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Housing Archive

November 3, 2009 @ 4:29 pm

New Efforts Fail to Reduce Homelessness

From Jillian Jonas, freelance journalist and former national political analyst for U.P.I.:

As Mayor Michael Bloomberg approached the end of his first term in 2004 with his eye toward re-election in 2005, the administration was able to momentarily turn away from the city’s economic turmoil. Bloomberg began re-examining some of New York’s social service policies, putting fighting poverty and homelessness at the top of his list.

In June 2004, Bloomberg announced an ambitious five-year plan called “Uniting for Solutions Beyond Shelter” with the goal of tackling the complex questions of homelessness — particularly ending chronic homelessness within 10 years — and cutting the homeless population by two-thirds. “At its heart, this new plan aims to replace the city’s over-reliance on shelter with innovative, cost-effective interventions that solve homelessness — and to make visible headway in reducing homelessness on the streets and in shelters,” said the mayor.

To be sure, there have been bumps along the way: controversial moves offering homeless individuals one-way tickets out-of-town or enforcing a never utilized Pataki-era state law charging homeless families for their shelter stay. There also was an extremely unpopular attempt to move a Manhattan intake shelter to Brooklyn. And, at a recent Working Families Party mayoral forum, media reports quoted Bloomberg as saying New York’s homeless find shelters “a lot more attractive” than “permanent living situations.”

But more significantly, Bloomberg’s lofty goals have not materialized. In fact, rather than cutting the population by two-thirds, the administration has seen homelessness increase substantially.

[See the rest of the story at Gotham Gazette]

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November 3, 2009 @ 3:43 pm

Part Two of Our Back Story on Independence Plaza

From Seth Miller:

As we know, the city didn’t bother to enforce the J-51 law at Independence Plaza North, under which every apartment should have been registered as stabilized before HPD permitted the development to leave Mitchell Lama. Instead, nearly two years after IPN left the Mitchell Lama program, after numerous in-person meetings between HPD’s commissioner and Gluck’s lawyers (to which the tenants were not invited), HPD accepted back Gluck’s repayment of the post-Mitchell Lama J-51 benefits, giving Gluck a fig leaf to defend against what had by then become the tenants’ lawsuit for rent stabilized status. Part of the logic here is that, to Bloomberg, it is better to have the federal taxpayer pay for vouchers that protect only the poorest tenants, while the landlord gets market rents, than for the City to actually enforce a law that mandates affordable rents for everyone.
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November 2, 2009 @ 2:25 pm

Michael Bloomberg and The New York Times—Partners in Deception

Some folks have suggested that we stay in business to monitor Bloomberg’s third term. We don’t have any plans to continue Bloomberg Watch after today. New Yorkers won’t have to surf the web to understand the consequences of Bloomberg’s reelection—they’ll be plain to see. We suspect, too, that the mayor won’t bother quite as much with the bogus explanations and deceptive politics that have characterized his first eight years. (Those of you who have read Joyce Purnick’s semi-authorized biography will recall Bloomberg’s modus operandi – “Make the customer think he’s getting laid when he’s getting fucked,” New Yorkers, especially tenants, should know the deal by now.

Bill Thompson is the only alternative to four more years of Marvin “Markup” Marcus rent hikes. We think it’s likely that Bloomberg will back a move in Albany to end rent regulation. Whatever draconian policies are awaiting their post-election announcements, rent-stabilized tenants who don’t go out to vote for Bill Thompson tomorrow will deserve what they get—and get it they will. Those who do vote will get it right along with them.

We thought we’d end with a story of why we began. Readers already know that I was the president of a Mitchell-Lama tenant association at Independence Plaza, a 3,000-3,500-person rental complex in Tribeca.
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October 26, 2009 @ 11:11 am

Michael Bloomberg v. the People of New York City: The Spin v. The Facts

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October 22, 2009 @ 12:02 pm

Court Rules Stuy Town Owners Must Pay Millions in Damages to Tenants

Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Now the action shifts to the legislature. Financed by real estate developers, landlords and the looming threat of a Bloomberg-financed campaign to deregulate and privatize of what remains of New York’s affordable housing stock, and to finance candidates who agree with his luxury city vision, will the legislators — Democrats and Republicans — cash in their constituents? Stay tuned.

Via The New York Times:

The state’s highest court dealt a financial blow on Thursday morning to the already beleaguered owners of the sprawling Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village complexes in Manhattan when it ruled that they improperly began charging market rents on thousands of apartments.

