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Tracey towers gets the crumbs

Bronx Times

They may not have gotten a half a loaf, but Tracey Towers tenants who fought a 65% rent hike will at least be getting a couple of slices.

The tenants lost the major battle in court last week, with the judge ruling the hike would be sliced down to 61.5% over the next four years.

But negotiations are still continuing to soothe the pain.

The tenants’ attorney, William Madonna, said that besides trimming the rent hike by 3.5%, a final deal will include the tenant organization at the two towering Mosholu Parkway buildings receiving $10,000 from the property owners and being given strong oversight in badly needed renovation work there.

“With the deal we are negotiating, the tenant association will be empowered,” said Madonna. “They will have much more authority to deal with issues in the building.”

Even with the slight decrease in the hike, many tenants will struggle to cover the first of four annual increases when they finally do take effect.

RY Management, the company running the complex, said the rent hike is necessary for repairs to maintain the dilapidated building, built in 1974 through the Mitchell Lama affordable housing program.

Bronx state Supreme Court Justice Howard Sherman ruled Oct. 11 that the Tracey Towers rent hike can take effect, but kept the door open for further negotiations on the final settlement.

Although no decisions have been finalized and tense negotiations continue, all parties must come to an agreement before the terms of a settlement can be reached.

“We will continue to negotiate until we can finalize something,” said Assembly candidate Mark Gjonaj.

Gjonaj unseated 80th Assemblyman Naomi Rivera in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary with about 300 of the 500 vote-margin coming from Tracey Towers voters after he stepped in and secured Madonna as pro bono attorney for the tenants.

“I feel it is a huge loss for residents trying to do the best they can with what they have.,” continued Gjonaj. “If everyone holds to the commitments that were discussed, it’s a compromise.”

Gjonaj said he is hoping to have a deal finalized within the next week.

Madonna sued the city in August over its approval of the rent hike, winning a temporary restraining order that delayed the 65% increase for several weeks.

Rather than take their chances and continue the lawsuit without an injunction, the tenants voted to negotiate a settlement with the property owner, Tracey Tower Associates.

The management company has said the poor condition of the building is due to low rents, but tenants blame the management company, charging the property owner has neglected the complex and squandered city funding in the past.

RY Management maintains that they will work with the city to offer rent vouchers and other solutions to tenants that qualify, a spokesman said.

Gjonaj said even with the terms they are negotiating, it is not a perfect situation for the tenants.

“All in all, if and when I am elected, I look forward to passing a bill that will prevent this from happening.”

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

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