Date: Wed, 02 Dec 1998 22:05:12 -0500
Subject: Tenants Online 12/2/98

Tenants Online                                           12/2/98
In this issue...

* Announcements
  - City Council Candidates Debate
  - Hearings on SRO Bill to stop tenant harassment
* From Larry Wood
  - Funding News for the City Wide Task Force on Housing Court
  - NYC Organizing Support Center
  - Reply to article on the Dome Garden
* Email from Tenant Activists
* Landlords Liability in Attacks on Tenants by Intruders 
  (two articles: Times & NY Law Journal)
* Baby, It's Cold Inside (Voice, The Big Chill)
  - Heat Season standards



Candidates for the City Council seat covering Clinton, Chelsea and the West
Village will debate at a Candidates Forum, sponsored by the Clinton Special
District Coalition on Monday, December 7th at 8 p.m. The public is invited
to attend.

  Monday, December 7th at 8:00 P.M.
  Hartley House, 413 West 46th St.



City Council Committee on Housing & Buildings will hold a public hearing on
Ronnie Eldride's Bill (Intro. 108) next Friday, December 11 at 10:00 a.m.
at City Hall, Council Chambers.

Int. 108 - would prohibits the Department of Buildings from issuing permits
for the construction, 
alteration or demolition of Single Room Occupancy (SRO) multiple dwelling
units until the Department of Housing Preservation and Development has
issued a Certificate of No Tenant Harassment.

This is an important bill for tenants as it could stem the tide of SRO
conversions into tourist hotels. We'll try to have more info on this before
next week's hearing.


From: Larry Wood 


Now that the Mayor and City Council have finally settled their differences
over the City budget (and have set aside other disagreements for the
moment), we are happy to report that funding for the City Wide Task Force
on Housing Court that had been approved in the City budget will be released
to us.  We're not out of the woods yet, as we still need to negociate and
execute a contract with HPD, BUT we would never have gotten this far with
out the sacrifices made by the dedicated staff and the support and
contributions from friends and volunteers.  Thank you everyone.  We hope to
resume full services at the information tables in housing court at soon as
possible.  Stay tuned for further updates on our funding situation and look
out for an annoucement about our annual membership meeting coming in late
January 1999.  The theme for this year's annual meeting will focus on the
"remade" housing court--one year later, including workshops on how to
advise pro-se litigants in the new procedures and process in housing court.


The NYC Organizing Support Center is a new effort to develop the
infrastructure for progressive social change in NYC by building and
strengthening grassroots, constituency-based organizations through
training, technical assistance, resource development, and fostering
networks. The OSC is being designed as a membership organization of
organizations and individuals who share the Center's goals and core values.
 The OSC will focus its resources on organizing efforts in NYC among
low-income communities of color and other communities lacking conventional
economic and political resources.  We seek broad, inclusive participation
from a range of organizations and communities, and we support both
identity-based and multicultural issue-based organizing.

Kickoff & Meet the Staff Party
Thursday, December 3, 1998, 5 - 7 p.m. 
at the Brecht Forum (122 W. 27th Street, 10th Fl.)

Get information about membership and what the OSC does. Feel free to bring
information you want to distribute. Food (better than chips!) will be served.


The replacement garden has now been blooming on the northeast cornor of
Amsterdam Ave and W 84th Street for two summers and I do not believe it is
a "sad reflection of the original".  The original was beautiful and about
30 to 40 percent larger, but was in the middle of W 84 St between Columbus
and Amsterdam.  It had loyal and active members but the gate was mostly
locked to non-members and the broader community.  The new garden is very
visable (on Amsterdam Ave) and the gate remains open to the public until
dusk.  Scores of people wander in and out of the garden all day.  The
design is somewhat lacking but HPD is not at fault, it was actually NYC
Housing Authority (NYCHA) who tore up the old garden for new Public Housing
(the new NYCHA housing is called the Dome development!).  Getting NYCHA and
the Board of Education to work together with the community on building a
replacement garden was no minor accomplishment.  While the new garden is
still a work in progress and we (the community steering committe) are still
going through our own growing pains in learning how to work together, I
would welcome anyone to pay us a visit and see for themselves a positive
reflection of the westside.

Larry Wood, 
Vice-chair of the new garden steering committee 
and resident of West 85th Street for 20 years.



From: Jeanie Dubnau 
Subject: Re: Judge Backs Law Requiring Rent Deposits in Evictions

How could that desicion possibly be interpreted as a tenant victory? Lehner
ruled it was constitutional! The landlords are right-they were victorious
because it is only inapplicable under very limited circumstances!
Jeanie Dubnau

From: (alan lawrence)
Subject: DHCR

For me the latest outrage perpetrated by the DHCR is that if your landlord
fails to pay your rent security deposit you must take him to small claims
court if you want to collect what is yours. Gone are the days when you
could fill out a DHCR form  and get results.  Now we've been Pataki-ed.
According to DHCR Fact Sheet #9, Small Claims Court is the only place to go
if you've been shorted on your rent security deposit interest.

Imagine, if your deposit is $1,000 and the interest is 2.5%, over a year's
time you'll be entitled to $25 in interest, minus the landlord's fee of
$1%, or $10. To collect the $15 you have to make a minumum of two trips to
the court - one to file the suit and one or probably more before the case
is heard.  For most of us that means $6 travel costs to collect $15.  At
this rate, we might just as well give the landlord the $1,000. Many of them
find excuses not to give it back anyway.

We New Yorkers have been Guiliani-ed, Vacco-ed and Pataki-ed.  When will we
ever learn.


New York Times, November 25, 1998

In a series of decisions, New York State's highest court Tuesday expanded
the opportunity for tenants to obtain damages from landlords when they are
attacked by intruders who gain access to buildings because of broken or
nonexistent locks.

The Court of Appeals issued three decisions, involving five cases, that
tried to broaden the circumstances under which landlords -- including the
New York City Housing Authority -- can be held liable for damages when
faulty building security contributes to criminal assaults.

To collect damages in such cases under New York law, a tenant must convince
a jury that the landlord was negligent in maintaining building security and
that the assailants were outsiders who got into the building specifically
because the door locks were broken or nonexistent.

It is often difficult, if not impossible, to prove that a broken lock was
directly responsible for an assault, that it was the "proximate cause," as
the principle is known in the law. An assailant's identity is often
unknown; he might have lived in the building or been visiting someone, or
he might have follow a tenant through a locked door.

State appeals courts in recent years have generally limited landlords'
liability in such cases. But the thrust of most of the court's rulings
Tuesday was to make it easier for tenants to collect damages from
landlords, even when the identity of an assailant is unknown.

The most significant case involved Norma Burgos, who lived in a privately
owned building on West 182d Street in Manhattan. Ms. Burgos was robbed and
beaten by two men who pushed into her apartment when she opened her door to
go out one afternoon. Ms. Burgos said that locks on the front and back
doors of her building were broken and that she had not known her assailants.

The owners of the building, Aqueduct Realty Corporation, moved to have the
case dismissed because Ms. Burgos could not prove conclusively that her
assailants were strangers who had entered the building uninvited. The trial
court denied the landlord's motion to dismiss, but a state appeals court
reversed the ruling, throwing out the case.

