This Sunday! JOIN COOPER SQUARE COMMITTEE and WORKERS UNITE FILM FESTIVAL for a FREE film showing of 99 HOMES

99homes2

Sunday, May 22

6:30pm

(Light refreshments at 6:30, Film at 7 pm)

59-61 E. 4th Street

4th floor

Set amidst the backdrop of the 2008 housing market catastrophe, Dennis Nash, a hard-working and honest man, can’t save his family home despite his best efforts. Thrown to the streets by real estate shark Mike Carver, Dennis, out of work and luck, is given a unique opportunity – to join Carver’s crew and put others through the ordeal done to him in order to earn back what’s his. Fueled by powerful acting and a taut, patiently constructed narrative, 99 Homes is a modern economic parable whose righteous fury is matched by its intelligence and compassion.

Free! Please register here so we know how many to expect.
Any questions, email carmenp@coopersquare.org

wuff

Sponsored by CSC and the Workers Unite! Film Festival

COOPER SQUARE COMMITTEE APPLAUDS INDICTMENT OF PREDATORY LANDLORD STEVE CROMAN

For Immediate Release: May 10, 2016

Contact: 
Steve Herrick – steveh@coopersquare.org212-228-8210, ext 1
Brandon Kielbasa, bkielbasa@coopersquare.org212-228-8210, ext 4

COOPER SQUARE COMMITTEE APPLAUDS INDICTMENT
OF PREDATORY LANDLORD STEVE CROMAN

The Cooper Square Committee applauds NYS Attorney General Eric Schniederman for bringing a 20 count criminal indictment and civil charges against notorious landlord, Steve Croman, who has a long track record of harassing and intimidating his rent regulated tenants.  “Our Organizing Director, Brandon Kielbasa, brought many of these allegations to the attention of Attorney General Schneiderman’s office over 2 years ago. We are deeply gratified that he and his staff did a thorough investigation of the many tenant claims of harassment and intimidation that we documented, and moved forward with an indictment”, said Steve Herrick, Executive Director.

For more than a decade, Cooper Square Committee’s organizing department has worked with Croman tenants grappling with a pattern of frivolous litigation, failure to deposit tenants’ rent checks followed by dispossess notices, a lack of essential services, the use of Anthony Falconite’s services to stalk tenants and make repeated buyout offers, and reckless renovation often done without permits or in disregard for stop work orders.  Buildings acquired by Croman followed a familiar pattern, with most of the tenants moving out within a year of his acquiring them.

We want to acknowledge the tenant associations that fought back despite the fear of retaliation. Tenants at 309 East 8th Street brought an HP Action in Housing Court when Croman’s renovation work disbursed dust on a constant basis and caused health problems for a number of tenants. The building also had a DOB partial vacate order for the basement due to damage caused to a load bearing wall that housed all the gas meters. The reckless demolition also caused gas leaks that lead to a four week gas shut off; 159 Stanton Street got organized last year in response to harassment and unpermitted and dangerous renovation work. More recently; 529 East 6th Street organized and drafted letters to New York Community Bank about the over-leveraging of their building, and advocated for themselves after being left without cooking gas for months. 60 Avenue B organized after experienced disruptive renovation work, and wrote Croman and his management company to resolve the issues.  After getting some modest improvements, they held off on taking legal action. These and many other tenant associations contributed valuable documentation to the AG’s Office.

A lot of other community based housing groups in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens have helped tenants organize to defend themselves against Croman’s tactics, including GOLES, UHAB, Movement for Justice in El Barrio, Crown Heights Tenant Union, and others.  The strong support of elected officials such as Councilmembers Rosie Mendez, Margaret Chin, Melissa Mark Viverito, Jumaane Williams and Senators Brad Hoylman and Daniel Squadron, Assembly member Brian Kavanagh and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer enabled Croman tenants to bring attention to Croman’s attacks on tenants and encouraged tenants to keep fighting back.  Still many tenants feared that Croman appeared to be untouchable.  The news on Monday that Croman and his mortgage broker, Barry Schwartz, have been indicted is vindication for the tenants in dozens of buildings in the Lower East Side and the East Village as well as the tenants in scores of other buildings in New York City.

