
over six months. One can intelligently ask how apartments
can be truly considered available for rent when they have
been sitting empty for so long. It seems likely that the
surveyors may have been misled as to the willingness of
landlords to actually rent these warehoused units. If these
long-term vacancies were eliminated from the vacancy
figures, the overall vacancy rate would drop from the
present figure of 4% to about 3.2%.

Unfortunately, it may be unrealistic to expect that the
city will change its methodology, or that the courts will
defer to any vacancy numbers other than those produced by
the Census Bueau. Perhaps a better approach would be to
supplement the statutory definition of a housing emergency
to ensure that it is more realistic. There is a compelling
economic argument to do this--and a simple statistical way
to accomplish the change. Moderate-income households
respond to housing shortages and high rents by doubling up.
One indicator of changes in the rate of doubling up is the
rate of overcrowding. In 1984 about 7.7% of the city's
households were classified as overcrowded (having more than
one person per room). Today that number has risen to
10.3%--a high figure by historical standards.

Overcrowding was also a common problem during the Great
Depression, when there were plenty of apartments for rent.
In 1946, when a joint committee of the state Legislature
met to revise the multiple-dwelling law, they noted that a
housing shortage had begun to appear as early as 1936, but
that widespread doubling-up had concealed it. There,
policymakers were willing to look beyond mere vacancy rates
in identifying a shortage.

What's a "crisis"?

Ironically, under the current law, if thousands of
lower-income people are forced to double up and the vacancy
rate rises as a result, the opponents of rent regulation
will push to have the housing emergency declared at an
end--and dismantle the last hope that many working people
have for an affordable apartment. One way to avoid this
absurd result is to amend the law to incorporate
overcrowding rates into the definition of the housing
emergency. For example, if an 8% over-crowding rate is
considered a tolerable maximum, the 5% vacancy threshold
for decontrol could be increased to match each percentage
point that the overcrowding rate exceeds 8%. In other
words, if the Housing and Vacancy Survey finds an
overcrowding rate of 10% (2% above the suggested maximum)
the statutory threshold vacancy rate of 5% should be
increased by to 7%.

In economic terms, this approach would simply recognize the
lag time that housing markets experience in achieving a
clearing price. At some point, many of the landlords
holding empty high-rent apartments will bargain with new
tenants, which will in turn free up lower-rent apartments
for those who may be doubled up waiting for an affordable
place. Unfortunately, since the new law also allows large
rent increases in lower-rent units, the pressure on those
with affordability problems can be expected to remain for a
painfully long period. Another way to mitigate the possible
disaster of abrupt deregulation is to adopt a general
statute which forbids unconscionable rent increases for all
sitting tenants, and which prohibits evictions except for a
proven good cause. New Jersey has had such laws for
decades. The New York legislature could adopt guidelines
which are permanent and easy to monitor and enforce.

For example, any rent increase which exceeds twice the
local consumer price index in a one-year period could be
presumed to be unconscionable unless the owner could
demonstrate financial hard-ship. All tenants could be
given a right to renew leases and all evictions could be
barred unless good cause is shown--such as nonpayment of
rent, creating a nuisance, or illegally subletting. This
type of legislation would rest upon consumer-protection
goals and would not require a declared housing emergency.

Such legislation would greatly aid household and
neighborhood stability and would certainly serve the
interest of "family values." The homes of all renters and
their families would no longer be viewed as crude
commodities subject to the whim and caprice of momentary
market pressures and avaricious landlords. In sum, the
sharp rent increases engineered by the new rent
"reforms" may create a temporary illusion of housing
abundance, which could cause a premature finding that the
housing emergency has ended. If the rise in vacancies is
examined, policymakers will find that it is not a product
of an increased housing supply. (What developer in his
right mind would build in a market with plenty of high-rent
units?) Rather, the increase in vacancies will come from
the fact that huge numbers of potential new households have
been priced out of the market and are doubling up. That is
a very bad reason to end protections for everyone.

Tim Collins, former director of the Rent Guidelines Board,
is an attorney with the firm of Collins, Dobkin and Miller.

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Date: Sun, 08 Mar 1998 21:23:47 -0500
Subject: Rent Guidelines Board 1998 Schedule

The New York City Rent Guidelines Board has scheduled its
1998 meetings and hearings. These will result in the
setting of the rent increases allowed for the more than 1
million rent-stabilized apartments in the city, for the
year beginning Oct. 1, 1998. Last year, the RGB set the
lease-renewal increases low, 2 and 4 percent, allegedly 
to protect Mayor Giuliani’s bid for re-election. But the
"low" increase was more than made up for by the disastrous
"Rent Regulation Reform Bill of 1997" (known in tenant
circles as the "Silver-Lopez-McGee Triple-R97 Bill")
which upped vacancy increases up to 18%-35%). No such 
inhibition exists this year, and the Mayor’s board may 
try to install entirely new forms of rent increases which 
would further the Pataki administration’s decontrol 
policies. Plan to monitor the RGB and organize this year.