In a unanimous decision, the Court of Appeals reversed the appellate
decision, reinstating Ms. Burgos's case. While the court did not decide
whether the landlord was liable, it said Ms. Burgos had offered enough
information to enable that decision to be made by a jury. Ms. Burgos's
assertions "are sufficient to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether
the assailants were intruders who entered the building through a
negligently maintained door," Chief Justice Judith S. Kaye wrote.

A related case was brought on behalf of a 12-year-old girl from the Bronx,
who was raped and sodomized by an unidentified man who had entered her
building in a city housing project by walking through a back door that
could not be closed or locked. A jury found that the New York City Housing
Authority was liable for damages, but the judge dismissed the case because
the girl could not prove that her assailant was an intruder. A state
appeals court affirmed the decision, saying that just because the victim
did not know the rapist was insufficient proof that he was an intruder.

The Court of Appeals reversed the appellate decision Tuesday, and ordered
the case returned to State Supreme Court. Justice Kaye said there was
significant evidence that the rapist was an intruder. He was seen entering
the building through the broken and unlocked door, she wrote. He made no
attempt to conceal his identity when he rode on an elevator with the victim
and other residents, and he did not select a floor. He simply followed the
young woman when she exited at her floor.

Even if an assailant is not identified, Justice Kaye wrote, a tenant can
successfully sue a landlord for negligence over an assault "if the evidence
renders it more likely or more reasonable than not that the assailant was
an intruder who gained access to the premises through a negligently
maintained entrance."

But in another case decided Tuesday, the Court of Appeals upheld lower
court rulings that found that the Housing Authority was not responsible for
the sexual assault and robbery of a 17-year-old Manhattan girl. Even though
the front door of the girl's building in a city housing project had no lock
-- and even though her attacker was clearly an intruder -- the court found
that the Housing Authority's negligence had not caused the assault. The
attacker was a serial rapist who had assaulted women in many buildings,
including some that had been locked, the court said in a 5-to-1 ruling.


Court Reduces Burden of Proof to Obtain Damages from Landlord
New York Law Journal November 25, 1998

ALBANY -- Lowering the burden of proof for tenants to collect damages from
their landlords for negligent security, the Court of Appeals ruled
yesterday that circumstantial evidence can be used to establish that a
tenant's assailant was an "intruder" who entered through an unsecured door.

The unanimous decision in Burgos v. Aqueduct Realty Corp., No. 168,
reinstated negligence claims by four tenants who had been raped or beaten
by unidentified attackers in their buildings. Reversing Appellate Division
orders from the First and Second Departments, the Court appeared to signal
a sharp correction in a recent appellate trend of requiring stronger proof
that the assailant was neither a tenant nor an invited guest in the building.

"[B]ecause victims of criminal assaults often cannot identify their
attackers," Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye wrote, "a blanket rule precluding
recovery whenever the attacker remains unidentified would place an
impossible burden on tenants."

But in a separate decision in Price v. NYC Housing Authority, No. 129, the
Court upheld a jury verdict that the Housing Authority's failure to install
door locks was not the proximate cause of the rape of a 17-year-old girl in
a Manhattan housing project. The Court split 5-1 in rejecting a challenge
to the authority's use of a criminal "profiler" as an expert witness, who
testified that locks would not have deterred the rapist from entering the

The claim in Burgos was brought by a tenant who was beaten and robbed by
two unidentified men in her apartment on West 182nd Street. There were no
working locks on the building's entrance doors. She claimed to know all the
tenants of the building and said she did not recognize her assailants, who
did not wear masks.

The building owner moved to dismiss her claim on summary judgment, arguing
that she could not prove the assailants were intruders because she could
not affirmatively identify them as uninvited strangers. The First
Department granted the motion.

In a companion case, Gomez v. NYC Housing Authority, No. 183, the claim was
brought by a 12-year-old girl who was raped by a man who entered her
building through an open back door. He followed her up on the elevator,
where he was seen by other residents, then forced her onto the roof.

Unfair Burden

The jury awarded the girl $500,000, but the trial judge set aside the
verdict on the ground that she had failed to prove the rapist was an
uninvited guest. The First Department affirmed, holding that her testimony
that she had never seen the man before, that he made no effort to conceal
his identity, and that he fled the building after the rape were
"insufficient as a matter of law to prove that the assailant was an intruder."

The Court of Appeals reversed both rulings in a single opinion in Burgos,
finding that the circumstantial evidence in both cases was sufficient under
general negligence principles to establish that the attackers were not
tenants or invited guests in the buildings.

"Clearly, there is a need to balance a tenant's ability to recover for an
injury caused by the landlord's negligence against a landlord's ability to
avoid liability when its conduct did not cause any injury," Judge Kaye
wrote. "There is no need, however, to create a special rule for premises
security cases, since the burden regularly placed on plaintiffs to
establish proximate cause in negligence cases strikes the desired balance."

In the many cases where the attacker is never apprehended or identified,
she wrote, the plaintiff can establish proximate cause "if the evidence
renders it more likely or more reasonable than not that the assailant was
an intruder who gained access to the premises through a negligently
maintained entrance."

Requiring identification of the attacker would place an unfair burden on
tenants and "would undermine the deterrent effect of tort law on negligent
landlords, diminishing their incentive to provide and maintain the
minimally required security for their tenants," the Court said.

The plaintiff's attorney in Gomez, Martin S. Rothman of Seligson Rothman &
Rothman, said the ruling "actually represents no change in the law and this
is very, very important. In the last several years, many appellate courts
have implicitly applied a harsher burden on plaintiffs in negligent
security cases."

In Gomez, the Housing Authority was defended by Nina Cangiano of Wilson
Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker. In Burgos, the plaintiff's attorney was
Sally Weinraub and the defense attorney was Salvatore J. Calabrese, both of
White Plains.

The Court reinstated plaintiffs' claims in two similar cases without
separate writings, citing Burgos. It reversed the First Department in
Cortes v. NYC Housing Authority and the Second Department in Hargett v. NYC
Housing Authority.

Criminal 'Profiler'

But in the fifth case, Price, the Court split 5-1 in upholding the jury's
verdict that while the Housing Authority was negligent in failing to
install locks on its building, its negligence was not the proximate cause
of the rape of the 17-year-old plaintiff. Judge Kaye wrote the majority

Unlike the other negligent security cases, the identity of the assailant
was known. Serial rapist Ronnie Matthews, who abducted the plaintiff from
her unlocked lobby in 1987, was later apprehended and convicted in 1988 of
raping the plaintiff and six other women. He is serving 87 -1/2 to 175
years in prison.

In the first use of a criminal "profiler" as an expert witness in a New
York civil case, the Housing Authority called former FBI agent Peter
Smerick to testify that the installation of door locks or other security
devices would not have deterred Mr. Matthews from entering the building and
committing the crime.

