Saturday, July 30, 2005
Friday, July 29, 2005
New York In The News
Paterson Calls For Moratorium on Use of Eminent Domain
Seeking to protect tenants, homeowners and small businesses and prevent the erosion of property rights in New York, Senate Democratic Leader David A. Paterson Thursday called for a moratorium on the use of eminent domain. Spurred by the recent controversial 5-4 Supreme Court decision allowing municipalities to seize private homes and businesses for the benefit of private economic development, Paterson said the State should immediately create a task force composed of legislators, developers, labor leaders and community development organizations to clarify seizure and development practices in New York.
"When Bill Clinton and Clarence Thomas agree on an issue, it is time to take a deep breath and examine all the facts," Paterson said. "These two ideological opposites have been brought together by their mutual fear that the Supreme Court's ruling on Kelo v. New London will lead to a gold rush on neighborhoods in economic decline." Paterson made the announcement because of constituent concerns in his 30th Senatorial District, which encompasses Central Harlem.
"This historic community has seen a tidal wave of private development that is overwhelming tenants, small home and business owners." He said while the need for affordable housing and economic development are greatest in places like Harlem, "History teaches us that without foresight, massive public projects can destroy neighborhoods without delivering promised benefits." He pointed out that during the 1950's and 60's New York's landscape was reshaped by the urban renewal projects of Robert Moses, many of which offered clear and compelling public benefit.
"Some however, have scarred and dismembered poor and working class neighborhoods that have never recovered from the bulldozer of the Eminent Domain." Paterson also cited outgoing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who, in the dissenting opinion on Kelo v. City of New London, wrote, "The specter of condemnation hangs over all property.
Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory."
Joining Senator Paterson was Bert Gall, an attorney with the Washington-based Institute for Justice organization that represented the property owners in Kelo, the. Mr. Gall said, "Eminent Domain abuse is a nation-wide problem, but it is particularly bad in New York. Lawmakers need to make sure that Eminent Domain is not used for private gains."
Representing Community Planning Board Nine, Chairman Jordi Reyes-Montblanc spoke of his concerns as a New Yorker. It is important that the legislature understand the implications of Eminent Domain and take the proper steps to protect property owners in New York".
Paterson was also joined by Maritta Dunn, executive director of the Manhattanville Area Consortium of Businesses, and Nellie Hester-Bailey, the executive director of the Harlem Tenants Council. “Neighborhoods are made of more than just concrete, steel and glass”, Paterson said. “Like Harlem, neighborhoods are living monuments to the struggle of individuals and families to obtain the American dream. Unless we act wisely, we could see communities like Harlem erased from the cultural landscape of New York."
State Legislatures across the nation are taking measures to restrict municipalities from using Kelo as a pretext to expand the use of Eminent Domain. Many of these interventions call for the creation of a more transparent system of local due process to prevent abuse. 7-29-05
© 2005 The Empire Journal. All rights reserved. NO portion of this article may be reprinted or reproduced, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the express written permission of the publishers.
Friday, July 29, 2005
Date: 7/29/2005 8:02:41 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)
Medicaid Fraud Was Exposed Last Week,
But Is Anyone Doing Anything About It?
By Henry J. Stern
July 29, 2005
The first four days of last week (July 18-21) the media provided extensive coverage of the
persistent and costly problem of Medicaid fraud and waste. For several days lengthy articles in the New York Times and vigorous editorials in the Times, the News, Newsday and the Post denounced abuses in the 40-year-old federal program, intended to provide medical assistance to poor people. Billions of dollars were said to have been squandered in paying unjustified claims. Rule 29-T applies here: ("The trouble is, the charges are true.)
We believe that Medicaid is, in terms of dollars stolen and wasted, one of the world's largest scandals, topping even the Oil for Food program that was mismanaged by the United Nations from 1996 to 2003. In Oil for Food, billions of dollars in oil revenues which should have gone for food and medical supplies for the people of Iraq were diverted into armaments for Saddam Hussein, luxury goods for privileged Iraqis, baksheesh for officials at the United Nations and its member states, and other bribes and payoffs. Sadly, the son of the Secretary General himself was employed as an agent of one company to get oil contracts on their behalf, but he said he never told his father he was still working there. The war in Iraq led to the termination of the well-motivated but widely-abused program.
Assuming that the ten per cent estimate for fraud and waste in Medicaid is confirmed (and some call it modest), the mis-spent funds would exceed $4.4 billion a year. We write here about New York State, which is not the only locus of corruption, this is a national problem, but we do worse than other states in dealing with it. The sums involved are enormous, they all come from taxpayers, and they go to service providers who file fictitious, fraudulent, deceptive and unjustified claims, for unnecessary services which may or may not have been performed.
Medicaid is a $44.5 billion annual expense in the New York State budget. It is far more expensive than any other government program. Roughly half of that huge sum is paid by the Federal government, one quarter by New York State, and one quarter by the cities and counties in the State. In other states, the Feds pay up to 78% of the cost of Medicaid, while the lowest payment to any state is 50%.
The reason for the discrepancy in Federal aid is that, 40 years ago, New York was considered a wealthy state, which could afford more than the poorer Southern states. Also, the liberal legislators of the Northeast liked Medicaid more than conservative Southerners did, and the sliding scale of Federal payments gained the bill political support it needed to pass. Unique among the states, New York divides its 50% share equally between state government and city and county governments. Medicaid costs the City of New York alone about $5 billion a year, about ten per cent of the entire municipal budget.