New York City Rent Guidelines Board Spring ’98 
Public Meeting Schedule

(The following schedule is tentative. Contact the Rent
Guidelines Board to confirm dates, times and places:
(212)385-2934)

New York City Rent Guidelines Board 
Spring '98 Meeting Schedule

Wednesday, March 18, 1998
Public Meeting
Dept. of City Planning,
Spector Hall, 22 Reade Street (1st Flr.), 
New York, NY 10007
9:00 A.M. - 12:30 Noon

Tuesday, April 7, 1998,
Public Meeting
Dept. of City Planning,
Spector Hall, 22 Reade Street (1st Flr.), 
New York, NY 10007
9:00 A.M. - 12:30 Noon

Tuesday, April 28, 1998, 
Public Meeting
Dept. of City Planning,
Spector Hall, 22 Reade Street (1st Flr.), 
New York, NY 10007
9:00 A.M. - 12:30 Noon

Tuesday, May 5, 1998, 
Public Meeting
Dept. of City Planning,
Spector Hall, 22 Reade Street (1st Flr.), 
New York, NY 10007
9:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M.

FIRST VOTE ON GUIDELINES
Thursday, May 7, 1998, 
Public Meeting
Department of Health,
125 Worth St., 2nd Flr.,
New York, NY 10007
5:00 P.M.- 10:00 P.M.

Tuesday, June 2, 1998, 
Public Meeting
Dept. of City Planning,
Spector Hall, 22 Reade Street (1st Flr.), 
New York, NY 10007
9:00 A.M. - 12:30 Noon

APARTMENTS
Tuesday, June 16, 1998, 
Public Hearing
To be determined
1:00 P.M. - 10:00 P.M.

HOTELS
Tuesday, June 16, 1998, 
Public Hearing
To be determined
2:00 P.M. - 7:00 P.M.

FINAL RENT GUIDELINES ADOPTED
Monday, June 22, 1998, Public Meeting
To be determined 5:00 P.M. - 10:00 P.M.

Note: The Rent Guidelines Board reserves 
the right to cancel or reschedule public meetings. 

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Date: Wed, 11 Mar 1998 09:20:57 -0500
Subject: From Leo House: a Plea for Help


We received the following request for assistance regarding the
remaining residents of the Leo House in the Chelsea neighborhood
of Manhattan. Please take a moment to call Cardinal John O'Connor 
and ask for him to intervene on this issue.

Subject: Help Needed By Leo House Tenants
RE:  The Leo House Annex Eviction Fight

Please call the office of John Cardinal O'Connor. (371-1000, ask for the
Cardinal's office)  Leave a message for the Cardinal.  Ask that he intervene
to stop the eviction of the Leo House Annex tenants and help to preserve the
annex as affordable housing for the Chelsea neighborhood and the City of New
York.  

>From some Chelsea neighbors comes a plea for help.  Three women are still 
holding out against eviction for the SRO hotel on West 23rd Street called 
the Leo House Annex -- it's annexed to a tourist hotel and both are owned 
by a private non-profit organization with connections to the Archdiocese of 
New York.  Indeed, Cardinal O'Connor was on the Board of Directors at Leo 
House when the eviction notices were served on the 28 low income and working 
women who lived in the annex at that time; he left the Board when resistance 
to the eviction became apparent, and was replaced by his "right hand man." 

In the five years since the eviction notices were served, some tenants have
moved out in fear, some have died, some have become ill and been forced to
leave for the kind of care they need -- but three valient women continue to
hold out for the preservation of the annex as an affordable housing
resource.  Last week these women received an adverse decision from an appeal
they had taken to the Supreme Court.  Eviction is imminent.

We believe that only the intervention of the Cardinal's office can halt the
eviction.  The women have asked for a meeting with the Cardinal and their
request is pending.  We want the Cardinal to know that they are not alone in
their struggle and in their interest in saving affordable housing in New
York.  We think it is important that the Cardinal know that his actions in
this case are being watched by many New Yorkers.  Respectful calls will be
most effective. You might, for example, simply say that you are a resident
of the West Side who is concerned about the loss of affordable housing and
you hope the Cardinal will intervene to save the Leo House Annex.  Keep it
simple and straightforward.   

Make the call today.  It will only take a minute of your time, and it can be
an enormous help.

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Date: Fri, 13 Mar 1998 06:52:08 -0500
Subject: Leo House Annex Tenants to Meet with Cardinal

Re:  Leo House Annex Tenants to Meet with Cardinal

Thanks everyone for your help.  You can stop with the calls to the Cardinal
now, but stay alert -- we may need you again.  The Leo House tenants got a
call this morning from Cardinal O'Connor's assistant, Monsignor Murray,
offering a meeting with the Cardinal in early April.  Monsignor Murray
assured the tenants that he would call the Leo House Board Chair to let him
know that no action should be taken on the eviction pending this meeting.
Monsignor Murray noted specifically (and good naturedly) that the Cardinal's
office had received "a lot of phone calls" this morning.  We're pretty
certain that he was asking us to have the calls stopped, though he didn't
come right out and say it.

This meeting is a giant step forward in a five year old fight for affordable
housing.  Congratulations to us all. 

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Date: Mon, 16 Mar 1998 08:32:21 -0500
Subject: Correction: Rent Guidelines Board Schedule

Last week we sent out the 1998 hearing schedule for the 
NYC Rent Guidelines Board. 

Both the hotel and apartment hearings were listed as being on 
June 16. This was in error. The apartment hearing is on the 16th 
and the hotel hearing is on the 18th. It should read:

APARTMENTS
Tuesday, June 16, 1998, 
Public Hearing
location to be determined
1:00 P.M. - 10:00 P.M.