Dissenting Judge George Bundy Smith argued the profiler's testimony was
irrelevant and should not have been allowed. "[T]he issue was not whether
Matthews was the type of individual who would not have been deterred by a
locked door, but rather whether a jury could reasonably conclude that a
door which was admittedly unlocked was a substantial factor in the assault
upon the plaintiff."

But the majority found the profiler's testimony was properly admitted in
rebuttal. Judge Kaye said testimony by the plaintiff's experts "about
Matthews' impulsiveness and insecurity, and his propensity to commit crimes
of opportunity when presented with an unlocked door, furnished the occasion
for defendant to offer Smerick's contrary opinion that the presence of a
lock would not have deterred Matthews from attacking plaintiff."

The plaintiff was represented by Manhattan attorney Steve S. Efron and the
defendant by Herbert Rubin of Herzfeld & Rubin.


Will HPD staff cuts freeze tenants out this winter? 
Towers & Tenements
by j. a. lobbia
Village Voice, November 24, 1998

While meteorologists are forecasting a colder and stormier winter than New
York has seen in a few years, some city housing employees are predicting
that the weather could com pound problems for tenants. Attorneys at the
city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) have warned
their bosses that they are already dangerously under staffed, and that a
severe winter could be disastrous if there aren't enough attorneys to
prosecute landlords who fail to provide heat and hot water.

"We could be dead wrong, and I honestly hope that come spring, management
can laugh at us," says Abbott Gorin, a veteran HPD attorney and
administrator of the Civil Service Bar Association, the union that
represents his coworkers. "But the fact is that there are not enough
attorneys here to properly do the job for this heat season. We're in crisis."

Budget cuts, attrition, and HPD's apparent disinterest in enforcing the
city's housing code have left the agency's litigation bureau with only 18
attorneys to haul recalcitrant landlords into court—less than a quarter of
the 80 attorneys on staff when the bureau was at an all-time high eight
years ago. The 18 handle not only owners who ingore heat-and-hot-water
laws, but those who snub all sorts of other housing codes. In winter, half
a dozen attorneys from another HPD division pitch in with heat cases, but
the staffing remains pal try. HPD commissioner Richard Roberts last week
told a City Council panel that he will hire temporary attorneys for the
heat season, but did not say when or how many.

In September, bar association chair Gloria Johnson warned Roberts that the
litigation bureau's "readiness to safeguard the health and well-being of
New York's tenants for the upcoming heat-and-hot-water season has been
severely compromised." Roberts issued a statement saying that despite staff
losses, HPD attorneys continue to litigate; last winter, they brought about
1100 heat and hot water cases. Primarily, however, HPD attorneys assist ten
ants who are suing landlords for other poor conditions.

At an October 26 labor-management meeting, HPD attorneys described staffing
levels as "dangerously low," and said that HPD was flirting with disaster.
One longtime HPD litigator warned that without rigorous enforcement,
tenants might die of hypothermia. Management argued that the weather—not
staffing levels—would determine how many heat cases were brought, and HPD
counsel Bernard Schwarz pointed out that staff had been cut agency-wide.
Johnson says that although Schwarz "promised he would get back to us" by
Veterans Day to say if HPD could commit to adding attorneys, she has not
heard from him. Schwarz did not return calls for this story.

The attorney shortage undermines HPD's efforts to ensure that the city's
housing stock is safe and decent. "Inspectors come around, but they merely
place violations, which a land lord can pretty easily ignore," says Jenny
Laurie, executive director of the Metropolitan Council on Housing. "No one
will force a landlord to provide heat and hot water or pay a fine unless a
litigator takes him to court where they can get higher fines or even jail."

Even Joe Corso, president of the Allied Building Inspectors union, says
he'd trade a huge influx of inspectors for a decently staffed litigation
bureau. "It's hard for inspectors who keep going back to a building and
find out that the agency is not following up," says Corso. "Half the time
the inspector just feels embarrassed. Even if we had 500 inspectors and no
attorneys, what are we doing? We don't want to just produce paperwork."

HPD has nowhere near 500 inspectors; in fact, there are 243 inspectors on
board—about half the force, sources say, necessary to do a reasonable job.
Last year, they completed 134,776 inspections (another 42,000 were at
tempted); of the 230,080 complaints that came to HPD, 135,078 were about
heat and hot water. Even with last week's budget deal between the City
Council and the mayor, which added money for 78 or so new inspectors, the
staffing falls short.

As for attorneys, Gorin argues that HPD litigators—who start at about
$38,000—essentially pay for themselves by winning and collecting judgments
against landlords, which go to the city's general fund.

Indeed, the shortage of both inspectors and attorneys begs a question: What
does the HPD deem important, if not enforcing the housing code? "I know
this sounds paranoid, but I think they just want to be able to say they're
getting rid of violations, so they don't want to cite landlords for any
more," says Ann Pasmanick of the Community Training and Resource Center,
which runs a class for land lords of small buildings with first-time heat
violations. "I know Roberts has said they can do what they need to without
more attorneys, but it's just not realistic."

Under Giuliani, HPD's focus has been returning buildings to private
landlords and preventing abandonment, turning the agency into something of
a realty firm staffed with brokers eager to make deals and reduce
inventory. The message to landlords, critics say, is that the housing code
can be ignored with impunity.

Meanwhile, tenants bear the brunt, since even a quickly dispatched
inspector cannot force a landlord to turn on the heat. Options are dire:
tenants can shiver in wickedly cold apartments, or improvise. Many try to
warm their homes by blasting ovens and burners. Pasmanick recalled Brooklyn
tenants who bought their own gas heaters and became sick when they ran them
without ventilation. Corso says some tenants hook electric heaters up to
multiple extension cords, sometimes running wiring to outlets outside the

Last week, Corso received a distressing message that HPD has put welfare
recipients in the WEP program to work in Brooklyn, calling tenants who have
registered complaints to see if repairs, including lack of heat, have been
made. "The way it was described to me, they're told to call up and see if
they can get a tenant to agree that HPD doesn't need to send an inspector
out," said Corso. "It's frustrating. But if you've got WEP workers calling
to cancel heat complaints that probably shouldn't be canceled, I guess the
attitude of 'Hey, let's just have them put on another blanket' can't be far

Hot Tips

New York City landlords are required to provide the following levels of
heat during the heating season (October 1 to May 31):

>From 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., indoor temperature must be at least 68 degrees when
the outdoor temperature falls below 55 degrees. Overnight indoor
temperature must be at least 55 degrees if the outdoor temperature falls
below 40 degrees.

Hot water must be available 365 days a year at all hours. The temperature
at the tap must be at least 120 degrees; water temperatures in showers and
tubs with anti-scalding devices can go as low as 110 degrees.

For heat or hot-water complaints, call HPD's complaint bureau at 212-960-4800.

The Tenant Network(tm) for Residential Tenants
  NYtenants(tm) 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: Thu, 10 Dec 1998 21:04:49 -0500
Subject: Hearing on SRO Anti-Harassment Bill tomorrow



City Council Committee on Housing & Buildings will hold a public hearing on
Ronnie Eldride's Bill (Intro. 108) Friday, December 11 at 10:00 a.m. at
City Hall, Council Chambers. We hear you need identification to get into
City Hall these days, so bring an ID.


