September 27, 2012: 2012, Issue 39
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Today’s news:

EXCLUSIVE - Tracey Towers rejects 65% rent hike compromise

Bronx Times

Tracey Tower tenants facing a 65% rent hike have rejected a last-minute compromise agreement with their landlord.

With the clock ticking before a Friday court session, the tenant’s association at the towering complex, voted against a plan that would have streched out the annual increases beyond four years.

After several court dates and hours of negotiations, William Madonna, the lawyer for the tenants, said the offer has been made by the landlord to extend the time period for rent hikes, still totalling 65 percent.

Madonna said the tenants had to make their decision before Friday, September 28, when both sides were due back in court.

“We’re trying to resolve this, but I’m not sure it’s going to be resolved,” Madonna said.

The hike was originally scheduled to go into effect Saturday, Sept. 1, to be spread out over a four-year period at the twin towers Mitchel-Lama co-op at Mosholu Parkway.

But it was temporarily stopped when then local state Assembly candidate Mark Gjonaj brought Madonna into the case. Madonna filed for an Article 78 proceeding, used when administrative appeals runs out with the city or state.

The first phase of the rent hike due to go into effect would have seen tenants’ rents initially increase by 16%, followed by further increases over the next three years.

But Madonna won a temporary restraining order. Madonna said he presented the offer to extend the period of rent increases to the tenant association on Friday, September 21.

Extending the number of years to pay the 65% rent hike, would lower the rate that rents would rise each year.

“It really doesn’t lower the increase much,” Madonna said, adding that he was still hopeful to reach an agreeable compromise.

“I believe we have a strong case.”

The biggest impediment in the case is the owner’s commitment to repayment of a $40 million dollar loan, for major renovation and repair work on the complex, which is in serious need of upgrades and repairs.

“The loan creates a major problem for us because it has made it hard for us to rework the numbers because it is all based on the repayment of that loan,” Madonna said. “Now everyone is stuck with repaying this loan.”

“We are ultimately looking to the state controller or state attorney general to investigate the mismanagement at Tracey Towers,” he said. “How arrogant was it of them to do the $40 million loan before the statute of limitations ran out?”

Liz Burke, a spokesperson for R.Y. Management, said the driving factor for the rent increase, which was approved by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, is that the current rent structure simply can not support the building’s 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 residents may enjoy safe, comfortable and attractive housing,” Burke said.

Meanwhile, the management firm has been trying to help blunt the economic hit by working with tenants to enroll them in various financila assistance programs.

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

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

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