Date: Fri, 02 Jul 1999 00:06:08 -0400
Subject: Tenants Online 7/1/99 (update on Vallone Lead bill)

Tenants Online                                             7/1/99
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In this issue...
1. Peter Vallone Lead Poisoning Act of 1999
2. Council Passes a Bill on Lead Paint (NY Times)
3. Lead Paint Bill OKd; foes say it's a gift to landlords (Daily News)
4. Vallone worried about lead in bridges
5. Lead-Poisoning Litigation (NY Law Journal tells landlords how to beat
the rap)


Date: Thu, 01 Jul 1999
From: Kenneth Schaeffer
Subject: Lead Poisoning act of 1999

As you have probably heard, yesterday the city council passed the Lead
Poisoning Act of 1999.  Peter Vallone forced a 36-15 vote on the measure
with one hand, while receiving real estate contributions with the other
from the Rent Stabilization Association (located in the same building, 123
William Street, as Vallone's 2001 campaign committee).

Members voting against the bill included: Michaels, Perkins, Linares,
Lopez, Reed, Quinn, Fried, Eldridge, DiBrienza, Pinkett, Clarke, Foster,
Leffler, Rivera, Boyland.

The enactment of this bill revealed the darker side of politics in NYC.
Even though more than 2/3 of the council support Intro. 205, which had been
introduced more than 2 years ago and was a reasonable compromise to make
apartmens "lead safe" rathen than completely "lead free", Vallone never
allowed a hearing on 205. He then rushed through his bill in the face of
unanimous testimony from the medical community that it does not adequately
protect kids because, among other things, it allows up to 7 months before
exposed lead is removed, more than enough time to poison kids, there is
only limited testing for lead dust after work is performed and even then it
is performed by the landlord with no monitoring, the burden is on parents
to report lead hazards, and when children are, inevitably, poisoned, it
will be much harder to impose liability on negligent owners.  This bill was
forced through without adequate debate, and it did not even received a bill
number (Intro 582) until the day of the vote.

In an ominous note, the New York Times reports today that Vallone's
emissaries (goons?) visited all council members at their homes Tuesday
night to hand-deliver a message from Vallone that he wanted their votes on
this.  This "we know where you live" message is particularly disturbing in
light of reports that at least one influential council member is being
essentially blackmailed by the leadership regarding his personal life.  If
your council member is one of the 15 who had the courage to stand up to
this pressure, you should contact her or him to express your gratitude on
behalf of our clients and all the kids of this city.  If not, you should
communicate your displeasure.


New York Times
July 1, 1999
After Bitter Debate, Council Passes a Bill on Lead Paint

The City Council approved a measure Wednesday to replace the city's
17-year-old law meant to protect children from poisoning caused by lead
paint, capping weeks of rancor and more than a decade of legislative fits
and starts on one of the most complex issues in public policy.

The Council vote, 36 to 15, was a victory for Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a
Republican, and the Council Speaker, Peter F. Vallone, a Democrat, who
remained united in support of the bill despite fierce opposition. In the
weeks leading up to Wednesday's vote, the bill was criticized as too weak
by several Council members and by advocates for children and the
environment as well as by many medical experts on lead poisoning.

The old lead law, enacted in 1982, has never been fully enforced, in part
because landlords and the city regarded compliance as too onerous and
expensive. The 1982 law has also been the subject of continuing litigation
and was interpreted by a judge in 1989 as requiring the removal of all lead
paint, which experts now say would do more harm than good. Lead paint has
been banned for household use for more than 20 years.

While the goal of the 1982 law was to make buildings "lead free," the new
measure is intended to make housing "lead safe," a reflection of more
recent research concluding that it is usually safer to leave lead paint in
place unless it begins to deteriorate. Removing intact lead paint can
create invisible lead dust, which is now believed to be the main cause of

Supporters of the measure said that it would finally offer a workable law
to prevent lead poisoning, which health experts have long regarded as the
greatest preventable threat to childhood health. "This is a bill to help
children, to prevent lead poisoning," Vallone said after casting the final
yes vote. He added, "This was our best attempt to get consensus from both
sides of the hall that would try to help kids."

Several council members seemed torn as they voted yesterday and many said
they supported the measure even though they felt it could be stronger. That
fact was not lost on Vallone, who said the bill would likely be amended in
the future.

The new measure, which Giuliani is expected to sign into law this month,
seeks to prevent lead poisoning by setting rules and deadlines for
landlords to correct hazards. It requires landlords to make annual visual
inspections in any apartment built before 1960 where a child under 6
resides. And it requires the city to make repairs whenever a landlord fails
to do so.

The bill also puts more responsibility on tenants to report suspected
hazards. It largely allows landlords to supervise and certify their own
repairs. And it will severely restrict the ability of the parents of
lead-poisoned children to win lawsuits alleging negligence by landlords or
the city.

Opponents of the bill, including Councilman Stanley E. Michels of
Manhattan, charged that the bill favored landlords and the city over the
health needs of children. There were more than 1,000 confirmed lead
poisoning cases in New York City last year and as many as 30,000 city
children are believed to have dangerously high levels of lead in their bodies.

The bill had divided the Council in recent weeks and Vallone and his aides
had to exert substantial pressure to insure its passage, first through the
housing and buildings committee and then through yesterday's vote. A letter
from the Speaker urging support for the bill was hand-delivered to many
Council members at home on Tuesday night, a dramatic gesture meant to
underscore his leadership role.

And in a move to insure passage of the bill, aides to the Mayor and the
Speaker agreed late Tuesday to allocate $8.6 million more in the city
budget for lead-poisoning prevention efforts, including the development of
10 lead-safe houses where families with lead-poisoned children could live,
the purchase of six vans to use as mobile lead-screening units and the
hiring of 30 to 50 more Department of Health outreach workers.

Yesterday evening's vote followed an afternoon of loud debate in the
Council chamber, which was punctuated on several occasions by hisses, boos
and outbursts from opponents of the bill who were observing from seats in
the balcony.


Lead Paint Bill OKd
Angry foes say measure is gift to landlords
Daily News, July 1, 1999

A rumble of dissent in the normally lockstep City Council failed to stop
passage yesterday of a new lead paint bill that opponents branded a
"landlords' protection act." The measure sets new regulations and
procedures for landlords to follow to protect young children from lead
poisoning, which can cause learning disabilities and permanent brain damage.

Backed by Mayor Giuliani and City Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D-Queens),
the bill passed by a comfortable 36-to-15 vote after four hours of
emotional debate that drew sporadic boos and catcalls from the bill's
opponents in the balcony.

One woman was evicted after shouting an expletive at Vallone as he urged
Council members to "do the responsible thing" and approve the bill.

"Yes, remove me from this stupid sham," the heckler shouted at Vallone.
"You're a liar! You're a liar!"

The bill also reduces landlords' exposure to civil liability suits.

"Sure [a victim] can sue," said Councilman Stanley Michels (D-Manhattan),
the leading opponent of the bill. "But can you win?"

Michels said the measure will ease the sometimes costly burden of landlords
to take preventive action and result in "more children being poisoned than
ever before."

When it's signed into law in a few weeks by the mayor, the measure will
supplant the city's 1982 lead paint law, whose enforcement has been largely
hobbled by years of litigation.

Even opponents agreed the law had to be updated to protect potential
victims better. There are 30,000 city children who now suffer from lead
poisoning, and the list grows by about 1,000 cases a year, although the
growth rate is decreasing.

Most of the victims are minority children from impoverished neighborhoods
with rundown housing. Two Queens Republicans, Al Stabile and Tom Ognibene,
drew sharp rebukes when they said parents have an obligation to keep their
homes clean and prevent their children from eating paint.

"[That's] the other damned thing that p----d me off," Stabile said. "Why
does it have to be a black and white issue?"

Councilwoman Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) said Stabile's comments were
offensive and amounted to blaming the victims.

The vote split members of the Black and Hispanic Caucus, with many opting
to support Vallone's contention that the bill is a good start and can be
amended later.

Before the vote, Vallone announced an agreement with Giuliani to pump $3
million into enhanced prevention measures. The funds will pay for creating
nine lead-safe houses to shelter families uprooted from lead-contaminated
apartments, along with buying six new mobile outreach vans and hiring as
many as 50 new health workers.

Original Publication Date: 07/01/1999


This little tidbit caught our attention.

February 18, 1995
City Council Speaker Vallone has expressed concern that the project to
rebuild the Tri-Borough Bridge was not done right. He claims that the paint
is chipping and contains high levels of lead. He warns that a similar fate
is in store for the rest of the City's bridges.


The following article from the New York Law Journal describes how
defendents in Lead-Poisoning litigation (many of whom could be landlords)
can beat the rap.

New York Law Journal
Litigation: Lead-Poisoning Litigation
June 30, 1999

Fighting Expert Evidence in Cases Involving Infant Plaintiffs
By Alan Kaminsky and Patrick Geraghty

For defense attorneys handling infant lead-paint lawsuits, perhaps the most
frustrating aspect is combating the expert testimony of clinical
psychologists, vocational rehabilitationists and economists.

Psychologists will often testify as to how the lead-poisoned child
developed severe cognitive impairments and learning disabilities that
prevent the child from learning in a conventional academic setting and
severely limits his or her earning capacity. Often, a psychologist will
administer an IQ test to the child and report the findings to a jury;
claiming that the exposure to lead paint has lowered the child's
intellectual quotient.

With these problems before a jury, a vocational rehabilitationist will
testify as to the child's future academic and vocational needs, which often
include highly specialized schools -- usually more costly than many
colleges -- and intensive vocational counseling, which often includes a job
coach, who will help the child find and maintain a position in the work force.

Lastly, an economist will often take the stand and place a future value on
the already expensive price tag laid out by the vocational
rehabilitationist. Projections of a loss of earnings in the
multimillion-dollar range are not uncommon.

Flaws in Testimony

The problem in handling the testimony of these experts is that at first
glance, they appear to be working in a vacuum. A psychologist who finds a
"lead-poisoned" child who displays speech impairments or learning
disabilities, will classify these problems as direct consequences of the
child's elevated blood-lead levels -- regardless of the lead levels'
severity, mildness or duration. Unfortunately, it often appears as though
the psychologist gives no consideration to the plethora of factors, other
than an elevated blood-lead level, which may also account for the child's
problems. These problems include, but are not limited to, the following: an
absence of pre-school or day-care participation; not learning to speak
English until school years; family history of learning disabilities;
psychological trauma; and problems in the child's home life.

Moreover, the psychologist will often postulate as to the child's loss of
IQ and acquisition of learning disabilities without a shred of information
regarding the child's pre-lead poisoning IQ level or cognitive functioning,
or without comparing the child's IQ with that of the child's mother or
siblings. Despite this lack of information, their testimony is routinely
permitted at trial, subject only to cross-examination.

Vocational Experts

The same holds true for the testimony of vocational rehabilitationists.
These experts claim to predict the next forty years of the child's life;
including the types of schools and summer camps they will attend and where
they will work. This is particularly interesting because these experts
often never meet the children whose futures they have predicted. First of
all, these children are usually less than ten years old at the time these
projections are made, and have not had the experiences necessary to develop
a notion of what they would like to be "when they grow up." This most basic
childhood dream is taken from them in the name of a lawsuit. Ironically,
these children are often classified as mentally retarded by their attorneys
and experts for the purposes of bolstering a lawsuit.

Moreover, the vocational rehabilitationist will often not know the child's
developing personality. Perhaps the child is highly motivated and will have
more ambition and drive than they have been given credit for, and would be
insulted if forced to work at the menial jobs that the "experts" have
predicted is their lot in life.

Just as the psychologist often turns a blind eye to the child's pre-lead
poisoning state or to other factors which may have caused the problems, the
vocational rehabilitationist fails to examine how the child's personality,
intestinal fortitude and role models will influence the course that his or
her future will take.

Unsound Testimony

The making of such broad pictures and strong conclusions without
considering the variables is inconsistent with modern scientific
principles, which the experts supposedly follow. For example, there is a
litany of articles written regarding the impact of maternal IQ on a child's
IQ.[1] Despite this body of scientific literature, plaintiffs'
psychologists usually fail to mention that a child's IQ may be due to
genetics, rather than to lead exposure.

New York defense attorneys have had few weapons, other than
cross-examination, to combat such evidence. Currently, in New York the
admissibility of expert testimony based on scientific principles or
procedures is governed by the "general acceptance" test set forth in Frye
v. United States, 293 FSupp 1013 D.C.Cir. 1923. Under this standard, courts
must examine whether the scientific principles or procedures on which the
challenged testimony is based have gained general acceptance in the
relevant discipline. (See, People v. Wesley, 83 NY2d 417, citing Frye v.
United States, supra; People v. Angelo, 88 NY2d 217, 222-223; and People v.
Roraback, 242 AD2d 400). The rule is applicable in both criminal and civil
actions (See Castrichini v. Rivera, 175 Misc2d 530 [Sup. Ct. Monroe Co.
1997]). In essence, evidentiary reliability is conditioned upon the
approval of scientists in the field (Martin, Capra and Rossi, New York
Evidence Handbook, §7.2.3)(Citations omitted).

Federal Standards

In federal courts however, the standard for the admissibility of such
testimony differs. There, the admissibility of expert testimony is governed
by the Federal Rule of Evidence number 702 which provides that where
scientific knowledge will assist the trier of fact, a witness with germane
credentials may offer an opinion on the issue.

In 1993, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals
Inc., 509 US 579, delineated Rule 702, holding that the terms "scientific"
and "knowledge" connote something more than subjective belief or
unsupported speculation, but that something less than general acceptance in
the scientific community may suffice. Noting that few scientific
propositions are indisputable, the Supreme Court directed courts to focus
upon the expert's methods and reasoning rather than the conclusion to be

In accordance with this, the Supreme Court set out a list of factors which
may be considered in determining the admissibility of such evidence,
including whether the scientific methodology has been tested, whether the
scientific methodology has been subject to peer review and publication, the
known rate of potential error and the "general acceptance" of the method
(Daubert, 509 US at 593-595). While general acceptance remains an important
consideration, it is no longer the sine qua non. In short, the federal
rules permit the submission of opinion evidence by a credentialed witness,
if the opinion is based upon a scientific methodology, which is deemed
reliable by the trial judge.

In a more recent decision, Kumho Tire Co. Ltd. v. Carmichael, 119 S.Ct 1167
[1999], the Supreme Court extended the principles of Daubert beyond the
sphere of simply scientific evidence to include testimony based on
technical and other specialized knowledge. In this decision, the Court also
clarified the factors noted in Daubert and how they should be considered in
analyzing the testimony to be offered by a would-be expert. In this regard,
the Court stated that "the test of reliability is 'flexible', and Daubert's
list of specific factors neither necessarily nor exclusively applies to all
experts or in every case" (Kumho Tire, supra, at 1170).

In expanding its Daubert holding, the Court explained that the sole
objective of the new and augmented analysis is to ensure that an expert,
whether basing testimony upon professional studies or experience, employs
in the courtroom the same level of intellectual rigor that characterizes
the practice of an expert in the relevant field. The result of the
extension of the Daubert standard in Kumho was that the plaintiff's expert,
whose methodology was found to be unreliable due to insufficient
indications of the methodology's reliability, was precluded from testifying
as to his opinion on the cause of the accident at issue, resulting in a
granting of summary judgment against the plaintiffs/respondents.

Reliability Standard

Currently, there are approximately fifteen states that have followed the
federal courts in applying the Daubert analysis with regard to expert
testimony.[2] If New York were to do so, the speculative testimony of
psychologists and vocational rehabilitationists might be precluded, and the
potential that juries would be unduly swayed by such speculation could be
averted. Instead, lead-poisoning trials could focus on the more credible
testimony of witnesses such as parents, teachers, and even the child
himself, who are more qualified to discuss the child's day-to-day behavior
and learning skills.

This is not to say that all such experts should be precluded. Instead, the
topics which are based on speculation should be evaluated on the basis of
content and reliability, rather than on who introduced it.

To this end, trial courts must exercise caution and ensure that an expert's
testimony rests on a reliable foundation and is relevant to the task at
hand, in order to guarantee that the testimony that does not meet these
standards, does not reach a jury.