HOTELS
Tuesday, June 16, 1998, 
Public Hearing
location to be determined
2:00 P.M. - 7:00 P.M.

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Date: Tue, 17 Mar 1998 05:30:28 -0500
Subject: Correcting the Correction: RGB once again

It must be too much sunshine or the one day we took off last week.
The "correction" we sent out on the 1998 Rent Guidelines Board schedule 
was also in error and thanks for those who pointed it out.

The Apartment Hearing is on June 16th and the Hotel Hearing is on 
June 18th. It should read:

APARTMENTS
Tuesday, June 16, 1998, 
Public Hearing
location to be determined
1:00 P.M. - 10:00 P.M.

HOTELS
Tuesday, June 18, 1998, 
Public Hearing
location to be determined
2:00 P.M. - 7:00 P.M.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
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Date: Tue, 17 Mar 1998 06:08:49 -0500
Subject: Leichter's 25th Annual Community Conference

[Note: the following was supplied by Sen. Leichter's office]

Senator Franz Leichter's 25th Annual Community Conference

We The People...
In order to Re-form a More Perfect State

Saturday, April 4, 1998, 12:00pm - 4:00pm
Columbia University's Miller Theatre 
116th Street and Broadway, New York City

Registration: 11:30 a.m.; Welcoming Statement: 12 noon; 
Caucuses: 12:30 p.m.; General Session:  2:30 p.m.
Reception: 4:30p.m.

You Have Been Chosen As A Delegate

The 25th annual Leichter Community Conference will be, in effect, a mock
constitutional convention.  While the voters rejected holding a
constitutional convention last November, it is clear that many favor some
constitutional revision.  Throughout the State, people are fed up with the
mess in Albany.  The conference will focus on what constitutional revisions
should be made in the budget process, campaign financing, education and the
State's obligation to care for the needy.  As a delegate you can
participate in one of the following caucuses and then make your
recommendations to statewide leaders at the general session.

CAUCUSES:  12:30 p.m.

Campaign Finance Reform: Government for Sale?

Sal Albanese, Former NYC Council Member; Joel Gora, General Counsel, New
York Civil Liberties Union & Brooklyn Law School Professor; Rachel Leon,
Executive Director, Common Cause;

Legislative & Government Reform: Open Up the Chambers

Barbara Bartoletti, Executive Director, New York League of Women Voters;
Tom Carroll, President, CHANGE-NY;

Care of the Needy:  Can We Afford Not To Care?

Elizabeth  Krueger, Associate Director, Community Food and Resource Center;
Another presenter to be announced;

GENERAL SESSION:  2:30 p.m.

All declared candidates for NYS Governor have been invited: Charles "Joe"
Hynes, Brooklyn District Attorney; Richard Kahan, President of the Urban
Assembly (confirmed); James Larocca, Former New York State Department of
Transportation Commissioner (confirmed);  Hon. George Pataki, NYS Governor;
Hon. Betsey McCaughey Ross, NYS Lieutenant Governor (confirmed); Hon. Peter
Vallone, NYC Council Speaker (confirmed)

Free Admission
For more information: Call Senator Leichter's Office at 212-397-5913.

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Date: Wed, 18 Mar 1998 05:29:37 -0500
Subject: Demonstration to Stop Evictions at JTS

[Note: the following was supplied by 515-521 West 122nd St. Tenants Assn.]

DEMONSTRATION AT Jewish Theological Seminary
WHEN: SUNDAY, MARCH 22 4:00-6:00 PM
WHERE: 122ND STREET & BROADWAY (JEWISH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY)

On March 22 and 23, the Jewish Theological Seminary will be hosting a
conference honoring the memory of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a revered
scholar and mystic who once taught at the seminary, and who was a
civil-rights activist and friend of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 
 
For two and a half years, the Jewish Theological Seminary has been trying
to forcibly evict 23 families from their homes on West 122nd St. We believe
that the seminary's relentless pursuit of its neighbors desecrates the
memory of Rabbi Heschel every single day. 
 
PLEASE HELP US SAVE OUR HOMES! Join us in a demonstration of faith in the
values taught by Rabbi  Heschel, and demand that the seminary cease its
eviction attempts immediately!  

     "Our task is to let the divine emerge from our deeds." 
				—Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel 

For further information: 515-521 West 122nd St. Tenants Assn., 212-665-4183 
E-mail: tenants@idc.net

==================
Background

On November 6, 1996, the Jewish Theological Seminary started court
proceedings to evict the first thirteen of 23 families that it wants to
forcibly remove from 515 and 521 West 122nd St.; on Christmas Eve, 1996,
two more households whose leases expired at the end of November were served
papers ordering them to be in court on the day of New Year's Eve.

In September, 1995, the seminary began issuing legally required notices
advising these families that it did not intend to renew their leases. The
tenants wrote to the chancellor of the seminary, Ismar Schorsch, to appeal
to him for help in preventing the evictions. In response, we received a
letter from Vice Chancellor Michael Greenbaum saying that the seminary
wanted our homes for student housing, and that the seminary planned to seek
the eviction of everyone who moved into the buildings since July 1, 1978,
pursuant to Section 2524 of the Rent Stabilization Code, which governs
nonprofit institutions.

