Gale Brewer Presents Case Against airBNB to Bill de Blasio

We heart Gale Brewer. Everybody knows that.

As presented on the Manhattan Borough President’s website on June 6, 2014, Gale Brewer championed the rights and safety of ethical residential tenants and described the perils of illegal short-term rentals in a letter written to Bill de Blasio relative to the airBNB lobby proposal:

Hon. Bill de Blasio
Mayor
City Hall
New York, New York 10007

Dear Mayor de Blasio:

I write to express my concern about the ever-growing presence and efforts of the illegal hotel industry. This multi-million dollar business flouts our state and city laws and regulations and creates fire and safety hazards in thousands of residential buildings. I am asking that you oppose the illegal hotel industry’s legislation to gut the protections of New York City residents and the industry’s efforts to collect taxes on illegal activity.

As you are well aware, over the past few years, alongside tenants, advocates, my fellow electeds and City agencies, I have fought this industry in the courts as well as through legislation and enforcement efforts. I understand that members of this industry, specifically Airbnb – now valued at $10 billion – have relaunched their efforts to roll back the protective statutes. Specifically, it seeks to repeal the 2010 legislation which clarified the definition of “permanent residence”. Bills have already been introduced in Albany (A07848/S05039, A5637/S5637, and S5433) seeking to legalize the now illegal use of apartments, including affordable, rent-regulated apartments for commercial hotel use.

In the face of the State Attorney General’s intense investigation and subpoena of their records, Airbnb has recently revealed another strategy: to begin collecting hotel taxes on the transient use of residential apartments. They claim that this revenue will be sufficient to fund the Administration’s plans for the creation of new affordable housing.

The Administration must not jettison the tenant protections embodied in the current laws and regulations or accept payment on illegal activity that violates tenants’ rights. They represent not only important health and safety protections, but the recognition that residential living is qualitatively different from hotel living. In our city of apartment-dwellers “one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor,” and we share our lobbies, hallways and elevators with our neighbors. Hotel occupancy, where public areas of a building are in fact “public” and populated by transient strangers, is a very different way of living. New Yorkers who have chosen, and by their leases contracted, to live in residential buildings have the right to quiet enjoyment of that condition, and the protection of the laws that define such housing.

In addition to the dangers and nuisances posed by Airbnb’s business model, the illegal hotel industry keeps substantial numbers of affordable housing units off the market. Many tenants, seeking additional income, avail themselves of Airbnb’s services and put themselves at risk of eviction.

I look forward to hearing from your office soon.

Sincerely,

Gale A. Brewer

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.

Submit 311 Complaints Online

Apartment complaints including heat/hot water, bed bugs, rodents, sewer backup, mold, water in basement, lead paint, electrical and other problems may be entered online via the City of New York 311 website.

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After your information is reported, you will receive an email with a service request number, date and time submitted, and a link for the service request details. The service request link contains the request number, creation date, request type, details, incident address, borough, status, last update, and next update due.

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Building-wide and individual apartment complaints may be entered.

Please note that heat and hot water complaints can also be addressed by requesting an independent boiler inspection.

Tenants have a right to request such an independent review, particularly in cases where the owner self-certifies or when inspections are conducted by plumbing contractors who regularly perform plumbing-related work on the property and, as such, are basically contractors loyal to the wishes of the owner.

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Pinnacle RICO Settlement Upheld by Federal Appeals Court

Published: October 1, 2013 in the New York Times

Court Upholds a Settlement Affecting 20,000 City Renters
By MIREYA NAVARRO

A federal appeals court has upheld a settlement affecting more than 20,000 rent-regulated tenants in New York City, clearing the way for them to seek individual compensation from their landlord for rent overcharges and other complaints.

In its decision on Monday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the 2011 settlement of the tenants’ class-action lawsuit against the Pinnacle Group, a large New York landlord, was “fair, reasonable and adequate.”

Under the Pinnacle settlement, the court concluded, all class members benefited from new procedures and “best practices” that the company agreed to follow in carrying out rent increases and evictions. The company also agreed to have a court-appointed administrator hear the tenants’ individual complaints of illegal rents and harassment and determine compensation.

The amount could reach more than $10 million, depending on how many tenants make claims, said Richard F. Levy of Jenner & Block L.L.P. who negotiated the settlement on behalf of the tenants and who said he was “exhilarated” by the court decision.

“These people have been waiting for a long time,” he said.

