Those interviewed also question
necessity of improvements made
By Sabina Mollot
Following the announcement last Thursday that the ST-PCV Tenants Association had reached an agreement with CWCapital to reduce the cost of MCIs for some tenants and eliminate them completely for others, tenants have been able to talk about little else. When questioned about their thoughts by Town & Village, a few residents who got the 5 percent reduction of the monthly portion of the MCIs naturally said they wished they’d gotten more shaved off their rent bills. However, mainly what they expressed was their disgust at the system that allows owners to pass the costs of building upgrades onto renters.
“It seems very unfair,” said Katie Bernard, who’s lived in Stuy Town for 10 years. She was especially annoyed that MCIs were charged for the video intercom system, which she said was unnecessary. “I can’t tell you how little it works. I miss the old system. I don’t need a screen.”
Another resident also said she didn’t understand the need for the security upgrades that qualified for MCIs.
“It didn’t make my life any safer,” said Carol Szamtowicz. “These capital improvements, I’m sorry I have to pay for them.” As for the settlement, she thought it was good that the Tenants Association fought the increases, “but,” she added, “five percent isn’t very much.”
Meanwhile, another resident, Bob Novick, said he was glad to hear the retroactive portion of the increases had been eliminated. “They did get the retroactive off and that is significant,” said Novick. However, he too said he didn’t get why the intercom system needed replacing on the tenants’ dime. “We got new intercoms 8-10 years ago,” he recalled, adding that he thought the new ones were “essentially the same. The new ones are more sophisticated, but I’m wondering what the purpose was other than to increase the rents.”
And Bill Oddo, a longtime resident, said he wasn’t impressed with the settlement at all. “I don’t see where the success is when
we’re only getting 5 percent off on all those items,” he said. “I have to pay $15 a month for video cameras and they don’t do anything. The security cameras don’t make us safe. They only help after the fact. You can’t possibly monitor 1,200 cameras 24/7.” Besides, he added, “For 65 years, this has been one of the safest communities in the city. It’s safer than St. Patrick’s Cathedral.” Oddo added that together he’ll be paying over $50 a month in MCIs, for improvements he thought his existing base rent should cover. “I can’t figure out why tenants have to pay for them,” he said. “I know (the Tenants Association) tried hard, but they’re losing this battle. People are leaving. Older people are dying and they’re just turning these apartments over. I love young people, but it’s a dormitory.”
In contrast, a “Roberts” tenant interviewed said of course he was glad he wouldn’t have to pay the increases following the settlement. “Less is more,” quipped Henry, who asked that his last name not be published. “Obviously if you’re paying less for your apartment, you’re better off.” But Henry added he wouldn’t be celebrating just yet since he’s been dealing with a lack of heat in his apartment. “I’m in the living room with two comforters and sweatpants,” he said.
On the TA’s Facebook page this week, the TA received heaping praise as well as a few complaints about the settlement.
In response, TA President John Marsh said that, though not part of the recent round of negotiations, tenants’ increases had already been reduced by 23 percent as a result of TA action. This was after the TA presented the DHCR with “detailed explanations of deficiencies” on a building-by-building basis for each MCI application, Marsh explained to T&V. This was when the work was done in 2009. After the agency reviewed the TA’s concerns as well as Tishman’s responses to them, “the total of all DHCR Orders were 23 percent less than the total of MCI rent increase applications filed by Tishman Speyer.”