Date: Fri, 01 Oct 1999 09:32:30 -0400
Subject: Tenants Online 10/1/99

Tenants Online                                            10/1/99

In this issue...

1. Brooklyn Museum Demo
2. Hundreds Protest Housing Proposal
3. Mitchell-Lama Conversion Halted
5. Oct. 1 Public Hearing on proposed "Lead Protection" Regulations
6. Comments by Northern Manhattan Inprovement Corporation
7. Comments by NYPIRG


Artists, Writers, and NYCLU to Protest New York City Mayor Rudolph
Giuliani’s Latest Attack on the First Amendment at the Brooklyn Museum of Art

New York Civil Liberties Union protest rally to defend 
constitutionally-protected artistic expression at the Brooklyn Museum of 
Art which is under attack from New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Mayor Giuliani is threatening to cut funding to the Brooklyn Museum of Art, 
terminate its lease, and seize control of the museum’s board of directors 
if they open “Sensation”, a show featuring the work of young British 
artists, on Saturday, October 2nd. Mayor Giuliani has not seen the show, 
according to published reports, but has criticized it as “disgusting and 

In response to the Mayor’s assault on free expression, the NYCLU along with 
some of the city’s artists and writers, and supporters of the Constitution, 
have organized a protest rally and candlelight vigil in front of the 
Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Friday, October 1, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in front of the Brooklyn Museum of 
Art located at 200 Eastern Parkway. (The Eastern Parkway station on the 2/3 
subway trains.) Info, call Eddie Borges at 212-344-3005 ext 229


Newsday, September 30, 1999
By Pete Bowles and Robert Polner

An overflow crowd of 1,000 showed up a city hearing last night to sound off 
against a plan that would give preference to higher-income families over 
those who depend on public assistance as apartments become vacant in city 
housing projects.

Despite fears expressed by angry speakers, Housing Authority officials said 
no tenants would be evicted or required to pay higher rent under the new 
plan, which is to go into effect next year.

But one speaker, Melvin Lippman, who lives in a public housing development 
on the West Side, said tenants feared that under the proposal the current 
rent ceiling of $500 a month would be eliminated and that rents would be 
based on market values in the neighborhood.

"They said the goal is to create a mixed-income environment, but that is a 
subterfuge," Lippman said. "The real plan is to phase out lower income 
people over time as they die off, by attrition, and erode the whole concept 
of public housing." Diane Esannasaem, who lives in the Boston Secor Houses 
in the north Bronx, said she believed the Housing Authority would try to 
lure higher-income families to housing projects by offering them larger 
apartments that have been long- sought by current tenants.

"We have got people who have been doubled up who have put in for a transfer 
to get into larger apartments," she said. "This new tenant selection and 
assignment plan would bump them off the waiting lists." A spokesman for the 
Legal Aid Society said it was opposed to allowing the Housing Authority to 
skip over families who have been on waiting lists for years to obtain 
subsidized apartments. The society said the authority should postpone the 
new admission policy until it comes up with a specific plan for the future 
housing of low-income families.

Councilman Stephen DiBrienza (D-Brooklyn), head of the council's general 
welfare committee, said many housing projects might be more attractive now 
to non-welfare families because of lower crime rates.

"Working families might find the projects attractive but shouldn't get 
preference because others have been on waiting lists," he said. "They will 
put out poor and working people who have turned to the Housing Authority as 
a last resort." Howard Marder, a spokesman for the Housing Authority, said 
the new admission policy is required under 1998 revisions in the federal 
Housing Act. He said the revisions are aimed at stabilizing housing 
projects by creating a wider income mix.

"We are trying to create a mix of people so you don't have just one segment 
of society living in just one building," he said.

Last night's meeting was held at Pace University across the street from 
City Hall. About 600 people were allowed into the meeting room and about 
400 others were kept behind police barricades outside. About a dozen police 
officers were on hand to keep order, but no incidents were reported.


New York Law Journal, Wednesday, September 29, 1999

MORE THAN 1,400 residents of an East Side apartment complex will be able to 
stay in their homes as the result of a decision by a Manhattan Supreme 
Court justice to place on hold a planned conversion of the property from 
Mitchell-Lama housing to a private apartment complex .

Justice Paula J. Omansky granted the tenants a preliminary injunction 
stopping state housing officials from processing the application of the 
owners of the development, Waterside Plaza, which is headed by former 
mayoral candidate Richard Ravitch.

In Davis v. Waterside Housing Company, Index No. 112284/99, Justice Omansky 
said that the tenato retain their protections under the Rent Stabilization 
law. She issued a preliminary injunction and said they should stay put 
pending a final court determination of their status.

Under the Mitchell-Lama program, rents are set by private owners of the 
building, but subject to approval by state officials. The owners of the 
Mitchell-Lama building, a limited-profit housing company, may buy out of 
the program after a set period of time.

The central question to be determined in the case is whether leases in the 
building are subject to the Rent Stabilization Law.

The owners, who want to take the building private, say that the current 
tenants are not entitled to stabilized rents, but the tenants argue that 
they are.

The general rule is that the tenants are protected under Rent Stabilization 
Law. But it is not clear whether buildings completed or rehabilitated after 
1974 are included in that general rule. Some parts of the complex were 
apparently completed before 1974, but the last occupancy permit was not 
issued until 1976.

"[P]laintiffs have been able to show the likelihood of success," Justice 
Omansky wrote. "Prior case law and administrative rulings have favored 
continuing rent protection for Mitchell-Lama tenants under the Rent 
Stabilization scheme, at least in certain circumstances."

The equities of the case, she also reasoned, favor staying the owners' 
application, since the court, rather than housing officials, are better 
positioned to determine the rent status of the present tenants.

Mr. Ravitch himself is not a party to the action, but he is the general 
partner of the Waterside Redevelopment Company, and president of the 
corporation that allegedly holds title to the apartment complex.

Plaintiffs allege in their complaint that Mr. Ravitch has masterminded a 
"de-control campaign" that has included "scar[ing]" tenants into 
"surrendering their homes so that they might be immediately re-rented ... 
at far higher rental rates."

In February of this year, Waterside Redevelopment asked state housing 
officials for a ruling on the continuation of rent stabilized status for 
current residents of Waterside Plaza. After that request was made, new and 
renewing tenants were asked not to sign a Rent Stabilization Law rider to 
their leases, but a rider recognizing the owners' application.

Waterside Plaza owners have filed a motion to dismiss the complaint.

On the pleadings, Justice Omansky refused to dismiss the complaint. She 
said that the terms of the complaint, if proven, would make out a case of 
tenant harassment.

David Rosenberg, of Marcus Rosenberg & Diamond, represents the tenants. 
Marcia Hirsch and Sheldon Melnitsky represented the state Division of 
Housing and Community Renewal, and the Waterside Plaza owners are 
represented by Albert A. Walsh and Dale C. Christenson Jr., of Seward & Kissel.


from New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, Inc.

When the New York City Council passed a "lead protection" law last June 
over strong protests of tenant, public health, and occupational safety 
advocates, City Councilman Stanley Michels, Chairman of the Environmental 
Protection Committee, referred to it as "nothing more than a landlord 
protection bill."  Later this week there will be a public hearing on the 
proposed regulations the City has written to put the law into effect.

"These regulations improve on the law -- however, they are still not 
sufficient to protect children and workers from lead poisoning," commented 
NYCOSH Executive Director Joel Shufro. "They are based on a law that is 
seriously flawed, so lead-abatement projects that follow these regulations 
will have the potential to increase exposure rather than reduce it."

The proposed regulations will be the subject of a public hearing on Oct. 1 
at 100 Gold Street, the headquarters of the City's Department of Housing 
Preservation and Development.  The meeting is scheduled to take place from 
10 to noon.

An example of both how the regulations fall short of what is safe at the 
same time they improve on the weak law can be seen in their requirement 
that floors and furniture be covered with plastic sheeting during abatement 
work, and the sheeting be "secured." "The law itself says nothing about 
plastic being ‘secured,' so this is an improvement," notes Shufro, "but 
what does ‘secure' mean? The City Health Department's regulation and 
federal protocols say exactly how sheeting will be secured, because if 
sheeting is not properly taped down, it can give the appearance, but not 
the reality, of an abatement job that will do some good," remarked Shufro. 
"Plastic that isn't properly secured isn't an effective barrier to 
lead-contaminated dust, so large amounts of the dust could wind up on the 
floor and the furniture, where it will remain when the abatement job is 
over for residents to breathe in."

Another objection to the regulations is their lack of a specification for 
plastic sheeting. City Health Department and EPA lead-abatement protocols 
require two layers of 6-mil plastic. The proposed regulations specify 
plastic "of sufficient thickness and durability to prevent tearing," a 
requirement that is not in the law, but which leaves landlords with 
discretion over a technical detail that has been throughly settled by 
experience and investigation.

A third flaw in the proposed regulations concerns testing at the end of an 
abatement project. The law itself requires the landlord to do 
post-abatement testing, but makes no provision for acting on the results of 
the test, even if it shows the abatement was not successful. The 
regulations take a middle ground between the law's "anything goes" testing 
and federal protocols, which require a project to pass "clearance testing," 
before the work is approved and the residents are allowed back into their 
apartment.  Under the proposed regulations, landlords must report tests to 
the City, but residents of an apartment will move back in before the 
results of the post-abatement testing are known.  "This isn't 
‘clearance-testing' at all, said Shufro, "because ‘clearance' is permission 
to re-enter a space. Under these rules, the results of the testing are 
almost irrelevant, because even if a job has to be done over, it will be 
too late for the residents will have been exposed to unhealthful levels of 
lead dust for as long as it takes the lab to discover what happened and the 
landlord to take action."

Currently, there are an estimated 30,000 lead-poisoned children in New York 
City. Public health advocates maintain that the new regulations will result 
in additional thousands of children being unnecessarily exposed to 
lead-based paint each year.


Comments on the proposed HPD regs on lead paint, for the rulemaking hearing 
on October
1, 1999. Also included are NYPIRG's comments.

Friday, October 1, 1999

I am a staff attorney with Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation 
(NMIC), a non-profit multiservices provider in Washington Heights and 
Inwood.  NMIC, among other things, provides free legal representation to 
low income tenants regarding housing problems.[1] In this capacity we also 
serve as counsel to the New York City Coalition to End Lead Poisoning 

NYCCELP is a membership organization, founded in 1983, whose purpose is to 
educate and advocate for children at risk of lead poisoning and work to 
eliminate that risk.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development ("HPD") has proposed 
to completely rewrite its regulations under 28 R.C.N.Y. Chapter 11 
pertaining to lead paint. These proposals are in response to the enactment 
of Local Law # 38 of 1999.