In the early 1970s, despite community protest, the seminary demolished two
apartment buildings in order to build a low-rise library and provide
seminary administrators with a parking lot. A local architectural firm
offered a plan that would have saved one of the apartment buildings, but
the seminary rejected it. Nevertheless, in a letter from then Assistant to
the Chancellor Henry D. Michelman, the seminary did assure the surrounding
community that "We will not be expanding any further."

For many years after this declaration, the landlord rented only to
nonaffiliated tenants, and allowed the condition of the buildings to
deteriorate. We do not think it is a coincidence that, of the first two
families to receive notice that their leases would not be renewed, one was
the family of our tenant association's co-chair and the other was a family
that had been involved in a protracted struggle in court to force the
landlord to make repairs.

In breaking its promise, the seminary is threatening to take away homes
that people have lived in for nearly 20 years -- for many of the children,
all their lives. We are working families, some of us struggling even with
stabilized rents in apartments we've lived in for a long time. We cannot
afford to move. Yet the seminary has never made a realistic offer to make
moving financially feasible, or explored fully alternative housing in the
area for students.

Seminary administrators have provided a great deal of inaccurate and
misleading information to the seminary community and the press. For
example, many people now seem to be under the impression that the tenants
were notified before they moved into their apartments that they would have
to give them up. This is not true. If you call or write to the seminary and
get their standard response, we ask you to make reference to our two
statements setting the record straight -- "Thou shalt not..." and "Addendum
to 'Thou shalt not...'".

We have hired the law firm Grad & Weinraub to represent us in court. We
have done this in more than the hope of slowing the court proceedings;
there are, in fact, serious legal issues at stake regarding the seminary's
right under the rent stabilization laws to take away our homes, and it is
by no means a certainty that the seminary will win a court battle. In fact,
in March 1997 Civil Court Judge Joan Madden threw out the 15 cases that
seminary commenced in 1996. The seminary is appealing this decision, and
has taken 6 more families to court. Despite out hopes for an eventual legal
victory, given the unpredictability of the legal process we are also taking
our case to the court of public opinion -- and to the streets.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
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  email:                  
  NYtenants Discussion List: email to  and in 
  the body of the message put "subscribe nytenants".
Information from TenantNet is from experienced non-attorney tenant 
activists and is not considered legal advice.




Date: Mon, 23 Mar 1998 07:48:44 -0500
Subject: Air Rights/8th Ave: Public Hearing Wed 3/25

EIGHTH AVENUE REZONING UPDATE

The EASY part is over.

Yes, there's good news on the 8th Avenue Rezoning fight and
we're feeling good after last week's vote at Community Board 5
where Board 5 rejected the Rezoning proposal by a vote of 27-3,
but (as T.S. Eliot said), "April is the cruelest month." For
Clinton/Hell's Kitchen it could also be May, June or July as
the rezoning review process winds its way through the Borough
Board, City Planning Commission and City Council.

TENANTS ARE PARTICULARLY AT RISK TO AIR RIGHTS ABUSES as the 
real estate pressures that come with rezoning will not only 
create luxury housing (with little or no middle-income 
"affordable" housing), but it will also allow landlords to 
increase rents and step up harassment efforts. Tenants 
need to join neighborhood groups in stopping the potential 
Air Rights abuses. The current proposal is expected to be 
used as a precedent and if accepted, similar proposals could
invade many NYC low-rise, low-density low-income neighborhoods.
For details, see Hell's Kitchen Online at http://hellskitchen.net

THE NEXT STEP: PUBLIC HEARING THIS WEDNESDAY
============================================

Next in the ULURP process (Uniform Land Use Review
Procedure) is a vote at the Borough Board headed by
Borough President C. Virginia Fields. The vote will
happen in mid-April, but the hearing is Wednesday.

  PUBLIC HEARING ON THE EIGHTH AVENUE REZONING PROPOSAL
  Manhattan Borough President
  Wednesday, March 25 from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm
  Manhattan Borough President's Office
  1 Centre Street, 19th Floor South.
  (see full notice and directions below below)

We know its difficult to get downtown, especially after a
busy day, but this is one of several critical times when
it is necessary for the Clinton community to appear and
be heard. The developers are counting on you not to show
up. Prove them wrong just like you did at Board 5!

Borough President Fields said this proposal would drastically
alter the character of this neighborhood, but we hear she's
being heavily pressured by developers. Let her know her
constituents must not be subjected to Air Rights abuses and
lose the important protection of community review! She must
take a leadership position in this battle.

THE GOOD NEWS!

We knew Board 4 would reject the proposal, but we thought
Board 5 would be a squeaker, and when the Board voted
27-3 (with 1 abstention and 4 ineligible to vote), we
were quite surprised given that many on Board 5 have
close relations with the theater industry. Many of 
those speaking were from Clinton and we definitely
had an impact.

But you also can't dismiss that Board 5 members looked at
the proposal on its own terms, how it consisted of bad
urban planning principles, how it would really 
shortchange the theater industry and found it flawed.