The newly expanded Daubert/Carmichael analysis provides an objective
approach for courts to assess the reliability of the methodology underlying
expert testimony prior to its admission to the jury. While New York courts
are not bound by the principles from these cases, they are free -- absent
either legislative enactment or a binding ruling from one of the Appellate
Divisions or the Court of Appeals -- to apply the Daubert/Carmichael
analysis to the testimony of psychologists and vocational
rehabilitationists in lead-poisoning actions. The reliability standard is
more amenable to the sense of fairness and rationality inherent in the
judicial system, and thus, should be the touchstone of an admissibility
decision with respect to all types of expert testimony.


(1) See generally, Bracken, Bruce A. et al. Prediction of Caucasian and
African-American Preschool Children's Fluid and Crystallized Intelligence:
Contributions of Maternal Characteristics and Home Environment, Journal of
Clinical Psychology, 1993, Dec. Vol. 22(4). 455-463; Bradley, Robert H. et
al., Maternal IQ the Home Environment and Child IQ In Low Birth Weight,
Premature Children, International Journal of Behavioral Development, 1993,
March, Vol 16(1), 61-74; Longstreth, Langdon, E. et. al., Separation of
Home Intellectual Environment and Maternal IQ as Determinants of Child IQ,
Developmental Psychology, 1981, Sept., Vol 17(5), 532-541; Luster, Tom &
Dubow, Eric, Home Environment and Maternal Intelligence as Predictors of
Verbal Intelligence: A Comparison of Preschool and School-age Children,
Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 1992, April, Vol. 38(2), 151-175; Sameroff,
Arnold J., Stability of Intelligence from Preschool to Adolescence:
The Influence of Social and Family Risk Factors, Child Development, 1993,
Vol. 64, 80-97; and Schroeder, Stephen, R. et. al., Separating the Effects
of Lead and Social Factors on IQ, Environmental Research, 1985, 1985, Vol.
38, 144-154.

(2) See Williams v. Hedican, 561 N.W.2d 817 [Iowa 1997]; State v. Porter,
694 A.2d 1262 [Conn. 1997]; Nelson v. American Sterilizer Co., 554 N.W.2d
898 [Mich. App. 1997]; Commonwealth v. Fowler, 425 Mass. 819, 1997 Mass.
LEXIS 365 [Mass. 1997]; State v. Rolfe, 686 A.2d 949 [Vt. 1996]; State v.
Parkinson, 909 P.2d 647 [Idaho Ct. of App. 1996]; Craddock v. Bennett L.
Watson & Barboursville Transfer, Inc., 475 S.E.2d 62 [W. Va. 1996]; State
v. Cline 909 P.2d 1171 [Montana 1996]; Smith v. State, 677 S.2d 1240 [Ala.
Crim. App. 1995]; Mitchell v. Commonwealth, 908 S.W.2d 100 [Kentucky 1995];
E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. v. Robinson, 923 S.W.2d 549 [Tex. 1995]; State
v. Hofer, 512 N.W.2d 482 [S. Dakota 1994]; State v. Anderson, 881 P.2d 29
[New Mex. 1994]; Nelson v. State, 628 A.2d 69 [Del. 1993]; State v. Foret,
628 So. 2d 1116 [La. 1993]; see also McGrew v. State, 682 N.E.2d 1289
[Indiana 199])[integrating Daubert test with Frye test]).

Alan Kaminsky, a partner at Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker,
represents landowners in lead-poisoning and premises-security cases.
Patrick Geraghty is an associate at the firm.

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Date: Sun, 11 Jul 1999 21:07:27 -0400
Subject: Tenants Online 7/11/99

Tenants Online                                            7/11/99
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In this issue... (from Met Council's Tenant/Inquilino, July 1999)

1. Council Guts City’s Lead-Paint Law
   (available in Spanish on TenantNet's web site)
2. How City Council Voted on the Vallone Lead Bill
3. Editorial: Turning Lead Into Gold
4. SRO Developer Linked to Charas Sale?
5. City Demolishes Harlem Garden; 500 Green Spots Still in Danger
6. Loft Law Expires


Council Guts City’s Lead-Paint Law
By Steven Wishnia


City Council Speaker Peter Vallone fumed at a knot of about 35
demonstrators outside his Astoria district office June 8, protesting his
plans to replace the city's 1982 lead-paint law with one favoring
landlords. "There's no bill," the speaker insisted.

Vallone, of course, was lying. His staff had already drawn up a measure
doing just that. And along with Mayor Giuliani and Housing Committee chair
Archie Spigner, he rammed it through the Council, which passed it by a
36-15 vote on June 30.

Councilmember Stanley Michels, whose own lead-poisoning-prevention bill was
blocked by Vallone, called the bill, Intro 582, a "sham." "The sad truth is
that it is nothing more than a landlords' protection bill," he told the

“It’s the worst public-health bill the Council has passed in recent
memory,” says Chris Meyer of the New York Public Interest Research Group.
“Children are the victims of this law,” adds Megan Charlop, who runs a
“safe house” for lead-poisoned children in the Bronx. “It was not based on
children’s health, it was not based on children’s safety.”

About 30,000 children in the city have at least moderate lead poisoning,
with over 1,000 a year newly diagnosed as severely poisoned. About 80% of
lead-poisoned children are black or Latino.

Intro 582 repeals 1982’s Local Law 1, which presumed that all apartments
built before 1960 had lead paint and required landlords to remove it in
apartments where there was a child under 7. The city government never fully
enforced Local Law 1, despite years of litigation. Landlords complained
that it would cost too much, and most of its supporters eventually conceded
that the “lead-free” standard was unworkable. However, Vallone blocked a
Michels bill that would have switched the city to a “lead-safe” standard.
The Giuliani administration -- which had pushed for an even more
pro-landlord measure -- co-opted the “lead-safe” term, and hailed Intro 582
as a landmark “reform” law.

The Vallone-Spigner bill does not define lead-paint dust in an apartment --
the prime source of lead poisoning --- as a health hazard, only peeling or
flaking lead paint. It requires landlords to make a visual inspection for
peeling or flaking paint on walls or ceilings once a year, if the tenant
informs them that they have a child under 6. If tenants complain of lead
paint, it gives the landlord more than three months to remove it, and
allows them to “self-certify” that the work was done properly. If the city
Department of Housing Preservation and Development reinspects and finds
that the landlord did not remove the paint, HPD’s Emergency Repair Program
is supposed to do the job within 60 days, and the landlord can be fined up
to $25,000 for false self-certification if caught.

Under the old law, HPD did some emergency repairs, but was only required to
do them if the Department of Health reported a lead-poisoned child in the
home, according to Michels aide Steve Simons. The new law eliminates that
requirement for one and two-family homes. Landlords are also allowed to use
cheaper and less safe procedures if they do the work within 21 days after
receiving a violation; the Giuliani administration calls this an
“incentive-based” approach.

To determine whether lead has been removed from windows doors, and wood
trim, landlords are required to do one “dust wipe clearance test” on a spot
adjacent to the work area. Landlords are not required to test the walls and
ceilings, hire an independent company to do the test, or report the test
results to the city or the tenant. There are no threshold levels for
passing or failing.

“It’s totally meaningless. There’s no numbers in here,” says Matthew
Chachere, lawyer for the New York City Coalition to End Lead Poisoning in
the lawsuit to get the city to enforce Local Law 1. Current Department of
Health regulations require four tests, require the results to be given to
both the tenant and HPD, and set specific maximums for allowable lead on
doors, window sills and elsewhere, he adds.

The new law also strictly limits the ability of lead-poisoned children and
their parents to sue for damages. Under the old law, it was the landlord’s
responsibility to remove any lead paint from an apartment. Under the new
law, in order to prove that the landlord was negligent, tenants have to
prove that they have notified the landlord of a lead hazard. The law also
bars tenants from collecting monetary damages from the city for failing to
perform inspections or do emergency-repair work; they can only sue to force
HPD to do the work.

In the Council on June 30, there was virtually no back-and-forth debate on
the bill, with most of the discussion consisting of opponents slamming it.
The few supporters who spoke up -- Queens Republicans Thomas Ognibene and
Al Stabile -- argued primarily that the main people against the bill were
rich suburban trial lawyers upset because they’d be losing large fees from
suing the city, that anyone who pointed out that the children suffering
lead poisoning are overwhelmingly black and Latino was unfairly raising a
racial issue, and that parents should take more responsibility for
protecting their children, by mopping floors and watching them more
closely. “Responsibility starts in the home,” Stabile sputtered. “You see
your kid eating paint off the windowsill, you’re gonna say it’s OK?”

Manhattan Democrat Christine Quinn responded that she found that argument
offensive, like telling a rape victim she should have worn a longer skirt,
and unscientific. Lead-paint dust particles are invisible, and too small to
be removed effectively by common household methods.

Marie Dixon of the Bronx, whose 2-year-old daughter tested positive for
moderate lead poisoning last year, calls the bill “insane.” “They’re
playing too much ping-pong with the kids,” she told Tenant/Inquilino.
“We’re talking about innocent children’s lives and a preventable disease.”
When Dixon and two other mothers tried to tell their stories at a Housing
Committee hearing June 24, Spigner cut them short. “I don’t want to sound
callous,” he said, “but we’ve heard these testimonies before.”

Spigner told Dixon that landlords would be required to tell tenants if
there was lead paint in their apartment. “Who is going to know if he does
not do it?” she asked. Spigner refused to answer. “No comment?” Dixon
inquired scornfully as she left the stand.

The next two witnesses at the hearing were landlord lobbyists, Marilyn
Davenport of the Real Estate Board of New York and Frank Ricci of the Rent
Stabilization Association. They both claimed that it was wrong to penalize
landlords if lead dust was found in apartments they owned, because it could
have been tracked in from outside.

The Council received letters protesting the bill from a score of doctors in
the field, including Drs. Bailus Walker of Howard University Medical
Center; Sergio Piomelli, director of the lead-poisoning program at Babies
and Children’s Hospital, and Rhode Island Director of Health Patricia
Nolan. “Were I to hospitalize and medically treat a poisoned child, then
send this child home under the provisions of this bill, it would be medical
malpractice,” wrote Dr. John Rosen of Montefiore Medical Center.

Four amendments proposed by Michels -- to expand the bill’s definition of
lead paint, to restore the presumption that pre-1960 buildings have lead
paint, and to require more intensive testing after repairs and notification
of parents -- were all defeated, opposed by the Council leadership.

At the last minute, Vallone and the Giuliani administration said they would
add $3 million to the city health budget to fund 10 new safe houses in the
Brooklyn-Queens “lead belt,” hire 30 to 50 outreach workers, and send out
six mobile testing vans. “They’re going to need them,” says Megan Charlop.
Lead-poisoning activists say they may take legal action to challenge the
bill, and will certainly take political action.

In the end, “who put you up to this?” might be a better question to ask of
Peter Vallone. In December 1998, he received $56,000 from two landlord
political-action committees, the Rent Stabilization Association PAC and the
Neighborhood Preservation PAC, to pay off debts from his failed
gubernatorial campaign. He is raising money to run for mayor in 2001, when
his Council term expires, and his campaign headquarters worked out of space
in the RSA office suite earlier this year.


How The City Council Voted On The Lead Bill

Herbert Berman
Adolfo Carrion*
Lucy Cruz
Noach Dear
Martin Malave-Dilan*
June Eisland*
Kenneth Fisher*
Pedro Espada*
Julia Harrison
Lloyd Henry*
Karen Koslowitz*
Howard Lasher
Helen Marshall*
Walter McCaffrey*
Michael Nelson
Gifford Miller
Jerome O'Donovan
Morton Povman*
Madeleine Provenzano
Annette Robinson*
Victor Robles*
Angel Rodriguez
John Sabini*
Archie Spigner*
Peter Vallone*
Lawrence Warden
Juanita Watkins*
Thomas White*
Priscilla Wooten*

Michael Abel
Andrew Eristoff
Stephen Fiala
Martin Golden
James Oddo
Thomas Ognibene*
Al Stabile*

Tracy Boyland*
Una Clarke*
Stephen DiBrienza
Ronnie Eldridge
Wendell Foster*
Kathryn Freed
Sheldon Leffler*
Guillermo Linares*
Margarita Lopez
Stanley Michels*
Bill Perkins
Mary Pinkett*
Christine Quinn
Phillip Reed
Jose Rivera*

*These Councilmembers represent districts whith high numbers of new
lead-poisoning cases.


Turning Lead Into Gold

Centuries ago, alchemists searched in vain for the “philosopher’s stone”
which could turn lead into gold. City Council Speaker Peter Vallone and his
allies in the real-estate industry found a way to do just that: Vallone’s
two-fisted approach consisted of accepting large contributions from
landlords with one hand while gutting the laws protecting New York City
kids from lead-paint poisoning with the other.

Flying in the face of testimony from doctors, parents of lead-poisoned
children and housing experts who have studied the issue for 20 years,
Vallone forced a bill through the City Council giving landlords and the
city months to remove hazardous exposed lead from apartments where young
children live, and shielding property owners from civil liability when
children are poisoned—which they are certain to be.

Debate on the floor of the Council prior to the vote revealed that most of
the members, including Housing Committee Chair Archie Spigner, the main
sponsor of the bill, know little about the causes and prevention of
childhood lead poisoning. Missing from the discussion was one central fact:
Bad landlords cause childhood lead poisoning. They cause lead poisoning not
because the walls, windows and doors of their apartments are covered with
lead paint, but because they fail to maintain their buildings.

Lead paint is in almost every building that was built before 1960 for
wealthy or middle-class tenants. It was considered premier paint, and it
was expensive. Lead poisoning occurs in the lead belt—those areas of the
city that have buildings that were built originally for middle-class
tenants and now house poor tenants. These buildings are now owned by
slumlords who don’t paint every three years, who don’t repair leaky roofs,
who allow leaking pipes to continue to drip month after month, causing
deterioration of walls and ceilings. Those are landlords who own buildings
in neighborhoods where they don’t live, where they simply collect rent. In
the words of Brooklyn Councilmember Una Clarke, the landlords “who are all
in Florida playing golf.”

Lead poisoning in children occurs when painted walls, ceilings, doors and
windows are allowed to get in such bad condition that dust is created and
spread onto surfaces that children touch, such as tables, floors, and toys,
and then put their fingers into their mouths. Landlords cause this
poisoning when they allow these conditions to continue for years, so that
no matter how many times the apartment is cleaned, the invisible heavy
toxic dust continues to fall.

Even under the old 1982 law, 30,000 children—virtually all of them poor,
90% of them nonwhite—suffer from lead poisoning, with over 1,000 serious
new cases each year. Babies or toddlers who breathe or eat dust from
degrading lead paint in their apartments can suffer permanent brain damage.
This tragic disease is preventable by removing lead hazards following
federal safety guidelines to make sure that toxic lead dust is not spread
during the removal process.

Private Use of Public Places

Although two-thirds of the Council’s 51 members supported a fair compromise
called Intro 205, which has been on the table for more than a year, Vallone
refused to even allow a hearing on it, but forced his own bill, drafted in
close consultation with landlords, through the Housing Committee and onto
the floor of the Council in a matter of days. Supporters of Intro 205
maintained that the current law, Local 1 of 1982, went too far by requiring
that apartments be made “lead-free” rather than “lead-safe,” and not far
enough in other areas: Intro 205 would have extended coverage to schools
and day-care centers.

In order to ensure that the fix was in, Vallone removed Washington Heights
Councilmember Guillermo Linares, an outspoken defender of the health of
children and the rights of tenants, from the Housing Committee, where he
had served for years, and replaced him with Michael Nelson, who comes from
the same Brooklyn machine Democratic club as Vallone’s chief of staff,
Bruce Bender. Linares was given a subcommittee on “the private use of
public spaces,” which, sadly, seems to have become a metaphor for the City
Council itself under Vallone’s leadership.

Easy as 123

Vallone signaled his coziness with the real-estate industry by opening his
campaign headquarters in the same office suite as the landlords’ Rent
Stabilization Association at 123 William St. The RSA has spent millions of
dollars in lobbying, political contributions and a misinformation campaign
to distort the nature of the city’s housing crisis and the effect of rent
and eviction protections. Vallone’s interlocking with real estate is
personified in his former chief of staff Joseph Strasburg, now the RSA

Last year, Vallone sought support from tenants in his race for governor
against George Pataki. After receiving a written statement of his
commitment on a number of issues—specifically including not weakening the
laws protecting children from lead poisoning—Met Council endorsed him on
the Working Families Party ballot line. Vallone then proceeded to ignore
tenant issues completely in his campaign, and went down to a resounding defeat.

