Optimism on Massive Portfolio of Working-Class Housing

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Jarrett Murphy/City Limits

Advocates and tenants rally around the "three-borough pool" in March.
A few weeks back, City Limits reported on the Three Borough Pool, a 42-building portfolio bought by a partnership during the real-estate boom that had slipped into foreclosure. Many of the buildings in the portfolio—which spanned three boroughs—have racked up high numbers of housing-code violations.

Last month, housing advocates rallied outside City Hall calling for de Blasio administration housing officials to pressure the mortgage lender to rebuff an effort by the pool's owners to refinance their debt, and instead sell the parcels to a "preservation owner"--an entity skilled at rehabilitating crisis properties with a mandate to serve, rather than force out, low- and moderate-income tenants.

NYC's Housing Crunch is Part of National Crisis

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M. Fader, P. Gabel, A. Talwar, K.A. Cote, J. Murphy, N. de Mause, O. Morrison, G. Flynn/City Limits

Policity is a new feature on the CityWire blog highlighting reports, proposals, debates and other news about critical policy issues.

Before he was sworn in as mayor, Bill de Blasio claimed a role as a national leader for progressive urban policy. Now, as the city awaits the formal unveiling of his affordable housing plan on May 1, there's new evidence of a policy void the mayor can fill.

More and more tenants around the United States are getting squeezed by unaffordable rents—not just (as The New York Times points out) in the traditional high-rent cities like ours, but also in smaller towns.

NBC Keeps the Heat on Brooklyn Landlord

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Ian Marsh/City Limits

Members of the Bushwick Housing Independence Project rally outside the home of landlord Joel Israel, linked to several Brooklyn buildings with high numbers of housing-code violations.
Last night Newschannel 4 ran a great story about the tenants of landlord Joel Israel, whom City Limits' Brooklyn Bureau was the first to report on, in January, and was also the focus of a Times story last week. The TV piece features a priceless moment where the camera confronts a man entering an elevator, who claims not to know Israel or anything about the apartments where, tenants say, Israel's work crews tore out floors, ripped down walls and removed plumbing—and left the un-renovated rubble behind.

A Tragedy in the Bronx

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Marc Fader/City Limits

Paul Parker
This month's City Limits magazine reports on a Bronx real estate operator linked to dozens of troubled buildings. It's not just a story about one landlord; it's an examination of the system New York has for reining in rogue landlords, and it asks whether the protections for tenants are robust enough.

Paul Parker lost a son in a 2002 fire at a Bronx building linked to the real estate operator. Below, he talks about the tragedy and his life since.

Report Slams Housing Court For Tenant Treatment

A report by Make the Road New York titled "Home Court Advantage: How Landlords Are Winning and Tenants Are Losing at Brooklyn Housing Court," claims that 85 percent of landlords are represented in court while almost about 95 percent of tenants are not.

With a couple of police officers looking on from in front of Brooklyn Housing Court at 141 Livingston Street, members of the Brooklyn Tenants Union chanted "Si se Puede" ("Yes we can") at a rally on Wednesday.


Tenants, Pinnacle Eye Settlement Of Long-Running Dispute

A class action lawsuit against Pinnacle Group, owners of some 20,000 rent-regulated apartments in New York City, could end with a settlement that finds no wrongdoing but gives tenants the method and means to try to prove they were wronged by the landlord.

In 2007, 10 Pinnacle tenants sued the landlord in federal court, alleging that the company had raised rents improperly and filed eviction notices frivolously as part of a scheme to drive rent-regulated tenants out of their apartments so the landlord could raise rents or sell the units as condos or co-ops. The suit claimed that Pinnacle had violated not just state law but also the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations act, or RICO.


The Economics Of Rent Control, Revisited

Anyone who's ever taken Microeconomics 101 knows that rent control is a terrible idea. By keeping the price of housing artificially low, rent controls reduce the supply of available housing by discouraging developers and landlords from creating or offering it.

So, as legislators in Albany home in on an extension of rent stabilization laws (they expire tonight but are likely to be renewed), is New York re-upping on an economic folly?

Surveys indicate that most economists think so, viewing rent control as not only inefficient but unfair, dooming tenants to poor maintenance and—because it's not means-tested--creating potential inequities between "rich tenants" and "poor landlords."

But c

Tenant Advocates Wary Of Rent Reg Talks

With the current rent regulation laws set to expire June 15, negotiations continue on how New York State might reform rent laws—if they renew them.

But advocates of rent regulation are growing restless.

A straight extension of the current laws, “would not be a victory for the tenants,” said Mary Tek, campaign manager for the Real Rent Reform Campaign (R3), a coalition directed by the staff of Tenants & Neighbors, a tenant advocacy group.

R3 has planned a “mass mobilization” to Albany on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, and is also prepared to take trips every day after the June 15 if rent regulation laws are not renewed, according to the organization’s blog.

Beyond th

Crown Heights: At The Corner Of Old And New

By now, most New Yorkers know the signs that a neighborhood is changing.

Sometimes, the indicators are as overt as a shiny new luxury high-rise piercing a streetscape of familiar brown brick, or a rent bill that suddenly rises.

But often the clues are more subtle: The newsstand begins carrying TimeOut; the bodega starts selling Stella; the grocery offers Stonyfield.

To chart change in Crown Heights, a neighborhood that 20 years ago this summer became a national byword for interracial violence, reporter Patrick Wall went to the commercial strip in search of gentrification's footprints, both large and small--and both positive and negative.