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Tracey Tower tenants fight rent hike with law suit

Bronx Times

Tracey Towers tenants secured a temporary restraining order agains a whoping 65 percent rent increase after taking their pleas to court.

With the first phase of the whopping rent hike set to go into effect at the towering Mitchel-Lama building, tenants breathed a sigh of relief after a judge temporarily stoped the increase.

Tenant association president Jean Hill and tenants rallied outside Bronx state Supreme Court on Thursday as their lawyer filed court papers seeking an injunction to stop the hike.

Mark Gjonaj, a local business man who is running for the assembly from the 80th Assembly District in Morris Park, has been working with the tenants.

Gjonaj provided a lawyer pro bono to file the lawsuit and transportation for tenants to the court.

“A rent increase of that magnitude would absolutely crush seniors living on fixed incomes as well as working class families who struggle to get by each and every day”, said Gjonaj. “How anyone can justify a 65% rent increase during a time when wage increases are flat and the economy is stagnant? It’s simply reckless and just not right. I am elated the Judge agreed to issue a temporary restraining order halting the rent increase.”

Hill said “the next step is to see what the office of (City) Housing Preservation and Development will do. The ball is going to be in their court.”

Tenants at the 869-unit housing complex have fought the hefty rent hike - to be implemented over a four-year period - for more than a year, only to have it recently approved by the city.

Built in 1974, the Mosholu Parkway complex is second only to Co-op City as the largest residential property in the Bronx.

R.Y. Management and landlord Tracey Towers Associates proposed the rent hike last summer.

“We feel money has been received from the city and it has never been correctly explained where it went,” Hill said. “We know what the money was supposed to be used for and that was not what it was used for. We’re in the process of speaking to some lawyers to get an injunction to stop this.”

Tenants said they have been fighting to have the proposal rejected, claiming the management company squandered $4 million in loans from the city.

“If we can’t stop this, a lot of our tenants and seniors will be homeless,” Hill said. “They might squeak by the first go-around, and I mean squeak, because this increase will affect their quality of life.

“All of their money will go into just paying rent, some might not even be able to afford a meal. Are you just going to throw grandma out on the street and say fend for yourself grandma.”

According to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the money was supposed to be used for roof and facade repairs, but was diverted for emergency heat and hot water repairs instead.

The rent hike was approved by HPD last month, and the agency said it will offer Section 8 vouchers to help eligible tenants stay in their homes.

Don Miller, an R.Y. spokesman, said it will work with the city work to prevent displacement.

“First and foremost R.Y. Management’s goal is not to displace anyone and to keep Tracey Towers an affordable property within the Mitchell-Llama program while providing residents with safe, comfortable and attractive housing,” Miller said.

“We have been assisting senior citizens at Tracey Towers in obtaining Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemptions (SCRIE) for those who may be eligible. SCRIE will freeze the rents for qualifying seniors and shelter them from this increase,” he added, as well as other possible government financial assistance programs.

The driving factor for the rent increase, he emphasized, is that the current rent structure can no longer support Tracey Towers’ monthly operating budget.

“Our goal is to work with the tenants, provide solutions for those who may be impacted financially and continually work to improve and upgrade Tracey Towers so that resident may enjoy safe, comfortable and attractive housing,” said Miller.

Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at ksanchez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394

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