Now, with his tenure as Council speaker facing an end in 2001 unless he and
Rudolph Giuliani can orchestrate the elimination of the city’s term-limits
law, Vallone can only prolong his career by seeking another office, and he
is raising money to run for mayor.

Cut the Baby in Half?

Vallone’s rush to gut lead-poisoning protections was supported by Giuliani,
who gave credence to the lie that the city  had to change the law by June
30 because of a court order.

But the lawyers representing the families of lead-poisoned children
indicated that they were willing to extend the court deadline until
October, rather than rush Vallone’s ill-considered bill through without
adequate consideration of its tragic consequences for tens of thousands of
children in the years to come. Giuliani also supported Vallone’s bill as a
cut-the-baby-in-half compromise between tenants and health advocates, who
want to protect children completely, and the real-estate industry, which
did not want to protect them at all.

Giuliani’s Rent Guidelines Board also used the “nobody is happy so we must
have done the right thing” argument to justify their outrageous rent
increases for one million rent-stabilized apartments, totally unwarranted
in the face of unprecedented landlord profits and no increase in landlords’
costs. Perhaps Giuliani and Vallone should go back to the Good Book, and
see that King Solomon did not really intend to cut the baby in half, but
used that outrageous idea to determine who truly loved the child. What is
the lesson in the Great Lead Sellout of 1999? We must find a way to focus
our understandable anger and cynicism into organizing energy and ideas, to
bring a new politics to this city, where money will not rule. Extension of
campaign-finance reform, increased voter registration and turnout, and
identifying a new generation of political candidates who are not beholden
to special interests are some of the ways to end politics as usual. If we
can only use it to expose and discredit the corrupt way government is run
in New York City, the Great Lead Sellout of 1999 could mark the beginning
of a new golden age of democracy.


SRO Developer Linked to Charas Sale?

ROTTEN BANANAS: To the tune of “Banana Boat Song” and “Yes, We Have No
Bananas,” about 50 people protested outside the Belleclaire Hotel on West
77th Street June 29. Belleclaire owner Keith Schwebel is converting the
Upper West Side SRO into a hostel for international tourists, part of the
Banana Bungalow, Inc. chain. “They are destroying low-income housing so
they can squeeze 10 tourists in a room,” protest organizers said. Schwebel
and Banana Bungalow are also believed to have similar plans for Charas, the
Lower East Side community center the Giuliani administration sold to
developer Gregg Singer last summer.


City Demolishes Harlem Garden;
500 Green Spots Still in Danger

More than 500 community gardens throughout the city remain in danger of
being demolished by the city. despite the May deal that saved over 100
green spots by selling them to a land trust.

On June 28, bulldozers demolished part of the Project Harmony garden on
West 122nd Street. The bulldozing was timed to precede a court action by
the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund and was stopped by a judicial
restraining order with about half the garden destroyed, according to the
urban-gardening newsletter Urban Outdoors.

Haja and Cynthia Worley, the couple who ran the garden, had hoped to work
out a deal with the city to exchange the Harlem site, across from a
day-care center, for a truly vacant lot elsewhere in the neighborhood,
according to Urban Outdoors . “We have plenty of land to build on,” Cynthia
Worley told the newsletter.

Meanwhile, the City Council land-use committee voted to hand over two Lower
East Side gardens to developer Donald Capoccia for luxury housing: the
“Jardin de La Esperanza” (Garden of Hope) on East 7th Street between
avenues B and C, and the “El Bello Amanecer Borinqueno (The Beautiful
Puerto Rican Dawn)” garden on Avenue C around the corner.

Capoccia has been trying to accumulate land in the area for luxury
apartments since last fall. Community Board 3 approved his project on the
condition that the Esperanza garden be preserved. But the Council land-use
committee approved a new proposal to build luxury housing on the site,
reversing previous commitments without community input.

“We were betrayed!” Jose Torres of East 7th Street told the More Gardens!
coalition. “How can they do this, after all those commitments to preserve
the garden? They didn’t even allow us to speak!”

“With about 500 community gardens still threatened, it is now up to
activists to convince NYC governmental leaders that alternatives exist to
taking gardens in order to provide housing,” Urban Outdoors wrote.


Loft Law Expires
by Jenny Laurie

As of July 7, when Tenant/Inquilino went to press, New York City’s 10,000
loft tenants were hanging in limbo-land, following the expiration of the
state’s loft law on June 30.

While state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assemblymember Deborah
Glick, who represent many of the tenants, worked hard to fashion a renewal
agreement, Republican Governor George Pataki and State Senate Majority
Leader Joseph Bruno refused to renew the law without major concessions on
other issues, such as Pataki’s Medicaid cuts. Much of the problem stems
from Pataki and Bruno’s deep desire to punish and humiliate Silver. So,
with no agreement by June 30, the law expired.

In place since 1982, the law covers tenants in residential loft spaces in
commercial buildings. Under the law, owners of these buildings are barred
from collecting rent increases or evicting their tenants until the building
is brought up to city Buildings Department standards for such things as
fire safety. Once it is ready for a certificate of occupancy, the owner can
collect rent increases, phasing in a repayment of the costs of bringing the
buildings up to code. The law covered (and we expect will cover again)
residential tenants living in lofts since 1981. Most of the 4,000 units are
in lower Manhattan, with a few in Brooklyn and Queens.

Owners of these properties can now get very high prices for the units, and
so are resisting renewing the law. Originally, the loft dwellers, artists
who needed large spaces and were willing to pay for installation of their
own bathrooms, wiring and other necessities, were homesteading areas like
SoHo. Today, the same spaces are worth millions of dollars, and the artists
who made the area trendy are no longer welcome.

According to Chuck DeLaney, a leader of the Lower Manhattan Loft Tenants,
tenants will soon be getting 30-day notices and facing the process of
eviction if the law is not renewed soon.

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Date: Mon, 12 Jul 1999 07:43:43 -0400
Subject: Tenants Online 7/12/99

Tenants Online                                            7/12/99
To unsubscribe, see the bottom of this newsletter


The 1999-2000 Rent Guideline Board Orders are now available on
the TenantNet web site, We include the Apartment
Order below.

Your friendly webmaster will be on Housing Notebook on Monday,
July 12th at 7 p.m., WBAI 99.5 FM speaking on the recent court
decision annulling Air Rights in the Clinton/Hell's Kitchen
neighborhood. We'll have info on this in this list at a later date.
Scott Sommer hosts Housing Notebook every Monday night.

NYtenants (AKA Tenants Online) is not our only email list.
For those on Manhattan's West Side, we have the Hell's Kitchen
Newsletter (go to to subscribe), and we
recently introduced the NYneighborhoods list for those civic-minded
individuals interested in the more arcane issues of NYC Charter,
zoning, etc. To subscribe to NYneighborhoods, send an email to

For those more interested in back and forth dialogue, check out the
TenantNet Forum at This is
where questions may be asked and answered. You can recieve postings
to the TenantNet Forum via email -- just fill out the form at the bottom
of the main Forum page. (if we can find a Majordomo expert -- the
software that runs this list -- we might include 2-way dialoge in
this list as well)

>From Matthew Chachere on the Mayor's hearing on the Vallone Lead Bill

"The Corporation Counsel faxed a copy of the notice from today's City
Record for the Public Hearing/Bill Signing of the Vallone Lead Bill, for
Thursday, July 15, at 2:30 pm at City Hall (I assume the old Board of
Estimate chambers). The Notice is Captioned "Late Notice" .... We're
uncertain if it required 5 days notice... it may be that it does...
wonder if they can do this on less than 5 (there is a note at the end of
the notice for persons needing sign language interpretation that they
must request it 5 business days prior to the hearing; which would seem
to be an impossibility since the notice came out only 4 days in
advance). Of course, it is more notice than the Housing Committee gave!

In this issue...

1. RGB OKs Rent Increases, Raises Poor Tax (Tenant/Inqquilino)
2. Quinn Critical Of Board's New Rent Increases (Backstage)
3. RGB Apartment Order #31 (starts Oct. 1, 1999)
4. Town Hall Meeting: "CUNY Under Attack:


RGB OKs Rent Increases, Raises Poor Tax
Met Council Tenant/Inquilino
by Jenny Laurie

In an unusually fast vote June 24, the city Rent Guidelines Board voted to
increase the rents of apartment tenants and SRO hotel tenants by amounts
that far outstrip what landlords’ costs showed guidelines should be.
The board voted 5-4 to set apartment guidelines of 2% for a one-year lease
and 4% for a two-year lease, a “poor tax” surcharge of $15 on apartments
renting for $500 or less and — for the first time ever — a minimum rent of
$215 a month. Chairman Edward Hochman cast the deciding vote, joined by
public members Edward Weinstein and Justin Macedonia and the two landlord
representatives, Harold Lubell and Vincent Castellano.

Weinstein and Macedonia, both Giuliani appointees, voted consis- tently
through the evening with the landlord representatives. Siding with the
tenant representatives against the guidelines were Agustin Rivera, a Koch
appointee, and Bartholomew Carmody, a Giuliani appointment.

The two tenant representatives, both Giuliani appointees—Jeffrey Coleman, a
lawyer with the firm of Hughes, Hubbard and Reed, and David Pagan, the
director of Los Sures, a Brooklyn housing organization—argued strenuously
for no increase for one-year leases and against the poor tax.

“Mortgage rates are the lowest they have been in 17 years, the price index
is zero, including an 18% drop in fuel costs last year, and landlords’
profits are higher than ever,” Coleman argued. He explained that in
addition to the surveys showing landlords should get no increase for one
year, there was ample evidence that rents have become more and more
unaffordable.  “In 1970, the average tenant paid 20% of his or her income
for rent; today the average tenant is paying 32%.”

The RGB rejected that proposal, 6-3, with Hochman voting yes after it was
clear it would be defeated.

The group of tenants who will suffer most from the guidelines this year are
those living in single-room-occupancy hotels. The RGB passed guidelines of
4% a year for all categories of SRO/hotel housing. This increase appeared
to be motivated by Ed Weinstein, who at previous meetings had spoken with
sympathy about SRO owners who get hundreds of dollars a night from tourists
and only that much per month from rent-regulated tenants.

SRO tenants had received 0% guidelines from the RGB every year for the past
five years, because of concern that even small increases would cause
additional homelessness in the very fragile population of people who live
on low, fixed government-benefit incomes.

These tenants did get a break when Coleman and Rivera proposed a
stipulation that SRO owners could only collect these guidelines from
tenants if they had at least 70% of their rooms rented to rent-regulated
tenants paying legally registered rents. This rule passed despite
Weinstein’s no vote; he explained that he didn’t like the restriction
because it “created a regulatory atmosphere which I, in principle, am
opposed to.”

Intense rhetoric about landlords going broke as a result of renting
apartments below $400 and $500 a month surrounded the proposals for
increasing the poor tax. The RGB voted to allow landlords to collect an
extra $15 surcharge on apartments renting for $500 or less. Setting a very
dangerous precedent, it also passed for the first time a minimum rent.
Starting on October 1, any rent-stabilized tenant with a rent below $215
will have their rent go up to that amount with the lease renewal. This
again was engineered by Hochman with support from Weinstein and Justin

In addition, the Board voted for increases on lofts of 1% for one year and
2% for two years. It voted—after some debate—a zero sublet allowance, and
left the vacancy allowance at the state-legislated level of approximately 20%.


Quinn Critical Of Board's New Rent Increases
By Roger Armbrust
Backstage, July 1, 1999

Christine Quinn represents Manhattan's District 3 on the New York City
Council. Running on the West Side roughly from 60th Street to Canal Street,
District 3 is the area where most of the city's performing artists work,
and many live. With that in mind, Quinn is critical of both recent
increases in rent-stabilized leases, and developers' efforts to turn
commercial properties in her district into new, expensive housing.

Last week, the city Rent Guidelines Board approved increases for
rent-stabilized apartments by 2% for one-year leases and 4% for two-year
pacts. The rise affects nearly 1 million city apartments operating under
rent stabilization, which prevents landlords from raising rents at will.

Quinn appeared at that board meeting, recommending that rents not be
raised. The board's 5-4 vote for the increase was a response to its staff's
recommendation based on the Price Index of Operating Costs, i.e. the city's
survey of landlords' expenses in buying and maintaining apartments.

"That survey to see how landlords' costs have increased showed that their
costs rose less than 1%," Quinn told Back Stage on Monday. "But tenants get
rent increases of 2% to 4%. This is a process that is biased to landlords."

Landlords, on the other hand, criticize the city's price index survey,
arguing that it doesn't properly reflect long-term expenses. One landlord
told the board last week that apartment buildings age, causing more repairs
which increase maintenance cost; and that the city keeps imposing new
regulations-such as for fire sprinklers and lead-paint removal-which add to

Quinn said that the city council has introduced new lead-paint
legislation-requiring removal of the poisonous paint from buildings-in
response to a court ruling requiring action by the city. But she also
cautioned that she believes "the council is moving too quickly" on the
proposed law. "We haven't studied it to determine its impact, and haven't
heard from enough diverse groups of advocates."

While the bill will increase landlords' expenses, Quinn stressed that it is
"a bill driven by the landlord industry and is being pushed for quick
passage by landlords." She added that the bill would "require more rent"
from tenants for the landlords to perform the lead-paint removal.

"The original timeline the city gave for passing the bill was June," Quinn
noted. "But the plaintiffs [in the decisive court case] have asked to delay
the matter until Oct. 15." She said she and many other city council members
agree with that extension, and believes the court will provide it.

"This isn't a deadline issue," she said. "The extension will give us time
to study the bill and make sure it doesn't overburden landlords, but also
provides proper protection for children." The most serious lead-paint issue
involves children peeling and ingesting it.

In her testimony before the Rent Guidelines Board, Quinn also noted her
wariness of real-estate interests which propound a lack of housing in the city.

"Landlords are trying to cry that there's no residential development," she
told Back Stage. But she added that she is constantly seeing requests
before the city Planning Commission to rezone manufacturing properties in
her district to residential ones.

But such housing, she opined, "would be of no benefit to actors or artists.
The type of residential they [real estate developers] want would be outside
the guise of rent protection laws; and they'd charge luxury rents.

"What they're talking about is not building housing to support people who
live and work in New York City, such as actors and artists, and others
making their livings here," she concluded. "They want people with greater
financial means than those of us here now."


June 25, 1999
Order Number 31

Order Number 31 - Apartments and Lofts, rent levels for leases commencing
October 1, 1999 through September 30, 2000.

and the
Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1974, as amended, implemented by
Resolution No 276 of 1974 of
the New York City Council and extended by the Rent Regulation Reform Act of
1997, and in accordance
with the requirements of Section 1043 of the New York City Charter, that
the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) hereby adopts the following levels of fair
rent increases over lawful rents charged and paid on September 30, 1999.
These rent adjustments will apply to rent stabilized apartments with leases
commencing on or after October 1, 1999 and through September 30, 2000. Rent
guidelines for loft units subject to Section 286 subdivision 7 of the
Multiple Dwelling Law are also included in this order.


Together with such further adjustments as may be authorized by law, the
annual adjustment for renewal
leases for apartments shall be:

For a one-year renewal lease commencing on or after October 1, 1999
and on or before September 30, 2000:      2%

For a two-year renewal lease commencing on or after October 1, 1999
and on or before September 30, 2000:      4%

These two adjustments shall also apply to dwelling units in a structure
subject to the partial tax exemption program under Section 421a of the Real
Property Tax Law, or in a structure subject to Section 423 of the Real
Property Tax Law as a Redevelopment Project.


No vacancy allowance is permitted except as provided by sections 19 and 20
of the Rent Regulation
Reform Act of 1997.


For a renewal lease on a dwelling unit with a lawful rent of $500 or less
per month on September 30, 1999, the levels of rent increase for renewal
leases commencing October 1, 1999 through September 30, 2000 are the same
as those set forth hereinabove plus a $15 per month supplementary adjustment.

For a renewal lease commencing on or after October 1, 1999 through
September 30, 2000, on a dwelling
unit with a lawful rent of $215 or less per month after any allowable
increase(s) in this Order are applied, the new lawful rent will be $215.