“The scope of this extraordinary indictment reveals not only Mr. Croman’s greed, but his lack of compunction and the sadistic pleasure he and his minions took in their illegal efforts to increase his profits” said Robert Pinter, tenant association representative at 309 East 8thStreet.  “We hope it sends a strong message to the other arrogant predatory landlords in the city that no one is above the law. To every tenant who has had the courage to speak up and organize while living through the intimidation and hell of a Croman renovation, New York City owes you a debt of gratitude”, he added.

“We hope this indictment will send a strong message to other predatory equity landlords,” said Brandon Kielbasa, Cooper Square Committee’s Director of Organizing.  He added that tenants should “Keep fighting!  Don’t ever stop working to shine a light on the wrongful acts of these bad-acting landlords.  Your tenacity makes these big wins possible.  Your actions will help alert elected officials and government agencies.”

The Cooper Square Committee is one of the lead organizations involved in the city-wide coalition called Stand for Tenant Safety that is working with the City Council to win passage of a dozen bills that aim to make the NYC Dept. of Buildings more responsive to tenant complaints during renovation. They include:

  • disallowing self-certification of DOB filings by landlords who are found guilty of tenant harassment;
  • making DOB issue orders to correct when they issue vacate orders in order to take away the incentive to deliberately create unsafe conditions;
  • creating a Real Time Enforcement Unit at DOB in order to respond within 2 hours when work is done without a permit and within 5 days when a permit involves more than 10% of the floor area of the building or creating an addition to the building;
  • requiring landlords to make their Tenant Protection Plan publicly available to tenants and to maintain essential services during renovation;
  • increasing fines for work without permits and for work done in violation of stop work orders; and enforcing payment of administrative fines such as DOB and ECB fines through lien sales.

Steve Croman has regularly engaged in many of the practices above.  For example, he frequently did work without a permit and in violation of stop work orders, and at one point last year he had over $1 million in unpaid ECB fines. “For landlords like him, getting caught disregarding DOB rules was a small cost of doing business. With yesterday’s indictment, the Attorney General is sending the message that the cost of engaging in a criminally reckless real estate enterprise has gone up significantly”, said Steve Herrick.

FAITH LEADERS AND TENANTS CITYWIDE CALL FOR AN END TO ABUSE BY INFAMOUS “WORST LANDLORD”, CROMAN

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: MAMADOU BAH, COOPER SQUARE COMMITTEE
MAMADOUB@COOPERSQUARE.ORG, 212-228-8210 EXT 8

FAITH LEADERS AND TENANTS CITYWIDE CALL FOR AN END TO ABUSE BY INFAMOUS “WORST LANDLORD”, CROMAN

Faith Leaders: Tenants Will Not Be Pushed Out
Respect Tenants’ Rights

New York City, April 7, 2016

PDF DOWNLOAD HERE

Tenants living in buildings citywide owned by abusive landlord Steve Croman – named twice by the Village Voice as one of the 10 Worst Landlords in NYC – and who have suffered threats, harassment and illegal rent increases at his hand have enlisted powerful new allies in their fight for justice. These tenants who refuse to stand by while their families are displaced have won the support of 31 faith leaders from across the five boroughs and beyond to denounce this unjust treatment and bring about change. Faith leaders and tenants from Croman-owned buildings will deliver letters from the 31 faith leaders to Croman’s office at 632 Broadway, 7th Fl (near Bleecker St.) on Thursday, April 7th at 1:30pm.

In their letters, the 31 faith leaders from a broad array of denominations – including Catholic priests, rabbis, Buddhists, and Lutheran, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Methodist, Unitarian and Interfaith ministers – exhort Croman to “treat your tenants with dignity and respect rather than pressuring them to leave their homes.”

This landlord’s underhanded tactics include threats of jacking up rents by hundreds of dollars coupled with pressure to take buyouts. Tenants who reject buyout offers have received bogus leases with illegal rent increases, a blatant attempt at removing apartments from rent stabilization. Croman is also known for baseless court actions and hazardous and toxic demolitions and renovations, tactics aimed at driving out long-term tenants. Religious leaders argue that Croman’s abuses and tactics will have long-lasting effects as they “are resulting in the loss of critical rent regulated housing, which has a devastating impact on our communities by destroying the ethnic diversity and character of them.”