The ruling by the Court of Appeals may mean that the current owner, a partnership of Tishman Speyer Properties and BlackRock Realty, and the former owner, Metropolitan Life, may have to pay an estimated $200 million in rent overcharges and damages to tenants of about 4,000 apartments.
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October 21, 2009 @ 5:43 pm

Clearing Up the Landlord Propaganda

A letter written by Dan Jacoby:

Dear Ms. Fung:

The “study” on which you reported in the Crain’s article [“Study: Owners of rent-stabilized buildings regular folks, Oct. 20, 2009] is a lesson in falsehoods. The groups who commissioned the study are groups of landlords, so naturally the study reflects what they want to have said.

In this case, the “study” talks about “owners” but not “properties.” Why is there an enormous difference Because one “owner” can own many, many “properties” (just look up Tishman-Speyer, for example). In addition, a “family business” is whatever the owner decides it is; many so-called “family businesses” are in fact privately-owned but very large corporations.

If the study were legitimate, it would show how many rent-stabilized properties have absentee landlords. The one figure, that “31% [of owners] actually live in the buildings they own,” fails to take into account landlords who own more than one building — they can’t live in all their buildings. How many buildings rent-stabilized buildings have their owners living in them? Of course the study doesn’t say, but it’s a long-odds bet that the number is miniscule.

Finally, the “study” claims that, “Roughly 60% of owners said revenues exceeded operating costs.” The key word is “said” — owners say one thing, but that doesn’t make it the truth. The fact is that between maintenance, heat, water, property taxes and other “operating costs,” the typical apartment costs less than $700/mo., while the typical rent is significantly higher, so 40% of the owners may have “said” that they don’t make money, but that is clearly not an accurate statement.

Seriously, if you’re going to report propaganda as straight news you should quit your job and stop pretending to be a journalist. You blew this one; now let’s see if you can make up for it.

Dan Jacoby

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October 19, 2009 @ 12:27 pm

Does Mayor Bloomberg Pass the Grade After Eight Years?

From Josephine Lee:

What does your community report card say for Mayor Bloomberg?

While his $200 million budget in campaign ads have covered up the reality of most New Yorkers, the Chinatown community recently publicly grade doomberg on the impact of his administration on the working families and small businesses, making up the majority of our communities.

Is your community better off now than they were eight years ago before Bloomberg came into office?

We urge other communities in the five boroughs to issue their own report cards.

Score the Mayor on the issues below and how he has affected your community in the last 8 years.
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October 15, 2009 @ 11:26 am

What Some Tenants are Paying For in the Real Estate Crash

Thanks to Sue Susman for passing on.

Via NPR’s All Things Considered:

Ever since it was purchased in 2007, tenants of the hulking old apartment building on University Avenue in the Bronx have endured cockroaches, leaking pipes, electricity outages and myriad other deprivations and indignities. But the low point probably came last winter, when the boiler ran out of oil.

“For two weeks, we had no heat. This room right here? Icicles coming from the ceiling. That’s how cold it was,” says Luis Correa, 33, standing in the back bedroom of the apartment where he has lived his entire life.

The building was long owned by a small landlord who did a good job of maintaining it, Correa and his neighbors say. But one day in 2007, they awoke to find it had been purchased by Ocelot Capital Group, along with 24 other buildings, for the staggering sum of $36 million.

Later, when the real estate crash left the owners unable to pay the debt service and keep up the property, the new owners abandoned it.
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October 5, 2009 @ 5:01 pm

Michael Bloomberg — The Affordable Housing Mayor?

The Spin

Mike started the largest municipal affordable housing program in the nation. When complete, this bold initiative will have provided affordable housing for half a million New Yorkers. Since Mike took office, nearly 94,000 units of affordable housing have been completed.1

The Facts

“It is my pleasure to bring back Marvin Markus as Chairman of the Rent Guidelines Board.”

With those words, uttered on March 21, 2002, Michael Bloomberg made clear his bad intentions towards the 2 million plus New Yorkers who live in rent regulated apartments. The notorious Marvin “Markup” Markus, a Goldman Sachs investment banker, earned his nickname when he chaired the RGB from 1979 to 1984 and engineered rent increases of 11 and 14 percent.2 Bloomberg’s guy.

Here is what the Marvin Markup Markus’ Rent Guidelines Board has done since Bloomberg brought him back.

In the aftermath of September 11, RGB’s first order was a modest 2%-4% increase.