Stopping Landlord Harassment and Illegal Conversion of SROs

Intro 108, sent to City Council by Ronnie Eldridge, takes several important
steps to protect SRO tenants and SRO housing. Harassment of SRO tenants and
illegal conversion of SROs are now rampant. The boom in tourism has led
owners to convert their buildings into tourist facilities, driving out
long-term tenants, and bypassing code requirements that would ensure the
safety and soundness of the construction. As a result many displaced
tenants become homeless, and the housing needs of others fuel a market for
illegally subdivided units in the outer boroughs. Intro. 108, introduced by
Ronnie Eldridge and sponsored by nine other councilmembers, takes important
steps toward making sure that conversions are done legally, and that
tenants, tourists, and the public are protected

In the last few years owners of SRO hotels and rooming houses have seen
that they can make more money from tourists and students than they can from
long-term residents. Many owners have spent money fixing up their hotels.
Some of them have knocked down walls and combined rooms, making efficiency
or studio apartments. In some cases owners have harassed tenants, making
them move to other floors or move out of the building.

Tenants and their supporters who have tried to fight landlord harassment
and illegal conversions have had problems enforcing the law. In some cases,
work permits have been issued improperly with landlords being allowed to
get work permits for major alterations without getting a "Certificate of No
Harassment" first. Additionally, the priorities of the Department of
Buildings (DOB) have preventing them from issuing "Stop Work" orders
quickly enough or enforcing them when work continues.

Intro 108 will help tenants fight landlord harassment and illegal
conversion, by directing DOB to make SRO issues a priority. The law would
direct DOB to issue a Stop Work order when work is being done without the
necessary permits, and to take away permits when they have been given in
error, or when the owner lied about what they were doing. DOB would be
directed to make a monthly inspection of construction work in SROs, and to
check landlord's plans and blueprints, and it would not allow an owner's
architect or engineer to "self certify" plans for SRO projects. The law
would also direct DOB to issue a Stop Work order at the request of the
Commissioner of HPD.

Finally, the Bill would define illegal work a form of harassment. Owners of
SROs who did construction or conversion work without proper permits and a
Certificate of No Harassment, would be guilty of tenant harassment. And
illegal work would be taken into consideration if and when an owner
eventually applied for a Certificate of No Harassment. This would slow down
landlords who use major renovation work to drive tenants out, or who rush
to convert units before anyone knows what's going on.

Intro 108 will not solve all, or even most, of the problems of SRO tenants.
But it is an important and necessary step to protect SRO tenants and to
preserve SRO housing. It plugs holes in existing laws. It deserves the
support of everyone who wants safe decent, and affordable housing for all.


1. Make issuance of a "stop work" order mandatory (rather than
discretionary, as under current law) when illegal work is done in an SRO.
SROs are currently such a low priority at DOB that stop work orders are
seldom issued and illegal work at an SRO is unchecked.

2. Require DOB to review applications for work permits at SROs. Currently,
if an engineer or architect "self-certifies" that an application is proper
it will be approved by DOB without review. This process is used with
shocking frequency to obtain permits on a fraudulent basis.

3. Keep landlords from doing major construction under cover of a permit
allowing much more limited work. Since SRO owners may not undertake major
construction if they have a record of serious tenant harassment in the
prior three years, owners often hide behind a permit intended to cover only
routine improvements while doing major alterations. Intro. 108 would
require DOB to carry-out periodic inspections of work in SROs to make sure
it does not exceed the scope of approved permits.

4. Require DOB to revoke permits issued pursuant to an application on which
a landlord lied, or omitted crucial information such as whether the
building is occupied, whether it is an SRO, or the extent of the intended
construction. Currently, SRO applicants often misstate or omit these facts
in order to avoid the consequences of past tenant harassment, or to avoid
the requirement of doing work in a manner safe for tenants in occupancy.

Allow the city to consider illegal work itself to be harassment, where the
work was being used to drive tenants out of a building.

For more information contact
West Side SRO Law Project
547 Columbus Ave.
New York, NY 10025


The Council 
The City of New York 
Int. No. 108, February 5, 1998

By Council Members Eldridge, Duane, Freed, Linares, Michels, Miller,
Marshall, and Perkins; also Council Members Harrison and Leffler --  read
and referred to the Committee on Housing and Buildings.


To amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to
enhancing the existing law which prohibits the department of buildings from
issuing permits for the construction, alteration or demolition of single
room occupancy multiple dwelling units until the department of housing
preservation and development has issued a certificate of no tenant harassment.

Be it enacted by the Council as follows:

§ 1. Subchapter 1 of Chapter 1 of Title 26 of the administrative code of
the city of New York is amended by adding a new section 26-118.1 to read as

§ 26-118.1 Stop-work orders for multiple dwellings subject to the
provisions of section 27-198. Subject to the provisions of sections 26-115
through 26-118 of this subchapter, a notice or order to stop work shall be
issued by the commissioner, or his or her authorized representative, with
respect to any building subject to the provisions of section 27-198 at any
time where work is being done without obtaining the necessary permits,
where work is being done which is not authorized by a permit issued
pursuant to articles twelve and fourteen of subchapter one of chapter one
of title twenty-seven of this chapter, or where work is performed pursuant
to a permit obtained through mistake of the department or through fraud,
omission or misrepresentation by the applicant in any part of the
application or supporting plans or documents. Any valid permits issued with
respect to such building shall be revoked in accordance with the procedures
setforth in section 27-197 of this code and work shall not resume until the
applicant complies with the provisions of subparagraph b of paragraph one
of subdivision b of section 27-198 of this code.

§ 2. Subchapter 1 of Chapter 1 of title 26 of the administrative code  of
the city of New York is amended by adding a new section 26-119.1 to read
as follows:

§ 26-119.1 Notice of pendency. The commissioner, after issuing any notice
or order, with respect to buildings subject to the provisions of section
27-198 of this chapter, or in any subsequent action or proceeding with
respect to this building, shall also file a notice of pendency, consisting
of a copy of the notice or order issued by the commissioner and a notice of
the action or proceeding instituted or to be instituted thereon.

§ Section 3. Section 27-143 of the administrative code of the city of New
York  is amended to read as follows:

§ 27-143 Examination of application and plans. All applications for
approval of plans and plans submitted in connection therewith, and any
amendments thereto, shall be numbered, docketed and examined promptly after
their submission. The examination shall be made under the direction of the
commissioner for compliance with the provisions of this code and other
applicable laws and regulations. [The] Except as to applications with
respect to work to be performed in a building subject to the provisions of
section 27-198 of this code, the commissioner may at his or her discretion,
when the application is submitted by an architect or an engineer, designate
portions of the examination for limited supervisory check. The personnel
employed for examination of plans shall be qualified engineers or
architects experienced in building construction and design.

