Caretaker, Part II

In what promises to be a long tale, Margaret Hearn, a caretaker for two deceased sisters who has laid claim to their $291 a month, rent-controlled three-bedroom apartment on East 12th Street (see below), has given up her own $747 a month rent regulated apartment in Gramercy Park. She may be thinking that this move will help solidify her succession claim, but it is reminiscent of the days when squatters moved into vacant property and dared anyone to remove them.

                                     – Jack Freund, Executive Vice President, Rent Stabilization Association 

(Views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the RSA.)

 

Caretaker, Part I: “Can You Really Claim Two Rent Controlled Apartments?”

 

Margaret Hearn Gives Up $747-a-Month Apartment

By SUZANNE ROZDEBA

 

Margaret Hearn

Margaret Hearn has given up the $747-a-month Gramercy pad she was holding on to as security, while continuing to fight for her $291-a-month, rent-controlled three-bedroom on East 12th Street.

“I don’t want to be there, it’s not home to me,” Ms. Hearn said of the 300-square-foot alcove studio in Gramercy that she has kept for 20 years. She said it was a financial burden to pay for both apartments, and that “nasty comments” from those who read about her living situation persuaded her not to renew her lease, which expires Oct. 31.

Last month, she told The Local she was fighting to keep her East Village apartment because she believes she is the rightful heir to the two sisters who in 2008, she said, asked her to share it with them.

“Win or lose, this is my home. Not because I feel entitled to it, or that I earned it, or anything like that. This is where I’m connected because of my relationship to the ladies. They were my family, and the neighborhood is my family,” she said yesterday.

Among her naysayers is Gregory Bronner, founder of NYC Renters’ Alliance for Housing Choice, who told The Local that Ms. Hearn’s fight is “a travesty for New York,” and that rent regulations should be phased out, with moderate subsidies given to the “truly needy.” He believes rent-regulated apartments “should be available to all New Yorkers” when they enter the market.

“We believe that that apartment should no longer have succession rights. She should go back to her apartment in Gramercy. She should not be allowed to inherit. From a moral perspective, it would be better used for a middle-class family looking for housing,” he said.

Ms. Hearn shot back, “First off, this apartment would be chopped up into tiny bedrooms, and would charge $5,000 a month, I believe. It’s not a question of apartments’ availability; it’s the price of apartments that makes low-income tenants feel that we’re being pushed out. Mayor Bloomberg wants us to live in a box smaller than my college dorm room.”

Ms. Hearn disagreed with Mr. Bronner’s argument that rent-regulated apartments should be phased out, arguing that many “could never afford to live in the neighborhood they grew up in, the neighborhood they have roots to” if not for the right to inherit apartments from their parents. “They’re the shopper in the community, the people that come together when the community needs them, and they bring their different cultural influences to the community,” she said.

Ms. Hearn and a lawyer for her landlord are scheduled for a deposition on Oct. 26.

Source: The Local East Village

This is chutzpah! Private owner is petitioned to keep apartment below market rate in honor of deceased feminist.

Petition Calls For ‘Shulamith Firestone Memorial Apartment’ For Low-Income Feminists

By MARY REINHOLZ

Acquaintances of Shulamith Firestone want the rent-stabilized apartment where the author and activist died this summer to be preserved as a residence for a low-income feminist, according to a petition obtained by The Local.

Kathie Sarachild with photo of Shulamith Firestone.

The petition, which can be read below, outlines a plan to earmark her fifth-floor walk-up at 213 East 10th Street for tenants doing “important” feminist work, who cannot afford current market rates in the rapidly gentrifying East Village. The rent would be no more than $1,000 a month.

Women’s liberation stalwarts like Kate Millett along with East Village literary agent Frances Goldin and Annette Averette, co-director of Sixth Street Community Center, are among those who have signed the petition directed at landlord Robert Perl, owner of Tower Brokerage.

Written by Fran Luck, executive director of the WBAI radio program “Joy of Resistance: Multi-Cultural Feminist Radio,” it notes that owners and developers of housing in formerly working-class neighborhoods have for decades “set aside” affordable rentals. Ms. Firestone paid about $400 a month, according to Mr. Perl, who said he had been planning to increase the rent of the next tenant in order to offset rising taxes imposed by the Bloomberg administration. A one-bedroom in the building, between First and Second Avenues, was recently leased for $2,095, according to StreetEasy.

Ms. Firestone, who in the 1960s helped organize women’s liberation groups such as Redstockings, New York Radical Women and New York Radical Feminists, was found dead in her apartment in late August. She was 67 and had long been afflicted with mental illness in the years following the 1970 publication of her influential feminist treatise, “The Dialectic of Sex.” Her book embraced technology as a way of freeing women from “the tyranny of their biology.”

