Tenant Harassment Bill
292 Bedford Avenue was erroneously declared vacant, allegedly exposing tenants to health risks caused by construction.

For some, rising Brooklyn property values means a declining quality of life, as landlords attempt to rid buildings of longtime tenants and increase rents.

New York City Council members Wednesday introduced a package of 12 bills intended to stop tenant harassment in the form of building construction.

The bills are sponsored by 11 council members, all Democratic, including Brooklyn representatives Stephen Levin, Carlos Menchaca, Rafael Espinal, and Antonio Reynoso. As well, coalition advocacy group Stand for Tenant Safety helped draft the bills, aiming them specifically at quickly changing residential areas like Crown Heights where construction has increased, according to the New York Times. (more…)

300 nassau avenue greenpoint 122014

In a rare decision, a Brooklyn Housing Court judge has barred landlord Joel Israel from his own building and appointed an administrator to repair and manage it. The building at 300 Nassau Avenue in Greenpoint has been in the headlines since the rent-regulated tenants were forced out in December 2013 because the landlord destroyed their apartments, water lines, gas lines, and hot water heaters, according to a press release from the tenants’ laywers. Tenants will return when the building is fixed.

The same landlord also owns 98 Linden Street in Bushwick, where he allegedly destroyed kitchens and baths in two rent-regulated apartments, as we’ve reported previously. He’s also been accused of destroying his building at 324 Central Avenue in Bushwick and other properties in Brooklyn.

Landlords Destroy Their Own Buildings to Push out Rent Regulated Tenants [Brownstoner]
Tenants: Bushwick Landlord Tears out Kitchens, Bathrooms to Get Tenants to Move [Brownstoner]
Photo by Christopher Bride for PropertyShark

hpd tenants rights forum

If you’re confused about rent stabilization, Section 8 housing, or any of your legal rights as a tenant, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is hosting a forum next month in Brownsville to answer your questions. HPD reps will also discuss housing code violations, NYCHA housing, bed bugs, rent protections for seniors and the disabled, discrimination and affordable housing lotteries. The forum will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at P.S./I.S. 323 in Brownsville, located at 210 Chester Street. Check out the Facebook event for more details.

affordable housing crisis

State Senator Velmanette Montgomery is organizing a conference Thursday evening to discuss how tenants could be affected by changes in the rent regulation laws, which are due to expire this summer. The New York State Senate will decide whether to renew them on June 15. Several local politicians, including Mayor de Blasio, are pushing for the repeal of the 1971 Urstadt Law, which gives the state control over rent regulation instead of the city. Many of those politicians will appear at tomorrow’s conference, including state senators Montgomery and Hamilton, as well as City Council members Laurie Cumbo, Stephen Levin, Carlos Menchaca and Robert Cornegy Jr. State Assembly members Joe Lentol, Walter Mosley and Felix Ortiz will also attend.

The Affordable Housing Crisis will take place January 15 from 6 pm to 8:30 pm at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church at 85 South Oxford Street. RSVP by emailing or calling Senator Montgomery’s office at 718-643-6140 or ojonas@nysenate.gov.


Tenants of about a dozen buildings in Crown Heights have formed a group to fight gentrification, landlord abuse and rising rents called Crown Heights Tenant Union, Brooklyn Bureau reported. Formed in October, the group recently held a rally outside 1059 Union Street, above, to protest landlords who try to force out longtime tenants to deregulate apartments and raise rents.

“When long term tenants move out, landlords have been gutting the apartments to deregulate the rents,” said the story. “At the same time the long term residents are not getting repairs in their units.”

The group was created with the assistance of the Pratt Area Community Council and the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, or UHAB. The union has a list of demands, “including a five-year rent freeze, timely repairs, a right to organize and a right to fair leases.”

“They’re beautifying the neighborhood,” the story quoted a long-term resident as saying. “I’ve been here for 36 years. I want to enjoy that also.”

Crown Heights Tenants Form Union to Fight Gentrification [Brooklyn Bureau]
Rapidly Rising Rents Drive out Recent Arrivals in Crown Heights [Brownstoner]
Photo by Nicholas Strini for PropertyShark


Landlords are objecting to a newly created state agency designed to investigate landlords who violate rent regulation laws. They say the investigations “violate rules of due process and misuse subpoenas” to intimidate landlords who own small buildings, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Before the creation of the state agency, called Tenant Protection Unit, last year, the burden was on each individual tenant to take their landlord to court for violating rent regulation laws. There was no oversight of a pattern of rule breaking, and it would be difficult for ex-tenants to track whether landlords illegally deregulated apartments after they moved out. According to the Journal:

In its first year, the Tenant Protection Unit mainly conducted audits, looking at landlords who failed to file registration forms. It also asked landlords to document their spending on vacant-apartment improvements. In the past, landlords had to provide such documents only when a tenant filed an objection. The result, the unit said in a June news release, was to add back 20,000 apartments in 2,000 buildings to the rent-stabilized rolls. Landlords said much of that gain was because of clerical errors being corrected that didn’t change rents paid by tenants. Mitchell Posilkin, general counsel to the Rent Stabilization Association, a landlord group, said the review of renovations of vacant apartments was arbitrary and snared smaller landlords, who sometimes worked with contractors without formal record keeping. Tenant Marquetta Bell, a military veteran, said residents were concerned about an influx of new tenants from outside the neighborhood who were paying much higher market rents in apartments that were deregulated after renovation.