Croman is currently under investigation by the New York State Attorney General for his efforts to push rent-stabilized tenants out of their homes. Despite action by the Attorney General against Croman’s “tenant relocation specialist,” Anthony Falconite, well-known for harassing Croman’s tenants, this individual is still operating and pressuring tenants in buildings across New York City.

East Harlem tenant, Esperanza Figueroa, a member of Movement for Justice in El Barrio, is one of many who have suffered Croman’s intimidation attempts and abuse. When Esperanza went to Croman’s office to pay her rent, staff demanded that she sign a “Surrender Agreement” saying she would give up her apartment. When she refused, Croman illegally jacked the rent up by $300 a month on her new lease. Esperanza refused to sign and joined together with her neighbors and tenants in other Croman buildings to defend their rights as tenants. Esperanza, along with other members of Movement for Justice in El Barrio and members of the Cooper Square Committee and are now joined in their efforts by a powerful grouping of faith leaders from multiple denominations and faiths reflecting the diverse backgrounds of tenants in Croman’s over 185 buildings citywide. Figueroa says, “My family and I are staying in our home. This landlord is trying to scare us with threats, push us out of our community and sell it off to the highest bidder. With the support of priests, ministers, rabbis and other faith leaders, we’re even stronger and we’re not going anywhere.”

George Tzannes, a tenant of 529 East 6th Street and a member of the Cooper Square Committee, who had been living without cooking gas in his building since December of 2014 (gas was just recently restored after a 15 month outage) said, “When Steven Croman bought the rent-regulated building where I’ve lived since 1974, the tenants immediately experienced aggravating rent billing errors, questionable legal fees, lost rent checks and baseless court actions. But the worst part is the way hazardous and toxic demolitions and renovations in vacant apartments push regulated tenants into buyouts. After years of living with toxic dust contamination from construction and enduring constant service cut-offs, anyone would want to leave.”

These examples of Croman’s abuse expose the landlord’s true intentions: to force rent-stabilized tenants and their families from their homes, replacing them with people from outside their communities who can pay double and triple the rents, further contributing to gentrification in low-income neighborhoods. The 31 letters to Steven Croman end by saying “as the owner of over 185 buildings in New York City, you have a great responsibility to thousands of tenants and we implore you to take on this responsibility and respect the rights of your tenants”.

Who: Faith leaders and tenants from Croman-owned buildings
What: Deliver 31 letters from faith leaders to landlord Steven Croman
When: Thursday, April 7th at 1:30pm
Where: Office of Steven Croman, 632 Broadway, 7th Fl (near Bleecker St)

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Jared Kushner’s tenants at 118 E 4th St demand adequate living conditions and a restoration of cooking gas

PDF of press release here.

For Immediate Release
March 2, 2016
Contact:          Brandon Kielbasa
(212) 228-8210    bkielbasa@coopersquare.org

LET THE TENANTS COOK AGAIN!

East Village Tenants to Jared Kushner: We’ve Gone Months Without Gas — Enough is Enough.

Tenants of 118 East 4th Street Demand Adequate Living Conditions and a Restoration of Cooking Gas

Tenants Have Been Without Gas for Nearly Five Months, Other Building Services are Grossly Neglected

New York, NY – Tenants of 118 East 4th Street in the East Village appear back in Manhattan Housing Court on Thursday March 3rd at 9:30AM as part of ongoing litigation against their landlord, Jared Kushner. Tenants are calling for the immediate restoration of essential services and for living conditions to be rectified.