The annual increases each June thereafter were as follows:

2003 — 4.5%-7.5%
2004 — 3.5%-6.5%
2005 — 2.75%-5.5% (Bloomberg up for reelection)
2006 — 4.25%-7.25% (Post-election)
2007 — 3.0%-5.75%
2008 — 4.5%-8.5% (Bloomberg term limited and not expected to run)
2009 — 3.0%-6.0% (Bloomberg up for reelection)

If you were a tenant in a rent-stabilized apartment paying, say, $1,400 a month when Bloomberg took office, your rent would now be up to $2,294. The widely accepted rule for determining whether an apartment is affordable is that a tenant should pay no more than 33.3% of household income for rent. That means our hypothetical tenant in 2009 should be earning at least $82,584 a year.

The Spin

“Mike is also protecting existing affordable housing and improving housing conditions. His administration has brought tenants and landlords together to keep more than 21,000 apartments from exiting the Mitchell-Lama program, one of the most effective middle-class housing programs in the city’s history.”

The Facts

Here is how many rent stabilized apartments have been lost to the private market under Bloomberg

2003 — 7,556
2004 — 4,709
2005 — 7,378
2006 — 6,022
2007 — 5,088
2008 — 8,267
2009 — You Ain’t Seen Nuthin’ Yet.

These are only net losses. Owners place new apartments under rent stabilization because they calculate that regulation for a period of time with tax benefits and existing market conditions is more profitable than no regulation without the benefits. There are many variations on the theme of why some apartments transition into rent stabilization, including those that go from rent control to stabilization, the J-51 and 421-a programs, and so on. Often, the tenants in these newly regulated apartments end up paying higher rents.

Here is how many apartments were lost to rent stabilization during that period.

In 2002, New York City lost a total of 11,421 previously rent stabilized apartments.
In 2003, New York City lost a total of 12,692 previously rent-stabilized apartments.
In 2004, New York City lost a total of 13,017 previously rent-stabilized apartments.
In 2005, New York City lost a total of 14,045 previously rent-stabilized apartments.
In 2006, New York City lost a total of 13,974 previously rent-stabilized apartments.
In 2007, New York City lost a total of 14,205 previously rent-stabilized apartments.
In 2008, New York City lost a total of 16,833 previously rent-stabilized apartments.

A grand total of 96,187 rent-stabilized, affordable apartments lost under Bloomberg.3

Bloomberg’s praise of Mitchell-Lama is really a whopper. My wife and I have lived for more than twenty years in what used to be a Mitchell-Lama rental complex known as Independence Plaza. It housed about 3,000 people in Lower Manhattan. Mitchell-Lama housing, where folks from every ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic group live with a substantial degree of harmony, is the single most important program in New York City — not housing program — program.

We don’t have an office of bogus statistics to prove what candidate Bloomberg wants to prove about schools, crime, affordable housing or anything else. Many independent experts have done that already. The problem is that the mainstream media won’t allow the facts to penetrate the Bloomberg Blitzkrieg. I know, as do most of the folks who live in Mitchell-Lama developments, that if the billions of dollars being sunk down the rat hole of Bloomberg’s school program in a futile effort to make separate but equal work, were instead put into a real, integrated affordable housing program such as Mitchell-Lama where the kids live in the same complexes and go to the same schools, the results would be astonishing.

We watched our neighbors’ kids grow up in our complex. Poor white, black, and Hispanic kids hung out together and attended the same schools. For the most part, they turned out great — much, much better than the usual segregated communities and schools that are the indisputable outcome, if not the lynchpin of the Bloomberg policy.

Michael Bloomberg is one stubborn, wrong-headed, and deceptive mayor. He’s fudging the statistics on schools and on just about everything else. And he isn’t about to change his ways. He’s just got to get past the nuisance of an election. Then watch out.

Here’s the story of Independence Plaza in brief. You can read about in greater detail in our archives here. I haven’t told this part of it yet.

I was the reluctant tenant association president. We had negotiated a bill with Gifford Miller, the city council speaker. It would have forced the landlord Laurence (Call me Larry) Gluck to negotiate in good faith with the tenants before being able to exit the Mitchell-Lama program and go to market rents, his stated intention. Doctoroff had already given him the go ahead to privatize the complex.

Miller had finally agreed to sponsor the bill we had negotiated with him. With the help of the Working Families Party, we had lined up more than 2/3 of the City Council, enough votes to override the certain Bloomberg veto. But this was late 2003 and Bloomberg was thinking about his re-election campaign. He didn’t want a veto. He had already taken some political punishment for his lead paint veto. Remember that?