In the event of a sublease governed by subdivision (e) of section 2525.6 of
the Rent Stabilization Code, the allowance authorized by such subdivision
shall be 0%.


The Rent Guidelines Board adopts the following levels of rent increase
above the "base rent", as defined in Section 286, subdivision 4, of the
Multiple Dwelling Law, for units to which these guidelines are applicable
in accordance with Article 7-C of the Multiple Dwelling Law:

For one-year increase periods commencing on or after October 1, 1999
and on or before September 30, 2000:      1%

For two-year increase periods commencing on or after October 1, 1999
and on or before September 30, 2000:      2%


No Vacancy Allowance is permitted under this Order. Therefore, except as
otherwise provided in Section
286, subdivision 6, of the Multiple Dwelling Law, the rent charged to any
tenant for a vacancy tenancy
commencing on or after October 1, 1999 and on or before September 30, 2000
may not exceed the "base
rent" referenced above plus the level of adjustment permitted above for
increase periods.


For the purposes of these guidelines any lease or tenancy for a period up
to and including one year shall be deemed a one year lease or tenancy, and
any lease or tenancy for a period of over one year and up to and including
two years shall be deemed a two-year lease or tenancy.


Where a lease for a dwelling unit in effect on May 31, 1968 or where a
lease in effect on June 30, 1974 for a dwelling unit which became subject
to the Rent Stabilization Law of 1969, by virtue of the Emergency Tenant
Protection Act of 1974 and Resolution Number 276 of the New York City
Council, contained an escalator clause for the increased costs of operation
and such clause is still in effect, the lawful rent on September 30, 1999
over which the fair rent under this Order is computed shall include the
increased rental, if any, due under such clause except those charges which
accrued within one year of the commencement of the renewal lease. Moreover,
where a lease contained an escalator clause that the owner may validly
renew under the Code, unless the owner elects or has elected in writing to
delete such clause, effective no later than October 1, 1999 from the
existing lease and all subsequent leases for such dwelling unit, the
increased rental, if any, due under such escalator clause shall be offset
against the amount of increase authorized under this Order.


All rent adjustments lawfully implemented and maintained under previous
apartment orders and included in the base rent in effect on September 30,
1999 shall continue to be included in the base rent for the
purpose of computing subsequent rents adjusted pursuant to this Order.


Under Section 26-513(b)(1) of the New York City Administrative Code, and
Section 9(e) of the Emergency
Tenant Protection Act of 1974, the Rent Guidelines Board is obligated to
promulgate special guidelines to aid the State Division of Housing and
Community Renewal in its determination of initial legal regulated rents for
housing accommodations previously subject to the City Rent and
Rehabilitation Law which are the subject of a tenant application for
adjustment. The Rent Guidelines Board hereby adopts the following Special

For dwelling units subject to the Rent and Rehabilitation Law on September
30, 1999, which become
vacant after September 30, 1999, the special guideline shall be the greater
of the following:

1.  150% above the maximum base rent as it existed or would have existed,
plus the allowable fuel cost
adjustment, or

2.  The Fair Market Rent for existing housing as established by the United
States Department of
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the New York City Primary
Metropolitan Statistical Area
pursuant to Section 8(c) (1) of the United States Housing Act of 1937 (42
U.S.C. section 1437f [c][1]) and 24 C.F.R. Part 888, with such Fair Market
Rents to be adjusted based upon whether the tenant
pays his or her own gas and/or electric charges as part of his or her rent
as such gas and/or electric
harges are accounted for by the New York City Housing Authority.

Such HUD-determined Fair Market Rents will be published in the Federal
Register, to take effect on
October 1, 1999.


The permissible increase for decontrolled units as referenced in Order 3a
which become decontrolled
after September 30, 1999, shall be the greater of the following:

1. 150% above the maximum base rent as it existed or would have existed,
plus the allowable fuel cost
adjustment, or

2. The Fair Market Rent for existing housing as established by the United
States Department of
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the New York City Primary
Metropolitan Statistical Area
pursuant to Section 8(c) (1) of the United States Housing Act of 1937 (42
U.S.C. section 1437f [c][1]) and 24 C.F.R. Part 888, with such Fair Market
Rents to be adjusted based upon whether the tenant
pays his or her own gas and/or electric charges as part of his or her rent
as such gas and/or electric
charges are accounted for by the New York City Housing Authority.

Such HUD-determined Fair Market Rents will be published in the Federal
Register, to take effect on
October 1, 1999.


Rentals charged and paid in excess of the levels of rent increase
established by this Order shall be fully credited against the next month's


The Rent Guidelines Board is authorized to promulgate rent guidelines
governing apartment units subject
to the Rent Stabilization Law of 1969, as amended, and the Emergency Tenant
Protection Act of 1974, as
amended. The purpose of these guidelines is to implement the public policy
set forth in Findings and
Declaration of Emergency of the Rent Stabilization Law of 1969 (§26-501 of
the N.Y.C. Administrative
Code) and in the Legislative Finding contained in the Emergency Tenant
Protection Act of 1974 (L.1974 c c. 576, §4 [§2]).

The Rent Guidelines Board is also authorized to promulgate rent guidelines
for loft units subject to Section 286 subdivision 7 of the Multiple
Dwelling Law. The purpose of the loft guidelines is to implement the public
policy set forth in the Legislative Findings of Article 7-C of the Multiple
Dwelling Law (Section 280).

Dated: June 25, 1999
Edward S. Hochman, Esq.
Rent Guidelines Board


Friends of CUNY and the New York Forum
Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields
Former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger
U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler
State Senators Tom Duane & Eric Schneiderman
Former State Senator Franz S. Leichter
Assemblymembers Deborah Glick, Dick Gottfried & Scott Stringer
Councilmembers Kathryn Freed, Margarita Lopez & Chris Quinn

Invite You To A
Town Hall Meeting
"CUNY Under Attack:
Open Admissions or Closed Door to Opportunity"

The Mayor and Governor are determined to "downsize" CUNY and deprive
those who need CUNY the most of their opportunity for a college
education and a chance for a future.

Wednesday, July 14, 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
At Fashion Institute of Technology, Katie Murphy Amphitheatre, Building
D, Main Floor, Seventh Avenue & 27th Street

Find out what we can do to fight back. Learn the truth about:
   The Proposal To End Remediation
   Standards and Graduation Rates
   Budget Cuts, Tuition Hikes & Their Impact on New Yorkers
   The Report of the Mayor's Task Force on CUNY

For More Information, call Bill Zwart at 212-582-5020

NYtenants Tenant's Online is subscription-based. To unsubscribe, go to
TenantNet's web page at and insert your email address on
the NYtenants Mailing List form. Make sure your email is exactly the same
as when you subscribed, including capitalization. Check "unsubscribe" and
click "submit".

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: Tue, 13 Jul 1999 16:32:33 -0400
Subject: Tenants Online 7/13/99

Tenants Online                                            7/13/99
To unsubscribe, see the bottom of this newsletter
In this issue...

1. Vallone Lead Bill Online
2. You can testify at Rudy's lead-paint bill signing 7/15
3. Loft Law Limbo: Artists Fret As Albany Fiddles (Voice)
4. Uneasiness Prevails as Loft Law Expires (Times)
5. Tenants Up in Air: Loft Law expires and leaves 10,000 dwellers hanging



The final text of the Peter Vallone/Rudy Giuliani Lead Bill, Intro
582 (AKA Landlord Protection Act of 1999) is now online at



by A. Tenant

Mr. Mayor, I urge you not to sign the Lead Poisoning Act of 1999. While
some may consider this a done deal, it is not a contract until it is
signed, and I urge you to keep your pen in your pocket.

This moment defines whether you are still a prosecutor, or have become a
defense attorney for irresponsible and criminal behavior by those
responsible for protecting vulnerable children from lead poisoning, a form
of institutional child abuse.  Parents are helpless to protect their
children from invisible lead dust without the intervention of the city to
monitor and enforce safe lead abatement work by owners when it is found
that children are exposed to lead or, when unable to obtain compliance from
an owner, go in and eliminate the danger of irreversible brain damage
quickly and safely itself, and pursue appropriate action against that owner.

By providing unreasonable time periods for abating dangerous conditions, by
eliminating the requirement for lead dust testing to prevent poisoning
immediately after removal work is done, and by creating a panoply of
defenses for owners who are responsible when poisoning does occur, Introl
582 would ensure that a given number currently healthy babies will suffer
severe lead poisoning in the years ahead.  In addition to effective code
enforcement the second prong of any effective lead poisoning prevention
program has been the incentive of the possibility that those found
responsible for the serious poisoning of a child will be held accountable
for not protecting  children from a known tragedy that currently effects
over 30,000 children in New York City,

Your decision on the law you have been asked to consider will send a
message to this State and this County about where this city stands on the
question of protecting babies and children under six years of age from
unnecessary exposure to toxic lead paint and lead dust.

Every expert who testified at the City Council's hastily convened hearings
two weeks ago agreed that Intro. 582 does not go far enough in ensuring
that children are not exposed to toxic lead dust. This ill-conceived bill
was based on inadequate consultation with affected constituencies.

While the interests of property owners, some of which are clearly valid,
would receive undo concern, the interests of health providers who have been
successfully reducing lead poisoning over the past twenty years, the
interests of tenants and of those concerned with the preservation of safe
and affordable housing, and most importantly the interests of parents and
children forced to live in the Lead Belt - those neighborhoods
characterized by older, under-maintained buildings occupied predominantly
by low income tenants of color- were not adequately consulted or protected.
 For this reason, Intro. 582 has been rightly described as protecting
property owners but not children from the consequences of preventable lead

This bill contains several unacceptable provisions and constitutes a step
in the wrong direction on the path toward protecting tens of thousands of
children from suffering permanent brain damage from this preventable
disease. The 21-day incentive period, during which property owners would be
encouraged to avoid federal safety standards by removing possible lead
paint without it ever being tested by the city, encourages less responsible
owners to avoid .

Responsible and diligent owners, who want to ensure that children are not
exposed to lead poisoning even if this law would not compel them to, are
essentially subject to financial penalties. This is equivalent to fining
owners who obey the law or act responsibly.

One of the justifications of this law is the unproven claim that parents
can prevent lead poisoning of their children - 90% Return to the model of
the old window guard which was shown not to work. Window related tragedies
for young children went down by 50% as soon as the a provision was inserted
into law by your predecessor requiringowners affirmatively to seek out
whether young children reside in an apartment and to install window guards
in all cases where they do.  Intro. 582 removes owners' existing obligation
to determine whether children reside in an apartment, and removes the
rebuttable presumption - based on irrefutable scientfic evidence - that
paint in pre-1960 buildings is likely to be lead-based.

Mr. Mayor, I understand that you are not allowed to sign this bill until
this hearing is over, is that correct?  In that case, you are going to have
to arrest me.

Thank you for your attention.


June 30 - July 6, 1999
Towers & Tenements
by j.a. lobbia

Loft Law Limbo: Artists Fret As Albany Fiddles

Imagine a downtown artist's loft with brick walls, sunlight streaming
through tall, arched windows, space that measures in the four-digit range,
and a three-digit rent. The tenants may not be rich in the
stocks-and-investments sense, but as far as real estate goes, they're
loaded. In this town of tub-in-the-kitchen tenements and
smaller-than-a-shoebox studios, wealth can be calculated in square feet,
closets are currency, and loft-dwellers are the ultimate conquerers of space.

But these days, city artists are worried that, any time now, they could be
robbed, and by the state legislature no less. That's because the loft law,
which allows them to live and work in commercial spaces, expires on June
30. Originally passed in 1982 and renewed periodically since, the law must
be reenacted by the state legislature to be effective. But the law's late
June end date has thrown it smack into the middle of a protracted and
heavily political state budget battle and has turned the housing law into
what Albany Republicans have called "a secret weapon" to force pro-loft
Democrats into supporting GOP issues.

As of this writing, the loft law has not been renewed and is expected to
limp along on short-term extensions until the budget is resolved. But while
the law's tenuous status makes loft-dwellers nervous, it's not expected to
be scrapped altogether. Says Bill Hall, a sculptor and cochair of the Lower
Manhattan Loft Tenants group, "I have every reason to believe [Democratic
Assembly Speaker] Shelly Silver," whose downtown district includes most of
the city's 835 loft buildings, "will make sure it happens. It just takes

The law is not only tangled up in Albany politics— with Senate Majority
Leader Republican Joe Bruno holding it hostage to GOP budget demands and
Governor George Pataki trying to leverage it to force things like extended
cuts in Medicaid— it is also entwined in the ambitions of power brokers.
First, there's the partisan skirmishing between Silver and Bruno (who waged
the famous 1997 Albany attack against rent laws). Add the war between
Pataki and Mayor Rudy Giuliani— two Republicans competing for national
attention. "Anything Rudy wants, Pataki won't do," says one loft tenant.
"With all the ambitions and egos, it's hard to call."

Loft landlords are trying to use the window to loosen the law and have
drafted a bill— which still lacks a sponsor— that could effectively force
half of the city's 10,000 loft tenants out by removing buildings that
dedicate less than 51 percent of their gross square footage to residential
lofts. Sources say the draft is unlikely to go anywhere. Tenants have a
bill, passed in the Assembly, that would extend the law until 2004.

While the loft battle surfaces periodically in Albany, another conflict
simmers more regularly here in the city. Artists argue that they could not
afford to live here without the privileges extended by the loft law, which
allows for residential and studio use of commercial spaces and keeps rents
low while landlords bring buildings up to housing code standards. But that
argument is irritating to many nonartist tenants who pay sky-high rents for
tiny apartments and who would just as soon paint or sculpt instead of
working tedious jobs to pay the rent.

"There is an awful lot of resentment because the housing market is so
unfairly checkerboarded in this city," says Sharon Zukin, a sociology
professor at Brooklyn College and author of a book on loft living. "The
laws dispose people to a dog-eat-dog mentality. Of course, it's the owners
and developers who have a major share of the benefits."

Indeed, a simple Saturday saunter through Soho or Tribeca shows that loft
districts settled by artists decades ago have transformed neighborhoods
from desolate warehouse districts to overcrowded shopping strips, with
property owners as the ultimate winners. More plainly, artists act as a
social detergent for developers, moving in and cleaning up forgotten
neighborhoods until they become livable and finally attractive to
nonartists. In the end, the neighborhoods become so hygienic, artists who
are newcomers can no longer afford to live there. (Only commercial
buildings that were occupied by residential tenants from 1980 to 1981 are
covered by the loft law, and no more are coming on line.)

"The role of artists is sort of a double-edged sword because their presence
made the way they live an attractive commodity itself," says Zukin. "Lofts
became desirable to nonartists, partly because the media, like New York
magazine and The New York Times, were eager to break the news to their
readers about a new chic way to live. The development of loft districts was
the beginning of using culture as an economic development strategy. The
ability to turn these abandoned industrial spaces into something else that
looked cosmopolitan and sophisticated really gave a big cue to cities about
the future importance of gentrification and attracting certain parts of the
middle class."

In fact, in a 1977 New York Times article, Zukin warned against efforts to
create loft zones in Soho and the Garment District, warning that such a
move "represents a costly travesty of heterogeneity that will produce, at
best, a copy of the [then recent urban] renewal of the Upper East Side. We
will see yet another quarter of monolithic, high-rent residences and shops,
surrounded by drastically reduced 'ethnic' and 'atelier' zones."

Soho's current consumer culture proves Zukin right. "When you have a
neighborhood with multiple branches of Louis Vuitton, cosmetic stores, and
consumer goods, it's really quite something different," Zukin said in a
recent interview. "It's not a local neighborhood anymore, and it's not an
artists' group anymore. It's an urban mall, and I don't know whom to blame
for that. The loft movement turned into a market a long time ago. It still
has the cachet of a movement, but not much spirit."

Bill Jordan, a photographer who has lived on Lower Broadway for 22 years,
calls his neighborhood's commercial explosion "a mixed blessing. I'm
ambivalent because I don't like the crowds, but the larger-scale stores
are— someone will kill me for saying this— more stable" than smaller shops
that once populated his Broadway block but that have now been replaced with
chains like Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Club Monaco.

