Lower Manhattan’s Local News
Quid Pro No?
FiDi Renters Seek Recompense for Years of Rent Overcharges; Landlord Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Overrule Tenants’ Victory
More Financial District tenants are going to court to demand restitution from years of illegally high rent, on the heels of a June ruling by New York State’s highest court, which found that as many as 5,000 Lower Manhattan apartments had been illegally deprived of rent stabilization benefits.
The first to file suit in the wake of this decision were Bruce Hackney and Timothy Smith, tenants at Ten Hanover Square, who brought their complaint in October. The most recent is Tallen Todorovich, a renter in 63-67 Wall Street, a building with more than 1,000 units. Mr. Todorovich’s suit (like that of Mr. Hackney and Mr. Smith) is seeking to class-action status on behalf of all tenants in their respective buildings who are facing similar circumstances. Mr. Todorovich’s claim was filed in State Supreme Court over the weekend.
At issue is the 421-g subsidy program, which was designed to encourage Downtown’s transformation into a residential district, by offering rich incentives (chiefly in the form of tax abatements) to developers who converted former office buildings — south of a line connecting Murray Street to City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge — into apartment towers. But it also offered a potent lure for tenants who moved into such buildings: Their apartments would be subject to rent stabilization regulations for as long as building owners received the tax benefits.
Court papers related to Mr. Todorovich’s lawsuit allege that of the 1,000 apartments in 63-67 Wall Street, only one is registered with City and State regulatory agencies as being subject to rent stabilization. Similar court filings in the case of Mr. Hackney and Mr. Smith indicate that none of the 500-plus apartments at Ten Hanover are registered as legally protected affordable units. The court complaint in Mr. Hackney and Mr. Smith’s case alleges that the landlord’s, “failure to follow rent regulations was part of a fraudulent scheme to deregulate apartments in the building.” That complaint goes on to argue that the landlord’s, “conduct demonstrates an attempt by the Defendant to circumvent the requirements of New York City’s rent regulations, all at the expense of the tenants residing in the building.”
The plaintiffs in both cases are represented by attorneys Lucas A. Ferrara and Roger A. Sachar, of the firm Newman Ferrara. Mr. Ferrara told the Broadsheet, “the shameless rapacity you see demonstrated here will only end when owners come to the realization that their illicit practices will come with a steep price. For too long, New York City’s tenants were hoodwinked by major landlords blinded by greed.”
Both suits stem, in part, from a pair of related actions, brought by residents of three other FiDI buildings — 50 Murray Street, 90 West Street, and 53 Park Place — which were converted from office use to apartments between 1999 and 2005.
The language of the 421-g statute that covered all three of these buildings (and 25 other structures, comprising a total of nearly 5,000 apartments) was unequivocal, stating that “the rents of each dwelling unit in an eligible multiple dwelling shall be fully subject to control under such local law.” Ambiguity arose, however, when this was considered in the light of another part of New York’s housing law, known as “luxury decontrol,” which allows for rent stabilization to be annulled on any apartment once the legal rent reaches a threshold of $2,700 per month.
The problem arose when developers unilaterally set the rent on the vast majority of the apartments they had created in these newly converted buildings at higher than $2,700 per month. This had the effect of erasing the rent stabilization benefit that the legislature had intended for tenants (usually before the first renter moved in), while preserving the tax benefit for landlords. In the years since, landlords and developers have, in the aggregate, reaped a windfall of tens of millions of dollars from this program. But tenants received very little benefit or protection from the rent stabilization that had been intended for them.
When residents of 50 Murray, 90 West, and 53 Park Place realized that they were being charged market rents, with no limits on increases, and no right to automatic lease renewal (along with other privileges that come with stabilization), while their landlords reaped a bonanza in tax benefits at public expense, they sued for reimbursement.
