Author Archives: Daniel Weinberg

East Village Tenants to ICON Realty: We’ve Gone Months Without Heat, Gas in Building—Enough is Enough!

Press conference Thurs 6/18 at
Manhattan Housing Court, 111 Centre St

Click here for press release PDF.

 Click here for media advisory PDF.

Rent Laws expired — your rights and what you can do

Your rights:

No matter what happens this week, you are protected until the end of your lease. Our colleague Ilana Maier at the Metropolitan Council on Housing says in today’s New York Times that “The fear is not that tenants will immediately lose their legal rights,” she said. “They won’t. The danger is that landlords will take advantage of the confusion and anxiety around the expiration of the rent laws to further harass rent-regulated tenants.”

For more information about your rights in case of expiration, see the Public Advocate’s information sheet here: http://bit.ly/rentlawsrights

CALL GOVERNOR CUOMO TODAY

Only days after thousands of tenants took over Albany on Tuesday for stronger rent laws, and after seven activists were arrested Thursday morning while blocking the entrance to Governor Cuomo’s NYC office, Andrew Cuomo is back to playing games. A week ago he called for stronger rent laws and an end to deregulation. Now he says the best he can do is renew them in their current weakened form. A straight extender of the rent laws as is would be a disaster, resulting in a steady loss every year of rent-protected apartments in NYC and the three suburban counties, and an ultimate end of the program.

Tell Governor Cuomo: Tenants Are Watching & We Will Remember.
CALL:  (518) 474-8390, press 3

Sample Script for Gov:  “Hello, my name is ____________ and I’m a tenant.  I’m calling to tell the Governor to strengthen the rent laws & end deregulation.  Renewing the rent laws is not enough – the Gov. must strengthen the rent laws & end deregulation. If he does not do this I will never vote for him again.”

The more calls he gets on this issue the better! Get your friends and neighbors to call!

If you have any questions, you can contact the Cooper Square Committee
at (212) 228-8210 or csc@coopersquare.org.

 

Are you being overcharged? Get your Rent History!

Especially when there is uncertainty as to RS status, both you and all of your neighbors should get your “Rent History” from DHCR. Every building that IS or ever WAS RS has one, aside from exceedingly rare instances where the landlord never reported anything. This will help us determine whether or not your apartment should be RS, and if so, the approximate legal rent. It’s not entirely self-explanatory; we can help you interpret it.
On your own, you can review the history: Landlords typically won’t file apartment rent history after it goes market-rate. So if your apartment’s history suddenly stops and the apartment’s rent was UNDER $2,700 before that time (or whatever the de-regulation limit was at that time), there is a could chance your apartment should not have been de-stabilized. De-regulation limits are $2,700 on or after June 15, 2015, $2,500 on or after June 24, 2011 or $2,000 before June 24, 2011. Remember, even if you pay a relatively high rent, rent-stabilization offers a host of other protections, including a limit on how much your rent can be raised every year, and the requirement for your landlord to offer you a lease renewal!

We are very happy to help you interpret the Rent History and sort out the legality of your rent, If you would like assistance, gather these docs: (a) above mentioned Rent History, (b) last 4 leases + any proposed lease renewal that one hasn’t sent back to the LL yet, and (c) Our intake form, and call or email us to set up an appointment.

For Immediate Release – Manhattan Tenants File 3 More Lawsuits Against Landlord Samy Mahfar

Pictures from our Mon 4/20 Press Conference @ 61 E 4th St

mahfar-pc2015-04-pr

Press release here: http://bit.ly/mahfar3

Samy Mahfar’s tenants at 102 Norfolk, 210 RIvington, and 22 Spring file harassment suit against him today, and demand proper lead mitigation and upholding of rent stabilized tenants’ rights.

In collaboration with the Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center, Caaav: Organizing Asian Communities, NYLPI, the Stand for Tenant Safety Coalition and Stabilizing NYC, and elected officials Margaret Chin, Rosie Méndez, Daniel Squadron, and Gale A. Brewer

UPDATE RE: 2ND AVENUE AND 7TH STREET BUILDING COLLAPSES

Updated April 9, 2015

 

Legal Clinic for Tenants/Families of All Affected Buildings
Monday, April 20, 2015, 7 PM @ 59-61 E 4th St, 4th Floor

Attorneys and housing advocates will be present to inform tenants of their housing and personal property damage rights. No appointment is necessary. Tenants, relatives and their friends are welcomed to this meeting.

Sponsored by GOLES and CSC

It’s been 2 weeks since the tragic explosion at Sushi Park at 121 2nd Avenue caused a fire that resulted in the collapse of 119, 121 and 123 Second Avenue.  We join in mourning the death of two young men, and the injuries sustained by many others.

