Letters to the editor, July 13

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

This tenant doesn’t want to be ‘public’

To the Editor:

The Tenants Association is up to its old tricks again – forcing residents to list their name publicly (even if they don’t pay dues), or the TA will not act on their behalf, as a tenants’ representative.

I received an official looking letter from the TA, even though I have never paid dues to them.   The letter said I must choose between two unappealing choices:

Choice A:  I must list my name as a “Public Member” of the TA. The letter says that the TA will only speak for those who are willing to be listed publicly as Public Members.

Choice B:  If I do not list my name, the TA states that I waive all rights to any benefit that a Court may award to residents of Stuyvesant Town. Choice B states:

“I do not wish to become a Public Member and hereby grant to the STPCV TA, its President or Secretary, and any legal counsel chosen by the Board of Directors standing permission to enter into settlements of legal claims with benefits which may accrue solely to those who sign the Public Member Pledges, and we waive any claim to such benefits.

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Speeding cyclists, dogs, MCIs, L train and other issues addressed at ST-PCV Tenants Association meeting

Stuyvesant Town General Manager Rick Hayduk speaks at a meeting alongside State Senator Brad Hoylman, Council Member Dan Garodnick. ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Stuyvesant Town General Manager Rick Hayduk speaks at a meeting alongside State Senator Brad Hoylman, Council Member Dan Garodnick. ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Safety and quality of life issues for Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village residents were addressed on Saturday at a Tenants Association meeting, from the upcoming “L-pocalypse” to speeding cyclists who terrorize local seniors.

As for the latter issue, Rick Hayduk, Stuyvesant Town’s general manager, told residents that soon new signs would be placed around the complex’s entrances warning cyclists to slow down and keep their lights on after dark.

In other complex news, management is also lightening the workloads of porters who will soon only be focused on two buildings each instead of three. Hayduck said tenants could expect to see the impacts of this in 60-90 days, since first management had to hire a few more part-time porters.

Hayduk also discussed a few other initiatives, like bulletin boards soon to come to in lobbies to provide property alerts and the “good neighbors” campaign, which he said has already had an effect on some people’s habits of slamming doors and smoking near buildings.

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Letters to the Editor, Apr. 9

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Thanks, TA for speaking up for neighbors

Re: ST-PCV Tenants Association’s Al Doyle gives testimony at rent regulation extension signing,” T&V, Apr. 2

We are very fortunate to have such well-spoken leaders in our Tenants Association as Alvin Doyle and Susan Steinberg to voice our concerns to our representatives in the City Council and those in Albany.

Having had lived in Stuyvesant Town during my entire married life and now as a widow, I am grateful for the community spirit and have appreciated the warm neighborliness that PCVST has provided. It is all well and good to strive to provide for new affordable housing as this city was built by and maintained by a strong middle class. It would be tragic to lose PCVST, which has served this city so remarkably, while politicians are promising and possibly not delivering new affordable housing. A little common sense should prevail please!

And why should Albany, who takes so much from NYC, have anything to do with our homes! We should have home rule!

I once invited Bruno to tea…no, he did not come but I wanted to have a little sit-down with him! Look where he is now. Why is he not in jail? Why did he have anything to do with trying to get me out of my home? And I’m still here…

I am thankful to the leaders of our Tenants Association, Dan Garodnick, Mark Thompson, (State Senator) Brad Hoylman and his predecessor Tom Duane, (Assembly Member) Brian Kavanagh, District Leader Louise Dankberg and others who have fought for the rights of the middle class! I know I have left many out but you know who you are. All politics are local and we all need to continue to fight for what is right.

Finally I am grateful for Town & Village who has covered our community since day one and helps keep us all informed and provides a mouthpiece for our concerns.

Kay Vota, ST

Note: This letter was first published as a comment on the Town & Village Blog, town-village.com.

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Petitioning for ST-PCV TA board starts tomorrow

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association is holding an election for three seats on its Board of Directors in May, 2015. Residents who believe they can commit time and skills to the community can petition for a place on the ballot starting Saturday, February 28.

Following rules that were posted in all ST and PCV buildings, the application process for interviews by the Nominating Committee and Board endorsement ended on Friday, February 20, 2015. Residents who are current in their Tenants Association dues as of April 4, 2015, and are 18 years of age or older are eligible to seek a place on the Board and to vote in the election.