We strongly believe that Local Law #38 is deeply flawed and will result in 
the increase in the number of lead-poisoned children in this City. While 
the proposed regulations appear to attempt some minor amelioration of the 
worst aspects of this law, we believe this is far too little to remedy the 
many obvious flaws of Local Law # 38, flaws which NYCCELP and its members 
addressed in testimony before the City Council on June 21 and 24, 1999, and 
which we incorporated by reference here.

We agree with the comments submitted today by the New York Public Interest 
Research Group, and respectfully incorporate them by reference into our 
comments as well.

We wish to highlight, however, one critical flaw in the proposed rules, one 
which we believe may render them virtually worthless: the apparent lack of 
any enforcement mechanisms. Only one section, § 11-03 ("Owner's Duty Upon 
Vacancy"), provides a violation if an owner fails to comply.

For example, § 11-02 ("Lead-based paint hazard") provides for a set of 
so-called "interim controls" to be followed in removing defined "lead 
hazards" either before a violation has been placed (§ 11-02(b)(1)) or for 
an interim period even after a violation has been placed (§ 11-02)(c)(1) & 
(d)(1). We do not believe that these "interim controls" are sufficient to 
protect children from lead poisoning, and owners should be required to 
follow the full scheme of safety procedures already provided for in the 
Health Code at § 173.14.  However, even if one accepts the viability of the 
so-called "interim controls," the regulations appear to completely lack any 
enforcement mechanism if an owner fails to follow them. An owner's failure 
to comply is not denominated as a "violation," nor do the rules indicate 
what HPD intends to do to enforce this provision - if in fact, the 
department intends any enforcement at all!

Critically, the rule does not appear to provide tenants with any means to 
obtain enforcement by HPD in the event a landlord is removing lead paint 
without complying with these minimal so-called "interim controls." If the 
landlord is carelessly performing work that is dispersing toxic lead dust 
throughout the dwelling of a vulnerable two year old child, what is the 
parent to do?

This is a crucial flaw, especially when compared to Health Code § 173.14, 
where, in subsection (a)(3), HPD, DoH, and DEP are granted authority to 
issue stop work orders, notices of violation, and seek fines for failure to 
obey safety regulations -- including in the event other areas of the 
building are being contaminated.[2]

Likewise, §§ 11-04 ("Notice of Inquiry Regarding the Presence of a Child") 
and 11-05 ("Owner's Duty to Inspect"), also lack any enforcement 
mechanisms. There do not appear to be any penalties if an owner fails to 
comply with these provisions.

Only three years ago, then- Health Commissioner, Margaret Hamburg, M.D., 
testified with respect to a scheme then under consideration that was 
similar to Local Law # 38:

"Our first concern is that the safety procedures required when an owner 
repairs peeling paint voluntarily ... are not adequate. Unfortunately, the 
risk to young children is actually increased by work that disturbs 
lead-based paint if it is done without appropriate safety precautions. The 
safety procedures required in the Committee's proposal do not require 
adequate containment of work areas nor do they require clearance testing 
after work is completed to ensure that lead dust was cleaned 
up.  Furthermore, the bill only requires full safety measures when an owner 
fails to voluntarily make the repair within 30 days. To reduce safety 
requirements solely on the voluntary and rapid response of an owner, with 
no risk assessment, is not logical."[3]

The safety standards set out in Health Code § 173.14 were put in place in 
1993, and updated in 1996, after careful study by the Department of Health 
and in harmony with current national trends and HUD guidelines. HPD should 
be concerned with preventing the permanent, irreparable injury of the many 
vulnerable children residing in dwellings with lead paint, and we therefore 
urge that HPD incorporate into the proposed regulations, wherever possible, 
all of the far more specific, and far more protective, provisions set out 
in § 173.14. Our children deserve at least that much.


1. The communities served by NMIC in particular contain the City's highest 
percentage (86%) of dwelling units in older, pre-1960 buildings, and some 
16,018 children under the age of 6, representing the highest at-risk 
population in the City with respect to lead poisoning. While only 13% of 
Manhattan's population resides in Washington Heights/Inwood (1990 census 
figures), the New York City Department of Health (DoH) statistics have 
indicated that nearly half of Manhattan's reported cases of children with 
blood lead levels in excess of 20 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood 
(mg/dL) were in Washington Heights/Inwood.

2. While the procedures in Health Code (§ 173.14(e)(2)(aa)(i)) require a 
warning sign ("Lead Hazard - do not enter") to be posted outside abatement 
area, in English and Spanish, with agency phone numbers to call if tenants 
have concerns about compliance with safe work practices, there is no 
equivalent provision in HPD's proposed rules. Perhaps this is because 
these  rules intend that there will not be anywhere for tenants to call?

3. Testimony of Margaret Hamburg, M.D., Commissioner, DoH (N.Y.C. Council 
Apr. 29, 1996).	


Testimony of Andrew Goldberg
of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG)
before the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development 
on Proposed Rules to Implement Local Law 38 of 1999
Friday, October 1, 1999
Good morning. My name is Andrew Goldberg. I am Counsel to the New York 
Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG). NYPIRG is New York State's largest 
student-directed research and advocacy organization, focusing on consumer 
protection, environmental preservation and government reform. NYPIRG has 
long been active on both the state and local level working with elected 
officials and community groups to prevent lead poisoning.

While HPD's proposed rules at last provide some recognition that lead 
contami-nated dust is a hazard that must be addressed whenever paint is 
disturbed in a child-occupied apartment, this acknowledgment is far too 
little and far too late. HPD Commis-sioner Richard Roberts did a terrible 
disservice to this Agency and to the City of New York when he failed to 
raise any objections to Local Law 38.

Nevertheless, HPD's proposed rules do make some attempts to repair Local 
Law 38's obvious deficiencies, such as adding a clearance standard and an 
obligation to re-clean when violations are placed on some limited surfaces. 
Certainly HPD must not weaken any of these initiatives in response other 

Within the confines of Local Law 38, NYPIRG believes that additional 
improvements can and must be made:

· The term "reside" has different meanings under different 
circumstances.  Since Local Law 38 is designed to protect the public 
health, it is a rule of statutory analysis that it be given a liberal 
interpretation. In order to trigger a landlord's obligation to inspect and 
repair, both the rule and the proposed model notices (Appendix A and B) 
should instruct tenants that an apartment need not be the child's primary 
residence. Instead HPD by rule should define the term "reside" to include 
"the permanent, temporary or occasional occupancy of a child under the age 
of six."

· The terms "detergent wash" and "wet-mop" should be defined as they were 
intended to be, which is as terms of art to describe a functional cleaning 
procedure.  While recognized cleaning procedures require a HEPA vacuum, 
wash, HEPA vacuum cleanup cycle, Local Law 38 requires either HEPA vacuum 
or detergent washing. In all likelihood, wet wash alone will be the method 
most often performed by landlords.  However performing a wet wash 
improperly does little to remove any existing lead dust hazard and can make 
matters much worse. At a minimum, HPD's rules must expressly require the 
washing of walls, from the ceiling to the floor, and then from the floor 
outwards; the appropriate segregation of wash and rinse water, including 
the frequent changing of both; and that dirty water be poured in the toilet 
and not the sink or bath, were contamination may occur.

· The term "bind" as used in the phrase "so that no painted surfaces bind" 
should address the problem of friction, not just the ease in which a door 
or window may be moved, since dust generated by friction was the Council's 
obvious concern. HPD by rule should define the term "bind" to mean "to 
cause abrasion or friction."

· The term "upon any agreement to lease" as used in Local Law 38 at 
§27-2056.3 (Owner's Duty to Notify, Inspect and Correct) should expressly 
alert land-lords that their obligations under proposed subdivision (a) of § 
11-04, pertaining to a notice of inquiry upon signing a lease, applies to 
statutory lease renewals under the rent stabilization law and rent 
stabilization code and not just at the time of initial occupancy.

· The term "wet scraping" is also a term of art to describe a method for 
reducing lead dust when lead paint is removed from a surface. The 
definition should make clear that wet scraping is not a substitute for 
proper containment because the lead contaminated slurry that wet scraping 
creates is difficult to clean if the slurry is not properly contained.

· Subdivision (a) of proposed § 11-02 must require that underlying 
conditions that may cause paint to peel are required to be corrected. This 
subdivision should state: "(a) An owner shall correct all lead-based paint 
hazards and conditions that cause or may cause paint to peel, including but 
not limited to water leaks."

· Subdivision (b)(2)(iii) of the same section requires the use of plastic 
of sufficient thickness and durability to prevent tears, that the plastic 
be of sufficient length to limit contamination, and that it be properly 
secured to prevent movement. To prevent unnecessary contamination, 
landlords must be given greater guidance. We urge HPD to incorporate the 
existing Health Code § 173.14, which states that-

    "Before [work] begins and continuously [afterwards] the floor 
immediately under the surface to be abated and ex-tending six feet outward 
in all directions, shall be covered with two layers of disposable 
polyethylene sheeting of at least six-mil thickness. Such sheeting shall be 
taped together with waterproof tape, and taped to the floors and, on walls 
and base-boards that are not being abated, shall extend six (6) inches up 
the walls or base-boards from the floor, so as to form a con-tinuous 
barrier to the penetration of dust."

· In proposed § 11-05, while we strongly support the proposed requirement 
that the landlord must document "the results of such inspection for each 
surface," we also recommend that HPD promulgate a model recording document 
in order to ensure that records of such inspections are uniform and 
readable.  It should list all possible surfaces in an apartment and have 3 
check boxes: (1) "YES" indicating that a condition exists; (2) "NO" 
indicating that a condition does not exist; and (3) "N/A" indicating not 
applicable. After completion of the inspection, the landlord should sign it.

· In proposed § 11-08, for violations where the landlord need not conduct a 
dust test, the certification should still require appropriate documentary 
evidence, like a copy of invoices and a detailed description of the work 

· HPD for the purpose of clearly advising landlords of their obligation and 
for enforcement by the agency, should have a "different order number" for 
violations that require a dust test and for those that do not.

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Date: Sat, 09 Oct 1999 22:29:52 -0400
Subject: Tenants Online 10/9/99

Tenants Online                                            10/9/99
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Dear Readers:

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In this issue...