15 households in the collapsed buildings lost their homes. Multiple buildings had vacated orders in the immediate aftermath, affecting over 180 households and temporarily closing two dozen businesses.  Two buildings, 125 Second Avenue (26 residential units and 2 stores) and 41-43 East 7th Street (22 residential units) still have vacate orders in effect.

The NYC Dept. of Buildings stated at a public meeting on April 2nd that they think the vacate can be lifted on the residential units in 2 to 3 weeks once windows on the east side of the building and broken doors are replaced.   125 Second Avenue has more damage, and repairs are likely to take 4 to 6 weeks before the vacate order can be lifted on most of the units.  4 apartments on the top 2 floors had fire damage and repairs are likely to take several months.

The City’s Resident Service Center is now located at 59 East 4th Street in the Community Board 3 office, which will remain in operation til the end of this week.  Multiple agencies, including the NYC Office of Emergency Management, the American Red Cross, NYC Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development, the Human Resources Administration, Con Edison, the ASPCA and Lower East Side Ready have worked to staff it over the past two weeks.

As a member of Lower East Side Ready, the Cooper Square Committee (CSC) partnered with GOLES to co-sponsor a legal clinic on March 30th for displaced tenants, inviting attorneys from MFY Legal Services and the Urban Justice Center as well as a couple of private attorneys to advise tenants about how they can secure their right to return, expedite repairs and obtain compensation for damages.

Follow up meetings with affected buildings are planned. Given that a criminal investigation is underway, criminal and civil cases are likely to be a lengthy process.

CSC and the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association (MHA) have begun to interview several of the tenants whose homes were destroyed to arrange placing them in temporary housing in MHA apartments.  Other housing providers have also offered assistance. We will continue to work with our local elected officials, government agencies and non-profit partners to assist affected residents and businesses in any way we can to help them recover from this disaster.  If you wish to offer financial support to those affected, you may donate to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC (link below).

~Steve Herrick, Executive Director

Pathways to Affordable Housing Series

Click here for more info on all events and to RSVP!

Tenants’ Rights I
Workshop
Mar 24, 2015 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM (EDT)
HOWL! Happening, New York NY – 6 East 3rd Street

Applying for Affordable Housing: Step by Step
Seminar
Apr 13, 2015 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM (EDT)
HOWL! Happening, New York NY

Campaign to Strengthen and Renew Rent Stabilization Laws
Workshop
Apr 21, 2015 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM (EDT)
HOWL! Happening, New York NY

Tenants’ Rights II
Workshop
May 19, 2015 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM (EDT)
HOWL! Happening, New York NY

Part of the Pathways to Affordable Housing series, in collaboration with The Actors FundFABNYCNocd-NY, and NYC To Be Determined.

Office of Rent Administration – online application form to file rent reduction applications based on a decrease of services

The Office of Rent Administration (ORA) has just released an expanded and improved online application form for tenants who want to file rent reduction applications based on a decrease of services in their apartment:

https://www1.dhcr.state.ny.us/ServicesIntake/BuildingSelect.aspx

Tenant can still file applications on paper:

 

  • Tenants who want to report a rent reduction based upon decreased services in their apartment RA-81.
  • Tenants who want to report a building-wide decrease in services outside of their apartment may use form RA-84.

 

We hope you and your constituents will take advantage of this improved application.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Woody Pascal
Deputy Commissioner
Office of Rent Administration
NYS Homes & Community Renewal

The Cooper Square Committee’s Organizing Work & Accomplishments in 2014

Our organizing team was so busy in 2014. We accomplished a ton in this past year… read on about all the ways we’ve been stopping displacement and building community!!

Download the PDF version of this Roundup!Click here to download the PDF version of this Roundup! 

Major Organizing Efforts and Coalitions

  • Through partnering with St. Nick’s alliance and the Urban Justice Center (UJC), Cooper Square Committee (CSC) created a much-needed campaign to reform the Department of Buildings (DOB) in 2014. For well over a year preceding this we had been working with community members to organize and draw attention to the problem of “construction as harassment.” In 2014 we were able to further connect with some of our most steadfast allies (close to 20 organizations) throughout the City to formalize a campaign to reform DOB and work on ending “construction as harassment.” The work we did last year is leading us to a pivotal year in 2015 where we will be looking to create new laws to better support tenants who are dealing with landlords who use the guise of construction to harass.
  • Click on any photo to enlarge. All photos on this page taken by CSC unless otherwise noted.