Petition forms will be available on the Tenants Association website the morning of February 28. Interested members must submit a petition signed by at least 45 members of the TA. (For the purpose of the petition process, any resident of an apartment that is current in its dues as of April 4, 2015, is a TA member.) No more than one candidate’s name can be on any one petition.

Completed petitions may be sent by mail to: Nominating Committee, ST/PCV Tenants Association, P.O. Box 1202, New York, NY 10009-1202. Petitions are due in the TA post office box no later than Saturday, March 14, 2015. They may also be delivered in person to the Community Center at 449 East 14th Street (First Avenue Loop) between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 14, 2015. The petition should be accompanied by the petitioner’s name, full address, telephone, and email, along with a statement that he or she is 18 years of age or older. Petitioners should also include a 100-word summary of their qualifications.

Tenants Association President John Marsh advised would-be directors, “Anyone seeking a place on the Board should understand that these are not honorary positions. Directors must be willing to devote at least 20 and up to 50 or more hours each month to TA business. They are expected to attend monthly meetings, participate in ad hoc phone or in-person meetings as needed, serve on committees that utilize their skills, and to participate actively in all TA public activities.”

Letters to the Editor, Jan. 29

Jan29 Toon Silver gray

TA has been quite active in bedbug battle

Re: “Bedbugs are nothing new,” T&V letter, Jan. 22

To the Editor:

An anonymous writer in last week’s T&V made the wildly mistaken suggestion that the mention of bedbugs in a recent ST/PCV Tenants Association email regarding a City Council hearing on “short term rentals” such as Airbnb was the organization’s first acknowledgement of the serious bedbug problem in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.

To clarify the matter: In 2012, the TA established a Bedbug Registry on its website. Since then, approximately 100 residents have reported to the Registry that they have had an infestation or have had their apartments inspected in management’s “cloverleaf” inspections of apartments adjacent to an infested one. The site keeps residents informed of trouble in their buildings, warns potential renters of the problem and, in some cases, alerts management to cases that may not have been reported to them.

In August 2013, in an all-out effort to raise the alarm on the spreading bedbug problem, the Tenants Association — at enormous expense — mailed to every one of the community’s 11,227 apartments a pamphlet from the NYC Department of Health explaining how to protect against infestations and actions to take if the bugs strike. The TA’s letter that accompanied the pamphlet noted that infestations had been reported in 20 percent of ST/PCV buildings in the previous three years. Anyone confronting a bedbug problem should notify Resident Services and go online to stpcvta.org, the TA’s website, click on the Bedbug Registry at the top left of the site, and let the TA know. The Registry asks only for building address and floor number, not a resident’s name or apartment.

Soni Holman Fink, PCV​

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Letters to the editor, Oct. 23

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Tenants don’t deserve the silent treatment

Last Friday a man tried to rape a young woman in an elevator in Stuyvesant Town. Thankfully, the alleged perpetrator has now been caught.

While the Tenants Association quickly sent out an email informing tenants as to what had happened and urging them to stay alert and be careful, not one word about the incident was heard from CWCapital or Compass Rock. There were no emails from them. No warning flyers were posted in buildings or put under apartment doors. Nothing.

Unfortunately, their disgraceful behavior all too amply demonstrates and reinforces the feeling of many tenants that CWCapital, Andrew MacArthur and Compass Rock show little or no regard for tenants. Management was willing to risk tenants’ safety – maybe even their lives – by saying nothing to them about this crime. Why? To protect their bottom line.

Rather than acknowledging the attack publicly, Management sought to avoid scaring off current or future renters, especially those whose parents foot the bill for them to live here. Protecting management’s bottom line is also the reason that crimes in STPCV are often reported as having occurred in “Gramercy.” Tenants need to demand that the 13th precinct start reporting the location of these crimes accurately. If it doesn’t, it will be viewed by tenants as nothing less than a tool of CWCapital, Andrew MacArthur and CompassRock.

Name withheld, ST

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Letters to the Editor, Sept. 11

Owning won’t end problems with students

To the Editor:

I fully support Larry Edwards’ demand for a conversion “that is affordable to all the tenants who live here today and to those who have been living here for 30 to 40 years or more.” (Town &  Village, Sept. 4).