The tenants have recently endured bouts of no heat, mounding trash, and have been without cooking gas since October 2015.  Con Ed shut down all gas for the building and Jared Kushner has yet to take the necessary procedures with the city to restore it. This comes on top of the landlord’s failure to repair a multitude of potentially dangerous conditions in the building, including:

  • No cooking gas
  • Collapsed ceilings
  • Questionably safe electrical systems
  • Mounding trash
  • Deprivation of heat
  • Apartments entered without notice
  • Blocked mail delivery
  • Vermin

Read More

For Immediate Release: December 10, 2015

PDF version here

For Immediate Release: December 10, 2015

Contact:

Wai Yee Poon, Chinatown Tenants Union Organizer
CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities
212-473-6485
wpoon@caaav.org

“All We Want for Christmas is Safe Homes!” – 90 Elizabeth St. Tenants and Community Organizations Demand for Basic Building Services and Safe Construction Work

Seniors and Families with Children Are Living in Conditions That Are Hazardous to Their Health And Safety

December 10, 2015, New York, NY – After not having heat over Thanksgiving weekend, the tenants at 90 Elizabeth Street held a press conference today to demand their landlord, James Fong, consistently provide adequate building services and stop unsafe construction work.

The 90 Elizabeth Street Tenant Association has been established and working with CAAAV’s Chinatown Tenants Union, Cooper Square Committee, and Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) since 2013. Exactly four months ago (September 10, 2015), four tenants filed a housing court case against Mr. Fong, with the help of Manhattan Legal Services (MLS) and AAFE, to stop hazardous construction work and demand a tenant protection plan and repairs as the landlord has neglected building conditions not only in the common areas, but also inside individual apartments.

“We live as if we were animals while paying our rents and the owner fixes the empty units. These vacant units are fixed as if they were luxury apartments while the rent regulated apartments of those like me and my neighbors are not fixed as the law mandates,” said Tomasa Davila, a 90 Elizabeth St. tenant of over 50 years.

The Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force (THPT) confirmed the dire living conditions that tenants were facing at 90 Elizabeth Street when they conducted a building-wide sweep in July 2015, resulting in a Stop Work Order and multiple HPD violations. Demanding for more government supervision to ensure tenant safety, tenants and advocates marched to City Hall to support Council Member Reynoso’s two bills for increasing fines for work without permits and the 12 bills advocated by the Stand for Tenant Safety Coalition.

Despite his claims to comply, Mr. Fong has presented tenants with an unfair proposal, which doesn’t address the needs of our tenants to ensure that the repairs are conducted with their safety in mind.  Tenants still have many issues such as insufficient heat, garbage disposal, dirty stairways that were covered in dust from the construction work, and exposed electrical wiring.

“Every renter is entitled to live in a safe, clean building with the services guaranteed by law – and being a landlord means undertaking the obligation to provide that,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “The conditions that tenants at 90 Elizabeth Street have been forced to endure are completely unacceptable. I stand with all Manhattan tenants fighting for basic services like heat, and will continue to do whatever I can to hold landlords who fail to meet their obligations accountable.”

 “For far too long, we have let immoral landlords get away with treating New Yorkers like second class citizens in their own homes,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “With groups like STS and CAAAV and tools like the Worst Landlords Watchlist, we are putting these bad landlords on notice and coming through on our promise to hold them accountable for forcing tenants to live in dangerous and unsanitary conditions ”

“Construction work is no excuse for poor living conditions,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron. “I join my colleagues, the 90 Elizabeth Street Tenants Association, Asian Americans for Equality, CAAAV, Cooper Square Committee, Urban Justice Center, SNYC and STS coalitions, advocates and community members in pushing for an end to unacceptable practices that are against the law and destroy people’s homes.”

 City Council Member Margaret Chin said, “This is not just a housing issue, it’s a human rights issue. For far too long, the tenants of 90 Elizabeth St. have suffered unbearable harassment at the hands not only of their current landlord, but the previous owner who refused to make necessary repairs. These residents have a right to live in peace in their homes without the constant fear of harassment and eviction. My office continues to fight harassment by helping provide free and low-cost legal services, organizing tenants, and pushing legislation to get the City to do more to protect residents. Currently, it is too easy for landlords to buy buildings with the intention of clearing them to make way for market-rate tenants. Together, we can solve our affordability crisis. But we cannot move forward without strong protections that preserve the affordable housing we have and keep people like the tenants of 90 Elizabeth in their homes.”