 

  • CSC’s organizing department was a lead community-group partner with the NYS Attorney General’s (AG) office in their investigation of the “tenant relocator” Michel Pimienta. The organizing we did and information we provided helped the AG wage a precedent-setting investigation which led to the shuttering of Michel’s operations.  UJC and CAAAV were also partners in this effort.

 

  • Photo credit: Zach Williams for The Villager

    Press conference at Mahfar building, 210 Rivington. Photo credit: Zach Williams for The Villager

    Led the organizing to help form the Mahfar Tenants Coalition. Both UJC and CAAAV are also involved with the amazing work happening here. This coalition, which includes half a dozen Samy Mahfar (SMA Equities) owned buildings, is fiercely pushing back against this landlord’s attempt to vacate and renovate Lower East Side (LES) buildings en masse. In 2014 the tenants from these buildings called Mahfar to the table, used city agencies and local politicians to step up enforcement in their buildings, and held a powerful press conference in December 2014 after lead contamination was verified to have occurred in their buildings.  The tenants of the Mahfar Tenants Coalition have proven to be some of the strongest fighters we’ve seen in 2014! Read More

CSC closed early Mon, all day Tues

Tuesday 1/26/2015

Due to the storm, Cooper Square Committee will close at 3pm today (Monday), and will be closed all day on Tuesday. We plan to open at 10am on Wednesday.

The tenant clinic of the Metropolitan Council on Housing WILL NOT meet on Tuesday.

FABnyc is also closed on Tuesday.

Travel safely!

Cerramos a las 3pm hoy (lunes), y todo el día el martes. Esperamos abrir a las 10am el miércoles.
¡Viaje con ciudado!

CSC Holiday Schedule

Our office will close at 3pm on Wednesday, December 24th, and be closed on 12/25 and 12/26.
We will be open 12/29 and 12/30 on an appointment-only basis (please call or email first), and then closed 12/31 through 1/2.
Also, the Met Council on Housing’s weekly clinic WILL NOT meet on the night of Tues 12/30. They WILL meet on Tues 1/6.

We reopen with normal hours on Monday, January 5, 2015.
We wish you a restorative holiday! ~CSC Staff

MAHFAR TENANTS COALITION DEMANDS PROPER MITIGATION OF LEAD DURING CONSTRUCTION

PETITION: Stand with Mahfar Tenants Coalition: Demand Safe, Lead-Free Homes!
YOUTUBE: Rosie Mendez calls out Mahfar agent

PRESS RELEASE BELOW:

For Immediate Release
DECEMBER 10, 2014
PDF Link here (bit.ly/mahfar210)
Contact:           Brandon Kielbasa
(212) 228-8210    bkielbasa@coopersquare.org

MAHFAR TENANTS COALITION DEMANDS PROPER MITIGATION OF LEAD DURING CONSTRUCTION

Tenants find high lead concentrations in their buildings and speak out against the unsafe construction practices used by LES landlord Samy Mahfar.

WHAT: Press Conference / WHERE: 210 Rivington St. / WHEN: 12:30pm – 1:30pm

mahfar210 Press Conference Banner sm

8-foot banner displayed at press conference – Click to enlarge

Read More

PRESS RELEASE: Lower East Side tenants of Samy Mahfar owned buildings applaud AG investigation into notorious Tenant Relocator

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 29, 2014

Click here for PDF download

CONTACT:   Brandon Kielbasa

Lead Organizer, Cooper Square Committee

(212) 228-8210, ext 4 – bkielbasa@coopersquare.org

Lower East Side tenants of Samy Mahfar owned buildings applaud AG investigation into notorious Tenant Relocator

Tenants speak out against the extensive use of tenant relocator by LES landlord Samy Mahfar.

October 29, New York — Lower East Side tenants of 102 Norfolk St., 210 Rivington St., 22 Spring St., 143 Ludlow St., and 113 Stanton St. applaud the Attorney General’s investigation into “tenant relocator” Michel Pimienta. On Monday, October 27, 2014, AG Eric Schneiderman reached an agreement censuring his relocation efforts. The agreement requires Pimienta to cease all relocation efforts with his company, Misidor LLC, pay a $40,000 fine, and acquire a real estate broker’s license.

This is a huge victory for tenants familiar with Pimienta’s efforts to push out rent-stabilized tenants so their units could be converted into luxury units. The common denominator between these tenants and Pimienta is LES landlord Samy Mahfar, who employed Pimienta extensively in the buildings he owns.