The tenants’ suit against Pinnacle, filed in 2007, made novel use of a law typically associated with the Mafia and other organized crime groups, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO. The tenants accused the company of engaging in a conspiracy to fraudulently increase rents in more than 400 buildings that it owned in the city. The appeals court called the tenants’ original racketeering case “a daring and unconventional effort” that achieved important benefits for the tenants under the settlement “against significant odds.”

Crooked Man

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile.
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house,
His crooked cronies he would meet, not that far from crooked creek.

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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RCR Management: Squatters, Teen Vandals at Bayside Manor

As published in the Queens Courier, October 4, 2012:

Squatters, teen vandals trespassing in Queens development
By Melissa Chan

A quiet Bayside development has become the target of illegal trespassing after building management refused to put locks on basement doors that welcome homeless squatters and a band of teenage vandals, residents say.

“It’s the craziest thing. I’ve been in this community for 53 years. I don’t think I’ve ever had to deal with something like this,” said Bayside Manors resident Jack Oshier, 67. “We don’t have problems like this in Bayside.”

According to Oshier, two basements in the apartment complex — located at 42-10 212th Street and 42-40 212th Street — have been facing major security issues since February, when residents learned their lower level laundry rooms had become guest houses for sleeping homeless people and a recurring group of at least 10 teenagers looking for a place to hang out and drink.

The nightly visitors, Oshier said, do not even have to break in, since they freely enter and exit through the unlocked basement doors left ajar every hour of the day.

The basements are not connected to the residential sections of the building, but residents say they are still scared to venture down at night in fear of running into an intruder.

“I don’t go at night once it gets dark, and I do all my laundry early in the morning,” said resident Debbie Sindicic. “But that’s when I find all the remnants of the night before.”

Sindicic, who has found small, empty plastic baggies lying around the basement floors, said she suspects the crashers are smoking marijuana.

Oshier said he sees the same homeless man leaving the 42-40 212th Street basement every morning and has picked up empty beer cans strewn around the basement rooms in the other building. Residents have also allegedly spotted the teens engaging in sexual activity at times, he said.

Still, officials at WPH Apartments Inc., which manages the buildings, have not lifted a finger to fix the problem, Oshier said.

“This situation has turned almost criminal,” he said. “Suppose someone gets hurt? What if someone follows a tenant into the laundry room? The majority of residents here have an animosity toward the situation because management here has a very casual attitude about what is happening.”

Management did not return calls for comment, but in a February 24 letter sent to Assemblymember Ed Braunstein, managing agent Ohad Badani promised to lock basement doors each night at 8 p.m. and to instruct staff members to inspect the laundry rooms for loiterers periodically throughout the day.

“Furthermore, in the coming months, we intend to install new building entrance doors. Once the installation of the entrance doors is completed, we will look into installing the same locks on the laundry room doors,” Badani wrote.

But more than half a year later, residents and Braunstein’s office say none of those changes have been implemented.

“It creates a dangerous element around the building,” said David Fischer, Braunstein’s chief of staff. “This is a situation where the building doesn’t seem to care about the safety of its residents.”

The 111th Precinct is “currently attempting to work with property managers to enforce trespass laws,” according to Community Affairs Officer Bill Conway. But unless building administration signs off on a trespass affidavit, police cannot make arrests, he said.

“We want it fixed,” Oshier said. “It just doesn’t make sense. What is the big deal about putting the proper security lock on a door?”

Capo Ari Paul Orders Tenant Garden Destruction

In an April 15, 2008 article entitled THEY PAVED PARADISE: FLOWER FUROR ON W. SIDE, Chris Erikson of the New York Post reports that Regina Metropolitan Company’s managing agent, Ari Paul of RCR Management Services, ordered the destruction of a thriving 300 square foot plot at 27 W. 96th St. that a rent stabilized tenant couple had tended for 15 years, despite the pleas of block residents and the building’s tenants who signed petitions and sent faxes pleading with the owner to spare the garden.

Before the destruction

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Apparently, his henchmen ripped up/trashed close to 200 plants worth thousands of dollars – including rare varieties that were starting to bud, which devastated tenants in the building. His letter claimed that he was removing the garden to keep the building “free of health and safety issues.”

Many in the building noted that the garden had never created a problem and called the botanical blitzkrieg a hostile act toward rent-stabilized and rent-controlled tenants.

Jeff (pictured here and captioned “From Bloom to Gloom”) and Louise Kindley, a writer and a social worker who started the garden 15 years ago, had filled it with foxgloves, delphiniums and other blooms from upstate.

After the destruction

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Ari Paul did not return telephone calls to the New York Post for comment. Now that’s a surprise.

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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