  A good story appeared in Backstage on March 20, 1998 at:
  http://hellskitchen.net/develop/new/rs980320.html
  (it's so good, we reproduced it below)

  The Board 5 resolution (short) is at:
  http://hellskitchen.net/csdc/ulurp/cb5zonreso.html

  The Board 5 report (long but worth reading) is at:
  http://hellskitchen.net/csdc/ulurp/cb5zonrep.html

Of course our own Community Board #4 unanimously
rejected the proposal on March 4 (vote was 32-0)

  Backstage wrote on this on March 14, 1998 at:
  http://hellskitchen.net/develop/new/rs980314.html

  The Board 4 resolution (long) is at:
  http://hellskitchen.net/csdc/ulurp/cb4zonreso.html

MORE COMMUNITY BOARDS AGAINST AIR RIGHTS

Even though the proposal only directly affects Boards 4
and 5, other boards are busy passing resolutions. Why?
This is really a city-wide issue and other communities
are starting to realize the danger and precedent this
proposal can bring--the unleashing of abusive uses of
Air Rights throughout the city, and the avoidance of
Community Review (ULURP) and Environmental Impact
Statements necessary to judge development impacts to
any NYC community.

This proposal creates an enormously wide receiving area
whereas before such areas have been narrowly defined and
used judiciously. Here it proposes to be an "economic
development tool" to give preference to a private
industry (theater owners). In essence, this is 
"spot zoning" which can undermine the predictable
zoning resolution that should guide urban development.

Both Boards 2 and 6 have passed resolutions opposing this
proposal. More are expected.

  Board 6 resolution is at:
  http://hellskitchen.net/csdc/ulurp/cb6zonreso.html

  Board 2 resolution is at:
  http://hellskitchen.net/csdc/ulurp/cb2zonreso.html

Other groups are also recognizing the dangers of this
new age of "as-of-right" Air Rights. The Queens Civic
Congress representing many homeowner groups has told
us they've taken a strong position against the provisions
contained in this plan. The Historic Districts Council 
also reportedly finds problems. As this issue gets on
the city's radar screen, the fundamental problems of
Air Rights and avoiding community review are starting to
resonate.

EXTREME CAUTION

If anyone thinks that just because the community boards
are recognizing the dangers of this proposal, remember
that community board votes are only advisory and the
City Planning Commission is essentially controlled by
the Mayor (he appoints 6 of 13). Once the Mayor and his
"in your face" machine gears up, it will be rough-going.
This administration is well-known for giving away huge
amounts of political pork to buy its way. Who will he
pay and what promises will he make on this issue?

The fight on this issue is now downtown. Now it is
with the Borough Board through mid-April. Then City
Planning has 60 days to make a decision, then it goes to
City Council. Residents of Clinton/Hell's Kitchen
must make the time and effort to get downtown on
the upcoming critical events. Yes, we'll let you
know when and where. First this Wednesday.

=================================================
DIRECTIONS TO 1 CENTER STREET (Municipal Building)

Take the R train to City Hall or E to World Trade Center.
Chambers Street is just north of City Hall and runs
east-west. Follow Chambers until it dead-ends. That's
Centre Street and the huge monstrous building is
the Municipal Building.
=================================================

PUBLIC NOTICE OF HEARING

THE CITY OF NEW YORK
OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
BOROUGH OF MANHATTAN
MUNICIPAL BUILDING
NEW YORK. N.Y. 1OOO7E
C. VIRGINIA FIELDS

                                   March 13, 1998

Re: Theatre subdistrict Zoning Proposal

Dear Friend

I am writing to invite you to a public hearing on an
application submitted by the Department of city
Planning that consists of (a) zoning text amendments
(N980271ZRM) to the special Midtown District and
the special Clinton District; and (b) a zoning map
amendment (C980272ZMM) which extends the boundaries
of the special Midtown District to overlap a portion
of the Special Clinton District along the west side
of Eighth Avenue between West 42nd Street and West
56th street, Borough of Manhattan, Community
Districts 4 and 5.

Given the importance of this proposal, I have decided
to hold a public hearing during my thirty day review
period. This hearing is intended to provide an
opportunity for me and my staff to learn more about
the issues associated with this application and to
help inform my Uniform Land use Procedure (ULURP)
response. Tbe hearing will be held on Wednesday,
March 25 between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., in the Manhattan
Borough President's office, 1 Centre street, 19th
floor South.

Scheduled speakers include the Department of City
Planning, local elected officials, Community Boards
4 and 5, community groups, the Broadway Initiative,
theater industry representatives, and civic groups.
There will also be an opportunity for members of the
public to testify after the scheduled speakers have
presented their statements. All speakers will be
limited to three minutes. I hope that you will be
able to join me for this important hearing, and look
forward to your comments. 

C. Virginia Fields
Manhattan Borough President

=================================================

Zoning Proposal On to Fields After Board 5 Rejection
Backstage, March 20, 1998
By Robert Simonson

The New York City Planning Department and Broadway Initiative's plan to
rezone a Midtown patch of Eighth Avenue was dealt another blow on March 12
when Community Board 5 rejected the proposal 27-3. The board's ruling sends
the proposal on to the Manhattan Borough Board, where Borough President C.
Virginia Fields has called for a public hearing to address the increasingly
volatile issue.

Coming on the heels of Community Board 4's unanimous rejection of the
zoning plan, Board 5's strong rebuff raised a few eyebrows. Community
District 4 covers the area which lies just west of Eighth Avenue and the
Theatre District. Ever since the city revealed its plan to permit taller
buildings to sprout on formerly seedy Eighth Avenue via an air rights
exchange with Broadway theatre owners, Clinton advocates have strongly
fought against the measure. Board 4's vote, then, did not come as much of a
shock.