However, assuming that owning an apartment will prevent transient college students from noisy partying at all hours is unrealistic in today’s real estate market. The neighboring universities will merely buy up blocks of apartment condos or co-ops as investments and turn them into student dorms with the same “howling in the courtyards,” and “waking up their neighbors at 3 or 4 in the morning.”

As for affordability, only stronger rent stabilization laws can keep apartments within the middle class, not “ownership.” Today’s “market rate” for two-bedroom Manhattan co-ops ranges from $750,000 to over a million. Families earning under $300,000 a year will be shut out.

This has nothing to do with building owners, the Tenants Association, or elected officials – all  are powerless against the so-called “free market.”

And for wealthier people who can afford to “own,” they might still find themselves living next door to howling students. They might as well join the party.

Elliot Markson, ST

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DHCR rejects TA’s objection to MCIs for roof, elevator projects

By Sabina Mollot

The Division of Housing and Community Renewal has rejected arguments made by the ST-PCV Tenants Associations against two MCIs for projects done years ago and now, retroactive portions of the MCIs are subject to collection. One was for new elevators in 2006, and the other was for work on building roofs in 2005.

The MCIs (major capital improvements) were for Stuy Town only and not all buildings got them. However, both were challenged through a petition for administrative review (PAR), which Susan Steinberg, chair of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, said was shot down this week.

Steinberg said she got the notice from the state housing agency on Tuesday, which was dated August 29, denying tenants’ arguments that the old elevators hadn’t outlived their useful lives and other challenges that were related to the projects. “They kept repeating this phrase: ‘They do not see our claims as basis for revoking the administrator’s order,’” Steinberg said. The TA has 60 days from the date of the notice to challenge the order through an article 78. “We’re conferring with our attorney,” Steinberg said.

The elevator MCI costs tenants in 70 buildings between $9-13 per room in their apartments. The roof project took place at 31 buildings with MCIs of $7-8.50 per apartment. MCIs, which are paid in perpetuity, also come with a retroactive portion dated to the time of the work. Tenants who had filed PARs were exempt from having to pay the retroactive portion while the MCI was pending appeal.

Reps for the DHCR once told the Tenants Association leaders that one fifth of the MCI applications it sees come from ST/PCV. “I think Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper takes up one third of their filing cabinets,” said Steinberg. The TA has in the past blasted the DHCR for acting as a “rubber stamp” for the owner. The August 29 notice comes months after a settlement between CWCapital and the Tenants Association to eliminate or reduce five other MCIs that were approved last fall.

Reps for CWCapital and Homes and Community Renewal, the umbrella agency that includes DHCR, didn’t respond to a request for comment by Town & Village’s deadline.

Correction: The print version of this article incorrectly states that cost of the roof MCI as being per room, rather than per apartment.

Letters to the Editor, July 24

Conversion should be fully supported by mayor

Mayor de Blasio came to Stuyvesant Town last week to sell his vision of affordable housing for all – including designating ST-PCV as part of his plan for affordable housing throughout Manhattan.

Buried within your article, you reported that the mayor “was open to the idea of a conversion.”

Apparently, the Tenants Association did not press the mayor on the TA’s clearly stated goal, made on behalf of thousands of ST/PCV tenants: a tenant-led, non-eviction condo conversion of the property.

Recall that in October, 2012, to great fanfare, the Tenants Association said that it was taking our case directly to the bondholders. The TA leaders said the time had come for CW Capital to step aside, and if CW would not meet us at the table, we would “cut out the middleman.”

In fact, however, the TA failed to contact the bondholders, and took no further steps on behalf of the 11,000 tenants who wanted to take charge of their destiny and have a seat at the table.

A condo conversion keeps things affordable because long-term tenants can remain in their apartments, without the fear of ever-increasing MCIs that are designed to squeeze tenants until they leave.

A condo conversion allows the new stabilizers to become new homeowners.

Mayor de Blasio needs to stand up in solidarity with tenants and the TA that has worked so hard for a condo conversion. First, he sandbagged our councilmember, lobbying for Dan Garodnick’s opponent in the speaker race.Now he is sandbagging the Tenants Association.

Whose side is the mayor really on?

Name Withheld, ST
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Editorial: Onus is on tenants in fight for affordability

Two weeks ago, the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association announced that it had reached a settlement with CWCapital over five MCIs thrown residents’ way last fall.

It was a rare victory for tenants, albeit a bittersweet one.