Longtime loft-dwellers themselves have mixed feelings about the evolution.
"As far as people being resentful that we have big spaces for low rent,
what can I say?" asks sculptor Hall. "These neighborhoods were created by
artists who needed space for their studios, and it's difficult to be
apologetic. At the same time, I understand. You'd have a hard time moving
to Tribeca now even if you were a stockbroker. The loft prices are

Research: Nellie Abernathy


Uneasiness Prevails as Loft Law Expires
July 1, 1999, New York Times

Loft dwellers in New York City were left wondering about their homes
Wednesday night when a state law expired that since 1982 had protected
residents of commercial buildings from eviction.

Although the lofts technically became illegal residences when the law
expired at midnight, state legislators offered reassurances that people
would not have to start packing. And several tenants and landlords said the
expiration was an inconvenience but not a real threat.

"I'm not going anywhere; this is my home," said Madeline Stossker, 32, a
painter who shares a Greenwich Village loft with her boyfriend. "It will
take more than just a law disappearing to make me disappear."

State lawmakers allowed the loft law to expire in a political tussle over
unrelated budget issues. As a result, an estimated 664 loft buildings,
situated primarily in lower Manhattan, became illegal residences.

The law had legalized what artists and others had done for years: occupy
commercial spaces with the consent of landlords.

Buildings affected by the law were those that had originally been used for
commercial purposes but in which three or more residential units became
occupied between April 1, 1980 and Dec. 1, 1981. The conversion had to meet
fire and safety requirements and comply with laws on access for the
disabled. Many buildings needed plumbing and electrical work, and the
installation of sprinklers and smoke detectors.

Now that the law has expired, it is unlikely that anyone will be evicted
immediately. For one thing, a landlord must file a 30-day notice of
eviction. For another, state lawmakers are expected to resurrect the loft
law when they meet again on July 12.

"The reality is people are not in danger of losing their homes, but that
doesn't abrogate the Legislature's responsibility to protect their homes,"
said Senator Thomas K. Duane, whose Manhattan district includes hundreds of
loft buildings.

But for some loft dwellers, that was small consolation. Duane said he had
received hundreds of phone calls and letters from concerned loft tenants in
his district. During the legislative session in Albany, he turned over part
of his office to loft tenants who were lobbying other lawmakers.

Michael Kanakis, 48, a photographer who lives with his wife and son in a
loft in Chelsea, said the law provided a measure of protection from
landlords who were more interested in the bottom line. Before the law was
passed, he said, his heat was turned off every Friday afternoon for the
weekend. Afterward, he said, he not only had heat, but was also given a
phone number to call if the heat went off.

"Whatever we did get, we had to fight for," he said. "This law is important
to us. You don't mess with people's homes."

But others would just as soon see the loft law disappear permanently.
Thomas Berger, president of the Association of Commercial Property Owners,
a 400-member group of loft landlords, said the law required them to make
costly renovations to their buildings while restricting the amount of rent
they could demand.

"It's a stupid law, it's an unworkable law, but it's a pawn in a chess
game," said Berger, adding that he had spent $300,000 on required
renovations to his TriBeCa building.

Throughout the city, the loft law has allowed people to create communities
where once there were vacant buildings and warehouses. Kanakis, for
example, has lived next door to the same two families for 22 years.

Another loft dweller, Lawrence Wheatman, said his bright, spacious loft on
West 30th Street had started out as nothing more than a dump for other
tenants, with garbage bags piled to the ceiling.

But Wheatman, a photographer, said he had spent more than $20,000 to turn
the 1,000-square-foot rental space into a home.

"This was the location we wanted, there's no doubt about it," he said. "I'm
still here 19 years later. I love this space."


Tenants Up in Air: Loft Law expires and leaves 10,000 dwellers hanging
Daily News Staff Writer, July 2, 1999

Painter Joe Marioni moved into his Garment District loft more than a
quarter century ago when his landlord couldn't give away space in the
dilapidated former button factory.

Like thousands of other loft dwellers, Marioni spent yesterday worrying
about his future in the treasured 1,000-square-foot space that doubles as
an apartment and studio after a state law protecting them expired.

"We artists have a very intimate relationship to our work and the space we
work in," said Marioni. "Anything that disturbs that is very serious. It's
consuming my time, and it's legal harassment."

The estimated 10,000 loft tenants — mostly artists in lower Manhattan — are
on pins and needles over the lapsing of the 1982 Loft Law, which expired
yesterday amid a partisan budget dispute in Albany.

Since the clock expired on the law, loft tenants are technically living
illegally in some 900 commercial and industrial buildings.

Although no one will face immediate eviction, some tenants may get 30-day
eviction notices. Others may be forced to hire lawyers to battle landlords.

The uncertainty could prove unsettling to artists who thought they had
finally achieved a degree of stability.

"It certainly will be high anxiety for a lot of tenants, if nothing more,"
said Bill Hall, a sculptor who lives with his family in a Tribeca loft.
"We're heading into uncharted legal waters."

Landlords oppose the Loft Law as unnecessary government regulation. They
say it forces them to spend thousands of dollars on renovations while
sharply limiting rents they may charge.

"The law is total insanity," said Thomas Berger, president of a loft
landlords group. "The rents are way too low, and it makes the owner's life

A bill extending the Loft Law was passed by the Democratic-controlled
Assembly, but died in the Republican-held Senate. Tenants blame Gov. Pataki
and his GOP allies for holding up approval to punish Democrats who are
battling over items in the state budget.

"We have been used very cynically," said Chuck DeLaney, a photographer who
lives in a loft on Pearl St.

Insiders believe the lawmakers will eventually pass the Loft Law, possibly
after they reconvene on July 12.

It can't happen too soon for Marioni, who would rather be concentrating on
his artwork than on the Byzantine world of Albany politics.

"It's not fun being a pawn in a political game," he said.

Original Publication Date: 07/02/1999

NYtenants Tenant's Online is subscription-based. To unsubscribe, go to
TenantNet's web page at and insert your email address on
the NYtenants Mailing List form. Make sure your email is exactly the same
as when you subscribed, including capitalization. Check "unsubscribe" and
click "submit".

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: Wed, 14 Jul 1999 13:01:07 -0400
Subject: Tenants Online 7/14/99

Tenants Online                                            7/14/99
To unsubscribe, see the bottom of this newsletter
In this issue...

1. Notes from the Underground (City Limits)
   NYCHA's Gadfly

2. The Fix Is Out: Public Housing Crumbles on Republicans’ Watch

3. Waltham, Massachusetts City Council Votes Boycott of MetLife
   over Rent Increases


Notes from the Underground
By Kathleen McGowan

Sitting in his living room in Bay Ridge, his tabby cat lolling at his feet,
Jack Ballinger has become the self-appointed scourge of the New York City
Housing Authority.

His fax newsletter is a hotsheet for the legions of civil servants at
NYCHA, which manages public housing for about 500,000 poor and
working-class New Yorkers. Sexual harassment allegations? Stolen memos and
lost files? Epic tales of patronage, wife-beating and politically charged
office affairs? The Housing Spotlight has got it all, with nudge-and-a-wink
hints of who's doing wrong and a knowing tone that makes it Page Six for
housing bureaucrats.

"It's a great country," he laughs. "I've got a fax machine, and we pay $30
a month for unlimited calls."

Ballinger's anonymous faxes have developed a loyal following among NYCHA
staff, who read the newsletter under their desks and covertly e-mail him
new dirt. "The Spotlight has been a lifeblood for those of us who are civil
servants," says one of his tipsters. "We were like, 'Oh my God, somebody's
out there.' I didn't know who he was, but I was so happy. He's the sanest,
fiercest, most fabulous man."

The newsletter selects its targets with care. Ballinger, himself an
ex-NYCHA employee, is a careful editor, focusing on the follies of the
Authority's political appointees and higher-ups, especially when they
torment their underlings.

That's because for the 52-year-old Ballinger, it's personal. Last month he
went public with a 25-page indictment, complete with dates, names and
details, of two corruption scandals he witnessed at the agency. He signed
his name to the testimonial, posted it on his web site ( ) annotated with memos and taped
phone conversations-and faxed it to more than 100 politicians and
investigative agencies nationwide.

How did this man, a former steamfitter who admits he got his NYCHA job
through a local politician, come to spend four years trying to get his
allegations taken seriously? And, given the gravity of his accusations, the
mysterious suicides that he's written about and the possibility of libel,
why did he decide to reveal his identity?

He's not on a crusade. In fact, he doesn't seem to care much for abstract
ideas of taxpayer accountability or the public good. "I wouldn't care if
they stole $600 million," he insists. "I'm no reformer." He rarely mentions
the hundreds of thousands of tenants that suffer the consequences of wasted
money and corruption. Instead, he spends nearly all his time-and, by his
account, put himself in physical danger-to avenge NYCHA's working stiffs.
"It's what they did to the little guys," he says. "They've screwed too many
people's lives over."

Ballinger's transformation from steamfitter to whistleblower began in 1995,
when, after a few months working at NYCHA's central office, he says he
stumbled on a big problem: All the information normally kept on one agency
database- everything from the number of workers to insurance records and
permits-was missing from $50 million worth of contracts for security
systems like intercoms and lights. The work had no documentation, making it
impossible to tell if it had been inspected.

To Ballinger, the situation stank. "I was once a contractor myself, and if
you tell me that nobody's going to check on my work or my materials-and
that you're going to pay me for top-class work-I'll be a very happy man,"
he says. But when he pointed the problem out to his bosses, he was promptly
transferred to Coney Island.

There in the field office, he was approached by a roofing inspector who had
been taking bribes and was terrified of getting caught. He asked for
Ballinger's help in going straight, and the two wound up coordinating an
investigation between NYCHA's Inspector General office and about 12
inspectors. Sometimes contractors would offer the inspectors outright
bribes, but the more subtle deals involved officials in NYCHA management,
reports one contract administrator turned double agent. Ballinger says that
the sting lasted about five months in 1997.

But the inspectors began to suspect that their work was being leaked. They
also say that the IG instructed them to target new contractors, instead of
perennial favorites that they knew were on the take. Since then, says
Ballinger, nothing has happened. The investigation into the missing
contracts has apparently been closed, and Ballinger thinks the bribery
investigation has been botched. The IG's office never questioned him about
the missing data, and still hasn't spoken to men who would provide crucial
testimony and documentation through their daily log books.

"The minute we received [Ballinger's complaints], we took them seriously.
We turned it over to the IG," says NYCHA spokesman Hilly Gross. "The minute
his findings become public, we'll make them public." But it's hard to
determine where the investigation stands. Although there are rumors that
the investigation is ongoing, the federal Department of Housing and Urban
Development, which funds NYCHA, recently told Ballinger that the case was
closed last year.

Ballinger's accusations may sometimes sound over the top. He says his car
has been forced off the road, and mentions three unexplained deaths-two
apparently suicides-of NYCHA employees who were aware of his
investigations. But he provides plenty of corroborating evidence, and
reporters have confirmed his stories. Last year, Channel 9's investigative
team aired a series based on his sources. And the Spanish-language daily
Noticias del Mundo ran a two-week series in May focusing on another
Ballinger exposŽ, NYCHA's $100 million sweetheart lease on a building
recently purchased by a friend of Authority board member Kalman Finkel.

By last year, Ballinger was on worker's comp from his NYCHA job and
frustrated that his undercover work was stalled in official channels. He
decided to bypass the investigative apparatus and talk directly to the
people that would know and care about what the agency was all about. The
Spotlight was born.

What's most interesting about this scandal sheet is the insight it provides
into the institutional psyche of the 15,000-employee Housing Authority. In
the Spotlight's pages, this massive bureaucracy, nationally recognized as
the country's best public housing authority, is a poisonously paranoid
place. Morale is devastated by infighting. Low-level corruption is rampant,
and retaliatory transfers and demotions are constants. Nervous breakdowns
at Ballinger's NYCHA seem to be as common as office colds. That his reports
have satisfyingly soap opera-like continuity only adds to the
can't-put-it-down quotient. Regular characters like Kalman "The Fink"
Finkel re-appear with satisfying frequency.

Although his prose tends toward the overwrought, this Matt Drudge of the
Housing Authority has clearly hit a nerve. The Housing Spotlight is
contraband at NYCHA, and being caught with the tipsheet means trouble.
Employees report that higher-ups hang around the fax machines on Tuesdays,
waiting to intercept it.

Surreptitiously, his fans strike back. "I put them in the ladies' room,"
says one NYCHA worker. "Every Tuesday you see women from other departments
in our ladies' room. Or I put them in the freezer, and strange women come
to the department asking, 'Do you have any ice? Do you have any frozen
peas?' I'd photocopy 100 of them, leave stacks in elevators, send 'em down
the post office chute, leave them in the Dunkin' Donuts. They'd all be
gone. That's how we knew it was powerful."

And the Spotlight's reports have repercussions. Ballinger was the first to
write about a NYCHA sexual harassment case that many point to as the
scandal that forced out former board chair Ruben Franco.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani used to keep a close eye on NYCHA; in fact, he
prosecuted one of the Authority's most famous corruption scandals in the
1980s. But NYCHA staff, many of whom initially supported Giuliani, say the
mayor has betrayed the agency by refusing to investigate and punish
corruption, and by stocking the Authority with patronage appointees. "It's
worse than it's ever been," says one secretary. "Giuliani doesn't give a
shit. He's brought in people who know nothing about housing, and they're
not taking care of the agency." In the end, it's the city's public housing
tenants that must cope with locks that break, sprinklers that don't put out
fires, and asbestos that isn't properly removed.

As for Ballinger, he has hopes for the new NYCHA chair, John Martinez, but
promises to keep dogging upper management. He now gets about a half-dozen
emails every day.

"This is my life," he says. "So many people are upset in their jobs, and
they're calling me, crying over the phone. I'll get more information every
week, I'll keep faxing, and eventually, hopefully, we'll have some sort of
investigation into this. I keep telling them-if they treated people right,
I'd be out of business."


July 14 - 20, 1999
Towers and Tenements
by j. a. lobbia

The Fix Is Out: Public Housing Crumbles on Republicans’ Watch

In the shank of last week's killer heat wave, Bob stood in the
lobby-turned-oven of his Williamsburg apartment building and rethought his
next move. It was about 8:30 at night, and he had planned to take the
elevator home to his 18th-floor apartment to cool off for the evening.
Instead, a familiar scene forced him to change his approach: The elevator
was broken.

"I'm going to go back and sit in my car with the air conditioning on for a
few minutes, and then I'll walk up," said Bob, 35, who would not give his
last name. "I've done this before. It'll take me less than 10 minutes to
get up there."

Walking 18 flights of stairs in stifling heat is daunting, but possible,
for a man in his midthirties. But for hundreds of other tenants of Williams
Plaza, a group of buildings that contain 577 apartments run by the New York
City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the task is near impossible. As Bob headed
for his car, an elderly couple, the Rosados, braced for an 18-story climb
home; the journey would take them at least 15 sweltering minutes. When
their son, Daniel, complained that the elevator breaks down at least once a
week, his father corrected him: "It's more like three or four times."

Chronically dysfunctional elevators are just one problem at Williams Plaza,
according to a report released last week by state comptroller Carl McCall.
Unreliable boilers and a dramatically degenerated roof are among the
development's worst traits. McCall's study showed that problems at Williams
Plaza are common citywide: just around the corner at Independence Towers,
faulty elevators left cane-reliant seniors with a baffling choice: walk
upstairs, or impose on neighbors who live on lower floors and who might let
them spend the night.

Across the water at Staten Island's 693-unit Stapleton houses and in
Harlem's 1207-unit Drew Hamilton houses, McCall's staff found most kitchens
in need of immediate attention. And in the Bronx, McCall found, the heating
system for the 441 apartments in the Baychester Houses was rated as poor,
and bathrooms in the Linden Houses, with 1586 apartments in East New York,
had declined from their already lowly rating of poor a decade ago, the last
time the comptroller reviewed such developments.

The McCall study focuses on the 21 NYCHA projects that were built by the
city or the state; another 325 NYCHA developments are federal and were the
subject of a February McCall report. The 21 projects contain 20,000
apartments and are home to 59,000 residents. "NYCHA housing is one of the
most significant public housing systems in the country, a gem that New York
City should be able to be proud of," says McCall. "This is not simply
valuable infrastructure for the city; it is also home to thousands of
people. That's why we're looking critically at what we have now and asking
what can be done to ready it for the future."