1. Lower East Side Housing Conference
2. Distant Office Would Dis Tenants (Voice)
3. Washington Heights Landlady Tries to Evict Legal Tenants
4. Recent New York Law Journal Decisions of Interest
5. Recent New York Times Q&A's
6. Lead Update: Health Code on Lead - Proposed revisions



ORGANIZE: Eviction Protections, Tenant Associations, Tenant Ownership
FIGHT AGAINST: Privatization of Public Housing, Ending Section 8, Harassment

A full day of free workshops on the crisis in Low Income and Affordable 
Housing, Public Housing, Project-Based Section 8 Housing, Tenants Rights, 
Housing Court Changes, Tenant Ownership

Saturday, October 23, 1999
Boys and Girls Republic
888 East 6th Street (east of Avenue D)
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Sponsored by Charas/El Bohio, CODA, Cooper Square Committee, GOLES, It's 
Time, LESC, Lower East Side Tenants Union, Met Council, Project 
Home-University Settlement. Info call 212-774-9404


Queens Logic?
Village Voice, October 6, 1999

When the state office that handles complaints of landlord harassment 
announced a plan last month to move from downtown Manhattan to eastern 
Queens, employees argued the relocation would mean a schlepp for themselves 
and a disservice for the tenants they serve, most of whom come from 
Brooklyn and Manhattan. But a closer look at the problems plaguing

the enforcement unit of the state's Division of Housing and Community 
Renewal (DHCR) shows that shuttling the office to Queens is just one more 
way for governor George Pataki's administration, which is already brushing 
off tenants in unprecedented numbers, to further neglect renters.

Since the GOP governor took office in January 1995, two of every three 
harassment complaints have been rejected, a sharp hike from the early 
1990s, when only one in three met such a fate, according to data provided 
by enforcement unit (EU) staffers. Accompanying this rise is a plummet in 
the number of EU attorneys who prosecute landlords for harassment, down 
from 15 several years ago to five today. And while the number of complaints 
filed by tenants has dipped— one insider blames tenants' "despair" of 
getting any help from the agency— it is far outpaced by the drop in staff.

"Since the Republicans have been in office, the landlords think they walk 
on water," says one veteran agency worker. "There's so many limits on 
tenants and what kind of cases we should open, it deters them from filing 
any complaint at all. The message is, 'Don't bother. We're going to make it 
impossible for you.' "

EU staffers say that months after Pataki took office they were directed to 
open cases only if the problems were "very, very serious" or numerous. "We 
used to resolve more complaints, sometimes even without going to a formal 
hearing," says one worker. "Just by opening a case you might get a landlord 
to turn around. We don't do that much now." Sources say about 30 complaints 
are made each week. Under Pataki, the once full-time EU director's post has 
become part-time.

DHCR's press officer Donna Ackerman did not respond to repeated calls and 
written requests to confirm data on the numbers of complaints filed, cases 
opened, and staff lost. But EU workers say the faltering numbers reflect a 
slump in the state's commitment to tenants. "Since Pataki came in, there 
has been a gradual erosion of staff," says Ralph Carbone, president of the 
union local that represents DHCR workers and an attorney at the EU. "When 
you have only five attorneys and 1.2 million rent-regulated apartments, 
just do the math. We can deal only with the worst cases." Says another EU 
source, "More cases with merit now slip through the cracks."

Current complaints serious enough to warrant a hearing include one about a 
Brooklyn landlord who blasted the heat in his Crown Heights apartments 
during the summer, raising temperatures to 110 degrees, while freezing 
tenants in the winter; and a case against the infamous Chelsea slumlord 
team of Robert Sigmund and Thomas Iveli, charged by the EU with an array of 
offenses including physical and verbal abuse of tenants, allowing drug and 
prostitution rings in their buildings, and "permitting . . . an environment 
of fear, lawlessness, and disorder." In 1997, the landlords generally 
denied the charges; the case is pending.

The EU is essential because tenants cannot bring civil harassment charges 
against a landlord themselves; they must go to the EU, which prosecutes 
charges of harassment in civil hearings before administrative law judges 

DHCR's demise under Pataki is not surprising, considering that a 
pre-inaugural task force insisted that the rent laws DHCR enforces be 
dismantled. The landlord-backed governor showed his duplicity in 1997 when 
he orchestrated a rent-law revision that gave owners huge incentive to 
drive out rent-regulated tenants, then tried to temper the lure by enacting 
the "toughest" antiharassment laws in the country. Some of those laws were 
left to his decimated EU to enforce. "You can have the toughest laws in the 
country," says Carbone, "but if you don't have a staff to implement them, 
they become meaningless."

Pataki's incentives pair up with the city's frenetic real estate economy to 
make tenant protections crucial. "Harassment occurs where profits are 
greatest, and right now, that means all of Manhattan and much of the city," 
says Carbone. "If you have a building and you can get rid of a few tenants 
and knock it down, you can make a tremendous amount of money."

In a September 9 memo about DHCR's plan to relocate the EU from 25 Beaver 
Street in lower Manhattan to a state office building in Gertz Plaza in 
Queens early next year, workers were told that refusing to transfer "might 
result in your separation from state service." That, of course, made the 
21- member EU staff nervous and got the union local involved. Currently, 
DHCR plans to keep EU hearings in Manhattan. But conferences, in which the 
EU investigates and tries to resolve harassment charges before going to a 
full hearing, are likely to be held at Gertz Plaza, which is about a 
half-mile from the last stop on the E subway. EU staff would be stationed 
at Gertz, which Carbone says would mean time wasted in travel. And the 
shuttling of documents, which in cases like the Sigmund and Iveli 
prosecution amount to tomes, could jeopardize evidence.

(Indeed, this spring, DHCR relocated the ALJs who preside over harassment 
hearings from Gertz to Beaver Street, where their proceedings are held, 
after an internal audit concluded that traveling between Gertz and 
Manhattan cut productivity.)

Despite staff concerns, DHCR general counsel and former landlord attorney 
Marcia Hirsch boasted to the city's Rent Guidelines Board that she was 
"pleased to report much progress" in slashing tens of thousands of all 
sorts of complaints agency-wide.

"There's fewer cases because they accept fewer cases," argues the veteran 
EU worker. "They accomplish that by denying tenants a lot." Says a 
colleague, "We are here to enforce the Emergency Tenant Protection Act. Yet 
everything now is geared to make it harder for tenants."


Tenant/Inquilino, September 1999
By Jeanie Dubnau

Flerida Florentín, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, has been 
living with her daughter, Sofia Torres, for 10 years in an apartment at 540 
W. 157th St. Florentín is 78 and suffers from heart disease and a nervous 
condition. In October 1998 Sofia Torres took a job as a child-care provider 
in Connecticut, leaving her three children with Florentín during the week 
and coming home on weekends.

As soon as the landlady, Mary Rodino, found out about this arrangement, she 
sent them a “Notice to Cure,” charging that they were violating their lease 
because Sofia Torres had moved out of her apartment and left an unknown 
person (Florentín) in it—and would be evicted unless the situation was 

Rodino has harassed the tenants in 540 W. 157th St. for years. She has a 
reputation for not making repairs and for not offering leases to legal 
tenants in her other buildings in Washington Heights. She lost no time in 
trying to evict this family and soon sent them a holdover eviction notice. 
Legally, Florentin, as mother of the leaseholder, has the right to continue 
living in the apartment and also to have her name added to the lease. 
However, with the case in court, Torres had to quit her job because her 
mother was too nervous to go to court by herself. The women went to the 
Harlem Legal Aid offices, and were assigned a lawyer who convinced the 
judge to order the landlord to accept their rent. They began to pay their 
rent and thought the case was settled.

After about six months, however, the nightmare started all over again. 
Rodino’s lawyers had filed a motion to continue the case, and the judge 
granted it.

Sofia Torres is trying to hold down several jobs as a cleaning woman, and 
has been forced to go to numerous depositions where she is grilled by the 
landlady’s attorneys. Although she and her mother are in the United States 
legally, they have been repeatedly asked about their passports and for the 
passports of Torres’ children. They were asked to provide proof of where 
the children went to school, and asked whether the three children were 
“fathered by the same man?”

On June 23, Sofia and her mother appeared for a deposition at Rodino’s 
lawyer’s office, and were held there for two hours while the attorneys kept 
asking them the same questions over and over. Sofia became very nervous. 
She fell down and could not walk; she went to the bathroom because she felt 
like vomiting. Augusto Payano, a Riverside Edgecombe Neighborhood 
Association member who was there to provide some moral support, was thrown 
out of the office, amidst joking and laughter from the landlady and her 

Rodino first offered a new lease with a rent increase from $534 to $750. 
Recently she offered another lease at $610, more than three times the 4% 
renewal increase allowed by law for rent-stabilized tenants. Florentín is 
elderly and nervous, and her daughter cannot hold down a job because of the 
repeated legal appearances. She and her daughter have documentation that 
they both have been living in the apartment together for over 10 years—but 
if their landlady can pressure them into moving out, she can get a 20% 
vacancy increase.

October 6, 1999

DHCR Not Bound by Past Incorrect Decision Allowing Rent Increase Over 
Reduction Order

LANDLORD OF rent-stabilized and rent-controlled premises brought an Article 
78 proceeding to annul a Division of Housing and Community Renewal decision 
on a major capital improvement increase. After a rent administrator granted 
landlord's application for an increase in rent based on installation of new 
windows, tenants filed an administrative appeal, arguing that the premises 
had rent reduction orders against it. Given a rent reduction order, the 
increase only became effective after a rent restoration order. Landlord 
contended that the particular rent reduction order could not be regarded as 
outstanding, as DHCR had earlier erroneously allowed an increase for a new 
boiler. DHCR found that it was not bound by the erroneous determination. 
The court dismissed the petition, ruling that the administrative 
determination was not arbitrary. Matter of Fisher Litchfield Co. v. Roldan, 
Queens, Supreme Court, IA Part 4, Justice LaTorella.

Landlord Seeking Rent Arrears Cures Defect Of Not Listing In-City Agent on 

IN A NONPAYMENT proceeding, tenant argued in part that the multiple 
dwelling registration was incorrect because the managing agent did not 
reside or list a business address within New York City. Tenant was correct 
that landlord violated the Multiple Dwelling Law. The court noted that the 
requirement of listing a city contact for a managing agent was for 
emergency situations, enabling tenants and governmental authorities to 
readily contact the person responsible for operating the building. However, 
it said tenant failed to prove that landlord had not complied with the 
underlying purpose of the statute and gave no evidence of any negative 
effect or harm caused to the tenants. Prior registrations had properly 
listed the agent. Also, the defect had been cured, and the new listed agent 
was in the city. Landlord was not entirely precluded from collecting rent. 
Digeso v. Kennedy, Queens, Civil Court, Judge B. Greenbaum.

Second, Noncontiguous Unit in Same Building Not Part of Marital Home; 
Husband Is Licensee

RESPONDENT HUSBAND fought eviction by petitioners - his wife and her 
parents - who owned the co-op apartment. The couple, who were in a divorce 
proceedings, had lived in the apartment when they were first married but 
then moved to another apartment that they bought in the same building. 
After marital problems, husband moved to the original unit, on which he 
paid the maintenance. Petitioners brought this licensee proceeding seeking 
use and occupancy and possession. Husband argued in part that the apartment 
was a noncontiguous part of the marital residence and that his occupancy 
should not be decided in a summary proceeding. However, Supreme Court had 
already decided that only the other apartment was the marital home. The 
instant court granted petitioners a judgment of possession but said they 
could not seek use and occupancy. George v. Cohn, Queens, Civil Court, Part 
B, Judge Hoffman.

