The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Beware the "Negotiate Outside the System" Tactic

A while back, I noted that a neighbor is getting pressure to move, despite that they're already paying roughly market rate. To the Q, this is proof positive that the upward pressure in the neighborhood and for the outsize valuations of buildings is all about speculation. How else can describe trying to pressure or buy out tenants spending well more than $1,000 on their apartments? Given that an apartment in the $1K to $2K range suggests middle class income, that's not the way the pressure is headed. In fact, we seem to be skipping right over a huge part of what's driving Brooklyn's housing shortage. So while the rich and the working poor get the majority of ink, this story is one that I can continue to follow closely.

From the neighbor who wrote a previous note (reprinted below for context).

NOW: Just an update on [my] saga. Someone from management just called me asking (gently pressuring) to settle/negotiate outside of the system, by arguing that he would like to spare me the prolonged ordeal of going thru the system, since he has all the "receipts for the work". This is blatant pressure but I am not even sure if going thru the system is a guarantee I get justice considering their immense resources in faking their paper trail. Him wanting to desperately negotiate outside of the system is an indication that he knows they don't have all their ducks in a row. 

THEN: I have been meaning to write for a long time regarding rent stabilization in part because of my personal experience and itch for urban justice. Your latest post hit it on the nail and I think one of the most critical things to do is INFORM, much like CHTU is attempting with the tenant alliances. 

When we moved into the neighborhood in 2012 our rent for a 2 bedroom rent-stabilized apartment was $1800. It had patina of some "renovations" to justify the Apartment Improvement increase on top of the vacancy allowance increase. They had painted over the bathroom tiles, over textured wall paper in the bedroom and some other shitty repairs that in no way justify what should be over 50k in renovations according to the increase from $950 the previous tenant was paying. The urban housing agency provides a handy excel calculator for doing the math and with even the most generous allocations my rent increase should not have exceeded $1300. I asked the management for receipts of work done but they ignored it. After a year we signed a renewal lease. I have yet to receive the renewal counter signed lease from them. I have now filed papers with the city to have the matter looked into but I am not holding my breath. 

Now I can certainly afford to pay $1800 but I was furious that I was being had and that ultimately in a few years I would be out of luck when that apartment went out of Rent Stabilization. The reason I am writing is that I feel many others are in a similar situation and simply don't care or don't know their rights and expectations and that ultimately they contribute to the erosion of affordable housing in this city and not just our neighborhood. Also, it a major factor is fear: there are occasions where filing against a landlord gets you in a blacklist. So many tenants are hesitant to stick their neck out there which is why some of the advocate agencies are so important in leading the crusade.

So, while you have linked to some of the resources in combating this I think it would be great to devote a post for the nuts and bolts of navigating the bureaucracy of getting a rent history, calculating the allowable rent increase and then partnering with the advocates you call out like CHTU. My fear is that everyone thinks "Hey, this doesn't concern me... $1800 rent is acceptable" without realizing the tenant before had significant lower rent. Some landlords are in fact doing a bang up job of repairing apartments: I saw a 1 bedroom at 100 Lefferts that left me breathless which in that case I would almost accept the reality of raised rent. But in most cases they are calling a fresh coat of paint MAJOR renovations and no one is checking. This is egregious abuse of the allocations. 

Well, hope you made it till here. Below is the link to the vacancy rent calculator. 


Dynishal said...

This story is deeply troubling. New neighbors, please understand that your rent stabilized apartment isn't only important to you. It's a critical resource for our neighborhood and the city. Any tenant who submits to a likely overcharge because they can afford it contributes to the erosion of the affordable housing stock and creates incentives for landlords to game the system. Please continue challenging the unlawful doubling of the rent on this unit both for yourself and for the renters who will follow you!

Soul Voyager said...

You file RA-89, a rent overcharge dispute form. It will take a few months but youll get it back and know for sure. There is a $600 1-bdrm and a $1100 4-bdrm in my building, so it's quite reasonable that your 2-bdrm is 950. But, whether it's 950 or 1800, don't settle for peanuts should you decide to. I'm sure it'll be worth 3000-4000 within 5-7 years time the way this is going. Our our our joker...err, building manager, has been harassing us to leave too. He started at 5k and now is up to 20k. I told him it's worth six figures so now I think they'll just try to take me to court...again. Welcome to weak rent laws meets gentrification!

pam said...

Yes. Fill out the forms from nys hcr, easy and free. If the alleged mci was neither major nor capital, complain to nys hcr. Get your fellow tenants in the same situation to do the same. Or walk to the Hansen pl office of nys hcr and do it there.

Anonymous said...

Who should those who can afford to pay market rate, benefit from a program designed to assist those that can't? I don't have a ton of sympathy. You were quoted a price when you saw the apartment and chose to rent it at that price.