Roberts settlement a win
As I listened to Alex Schmidt, plaintiffs lead attorney in the Roberts case, make his fine presentation to the ST/PCV (Tenants Association meeting) audience this past Saturday morning (Jan. 26) I was struck by the fact that the settlement negotiated between the parties was not only an eminently fair one, but a compelling one. For that reason I wish to share my professional judgment about this settlement with the other members of the class, of which I am one.
This is undoubtedly the largest landlord-tenant class action settlement in our country’s history, and it’s the only one of the several “J-51” class actions that has been resolved to date. Three cash components ($100,000,000 former market rate tenants have saved in since the Interim Settlement in December 2009; $68,750,000 to be refunded for past overcharges between 2003 and 2009; and future rent savings over the next eight years that could rise to as much as $275,000,000) form the core of the settlement. It is a staggering accomplishment.
If the Roberts case had not been settled but was lost either at trial or by class de-certification, none of these benefits would have been achieved. Moreover, the 4,300 apartments at issue would have been returned to market rate from which residents could be evicted any time their leases came up for renewal. The more than 22,000 affected individual tenants would be facing the nearly impossible task of hiring their own lawyers and filing actions to recover past overcharges and establish future rents.
It is critical that all class members understand that the Interim Rents of 2009, damages and Preferential formulas under this settlement are more favorable to tenants than what the formulas likely would have been absent the settlement and left to the courts for decision.
One reason for this is the landlords who unlawfully deregulated while in the J-51 program, argued that after the Court of Appeals ruling returning the apartments to rent stabilization they should be entitled to all credits and increases they would have been entitled to under the Rent Stabilization Laws had they not deregulated the apartments. The Roberts plaintiffs argued that the landlords should not be entitled to any of these credits because of their unlawful conduct. The settlement resolved this issue in a manner very favorable to the class, while the law in other related J-51 cases was evolving in a direction decidedly unfavorable to our class members.
While rents will go up for most tenants under this settlement by a few to several hundred dollars per month, that is a result of how the law has changed in the landlords’ favor rather than the settlement. If there had been no settlement, rents certainly would have gone up much more and climbed much faster during the next eight years.
This is a sensational result for the class as a whole under any standard, but clearly when considering the turn for the worse the law was taking. And since the vast majority of class members achieved some combination of rent savings, rent refunds and future rent savings, the settlement is very good for each of us individually, too.
John J. Sheehy, Esq.
The writer was the chair of a large litigation department of a major international law firm and member of the New York State Commission on judicial conduct. He is presently a director of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, but is writing in his private capacity. The TA, which was not a party to the action, has taken no position on the settlement.
Rally against global warming in D.C.
In his inaugural address President Obama said, “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”
In New York City many are still suffering from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. On February 17, we have the chance to remind President Obama of his promise and to show our support in the fight against climate change and the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
350.org, The Sierra Club, the Hip-Hop Caucus and many other organizations around the country are organizing the largest climate rally at noon at the National Mall, Washington, D.C. Buses will be leaving at 7 a.m. from several locations in NYC and will return the same day. Cost of a round trip is $30, $15 for seniors and low-income students (please bring an ID).
Sign up before February 14, at the website (350orgnyc.eventbrite.com) for the bus location closest to our neighborhood (8th Ave. between 34th and 35th St.).
Two buses will leave from Midtown Manhattan near Penn Station.
Just over a year ago, at a 350.org rally, I was one of the 15,000 people who surrounded the White House – and President Obama listened, delaying the Keystone XL pipeline. It was an exciting day. Please join me on one of the buses this February 17.
Wendy Byrne, ST
A standout pharmacy
Re: New T&V series of articles, “Shopping Local”
What a great idea, identifying neighborhood stores.
Because there are so many chain drug stores on first from 23rd to 14th it’s become downright silly. However, you need to know Rite-Way 369 First Ave. and meet Sam the pharmacist. He and Jose, his delivery guy, make shopping there a pleasure. Sam is not only professional, friendly and courteous, but remembers everything about his customers.
He has helped my husband and me so often in ways not found in large chains. Ask anyone in the area about Sam and you will be met with smiles and told only about good experiences. We are lucky to have him.
A faithful customer,
Marilyn Graubert, ST