Relying on NYCHA's own management reports that rate physical conditions,
McCall's staffers compared the results to a similar comptroller study done
10 years ago. "Much to our dismay," the current report states, "we conclude
that the buildings...have deteriorated significantly since we last reviewed
their condition."

Tenants of the developments don't need number-crunching bureaucrats to know
their buildings are in trouble. "We have many, many serious problems here,"
says Joseph Garber, a member of the New York City Public Housing Residents'
Alliance who has lived in Independence Towers, a cluster of five 21-story
buildings, since 1976. Independence Towers has been thrust into
Williamsburg's long-standing housing battle between Orthodox Jews and
Latinos, and is one of three buildings ordered by a federal judge to set
aside apartments for Latinos, since Jews have been favored there for years.

Garber, who himself expresses the housing dilemma in racial
terms—complaining about Latino supers and black tenants—acknowledges that
disrepair does not discriminate. "If the elevator doesn't work," he says,
"the effect is the same if you're black, white, green, or Hispanic."

The problem, predictably enough, is money. When the city and state built
public housing, it was assumed that the rent roll would cover
modernization. By the mid 1970s, rising costs proved that calculation
wrong, and tenants have been shortchanged since. Governor George Pataki
exacerbated the dilemma in 1998 when he eliminated an operating budget that
the state had provided to NYCHA annually since 1969—a move that has
resulted in two yet-unresolved NYCHA lawsuits against the governor. City
budgets have tried to bridge the gap, but even those have fallen short,
forcing NYCHA to channel federal money to pay for maintenance for city and
state stock. Spokespeople for the governor and for the mayor did not return

Even NYCHA does not dispute McCall's findings, saying the report "merely
underscores a well known fact: public housing in NYC continues to age...and
available funding is inadequate." In fact, 10 years ago, NYCHA and the
state comptroller figured modernizing state and city projects would have
cost $200 million; the price tag today is more than $1 billion.

The escalating costs make housing advocates wonder why city and state
officials would not intervene sooner. "I hope it's just an oversight, but I
fear an attitude that says people who live in public housing should not be
full citizens, and that if you live there, you'd better not expect much,"
says David Jones, president and CEO of the Community Service Society. "This
is clearly so important, but it is happening below the sightlines. There's
been no public discussion about this."

McCall's report comes as NYCHA itself is undergoing profound
transformation. In January, chair Ruben Franco resigned after three
firefighters were killed battling a blaze in a NYCHA building where the
sprinklers were turned off; both Franco and Mayor Rudy Giuliani deny the
resignation was linked to the deaths. And the authority faces a huge
challenge this fall when a controversial federal law will give working
people preference in getting placement in public housing.

McCall's most recent report mimics his February study of NYCHA's federally
funded buildings. McCall found two-thirds of the 104 projects surveyed had
at least one major problem. But unlike city- and state-backed developments,
federally built developments had improved in some areas.

"What you start to see here is clear," says Jones. "There are some in the
city and state administration who have been seeking the privatization of
public housing, and one way to accelerate that is to let the buildings go
to rack and ruin until they're too deterioriated to fix. It's pretty
Machiavellian, I must admit, but we're not talking about a huge amount of
money to fix this, and this is a time of real surplus. We're not talking
about expanding public housing, just keeping it up to code. You just start
to wonder why they won't do it."


PRESS RELEASE -- MetLife the SOB Landlord

For Immediate Release
David Feld (781) 981-4734
Bobbie Morton (617)332-9090 x349

Waltham, Massachusetts Boycotts MetLife

In a bold effort to encourage corporate responsibility, last night the City
Council of Waltham, Massachusetts overwhelmingly passed a resolution to
boycott the insurance giant MetLife.  The action was the City's latest
response to the refusal of a MetLife real estate subsidiary to bargain in
good faith with the tenants of Northgate Heights Apartments -- outraged at
sudden rent increases of 30 to 45%.

"We need to attempt to send a strong message," stated Council member David
Gately. "If this burns a bridge with MetLife, they lit the match."

The resolution officially condemns "the predatory behavior of MetLife in
coming into our community to engage in real estate speculation that profits
on the backs of working people, retired elders and disabled persons."  The
measure announces the City's resolve to officially boycott MetLife products
and encourages Waltham residents to boycott the company and its subsidiaries.

MetLife's SSR Realty, purchased Northgate Heights in September 1998. At
that time, they announced rent increases of 35-50%, which translates into
$300-500 for the tenants.  Many tenants are long term residents, senior
citizens and people with disabilities.  The Northgate Heights Tenants
Association has been trying to negotiate with SSR Realty to increase rents
by 15% in year one, but the landlords have refused to negotiate in good faith.

"In May, after our first meetings with SSR Realty, they offered a special
rent program for 'hardship' cases," explained David Feld from the Tenants
Association.  "But the program was so narrowly defined it would only help a
small handful of tenants."

As the Tenants Association struggled, more and more tenants were forced to
move out. "People get desperate and have to move," said Jeff Auerbach, also
a Tenants Association member. "Obviously, SSR Realty would rather have
corporate apartments and short term tenants because very few new people are
moving in as the old tenants move out." The Tenants Association believes
there are approximately 50 remaining original tenants.

"We simply want them to negotiate a reasonable settlement," says Feld. "And
we want this to be a wake up call for them and other companies who feel
they can come into a tight knit community and try to destroy it. The people
of Waltham have shown MetLife that they are human beings and not an income

For more information on the boycott contact the Northgate Heights Tenants
Association at (781) 891-6689 or David S. Kaplan at 781.647.0408.

NYtenants Tenant's Online is subscription-based. To unsubscribe, go to
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Date: Thu, 15 Jul 1999 23:25:52 -0400
Subject: Tenants Online 7/15/99

Tenants Online                                            7/15/99
To unsubscribe, see the bottom of this newsletter
In this issue...

1. Cold Comfort (Tenants in Supportive Housing) City Limits


Cold Comfort
By Kemba Johnson
City Limits, July 1999

In supportive housing, tenants get a clean room and a helping hand. But if
they cross the line, they get the boot. X-Kaleem Shabazz has gotten used to
fixing smashed locks and kicked-in doors. When you're an assistant manager
for the St. Nicholas, a supportive housing hotel in Harlem, making minor
repairs is just part of another day at the office.

Some of the residents at the St. Nicholas are on the losing side of a
battle with crack or alcohol. Others play hide-and-seek with loan sharks.
Many, disavowed by family or friends, are fighting for both financial and
emotional stability. So it's not uncommon for a door to bear the brunt of
the anger, embarrassment, frustration, exposure and exhaustion. "Many
residents don't have good stress management skills," says Shabazz bluntly.

St. Nicholas is run by Praxis Housing Initiatives, which has three other
single-room occupancy hotels like it. It's one of 79 nonprofits in the city
coping with the day-to-day dramas of providing both housing and services
for the recently homeless, people with mental illness, substance abusers
and people living with HIV or AIDS. It isn't a job for the faint of heart.
"With the people we house comes a mentality," Shabazz explains. "For the
person on the outside, kicking in doors is a big deal. For us it's not a
code red."

She sympathizes with her tenants as they wrestle with stalled lives and
chemical dependence, even when they take it out on the decor. She once
smoked crack, too, and spent time in prison for three separate felony
convictions. For five years after she got out of jail, she says, her life
was going nowhere, slowly. Nobody would give her a job until two years ago,
when Praxis executive director Father Gordon Duggins hired her.

Shabazz, who lives in another Praxis SRO, credits the group with putting
her back on the road to a real life. Since then, she has started a
motivational lecture series for and by women fighting addiction. "Praxis is
my foundation for a lot of things," she says. "I'm picking up skills to be
marketable so those doors that five, two, three years ago were closed in my
face won't be slammed again."

Not every tenant is so pleased with Praxis or its fellow nonprofit
landlords. There are bitter trade-offs to running supportive housing:
Managers maintain order in these SROs by imposing strict, even oppressive
house rules, such as limits on visitors and room checks with little or no

But the truly ugly side of supportive housing is the quick and dirty
evictions that clear problem tenants out without a trip to court. "In these
kinds of settings, often the agency doesn't really understand the role of
the landlord," acknowledges Vickie Neilson, senior staff attorney at the
HIV Law Project, who has trained supportive housing landlords and
represented their tenants in court. "One provider told me, 'Well, if I
followed the rules, I'd be running a crack house here,'" she says.

Very little about running and living in supportive housing is black and
white. Tenants can be alternatively needy and destructive, and supportive
housing managers find that their roles as landlord and social worker often
collide. While illegal evictions make the difficult job of managing the
housing easier, it also puts vulnerable tenants on an express track to
homelessness. Defenders say the practice is a necessary evil, the only
thing that stands between housing and bedlam. But few of the troubled
tenants know their rights, ending up back on the street, still vulnerable,
angry or lost, with nowhere else to turn.

Supportive housing sounds like a liability lawyer's dream: Spend the city
or state's money to renovate a neglected building in a low-income
neighborhood. Populate it with a mix of homeless people, mentally ill
residents, former substance abusers and people with HIV or AIDS. Toss in a
few community members for good measure. The truly ambitious also hire
ex-cons to maintain order and keep the floors clean; Praxis has about 85 on

In the last 15 years, supportive housing has developed into a working
alternative to commercial for-profit SROs, where landlords get paid around
$1,100 a month from the city just to provide a bed for people referred from
the city's mental health, homelessness and AIDS departments.

For nonprofit supportive housing managers, the bed is just the beginning.
Each agency offers or refers tenants out to a range of programs-employment
training, GED classes, substance abuse counseling, help navigating the
government benefits maze. "The intent in the nonprofit is to have people
succeed in housing. They know your normal comings and goings, so if your
behavior become erratic, someone notices and can work with you," says
Maureen Friar, executive director of the statewide Supportive Housing
Network. "Services are voluntary; folks have access when they agree to be
part of the [building]."

In the last few years, supportive housing has become the little black dress
of the housing world: Everyone who is anyone has one. The YMCA runs seven;
Volunteers of America has six, as does Brooklyn Catholic Charities. In the
last two years, the number of nonprofit SRO rooms increased from 5,714 to
11,691. This year, 17 more supportive housing SROs are supposed to open.
Two-thirds of the rooms house referrals from the city, and the rest are
generally filled by poor community residents who don't necessarily need all
the services.

It can cost up to $85,000 a room to rehab an SRO building. Developing one
of these buildings requires navigating a swamp of government funding
streams: federal low-income housing tax credits, city SRO loans and an
array of programs for people with mental illness, AIDS or HIV. Once it's
occupied, overhead costs and social services push the price of maintaining
the room to about 10 to 12 grand a year, largely paid by direct subsidy or
residents' government benefits: Section 8 certificates, welfare,
Supplementary Security Income.

For the most part, nonprofits take SRO buildings that are in disrepair and
make them habitable again, turning dingy, dusty hotels into low-income
dorms. At the Euclid on Broadway, run by West Side Federation for Senior
Housing, bright lighting, stark white walls and shiny polished floors lend
the building an institutional look. But the uniformity is an improvement
over the sagging floors and perpetual leaks that dogged the building under
its private owner.

With a heavy capital investment and a volatile constituency, supportive
housing usually comes with plenty of discipline. In their simplest form,
house rules merely spell out safety and hygiene guidelines that clarify
residents' different interpretations of common sense and common decency:
Don't leave open food in common areas, don't throw things out the window,
don't walk naked through the hallways, don't prostitute yourself.

Many nonprofits also tack on rules that limit visitors: who they are, when
they can show up and how long they stay. The most restrictive agencies go
so far as to inspect rooms with little or no notice. In Praxis buildings,
drop-in visitors are allowed only between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and residents
need written permission for overnight guests. Duggins says the rules
protect tenants from drug dealers or loan sharks. "In the best of all
worlds I wish I wouldn't have to do that," he says. "But to maintain the
building we have to."

The fear of supportive housing landlords is understandable, says New York
Peer AIDS Education Coalition executive director Jeanne Bergman, who used
to work for Housing Works, owner of two such SROs. "It's a difficult
situation," she says. "If high-level order is not imposed, then it will be
miserable for everyone. Otherwise it's uninhabitable for most of the
tenants, even if some tenants feel like they are being treated like children."

To tenants and their advocates, it's not clear how kicking visitors out at
10 p.m. helps keep a place clean and safe. "It's very much a missionary
mentality: 'We know what's best, and you'll do what we tell you to,
otherwise we will withhold the goodies we offer,'" says Betsy Kane,
executive director of the West Side SRO Law Project. "You have to be open
to unannounced inspections in your room, peculiar rules and limits on your
visitors. There are no controls about this. In fact, there are no
restrictions on what the nonprofit can do. That's utterly shocking."

Sometimes it's also downright illegal. When Kevin Stricklen got out of jail
in 1997 with no job, no local family to take care of him, and nowhere to
stay, the only place that would take him in was Praxis' New Riverside Inn.
They gave him a bed, a job and acceptance.

They would soon regret it. Last June, after working at Praxis' St.
Nicholas, Stricklen wound up punching a coworker during a fight at work.
His boss sent him home to cool down, but when he arrived back at his SRO,
the manager had apparently heard about his scuffle and ordered him to clear
out. "He said the locks were changed, and if I entered the premises, I
would be arrested," Stricklen says.

It was an illegal lock-out, and Stricklen, knowing his rights as a tenant,
had an officer from the local precinct help him get back in his room.

But the issue of tenants' rights soon became moot. A few days later,
Stricklen wound up back in jail on parole violations, including a broken
curfew and an accusation that he hit his girlfriend. (He denies the latter
charge, saying his girlfriend's mother lodged the complaint, which his
girlfriend recanted.)

Four months later, after he was released from prison, Stricklen sued Praxis
over the eviction. The Housing Court judge wanted to reinstate Stricklen,
but Praxis claimed it had no vacancies. Instead the agency worked out a
settlement, paying Stricklen about $3,500 for his ordeal. He used the money
to start a new life as a construction worker in South Carolina.

It's hard to find a hero here. Stricklen, stressed out and frustrated, was
argumentative and potentially very disruptive. On the other hand, he still
had the right not to be summarily thrown out of his room. The St. Nicholas
managers broke the law.

Both those working with supportive housing landlords and those who litigate
against them report that stories like Stricklen's are common. Even Jennifer
Flynn, executive director of the AIDS Housing Network, a coalition of
nonprofit landlords, admits that "of course it happens." On the most basic
level, supportive housing seeks to help residents become better, more
self-sufficient people. At the same time, many tenants are just looking for
a safe place to live. Is it then a big surprise when some tenants defy an
agency's agenda? "The nonprofit holds out the housing as a carrot [to
taking the social services]," Neilson says. "Many of the agencies see
themselves as social service providers; clients are primarily taking it
because they need the housing."

When tenants pay rent late or deliberately withhold it, when they are
thrown out of special programs the nonprofit runs, when the management
thinks tenants are getting uppity or becoming a nuisance-or simply when
they quarrel with someone in management-they may wind up getting thrown
out, with little recourse. "This is a vulnerable population," says
Katharine Clemens, an attorney with the Mental Health Law Project. "They
won't know their rights or assert their rights."

It's not that the courts won't listen. On the contrary, almost any decent
supportive housing landlord's grievance is good enough to get a tenant
evicted. But it can take two to four weeks to lawfully evict someone, and
there are the rare complicated cases that can wind through the courts for
months or even years. There are also lawyers' fees, ranging from $500 to
$2,000. And Flynn points out that nonprofits new to the world of property
management may not know housing law, and may not have an attorney to help
them sort it out.

With no shortage of troubled patrons waiting for a chance to move into
supportive housing, each with his or her own subsidy checks, the temptation
to keep the peace-or just get rid of a wiseguy-can trump the desire to help
someone recover. But tenants have to pay something, often a third of their
income, and withholding it in protest or hardship doesn't sit well with
management. "Many social agencies lie to the tenant to make them believe
they don't have tenancy rights because they want the money," Bergman notes.

It's impossible to know how many residents have been turned out of
supportive housing without due process. But at least part of the story is
documented in the file cabinets of the West Side SRO Law Project. Each
week, the nonprofit's attorneys counsel two or three tenants fighting an
illegal eviction. For example, one tenant terminated in 1996 from a rehab
program at a Volunteers of America building on West 97th Street was
simultaneously told to leave his room. The next year, another tenant was
forced out of the program and given a two-day eviction notice.