That suit wound its way through State courts for a decade, before being finally settled in June, when the New York Court of Appeals found (by a margin of six to one) that, “apartments located in buildings receiving tax benefits pursuant to 421-g are not subject to the luxury deregulation provisions of the Rent Stabilization Law.” The Court’s decision hinged both on a plain reading of the language in the 421-g statute, and a distinction between rent stabilization versus all the other provisions contained in the rent stabilization law. In effect, the judges found that the 421-g statue made the apartments created under this program subject only to rent stabilization itself, but not subject to other codicils within the law that governs it, such as vacancy decontrol.
The clarity provided by this ruling opened the door to the lawsuits that have now been initiated by Mr. Hackney, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Todorovich. Many others appear likely to follow, as thousands of current and former rental tenants throughout the Financial District realize that they should have been paying significantly less rent than they were charged for years at a time.
Mr. Ferrara, who is also an adjunct professor at New York Law School, told the Broadsheet that, “government may be asleep at the wheel, but justice is most certainly not. This lawsuit sends a clear signal that the days of cheating and profiteering at the expense of rent-regulated tenants are over.”
In a separate (but related) development, the owners of 50 Murray Street have petitioned the United States Supreme Court to overturn the New York State Court of Appeals decision that sided with FiDi renters last June. A brief filed on October 24 raises the question of, “whether the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments prohibit courts, like other branches of government, from eliminating established property rights without just compensation.” This brief goes on to argue that, “the New York Court of Appeals effected an unconstitutional taking by holding, contrary to decades of settled law and practice, that properties receiving benefits under Section 421-g of the New York Real Property Tax Law are ineligible for deregulation under New York’s rent-stabilization laws.”
Lawyers for the tenants filed a brief in response last week, arguing that the underlying case, “does not involve any ‘important question of federal law,'” and that the U.S. Supreme Court, “does not have jurisdiction to overrule the New York Court of Appeals’ interpretation of a New York statute.” On this basis, the tenants are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to decline to hear the case brought by the landlords, which would have the effect of leaving the State Court of Appeals decision intact.
It appears likely to be several months before the U.S. Supreme Court announces even a preliminary ruling about it will grant the petition brought by the landlords. If the highest federal court agrees to consider their case, a final ruling would probably be handed down sometime in late 2020.
Your Next Neighbors Might Be Vastly Less Interesting, But Better Able to Pay High Rents
A new report from City Comptroller Scott Stringer documents that Lower Manhattan is undergoing an exodus of artists and other “creative economy” workers, who are being driven away primarily by skyrocketing costs for housing.
Mr. Stringer’s analysis, “The Creative Economy: Art, Culture and Creativity in New York City,” establishes that between 2008 and 2017, the combined footprint of Community Boards 1 and 2 (meaning Manhattan south of 14th Street, west of the Bowery and Pearl Street, and south of the Brooklyn Bridge) has lost 3,505 residents who work in the creative sector — defined any industry the primary output of which is creative or cultural (from museums and art galleries, to film and television production, theater and dance companies, fashion, publishing, advertising, and more). To read more…
EYES TO THE SKY
November 25 – December 8, 2019
Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Moon at dusk. Mars, Mercury dawn
It is a jamboree, a planetary spree out there within the hour after sunset and, with different heavenly bodies, within the hour before sunrise.
Venus and Jupiter, the brightest celestial objects next to the Sun and Moon, are a dynamic pair to observe at dusk close above the southwest horizon.
Mercury, in the east at dawn, shines with unusual splendor after its November 11 transit of the Sun.
The little planet shares its best morning apparition of the year with Mars and bright star Spica. To read more…
For more information, contact Scott Baker at email@example.com
Gotham Girls Winter Futsal League & Formativo Training
Gotham Girls F.C. – the only NYC all-girls soccer club is running our Winter Futsal League for girls ages 7 to 16.
(Our foundational development soccer – Formativo – is available for girls ages 7-10).