As reported last week, the Tenant Protection Unit is investigating a landlord with buildings in Crown Heights (above) and Flatbush who appears to be flagrantly violating the law. A tenant advocacy group in Crown Heights has complained about landlords in the area who they say kick out regulated tenants and illegally charge new tenants higher rents in regulated buildings.

Do you think landlords are being unduly burdened with requests for record keeping, or are they upset because the state is making it harder for them to break the law?

Landlords Owners Crying Foul Over State Tenant Protection Unit [WSJ]

At a Rent Guidelines Board hearing Thursday, three Democratic mayoral candidates spoke in favor of freezing rents for regulated apartments. Usually, candidates for office do not attend rent hearings. Those in favor were Christine Quinn, Bill de Blasio, and John Liu, The New York Times reported. The recommendations come at a time of quickly rising market rents and sales prices throughout the City, particularly in Brooklyn. Last year, the board approved increases of 2 percent to 4 percent. This year they are considering higher increases: 3.25 percent to 6.25 percent for a one-year lease and 5 percent to 9.5 percent for a two-year lease. They are also considering an additional increase for those who currently pay less than $1,000 a month. The ruling will not affect market rate rents, only those in rent stabilized or rent controlled apartments. Do you think a freeze would help make housing in Brooklyn more affordable?
Photo by Marie-Laure Even

The condos at historic Cobble Hill Towers are more than 30 percent sold, said David Kramer, principal of the Hudson Companies Inc., which is renovating parts of the property and handling the condo conversion. “We’ve been doing quite well with sales in the last three months. Partially because success begets success and partly because market is strong,” he said. Wells Fargo offers financing with 20 percent down; some current residents are unhappy FHA financing is not available, according to a Brownstoner reader. Hudson expects to reach the 50 percent sales mark and then get FHA financing sometime over the next 18 months, said Kramer. Current tenants of the rent-stabilized and rent-controlled complex, which is located at Warren, Hicks, & Baltic streets, have the option of continuing to rent, taking a buyout or buying their apartments. There is also a rent-to-buy option. The conversion had hoped to get a waiver and FHA financing before reaching 50 percent and is still pursuing that option, added Kramer. Because the units are small, most are priced at less than $400,000. The landmarked nine-building complex was designed by William Field & Son and built in 1879 by wealthy industrialist Alfred Tredway White as model housing for workers. The apartments are linked by external hallways and stairs, and originally featured common bathing facilities in the basement.
Cobble Hill Towers: 30 Percent Buying or Being Bought Out [Brownstoner]
Cobble Hill Towers Condo Plan Drops [Brownstoner] GMAP
Photo by Hudson Companies Inc.

When the 18-story apartment building at 85 Livingston Street in Downtown Brooklyn (The Daily News calls it Brooklyn Heights but we suspect that’s just because it makes for a juicier headline) went co-op in 1989, about 30 rent-stabilized tenants opted not to buy their apartments. Now, these hold-outs contend, the building’s sponsor, Mark Teitelbaum, is unfairly seeking rent hikes as well as back rent for improvements that he made to the building back in 2004. Typically landlords of rent stabilized buildings are allowed to make certain upward adjustments in return for making capital improvements. In this case, detailed this morning by The Daily News, Teitelbaum is trying to raise rents by between $60 and $90 a month going forward as well as to collect money going back to 2004; the state Department of Housing and Community Renewal initially denied his request but recently reversed its decision on appeal. The tenants are almost all elderly and many of them are claiming health and financial difficulties. “At their core, the tenants’ primary objections are based on the impact of the increase rather than its supporting factual basis,” Deputy Commissioner Woody Pascal wrote. “However, DHCR must administer the increase in accordance with law.” Not surprisingly, politicians are expressing support for the tenants.

Today State Senator Daniel Squadron, along with other elected officials, including Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, are rallying to protest a court decision that jeopardizes tens of thousands of NYC residents under rent protection. The court decision in question allows landlords with J-51 benefits (a tax-incentive program through HPD for landlords, who in turn have to provide certain benefits to their tenants) to “retroactively” terminate and repay those benefits. In repaying the benefits, landlords can take away rent-stabilized apartments from their tenants, despite a previous court ruling involving Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village that said rent must be stabilized for the full term in exchange for a tax break. This means that about 4,000 apartments in 25 developments across the city in danger of losing rent stabilization. Independence Plaza North (IPN) residents are appealing the court decision threatening the rent in their building. Elected officials will speak to the wide effects of this particular court decision. They will hold the rally today, 11:15am, outside Independence Plaza North, near Greenwich and Duane Street in Tribeca. Check back here later today for photos.

AP via NBC: “The Supreme Court won’t hear an appeal that seeks to end rent stabilization laws in New York City. The high court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from James and Jeanne Harmon, who have lost earlier court attempts to get rent stabilization laws thrown out. The Harmons inherited a building with three rent-controlled apartments near Central Park on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The Harmons say rent stabilization laws forces them to rent the apartments at rents 59 percent below market rate. They argue that by giving the tenants lifetime tenure with succession rights, the government has illegally taken their property. A federal judge and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City threw out their lawsuit. The high court refused to review that decision.”