Stricklen has seen this process from both sides. Back when he was still
working for Praxis, part of his job was helping get rid of unwanted
tenants. He says Duggins would tell him to prevent certain tenants from
signing the weekly sheet checked by the welfare agency's Division of AIDS
Services and Income Support (DASIS). After a while, the "missing" tenant's
case would be closed. "If he didn't like you, he would instruct us not to
let them sign in," Stricklen says. "It would seem like they weren't there.
If people don't know their rights they'll be on the streets."

Last year, after one tenant couldn't find his name on the sign-in sheet,
Kane had to write a letter to DASIS stating he was still living there so
the tenant wouldn't be thrown out. Duggins refuses to comment on the
matter. "I don't want to know what Mr. Stricklen says," he says with

Part of the temptation to expel troubled tenants may be the inability to
deal with them through services. According to Friar, agencies may have only
a few counselors with a master's degree in social work on staff, relying
mostly on case managers who link residents to services. It's a classic
Catch-22, Duggins says. Because this population is so difficult, it's hard
to get someone with an MSW to take the job. Praxis managed to hired three.
"It's difficult to find people who are in the trenches because this is not
office work," he says. "This is not sanitized."

But Clemens is unmoved. She says nonprofit landlords often tell her that as
an advocate she doesn't understand how hard it is to help troubled tenants,
let alone live with them. "It comes with the territory," she says. "You're
in the business of mental health. Don't get weepy about it."

Some groups, recognizing the tension between the landlord and social worker
roles, have simply chosen sides. "The economics of the agency should not be
dependent on rental payments," says Bergman. For Common Ground's mammoth
SRO, the Times Square, which the nonprofit renovated and now manages,
social work and case management are contracted out to the Center for Urban
Community Services. So tenants pay their rent to one agency and seek help
from another.

"It's hard to be a landlord and a case manger at the same time. It's a
conflict," says Fernando Mariscal, an AIDS counselor. Mariscal now works at
Community Access' Gouverneur Court building, which has hired a private firm
to run it. "You can't be an advocate and be evicting them."

With an advocate unencumbered by the duties of collecting rent, tenants
gain a friend willing to convince a landlord to give them another chance,
or a reprieve from the rent for a while. Managers likewise don't have to
hold tenants' hands. Separating the landlord from the social worker
probably won't protect all the supportive housing tenants in the city from
illegal evictions. And it probably won't mean they'll be saved either.

But at the very least dividing the two may conquer all the confusion.

First Rights

Late April when Martin Haggland walked through the front door of his
building, he felt like a party guest. Soda, chips, mouth-watering cookies
and a bright banner invited tenants of the Euclid, a single-room occupancy
building on 86th Street and Broadway, to sign a new lease.

It turned out to be a surprise party. Their landlord, the nonprofit West
Side Federation for Senior Housing, was adding 61 house rules to the new
lease. The new arrangement included a rider that prohibited more than three
visitors after 11 p.m. without permission, barred open containers of
alcohol in the common areas, announced routine inspections of the rooms,
and-perhaps most distressing for Haggland, a computer
illustrator-prohibited using a room for commercial means.

House rules are a common tool to keep supportive housing buildings safe and
clean. But Haggland and nearly 50 other tenants in the 300-unit building
aren't relying on the supportive housing helping hand. They lived in the
Euclid before West Side even bought the building-in Haggland's case, since

"Some of the tenants feel it's a real intrusion into their life," says
Haggland, the former head of the tenants association. "They feel they have
to control their clients. We're not their client."

This problem has become more common as nonprofits buy or lease an
increasing share of the city's SRO stock. If a project is financed in part
by city dollars, up to 40 percent of a nonprofit building's residents can
be low-income people from the community. About 3,900 such residents,
including pre-existing tenants, are now living in buildings under rules
meant to keep ex-cons and drug addicts in line.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, says Maureen Friar, executive director
of the Supportive Housing Network of New York. "[These tenants] are usually
happy to live in a building that is functioning well," Friar explains.
"House rules add a level of security to people who may not have had that in
a long time. It's not like lights out at 10 p.m."

Officials at Euclid have not returned calls for comment, but Haggland says
the building manager said he would be exempted from some the more
restrictive rules. But he's still wary: "I feel like Big Brother is
watching me."

NYtenants Tenant's Online is subscription-based. To unsubscribe, go to
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the NYtenants Mailing List form. Make sure your email is exactly the same
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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, 15 Jul 1999 23:48:19 -0400
Subject: Tenants Online 7/15/99 (Part 2)

Tenants Online (Part 2)                                   7/15/99
To unsubscribe, see the bottom of this newsletter
In this issue...

1. Panel Rejects Debt Collection Law (Law Journal)
2. Hostel Takeover: Are Bunk Beds in Charas’s Future? (Voice)
3. Rents Increase Significantly in Many Cities (Inman News)


July 6, 1999
Panel Rejects Debt Collection Law
New York Law Journal
July 6, 1999


IN ONE OF a trio of landlord-tenant-related decisions released last week,
the Appellate Term in the Second Department announced that contrary to
recent federal rulings, it did not believe the Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act (FDCPA) applied to three-day notices in a proceeding seeking
eviction for nonpayment of rent.

In any event, the three-judge panel said last Monday in Wilson Han
Association Inc. v. Arthur that it would not vacate an eviction judgment
even if the notice to the tenant in a Brooklyn apartment did violate the act.

The first state appellate ruling on the application of the federal law --
which requires debt collectors to advise debtors in writing that they have
30 days to contest the validity of an alleged debt -- diverges dramatically
from the federal appellate ruling last December in Romea v. Heiberger &
Associates, 163 F3d 111.

There the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said it concluded
that back rent is a debt under the statute, and if the three-day notice is
signed by the landlord's attorney, the attorney fell into the category of
debt collector.

However, Justices Gloria Cohen Aronin, Leonard Scholnick and Michelle
Weston Patterson of the 2nd and 11th Judicial Districts, covering Brooklyn,
Queens and Staten Island, noted that if they were presented with the
question, they would not necessarily conclude that three-day notices
required by New York's Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law §711(2)
were subject to the FDCPA.

"Had Congress intended to alter statutory and contractual rights concerning
property rentals by tranforming every three-day, five-day or 10-day notice
for a default in rent payment into a 30-day notice when the notice is given
by an agent rather than the creditor, such an intention should have
appeared in the statutory language and the legislative history, which are
silent on this point," the Appellate Term judges said.

In the case before them, the question was whether the tenant's claim that
the landlord's attorney, who signed the notice, violated the act was a
defense to the nonpayment proceeding. The court said it was not.
"Even if the notice violated the FDCPA, it would still be a sufficient
predicate to a nonpayment proceeding," the judges said.

Rent Overpayment

The same bench also decided two other cases from Brooklyn last week
concerning rent overpayment claims and a landlord's failure to file in a
timely manner a required rent registration statement.

In Murray v. Morrison, the court ruled that where there had been no initial
registration filed, the legal regulated rent was not the last
rent-controlled rent, as had been ruled by the Housing Court below, but
that a fair market rent for the apartment had to be established in a fair
market rent appeal.

The court sustained the dismissal of the landlord's nonpayment proceeding
with leave to begin a new one based upon the establishment of a legal
regulated rent.

In the third case, Bragston Realty Corp. v. Dixon, the Appellate Term
stated that a tenant's rent overcharge claim does not occur when a missing
rent registration statement is filed late; rather, the overcharge occurs
when the registration should have been filed. Thus, if an overcharge claim
is not filed within four years of when the registration should have been
filed, the tenant's claim is time-barred.

The appearances in the three cases included Eliezer B. Kraus of Brooklyn
for Wilson Han Association, and Derek Dalmer of the Brooklyn office of the
Legal Aid Society in the FDCPA case; Martin S. Kera and Jay H. Litzman, of
Kera Graubard & Litzman, for landlord Rhea Murray, and Michael Adam Burger,
also from the Brooklyn office of the Legal Aid Society, for tenant Daniel
Morrison; and Meryl L. Wenig of Brooklyn for Bragston Realty Corp., and
Edward J. Josephson and Elisabeth Fiekowsky, of South Brooklyn Legal
Services, for tenant Sylvia Dixon.


July 7 - 13, 1999
Towers and Tenements, by j. a. lobbia
Hostel Takeover
Are Bunk Beds in Charas’s Future?

Police may have shed light late last month when they arrested two Long
Island City men in connection with the mysterious death of Armando Perez,
the 51-year-old Lower East Side activist who was found bleeding on a Queens
sidewalk in April. But the cause to which Perez dedicated himself—a cause
some friends say might have cost the activist his life—remains mired in

Last week, Lower East Side supporters of Charas/El Bohio, a vibrant
community and arts center founded by Perez 20 years ago and housed in a
former city school building on East 9th Street, rallied uptown. On June 29,
about 30 Charas supporters protested at 77th and Broadway, the site of the
Hotel Belleclaire, which Charas backers worry has become a misguided model
for the old schoolhouse's future. They say that Gregg Singer, a businessman
who bought the Charas building in a city auction last year, plans to turn
the 120,740-square-foot community center into an international hostel much
like the one run in the Hotel Belleclaire by a group called Banana Bungalow.

"People from Banana Bungalow came here and toured the building, and we
think he's planning to make a hostel here," says Susan Howard of Charas.
"He doesn't seem to care whether it fits the city's standard that this
building remain a community facility."

Singer told the Voice he has made no deal with Banana Bungalow. But he did
say he would "talk to anyone" whose plan for the building complies with a
city requirement that the Charas building be used as a community facility.
But critics say that even that limit offers small comfort. "Singer simply
says, 'I reserve the right to make this building anything the zoning
allows,' but there's a tremendous range of things he can do with it," says
Foster Maer, an attorney with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education
Fund, which is challenging the sale of the Charas building in federal
court. "It could be a medical facility, a nonprofit group, a nursing home...."

According to a Singer affidavit, one scenario calls for renting part of the
Charas building to a "nonprofit institution with sleeping accomodations
[sic]" for up to 130 rooms. Singer himself refused to elaborate on that
scheme, attributing the Charas protesters to the fact that "they pay $874 a
month to use most of that building, and that kind of tells the whole
story." He complained that community members "want me to give them a plan
on a silver platter, and they're not going to get it."

The fear that Singer might convert the Charas building to a hostel stems
from an overheard conversation that occurred in a St. Marks Place bistro.
According to two affidavits filed in the federal case, representatives from
Banana Bungalow toured the building on March 4, then went with
representatives of Singer to a restaurant, where Singer's reps urged the
Bungalow affiliates to consider moving into the building, saying "you're
Singer's best game in town right now." A Singer affidavit claims that none
of his representatives were at such a meeting, but a sign-in sheet shows
that Banana Bungalow founder Keith Schwebel did tour the building that day.
Schwebel did not return calls.

Tim Becker, one of the two eavesdroppers who filed an affidavit, says the
men "talked about Gregg Singer by name, and the entire conversation was
pointing to the one fellow from Banana Bungalow." Noting that the hostel
chain—with branches in Hollywood, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Miami, and
Waikiki Beach—allows only international travelers, Becker says, "Here's a
building zoned for community use only, but you can't stay there if you're
from the community, or even this country."

Perez and several other Lower East Siders founded Charas/El Bohio in 1979,
occupying the abandoned school building and ridding it of drug dealers.
Over the years, the building housed after-school programs, art studios,
community meeting rooms, and rehearsal space. Eventually, Charas leased the
site from the city, but Mayor Rudy Giuliani decided it should be auctioned.
On July 20, 1998, Singer bought it for $3.1 million.

The sale drew intense community ire, and typical Lower East Side
conspiracy-thinking was fueled by the city's refusal to reveal the buyer's
identity until forced to do so by a Freedom of Information Act request.
Charas's plight earned media attention not just because of the intensity of
the battle—court papers filed on behalf of Charas charge that the sale was
orchestrated by former city councilman, Giuliani pal, and all-around enemy
of Lower East Side progressives Antonio Pagan—but also because actress and
Charas board member Susan Sarandon protested the sale.

Perez himself vowed to go on a hunger strike in protest. When he was found
gravely injured outside his wife's Long Island City apartment on April 3,
friends speculated that Perez's political enemies might have played a role.
With last month's arrest, however, police say it is likely that Perez was
killed by members of a drug ring in retaliation for his efforts to get
drugs out of the neighborhood.

If Singer intends to house a Banana Bungalow­style hostel in the Charas
building, he'll have to chop its spacious rooms into cubbyholes. Banana
Bungalow's uptown digs accommodate four to 10 travelers in rooms outfitted
with bunk beds and scrappy furniture. On a recent tour of some of the
Bungalow rooms, which are spread throughout the hotel, some smelled dank;
uneven floors were covered with thin, worn carpet; ill-fitting kitchen
sinks dripped constantly.

The rooms are cheap—ranging from $24 to $30 per person, depending on the
number of occupants—but Banana Bungalow's existence has come at a price
dear to city tenants. The Hotel Belleclaire, which rents the rooms to the
Bungalow, is a single-room occupancy hotel, and for years provided
affordable housing for poor tenants, who rented rooms with shared baths and
kitchens. With tourism booming, however, many SROs have pushed out longtime
tenants in favor of higher-paying tourists.

Now, entire floors of the Belleclaire that once housed long-term renters
have been demolished, and the few who remain endure hardship. "We have
these constant power cuts and no electricity, and disruptions in water,"
says one long-term tenant. "My worry is, are they going to try to get us out?"

Stephen De Fazio, who began working as a Belleclaire manager in September,
says since he started, no tenant has been evicted and that renovation was
being done "around the permanent tenants," only a few of whom remain.
Indeed, it's not just long-term SRO tenants who are at risk. De Fazio says
Banana Bungalow itself will "eventually" move as the Belleclaire seeks to
increase its own share of rooms dedicated to higher-end tourists. Right
now, rooms range from $69 a night to $209, depending on whether they have
views and private baths.

Which means the hostel could well be looking for another home. At $30 a
person a night, a month's stay would come to about $900. Does that pass as
affordable housing on the Lower East Side?


Rents Increase Significantly in Many Cities
Inman News Service

Whether you live in Charlotte or Los Angeles, you likely got a little
surprise in your lease renewal letter--a whopping rent hike. Rents are
rising in most cities across the country--an average of five percent,
according to M/PF Research, Inc.’s latest U.S. Apartment Market Report, a
quarterly report that tracks market conditions in 56 cities across the nation.

"The economy remains very strong which creates a lot of jobs that pull
renters into these metro areas," says Greg Willett, market analyst for M/PF
Research, Inc., a real estate market consulting firm in Dallas, TX.

"That creates demand, and in many markets we’re not building new apartments
to meet that demand."

This is particularly true for folks in the Western states where new
apartment construction is not as prevalent as in other parts of the
country, says Willett. According to the report, Los Angeles renters had a
12 percent rent surge in the past year, San Diego an 8 percent rise, and
Sacramento an 8.8 percent jump. San Franciscans get a bit of a break with a
3.7 percent rise. But considering the already astronomical rent prices in
San Francisco, that’s not much of a consolation prize.

While high rents are nothing new to Californians, Mid-Westerners might be a
bit shocked by their rental prices this year. Chicago rents are up 6.2
percent, and Cleveland is up a surprising 8.5 percent.

"Our market in Cleveland has remained fairly tight so landlords have been
able to exact fairly significant rent increases," says Frank Warren,
President of Karnes Research Company, commercial real estate consulting firm.

Even in the South where apartment construction is much more prevalent, some
smaller cities are experiencing rising rents.

"With five percent rent growth, San Antonio is above its regional level,"
says Willett. "It has healthy job growth but not a whole lot of apartments
have come on-line."

So what’s a budget-conscious renter to do about the rising costs of renting
an apartment?

Move to the Southwest?

There’s always Albuquerque, NM. The already low rents in Albuquerque just
dropped 2.4 percent in the past year.

Okay, moving to New Mexico probably isn’t a realistic option for most
people. But a renter can dream, right?

It’s certainly one of the more affordable markets, but it’s getting a job
that’s the problem.

"Albuquerque has been dragging behind other cities," says Willett. "It’s
one of the few markets that’s not producing many new jobs."

