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BY SAM SPOKONY | New York’s may be a tale of two cities, but at Independence Plaza North in Tribeca, some residents say it’s a tale of two maintenance lists.
Angry low- and middle-income tenants at the three-building, 1,300-unit complex say their landlord places higher priority on apartment repairs for market rate renters, leaving them with sluggish service and worse living conditions.
“It’s unconscionable what they’re doing,” said one woman, who lives in I.P.N.’s 80 North Moore St. tower and who spoke anonymously to avoid angering the landlord. She explained that whole sections of her apartment’s floor tiling are constantly popping up out of place and are in desperate need of repair — but she said that whenever she makes maintenance requests, the response is slow and the job isn’t properly completed.
That woman, who is in her 50s, is one of many I.P.N. tenants who live there under the city-sponsored Landlord Assistance Program (LAP), which regulates yearly rent increases in a way similar to rent stabilization. Some others at the complex — often referred to as voucher tenants — receive federal subsidies through the Section 8 housing program.
“I don’t think I should have to get out of bed in the morning and trip over the tiles, and I’m just so disgusted to be living with a floor that looks like a junkyard,” said the LAP tenant, who added that some of her low- and middle-income neighbors are living with perpetually leaky radiators or cabinets falling off the wall. “ We just want this place to be decent and livable,” she added.
The distinct “classes” of I.P.N. tenants — voucher/LAP and market rate — emerged after the landlord, Laurence Gluck’s Stellar Management company, took the complex out of the state’s Mitchell-Lama middle income program in 2004.
A voucher tenant who also declined to give her name said that when she and other similar tenants report broken appliances, such as stoves or dishwashers, the landlord only allows them to be replaced with used equipment, while their market rate counterparts receive brand new versions.
That woman pointed out that, while she pays less out-of-pocket than a market rate tenant, her Section 8 subsidy pays the difference — meaning that the landlord doesn’t actually make any less money off her apartment.
“They’re getting the same rent from everyone,” she said, “so they should be putting in the same quality appliances for everyone.”
Another woman, a LAP tenant, even claimed that when she was calling management to request a repair, she was asked whether she was on a “Fair Market Renovated” list.
“They stop you and say, ‘Wait I have to check to see if you’re fair market,’ ” she said, adding that three other people she knows at the complex have had the same experience.
And after hearing those kinds of complaints from many other tenants, State Senator Daniel Squadron is now looking for answers from Gluck and his management staff.
In a Feb. 25 letter to the landlord, Squadron said the complaints “raise questions about whether repairs are handled differently for market-rate tenants than for LAP and Section 8 tenants,” and asked Gluck to provide information about how maintenance requests are handled, and whether or not repairs are in fact prioritized for market rate residents. Squadron also specifically asked the landlord: Does a “Fair Market Renovated List” exist?
Stellar Management declined to respond directly to Squadron’s letter. But a spokesperson for the landlord released a Feb. 14 statement in response to a previous request from Downtown Express.
“Stellar Management responds promptly to all complaints and has a strong record in working with its residents to provide clean, safe, quality affordable housing,” the spokesperson said. “Our long-term goal at Independence Plaza is to keep residents in place and the overwhelming majority of our renters are, in fact, long-term residents.”
And apparently, there are still some non-market rate tenants at I.P.N. who feel they are being treated fairly by the landlord.
“I think they do a good job fixing things when we ask them, so I don’t have any problems with the maintenance,” said Nathan Weber, a LAP tenant at the complex, when asked about the situation.
But aside from the current allegations, Gluck and many of his LAP and voucher tenants have had a stormy relationship in the past. Last year, I.P.N. opened a new gym facility and playroom that were initially only available to market rate tenants, although the landlord eventually yielded and allowed all residents of the complex to use them.