§ Section 4. Section 27-209 of the administrative code of the city of New
York  is amended to read as follows:

§ 27-209 Inspections during progress of work. After the issuance of a work
permit, inspections shall be made during the progress of the work at such
times or at such stages of the work and in such manner as the commissioner
shall direct, except that for premises subject to section 27-198 of this
subchapter, the commissioner shall conduct inspections no less often than
once each month, for the first six months after the issuance of a permit,
and no less often than every three months thereafter until such permit
expires; and such inspections shall include inspection of machinery and
equipment used for hoisting purposes, cableways and rigging purposes. The
commissioner may accept signed statements by architects or engineers and
supporting inspection and test reports which have been filed with the
department covering materials and equipment subject to controlled
inspection and semi-controlled inspection, as provided under sections
27-132, 27-133, 27-136 and 27-137 of this subchapter, and, except with
respect to a building subject to the provisions of section 27-198 of this
subchapter, the work may, unless otherwise specifically provided by code
provisions or directed by the commissioner, proceed without any verifying
inspections or test by the department, provided that the names and business
addresses of such architects or engineers shall have been set forth in the
work permit application or filed in writing with the department not later
than ten calendar days prior to the commencement of work thereunder.

§ Section 5. Subdivision a of section 27-2093 of the administrative code of
 the city of New York is amended by amending paragraphs 3 and 4 of such
subdivision and by adding a new paragraph 5 to such subdivision to read as

(3) the failure to comply with the provisions of subdivision c of section
27-2140 of article seven of subchapter five of this code which causes or is
intended to cause such person lawfully entitled to occupancy of such
dwelling unit to vacate such unit or to waive any rights in relation to
such occupancy;[or]

(4) any other conduct which prevents or is intended to prevent any person
from the lawful occupancy of such dwelling unit or causes or is intended to
cause such person lawfully entitled to occupancy of such dwelling unit to
vacate such unit or to surrender or waive any rights in relation to such
occupancy including but not limited to removing the possessions of any
occupant from the dwelling unit; removing the door at the entrance to the
dwelling unit; removing, plugging or otherwise rendering the lock on such
entrance door inoperable; or changing the lock on such entrance door
without supplying the occupant with a key[.]; or

(5) the failure to comply with the provisions of section 27-198 of this code.

§ 6. Paragraph 1 of subdivision f of section 27-2093 of the  administrative
code of the city of New York is amended to read as follows:

f.(1) The commissioner [may] shall rescind a certification of no harassment
or a waiver thereof granted with respect to the alteration or demolition of
a multiple dwelling if the commissioner finds that harassment has occurred
at the multiple dwelling with respect to which such certification or waiver
thereof was issued after the period of time covered by such certification
but prior to the commencement of substantial work pursuant to an alteration
permit or demolition permit issued on the basis of such certification or
waiver thereof.

§ 7. This local law shall take effect immediately.

Referred to the Committee on Housing and Building. 


Down in the Old Hotel
Tower & Tenements
Landlords Trade Tenants for Tourists at SROs
Village Voice, September 30, 1998
by J.A. Lobbia

On the Upper West Side, landlords converting an old rooming house into a
tourist hotel are doing so much demolition work, the remaining tenants wear
hardhats to the bathroom. In another building, on Amsterdam Avenue, tenants
in a single-room occupancy (SRO) hotel say their landlord has offered them
cash, hoping they will make way for a higher-paying clientele. And on West
94th Street, prosecutors are investigating the April death of a disabled
man who succumbed to burns after workers turned off sprinklers while
illegally converting the SRO to a tourist-class hotel.

Throughout Manhattan, SRO tenants face an onslaught of pressure from
landlords who want them to move and be replaced with more lucrative
renters, usually students or tourists happy to pay $100 a night for a room.
Along with demolition and co-op and condo conversions, budget hotels are
slicing into the already-diminished stock of SROs, the city's most
affordable private housing. Fewer than 45,000 rooms remain, down from
53,000 in 1985. That depletion threatens SRO renters, many of whom are
elderly or disabled, and most of whom have incomes under $10,000 a year.
Astonishingly, nearly athird pay 80 percent of their income for rent.

"These tenants basically have no options because landlords aren't renting
at those levels any more," says Betsy Kane of the West Side SRO Law
Project. "They can move to the outer boroughs, or with relatives, or become

Fifteen years ago, the city passed laws to preserve SRO housing. But now,
some owners find the lure of a bustling economy and record tourism so
irresistible, they break that law. Worse, the city itself often ignores it.

"It's the market that's destroying SRO housing," says Terry Poe, an
organizer in Kane's office. "All you have to do to ensure that that happens
is to simply not interfere. That's exactly what the city has done."

Under a 1983 city law, SRO owners cannot do major alterations until they
win a "certificate of no harassment" from the department of Housing
Preservation and Development (HPD); with no certificate, landlords cannot
get necessary permits from the Department of Buildings (DOB). The law often
fails, partly because DOB relies on landlords to report if a building is an
SRO--a fact permit applicants sometimes falsify. That provision would be
scrapped under a City Council bill introduced last year by Councilwoman
Ronnie Eldridge. Her measure would require--rather than allow--DOB to issue
stop-work orders when permits are not in place and to revoke improperly
granted permits.

For most of last year, Eldridge's bill languished in the council's housing
committee. But earlier this month, SRO advocates were encouraged when
committee chair Archie Spigner scheduled a hearing on the bill for
September 18. But at the last minute, the hearing was canceled.

Spigner's staff says the hearing was "deferred" because their boss was out
of town. But sources wonder if two calls to Spigner opposing the bill--one
from DOB and one from the city's largest landlord group--influenced the
hearing's fate.

"I know Archie heard from DOB and the RSA," the Rent Stabilization
Association, a powerful landlord lobby, says one council source. "But we
always knew they were opposed. So I'm confused why we went through this
little exercise."

Frank Ricci, the RSA's governmental-affairs director,told the Voice he
doubted Spigner canned the hearing--which has not been rescheduled--because
of a call from the RSA. Says Ricci, "What they choose to do with our
comments is their business." The RSA opposes the bill because it could hurt
owners of small buildings with SRO units. "Everything in this bill, the DOB
commissioner already had in his power to do," Ricci adds. "I think this is
just squashing a fly with a cannonball."

Last October, DOB commissioner Gaston Silva testified that the measure was
"draconian" in limiting DOB's discretion, though sources complain that the
agency rarely exercises its options. "DOB is very prodevelopment," says one
SRO attorney. "It wants to give away the store."

Indeed, even HPD appears frustrated by DOB. An internal HPD memo says the
Eldridge bill would help overcome "DOB's resistance" to enforcing the
current law. But the bill does nothing to prevent DOB from granting permits
based on wrong information, including false claims by owners that buildings
are not SROs. And sometimes DOB records say owners have won a certificate
of no harassment when HPD has not granted one.

A five-story building at 340 Amsterdam is such an example. This summer,
workers began tearing up the 35-unit SRO, combining rooms and adding new
plumbing for private bathrooms, without any DOB permit. On June 5, HPD
issued a stop-work order. But 20 days later, DOB granted an alteration
permit. DOB spokesman Ted Birkhahn says a preliminary check of agency
records indicates that owners had a no-harassment certificate; HPD sources
say they have never received an application for the certificate. Birkhahn
says DOB is investigating whether the certificate is valid.

