Brockholst Burglaries Spur Rent Strike and Article 7A Discussions

Reliable sources from tenants living at the Brockholst, 101 West 85th Street, are fed up with the apparently deficient and negligent security and safety measures in place at the building. Although RCR Management personnel at the office at 155 Riverside Drive has been apprised of the fire safety, health and security issues, there has been only cursory responses.

Currently, tenant mail packages are being stolen and a mirror attached to the wall in the lobby of the building was stolen as evidenced by the management’s video security recordings clearly showing the perpetrator in flagrante delicto on May 4, 2014 at 4:18 a.m. Yet, after 2 weeks, no police reports were filed and tenants were not notified of these incidents. If not legally required to do so, one would think that, from a moral and ethical point of view, some action would be taken or notice given. While tenured tenants are not surprised given that the fire in 2012 was a result of electrical wiring problems in apartment 6-12 where the wiring was never inspected in over 40 years, the well-documented agency complaints describing the blocking of fire exits in the basement, multiple heat and hot water complaints, children with high blood levels of lead, etc., it is noteworthy that the market rate tenants are now also antagonized.

And so it would appear that the so-called video monitoring security system is in place for RCR Management – Ari Paul, Brian Tarzik, Richard Eisenberg, and others – solely in order to snoop upon the tenants and has nothing to do with the tenants’ security or safety which apparently occupies no position of priority for the owners or management.

The tenants took it upon themselves to notify each other via their own advanced networking technology, as Ari Paul has forbidden any bulletin postings by tenants anywhere in the building. Apparently, he does not want tenants to communicate amongst themselves. Too bad. Actually, they do communicate quite well, and often.

Discussions have begun, exploring the potential for a full building rent strike until the security issues are resolved. An Article 7A proceeding in New York City Civil Court – Housing Part is also possible.

The following is copied from the NY Courts website:

Article 7A Proceedings

Article 7A of the Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law (RPAPL) allows at least 1/3 of the tenants in the building, or the New York State Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to ask the court to appoint an administrator to run the building in place of the owner, when there exists for at least 5 days any of the conditions listed in the RPAPL. For further information, you may refer to RPAPL sec. 770(1).

70. Grounds for the proceeding

1. One-third or more of the tenants occupying a dwelling located in the city of New York or the commissioner of the department of the city of New York charged with enforcement of the housing maintenance code of such city, or in the counties of Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland and Westchester may maintain a special proceeding as provided in this article, upon the ground that there exists in such dwellings or in any part thereof a lack of heat or of running water or of light or of electricity or of adequate sewage disposal facilities, or any other condition dangerous to life, health or safety, which has existed for five days, or an infestation by rodents, or any combination of such conditions; or course of conduct by the owner or his agents of harassment, illegal eviction, continued deprivation of services or other acts dangerous to life, health or safety.

2. If the proceeding is instituted by the commissioner of the department of the city of New York charged with enforcement of the housing maintenance code of such city, one-third or more of the tenants may, at any time thereafter during the pendency of the proceeding or after final judgment pursuant to section seven hundred seventy-six or seven hundred seventy-seven of this article, petition for substitution of themselves in place and stead of such commissioner of such department. Such substitution shall be ordered by the court unless good reason to the contrary shall be shown.

Fire Blazes at Combustible Wood-Framed 101 West 85th Street Brockholst

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On Christmas Eve morning, 2012, Mary Gaydos, a rent controlled tenant allegedly received her buyout check and deposited it into her bank account. Around 9:55 a.m., a tenant on the other side of the 6th floor smelled smoke and called 911. Mary Gaydos had fled the inferno in her apartment without knocking on any of her neighbors’ doors (some of whom she had known for more than 30 years) to warn them while leaving the front door to her apartment wide open. She moved to Ohio thereafter.

The Fire Department arrived within 3 minutes; Some firemen cut a hole in the roof for the smoke to escape. Other firemen walked up the stairs with the hose ready while others evacuated apartments. Some climbed the ladder as shown in the photo, above. At least one person was carried by them down the stairs to safety.  She was later treated for smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning at Roosevelt Hospital. It took the firemen approximately one hour to contain the fire.

According to the Fire Department Incident Report, the building is a non-fireproof structure. While the cause of the fire is listed as “Electrical Wiring” on the Fire Incident Report, the Detector Type, Power, and Operation are listed as Undetermined. Under the Fire Incident Report’s Origin and Extension, it states: “No Access” and Physical examination precluded due to evidence and fire area being cleaned up prior to the arrival of the undersigned investigator.” 

Click here to review the reports.

One of the tenants graciously sent these photos of the apartment after the fire:

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Community Facility On Hold for 101 West 85th Street

Due to the unauthorized variations in procedure relative to the landmark preservation approval of the community facility planned for the basement of the Brockholst at 101 West 85th Street, the NYC Department of Buildings Manhattan Borough Commissioner’s Office has chosen to “put the job on hold until it can be reviewed”. There is concern regarding “accuracy of the filing under Application #120164464″ and “The Department has initiated an audit of the referenced application”.

