In the summer of 2010, I was facing some financial difficulty and had fallen behind on rent payments for my rent stabilized apartment on Ave B. Fearing that I would be evicted from my apartment, I was recommended by a friend to get in touch with Brandon Kielbasa at The Cooper Square Committee. Brandon had previously helped her with some issues that she was having in her Lower East Side apartment, and she informed me that the Committee was a great recourse for East Village residents.
Before my first meeting at the Committee, I had gotten the rental history for my apartment from the DHCR. There seemed to be a huge discrepancy between the rental history and what I was being charged.
Bringing my original lease as well as the DHCR report to the Committee, Brandon explained to me all of my legal rights as a rent stabilized tenant, and explained to me how the Tenants Rights Laws work. He was also certain that I was being severely overcharged for my apartment and that most likely I would not only not be evicted, but should in fact be legally entitled to a rent reduction. Brandon showed me the formula to figure out what my legal regulated rent should truly be according to New York State rent stabilization guidelines. We put together a package of all of the information that I would need in order to take my case to the next level, either getting a personal lawyer to handle the case, or by opening a case via the DHCR. At this time I also utilized the Metropolitan Council on Housing clinic (which meets in the CSC office weekly) in order to run my case past a lawyer to get free legal advice. The Met Council lawyer agreed with Brandon that I definitely had a case, and gave me the information for a number of Lawyers who worked specifically for tenants rights.
I hired a lawyer recommended by The Cooper Sq Committee to draft a letter to my landlords using all of the facts that Brandon and I had gathered. In the end, I was able to settle my case out of court, using the information I had received from the Committee. With advice and facts from both the Lawyer and Brandon I was able to negotiate my rent payment down as well as erase the arrears that I had previously owed on the apartment. I signed a new rent stabilized lease on my apt, and am able to keep living there thanks to the information provided by The Cooper Sq Committee.
Since this incident I have referred other friends in the neighborhood to the Committee as well as called Brandon with any other apartment or landlord issues I have had. No matter how big or small the problem, they are always willing to help out. They are an invaluable resource to residents of the East Village. The East Village has always been a vibrant community of families, artists, small businesses, and creative people, but in the last decade it has been harder for these people to live in our neighborhood, as buildings are being bought by developers with no interest in the community, and rents being raised unfairly. Now more than ever in these difficult economic times the Cooper Square Committee is a necessity for all residents of the East Village and Lower East Side.