Volume 17 • Issue 3 | June 11 - 17, 2004

A few I.P.N. tenants raise objections to rent deal

By Albert Amateau

A dissident group of Independence Plaza North tenants last week called for canceling the March agreement for a combination of a federal subsidy and a city-sponsored program to keep rents affordable after the landlord takes the 1,329-unit complex out of the Mitchell-Lama program.

The protest came at a June 8 meeting where Neil Fabricant, the tenant association president who brokered the agreement with the landlord, Laurence Gluck, discussed strategy to ensure that the federal subsidy remains in place for income-eligible tenants. Gluck intends to take the Tribeca complex out of the Mitchell-Lama middle-class rent program on June 26.

Robert Gluckstadt, leader of the small group of protestors, said he told the meeting of nearly 200 tenants that the agreement designed to protect lower-income tenants with federal enhanced “sticky” vouchers was deeply flawed because the program is being threatened by Bush administration cuts. Voucher tenants pay 30 percent of their income in rent, with the difference paid to the landlord by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

For I.P.N. tenants whose incomes exceed the eligibility for vouchers, the March agreement provides a city-regulated Landlord Assistance Program (LAP), which sets rents at current levels with yearly increases pegged to the city Rent Guidelines Board rates.

Gluckstadt said the March agreement primarily benefits the higher-income Landlord Assisted Program tenants, not voucher tenants. “What happens if a person or family loses the enhanced sticky vouchers? The answer is they would be evicted for non-payment of rent,” he said.

In a May 20 letter to the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Gluckstadt said statements by the landlord that the federal vouchers were secure were not accurate. Gluckstadt referred to proposals pending in Congress to limit vouchers to one year. He also recalled that there was no official vote on the agreement by I.P.N. tenants despite overwhelming vocal approval at a March 8 meeting.

“Please do not allow this housing complex to exit the Mitchell-Lama program on June 26,” Gluckstadt wrote in the May 20 letter.

“If you believe that the tenants association went beyond its authority in the agreement, you must resolve that in a court of law,” replied Gary Sloman, H.P.D. director of operations in a June 1 letter.

“I don’t know what to do,” Gluckstadt said Thursday, acknowledging that the voucher program is the jurisdiction of the federal government. “If we sue the tenants association we would spite the LAP tenants. It probably wouldn’t get us [voucher tenants] anywhere and I’d have a lot of angry neighbors,” he said.

“I believe there was no other agreement to be had,” Gluckstadt said. “They [the tenants association] made the agreement within the parameters of the federal subsidy program. I think they should not have signed but pursued legal action,” he said.

Fabricant said yesterday that the proposal to sue the landlord to kept the Tribeca complex in the Mitchell-Lama program was “stupid.” No landlord has ever been compelled by law to remain in Mitchell-Lama after paying the state or city mortgage and back taxes after the 20-year expiration of the program, Fabricant said.

He said the March agreement was a victory, but “a victory in the first step.” The first priority of the I.P.N. tenants association is to get commitments from the state or city to fund enhanced vouchers if the federal government drops them, Fabricant said.

The threat that HUD would pay for only one year of vouchers is ambiguous, Fabricant observed. “We don’t know if that would apply to vouchers already issued or to new vouchers,” he explained. In any case, the Bush administration’s program cut failed in the last Congress. “The president has also run into resistance in his own party,” Fabricant said. A May 4 New York Times article said that a bipartisan coalition in Congress has written to HUD opposing voucher cuts along with Republican governors of Massachusetts and Minnesota.

At least 650 of the 1329 I.P.N. apartments have been accepted for enhanced vouchers and are assured of getting them, Fabricant said. For the future, the tenants association board of directors is securing estimates of the cost of the voucher program. “It might well be worth it for the city or state to pick up the vouchers,” said Fabricant. “After 9/11, the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. paid residents in the World Trade Center zone to remain — I.P.N. tenants got checks from L.M.D.C. — what are they going to do now, throw them out?” he said.


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