Our dedicated coaches ref the fun, active 50-minute 4v4 indoor futsal games, and provide coaching to develop girls foot skills and knowledge.
Dates are December 7/8 – March 21/22.
Games are on Saturdays or Sundays (depending on age)
at PS276 and PS234 gyms.
Cost is $210 for 12 games.
To register for Winter Futsal or Formativo, please go to http://gothamgirls.org.
Where the Streets Are Paved with Gold
Decades of Savings Needed to Purchase on Lavish Lanes
A trio of new analyses points to the self-evident conclusion that Lower Manhattan is a mind-numbingly expensive place to reside.
Tribeca’s Murray Street was calculated to be the third-most expensive anywhere in the five boroughs, with a median sales price of $5.4 million, and a volume of sales in excess of $364 million. To read more…
A Tale of Two Museums
Community-Focused Cultural Center Faces Uncertain Future, as Tourism Magnet Thrives
The 9/11 Tribute Museum, a highly regarded local cultural institution, is grappling with a precarious outlook, according to a story first published in Crain’s New York Business, which says that the space housing the facility, located at Greenwich and Rector Streets, may be sold out from under the organization by its landlord.
Aggregation and Promulgation
Council Member and Borough President Push for Transparency in Development
Community Board 1 has endorsed a proposed new law — sponsored by a City Council member representing the Upper East Side and supported by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer — that would require City government to notify local officials whenever development rights are transferred between building lots. Such transfers are often used by developers to maximize the zoning potential for the site of a planned skyscraper.
Cruise Ships in New York Harbor
Arrivals & Departures
Tuesday, November 26
Queen Mary 2
Inbound 6:00 am (Brooklyn); outbound 5:00 pm
Sunday, December 1
Anthem of the Seas
Inbound 5:30 am (Bayonne); outbound 3:00 pm
Port Canaveral, FL/Bahamas
Inbound 6:15 am; outbound 3:30 pm
Monday, December 2
Inbound 9:15 am; outbound 4:30 pm
Many ships pass Lower Manhattan on their way to and from the Midtown Passenger Ship Terminal. Others may be seen on their way to or from piers in Brooklyn and Bayonne. Stated times, when appropriate, are for passing the Colgate clock in Jersey City, New Jersey, and are based on sighting histories, published schedules and intuition. They are also subject to tides, fog, winds, freak waves, hurricanes and the whims of upper management.
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades ~ Respectable Employment ~ Lost & Found
LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR AVAILABLE
FOR BABYSITTING OR TUTORING
17 year old young man, lifetime resident of Tribeca and BPC.
Went to PS 234, Lab Middle School and currently attending Millennium HS. This summer was a Councilor at Pierce Country Day Camp. Excellent references.Very experienced with kids under 10.
Available for weeknight and weekend baby-sitting and tutoring middle-schoolers in Math or Science.
Please contact Emmett at 917.733.3572
CERTIFIED HOME HEALTH AIDE SEEKING
Full-Time Live-In Elder Care
I am loving, caring and hardworking with 12 years experience. References available. Marcia 347-737-5037 firstname.lastname@example.org
ELDER CARE NURSE AIDE
with 17 years experience seeks PT/FT work. Refs available Call or text 718 496 6232 Dian
DO YOU NEED A PERSONAL ASSISTANT?
I am experienced, reliable, knowledgeable and able to work flexible hours.
CHINESE AIDE/CAREGIVER FOR ELDERLY
Cantonese/Mandarin-speaking and Excellent Cook for Battery Park City.
SEEKING FREE-LANCE PUBLIC RELATIONS PROFESSIONAL OR SMALL PR FIRM
Work with well-reviewed author of five E-books, developing and implementing outreach strategies. Includes writing, placement, research, new outlets and on-line advertising. Savvy social media skills a must. Downtown location.
Please send resume and fee schedule to: Email: email@example.com
Available starting September for PT/FT.