Use of Two-Family House for Three Units Does Not Cause Dismissal of Rent 

IN A NONPAYMENT proceeding, landlord also sought possession of the 
premises. Before trial, the parties entered a stipulation of settlement in 
which tenant agreed to pay certain arrears and to vacate. Tenant now argued 
that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the legal 
two-family premises had been used as a three-family residence. He contended 
that the petition must be dismissed because rent cannot be collected for an 
illegal dwelling and the petition was defective for failing to allege that 
the building was a multiple dwelling. The court held that this failure or 
defect did not deprive it of subject matter jurisdiction but related to 
landlord's ability to prove its prima facie case. However, landlord could 
not collect rent from any tenant during the period of noncompliance. The 
stipulation was found binding as to the agreement to vacate. Marrocco v. 
Lugero, Richmond, Civil Court, Judge Straniere.



Subletting Stabilized Apartment

Q:   I live in a two-bedroom rent-stabilized apartment in Manhattan for 
which I pay $450 a month rent. I have recently been offered a position 
outside New York City. Friends of mine are willing to pay me $1,200 a month 
to sublease my apartment for one year, maybe two. Is it legal for me to 
sublease the apartment for that amount of rent? . . . Mario Hammer, Manhattan.

A:   Peter Schwartz, a Manhattan lawyer who specializes in landlord-tenant 
matters, said that a rent-stabilized tenant generally has a right to sublet 
his apartment for up to two years in a four-year period.

And while the tenant's right to sublet is subject to the owner's consent, 
the law provides that such consent cannot be unreasonably withheld. Mr. 
Schwartz noted, however, that the law requires the tenant to give notice of 
a sublease to the landlord and to provide the landlord with information 
about the subtenancy agreement if the landlord requests such information.

Failure to notify the landlord of the sublease   —   or failure to respond 
to a landlord's reasonable request for information about the 
subtenancy   —   can constitute a substantial breach of the lease agreement 
and could subject the tenant to eviction.

Mr. Schwartz added that while the law permits a rent-stabilized tenant to 
sublet an apartment, the rent being charged to the subtenant cannot exceed 
the current legal rent for the apartment, plus an additional 10 percent if 
the apartment is being rented furnished. That means that if the 
letter-writer rents his $450 a month apartment to a subtenant for $1,200 a 
month, he is clearly violating the law by overcharging the subtenant and 
could be subject to eviction.

Moreover, Mr. Schwartz said, since a tenant who sublets an apartment 
essentially becomes a landlord to the subtenant, he or she could be held 
liable for paying the subtenant treble damages   —   or three times the 
amount of the overcharge   —   even though the subtenant had agreed to pay 
the higher rent.


Lead Update
Health Code on Lead - Proposed revisions
From: Matthew Chechere

NYC Department of Health has published proposed amendments to the Health 
Code pertaining to lead paint safety standards. Comments are due by Nov 5, 
1999, and a public hearing will be held that same date at Dept. of Health.

The proposed changes are available in Acrobat PDF format. Please email 
 and we will email you the file (about 500k)

I have not done a full analysis of these proposals.  It appears, at first 
glance, that they intend to accomplish several things

1) To centralize enforcement of safety practices with DoH (now currently 
split among DoH, DEP, and HPD, with DEP taking the principal role), 
probably a good thing, in my opinion

2) To deal with the fact that landlords can now use the sloppy so-called 
"interim controls" when dealing with violations placed under Local Law 38 
(the Vallone law), by limiting the scope of applicability of the Health 
Code section 173.14 (the existing safety standards)

3) Adding a new section which will attempt the massive enforcement gap 
created by Local Law 38 -- which is  "who enforces interim controls" --- 
still a major problem, in my opinion...

4) Creating a "surface dust testing course" - since Local Law 38 -- in the 
rare instance when anyone is required to do any dust testing at all -- 
requires those who do it to pass a DoH course on how to do a dust test.  Of 
course, the entire intent of this scheme is to avoid having landlord having 
to use certified workers....

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Date: Tue, 12 Oct 1999 16:09:15 -0400
Subject: Now, TenantNet Needs Your Help.

Dear TenantNet Readers:

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Date: Sun, 17 Oct 1999 18:19:06 -0400
Subject: NYTenants Online: Charter Revision News 10/17/99

NYTenants Online: Charter Revision News                  10/17/99
To unsubscribe from NYtenants, see the bottom of this newsletter
Charter Revision News is not associated with the Public Advocate,
or any other organization, person or political party. See more
information on "Smarter Charter?"

Call him/her and ask why. Even though this is not a big election
year, we urge you to go to the polls and vote 'No' on the
Charter Revision proposal.

In this issue...

1. Council quiet on charter referendum... (Crains)
2. Vote Looms, but Debate on Altering Charter Falls (NYT)
3. 'NO' on Charter Revision (NY Post Op-Ed)
4. By All Means, Revise The Charter (NY Post Editorial)


Crains Insider (October 18)

Although Mayor Giuliani's proposed city Charter amendments would sharply 
curtail the power of the City Council , council leaders have yet to come up 
with a strategy for opposing the referendum. ``That's up in the air right 
now,'' concedes a spokesman for Speaker Vallone.

Last week, the council passed a bill requiring trigger locks on guns, one 
of the charter proposals, in an effort to show that the mayor's proposals 
can be enacted through legislation. ``This shows why charter change is 
unnecessary,'' says a Vallone spokeswoman. Mr. Vallone has also scheduled a 
hearing on the referendum Wednesday, Oct. 20.

However, it is unclear whether Mr. Vallone will use the council's political 
committee to drum up an anti-referendum vote. The charter referendum would 
limit the ability of the council to increase spending and make it more 
difficult to override a mayoral veto of tax increases.

...while Mastro ponders mass mailing

Meanwhile, the mayor's Charter Revision Commission is planning a mass 
mailing to ``educate'' voters about the charter amendments that will be on 
the November ballot. Commission officials say the mailing comes under the 
panel's public service responsibilities and will not urge passage of the 
controversial amendments.

``It's allowed to educate, not advocate,'' says a spokeswoman for the 
panel. ``The (city's) corporation counsel has been consulted.'' The size of 
the mailing is unclear. The commission has obtained a computer tape with 
the addresses of all registered city voters, but commission chairman Randy 
Mastro says the mailing is unlikely to be that extensive.

New York Times, October 13, 1999

When Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani announced the creation of a Charter Revision 
Commission in June, he did not deny that a primary motivation was to block 
one of his principal tormentors, Mark Green, the Public Advocate, from 
succeeding him as Mayor.

But now that Green's future is no longer part of the 14 proposals that the 
commission will put before voters on Nov. 2, Giuliani, with less than three 
weeks to go before the election, has been largely silent on a subject he 
once described as vital to the city's future.

Although Randy M. Mastro, the commission's chairman and a former Deputy 
Mayor under Giuliani, said this week that the Mayor "has done everything 
that I would have hoped he would do up to this point," aides at City Hall 
said they could not remember the last time the Mayor had spoken out in 
support of the commission's work. In September, shortly after the 
commission decided to drop a proposal that could have hindered Green's 
mayoral ambitions, Giuliani's responses to reporters about the committee's 
work grew tepid.

When Sunny Mindel, the Mayor's spokeswoman, was asked on Tuesday about the 
Mayor's support of the commission's proposals, she said she would have to 
find out and call back. She never did. Mastro did say that the Mayor has 
submitted a statement in support of the commission's work in the New York 
City Voter Guide, a nonpartisan publication to be mailed out next week.

"Perhaps he's keeping his distance because he sees what a stinker it is," 
Green said on Tuesday of the charter initiative. But Green, whose staff 
spent the summer heckling the commission during a series of public 
hearings, has himself retreated, literally from the front row, now that the 
proposals no longer directly affect his political future.

Nonetheless, Green and Mastro both said they could not attribute the 
relative quiet on the charter changes to the absence of a brawl between two 
major political personalities who have been in near-constant conflict with 
each other for the last five years. Instead, both said it was because 
voters in a minor election year with only a handful of races at stake are 
almost entirely uninterested in the issue.

"It's not that it's too close to call," Green said. "It's too obscure to 

Gene Russianoff, the senior lawyer for the New York Public Interest 
Research Group, a civic advocacy organization, said this: "It's charter 
revision. You know what I mean? It's like 11 people care about it."

In fact, Russianoff and a number of critics have cared enough to say 
vociferously that changing the city's basic governing document is a bad 
idea in a year when the expected voter turnout will be 5 to 10 percent.

Although some of the commission's proposals, such as banning guns within 
1,000 feet of schools, are clearly popular, critics also say that Giuliani 
has rushed the initiative through in a high-handed, politicized and 
undemocratic way.

Other proposals, like a cap on budget increases, are seen by opponents as 
efforts to restrict the City Council's powers in favor of the Mayor. 
Critics are also displeased that voters will have to approve or reject the 
entire initiative instead of individual proposals.

Both Green and Mastro made promises of increased activity from each of 
their sides closer to the election. Mastro said there would be "some public 
education campaign," although he also said he had not decided what form it 
might take.

Green said that his side would pass out leaflets in the week before the 
campaign. But neither talked about the kind of television advertising wars 
that some opponents of the charter revision had predicted in the summer.

Green's side consists of a coalition of labor groups, who are positioning 
to oppose Giuliani in his presumed Senate campaign, as well as Vote No on 
Charter Inc., an advocacy group led by Richard Schrader, who went on leave 
as Green's chief of public affairs to campaign against the changes.

Under the original proposals, the commission would have required a special 
election within 60 days if the Mayor leaves office early, as is possible if 
Giuliani runs for the United States Senate in 2000 and is elected with a 
year left in his term as Mayor. Under the Charter's current provisions, the 
Public Advocate automatically finishes the term of any Mayor who leaves 
office early.

The special election proposal was immediately attacked by critics who said 
Giuliani was engaging in a political vendetta against Green, who by the 
nature of his job and his personality has gnawed at the Mayor since both 
men took office in 1994. Mastro retreated under the assaults on the 
proposal, and last month announced that the commission would delay the 
special election provision until 2002, when both Green and Giuliani are out 
of office.

The City Council has also opposed the changes as cynical and an assault on 
democracy, and plans hearings next week to urge voters to reject the 
charter revision.

New York Post, October 16, 1999

WHEN the Mastro charter commission earlier this month abandoned under 
public pressure its original proposal to alter the rules of mayoral 
succession mid-term, many people thought the charter-referendum controversy 
was over.

