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These are real – and illegal – problems.

27 Jul

The mold that was on every window in my apartment, and that had taken over the inside of an entire closet for several months.

The comment in question from my last post:

“i have been a tnt of for many years and have seen many landlords come and gone. so were very good others not the best but none perfect. I am glad to live in an urban building they may not be the best or always sunnyshine to speak to but who is. can you imagine dealing with so many people in one day. the problem today is that as tenants we believe we deserve all that we ask for and in reality we should but in that case we can buy our own homes and live in luxury. what has this world come to when we are complaining about rent receipts and washing machines. do you this is the first landlord to send us rent receipts. there are bigger problems in the world like not having jobs or food to eat and most important health. please take a look at your complaints and make more use of your time like helping those in need.”

This person apparently thinks that Urban American’s tenants, the majority of whom are low-income, can afford to buy their own homes in New York City – and live in luxury, for that matter. This is absolutely ridiculous, considering housing prices in NYC are the some of the costliest in the U.S.; even basic 2 bedroom homes in the outer boroughs start at $500,000. In Manhattan, that same amount of money will get you a studio apartment. Don’t believe me? Check local real estate listings. Are you going to tell Urban American tenants like Myra Santana and James Outlaw that they can just magically afford to go buy their own properties for this amount of money?

Regardless, this commenter apparently does not think that the issues faced by Urban American tenants are real problems worth dedicating my time and energy to. Yes, this is NYC, and not Somalia. I’m sure we’re all quite thankful for the blessings and privileges that we have in our lives. However, the issues listed below are still worth acknowledging and fighting. It’s not a game of suffering Olympics, and it’s possible to care about multiple issues in the world at once.

Let’s break it down:

And it’s not a problem that I’m disgusted and outraged by all of this.

Pertinent Videos

25 Apr

“3333 Broadway – Saving the Mitchell Lama Program” uploaded to YouTube September 28th, 2009.

Description: “Residents protested the alleged discrimination against affordable-housing tenants in 3333 Broadway, a giant housing development where many are now struggling to remain in residence.” Excellent description of what the tenants of 3333 Broadway in Harlem have been dealing with with regards to Urban American Management’s rampant neglect and harassment.

“Queens Tenants Protest Alleged Unfair Rent Hikes”
, posted April 18th, 2008 by NY1 News. Unfortunately, I cannot embed this video.

More videos will be added as they are located. If you know of any videos related to Urban American Management or tenants standing against their practices, please email them to nyctenantadvocate@wordpress.com.

More on Urban American in the News

7 Apr

3333 Broadway, courtesy of The Uptowner

I’ve made “Urban American in the News” a permanent page on this site so that it doesn’t inadvertently fall to the bottom of my posts. However, there are still even more articles and quotes to provide:

These articles are also sorted in descending chronological order:

“Landlord Sued for Increasing Rent, Forcing Tenants Out” from the Real Deal, October 16th, 2008 “The Legal Aid Society of New York plans to file a class action suit in the state Supreme Court today against Urban American Management Corp., owner of 3333 Broadway, for allegedly turning low-income units to market rate ones without proper public notice.”

“Community Action for Safe Apartments watching for corporate landlords” by Bill Egbert for the New York Daily News on July 15th, 2008. “Community Action for Safe Apartments is working with tenants in 19 of the estimated 277 buildings in the borough bought in recent years by private-equity-backed developers like Pinnacle, SG2, Ocelot, Normandy, Urban American Management and others.”

Tenants Target Fannie Mae by Daniel Massey for Crain’s New York, May 28th, 2009.

“‘With the rents they’re taking in, there’s no way Urban American can pay that almost $1 billion mortgage and continue to maintain the buildings,’ said Jackie Peters, secretary of the Metro North Riverview Tenant Coalition, one of the buildings in the portfolio.

Ms. Peters added that up until a few days ago, soot from a February fire in one of Urban American’s buildings had not been cleaned.”

“Seeking Fannie’s Help Before Conditions Worsen” by Karen Loew for City Limits Magazine, June 1st, 2009.

Select Quotes: “From a tenant’s point of view, one major problem with “predatory equity” is that if a real estate investor pays too much for a property – realizing post-purchase that the building’s rents will never be enough to pay back the mortgage debt assumed – the investor will start to cut costs by reducing maintenance of the property.”

“‘We stand with the tenants of the Urban American Management portfolio to urge Fannie Mae to live up to the spirit of the law to ensure that these buildings are kept in good condition,’ U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel of Harlem said in a statement. ‘We cannot wait until these buildings fall off a cliff and must do everything we can now to protect our tenants.’

“Foreclosure Threat Looms over Thousands of City Apartments” by Eileen Markey for the Gotham Gazette, June 22nd, 2009. “Roberta Rivers is worried. The retired Verizon worker says the elevators break down repeatedly, her neighbors can’t get their windows replaced — even as mold grows on their walls — and there was no hot water for long stretches this winter. She wants the bank that holds the mortgage on her building [Fannie Mae] to force the landlord [Urban American Management] to take care of the property or find a new owner.”

Tenants, Landlord Square Off in West Harlem Affordable Housing Fight” by Andrew Keshner for The Uptowner on December 15th, 2009. “Since new management took over at 3333 Broadway more than two years ago, the building has become a battleground. Some residents and advocates charge that disrepair, rising rents and evictions are forcing lower income tenants to leave and they’ve gone to court to seek lease provisions ensuring low- and moderate-income housing. ”

Local Apartment Residents Boiling Mad Over Lack of Heat by Lindsey Ward for the Columbia Spectator on January 28th, 2010 “It’s been a cold winter for residents of 3333 Broadway.”

“Hannah Weinstein, a representative from the advocacy group Tenants and Neighbors said that this kind of inaction [on the part of Urban American regarding repairs] is purposeful neglect. ‘We believe the 3333 is a predatory equity building and that they know exactly what they’re doing, in that they don’t do repairs in order to force people out of the building so that they can bring in tenants who will pay more money at market rate,’ she said. ‘It’s probably been happening as long as the ownership has been there.'”

“East Harlem residents claim ‘predator investor’ is trying to drive up rent and expel them” by Juan Gonzalez for the New York Daily News on May 21st, 2010.

“‘Urban American is the poster child for predatory investing. This was one of the most insane deals of the real estate boom, and there’s no way they can pay their debt with the rent rolls from these buildings.’ says Dina Levy, head of organizing at the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board.