It was a victory in that getting the owner to budge, even an inch, on a rent increase is a near-impossible task, at least in Stuyvesant Town. Attorneys, elected officials and the state housing agency (DHCR) had to get involved, and the talks took months. Ultimately, retroactive fees were eliminated for all, making the Tenants Association’s settlement much better for tenants than an offer initially offered by management to reduce them by about a third. The settlement worked in CWCapital’s favor too since MCIs (major capital improvements) are permanently added to the rent roll and for many tenants, 95 percent of the MCIs’ monthly portion will still have to be paid.

The ones to finally get a real break were the “Roberts” tenants, in renovated apartments, who pay higher rents, and now as a result of the settlement, don’t have to pay any of the five MCIs at all. However, it’s worth noting that this break comes just under a year after 1,100 of those residents were hit with mid-lease increases as a result of another settlement, this one of the “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” class action. In many cases, these increases were hundreds of dollars. Like the MCIs, they were rent hikes tenants didn’t count on having to pay in addition to the annual increases authorized by the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB).

Add those increases onto the other fees residents may see permanently tacked on to their rent bills (individual apartment improvements, air conditioner surcharges) and it just compounds the obvious fact that rent stabilization is just not what it’s cracked up to be and the MCI system is hardly fair to renters.

Local elected officials are sympathetic to the fact that this is just another way for landlords to gradually turn affordable apartments into market rate ones. However, in fighting them, they end up running into brick walls. Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh has authored a bill that would cap MCIs at what the cost of the improvement to a property actually is. This way the incentive for landlords to make improvements for the sole purpose of jacking up rents would be gone. However, that bill, like so much other tenant-friendly legislation, isn’t likely to get passed by the State Senate any time soon.

Knowing this, as well as the DHCR’s history of never meeting an MCI it didn’t like, and it’s tempting to throw one’s hands up (or just throw up) at a system that forces people to invest in the maintenance of properties they don’t own. After all, you don’t pay your dentist a fee for new equipment just installed in his office in addition to the bill you get for his service. Nor would you be expected to have to pay for a college campus building’s new roof after already having written a fat check for tuition.

As for what tenants can do about this particular obstacle to the continued existence of affordable housing, it’s impossible to guarantee what tactic would work. However, the onus is on tenants to at least try to fight MCIs. Otherwise, they will continue to be big business for landlords.

One way to do this is to financially support groups that fight on renters’ behalf like Tenants PAC, which works to get tenant-friendly politicians elected or the community’s own TA. (Because hiring attorneys for MCI battles isn’t free.)

Being knowledgeable about what tenants’ rights actually are is also helpful. Attending TA events is one way to do learn about the issue. The next TA meeting, which will focus on MCIs, will be held on May 10. Those who can’t make it can of course expect to find coverage of the event in this newspaper.

Another option is to get more active when the TA and other tenant groups hold rallies or take lobbying trips to Albany or, once a year, the Rent Guidelines Board vote in Manhattan. On Monday, May 5 at 6 p.m. the Rent Guidelines Board will hold a preliminary vote at the U.S. Customs House for what this year’s increase will be for the city’s million-plus stabilized renters.

Yes, this process has regularly been blasted as a sham, a circus and even the annual screw by tenant advocates. However, this year’s nine-member panel does have a new chair who’s been appointed by a new mayor. And unlike the previous mayor, Bill de Blasio at least claims to be interested in the maintenance of the city’s dwindling stock of affordable housing as well as the creation of new units.

So, could there, for once, be a chance that tenants showing up at RGB vote and hearings will have an impact on the board’s decisions? Especially if they speak up about MCIs and other non-RGB imposed increases renters have to face? There’s only one way to find out.

Correction: Not all “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer tenants” are exempt from having to pay the MCIs. Those who don’t have to pay any of the monthly portion are the “Roberts” tenants whose modified legal or “preferential” rents are lower than their maximum legal rents.

Letters to the Editor, Jan. 9

Political cartoon by Jim Meadows (jimtoon.com)

Political cartoon by Jim Meadows (jimtoon.com)

What are the policies for student apartments?

To the Editor,

I recently witnessed an early morning scuffle between a neighboring tenant and the Security personnel of PCVST over incessant noise issues driving her to lose sleep and becoming extremely  frustrated over the lack of response from management. The problem here was the upstairs “neighbor.”

