Tenants protest mid-lease rent hikes

Tenants protest outside the leasing office on Saturday. Photo by Sabina Mollot

Tenants protest outside the leasing office on Saturday.
Photo by Sabina Mollot

By Sabina Mollot

Following the discovery last week that close to 1,300 residents were being hit with mid-lease rent hikes that have been as high as $2,200, the Tenants Association, along with a handful of other tenants, have taken their grievances to the leasing office.

The plan has been to have “sustained” picketing, with sign-holding tenants warning potential renters and passersby on First Avenue about the increases as well as various quality of life issues like the lack of laundry rooms in some buildings and bedbug sightings in others.

On Saturday alone, TA members said they spoke with with around 50 people outside the leasing office.

John Marsh, president of the Tenants Association, said protesters were telling anyone thinking of renting not to accept verbal representations by leasing agents. “Have everything in writing.”

Most people they spoke with, added Marsh, ending up being concerned about how mid-lease hikes and other issues like broken elevators could affect them. Others, however, simply ignored protesters as they went in and out of the leasing office.

After being asked by a reporter if he’d be moving in, one person in a small group of people leaving the leasing office, would only say, “We read our lease.”

Additionally, CWCapital fired back at the TA by having its leasing agents escort

Tenants Association Chair  Susan Steinberg talks to a neighbor outside the leasing office on Saturday. Photo by Sabina Mollot

Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg talks to a neighbor outside the leasing office on Saturday.
Photo by Sabina Mollot

prospective renters to model apartments after meeting them at the back of the leasing office. ST/PCV security also, on Saturday morning, called the cops on protesters, asking officers to force protesters to stand behind barriers that were put up over six feet away from the leasing office, close to the curb. However, according to protesters, the cops said the tenants were fine where they were, as long as they remained peaceful and didn’t block traffic. A couple of security officers remained outside the leasing office though for as long as the picketing continued.

As for those who were there on Saturday, around a dozen residents were participating, most of whom were longtime tenants, unaffected by the rent hikes that have been issued to “Roberts” class members.

“My heart’s breaking for the community,” said Susan Kasloff, a 17-year resident as she handed out flyers by the First Avenue Loop.

Marsh and TA Chair Susan Steinberg were also on the scene, as was TA Board Members Steven Newmark and Kirstin Aadahl. Both Aadahl and Newmark are “Roberts” class members, though she got a mid-lease increase and he didn’t. Aadahl said she’s been telling people who enter the leasing office to ask questions such as whether there have been bedbugs in the building. “Because we’re finding out that some tenants are being told after they sign their lease.”

She also said despite the hike she got, she’ll be sticking around. The increase was for $550, but this follows another increase of $200 when she last renewed her lease in February.

“We love living in Stuyvesant Town, but it’s going to be very hard,” said Aadahl.

According to Marsh, the TA is exploring its options, and there has been talk among tenants about a rent strike. However, Marsh said if anything, it would be a rent slowdown, and this would only be done as a last-ditch option since “Roberts” class tenants have a clause in their leases that would allow the owner to hit them with a $50 fee for not paying their rent on time. More longterm tenants however could technically participate in a rent slowdown and not pay their rent for three months before CWCapital could try to evict them, said Marsh. At this time, however, the TA is not recommending that anyone withhold or delay paying rent.

Tenants Association President John Marsh and residents Sandra Lynn and John Giannone Photo by Sabina Mollot

Tenants Association President John Marsh and residents Sandra Lynn and John Giannone
Photo by Sabina Mollot

In response to the protesting, Brian Moriarty, a spokesperson for CW, said that the special servicer was acting within its rights following the settlement.

“The rent adjustments were negotiated as part of the settlement and approved by the nine tenant representatives, their attorneys, and the court,” he said. “We intend to implement the agreement in accordance with its terms.”