Community District 5, however, encompasses the Theatre District--the very
area which would ostensibly benefit from the rezoning. Officials at the
Broadway Initiative--the coalition of theatrical production and labor
groups backing the plan--had expressed guarded hopes that the board would
view the plan more sympathetically. The 27-3 verdict stunned almost
everyone, including the board itself. Lola Finkelstein, chairman of
Community Board 5, told Back Stage she was "strongly surprised by the vote."

"We were surprised by how strong it was," echoed John Fisher, spokesman for
the Clinton Special District Coalition, a group formed shortly after the
plan was made public. "We thought it was going to be a squeaker."

Finkelstein said the board decided against the measure "for many reasons,
among them that we did not think zoning was the appropriate solution to the
problems of the theatre community as represented to us." She added that the
vote did not "negate our commitment to the Broadway theatre."

Board Solidarity 

The Planning Department's rezoning proposal is a key part of the Broadway
Initiative's plan to revive the Times Square theatre industry. Under the
plan, interested developers would be able to exceed standing zoning
restrictions on Midtown Eighth Avenue by purchasing the air rights above
Broadway theatres. Under existing law, owners of typically low-lying
Broadway houses are only allowed to transfer their considerable air rights
to a property lying next door or across the street.

Theater owners benefiting from the sale of development rights would then be
obliged to contribute $10 per square foot sold to a Theatre Fund. The
fund--which would also theoretically be fed by per-ticket contributions and
union donations--would be used to maintain theatres and promote the
development of new plays and small musicals.

"I think Community Board 5 was, in no small measure, trying to show
solidarity with Community Board 4," said Ethan Geto, a spokesman for the
Broadway Initiative. (Fisher said that Community Boards 2 and 6, which
cover Greenwich Village and Midtown's east side, respectively, have also
passed resolutions against the rezoning plan.)

"The main issues that the community are expressing are frankly not so much
about the Initiative itself," said Geto. "People who are standing up at
these meetings are very supportive of the theatre. They're just troubled by
certain aspects of the zoning, as they perceive they will affect the
community. What we have to do is be more emphatic and clear about the
urgency of getting the Broadway Initiative off the ground, and why the
transfer of development rights is important to that."

Field's "Expression of Concern" 

In the wake of the community boards' votes, Manhattan Borough President
Fields has scheduled a public hearing on the zoning proposal for Wed.,
March 25, between 5 and 8 pm.

Fields position on the plan is unclear. During her 1997 campaign for the
presidency, the Clinton Special District Coalition entreated her--as well
as her opponents, Deborah Glick and Adam Clayton Powell III--to issue a
statement on the matter. All three candidates did so.

In her statement, Fields said, "While it is understandable that the theatre
industry wishes to benefit from the much needed capital this rezoning would
bring to it, I feel that this gain would be at the expense of, and to the
detriment of, the community that already resides in this area." She further
stated that an aspect of the plan which would raise Floor Area Ration
(FAR), allowing 40- to 50-story buildings to be built without requiring
them to be of mixed income, would "drastically alter the character of the
neighborhood"; and that Clinton "would be forced to bear the negative
fallout of this effort." The statement closed by saying, "As this process
goes forward, we must be vigilant to make sure that the goals and past
accomplishments of Clinton Special District are not undermined."

In its subsequent press releases, the Clinton Special District Coalition
has cited Fields opposition to the rezoning plan. When asked by Back Stage
to confirm the borough president's stance, however, Michael DeMarzo, press
representative for Fields, said she "has not taken a position on the matter."

After being faxed a copy of Fields' campaign statement, DeMarzo stated,
"This is not a position of support for the proposal or otherwise. What it
is, is an expression of concern.... We're not going to deny that this
statement was said. The proposal has areas of concern as it effects the
[Clinton] district."

The borough president's public hearing on the proposal will take place at
Field's office at 1 Centre Street on the 19th floor. No date has yet been
set for the borough board's vote on the measure. After that vote takes
place, the proposal will go to the City Council.


-----------------------------------------------------------------------
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  TenantNet:              http://tenant.net
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  email:                  
  NYtenants Discussion List: email to  and in 
  the body of the message put "subscribe nytenants".
Information from TenantNet is from experienced non-attorney tenant 
activists and is not considered legal advice.




Date: Wed, 25 Mar 1998 12:45:30 -0500
Subject: Reminder: Fields Hearing tonight 3/25

Just a reminder:

Tonight is the Borough President's Public Hearing
on Air Rights and 8th Avenue Rezoning.
 
Please try and make it. The one message
that Borough President Virginia Fields needs to hear is
that she needs to take a strong leadership stand on
the broad issue of Air Rights.

All the impact on Clinton stems from Air Rights. If it 
is not killed now, if the "compromise" still allows 
Air Rights, it will come back in a few years and 
threaten Clinton (and all other NYC neighborhoods) again. 

  PUBLIC HEARING
  ON THE EIGHTH AVENUE REZONING PROPOSAL
  Manhattan Borough President
  Wednesday, March 25 from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm
  Manhattan Borough President's Office
  1 Centre Street, 19th Floor South.