In addition to employing this unlicensed “tenant relocator” known to use unscrupulous tactics, Mahfar has recently caught the watchful eye of numerous elected officials for demolition work at 102 Norfolk St., exposing tenants there to jaw-dropping levels of toxic lead.  Security staff preventing building access to City inspectors and collapsed ceilings in apartments are just a few of the extreme quality-of-life issues that have become commonplace in Mahfar-owned buildings during construction.

“Prior to the demolition work that began in our building, Michel Pimienta approached me on one of two occasions claiming to be a representative of the City of New York looking to update tenant records.  He misrepresented himself to me in order to obtain sensitive information from me and other tenants.  His actions were misleading, inappropriate, and invasive once we learned how he used this simple informational request obtained from other tenants against them,” said a tenant from 102 Norfolk Street who wished to remain anonymous.

Translated quote from Mr. Lam, Kwan Tai from 22 Spring St. Tenant Association, “This is great news. We welcome the Attorney General’s success with making Michel Pimienta pay a fine and give up his ‘relocation’ business. Being that he is no longer in business to harass us is good for tenants everywhere. People like Pimienta are only working for the profit of the landlord.”

“Affordability continues to be one of the Lower East Side’s greatest challenges — unscrupulous ‘tenant relocators’ are a shameful and illegal part of the affordability picture,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron. “I thank Attorney General Schneiderman for pursuing this investigation, and commend the tenants and the Cooper Square Committee for confronting these unacceptable tactics. I look forward to continuing to work with tenants, advocates, and my elected colleagues to put an end to the pattern of tenant harassment.”

“The fact that Samy Mahfar actually celebrated his use of Michel Pimienta’s ‘invaluable’ relocation services just goes to show why we’re taking action to protect the tenants of 102 Norfolk Street and Mr. Mahfar’s other Lower East Side buildings,” said Council Member Margaret Chin. “I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman’s successful effort to put Mr. Pimienta out of business, and I will continue to work with my elected colleagues, Cooper Square Committee and CAAAV to stop Mr. Mahfar from further endangering the welfare of his tenants.”

The following is a quote from Samy Mahfar on Misidor’s recently-taken-offline website endorsing Pimienta and his success in removing rent-regulated tenants from their homes:

 

Samy Mahfar,
SMA Equities
It is a pleasure to work with Mr. Pimienta and his company. The experience that his company has brought to our firm has helped us re-position our properties more than we anticipated, and his insight and intuition have been instrumental in our success. Mr. Pimienta is trustworthy and honest, and we have always had a positive experience working with him. I highly recommend his services to people I know in the industry.”Source:
« http://web.archive.org/web/20131020175100/http://misidor.com/index.php?p=view_misidor_testimonial »

Quote from the Cooper Square Committee, “Samy Mahfar – who, as far as we know, hired and utilized the services of Michel Pimienta more than any other landlord in the Lower East Side – willingly subjected his tenants to Pimienta’s deceitful and unscrupulous practices, all in the name of maximizing his profits.”

 

Quote from CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, “We thank Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for working with us to protect tenants from Michel Pimienta. CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities has been working with Chinatown tenants who live in fear because Pimienta and his Chinese-speaking colleague incessantly call and knock on their doors to drive them out of their homes. Predatory landlords such as SMA Equities and Silvershore Properties hire these ‘tenant relocators’ and have contributed to the loss of thousands of rent-stabilized units. We will continue working with tenants, Cooper Square Committee, and the Attorney General to challenge these landlords in their aggressive harassment and displacement of low-income tenants so that we can protect our critical affordable housing stock.”

The Attorney General’s investigation into Michel Pimienta sends a clear message that tenant relocators who harass tenants will be held accountable. The tenants of Mahfar-owned buildings are sending the message that landlords who hire these relocators will also be held accountable.

###

Tenants of Kushner building at 170-174 E 2nd St speak out about enduring run-amok construction

Media Advisory (DOC file) | Press release (PDF file)

Press:

Village Voicehttp://bit.ly/1qcYLHc
DNAinfo: http://dnain.fo/1rTZ15d
Bedford & Boweryhttp://bit.ly/1s5Jop6

3rd Avenue Festival – 2014

3 av 2014

Visit our table at 10th Street, for info about tenant rights and other events and campaigns in the area, CSC-branded t-shirts and bags, and you can buy a spin on our prize wheel!

All vendor spots have already been sold. If you are a vendor, volunteer, or musician, you have been emailed any relevant information. If you would like to volunteer and have not signed up already, or if there are any issues, email Daniel at danielw@coopersquare.org or visit our table.

2014 RGB Vote

1% and 2.75%

More details here.