The rent hikes came on the first day that CWCapital was legally allowed to issue them, which, tenants were warned back in January, the special servicer could do following the “Roberts” settlement. What kind of increase tenants got varied from $100 to $2,200 with most impacted tenants getting increases of hundreds of dollars. Residents were also initially told they’d have two weeks to decide whether they’d be staying or moving. However, the next day CW announced residents would get an extra month.

Residents T&V spoke with on Saturday, though, didn’t seem impressed by the concession.

Two residents protesting outside the leasing office on Saturday, Sandra Lynn and John Giannone, said they hadn’t gotten increases, but have been hearing horror stories from neighbors who did. Giannone said he found out about them when neighbors knocked on the door to ask if they’d gotten one. “They got a statement under their door that said their rent was going up $1,100 with no explanation,” he said.

Another resident who approached the protesters said she was unaware of exactly what her rent hike was, though it wasn’t for her lack of trying. The woman, who didn’t want her name printed, said she was listed one new price somewhere in her lease renewal document and another elsewhere in the paperwork, and said she’s been unable to reach anyone in the leasing office to ask what she’s supposed to be paying. It’s either $600 or $800 more. After going in, she was told that no one in there could answer her questions and was referred to the property’s legal department. However, when she tried to negotiate the rent increase with an attorney, she said he wouldn’t budge. Interestingly, when she later walked into the leasing office with her boyfriend and the two posed as would-be tenants, they were given the impression that there was some wiggle room in price for new tenants.

In other “Roberts” related news, the case’s attorney for tenants, Alex Schmidt, said on Monday that an effort to extend the deadline for class members to file for their damages has been successful. The original deadline was May 15 and the new date is May 31. However, if residents don’t file their paperwork by then, their share of the nearly $69 million in rent overcharge returns will go back to CWCapital and MetLife.

The extension will likely be seen as good news by a member of the class action suit who approached Steinberg on Saturday to ask what it was all about. The resident wanted to know if he was entitled to anything even though he thought he may have gotten someone else’s paperwork. No one in the apartment, he explained, is named Roberts. However, after getting filled in on what Roberts meant, he said he’d be filing.

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8 thoughts on “Tenants protest mid-lease rent hikes

  1. I feel terribly for the families whose rents were increased so dramatically and so suddenly. The fact remains though these tenants were either sold down the river by their lawyers, or the lawyers were inept and incompetent and completely misunderstood the ramifications of the settlement terms they negotiated. The CW representative is absolutely correct: the litigation class of tenants and their lawyers agreed with the terms of the settlement, which included the interim rent increases. How can you possibly blame CW Capital for the poor deal your own lawyers negotiated on your behalf? That makes no sense. The tenants association and their lawyers screwed up very, very badly, and now they’re trying to shift the spotlight onto CW Capital when in reality there’s no one to blame but themselves.

    • The Tenants Association had NOTHING TO DO WITH the Roberts lawsuit, other than to publicize classes & workshops on it. It had no hand in the hiring of the attorneys nor any of the legal activities, goals, or pursuit of this suit. They DID, however, want Roberts settled, since without a representative rent roll and concise definition of the J-51 protections, their reach & constituency, it would be impossible to effectively pursue their conversion plan. Although their plan would have made the senior lenders “whole,”if accepted, it was still essential to settle Roberts before it would have been feasible to move forward.

    • The Tenants Association were not among the plaintiffs in the Roberts case, and they were therefore not part of the negotiations or the settlement. They had nothing to do with the terms of the interim leases. This seems to be a common misconception, so please get your facts straight. The point of the Roberts case was that apartments were illegally taken out of rent stabilization because the landlord was getting a tax break at the same time. The result was that tenants were subjected to very high rents with no limit on what they could be charged when the leases came up for renewal. Unfortunately, with all the churning of the apartments, many apartments have ended up with extremely high legal rents, even though all apartments remain rent stabilized until 2020, when the J51 tax break expires.

