Landlords Question the Efficacy of Pending City Council Bill


By Al Barbarino

City landlords are questioning the efficacy and enforceability of a proposed City Council bill that would land building owners in housing court for failing to make necessary repairs on properties.

If the bill passes, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development would target landlords who make cosmetic repairs in lieu of underlying structural problems, hoping to turn properties over for a profit without addressing major issues.

Many landlords reacted favorably to the bill, though most believed the bill could be difficult to enforce.

“I think this is a good idea,” said Adam Mermelstein of Treetop Developers, which owns and manages nearly 4,000 units in buildings across New York and New Jersey.  “I think the long-term goal is to put these buildings in the hands of quality, well-capitalized landlords who care about improving their asset as well as creating better living conditions for residents.  Perhaps it will create opportunities for us to purchase neglected buildings at favorable prices.”

But, he added, “I am unclear about the penalties and enforceability of it.”

A main focus of the bill, first proposed by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in her State of the City address, would address the common problem of landlords plastering over water leaks without seeking the source, which can cause mold and lead to structural problems, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the proposed bill.  About 50 building would be targeted per year.

“Not sure how that would be enforced,” another city landlord told The Commercial Observer, refusing to be identified, but adding that repairs of that magnitude require units to be vacant.  “It will take a lot more than an HPD inspector to resolve an underlying problem at the property.”

“This is similar to the top 200 worst building list that Bill DeBlasio had – and I was on that list,” he added.  “What a coincidence – both (Mr. DeBlasio and Speaker Quinn) are running for mayor in a city with millions of tenants.”

Tenant advocates conceded that while the bill is well-intentioned, it’s just part of the solution.

“We have a wait-and-see attitude,” Frank Ricci, director of government affairs for the Rent Stabilization Association, told the Journal.  “We want to see how it’s implemented.”

“The bill on its own is not going to do it,” added Gregory Lobo Jost, deputy director of a Bronx housing group, University Neighborhood Housing Program.

The City Council is scheduled to vote later this week.


Source: Commercial Observer

Will conservative Supreme Court remove rent regs?



April 5, 2012
Photo by Scott Stiffler
About half the tenants at London Terrace are in rent-regulated apartments. Most would have to leave if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down rent protections.
The U.S. Supreme Court will decide this month whether to take a case challenging the constitutionality of New York’s 1943 rent regulation law that gives tenants the right to renew their leases and limits rent increases to a variable percentage. If taken, the case would be heard in the high court’s October term — and a decision would be given by June 2013.

While the rent laws have withstood numerous court challenges over the years, the highly conservative court led by Chief Justice John Roberts has tenants all over New York nervous. The Supreme Court has already declared corporations to have the rights of people and may strike down the federal Affordable Health Care Act. But New York elected officials have yet to contemplate actions government could take to ameliorate the effects of an abrupt end to rent stabilization and rent control.

This article is not about the merits of the rent laws from a tenant or landlord perspective, but a look at what would happen if James D. Harmon, an Upper West Side landlord, gets the U.S. Supreme Court to take his challenge to the constitutionality of the laws. The lower courts have rejected Harmon’s case almost out of hand, given the long legal history of U.S. courts upholding the constitutionality of the rent laws — but tenants in regulated apartments are alarmed about what this right-wing court will do. All we know at the moment is that one anonymous justice asked for the city’s and state’s answers to Harmon’s appeal. Continue reading

The $55 NYC apartment


The $55 NYC apartment

SoHo geezers have cheapest rents in Apple

Last Updated: 3:06 AM, March 18, 2012

It’s the best rent deal in New York City: a SoHo one-bedroom that goes for the price of a porterhouse steak.
Thomas Lombardi, whose family moved to Manhattan from Italy in the 1940s, pays $55.01 a month for a one-bedroom at 5Spring St. — the same unit where he grew up and which he now shares with his much younger wife.
His monthly rent — which amounts to the price of a cup of coffee a day — has not increased a penny in at least two decades, according to state records.
“That’s the lowest rent I’ve ever heard of,” said Frank Ricci, director of government affairs at the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 property owners.