“I think she was a difficult tenant,” said Ms. Goldin. “She was a disturbed person and would leave the water on and flood other apartments. She didn’t mean to do this, but if we could persuade the landlord that we could guarantee him a reasonable tenant, maybe he could become a hero. It’s worth a shot.”

Mr. Perl, who was Ms. Firestone’s landlord for 19 years (he said she lived there for a total of 30), considers himself as something of a “model landlord” and believes Ms. Firestone’s family “appreciates how she was taken care of over the years.” He pointed out that the city’s rent stabilization laws allow rent increases when tenants vacate regulated apartments, and said he wanted the highest allowable increase in order to begin renovation of the space with capital improvements.

Ms. Goldin said she didn’t know the names of prospective tenants for the proposed Shulamith Firestone Memorial Residence, but the petition notes that they would be “vetted” by a feminist committee and held to standards similar to those of other tenants. The idea emerged out of a memorial for Ms. Firestone held Sept. 23 at St. Mark’s Church.

Bowery resident Kate Millett,  one of an estimated 200 people who attended the memorial, told The Local that the petition’s proposal for a feminist tenant “in perpetuity” at Ms. Firestone’s space would be a difficult one to sell to any landlord, but, she said, “We have to try.”

Other attendees of the memorial included Ti-Grace Atkinson, a former president of the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women, and author of “Amazon Odyssey”; Kathie Sarachild, director of Redstockings Archive for Action who is credited with creating feminist consciousness raising; and Alix Kates Shulman, author of “Memoirs of An Ex-Prom Queen,” a bestseller that also came out of second wave feminism.

Jacqui Ceballos, president of Veteran Feminists of America, lives in Phoenix and did not attend but said she is still receiving calls and e-mails from women expressing a desire to reboot the women’s liberation movement and to keep Ms. Firestone’s legacy alive.

PETITION
September 30, 2012

Because…The Feminist world, the Art world and the Lower East Side/East Village Community have just lost one of our great visionaries–Shulamith Firestone–a woman who was able to remain, work and survive in her/our neighborhood for many years because she paid a relatively low rent….

Because…the average rent being charged new renters in our neighborhood is about $2,100., and had Shulamith tried to rent here today, it would have been impossible for her to find, live and work in an apartment she could afford…

Because… the Lower East Side/East Village environment is all the poorer for the loss, due to skyrocketing rents, of the kind of creative spirits that formerly gave the neighborhood its unique character–but who are now being priced out…

Because… Shulamith’s sister feminists, friends and admirers would like to memorialize her by making it possible for a feminist(s) coming after her to be able to live in this neighborhood and do feminist work here–such work usually being either unpaid or poorly paid, and therefore requiring an affordable rent…

Because.. it is well within “fair housing practices” developed over decades for developers/owners of housing in formerly working class neighborhoods to create “set-asides” of affordable rental units for those who cannot pay market rates…

Therefore…We, the undersigned, do hereby Petition Robert Perl, owner of 213 East 10th Street, and do strongly urge him to work with us to create a “Shulamith Firestone Memorial Apartment” that would, in perpetuity, remain well below market rates and which rent would, at this time, not exceed $1,000. per month; this apartment would be reserved for a woman who is making an important contribution to the feminist movement that is not well remunerated.

Candidates for residence in such an apartment would be vetted by a committee of feminists drawn from the list below and would meet the same standards as any other tenant–with the exception of paying a lower-than-market-rate rent.

Signatures (so far)
Kate Millett, Feminist, Author: Sexual Politics

Frances Goldin, Co-Founder Cooper Square Committee, Literary Agent for Mumia Abu Jamal

Carol Giardina, Professor of Hisory, Queens College, CUNY, Author: Freedom for Women

Kathie Sarachild, Director, Redstockings Archives for Action

Ti-Grace Atkinson, radical feminist

Nellie Hester Bailey, Director, West Harlem Tenants Council

Annette Averette, Co-Director, Sixth Street Community Center

Howard Brandstein, Co-Director, Sixth Street Community Center

Rosalyn Baxandall, Distinguished Professor, SUNY-Old Westbury

Fran Luck, Executive Producer, Joy of Resistance Multicultural Feminist Radio @ WBAI

Erin Mahoney, National Women’s Liberation(NWL)

Allison Guttu, Organizer, NWL, Women of Color Caucus of NWL, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement

Amy Kesselman, Professor Emerita, SUNY-New Paltz

Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, Professor Emeriti, California State University

Ann Snitow, Network of East-West Women

Marisa Figuereido, Redstockings

Jennifer Sunderland, Redstockings

Pete Dolack, Former Editor, New York State Green Party Newspaper

Bill Koehnlein, Brecht Forum

Marie-Claire Picher, Co-Founder,Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory

Nancy Kogel, MNN TV Producer, Reaching Out for Animal Rights (ROAR)

 

Source: The Local East Village