  2. Anyone reading Town & Village over the years, or who has witnessed the endless, silly, internecine wars between the original tenants and the new tenants in Stuy Town and PCV, knows that the tenants association and tenants themselves have been lost in a fog of petty issues, while the big real estate players have been circling like vultures for years. ST/PCV is a gold mine and the only thing standing in the way of developers was a unified tenant body and the rent stabilization laws. After years of maneuvering, both of these rodadblocks has been all but defeated. The Roberts settlement has been revealed to be the Trojan horse that’s ushering in the day that giant new condos rise on the East River, that the oval becomes a 70 story mega condo/luxury hotel/mall, that it becomes so expensive that even the squirrels will be forced to relocate. If only the tenants had stayed unified and not elected pro developer and billionaire politicians they might have had a chance. But no more. The only questions left is, when all the working people are forced to leave, who will be left to do the work?

    • I find it disappointing but not surprising at the lack of an organized response by many tenants to the biggest mass eviction in NY history. I was at the “rally” in front of the leasing office this weekend (pathetic) and the turnout was smaller than the line in Starbucks. Prospective renters still filed into the office, exiting with newly signed leases. Very few tenants are putting the signs in their windows. Most seem not to know what has happened, much less what is likely to happen to them once the owners see how easy it is to mass evict and rent jack these tenants. I hope people wake up soon, if not for PCV Stuy Town then for the idea of affordable rental housing, unfortunately many seem to be waiting for the promised condo conversion. Just wait until they realize how high their real estate tax bills will go (condo owners on 23rd St are paying over $2000/mo in real estate taxes alone, plus maintenance. Who knew that by electing a billionaire Mayor, you have to become a billionaire to afford to live here?

      • Sadly, Giovanni, I agree with you. I was also there at the press event, and even the 50 or so of us really couldn’t muster up enough unity to cheer/chant, etc. There is such a distrust of the TA and even more sadly, to each other, due in large part to the pettiness they (and the rival factions of residents) have shown in the past couple of years (ban two pieces?!), the bitterness and junior high bullying mentality of the official TA Facebook page, and the TA’s overt fanning of divisions btw older v. younger, mothers v seniors, etc. (The head of the TA actually and publicly called young people the Woo Generation). Though I agree this influx of students is a big problem, it’s the deliberate rental strategy of CW that is to blame, not the fault of young people per se and it doesn’t help to keep dividing tenants and their rights–who feels safe and secure that the TA will protect them if the TA publicly targets groups of tenants as “the enemy?” This kind of overt hostility by the TA to anyone who disagrees on any given issue, the petty responses, the lack of individual response to requests for help, is why there is no love, trust, unity, cooperation, rally, whatever you call it, amongst the tenants and for the TA. They have fed an every man (or “Zombie Mom” as they have publicly called mothers, dog owner, or student….) for himself mentality for so long, it’s hard to repair that mistrust now that we all really need each other. And the vultures just circle, as you so aptly noted.

        And I am so disturbed at their final push to get us to send in our forms for our measly $150…that almost puts us in a worse position about challenging the settlement and the rent increases. We were not going to participate in any way, but after the repeated urgings of the TA, we literally sent ours in on the last day. And that very night we get the increase slipped under our door. I wanted to climb in the mailbox and retrieve the form, but alas, that was not possible. I feel duped and violated.

  3. FROM THE TA’S FACEBOOK PAGE:

    MID-LEASE RENT INCREASES: If you have received notice of a mid-lease rent increase and you recall a leasing office agent representing to you to get you to sign a lease, either verbally or in writing that you would not have to worry about such increase taking effect, please send a direct message to Peter Stuyvesant ( or contact the TA directly if you’re not on Facebook – 1 (866) 290-9036 or visit http://www.stpcvta.org/kb/contact ). Please include your contact information (phone and email) so we can gather the details for forwarding to the NY State Attorney General.

  4. Although the TA was not among the plaintiffs they pushed this deal from the very beginning. I believe they were even in on the selection of the lead attorney, as was Dan Garodnick. Certainly, no one cheered louder at this “victory for tenants” than did the TA and Garodnick, despite both attempting to distance themselves from the matter now that it has blown up in their faces. Tired of being punked may have fallen for their bull but thankfully most have not.

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