Can’t move to Albuquerque? Try one of the other two cities that saw a
decline last year--Oklahoma City or Greenville, NC.


If you can’t move to another city, you can investigate buying a home.

As a renter advocate, there comes a time when I have to tell the truth
about renting. And the reality of the housing markets these days is that it
doesn’t always pay to rent in some parts of this country. In areas where
home prices are low and rents are high, you really should evaluate whether
you’d make a good first-time home buyer candidate.

Every renter’s financial position is different, so you need to look at your
own situation independent of market statistics. But there are a few basic
things to consider:

- Can you stay put for a few years? If so, you might be better off buying.
Especially if you don’t plan to move within the next five years, which is
how long most housing experts believe it takes to recoup your closing costs
through appreciation on your house.

- Do you have enough savings? Renters who might be better off buying may
not have enough savings to cover all the costs of buying a home. The
closing costs and down payment can amount to thousands of dollars, though
local programs might help you buy your first home. Renters may even be
surprised to find that they can put down as little as three or five percent
of the home’s purchase price.

- Are home prices within your reach? The median home price in Cleveland is
$119,200, but the median in Los Angeles is $185,000. You may have no
problem buying a house in Cleveland on your salary, but if you make that
same money in Los Angeles, an average home might be out of reach. In
housing markets that are extremely overheated, like San Francisco, where
the median is $331,100, just saving the five percent down payment might
seem like an impossibility.

"In the long term, most people are better off economically in terms of
building wealth if they buy a home," says Fred Flick, vice-president of
Research for the National Association of Realtors in Washington, DC. "But
if you don’t have a large income and you are paying the lowest tax burden
rate, perhaps you don’t want a mortgage."

Negotiate Longer Leases

For all the renters who can’t move or buy for any reason, there still
remains the problem of rising rents. Rent control in some cities can take
the burden off of renters by minimizing the increases each year. For
renters who don’t have rent control to protect their rent increases, better
budgeting practices and longer leases may be the only hope.

If you can budget for the possibility of a higher rent increase next year,
then you will be prepared for the worst and hopefully be pleasantly
surprised by a lower-than-expected increase in the end.

You can also negotiate longer leases to limit the number of times rents
will rise. Month-to-month agreements leave you the most vulnerable to
frequent rent increases because landlords have the option of raising rents
with a month’s notice in a non-rent-controlled area.

A lease of a year or more protects you from unexpected raises. But a lease
can only protect you for the time it covers. Once your lease is up, a
landlord in a non-rent-controlled area can raise the rent any amount, as
long as the increase isn’t discriminatory or in retaliation for making
certain complaints in some states, such as a complaint to the health inspector.

If your income is increasing at a slower rate than rents, you may want to
find a landlord that chooses not to raise rents as quickly as the rental
market rises. Admittedly, this is easier said then done, but such landlords
do exist. You can also appeal to your landlord’s business sense. If you are
a good tenant, your landlord may make an exception to keep you as a
long-term tenant.

Original Publication Date: 06/27/1999

NYtenants Tenant's Online is subscription-based. To unsubscribe, go to
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Date: Thu, 29 Jul 1999 16:36:30 -0400
Subject: Tenants Online 7/28/99

Tenants Online                                            7/28/99
To unsubscribe, see the bottom of this newsletter
In this issue...

1. Clinton Special District Coalition Forum: '8th Ave. - What's Next'
   Monday, August 2nd

2. Y.M.C.A. in Chelsea Sheds Its Tenants (NY Times)

3. Rental Laws That Leave No Winners (Tierney, NY Times)
   (Tierney is a noted landlord apologist)


AUGUST 2 at 7:00 pm at Hartley House

The Clinton Special District Coalition Community Forum

New York State Justice William McCooe has overturned Mayor Giuliani’s plan
allowing huge skyscrapers in Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen using Air Rights from
Broadway Theaters. The City is expected to appeal the court decision.

• Update on the CSDC lawsuit challenging ‘Air Rights’ in Clinton. What
about the City’s appeal?

• What will be the future of Eighth Avenue?

• How does Times Square Development Pressure impact our neighborhood?

• How other neighborhoods deal with overdevelopment threats?

• How you can help — get involved and contribute to the effort to defend
Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen.

• Audience Questions and Answers


Elliot Sclar
   Professor of Urban Planning, Columbia University, Expert on the Clinton
Special District.

Richard Gottfried
   New York State Assembly Member and Plaintiff on the 8th Ave. lawsuit.

Antonia Bryson, Esq.
   Attorney representing CSDC in the 8th Avenue legal challenge.

Robert Kalin
   Clinton Tenant Activist and Plaintiff on the 8th Ave. lawsuit.

Other elected officials and representatives from Community Boards 4 and 5
have been invited to attend.

Monday, August 2 at 7:00 p.m.
Hartley House
413 West 46th Street

Clinton Special District Coalition
phone: 212.581.9022  •  •  email:


July 17, 1999
New York Times
Y.M.C.A. in Chelsea Sheds Its Tenants

For the last 21 years, Davidson Garrett has hung his belts on the doorknob
of Room 355 at the McBurney Y.M.C.A. on West 23d Street in Manhattan,
written poetry with posters of Joan Sutherland and Leontyne Price -- "my
two ladies" -- beaming down at him from the wall, eaten all his meals out
because he doesn't have a kitchen, brushed his teeth in the communal
bathroom down the hall and called all of this home.

"Welcome to Buckingham Palace West," he told a visitor the other day.

But just a few weeks ago, Garrett, 46, was informed that he and the 33
other men who are his neighbors and pay rents ranging from $80 to $120 a
week would have to leave. The Y.M.C.A. of Greater New York, which operates
19 branches in the city and upstate, has decided to sell the 95-year-old
structure in Chelsea and build a gym and health club on another location in
the neighborhood -- without residences.

Having begun a renovation of McBurney -- the first Y in New York City when
it was built on Fourth Avenue in 1869 (it moved to 23d Street in 1904) --
Y.M.C.A. officials said they discovered extensive structural problems that
would have made the project cost anywhere from $11 million to $15 million,
much more than the $3 million originally budgeted.

But the Y.M.C.A. says the decision to remove McBurney's tenants is actually
part of a longtime shift by the organization to phase out residences. It is
also part of a commitment made by the organization's New York branches in
1990 to emphasize serving children and families.

Tenant advocates say the situation at McBurney is emblematic of a larger
trend on the part of nonprofit organizations like the Y.M.C.A., the Roman
Catholic Church and universities to eliminate traditional
single-room-occupancy housing in Manhattan, now that those properties have
become much more valuable.

"We have 40,000 S.R.O. units, and we're losing them so fast we can't keep
track of them," said Elizabeth Kane, director of the West Side S.R.O. Law
Project, part of the Goddard Riverside Community Center. "We have no policy
in place for where people are going to go and how we're going to replace
this housing."

Y.M.C.A.'s in New York City had historically served as a refuge for young
men moving to the city from rural areas. The last residence was built in
1933 in Harlem, and most of the Y's remaining residences are now occupied
by students and transitional tenants.

In recent years, this kind of housing has become nearly impossible to find,
particularly in gentrifying areas like Chelsea. "It's been tough to keep
any affordable housing in this neighborhood," said State Senator Thomas K.
Duane, whose lower Manhattan district includes Chelsea. "So to lose
permanent homes for longtime tenants is just terrible."

Duane, along with the Councilwoman in the area, Christine Quinn, sent a
letter to Paula L. Gavin, the president of the Y.M.C.A. of Greater New
York, on July 14 saying, "We find the eviction of any residential tenants
absolutely unacceptable" and that "it is the Y.M.C.A.'s responsibility to
guarantee continued housing to all of its residential tenants."

When asked for her response to the letter, Ms. Gavin said in a statement:
"I have spoken with Senator Duane this afternoon and have assured him that
it is not our intent to evict any long-term resident of the McBurney
Y.M.C.A. On the contrary, it is our intention to assist them in locating
alternative suitable housing."

At a meeting last month at which the Y informed elected officials about its
plans to sell the building, Duane said officials were not informed that
those plans included evicting the tenants. Pamela Bayless, a spokeswoman
for the Y.M.C.A. of Greater New York, said it was the officials'
responsibility to raise the issue of the tenants and that "it did not come

"We were focused on the building," Ms. Bayless said.

Ms. Kane of the S.R.O. law project said few of the tenants have any legal
recourse; nonprofits like the Y are exempt from rent regulations and can
evict tenants summarily and without cause. A few of the residents of
McBurney, however, moved there before 1971, when the exemption went into
effect, Ms. Kane said, and are therefore covered by stabilization
protections and could effectively fight eviction.

Tenants this week seemed dazed by the news and somewhat in denial. "The
floor dropped out from underneath me," said William Rowland, 80, a former
waiter at the Copacabana who said he had lived at McBurney for 23 years and
suffered from heart fibrillation, a hernia and -- most recently -- gout in
his right big toe. "I was scared," Rowland said. "I don't want to be a
homeless guy out on the street."

Robert Bryan, 73, a former elevator operator with a gray-flecked beard,
added, "I didn't know this was coming." Asked where he was going to go,
Bryan said: "I haven't the slightest idea."

Patrick Jaramillo, 65, who said he had lived at the Y for 19 years and is
completely deaf, said he was shaken by the prospect of eviction. "I thought
this was a place where I never had to worry about anything," he said. "It's
a small place for me to sleep." He said he paid $112 per week until he
turned 65 and the rent went down to $80.

Meanwhile, the Y.M.C.A. says it has enlisted Lutheran Social Services of
Metropolitan New York to help the residents relocate. "We're very concerned
about each of these 34 people," said Ms. Gavin of the Y. "We will do
everything we can to get them to the right and suitable housing."

There seemed to be different versions of what tenants were told about when
they had to leave. The tenants said that the residence director, Thomas
Bynum, told them they had to be out by September. Ms. Bayless, the Y.M.C.A.
spokeswoman, confirmed as much. But Bynum said he gave the tenants no
specific date and Ms. Gavin said there was no deadline.

Because the city mandates that 60 percent of those who move into supported
S.R.O. housing be referred by the city, Ms. Kane said, many are people from
shelters, people with AIDS or people with mental illnesses -- a different
population from the Y's self-sufficient longtime residents.

Sitting in his small room the other day, surrounded by teetering stacks of
opera CD's and cassettes along with piles of his poetry, Garrett said he
had no idea where he would go. At $120 a week, Garrett said, living at the
Y has made his life possible as an actor, poet and taxi driver -- the room
cost $40 a week when he first arrived in 1978.

He says he believes the Y wants to empty the building to make it more
attractive to a buyer. "It's supposed to be a Christian organization, but
they're putting profits before people," he said. "They gave us two months
to leave a 21-year-old life."

Chelsea has been home to similar battles. In 1996, some of the 28 tenants
of Leo House Annex, a century-old hotel, also on West 23d Street, resisted
eviction until the last three tenants finally left in 1998.

Indeed, some longtime Chelsea residents are already exercised about the
fate of the McBurney 34. "It is just pitiful," said Jane Wood, 92, who
helped found the Chelsea Coalition on Housing and has lived in the area for
50 years. "Those men who live there -- this is their only home and they're
not going to be able to find another.

"It's taking away what the community wants and needs: an integrated
neighborhood. That's what makes Chelsea so unusual."

The Greater New York Y, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2002,
said its transformation of McBurney is part of a larger strategy to serve 1
in 10 New York City children -- a total of 170,000 -- by the year 2000;
they are currently at 154,000.

While the Y closed the William Sloane House location, at 34th Street and
Ninth Avenue in 1991, which was exclusively a residence and is now a rental
apartment building, the organization recently opened two new Y's -- one on
Staten Island in 1997 and one in Long Island City in March, both without

The Y.M.C.A. of Greater New York has angered another neighborhood -- the
Upper West Side -- by selling the air rights of its branch on West 63d
Street to Vornado Realty Trust so it could build a 41-story condominium.

All Garrett knows is, after showering with Y.M.C.A. towels, sleeping on
Y.M.C.A. sheets and listening to his favorite opera -- "Elektra" by Strauss
-- care of Y.M.C.A. electricity for the last 21 years, he can hardly
imagine living anywhere else. "I'm not angry with any malice, but I feel
very broken-hearted that I have to leave my little abode," he said. "This
has been a safe haven for me. I went through two deaths of my parents in
this room. I started writing poems in this room."

One of the poems in the series Garrett recently compiled, "Arias of a
Rhapsodic Spirit: Poetry Written While Living at the Y.M.C.A. 1978-1998,"
describes winters in his small apartment. It concludes:

As the snowflakes fly, an inner warmth of hope
still kindles the fire of future expectations.
For today the room is safe, toasty and without pretensions.
It is Home.


New York Times
July 26, 1999
Rental Laws That Leave No Winners

Robert Dabrowski has been nominated by his landlady for the 10 Worst
Tenants list, and at first glance he seems deserving. The bare facts of his
resumé since 1988 would strike fear into any property owner.

Dabrowski lives at 24 Minetta Lane, just off the Avenue of the Americas in
Greenwich Village, in a small building owned by Pari Dulac. She runs the
restaurant on the first floor, La Bohème. Dabrowski lives on the second
floor in a 900-square-foot apartment with four rooms and a terrace.

In 1988, Ms. Dulac told him she wanted to exercise her right to move into
the apartment herself. Dabrowski, who was then paying just $427 a month,
under the rent stabilization program, responded by attacking on another
legal flank. Citing records from the 1950's -- long before he or his
landlady set foot in the building -- he argued that the maximum legal rent
was only $30 because the apartment was covered by older rent control rules.

Buoyed by an early victory, Dabrowski stopped paying any rent for most of
the next 10 years as the legal dispute continued. He also filed a stream of
complaints with various agencies about alleged violations at the apartment
and at Ms. Dulac's restaurant. He photographed, for instance, bags of
garbage that he said her restaurant had illegally placed at the corner
instead of in front of the building. She accused him of moving the bags
there so he could photograph them and file a complaint.

Finally, last December, the State Supreme Court resolved the rent question
by ruling against Dabrowski and ordering him to pay $41,000 in back rent.
But Dabrowski still isn't about to pay. He plans to file for bankruptcy
this week, which will enable him, at least temporarily, to avoid paying the
back rent while remaining in the apartment.

"I can't believe the system lets him get away with it," Ms. Dulac said.
"I've spent more than $100,000 on legal bills. I fixed all the violations,
even when I was sure he created them himself. I gave him new appliances and
plumbing when he wasn't paying rent. He ruined my life for 11 years, and
now I can't even collect what he owes me."

Dabrowski explained his side of the story by giving a tour of the apartment
and displaying the supposed violations, like the door to his terrace that
didn't shut tightly enough for his taste. "I don't think I should have to
pay the full rent in these conditions," he said. But he conceded that
others might not sympathize with him.

"There are some people," he said, "who would see this and think, 'My God,
for eight years he's living rent free in this nice apartment. How can you
justify that?"'

Well, how can you?

"My answer is that I was just taking the advice of my attorneys," he said.
That explanation would probably elicit more sympathy. In some ways he and
Ms. Dulac are both victims of New York's byzantine rent laws, which benefit
lawyers while ultimately hurting both tenants and landlords.

Ms. Dulac correctly surmised that the law, in theory, gives an owner the
right to occupy an apartment. Dabrowski correctly surmised that the law, in
practice, gives a tenant plenty of ways to resist. Any complicating factors
-- like Dabrowksi's challenge to the apartment's status, or his repeated
reports of violations -- can stymie the landlord.

The legal disputes did not bring out the best in either side. "They both
went gaga with hate for each other," said Gail Fuller, a longtime tenant
who moved out of the building last year. "The personal hatred long ago
supplanted any argument over property rights."

Dabrowski, who was 55 when the dispute began, said the case forced him to
give up his career in video production. "This has become a full-time job
for me," he said, showing his stacks of legal documents and photos
documenting alleged violations. Besides his time, he estimates his legal
fees have come out to more than the $41,000 in dispute over the rent.

Even though he's facing bankruptcy and, perhaps, ultimately eviction,
Dabrowski said he had no regrets at not resolving the matter amicably, when
he might have gotten a cash settlement or negotiated a way to stay in the

"If she wins, God bless her, but I'll never give in," he said. "It's the
principle of the thing. I can always find another place to live." If that
happens, it seems likely that he and Ms. Dulac will both be much happier.

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