Pedro Ruiz, a retired restaurant worker, is one of only seven tenants who
remain in the building. Through an interpreter, Ruiz, 77, said he has lived
in the same tiny room with no kitchen and a shared bathroom since 1977, and
would like to stay since the $119.60 rent is affordable on his pension. In
the past few months, however, his landlord has offered him $14,000 to leave.

So far, Ruiz said, his landlord treats him "fine. But I'm afraid that
sooner or later, he will put pressure on me if all the other rooms are nice
and I'm the only one left."

The building was bought earlier this year by Jack Avid and managed by Ron
Oved. Oved is involved with SROs throughout Manhattan and is charged in one
lawsuit with harassing tenants out of a 14th Street SRO. Neither Avid nor
Oved responded to calls for this story.

Ironically, the city not only seems uninterested in enforcing its own laws;
in some cases, it goes out of its way to reward the very landlords who
break them. On its list of low-rate Manhattan hotels, the Convention and
Visitors Bureau names 20 SROs, including at least seven that have undergone
illegal conversions. Amazingly, some have even been the targets of city
lawsuits alleging illegal conversions.

Perhaps the most tragic consequence of the city's lack of enforcement came
on April 6, when 55-year-old James Downey was fatally burned in a fire that
broke out in his room in the St. Louis Hotel on West 94th Street. (See
Voice, April 21.) Workers had turned off the sprinkler system--without
required permission--to accommodate what DOB later called "completely
illegal" construction. Tenants say the landlord, Rubin Margules, is turning
the SRO into a tourist hotel.

Prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney's office are investigating
Downey's death. SRO tenants and advocates dubbed Eldridge's bill the James
Downey Bill.

The Tenant Network(tm) for Residential Tenants
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Information from TenantNet is from experienced non-attorney tenant 
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Date: Wed, 16 Dec 1998 04:56:49 -0500
Subject: Thursday is "End Lead Paint Poisoning" Lobby Day


"End Lead Paint Poisoning" Lobby Day
sponsored by NYPIRG, NYC Coalition to End Lead Poisoning and Met Council
Thursday, December 17, 1998.

The focus of the lobbying will be to get Speaker Vallone to schedule a
hearing on Intro 205. This bill, which has almost 2/3 of the council as
sponsors, would replace Local Law 1 and would create a more effective
system for preventing lead poisoning, especially among children living in
apartment buildings with deteriorating lead paint walls, windows, doors,
etc.  Vallone has been unwilling to schedule a hearing because the bill is
opposed by the real estate industry and by the Mayor.

9:30am -- Briefing, followed by visits to City Council Members 

NYPIRG @ 9 Murray Street, 3rd floor, between Church and Broadway
(2,3 train to Park Place; A,C,E to Chambers St./World Trade Center;
4,5,6,N,R to Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall.)

12-2pm -- City Council meeting

Public Advocate Mark Green estimates that 30,000 NYC kids are lead
poisoned, from Jamaica to Bushwick, Mott Haven to Washington Heights. The
landlords, with their campaign donations, say there's no lead problem.
30,000 lead poisoned kids is outrageous. Tell Speaker Vallone and the City
Council to 'Get the Lead Out' and Pass Intro 205!

For information, call NYPIRG at 212/349-6460 or Met Council 212/693-0553.  

The Tenant Network(tm) for Residential Tenants
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Information from TenantNet is from experienced non-attorney tenant 
activists and is not considered legal advice.

Date: Wed, 16 Dec 1998 15:39:18 -0500
Subject: US Appeals Court upholds "Romea" case; expanding tenants' rights

By Colleen F. Mcguire, Esq., 
Attorney for Plaintiff Jennifer Lynn Romea

[Note: Full text of the Romea decision and related articles are available
Colleen McGuire is co-editor of Housing Court Decisions on TenantNet]

On December 9, 1998, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
unanimously affirmed a number of legal issues in Romea, all of which expand
the federal consumer protection law known as the Fair Debt Collections and
Practices Act ("FDCPA") to include tenants.

The FDCPA does not cover acts performed by a landlord. The statute is
triggered only when a third party, such as an attorney, acts on behalf of
the landlord to collect a debt. In such instances, the attorney must comply
with the statute's provisions pertaining to a debt collector's activities.
The purpose of the FDCPA is to prevent abusive practices by debt collectors
against consumers. Romea involved the FDCPA's requirement that the debt
collector's initial communication to the consumer must provide the consumer
a thirty-day period to dispute the debt. By contrast, under New York law, a
landlord need only provide three days for a tenant to make payment before
commencing an eviction proceeding for alleged nonpayment of rent (if the
landlord and not the attorney signs the notice).

The Court of Appeals ruled that rent arrears are a debt since rental
payments come under the statute's definition of an obligation arising out
of a transaction involving "personal, family, or household purposes."  The
Court further held that a three day rent demand notice leading to a
non-payment proceeding in Housing Court involves debt collection and it
rejected the defendant law firm's argument that such proceedings are simply
to adjudicate disputes over rights of possession to the property: the Court
held that it involves both.  The Court also held that landlord attorneys
who regularly sign three-day rent demands are debt collectors within the
meaning of the FDCPA and therefore must provide the debtor-consumer (i.e.,
the tenant) a thirty-day period to dispute the debt before demanding
payment. A notice signed by the attorney which does not provide a
thirty-day debt validation period violates the FDCPA since federal law
preempts New York State law.

Our position is that housing is a human right, not a commodity to be
bargained over. However, until society acts upon this universal truth,
housing will inevitably be reduced to a profit-making venture.  Since
housing is treated as a commodity, then we maintain that the consumers of
that commodity (i.e., tenants) must be afforded all the rights the federal
consumer protection statutes afford other consumers of other personal or
household products, such as cars, dishwashers, stereos or whatever.

For years, landlord-tenant relations were confined to the realm of property
law. In this context, which harks back to the feudal era, the law grossly
skewed the balance of power in landlords' favor. Outside of New York City
and a few other urban enclaves, tenants have very few rights under the
common law system that America borrowed from England. (Common law is
judge-made law handed down through the ages, as opposed to statutory laws
enacted by elected legislators). Within the past quarter century, however,
courts began to recognize the harshness of property law's bias against
tenant. The antiquated image of the lord of the land ruling over his tenant
serfs which fueled so much of the philosophy undergirding property law gave
way to a view of two parties engaged in a bargaining process, albeit still
an inequitable one from the tenant's side. The Romea decision which grounds
tenants firmly within the protected class of consumers was a natural
stepping stone from the recent movement to situate landlord-tenant
relationships under the rubric of contract law. As consumers of a commodity
(i.e., housing), the FDCPA enlarges and enhances tenants rights vis-a-vis
the owners of that commodity (i.e., landlords).