Miller scheduled an October 29 press conference for noon to be followed by a City Council hearing on the bill. With police cars in front and in the rear, hundreds of Independence Plaza tenants marched on City Hall. Tenant leaders from other Mitchell-Lama developments came out to support the bill and us. But at 10 a.m. Bloomberg held his own press conference in City Hall’s Blue Room. With HPD commissioner, Jerilyn Perine, standing alongside, he announced a state legislative “initiative” that he claimed would extend rent stabilization to all Mitchell-Lama tenants whose developments were being privatized.

Reporters asked Joe Bruno’s spokesman to comment on the Bloomberg “initiative.” Bruno, who is now under indictment, was the Republican senate majority leader and Bloomberg’s good friend. He was also the recipient of millions of dollars of Bloomberg political money. Bruno’s spokesman said that he hadn’t had a chance to review the proposal. In fact there was no proposal. At the time, it was only a press release. The spokesman went on to say “we have not been supportive of efforts to expand rent regulation in the city.” Exactly. Nor had Bloomberg. So what was really going on?

At the hearing later that afternoon, Martin Connor, the former Democratic Senate minority leader whose district included Independence Plaza, testified that the Bloomberg proposal would “have a long wait” in Albany. “I serve in the State Senate and I can tell you the likelihood of passing legislation opposed by the real estate lobby is nil. The City Council legislation is needed and needed now.”

Jerilyn Perine, the HPD commissioner who now works for a real estate lobby and who for years had done her best to frustrate tenant efforts to hold on to their homes, also testified. She lauded the Council’s concern over the loss of affordable housing. But regrettably, she said, the agency would have to oppose the bill.

Perine had a better idea: “Let’s all work together with the governor and the state legislature to achieve passage of this crucial legislative initiative [the Bloomberg initiative] and protect the viability of this important housing stock.” She laid it on thick.

A skeptical council member asked “If you don’t get your proposal passed in Albany, what’s plan B?” “We’ll do everything we can to pass the bill. There is no plan B.” What the council members didn’t come right out and say was that there was no plan A either. It would be months before the administration actually sent a bill to Albany. Bloomberg did nothing to pass it and it now sits safely buried somewhere in the bowels of a legislative committee and in the archives of the Bloomberg/Quinn New York City government. It will not be resurrected even though the state legislature and governor’s office are occupied by Democrats. Too many of those seats have been bought and paid for by Bloomberg and the real estate lobby.

The incident calls to mind a legendary moment in the City Council in the 1970’s when Dominick Corso, a Brooklyn member, was so frustrated with a reformer that he blurted out his existential truth: ‘You think it takes guts to stand up for what is right?’ he asked. ‘That doesn’t take guts. What takes guts is to stand up for what you know is wrong, day after day, year after year. That takes guts!’”4 Bloomberg has guts.

The Albany “initiative” was hastily put together and announced two hours before Miller’s press conference. Except for the New York Times, which appeared to take it seriously, everybody knew the Bloomberg initiative was a fraud. But it worked. The feckless City Council speaker buried the bill “now that the mayor has stepped up.” He picked up some real estate contributions that he otherwise would have lost. Some 1300 once affordable apartments now bring upwards of $5,000 a month. The existing tenants managed to survive but that’s a long story and has nothing to do with this one.

Michael Bloomberg has eviscerated affordable housing, wrecked neighborhoods, and destroyed lives in the process. Give him four more years and there won’t be another affordable apartment left in New York.

It is why every legitimate tenant advocacy group in the city wants to see him defeated. We’ll all breathe a great sigh of relief to see him go — just as we did when George Bush slunk back to Texas, leaving the wreckage behind for someone else to clean up.

Let’s take back our city from these wise guys. William Thompson is a no charisma man without hundreds of millions of dollars to create a bogus image and a spurious record of achievement. He’s a moderate, and we think a well-intentioned Democrat. We admire his courage. The City needs him. We need him. Let’s support him.

[1] From the Bloomberg campaign site:
[2] The Rent Guidelines Board is the entity that establishes guidelines for rent stabilized apartments, lofts and hotels in NYC. All members are mayoral appointees.
[3] All statistics taken from the RGB official website.
[4] As cited in The Permanent Government: Who Really Runs New York?, Jack Newfield and Paul DuBrul, The Pilgrim Press New York, 1981 (Published in 1978 under the title: Abuse of Power)

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September 28, 2009 @ 5:09 pm

Residents Fight for Affordable Housing

A familiar issue facing many tenants in Mitchell-Lama complexes that have been privatized under Bloomberg: The owners refuse to make repairs or maintain the apartments of long-time tenants who receive some sdort of housing subsidy. This puts pressure on them to move out to make room for market rate tenants. A friend sent us this quote, which has great resonance in this mayoral election

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” — Ben Franklin
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