“For far too long unscrupulous landlords throughout New York City have used construction as a means to harass tenants.  The coalition Stand for Tenant Safety (STS) is excited to testify in support of Council Member Reynoso’s two bills and proud to stand with the tenants of 90 Elizabeth Street on this issue.  Int. 0939 and 0940 will increase the fines and penalties for doing work without a permit and for working against a Stop-Work-Order to punish bad landlords like James Fong, the landlord of 90 Elizabeth Street, who conduct aggressive, illegal construction at the expense of tenant safety.  The terrible conditions that the tenants at 90 Elizabeth Street are facing demonstrate the urgency of passing all 12 of the STS bills into law this session,” said Stand for Tenant Safety (STS), a coalition of community organizations and tenant advocates.

Christopher Kui, Executive Director of Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE), said, “AAFE is dedicated to stemming the tide of gentrification brought in by owners utilizing illegal construction tactics to displace working families, immigrants and seniors. No matter how long the fight, we are committed to ensuring that harassment tactics by predatory owners have no place in New York City. We are proud of the work we are doing in coalition with other community-based organizations and legal service providers in the Stand for Tenant Safety (STS) Campaign and Stabilizing NYC Coalition.”

“CAAAV’s Chinatown Tenants Union stands with the 90 Elizabeth Street Tenant Association today. Marolda Properties was the owner in 2013 and they sold the building to James Fong in June 2015 for $6,500,000 even though the building was assessed at $572,400. This is representative of predatory equity landlords who target long-standing immigrant, low-income communities for quick capital gains by forcing out rent control and rent stabilized tenants and converting vacant units into market rate units, often after reckless renovations. We will work endlessly with our communities to stop displacement and predatory equity,” said Wai Yee Poon, Chinatown Tenants Union Organizer at CAAAV.

Bills Aim to Protect Renters During Construction Work

original: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/30/nyregion/bills-aim-to-protect-renters-during-construction-work.html
New York Times, By MIREYA NAVARRO SEPT. 29, 2015

New York City Council members will introduce a package of bills on
Wednesday intended to prevent landlords from pressuring tenants to move
out by making their apartments unlivable through construction work.
The proposed legislation, a total of a dozen bills, follows accounts of
residents’ enduring late­night noise, harmful levels of dust and damage to
their apartments, which some of the tenants said were efforts to get them to
leave their rent­stabilized apartments. Landlords are supposed to provide
tenant­protection plans when they do renovations in occupied buildings. But
in many cases, the landlords tell the city that their buildings are vacant, and
the city grants the construction permits without verifying the claims. Read More

Legislators, Tenant Advocates to Call for End of Construction as Harassment and Reform of Department of Buildings

STS sep-30-2015 flyer

Click the flyer if you can join us!

For Planning Purposes: September 30, 2015

Contact: Morgan Rubin, morgan.rubin@berlinrosen.com, 646-517-1813

Legislators, Tenant Advocates to Call for End of Construction as Harassment and Reform of Department of Buildings 

Results of Tenant Survey Show How Construction is Used as a Tactic in Harassing and Displacing Tenants and the Shortcomings in DOB Enforcement of this Negligent, Dangerous Construction

WHAT:  New information will be released that highlights that tenants, especially New York City’s rent-stabilized tenants, are being harassed through the use of negligent construction and that the Department of Buildings falls short on protecting tenants, letting bad actors continue this dangerous behavior.  The release of the survey results from Stand for Tenant Safety Coalition will reveal the urgent need for reforming DOB to better protect tenants and the New York City affordable housing stock.

WHO: Council Members Margaret Chin, Antonio Reynoso, Rafael Espinal, Daniel Garodnick, Corey Johnson, Ben Kallos, Steve Levin, Mark Levine, Carlos Menchaca, Rosie Mendez,  and Helen Rosenthal. Tenants who have suffered from construction as harassment, Members of Stand for Tenant Safety (STS), supporters, and community members.

WHEN: Wednesday, September 30, 2015 @ 11:00 AM

WHERE:Steps of City Hall

About Stand for Tenant Safety

Stand for Tenant Safety (STS) is a citywide coalition of community organizations who are fighting to protect the lives and homes of New York City tenants where landlords are using construction as harassment.  Through this community driven effort, we demand the systemic reform of the Department of Buildings.

http://www.standfortenantsafety.com/

https://twitter.com/ReformDOB

stscampaign@gmail.com

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