=================================================
DIRECTIONS TO 1 CENTER STREET (Municipal Building)

Take the R train to City Hall or E to World Trade Center.
Chambers Street is just north of City Hall and runs
east-west. Follow Chambers east until it dead-ends. 
That's Centre Street and the huge monstrous building 
is the Municipal Building. Use the south entrance.
=================================================

PUBLIC NOTICE OF HEARING

THE CITY OF NEW YORK
OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
BOROUGH OF MANHATTAN
MUNICIPAL BUILDING
NEW YORK. N.Y. 1OOO7E
C. VIRGINIA FIELDS

                                   March 13, 1998

Re: Theatre subdistrict Zoning Proposal

Dear Friend

I am writing to invite you to a public hearing on an
application submitted by the Department of city
Planning that consists of (a) zoning text amendments
(N980271ZRM) to the special Midtown District and
the special Clinton District; and (b) a zoning map
amendment (C980272ZMM) which extends the boundaries
of the special Midtown District to overlap a portion
of the Special Clinton District along the west side
of Eighth Avenue between West 42nd Street and West
56th street, Borough of Manhattan, Community
Districts 4 and 5.

Given the importance of this proposal, I have decided
to hold a public hearing during my thirty day review
period. This hearing is intended to provide an
opportunity for me and my staff to learn more about
the issues associated with this application and to
help inform my Uniform Land use Procedure (ULURP)
response. Tbe hearing will be held on Wednesday,
March 25 between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., in the Manhattan
Borough President's office, 1 Centre street, 19th
floor South.

Scheduled speakers include the Department of City
Planning, local elected officials, Community Boards
4 and 5, community groups, the Broadway Initiative,
theater industry representatives, and civic groups.
There will also be an opportunity for members of the
public to testify after the scheduled speakers have
presented their statements. All speakers will be
limited to three minutes. I hope that you will be
able to join me for this important hearing, and look
forward to your comments. 

C. Virginia Fields
Manhattan Borough President

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
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  TenantNet:              http://tenant.net
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  email:                  
  NYtenants Discussion List: email to  and in 
  the body of the message put "subscribe nytenants".
Information from TenantNet is from experienced non-attorney tenant 
activists and is not considered legal advice.




Date: Tue, 31 Mar 1998 08:41:17 -0500
Subject: Rent Control Tenants Win First Round of MBR suit


The following articles are courtesy of Met Council. Two articles 
from December and November are included to give you background
on this complex issue. Judge Torraca dismissed the landlord's
case saying that 1) the case belongs in NYC becuase it affects 
NYC residents 2)the DHCR never did anything so the landlords 
had no cause of action and 3) the landlords should have sued 
the city since it was complaining about Local Law 73 of 1997.
This issue applies to Rent Controlled (but not Rent 
Stabilized) tenants.
=========================================================

March 30, 1998

Rent Control Tenants Win First Round:
State Court Dismisses Landlord Lawsuit

On March 27, 1998, the State Supreme Court in Kingston
dismissed the landlords' lawsuit against the NYS Division of
Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR). The landlords had sued
the DHCR in an upstate court to stop the implementation of
the city law which returns the 1996/1997 MBR factor to 3%.
Judge Torraca said, in his decision, that the case belongs
in the New York City court since the issue involves only
people who live in New York City.

As of this date, it is not known how the DHCR will react to
the decision. It had put the 96/97 MBR under suspension and
had refused to determine the 1998/99 MBR factor (which,
under normal circumstances, would have been determined by
November of 1997).

If the DHCR refuses to implement the 3% MBR factor, the
issue will be settled in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
Last fall, the City of New York sued the DHCR in the
Manhattan Court demanding that the DHCR implement the 3%.

At issue in the lawsuit is a battle between the City of New
York which says that the DHCR should use a certain formula
for determining the MBR factor, and the State of New York
which wants to use a different formula.  The formula favored
by the state resulted in a factor of 32.4% for 1996/97; the
law passed by the City Council in September of 1997 resulted
in a factor of 3%.  Tenants are supporting the City, while
the State agency is being supported the landlords.

What should tenants do?  Wait until the DHCR sends you a new
notice.  As soon as Met Council gets any news, we will do a
new mailing to our members who are on our rent control list.

=========================================================
Dec. 1997
Tenant Groups Sue to Block MBR Increase
by Jenny Laurie

On November 12, a group of eight tenant associations filed
suits against the state Division of Housing & Community
Renewal (DHCR) to challenge it setting the 1996/97 Maximum
Base Rent factor at 32.4%.

In three separate lawsuits, the tenant groups are claiming
that the DHCR violated both the original MBR law and the May
1997 decision by the state Appellate Court, Third
Department, when it set the MBR factor, used to determine
rent increases for rent-controlled apartments, at 32.4%.
These three lawsuits are separate from the ones filed in
October by the City of New York (in which Met Council and
other groups have intervened) which support the city’s new
law limiting the factor to 3%.

The City Council passed Local Law 73 in September in
reaction to the outcry of distressed, mostly elderly,
rent-controlled tenants who were suddenly threatened with
32.4% MBR increases after landlords won a lawsuit reversing
the original factor of 3%. The 32.4% MBR increase would
force most rent-controlled tenants—whose median income is
$12,000 a year—to pay a 15% rent increase over two years.
Local Law 73 clarified the original MBR law, passed by the
Council in 1970, and requires the DHCR to return to the 3%
factor.