Wrong. The commission's 14-point referendum will be on the ballot this 
November. It should be rejected as both a mayoral power grab and a grab-bag 
of unrelated ideas that are wrong, meaningless or better enacted by 

Over 90 elected officials, civic groups and unions - including Citizens 
Union and NYPIRG; the Central Labor Council; State Comptroller Carl McCall; 
Reps. Charles Rangel, Jose Serrano and Carolyn Maloney; City Council 
Speaker Peter Vallonek and Borough Presidents Fernando Ferrer and Virginia 
Fields - have urged voters to vote no on the Charter Referendum, for four 

1) One "take-it-or-leave-it" charter referendum in a low-turnout election 
is undemocratic. Lumping all 14 proposals into one referendum holds 
uncontroversial items on guns and human rights hostage to bad proposals on 
budget and succession. We vote separately for governor, senator, attorney 
general and representative - not on one all-or-nothing slate. And it's 
inconsistent for a mayor who says that 5- to 10-percent turnouts of 
eligible voters in local school-board elections are a joke to then 
intentionally propose changing the city's governing document in a 5- to 
10-percent turnout year.

2) It's a mayoral power grab bypassing the City Council. A constitution or 
charter should be largely concerned with the structure of government, not 
used to push specific legislative ideas, good or bad. It's a radical and 
wrong shift of power for an annual summer commission of mayoral supporters 
to effectively replace our elected legislative branch of government.

Many of the commission's proposals could and should be enacted by the City 
Council. For example, the council passed legislation this week that would 
accomplish the commission's goal of increasing the safety of our children 
by requiring trigger locks on all firearms. Similarly, the council could 
create an Organized Crime Control Commission to coordinate the city's 
efforts at reducing the influence of organized crime in legitimate industries.

Because the legislative process is deliberative and allows for consensus 
building and compromise, several of the commission's more complicated 
proposals - such as merging the Health and Mental Health departments - are 
better left to the give and take of a legislative process rather than to a 
charter commission hearing three-minute pro or con monologues.

3. If succession ain't broke, don't fix it. The referendum would, starting 
in 2002, replace the 168-year precedent of a stable mayoral succession 
followed by an election the next November with a costly, chaotic, 
low-turnout, special election. But having two mayoral elections within six 
months risks having four mayors in one year. There's a reason we have a 
tradition in this country - special elections for any of the hundreds of 
legislative offices that might become vacant but next-in-line succession 
for the one chief executive office of president, governor or New York City 
mayor. If our municipal system of automatic succession is so deficient, why 
hasn't Mr. Mastro called it undemocratic for the vice president to succeed 
the president or the lieutenant-governor the governor?

Also, the requirement of a special nonpartisan mayoral election within 60 
days of a vacancy a) helps Republicans who'd prefer to run without party 
labels in a city that is 4-1 Democratic, and b) may violate the Voting 
Rights Act banning election-law changes that hurt minority prospects. 
Per-capita African-American and Latino turnout is lower in special and 
off-year elections (like 1999), and it's harder for a minority candidate to 
win a non-partisan special election than to win a regular Democratic 
primary and a general election with a united party behind the nominee.

4. A Tainted Process = A Tainted Result. While mayors appointed charter 
commissions every 22 years on average this century, Mayor Giuliani has had 
two in two summers. Mayor Koch appointed a distinguished, diverse charter 
panel in 1988 (half of whose members came recommended by other officials), 
which held 31 hearings over two years. Mayor Giuliani, on the contrary, 
appointed 15 allies, 10 of whom had contributed to his campaigns. This 
hand-picked panel then held just six hearings in the vacation month of 
August and hurriedly whittled 40 ideas down into 14. Voters shouldn't 
reward such a flawed process with their votes.

The few good ideas in the charter referendum are an attempt to sweeten a 
lemon. But you don't buy an Edsel because it has the best radial tires. 
Voting 'No' on the charter is a way of telling the mayor to work for the 
best interests of our city by negotiating with the legislative branch, not 
circumventing it.
Mark Green is the New York City public advocate.

NY Post Editorial, October 14, 1999

In less than three weeks, New York voters will accept or reject changes to 
the City Charter - the document that can best be described as Gotham's 

Heretofore, most discussion of charter revision centered on a plan to alter 
the mayoral succession - a notion that never made the final cut. Now it's 
time to look at what actually is on the ballot proposal.

There's a whole lot to like.

Specifically, the revision commission has recommended making permanent a 
number of fiscal reforms adopted early on by the Giuliani administration.

First of all, year-to-year increases in city spending would have to be 
limited to the actual inflation rate, unless both the mayor and the City 
Council formally declare - and justify - a fiscal "emergency." Among other 
things, this would make it virtually impossible for politicians to 
negotiatelarger-than-inflation wage hikes with the municipal unions.

Second, all tax increases would need a two-thirds vote in the council - and 
if the lawmakers sought to override a mayoral veto of a tax hike, they 
would need a four-fifths vote to carry the day.

And at least one-half of any future budget surpluses would be placed in a 
rainy-day fund - and, if not used by the end of the fiscal year, used to 
pay down the municipal debt.

There are other, duller good-government elements in the charter-revision 
package. But right now, it's enough to note that the fiscal safeguards 
written into the proposed charter revisions would go a long way toward 
preserving the budget stability achieved by the Giuliani administration.

For that reason alone, all thinking New Yorkers should vote "YES" on Nov. 2.

NYtenants Tenant's Online is subscription-based. To unsubscribe, go to 
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Date: Sun, 17 Oct 1999 21:12:09 -0400
Subject: Tenants Online 10/17/99 (part 1)

Tenants Online                                           10/17/99
To unsubscribe, see the bottom of this newsletter

In this issue...

1. Joe Holland and Toxic Peter Vallone (News)
2. More on Toxic Vallone/REBNY (Crains)
2. Met Council Meeting on Brooklyn Council Race
3. City Hit for Raids On Illegal Housing (News)
4. Recent New York Times Landlord/Tenant Q&A's
5. No Fun to Stay at the YMCA: Chelsea Y Moves to Oust Tenants
6. Citizens for Open Access to Legislation Budget Bill Alert

Daily News, 10/14/1999

Political Comeback: From the "Whatever happened to ...?" file comes word 
that ex-state Housing Commissioner Joe Holland has emerged as one of 
presidential hopeful George W. Bush's leading African-American supporters 
in New York.

He co-chaired Gov. Pataki's 1994 campaign, then landed the state's top 
housing post. But he abruptly quit in 1996 to deal with a cascade of 
financial problems, including disclosures he had $508,000 in court 
judgments against him.

Holland raised $10,000 for last week's Bush fund-raiser in New York and is 
committed to raising $15,000 more.

He has also founded Holistic Hardware, a national, faith-based, 
welfare-to-work consultancy that gives former welfare recipients the 
educational tools and job skills to help them lead productive lives.


Flexing Muscles: The real estate industry is flexing its political muscle 
in the 2001 mayoral race, and City Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D-Queens) 
will be the first beneficiary.

Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, wrote last 
week to thousands of members seeking donations for Vallone's mayoral 
campaign. "This is the first time we've asked [the Real Estate Board's] 
broader membership to be involved in fund-raising of this kind," he wrote. 
He praised Vallone's "moderate course" as speaker.

Spinola didn't rule out similar appeals to help other mayoral wanna-bes in 
the 2001 race.

Crains Insider, October 18, 1999

REBNY pitches in for Vallone...

Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, last week 
sent a personal letter to members of the influential industry trade group 
asking them to contribute to City Council Speaker Peter Vallone's mayoral 
campaign. ``Peter has been a friend of the industry,'' Mr. Spinola says. 
``This was a solicitation to help him get his message across.''

Mr. Spinola says the letter did not constitute at REBNY endorsement of Mr. 
Vallone, noting that REBNY officials have sent similar letters on behalf of 
other mayoral candidates, including Public Advocate Mark Green , city 
Comptroller Alan Hevesi and former Deputy Mayor Fran Reiter. However, Mr. 
Spinola acknowledged those mailings were not as extensive last week's 
solicitation for Mr. Vallone.

Meanwhile, Mr. Vallone's close ties with the real estate industry continue 
to cause him grief with tenant groups. The New York State Tenants and 
Neighbors Coalition picketed his campaign office last week because the 
recently-passed lead paint law protects landlords from lawsuits.

from Met Council

Michael Nelson's office has tentatively confirmed that Mike Nelson will 
attend Met Council's tenant forum Tuesday October 19, 7:00-9:00 pm at 
Sheepshead Bay H.S., 3000 Avenue X (betw Doyle + Batchelder), which will 
also feature Sonya Ostrom, Green Party and Working Families Party candidate 
for the 48th Council district, currently occupied by Nelson, who voted for 
the Lead Poisoning Act of 1999 (Local Law 38) in June; and Leo Werner, a 
tenant from Mill Basin, and will be moderated by Met
Council vice chair Kenny Schaeffer. For further information call Dave 
Powell, Met Council, 212-693-0553 or Kenny Schaeffer, 212-663-3293 ext.133.

Daily News, 10/17/1999

With the city continuing its crackdown on illegal conversion of homes, 
Indo-Caribbeans who have settled in Queens say they fear they are being 
unfairly singled out.

"I feel we are definitely being targeted," said Sherry, who owns a 
two-family house in Richmond Hill.

Sherry, who asked that her full name not be used, said city building 
inspectors have gone into her basement without her permission and 
subsequently fined her for having a toilet, bathroom sink and kitchen stove 
in her basement — all amenities she said were there when she bought the house.

Sherry does not rent the basement out as a separate unit, she said. She 
uses it for recreation and Hindu rituals.

"I don't see the city's name on my mortgage," Sherry said. "It's my 
business who I have in my house."

Buildings Department spokesman Paul said the city investigates suspected 
illegal conversions only after a complaint has been made.

The investigations have nothing to with race or where people live, Wein 

Rules are rules, Wein said, and if an apartment was created in a basement 
or attic without proper permits, it is illegal, and the premises must be 
restored to their original condition.

"It's a matter of legality," Wein said.

Over the last two years, the city Buildings Department in Community Board 9 
— which includes Richmond Hill — logged more than 3,000 illegal housing 
conversion complaints. That's nearly a thousand more than in any other 
community board in Queens.

Richmond Hill is a popular destination for Indo-Caribbean immigrants from 
Guyana and Trinidad.

For financial and cultural reasons, low-income Indo-Caribbean immigrants 
often live as large extended families in these homes — homes originally 
intended for one family, explained Leyland Roopnaraine, an Ozone Park real 
estate broker and local community activist.

To accommodate larger numbers of residents, basements and attics in these 
one-family houses are sometimes converted into separate apartment units, 
something city building officials say is not only illegal but dangerous.

