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BY JOHN BAYLES | A slew of local politicians stood outside Independence Plaza North in Tribeca on Thurs., May 3 to decry a recent court ruling they deemed a critical blow to the future of affordable housing in New York City.
The press conference was spurred by a decision last month by the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court that ruled in favor of I.P.N. developer Laurence Gluck. The court ruling said if a landlord receiving J-51 benefits decided to “retroactively” repay them, the apartments would no longer be rent-stabilized.
Last week, local politicians and I.P.N. tenants made their case for an appeal and reversal.
“Simply put, without affordability at I.P.N., our community would not be what it is today. J-51 is not just meant to provide a tax break — it’s meant to ensure the kind of affordability and stability that I.P.N. has long provided and that makes New York the vibrant and diverse place it is today,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron. “A fair hearing is critical for I.P.N. and for the tens of thousands across the City who may also be affected. Thank you to the tenants and to my colleagues in government for standing up for affordability.”
“We are faced with an affordable housing crisis in New York City, and developments like [I.P.N.] are absolutely critical for low and moderate income families,” said Congressman Jerry Nadler. “The J-51 program has been a vital tool for maintaining affordability throughout the city and must be preserved. Moreover, owners who accepted tax breaks in exchange for a commitment to affordability should not now be given the opportunity to renege on that commitment.”
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer called I.P.N. the “last bastion of truly affordable housing in Tribeca.”
“Let’s be clear, the intent of the J-51 tax abatement program was to shore up the physical condition of our local building stock and protect tenants by keeping their rents affordable,” said Stringer. “The State Supreme Court decision will have far reaching consequences beyond [I.P.N.] and it is imperative that the highest echelons of the State judiciary give this case the hearing that it deserves.”
NYC Council Member Margaret Chin noted the court’s decision would give a green light to landlords wishing to deregulate their apartments, and would allow them to “terminate their participation in the J-51 program by repaying the benefits they have received.” Chin added that the decision “has no basis in current law.”
“We were very disappointed by the recent court ruling against the tenants and concerned that it might lead to arbitrary rent increases and possibly eviction,” said Julie Menin, Chair of Community Board 1. “Keeping affordable housing in our district is a vitally important priority for us. We support the application by the tenants for permission to appeal to the New York State Court of Appeals and intend to file an amicus brief on their behalf.”
The April ruling upheld a decision by a federal court judge almost year ago, that said Gluck did not break the law when he deregulated the building and removed it from the Mitchell- Llama, rent stabilized housing program in 2004 while simultaneously receiving J-51 tax credits.
I.P.N.’s tenants association thought they had won the battle against Stellar Management, the company where Gluck serves as CEO, when in August 2010 a state Supreme Court judge ruled that the 1,328 units had been illegally deregulated.
However, Gluck appealed that ruling on the basis that the city Department of Finance was responsible for the mistake that led to the J-51 tax credits being issued after the building had been removed from the Mitchell-Llama program.
Gluck repaid the amount resulting from the J-51 tax credits, including interest, dating back to June 2004.