The FDCPA provides a variety of protection to consumers-tenants.  Romea
establishes that landlord attorneys who send rent demand notices must
provide the tenant thirty days to dispute the rental debt.  After Romea was
decided last year, most attorneys stopped signing the demands and let their
clients do it, which means the three-day period is legal. However, the
FDCPA's thirty-day debt validation period is applicable to any "initial
communication" sent by the attorney on behalf of his or her landlord client
to collect rent. We call on housing lawyers and tenant advocates to join us
in exploring other creative ways to expand tenants' rights under the FDCPA.
 For example, pro se tenants in Housing Court need to know that the FDCPA
explicitly prohibits abusive, harassing or oppressive conduct by debt
collectors. What's oppressive?  How many times have attorneys scared
tenants into believing that if they don't pay the rent, they'll get thrown
out in a couple of days?  What's abusive?  How many times have attorneys
misstated the law to tenants, such as, telling them they don't have any
defenses?  (False and misleading representations are prohibited under the
statute). What's harassing? How many times has a tenant taken time off
work, appeared in court, only to have the attorney discontinue the action
without giving the tenant the courtesy of a telephone call?

Subsequent to the 1997 rent reform legislature -- vigorously lobbied for by
landlords -- the availability of affordable housing has perilously
decreased.  Owners have dramatically escalated efforts to evict rent
regulated tenants to maximize profits with some 400,000 eviction notices
served each year. In such a climate, New York City is devolving into an
apartheid state where high income tenants inhabit Manhattan and the working
class and poor are relegated to the outer borough bantustans where rents
are less onerous. Tenants, tenant advocates and tenant attorneys must
reverse the tidal wave of benefits and profits mega-landlords are accruing
off the housing market. (77% of rental units are owned by less than 12% of
landlords). The Romea decision is a step in the right direction and we must
not diverge from its path.

[In winning Romea, Colleen McGuire wishes to acknowledge the insights and
acumen of her partner, Daphna Zekaria, Esq., and the genius of her
co-counsel, Robert E. Sokolski, Esq.]

Colleen F. McGuire, Esq.
305 Broadway, Suite 402
New York, New York  10007
(212) 571-4080
FAX:  (212) 571-4079

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  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: Fri, 18 Dec 1998 02:27:37 -0500
Subject: Rally and Press Conference to preserve 2 Columbus Circle


Sunday, 11 a.m. December 20, 1998
At West 58th Street and Broadway
In front of the edifice

Elected Officials, Artists, Architects, and Preservationists
Committee For Environmentally Sound Development (212) 877-4394

Press Advisory           Contact: Olive Freud  
December 17, 1998        (212) 877-4394

2 Columbus Circle - Huntington Hartford Museum

A rally and press conference to preserve 2 Columbus Circle will be held on
Sunday, December 20, 1998 at 11 a. m with Councilmember Tom Duane,
Councilmember Ronnie Eldridge, U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler, U. S.
Representative Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Franz Leichter, State Senator
Catherine Abate, Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, and Assembly Member
Scott Stringer.

This unique Edward Durrell Stone structure with Middle Eastern details was
originally intended to house the Huntington Hartford Gallery.  The Westside
wants the building to be preserved for its original purpose as an art
museum. An Art Museum would be a welcome addition to the Lincoln Center
Cultural Corridor. We urge that the Mayor choose the Dahesh Museum as the
next owner of this architectural keepsake.

Not only is the art world backing the Dahesh, but also environmentalists
concerned with overdevelopment at Columbus Circle deplore the addition of
the proposed Trump Hotel at this site.


Will the West Side's most unusual building be preserved as a museum or
razed for another Trump hotel?

>From the Manhattan Spirit, Dec. 3, 1998
By Monica Rivituso

There's no denying it, the 10-story concrete structure that stands as the
southern anchor to Columbus Circle has had its share of criticism. Then
again, the building at 2 Columbus Circle, with its sleek, white Vermont
marble skin, concave facade and engraved edges, is also referred to as a
"gem" by preservationists, museum curators and elected officials.

What the city thinks of the building has yet to be revealed, but
ultimately, it's this administration's vote that counts.

For about six months, 2 Columbus Circle has been sitting vacant. Two years
ago, the city and the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) put out a
request for proposals for the site. Since then, the city has been pondering
the building's fate. A decision is expected soon, as the city has
reportedly whittled the choices down to two: The Trump Organization and the
Dahesh Museum.

The proposals couldn't be more different: Trump wants to raze the structure
and build a hotel, while the Dahesh wants to move into it and make it a
museum. There are strong emotions running throughout the question of what
should be done with 2 Columbus Circle. One thing is certain, the decision
could potentially change the shape of the gateway to the Upper West Side.

Two Columbus Circle was designed by renowned architect Edward Durell Stone
and built in the early 1960s for Huntington Hartford, a wealthy
businessman. His vision? The Huntington Hartford Gallery of Modern Art.
Today, people remember this museum as an offbeat institution that featured
exhibits other museums wouldn't show. The city came into ownership of the
building after the Gulf and Western company gave it to New York in the mid
'70s. But the future of the building, which, until recently, was home to
the city's Department of Cultural Affairs, remains to be seen.

"No decision has been made yet," EDC spokesperson Janel Patterson said,
declining to comment further. "It's the policy of the EDC not to discuss
pending decisions."

Patterson did say that proposals were being evaluated on more than their
financial aspects. The EDC is examining how the site would be developed in
each proposal, including the impact on the neighborhood. "It's more
complicated than dollars and cents," she said, refusing to divulge the
prices each party was willing to pay for the site.

Donald Trump, who hopes to demolish the building and build a luxury hotel
directly across the circle from Trump International Hotel and Tower, not
unsurprisingly thinks his proposal best suits the site and the city.

"I know that as a hotel we have many more jobs to offer and much higher
taxes to offer the city," Trump told the Spirit.

The proposed hotel would rise no taller than the building's current height,
according to Trump, who refuted the widespread notion that it would be a
30-story structure. He added that his project would be a "beautiful,
aesthetic" job, even though he admits the site is restrained.

The building sits on a tiny island, bordered by Eighth Avenue, Broadway,
Columbus Circle and 58th Street. And, according to information from the
archives of the architect Stone, no two dimensions of the site are alike.
Although the lot can't handle the type of towering structure Trump is known
for, he still describes the location as a "gem."

vBut critics of his plan say that another luxury hotel, let alone another
Trump hotel, would be overkill at Columbus Circle.

Predictably, Trump disagrees. "The other site [Trump International Hotel
and Tower] has become the most successful hotel in the country," Trump
said. "It's rated No. 1 in New York and I think they'll play off each other."

But not if the Dahesh Museum gets the nod from the city. The museum, which
collects European academic art from the 19th and early 20th centuries, is
now squeezed into a cramped, second-floor gallery of a midtown building on
Fifth Avenue. Not only isn't there enough office space, there's no room for
educational programs or even the museum's permanent collection. Of the
3,000 works of art that the museum owns, none are currently on display,
according to Dahesh Director David Farmer.

Citing a confidentiality agreement that was signed when the museum
submitted its proposal to the city, Farmer wouldn't elaborate on the bid
price or plans. He confirmed that the museum met with city officials two
weeks ago to make its case again for the site and that officials were
careful about setting a specific time as to when a decision would be made.

"We're proposing to take it [2 Columbus Circle] back to its original use,"
he said, adding that auditorium space in the building could be a community
resource for groups.