Wonderful person, who is a great worker. Reference Available
Available for PT/FT elder care. Experienced. References Angella
DITCH THE DIETS & LOSE WEIGHT FOR GOOD
Call Janine to find out how with hypnosis.
EXPERIENCED ELDER CARE
Able to prepare nutritious meals and light housekeeping
Excellent references 12yrs experienced 347-898-5804
Call Hope firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTARY PUBLIC IN BPC
$2 per notarized signature Text Paula at 917-836-8802
IT AND SECURITY SUPPORT
Experienced IT technician. Expertise in 1-on-1 tutoring for all ages.Computer upgrading & troubleshooting. Knowledgeable in all software programs.
James Kierstead email@example.com 347-933-1362. Refs available
OLD WATCHES SOUGHT, PREFER NON-WORKING
Mechanical pocket and wristwatches sought and sometimes repaired
If you would like to place a listing, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Today in History
1476 – Vlad the Impaler defeats Basarab Laiota with the help of Stephen the Great and Stephen V Bothory and becomes the ruler of Wallachia for the third time.
1789 – A national Thanksgiving Day is observed in the United States as proclaimed by President George Washington at the request of Congress.
1917 – The Manchester Guardian publishes the 1916 secret Sykes-Picot Agreement between the United Kingdom and France.
1922 – Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon become the first people to enter the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun in over 3000 years.
The Train to the Plane
A Convenient Connection to the Airport Visible from Lower Manhattan Rooftops May Be Less Than Ten Years Away
The Regional Plan Association (RPA) recently partnered with the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association (DLMA) to build support for a proposed rail connection between Lower Manhattan and Newark Airport. A report the two organizations produced together, “Taking the PATH to Newark Airport,” summarizes the potential and the prospects for such a link, which local leaders have long pushed for.
Nadler Sponsors Legislation to Make Lower Manhattan Heliopolis No More
Support is building among decision-makers to heed a decade long call by Lower Manhattan community leaders to enact a comprehensive ban on non-essential helicopter flights in New York’s airspace.
On October 26, Congressman Jerry Nadler was joined on the steps of City Hall by fellow federal legislators Nydia Velazquez and Carolyn Maloney, as well as Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and State Senator Brian Kavanagh, along with a coalition of activists and community leaders, to announce a new proposed law — the Improving Helicopter Safety Act of 2019. To read more…
Preservation, Renovation, Elevation,
and a Donation
Seaport Structure Reborn as Flood-Proof Food Emporia as Owner Celebrates with Support for Local Charity
The South Street Seaport’s historic Tin Building reached a milestone on Wednesday, when the last and highest structural beam was placed (after being ceremonially signed by dozens of well-wishers) within a reconstructed edifice, following an unprecedented, years-long effort to preserve it.
photos courtesy HHC
“A Fraudulent Scheme”
FiDi Renters Seek Recompense for Years of Rent Overcharges
In the wake of a June ruling by New York State’s highest court that tenants in Financial District rental buildings had been illegally deprived of rent stabilization benefits, a pair of apartment dwellers is litigating to recoup the money they lost by paying inflated, market-rate rents for years.
In October, Bruce Hackney and Timothy Smith, tenants at Ten Hanover Square, filed suit against their landlord, alleging that the owner’s, “failure to follow rent regulations was part of a fraudulent scheme to deregulate apartments in the building.” To read more…
Eighteen Years Later, What about the Children?
Schools Agency Begins Belated Outreach Effort to Former Lower Manhattan Students at Risk of 9/11 Illness
The City’s Department of Education is partnering with the United Federation of Teachers union for an unusual mission: tracking down former New York City public school students who were pupils at Lower Manhattan schools on September 11, 2001 (or in the months that followed) and informing them that their health may be at risk. The project will also seek to put these students in touch with the World Trade Center Health Program and the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund. To read more…
Click to 30 seconds of morning sounds on the esplanade
Rents Within Reach for 50 Years
Lower East Side’s Depression-Era Equivalent to Gateway Plaza Preserves Affordability Through 2069
City Council member Margaret Chin has brokered an agreement that will preserve affordability for rental tenants at Knickerbocker Village, a giant apartment complex in the Two Bridges neighborhood, which was built by a public-private partnership in the 1930s.