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The full-sized proposed demolition and construction plans as submitted to the Landmark Preservation Commission can be seen/downloaded in PDF format by clicking on each of the 8 screen shots below:

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As expressed by one of the Brockholst tenants:

Before the Brockholst destruction for the community facility

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After the Brockholst destruction for the community facility

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Upper West Side Slumlord Pollution

With all the controversy and debate at the June 1, 2010 Manhattan Community Board 7 meeting about the bicycle lane on Columbus Avenue from 96th Street to 77th Street, there was little time to address a few other important issues. One Brockholst tenant emailed me one of several documents objecting to the proposed community facility in the cellar of the Brockholst building at 101 West 85th Street that was submitted to Community Board 7. Here is the first page:

Gulf Oil Spill on the Upper West Side for CB 7 June 1, 2010
Financing a Slumlord with Taxpayer Money Who Does Not Provide Essential Services and Pollutes the Environment

The owners of the Brockholst are planning to construct a Community Facility in the cellar. With landmark status, the building at 101 West 85th Street was originally built before 1900. It is a combustible brick and wood frame building using #6 Fuel Oil. There are two restaurants on the Columbus Avenue side with two kitchens as well as the boiler in the cellar of the building where, currently, there is not even a sprinkler system in place.

Burning #6 Fuel Oil creates “a rain of toxic soot that aggravates asthma, increases the risk of cancer, exacerbates respiratory illnesses and can cause premature death” according to the Environmental Defense Fund’s December 2009 study, titled: The Bottom of the Barrel: How the Dirtiest Heating Oil Pollutes Our Air and Harms Our Health. The EDF study describes #6 Fuel Oil as “unrefined sludge laced with pollutants” and concludes that “Each gallon of No. 6 burned creates 18.8 times more soot (PM) pollution than No. 2 heating oil according to the EPA emission standards”.

Even the  NYC Community Air Survey Winter 2008-2009 issued by Mayor Michael Bloomberg office states that residential, commercial and institutional heating systems release 50% more fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and 17 times more SO2 than cars and trucks on New York City’s roads. The sludge-burning buildings in the city contribute 87 percent of the city’s heating oil soot pollution. There is proposed legislation to phase out the use of #6 and #4 Fuel Oils. Eventually, this dirty oil will be banned. The city is already converting some of its own heavy-oil-burning boilers to natural gas, after identifying 100 city school buildings burning No. 6 oil in neighborhoods with high asthma rates.

On the upper west side, the owners’ non-profit family trusts hold a total of 19 buildings under various DBA names with a total market value of approx. $2 billion. All boilers burn #6 Fuel Oil. With 1247 apartments and more than 300 HPD complaints, these buildings are burning approximately 776,511 gallons of #6 Fuel Oil, resulting in a huge failure to protect the community against toxic chemicals. In addition, the building owners and management only perform repairs relative to serious complaints of mold, heat and hot water, vermin including mice, rats, and bedbugs, serious leaks through the ceilings and walls described as “cascading waterfalls” when such complaints are reported and listed as violations or when tenants withhold rent to present their case in housing court under retaliatory threat of eviction. When repairs area performed, they are often self-certified and rarely re-inspected. The lack of concern for their tenants’ and other upper west side residents’ health and welfare is astonishing.

According to the DOB web site, several of the boilers in these buildings have not been inspected for years and do not have Certificates to Operate. The Brockholst certificate, for example, expired on October 28, 2009. Most previous inspections were certified by their own boiler installer, Irving Bauer, who inspects boilers in most if not all of their buildings.

Permission to construct the community facility in the cellar at 101 West 85th Street would further enable and subsidize slumlord management and the production of pollution via the resulting tax break which would be financed by taxpayers. The proposal should be scrutinized with an awareness of the entire building portfolio’s complaints, violations, mismanagement along with the pollution production.

The complete 25 page document may be accessed here.

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How the DHCR Inspector Was Duped

Here is how 85 Columbus Corp at 101 West 85th Street (the Brockholst) tried to push through a $1.755 million MCI rent increase against the tenants.

On the days before (September 27-28, 2009) the DHCR Inspector arrived (September 29,2009) to inspect the exterior pointing, they cosmetically corrected all evidence of inadequate exterior pointing as would have been shown by multiple leaks in public area walls and ceilings. Ari Paul would not allow any tenants to speak with Cambos Kyriakos, the DHCR Inspector.

Approximately one month before the DHCR inspection, apartments 2-4, 3-4, 4-5, 6-1, 6-3, 6-14 had rooms shortened by the addition of Durock cement walls added over the areas of exterior wall leaks. Tenants were threatened with eviction if they did not allow the cosmetic work to be completed. Some tenants had physical injuries and destroyed personal property as result of the inexperience of the workers.

 

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