The landlords immediately sued in State Supreme Court in
Albany to stop the implementation of the new city law, which
blocked them from collecting increases based on the 32.4%
factor. The November lawsuits were filed in order to protect
tenants in the event the court strikes down Local Law 73 and
allows DHCR to return to the 32.4% factor.

According to Stanley Panesoff, program associate of the
Community Training and Resource Center, no matter what
happens to Local Law 73, the DHCR used incorrect
calculations to set the 32.4% figure. “The lawsuits
essentially allege that in recomputing the 1996-97 MBR
increase of 32.4% for 70,000 rent-controlled apartments, the
DHCR misapplied sections of the Real Property Tax Law.” he
says. “This resulted in an artificial inflation of building
values to more than double the values published by the New
York City Department of Finance. The resulting values are in
contradiction to the values determined by the New York State
Board of Real Property Services, the state agency which has
the final, legal word on determining the market value of all
taxable property. This faulty and, we think, unlawful
procedure rewards landlords with an 19% return on their
property, clearly violating the intent of the 8.5% return on
property as specified in the rent-control laws of 1970.”

The tenant groups participating in the legal action are: 246
West End Avenue Tenants Association, 100 Riverside Drive
Tenants Association, 124 East 85th Street Tenants
Association, Roxborough Tenants Association, London Terrace
Tenants Association, Park Gardens Tenants Association, the
Four Corners Tenant Association, and The Belnord Landmark
Conservancy.

=========================================================
Nov. 1997
The State Goes in the Tank: The MBR Fight Continues 
by Jenny Laurie 

Rent-controlled tenants have been given a reprieve from
exorbitant rent hikes, thanks to Local Law 73, passed by the
City Council and signed by the mayor on September 30. This
law returns the 1996-97 MBR factor to 3%, the number
originally set by the state Division of Housing and
Community Renewal. (see October Tenant).

The ink on Local Law 73 was barely dry at 9:40 the following
morning, when a coalition of landlords, upset at losing
their 32.4% MBR factor, filed a lawsuit challenging it.

By October 3, the DHCR had mailed out notices to
rent-controlled tenants suspending the 32.4% MBR hike,
telling tenants that “it is impossible to predict the
outcome of this litigation with any certainty at this time.
To avoid uncertainty, confusions and hardship among tenants
and owners regarding the application of this law during the
pendency of litigation DHCR is hereby suspending the 1996-97
amended MBR order of eligibility.” The notice goes on to say
that tenants should pay the rent they were paying prior to
September 12, 1997.

While tenant advocates expected the landlords to challenge
the city law on the grounds that the state’s 1971 Urstadt
Law prohibits the city from adopting stricter rent rules
than the state, it was a surprise that the lawsuit was filed
in Albany County, and against the state, not the city. The
landlords have calculated on two things. By suing the DHCR,
which is run by the Pataki Administration, they are suing a
friend who will not fight back. By suing in Albany, they can
get a judge who will be unfamiliar with rent laws and city
housing conditions, if not openly hostile to tenants. In
order to defend the new city law, Corporation Counsel (the
city’s lawyer) and a group of tenant organizations,
including Met Council, have gone into court in two lawsuits.
In one, they are asking the judge in the Albany case to
allow them to intervene for the purposes of getting the case
dismissed or moved to New York City where affected tenants
live. (As of this writing, the judge has given permission to
the tenants to be part of the case, but has not yet ruled on
the city’s application.)

As evident in the papers filed in court on October 24, the
state does not intend to defend the city law. In other
words, the state has suspended the amended MBR of 32.4%
until the lawsuit is settled -- but it is not going to
defend the city law. Instead, it will simply wait until the
landlords win, and then lift the suspension so that
landlords can collect rent increases based on the higher
MBR.

In its papers, the city claims that the landlords’ lawsuit
was “commenced in a collusive fashion” and that the
landlords and the Pataki Administration planned how to get
the city law knocked out by the court. “This shows once
again that the Pataki administration is a wholly-owned
subsidiary of the real-estate industry,” says Scott Sommer,
chair of Met Council’s board.

In the second lawsuit, the city has gone into State Supreme
Court in Manhattan asking the court to declare the city law
in force and to require that the DHCR issue a new order
returning the 1996-97 MBR factor to 3%. One important aspect
of the city’s case against the DHCR is that it was filed in
New York County, and will therefore be in front of New York
City judges. Thanks to the generous pro bono work of two
tenant law firms, Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, &
Donoghue and Collins & Dobkin, the voices of rent-controlled
tenants will be heard in these lawsuits. Representing Met
Council and other tenant organizations with rent-controlled
members, these attorneys have permission to intervene in the
first case (Rent Stabilization Association v. New York State
Division of Housing and Community Renewal) and will soon be
asking for the same in the other (The City of New York v.
New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal).

What does this mean for you?

The DHCR’s suspension order of October 1, 1997 will stay in
effect until there is a decision in one of the court cases.
Tenants should do two things: Continue paying the rent they
paid before September 12, 1997 (unless there were other
increases such as for Major Capital Improvements) until the
lawsuits end; and express their outrage at being
double-crossed by Governor George Pataki, who promised last
spring to protect senior citizens living in rent-regulated
housing.

The Pataki Administration chose not to appeal the June
decision that brought in the 32.4% increase. Now these same
officials have decided that they will not fight the
landlords, but will go along with them on getting the new
city law overturned.

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