The complex bears striking similarities to Battery Park City’s largest residential development, Gateway Plaza. Both boast multiple buildings (12 on the Lower East Side and six in Battery Park City), surrounding a central garden. Each has a similar number of apartments: 1,590 for Knickerbocker Village and 1705 in Gateway Plaza. And the two projects were conceived as bulwarks of affordability.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Shoot
Chin Pushes Legislation to Rein in Production Permits
City Council member Margaret Chin is co-sponsoring a package of bills to clamp down on rampant film and television production in Lower Manhattan.
Although the new laws, if enacted, will have City-wide effect, their impact would be especially significant in the square mile below Chambers Street, where dozens of movies and TV shows commandeer local streets (sometimes for days at a time) each year.
Things That Make You Go ‘Hmm…’
Lawsuit Over Similarity Between One World Trade and Architecture Student’s Design Moves Ahead
One thing is reasonably certain: In 1999, Jeehoon Park, then a student at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s College of Architecture, created a design for a very tall building with a large square base tapering to a smaller square top. In Mr. Park’s vision, the square formed by the roof was rotated 45 degrees relative to the one at the ground level, so that the center-points on each side of the quadrilateral below corresponded to the corners of the one above, and vice versa. And instead of four vertical walls, the structure’s facade consisted of eight elongated triangles.
That structure was never built. Or was it?
What’s In Store?
Amid a Booming Economy, Lower Manhattan Retail Space Languishes
A new report from City Comptroller Scott Stringer finds that in one Lower Manhattan zip code — 10013, which covers parts of western Tribeca SoHo, and the Canal Street corridor in Chinatown — there are 319 empty retail spaces, comprising almost 300,000 square feet of unused property. To read more…
BPCA’s Public Art Collection Represents Multiple Layers of Value
The Battery Park City Authority, has completed an inventory and appraisal of its public art collection. This is part of a broad effort to take stock of the Authority’s ongoing role as a patron and custodian of pieces that represent an integral thread in the fabric of the community, as evidenced by the fact that space and funding for public art were both set aside decades ago, in the neighborhood’s first master plan, before the first building was erected.
BPCA Puts the Brakes on Conversions of Rental Buildings within Community
Residents of rental apartments in Battery Park City who fear being thrown out of their homes as developers plan to convert those buildings to condominiums can rest a little bit easier, according to the Battery Park City Authority.
At the October 2 meeting of the Battery Park City Committee of Community Board 1, Authority president Benjamin Jones said, “I want to talk about some of the potential condo conversions that people are concerned about. We have been very clear with developers over the last year, and then some, about our position — that we want to preserve the rental housing that exists in Battery Park City.” To read more…
Breaking It Down
Composting Catches on in Battery Park City
You’re probably heard of the farm-to-table movement. Thanks to the Battery Park City Authority’s compost initiative, there’s a burgeoning table-to-earth movement in this Lower Manhattan community.
What happens to the scraps after you’ve dropped them in the bin? How do your apple peels and corn husks turn into rich, beneficial compost?
The Broadsheet set out to investigate. To read more…
Death Came Calling at the Corner of Wall and Broad Streets, in Lower Manhattan’s First Major Terrorist Attack
As the noon hour approached on a fall Thursday morning in 1920, a horse-drawn wagon slowly made its way west down Wall Street toward “the Corner,” the high-powered intersection of Wall and Broad. Its driver came to a gentle stop in front of the Assay Office, where stockpiles of gold and silver were stored and tested for purity. But theft was not his motive.
Cass Gilbert and the Evolution of the New York Skyscraper
by John Simko
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