Farmer is also a fan of the building itself. "It really kind of fits right
in and it works with the circle," he says. "For instance, it has a curved
facade that echoes the circle, which none of the other buildings have."

James Draper, a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, says 2 Columbus
Circle is a "light moment in architecture," and would like to see the
building reconnected with it's original purpose as a museum. There's also a
question of how Columbus Circle would look if the building were razed.

"I think it would look gloomy without it," he said.

Two Columbus Circle was one of the earliest reactions to the high,
modernist structures being built out of steel and glass at the time,
according to accounts. In a way, the backlash against such constructions
has had a renewed vigor on the West Side, as various projects have been
sprouting up one of them Trump's 16-building development on the Hudson
River. For many preservationists, 2 Columbus Circle holds the same
significance now as it did when it was built.

"Environmentally, we're choking here with too much development. It's
infuriating, the developers who are let loose," said Olive Freud, vice
president of the West Side group, Committee for Environmentally Sound
Development. She notes that 2 Columbus Circle was built as a museum and now
there's an opportunity to have a world-class museum move in. "The only ones
who want to tear it down are Trump and [Mayor Rudolph] Giuliani."

The Mayor's office did not return calls for comment.

Despite one developer's plans to raze 2 Columbus Circle, many say there's
been a groundswell of support to save the structure. "The building has a
lot of friends," Farmer said.

Indeed, Freud's group favors supporting the Dahesh's bid for 2 Columbus
Circle, and is adamantly opposed to Trump's plan for the site. "It's really
criminal to destroy a beautiful piece of architecture," Freud said. "The
city has done it before Penn Station for one."

Freud isn't the only admirer of the building. In a letter to the mayor
dated Nov. 20, seven elected officials urged the building not be
demolished. "We would like to see the building at this site preserved. Many
believe it should be landmarked. We also feel the building should house a
worthy cultural institution, as it was originally intended to do," the
letter stated.

Councilwoman Ronnie Eldridge, who supports preserving 2 Columbus Circle,
expressed frustration that numerous requests for meetings with city
officials regarding the building have gone unanswered. Too much in this
administration is done in secret, according to Eldridge. "And this is
certainly one of the earliest and longest examples of that," she said. "You
get worn down after a while."

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried also supports preserving 2 Columbus Circle.
"I think the first issue is to preserve the building and second, once it's
preserved, use it as a cultural institution," he said. "I think it's really
inappropriate the secrecy that has covered this whole business."

City Councilman Tom Duane, who is the state Senator-elect for the district
that the building is in, sent his own letter to city officials. "As the
city struggles to come up with a solution to traffic problems at Columbus
Circle, and as the mammoth Coliseum Project moves forward, I believe that
it is of the utmost importance that we do not continue to overburden the
infrastructure of this area," Duane wrote.

"My hope is that the city will recognize the need for a use at Columbus
Circle, which has minimal impact on traffic infrastructure and which adds
to the mix of cultural institutions in the area," Duane told the Spirit.

Despite the hopes of West Side officials and residents, there's a
pessimistic assumption throughout the community that Trump will get the
site. Furthermore, a rumor is swirling that the city will award it to the
developer as a consolation for his losing the bid on the massive Coliseum
project. However, no one is able to point to any concrete evidence to
support this speculation. Needless to say, Trump disagrees with it.

"I don't think so at all. This [2 Columbus Circle] is something that I have
always liked," Trump said. "In a strange way, I like this site even more."

The Tenant Network(tm) for Residential Tenants
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Date: Wed, 30 Dec 1998 00:16:23 -0500
Subject: Your help is needed to elect Christine Quinn to City Council

Dear Tenants:


TenantNet is endorsing Christine Quinn for City Council in the Third
District, covering the West Village, Chelsea and Clinton. This is a
critical election as it's important to keep this City Council seat
tenant-friendly. But the landlords are at work with not one, but two
pro-development landlord friendly well-financed candidates. 


TenantNet, Met Council on Housing and many other tenant activists are
supporting Christine Quinn for City Council.

If you live on the west side, you may know Christine Quinn from her five
years as Tom Duane's Chief of Staff (Tom is moving on up to the State
Senate replacing Catherine Abate who unsuccessfully ran for Attorney
General) where she oversaw constituent services and worked closely with
tenants and neighborhood residents. Before that, Christine was the lead
organizer for the Housing Justice Campaign and most recently Christine
served as Executive Director of the NYC Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence
Project. Christine has a slew of endorsements (you can read about these and
much more on Our sister site, Hell's Kitchen Online is
also endorsing Christine.


Christopher Lynn, a former commissioner in the Guiliani administration, is
running for the seat. Lynn has raised a great deal of money and is being
supported by conservative landlord-development forces in this city who
would love to get their hands on this seat. Lynn is cozy with Thomas
Ivelli, the notorious Chelsea slumlord; Don Coppoccia, the Lower East Side
developer that bulldozed five gardens and he has reportedly said former
East Side council member Antonio Pagan (the landlords' water boy) is his
role model. Lynn lied in two recent public forums when he denied taking
money from the landlord-lobby Rent Stabilization Association PAC.

Another candidate, Carlos Manzano is President of the conservative
Democratic Machine McManus Club that made a backroom deal with Mayor
Giuliani on the destructive Eighth Avenue Rezoning (see Village Voice,
Sept. 2).

We will be successful in defeating these landlord candidates and keeping
RACE. City Council must renew the rent laws in another year and tenants
can't afford to lose more support. Just like last year's east side council
race where Margarita Lopez won against the democratic machine candidate
Judy Rapfogel (put up by Shel Silver), tenants from across the city got
involved and worked very hard to get Margarita elected.


If you live in the district, get on our other mailing list at (email to list@ where you will get
more frequent updates. The Quinn campaign needs volunteers in petitioning,
tabling, helping with dear neighbor letters, etc. 

If you don't live in the district, your help would also be appreciated. You
can also call your friends in the district and let them know how important
this vote is.

Whether you live in or outside the district, call Stacey at 212/924-9104 at
the Quinn headquarters to help (to see if you're in the district, look at
the map at

Because this will be a special election (the vote will be either late
February or early March), volunteering your time and helping garner enough
petition signatures to place Christine on the ballot is critical to this
campaign's success. Beginning on January 1-4 -- depending on when the Mayor
calls the special election -- we will need to collect 8,000 signatures from
registered voters in this district in 12 days.
Please help making Christine's election a reality by filling in the form
below. Let us know how often you can help petition and when you are
available to do so. As soon as the Mayor calls the election, we will be in
the streets with petitions to put Christine Quinn on the ballot. If you
have any questions about Christine, please call her campaign at
212/924-9104 and read the information on TenantNet's web page.

Christine thanks you in advance for your support.

___ I want to help petition. Sign me up. (you'll get a phone call)
___ I can't petition but I still want help in other ways

Name _______________________________

Address ______________________________________________ [  ] check if it's
in the district

Phone _________________ Email ________________________________

Or fax it directly to Quinn Headquarters at 212/627-0912
Or mail to P.O. Box 1445, Old Chelsea Station, New York, NY 10011

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