Buildings Department officials say illegal conversions and extra residents 
also lead to parking problems and overuse of utilities, Buildings 
Department officials say.

For the last two years, Borough President Claire Shulman has headed a task 
force aimed at stopping unscrupulous landlords from renting out unsafe, 
illegal apartment units.

She is planning to introduce a bill at City Hall next month that would put 
even more teeth into the city's arsenal. New provisions could include 
allowing the city to seize the vehicles of conversion violators; requiring 
real estate agents, purchasers and sellers to certify at closing that the 
property up for sale doesn't have any illegal dwelling units; and 
prohibiting the Buildings Department from issuing new permits to violators 
who have not paid their fines.

The Indo-Caribbean community in Queens says the measures are too harsh.

Dozens of Indo-Caribbeans gathered Thursday night at the Chateau Royale in 
Richmond Hill to plan a protest against the new bill.

"This whole scenario here is highly political and racist," said 
Roopnaraine. "People use their basements in other neighborhoods."

Many Indo-Caribbeans feel other ethnic groups are not cited as often as 
they are. And many don't realize they've done anything wrong by converting 
their own homes, Roopnaraine said, and are baffled when they are cited.

Roopnaraine and Sherry would like the Buildings Department to make a 
concerted effort to clearly explain to their community what is legal and 
what is not.

Wein suggested that anyone worried about alterations to their home should 
call the Buildings Department at (718) 520-3401.


Landlord's Liability in Dog Attack 10/10/99

Q:  I live in a luxury high-rise rental building on the Upper West Side. 
Recently, a family moved in with two vicious dogs, one a pit bull. On 
several occasions, these dogs have tried to attack my dog in the lobby, 
only to be restrained with difficulty by their owner's housekeeper. What is 
my landlord's responsibility with regard to protecting tenants and their 
pets from these two dangerous animals? . . . Steve Forrest, Manhattan.

A:   Thomas Higgins, a Manhattan real estate lawyer, said that under 
certain circumstances a landlord may be held liable for injuries caused by 
an animal in the building. "The legal standard is pretty clear," Mr. 
Higgins said, explaining that for a landlord to be held liable it must be 
shown that the landlord "knew or should have known" that a particular 
animal had "vicious propensities" and that the landlord had the power to 
"remove or otherwise confine" the animal.

He said that an animal with "vicious propensities" has been defined by the 
courts as one with a "natural inclination or habitual tendency to act in a 
manner that might endanger the person or property of another."

"That means that prior attacks, bites and even barking viciously could be 
considered evidence of vicious propensities in a dog," Mr. Higgins said. He 
said, however, that the mere fact that the dog in question is a pit bull 
would not by itself create a presumption that the dog is vicious.

"At least one judge has held that a pit bull is not inherently dangerous 
simply because it's a pit bull," Mr. Higgins said. "So, in order to 
establish liability on the part of the landlord, you always have to prove 
that the particular dog in question had vicious propensities."

Moreover, Mr. Higgins said, even if the landlord was aware that a 
particular dog was vicious   —   but had no legal right or ability to 
require the removal or confinement of the animal   —   the viciousness 
alone would not be enough to hold the landlord liable for damages caused by 
the dog.

Case of the Shrinking Elevator 10/17/99

Q:  I am a rent-stabilized tenant and my landlord has reduced the size of 
the elevators in the building. We have no freight elevators, and the couch 
in my apartment will now not fit in the smaller elevator. My landlord has 
advised me that it is not his responsibility and that I will have to carry 
the couch down nine floors or pay someone to do the job for me. Is he 
correct? . . . Lori Samet, Manhattan.

A:   Colleen F. McGuire, a Manhattan landlord-tenant lawyer, said that 
under the rent stabilization code, a tenant is entitled to the same level 
of "required services" that the tenant had when he or she took possession.

"There are a wealth of items that come under the rubric 'required service,' 
" Ms. McGuire said. For example, she said, a tenant who rents an apartment 
with air-conditioning is entitled to have air-conditioning for as long as 
the tenant occupies the apartment. "I would argue that a reduction in the 
size of the elevator is a reduction of a required service," she said.

Generally speaking, Ms. McGuire said, when there is a reduction in required 
services, the affected tenant can file a complaint with the Division of 
Housing and Community Renewal requesting a rent decrease until the original 
service is restored.

And while the D.H.C.R. has considered some elevator-related complaints as 
too minor to require action   —   ruling, for example, that the removal of 
fans, ashtrays or Muzak from elevators is not significant enough to warrant 
a reduction in rent   —   Ms. McGuire said that she believes that a 
reduction in the size of an elevator would not be considered minor.

At the same time, she said, since it is unlikely that the agency would feel 
that the reduction in service was significant enough to compel the landlord 
to restore the elevator to its former size, it would perhaps be wise for 
the letter-writer to make it known to D.H.C.R. that she is willing to 
accept a reasonable compromise as a way of settling the dispute.

"A reasonable compromise should result in the landlord paying for the cost 
of movers to carry the couch downstairs," she said.

Tenant/Inquilino, October 1999
By Colby Lenz

As the McBurney YMCA’s management continues to lead potential buyers 
through its buildings on West 23rd Street, tenants, advocates, and elected 
officials continue to fight for the tenants to stay. Relieved that the 
rumored Sept. 1 move-out date was lifted, the building’s 34 residents still 
live in limbo, fearing that they will wake up to find an eviction notice on 
their door any day.

In early July the McBurney YMCA surprised its tenants with the news that 
they would soon be forced to leave their homes. In line with the city-wide 
move away from affordable housing, the YMCA plans to sell the 95-year-old 
building at 215 West 23rd St. to build a new health club without 
residences. This move is particularly serious, because in a time when SRO 
housing is disappearing rapidly, the Y provides one of the last sources of 
affordable housing for non-special-needs tenants.

Attempting to defend the YMCA against bad press reports and pressure from 
tenants, elected officials and tenant advocates, Paula Gavin, president of 
the YMCA of Greater New York, claimed that “it is not [the YMCA’s] intent 
to evict any long-term residents… it is our intention to assist them in 
locating alternative suitable housing.” But in July, when the YMCA 
introduced a few of the tenants to Lutheran Social Services (the 
organization hired to relocate tenants), one tenant asked about the 
organization’s success rate in finding housing. The social workers, whom 
the YMCA had presented as experts, replied that this was the first time 
they had undertaken such a mass relocation.

The YMCA also refuses to acknowledge that while most of the 34 tenants are 
not covered by the city’s rent-regulation laws (because of the YMCA’s 
nonprofit status), the ones who moved in before 1971 are covered and cannot 
be forced to leave. YMCA officials, who tell potential buyers that the 
buildings will be delivered vacant, persist in evading the fact that some 
of these rent-controlled tenants plan to stay.

In mid-July, a majority of the McBurney’s tenants started the McBurney Y 
Tenants’ Association to organize against the YMCA’s attempts to force them 
out. Supported by the Chelsea Housing Group, the Chelsea Coalition on 
Housing, the West Side SRO Law Project, Councilmember Christine Quinn, 
State Senator Tom Duane, and Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, these 
tenants are busy writing letters of protest, speaking out at community 
meetings and planning their next steps for preserving their homes.

After two months of tedious nonprofit-gone-corporate rhetoric and meetings 
between YMCA officials and tenants and their supporters, it seems as though 
little has changed. Despite repeated public commitments by Paul Kooster, 
vice-president of operations at the Greater New York YMCA, to “seriously 
consider alternatives to relocating tenants,” the YMCA now sends out 
festive weekly faxes describing the “progress” of the relocation process. 
The YMCA has offered no alternatives, and recently shot down every issue 
the tenants’ association brought to an agenda-setting meeting for an 
upcoming forum called by the YMCA to “address tenant concerns.”

Concurrently, the coalition of support for the tenants continues to grow. 
Some members of the McBurney YMCA’s health club are now pressuring the YMCA 
to reconsider evicting its tenants. And SRO tenants from around the city 
are joining in the struggle—a struggle with unsettling and potentially 
harsh ramifications for both the McBurney’s 34 tenants and the future of 
affordable housing on the whole.

To show support for the McBurney tenants, please write or call Paula Gavin 
at 337 7th Ave., New York, NY 10001; (212) 630-9600.

Colby Lenz is a tenant organizer with the West Side SRO Law Project.

Budget Reform Bill Alert
From: (Reginald Neale)
see also

Independent, non-partisan views on legislative information access and 
reform issues in New York State.

Everyone knows the New York State Budget has been late for fourteen years 
in a row. Everyone knows this hurts schools and libraries, and destroys our 
credit rating. What everyone doesn't know is how bipartisan efforts to end 
this huge, politically motivated waste of time and money are being 
frustrated - by some of the very people whose job it is to draft solutions 
to these problems.

At any one time there are usually a dozen or more bills before the 
Legislature that aim to improve the budget process. Assemblywoman Sandy 
Galef (D-Ossining) introduced one of the simpler and more sensible ones. It 
calls for conference committees to be made a permanent part of the 
legislative process. That's the way it's done in Congress and in other 
states. In 1998, when we experimented with this approach in drafting a 
state budget, we missed the deadline by only two weeks. Conference 
committees would help to resolve differences in other types of bills, too.

Support for Sandy Galef's bill is extraordinarily wide. Of the Assembly's 
151 members, 103 have signed on as co-sponsors or have pledged their 
support. Supporters include approximately equal numbers of Republicans and 
Democrats. This level of support for a reform bill is little short of historic.

With better than two out of every three legislators supporting it, why 
hasn't A1966 passed the Assembly?

Because the Legislature's internal rules allow leaders to control the flow 
of legislation. This bill appears destined to sit in the Assembly's 
Governmental Operations Committee forever, because Sheldon Silver - the 
Speaker of the Assembly - has the power to keep it there.

Perhaps the Speaker disagrees with a super-majority of his chamber's 
members about the need for this bill. More likely, he sees it as 
potentially diluting his enormous personal power over individual 
legislators' share of everything from pork to parking spaces. Whatever the 
motive, preventing this bill from even being considered is profoundly 
anti-democratic. This is a particularly egregious example of how a few 
powerful politicians continue to keep our state government dysfunctional.

In August the Legislature finally passed a budget and left Albany, but it 
will be back in December to address unfinished business. Action on this 
bill should be at the top of the list. Assembly Bill A1966 should be 
allowed a fair hearing and an up-or-down vote.

It never hurts to call your local Assembly Member, but the odds are very 
good that he or she has already pledged to support it. The call you really 
need to make is to Speaker Silver's office. Say that you're tired of our 
state being micromanaged by three men in a room. Tell him it's time for 
rank and file legislators to be part of the process again. Tell the Speaker 
you want to see Bill A1966 come to the floor for a vote. Maybe when the 
democratic process is allowed to work the way it's supposed to, late 
budgets will be just a bad memory.

Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) is at 518-455- 3791.

To access this bill on the Assembly's Legislative Information System, go 
to: and enter A1966

To request a copy of Assemblywoman Sandy Galef's 10 page report "Joint 
Conference Committees - Structure and Practice In Other States," call her 
Ossining office at 914-941-1111

Next Update: Over in the Senate, A1966's companion bill also faces problems.

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Date: Sun, 17 Oct 1999 21:10:28 -0400
Subject: Tenants Online 10/17/99 (part 2)

Tenants Online                                  (part 2) 10/17/99
To unsubscribe, see the bottom of this newsletter
We're clearing out our backlog, so we're sending this 2nd part

In this issue...

1. New Public Housing Rules Shun the Poorest New Yorkers (Voice)

2. Lawyers Who've Gone to the Dogs (And Are Proud of It) (Law Journal)
    For tenants with Pets. Karen Copeland (mentioned in the article),
    has written "So you want to keep a pet, but your lease has a
    'No Pet' Clause" available at
    One of TenantNet's advertisers, Eric Feinberg also specializes
    in landlord/pet issues. Go to


New Public Housing Rules Shun the Poorest New Yorkers
Village Voice, October 12, 1999

Of the 17 benches in Collect Pond Park across from Manhattan's criminal 
court, Roger Tyson says the best are the six that flank the Lafayette 
Street side. Pointing to another group of green benches on the other side 
of a low iron fence, Tyson explains, "Rats stay over there all the time." 
So when Tyson sleeps in the park— which he does with some frequency— he 
avoids the vermin by selecting the third seat from the corner along Lafayette.

Tyson, 48, has worked on construction jobs, as a messenger for Chase 
Manhattan bank, and, until police repeatedly raided his midtown stand, a 
street vendor of scented oils, socks, and shirts. But it is his 13 years 
without his own home that have schooled Tyson in rat-dodging and other 
street-survival techniques. Starting in 1986, Tyson's addresses have 
included Bowery hotels (he left when landlords hiked the nightly rates from 
$10 to $15) and city shelters (he was kicked out after a fight he says 
another resident started). Since June, Tyson has slept variously on a 
friend's couch or a park bench, preferably one sheltered by a tree, given 
the recent squalls.

Tyson's current straits have made him a high- priority applicant to the New 
York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). "We're very anxious to give him 
housing," says NYCHA spokesman Howard Marder. Tyson applied to NYCHA in 
February 1997, and Marder says if Tyson gets an agency to verify that he is 
"street homeless," that status might whittle his wait for housing— to just 
under three years. Ironically, Tyson's housing crisis makes him fortunate 
compared to the average NYCHA applicant, who, according to the federal 
government, will wait an average of eight years to get an apartment. Marder 
calls that estimate "hyperbole," but with more than 110,000 families 
waiting for fewer than 8000 apartments each year, no one disputes that 
scoring a NYCHA apartment in less than three years is the bureaucratic 
equivalent of warp speed.

Now, for the poorest of New York's poor who are not favored with a priority 
status, and for the tens of thousands of overcrowded NYCHA tenants seeking 
larger apartments, the wait is about to get longer. That's because NYCHA 
has drafted plans to implement the federal Quality Housing and Work 
Responsibility Act, part of the welfare reform fad that overtook Congress 
in the mid '90s. Conceived largely by Long Island congressman and would-be 
senator Rick Lazio, early drafts aimed to put an end to public housing 
altogether. Under a compromise bill passed in October 1998, the housing 
survived, but with profound changes. Perhaps most significant for New 
Yorkers is the way NYCHA will implement the act's order to "deconcentrate" 
poverty by luring higher-income applicants to extremely impoverished 
developments, a goal that raises the question: Who is public housing for?

According to a draft plan now in the midst of public hearings, NYCHA will 
allow only higher-income applicants into more than 40 high-poverty 
developments containing nearly 10 percent of its apartments. NYCHA hopes to 
draw them by offering a shorter wait, accomplished by skipping over poorer 
applicants. And because the targeted developments have higher-than-average 
vacancy rates, poorer applicants and overcrowded tenants will be funneled 
to developments where openings are rarer.

"It limits choices dramatically because all the vacancies are in places 
where you can't go," says Judith Goldiner, a Legal Aid attorney who has 
long battled NYCHA policies. "People who need housing most will be the ones 
who are hurt most." Marder says the agency will try to offset the imbalance 
by offering very low-income applicants at least 75 percent and probably all 
of 3000 or so housing vouchers that become available annually. Tenants use 
the vouchers to rent apartments from private landlords.

The Quality Housing Act will also shove the very poor aside in most other 
NYCHA developments. While public housing will remain available only to low- 
income people— NYCHA tenants cannot earn more than $38,450 for a family of 
three— the law requires the agency to reserve only 40 percent of its 
vacancies for very low-income tenants, defined as families of three who 
make under $13,440. To bring higher- income tenants into NYCHA, in some 
projects, the agency will first place transferred tenants, then working 
families, and only then poorer applicants. Since 83 percent of the families 
on NYCHA's waiting list are very low-income— and since the act takes the 
unprecedented step of forbidding NYCHA from expanding its stock— it's 
obvious who will get squeezed.

"The goal of mixed income in and of itself is not bad, but it is a problem 
when the housing stock is fixed," says Victor Bach, a housing analyst for 
the nonprofit Community Service Society, who estimates that over 10 years, 
very low-income New Yorkers will be cut out of between 10,000 and 16,000 
units. On average, NYCHA's plan will each year force about 88,800 very poor 
applicants to compete for about 3200 units.

NYCHA must submit its draft for approval to the U.S. Department of Housing 
and Urban Development (HUD) by December 1. After a raucous September 29 
hearing that packed a 655-seat auditorium at Pace University and left 
hundreds of people locked outside, NYCHA has scheduled several other forums 
on the plan, beginning October 19. (See sidebar.)

"Nothing here is written in stone," says NYCHA's Marder. "The reason we go 
through this process is to get public comment . . . and perhaps say, Let's 
make a change here. A lot of people are looking at this document and saying 
this is what it's going to be. But it's not a fait accompli."

The Quality Housing Act comes as NYCHA itself is undergoing change. It is 
awaiting a Washington, D.C., agreement on HUD's ever-dwindling budget. It 
has a new chair, John G. Martinez, appointed in April after former chair 
Ruben Franco resigned. It must continue to operate for two more years under 
a complicated court settlement intended to rectify its years-old practice 
of racially steering applicants. It is planning its first major demolition. 
And it is inching toward privatization, a move that is in sync not only 
with the mood of Congress but also of City Hall, which appoints NYCHA's 
three-member board.

All of this, of course, plays out against the backdrop of a city with a 
decades-long housing emergency and a real estate market that has sent 
prices into the stratosphere.

"The intersection of things couldn't be worse," says CSS president David 
Jones. "There's welfare reform, HUD is retrenching, and Rudy Giuliani is 
moving away from the mission of housing the very poor. The script is 
already being written for an '80s-style growth in homelessness."

And that is something that Roger Tyson knows about. "The politicians make 
all these rules that sound good to their constituents, but this is 
unbelievable," Tyson said recently, sitting on a park bench that would 
later double as his bed. "The real question is, where you going to live? 
Where are poor people going to go?"

The outcry at NYCHA's September hearing began when the audience heckled 
NYCHA chair Martinez during his welcoming speech and ended three hours— and 
45 speakers— later when moderators unplugged the mike of one tenant who 
called the three-member NYCHA board devils. In between, they were also 
labeled "the new Hitlers," their plans "snake in the grass . . . 
conniving," and their goal nothing short of "genocide." Hearing them, one 
wouldn't think the speakers were talking about a housing system where they 
actually wanted to live.

Yet even the most strident critics made this point: NYCHA is an essential 
and in fact preferred housing stock for millions of low-income New Yorkers. 
As Anne Johnson, a 31-year resident of Bernard Baruch Houses on the Lower 
East Side, put it, "Public housing saved my life." She vowed to file a 
class-action suit to guarantee it will remain available.

The fact is, NYCHA has a reputation as not only the biggest but also one of 
the best public housing authorities in the country. With 181,000 units in 
344 developments, NYCHA makes up 9 percent of the city's rental housing and 
an even bigger chunk of affordable housing for the poor. NYCHA no doubt has 
problems— from aging buildings to chronic elevator breakdowns to disasters 
like deadly stairwell blazes caused by flammable paint. But for 65 years it 
has been a reliable component of the city's infrastructure.

Part of NYCHA's strength comes from its economic mix. When it began in 
1934, applicants had to pass a credit check. In the 1950s, public housing 
became a repository for tenants displaced by urban renewal, and income 
levels were considered less important. In 1981, Congress forbade 
authorities from filling more than 25 percent of their existing units or 15 
percent of future buildings with higher-income applicants. By 1983, Marder 
says, only half of NYCHA tenants had jobs, and "in 1996, it was under 30 
percent and moving down."

Even so, NYCHA developments never disintegrated into the kind of projects 
that prompted Congress to try to ditch public housing entirely. That 
impetus came from places like the "vertical ghettos" of Newark's Stella 
Wright Homes or Chicago's State Street corridor, where more than two miles 
of high-rise projects constituted 11 of the city's 15 poorest census 
tracts; the buildings are being demolished.

But while public housing in New York may have remained intact, no other 
city suffers the kind of housing crunch that we do. "In New York, public 
housing is the housing of choice in many poor neighborhoods," says CSS's 
Jones. "There just are no comparable units available in the private market."

Even so, the mistrust that NYCHA tenants have of their landlord is obvious 
and deep. At the September hearings, tenants railed against day-to-day 
hassles— Judith Smith of Manhattan's Frederick Douglass Houses raised 
deafening hoots and hollers when she complained about appliances— and grave 
social problems. Harold Durant from Surfside in Brooklyn lashed out at the 
board "sitting there all smug and all because they know the law is already 
passed and they think we're all the same damn Negroes that we've always 
been. This is a plan to move us all out." One senior resident of Farragut 
Houses in Brooklyn summed up the distrust best: "While we were sleeping," 
she said, "they were thinking."

Tenants were most outraged at a NYCHA plan to draw higher-income applicants 
to impoverished developments by offering an extra bedroom. NYCHA estimates 
at least 105,000 tenants are doubled up, waiting years for larger units. 
"There's nothing wrong with bringing more working people to public 
housing," said Dwayne Francis of Holmes-Isaacs Houses in Manhattan. "But it 
should not be at the expense of tenants who have been here and dealt with 
high crime and drugs and urine-soaked elevators all these years." NYCHA has 
subsequently scrapped the offer.