But the root cause of the problem is the local universities, NYU and the New School to name a few, who have entered into an “arrangement” with PCVST management to house students in a traditional urban residential setting.

The dormitory atmosphere that has been created is not compatible with the notion of decent affordable housing for families and working New Yorkers.  It has eroded the original intent of the developments’ creation.

Those of us who remember dorm life recall it was a great time of discovery and freedom – responsibility only came after graduation when reality set in.

As tenants, we have a right to know what this arrangement with the schools consists of. First, is it legal under NYS laws, which protect these housing units? Are there rules for students in other dorms under their direction and what are they? Has PCVST management given leniency on noise and rowdiness issues due to a seeming endless lucrative arrangement with these schools? Are there separate rules for the students and non-student tenants? As tenants, what recourse do we have against the nuisance?

Perhaps the Tenants Association and our state legislators can get some answers for us so we can better understand what is being created here.

Charles Sturcken, ST

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Letters to the Editor, Nov. 21

NYU’s ‘suggestions’ for Stuy Town students

For anyone whose apartment is within earshot of a student apartment in ST/PCV, you might find the following information valuable. In fact, this is important information even if you have no students nearby because it can happen at any time.

In case you do not know, Stuyvesant Town is listed on the NYU website as a residence hall. The site is full of valuable information for incoming students including the following: Twin beds are provided, but students must bring their own linens. The apartments have kitchens, but students must bring own cookware, dishes and other kitchen supplies. Apartments have hardwood floors; students may bring rugs.

Did you see the difference there? “Must” for linens and cookware but only “may” for rugs! And, in the very same paragraph, students are told to bring headphones to be used with TVs and stereos… to allow use without disturbing roommates.”

Wow! This just keeps getting better and better. The message here is loud and clear: You should avoid disturbing your roommate but don’t worry yourselves about your neighbors – upstairs, downstairs or next door.

As luck would have it, the website also provides contact information for both the NYU residence hall director and resource manager and I think it’s time we demand that NYU either insist that students purchase area rugs with padding that adequately cover the floors and absorb the sound or that NYU carpet all apartments they lease in Stuyvesant Town for student housing. The school is supposed to be preparing their students to become part of a larger community and what better time to start than right now in our community. And if they are unwilling, then I would urge any NYU alumni living in the ST/PCV communities to withhold contributions to the school as it is becoming increasingly clear that they have lowered their standards.

J.M. Polise, ST

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Letters to the Editor, Apr. 11

Another gas leak that didn’t smell

Re: “Resident concerned over gas leak in apt,” T&V, Mar. 28

I had a gas leak in my apartment several years ago. And you could not smell it in the kitchen.

I noticed the smell of gas in the hallway on my floor, and more of it just inside the apartment door. So I checked in the kitchen; the jets were all off, and there was no smell of gas. So I wrongly concluded it had come from some other apartment.

A couple of days later a group of neighbors rang my bell and said I must have a gas leak. They had smelt it in the hallway and it seemed strongest near the door of my apartment. We called Stuy Town security and the man who came verified my claim that there was no smell of gas in the kitchen. The neighbors were not satisfied. Two more security officers came and they agreed there was an odor of gas in the hallway and near my apartment door, but not in the kitchen. Finally they brought in a device that dings in the presence of gas and the device went berserk.

The leak was in the connection between the gas pipe and the tube that leads to the range.

Why could it not be detected by a person’s unaided nose in the kitchen? I think the answer is that, because there is no window in the hallway, the building has an exhaust system that draws air out of the hallway and replaces it with air drawn out of the apartments by suctioning it from under the apartment doors.

Air, including gas, in the kitchen is therefore pulled to the apartment door. Since all the gas cannot get out through the small space under the door, it builds up at that place, and you can smell it there.

Don Murray, ST

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ST-PCV TA to file for Sandy rent reductions

By Sabina Mollot

Workers stand by generators used to dehumidify building basements in Peter Cooper in late November.

For the first time in the history of the complex, the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association is calling for a rent reduction due to a lack of basic services such as working elevators and laundry equipment in buildings that were hard-hit by Sandy.

On February 1, attorneys for the Tenants Association served ST/PCV General Manager Sean Sullivan and Andrew MacArthur of CWCapital with a notice that it would be filing a rent reduction claim before New York State’s Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) agency for a diminution of services under the Rent Stabilization Law.

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Letters to the Editor, Feb. 7

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.

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