Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bronx

Record rent hike will move forward at Tracey Towers in Bronx despite lawsuit backed by Assembly candidate 

Disappointed tenants face drastic increase next week











Tracey Towers tenants rallied in the Bronx before suing their landlord and the city over a 65% rent hike.

Daniel Beekman/New York Daily News

Tracey Towers tenants rallied in the Bronx before suing their landlord and the city over a 65% rent hike.

Tenants at the largest rental complex in the Bronx will suffer a drastic rent increase next week, despite a legal challenge championed by state Assembly candidate Mark Gjonaj.
State Supreme Court Justice Howard Sherman has ruled that the Tracey Towers rent hike can take effect, disappointing anxious tenants at the 869-unit Mosholu Parkway housing complex.
"We're getting the short end of the stick," Jean Hill, president of the Tracey Towers Tenant Organization, complained Monday.
Gjonaj, who unseated 80th District state Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera in an acrimonious Democratic primary last month, connected the tenant organization with a pro bono lawyer and organized courthouse rallies during the run-up to the election.
The tenant organization sued the city over its approval of the rent hike and in August won a temporary restraining order that delayed the increase for several weeks. Meanwhile, Gjonaj benefitted; a Tracey Towers landslide helped him upset Rivera.
But Sherman ruled against the tenant organization Oct. 11 when he refused to block the hike indefinitely. Rather than continue its lawsuit without an injunction, the tenant organization voted to negotiate a settlement with property owner Tracey Towers Associates.
The deal will reduce the rent hike slightly, from a cumulative increase of 65% over four years to 61.5%, Hill said. In addition, planned renovations at the dilapidated complex will be subject to tenant organization oversight and the organization will receive funds from the property owner.
Hill called the lawsuit "worthwhile" but lamented the outcome.
Many tenants will struggle to cover the first of four annual increases when it takes effect Nov. 1, she said. Seniors living on fixed incomes are particularly at risk.
"The tenants aren't happy about it," Hill admitted.
Gjonaj called the hike "unfair" but said he believes the settlement will "empower" Bronx tenants.
Housing officials insist the hike is needed for repairs at the dilapidated complex, built in 1974 through the Mitchell-Lama affordable housing program. Without it, Tracey Towers Associates will default on a $40 million loan from the New York City Housing Development Corporation.
Tracey Towers Associates blames the poor condition of the complex on low rents. But tenants attribute it to mismanagement.
They claim the property owner has neglected the complex despite receiving city loans before.
"We hope to resolve the matter soon in a way that…brings long-term stability to the property," said Karen Selvin, city lawyer.
The settlement is not yet final, the city Law Department said.
RY Management, the company that runs the complex, will work with the city to offer rent vouchers and other solutions to needy tenants, a spokesman said.
dbeekman@nydailynews.com
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