While the plan, so far, seems wildly unpopular, it is much toned down from 
earlier versions that would have ultimately killed HUD and, in the 
meanwhile, required tenants to get high school diplomas or GEDs, pay more 
than 30 percent of their income for rent, and move out after five years. 
What finally passed is a milder bill, but one that still hurts the poorest 

Marder says NYCHA has made some attempts to soften the blow: Besides 
dedicating most if not all available vouchers to the very poor, it will 
reject an option to lower the percentage of apartments that go to the very 
poor from 40 percent to 30 percent. And it will retain old federal 
standards that give preference to applicants who are homeless, victims of 
domestic violence, living in substandard housing, or paying more than half 
their income in rent, among other things. "We came up with a system that 
will allow us to help people who need help and still bring more working 
families into public housing," says Marder. "We had no obligation to do that."

But critics say NYCHA has failed to take advantage of the latitude it does 
have. "The problem we're seeing is how they exercise their discretion," 
says Goldiner of Legal Aid. "They could, for instance, say, well, we only 
have to give 40 percent of our vacancies to very low- income people, but 
because they make up more than 80 percent of the waiting list, we'll do 
more. They could try to do a deconcentration plan to give poorer people the 
opportunity to move into nicer developments instead of just taking 
apartments away from the poor."

NYCHA says its deconcentration plan aims only to attract higher-income 
applicants to high-poverty communities because it has no "high-income" 
developments for its poorest applicants to go to. NYCHA says the average 
development has a poverty rate of 63 percent — critics say it's lower— but 
NYCHA figures show it has 10 developments with poverty rates below 45 
percent, and another 15 with rates at 50 percent.

Tenants also said they were worried about NYCHA's plan for implementing 
Congress's requirement that it phase in "flat rents" based on neighborhood 
market rents. While NYCHA rents would not equal market rents, the 
complicated formula could hike rents substantially, especially in 
developments that are in higher-income neighborhoods.

"Basing NYCHA rents on the market is like saying, It's okay, to landlords 
who have harassed tenants out of their rent-regulated apartments to drive 
up rents," city councilwoman Christine Quinn, whose Chelsea district 
includes two large NYCHA developments in a very hot neighborhood, said at 
the hearing.

Indeed, many complaints stem from fear that NYCHA will try to simulate the 
private market. Although not the result of the new federal law, NYCHA's 
goals for privatization are mentioned in its Quality Housing Act plan. For 
example, NYCHA says it hopes to leverage private money and enter into joint 
ventures with the private sector, but gives no details. Ditto for plans at 
several projects where "mixed finance" is a goal, including the massive 
Baruch Houses. Since Baruch is located in a popular neighborhood, tenants 
fear losing public housing stock. But Marder says changes at Baruch will 
probably involve only renting space to stores and using the revenue to 
subsidize the project.

In two Bronx developments— Betances III and University Avenue Consolidated— 
NYCHA plans to demolish and not replace some apartments, and take others 
out of the public housing system. At Prospect Plaza in Brooklyn, one of 
four towers will be razed because NYCHA says it is structurally unsound. 
Its 128 units will be replaced by smaller buildings nearby, but it is 
unclear how many will be available to current Prospect Plaza tenants.

NYCHA's plan for implementing the Quality Housing Act will likely become 
more contentious next year, when it must tell HUD how it will enforce one 
of Congress's most regressive changes, requiring that unemployed adult 
NYCHA tenants work eight hours a month in community service. Failure to do 
so requires eviction.

"That's something that I don't think even NYCHA wants to do," says 
Goldiner. "When they make people who get a mortgage tax deduction do 
community work, and when they make corporations that get tax subsidies for 
decades do community service, then I think it will be a fine idea for poor 
people to do that, to do volunteer slave labor so they can have a place to 

Where To Go To Be Heard

NYCHA will hold the following forums on its Quality Housing and Work 
Responsiblity Act Plans:

October 19, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.: Brooklyn West, New York Technical College, 
285 Jay Street; Bronx North, Lehman College, 250 Bedford Park Boulevard 
West; Queens, Electchester Industries Center, 67-35 Parsons Boulevard.

October 21: Brooklyn East, Thomas Jefferson High School, 400 Pennsylvania 
Ave, 6:30 to 8:30; Bronx South, Lehman College, address above, 6:30 to 
8:30; Manhattan South, Murray Bergtraum High Schol, 411 Pearl Street, 7 to 
9 p.m.

October 25, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.: Brooklyn South, Abraham Lincoln High School, 
2100 Ocean Parkway; Staten Island, IS 49, 101 Warren Street; Manhattan 
North, Riverbank State Park, Riverside Drive at West 145th Street. — J.A.L.

New York Law Journal, October 18, 1999

WHILE LAWYERS often measure success in terms of dollars, a small and 
dedicated band of New York lawyers define success as winning legal rights 
for animals.

In their day-to-day work, animal law practitioners protect farm and 
domestic animals from cruelty, while shielding the animals' human owners — 
their paying clients — from such problems as eviction.

The main staples of an animal law attorney's practice include landlord and 
tenant law, pet-custody issues with shelters or pet stores, animal cruelty 
and veterinary malpractice cases. Clearly, these practitioners, who are 
typically on their own or with small firms, are not concerned with amassing 
the financial fortunes their colleagues have in other areas of the law. 
Instead, they derive much satisfaction from their work.

"I have no complaints about my life," said Maddy Tarnofsky, a Manhattan 
lawyer who represents tenants facing eviction because of their pets. "What 
could be better than keeping someone and their pet together," she said.

And there has recently been a growing interest in animal law among young 
attorneys, according to Elinor Molbegott, a solo practitioner on Long 
Island who has been devoted to winning legal rights for animals since 1977.

"I do think there is opportunity in this area for attorneys, it's 
definitely a growing field. There is enough work to go around because there 
is enough cruelty," she said.

Ms. Molbegott, the former general counsel for the American Society for the 
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), recently helped draft the Felony 
Animal Cruelty Law, which elevated to a felony intentional and extreme 
cruelty toward non-farm domesticated animals, including stray dogs and cats.

The law, also known as "Buster's Law," named for an 18-month-old tabby cat 
that was doused with kerosene and burned to death by a Schenectady teenager 
in 1997, was signed into law by Governor Pataki on June 28 and will take 
effect on Nov. 1.

"Times are changing. It is no longer a laughable issue in the legal 
community, for the most part," said Ms. Molbegott.

Growing Recognition

Animal rights are now beginning to be taken seriously by at least some in 
the legal community. For instance, next spring, Harvard Law School will be 
offering a course in animal rights law for the first time in its history. 
The course will be taught by Steven M. Wise, a private practitioner from 
Boston who is a leading figure in the animal rights movement.

Currently, in New York State, only Pace University School of Law offers 
such a course for its students. But David J. Wolfson, an associate in the 
mergers and acquisitions group at Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy, who logs 
in his pro bono hours working to prevent cruelty to farm animals, is 
looking to teach an animal law course in other New York law schools.

In addition, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York is one of 
the few bar groups in the country to have a committee on animal rights law. 
In fact, the 30-member Committee on Legal Issues Pertaining to Animals had 
a conference last month on the legal status of nonhuman animals — the 
group's term for animals. Speakers included some of the country's leading 
legal and nonlegal scholars in this topic, and lawyers received continuing 
education credit for attendance.

Not an Easy Field

But lawyers without trust funds should be aware that surviving as an animal 
law practitioner is not easy. Many who venture into the field must still 
find various other ways to supplement their incomes.

For example, Karen Copeland, a New York City animal law lawyer specializing 
in tenant evictions and housing discrimination against the disabled, 
generally charges her clients $200 an hour, less than many practitioners 
charge in other legal fields. According to Ms. Copeland, she is paid 
between $1,000 to $2,000 for a typical tenant eviction case. But if the 
case gets complicated, with many contested motions and a trial, then she 
might collect up to $6,000.

One thing all animal law practitioners seem to have in common is that they 
keep their overhead to a minimum by either practicing out of their home or 
maintaining an office with very low rent, said Ms. Tarnofsky, of Manhattan. 
Also, for these attorneys, secretaries and support staff are a luxury, 
which most do without.

"I've made peace with the fact that I'm never going to be rich," said Ms. 

And some lawyers practice animal law while also specializing in other, more 
lucrative, legal areas.

For instance, Darryl M. Vernon of Vernon & Ginsburg, a five-lawyer general- 
practice firm in Manhattan, has been practicing animal law since 1983, long 
before lawyers even considered it a legitimate field. But, Mr. Vernon also 
has a lucrative practice in other tenant, real estate and commercial law 

"I'm not sure someone can just do [animal law] exclusively. It would be a 
hard practice to start," said Mr. Vernon. "But I really love doing it. It 
can often be such an emotional thing," he explained.

Another animal law attorney, Suzan Porto, a solo practitioner specializing 
in cruelty to animals and veterinary malpractice, supplements her income by 
teaching an animal law course at Pace Law School.

Ms. Porto said she went to law school with the express purpose of 
practicing animal law. "There is a great injustice out there being done to 
those who can't speak for themselves," said Ms. Porto. "My whole focus in 
life is for the animals."

To enter this field, a young lawyer should take on pro bono cases from 
various animal rights organizations and humane societies, suggested Ms. 
Copeland. She warned that there is no lack of work out there, just a lack 
of money. And since some clients have very limited means, even experienced 
practitioners must often take cases pro bono or work out fee arrangements 
that are lower than the attorney's hourly rate, she said. However, in some 
animal disputes, the attorney's fees are paid by the opposing side.

"You do have to make sacrifices, but I support myself," said Ms. Copeland.

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Date: Sun, 24 Oct 1999 16:42:54 -0400
Subject: Update on TenantNet 10/24

Dear TenantNet Readers:
(We'll try to get a regular newsletter out later this week)

We can't thank you enough -- the generosity of those readers who have sent 
in contributions and those who have made pledges. We would also like to 
thank the many readers who wrote in with a plethora of ideas and advice. We 
will follow-up on some of those suggestions, but we're concentrating on 
keeping the site up and available.

Before we made our request for help of a few weeks ago, we looked at 
various options and somewhat settled on a "co-location" setup, where we 
would have a server located at the office of an internet provider, allowing 
the web site to have a fast and direct connection to the internet. This is 
a common setup and we would maintain the server remotely. We also looked 
for a system that would accommodate our growth for the next few years given 
our current setup, assuming we can maintain the co-location arrangement.

We are getting close to our fundraising target (about 80% of $2,500 for the 
server and associated items) and hope that we can purchase and configure 
the needed equipment in the next few weeks. We don't yet know when the 
current servers will be powered down. We hope our providers will give us 
the time needed to configure and install the new server, but if not, we 
will have a "splash screen" on the web site indicating a temporary downtime.

As before, any donations* may be sent to:

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Thank you for your support.

John Fisher

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