Despite a massive turnout of tenants at last night’s Rent Guidelines Board vote, and calls for a rent freeze, the RGB voted for a 1% increase on one-year leases, and 2.75% for two-year leases. While it’s disappointing that the RGB didn’t vote for a rent freeze, the 1% increase for a one-year lease is the lowest ever in the 45 year history of the RGB. The tenants’ movement can take credit for making that happen. Now let’s focus on strengthening the NY State rent laws when they come up for renewal in June of next year. Let’s stay mobilized!

~ Steve Herrick, Executive Director

MHA co-op application process

Dear affordable housing seeker,
The Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association (MHA) is no longer accepting requests for applications. We (CSC) are a separate organization from the MHA. We do not own or manage any housing, and we can not provide any input on the progress of your application. If you have any questions about the process, please contact the MHA at 212-477-5340, www.csmha.org, or csmha59@gmail.com. For more affordable housing opportunities throughout NYC, click here.

Cooper Square Committee’s Transitional Homeless Housing Plan for LGBT Youth Moving Forward

The NYC Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is expected to file the Urban Development Action Area Plan for the Bea Arthur Residence at 222 E. 13th St. with the City Council in the coming weeks. The City Council must pass a resolution designating the project a UDAAP, and authorizing a long term tax exemption, which is a formality since local Councilmember Rosie Mendez is a strong supporter of the project and helped secure $3.3 million for its development. The Cooper Square Committee (CSC) is partnering with the Ali Forney Center (AFC) to renovate a vacant building at 222 E. 13th St. to house 18 homeless LGBT youth ages 18-24. CSC has done the bulk of the pre-development work, and will oversee the renovation, and AFC will rent up and manage the building when it’s completed. Project architects, Magnusson Architecture and Planning are expected to file the approved building plans with the NYC Dept. of Buildings within the next week. “We are hoping to acquire the building by the end of May, and start renovation immediately after that” says CSC Executive Director, Steve Herrick.

 

Experienced out-of-control construction? Take the RTE survey!

rte2014feb-img

We are working on collecting data on what tenants face during mismanaged construction so that we can create new laws and put an end to it.  If this is something you have experienced, please come into the CSC office (61 E 4th St) to pick up and fill out a Real-Time Enforcement Construction survey.  Tenant leaders and CSC organizers can also bring surveys to your building for you and your neighbors to fill out, or you can get help get involved with mass distribution yourself! Email Brandon for more details.

Read More

Real-Time Enforcement (RTE) Information Session Next Wednesday! 2/26

rte2014feb-img

Come learn how to keep your home safe and livable during construction!

Weds 2/26/2014, 7 PM – 8:30 PM 

59-61 E. 4th St., 4th Floor, Manhattan

 (handicapped accessible)

At this session you can:

  • Hear more about the RTE Campaign’s 2014 agenda
  • Get involved with a subcommittee
    (survey distrib., media relations, regulation reform, actions/demonstrations)
  • Take the survey, & distribute to your neighbors
  • General Construction Q & A

Refreshments served!  For more info,  download the flyer, or contact Brandon Kielbasa: (212) 228-8210 ext 4, rte@coopersquare.org

Individual Intake Form

download

Dear New Client,

Welcome to the Cooper Square Committee!

Click here to download our Individual Intake Form.

We prefer that you print it, fill it out, and scan and email back to the staffer who directed you to this page. If you do not have access to a printer or scanner, you may do the following:

      1. Print this Word Document.
      2. Replace applicable checkboxes with an “X”.
      3. Replace the blank next to “Applicant Signature” with your typed name.
      4. E-mail it back to the CSC staffperson who directed you to this page.

Thank you.

 

Finding a Lawyer (free or paid)

Unfortunately, advocacy and organizing is not always enough to stop your landlord from taking you to court. In that case, you will often benefit from a lawyer’s representation in court. See the below links:

Our list of free legal aid organizations for low-income New Yorkers is here. You can only go to them if you are already in court (you have been served court papers).

See Met Council’s page for paid lawyers you can hire if you are not low-income.

For advice on representing yourself in Housing Court, we recommend you speak with Housing Court Answers.

Happy Holidays! Office Closed 12/24-1/1

The Cooper Square Committee office will close at 3pm on Christmas Eve, Tuesday, December 24, 2013, and will reopen on Thursday, January 2, 2014.

If you have an EMERGENCY housing problem while we are closed on December 26, 27, 30 and 31st, you can call University Settlement – Project Home at 212-505-1995 to speak to someone.   

Also, the Clinic of the Metropolitan Council on Housing will not meet on 12/24 or 12/31. They meet again on 1/7. GOLES is also closed til Jan. 2nd.

The Fourth Arts Block office is closed from 12/23 through 1/1, and reopens 1/2.