Responsibility for policing this enormous program lies with the State Department of Health, and the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. In recent years, as the Medicaid program has grown in cost, the staff assigned to preventing and prosecuting abuse has declined substantially. New York, which has by far the costliest Medicaid program in the United States, is among the least effective in fraud prevention, with minimal recoveries of stolen or wasted funds, sometimes not even covering the cost of prevention efforts.
In response to the press exposes, statements were issued by the four state officials responsible for Medicaid. First the Governor promised to set up an Office of Medicaid Inspector General. His designee is Paul Shechtman, a first-rate lawyer. However, Shechtman will continue his private practice, so the oversight he will provide will necessarily be part-time.
The second responsible public official is the State Attorney General, who runs the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. In his six and one-half years in office, the AG has won national renown for his pursuit of improper practices in corporate America. His office also shares responsibility for governmental misconduct, an area in which jurisdiction has primarily been exercised by Federal prosecutors and county district attorneys.
In response to the July 18 articles, he wrote the legislative leaders asking for greater authority, and released a letter he had written June 10 to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, asking for the release of currently restricted data so that he could pursue offenders. The Attorney General is somewhat limited by the fact that the Department of Health generally initiates complaints. Most of the complaints the AG receives deal with misconduct by nursing home personnel rather than overcharges. That is because it is the state that pays the bills, but it is the patients who may be neglected or abused by their alleged caregivers.
Of the four, one official who took action this year is the Senate Majority Leader. On May 2, the Senate passed a comprehensive bill to tighten Medicaid enforcement introduced by Sen. Dean Skelos, but the bill was not endorsed by the governor, and was not even introduced in the Assembly. A Republican source said that the Attorney General did not want the bill to be considered by the Assembly, which is possible if the bill would increase the power of the Health Department and not help the AG's own enforcement efforts.
The fourth reaction to the news stories came from the Assembly Speaker, who praised the Attorney General. He said more money and better computers would help enforcement. He did not comment on Medicaid reform. Traditionally Assembly Democrats are allied with hospitals, health care providers and labor unions. That is not the constituency for changing the system.
Eleven days after the storm broke, the sea and the sky are quiet. Rudyard Kipling described the silence:
"The tumult and the shouting dies,
The Captains and the Kings depart...
The newspaper-generated commotion has subsided, at least for a while, but the problem remains. As we reported, Medicaid fraud and waste cost the taxpayers $12.2 million per day in the State of New York. But how does one reform the state's longest gravy train? The recipients of the fortune the state dispenses daily hospitals, nursing homes, adult homes, health care providers, physicians, manufacturers of hospital equipment and other medical apparatus, big pharma, little pharma, pharmacists, all of the above share in the bonanza that is Medicaid today. Most of this money is wisely spent to provide care for the poor, but too much of it is not.
We do not see many civic organizations or traditional reformers involved in fighting Medicaid fraud and waste. First, the issue is too substantive; some goo-goos prefer to dwell on the procedural aspects of government. Second, it is politically incorrect to suggest that any government program supposedly intended to help the poor is in fact wasting money. Third, even if the money is spent unnecessarily, it is still not so bad because so much of it goes to nonprofits, or small entrepreneurs, but in any event is not used to pay for the government's war machine. Fourth, some believe that a close look at any part of the Great Society represents an attempt by the hard-hearted to repeal or subvert what little progress America has made in the last half century in achieving social justice.
Our conclusion: Medicaid is a basically good program, certainly needed in the absence of universal health care. Like all programs involving the expenditure of public funds, people take advantage of it to enrich themselves unjustly. The fact that so many people in so many occupations get money improperly makes it difficult to get a handle on the program.
Fortunately, the newspapers have given a great deal of attention to this deplorable situation. Whether this will result in substantive government action we will learn in the months, maybe years, ahead. The perceptive Rule 14-F, ("Follow the money.") suggests that achieving real Medicaid reform will be an uphill struggle, because the money is all on the other side.
We intend to write progress reports on Medicaid fraud control as time passes. We invite the relevant agencies and legislators to let us know what they are doing, by sending any material they produce on Medicaid, which we will pass along to you. We write late on Friday, July 29. Since the Times series began, about $12,200,000 may have been stolen or wasted, unless the thieves have slowed down for their summer vacations.
Enjoy the weekend. Stay healthy.
Henry J. Stern
New York Civic
520 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018
(212) 564-5588 (fax)
Date: 7/29/2005 2:31:11 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)
Jordi, I thought it was nice that this person noticed the hostility toward the Manhattanville community. I am not popular with some at Columbia because I have spoken up about their ugly behavior toward us. Anne
Note: forwarded message attached.
Anne Z. Whitman, President
Hudson North American
3229 Broadway, New York, New York 10027
Tel: 212-678-4862 Fax: 212-678-4617
Date: Fri, 29 Jul 2005 11:23:01 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Anne Z. Whitman"
Subject: Re: Sabotage of Manhattanville Peace
To: Makhil Medina
Dear Makhil, Thank you for your note to me and my brothers at Despatch. There are many at Columbia who have outright contempt for our community. Columbia pretends to be involved in community planning, but what they are really working toward is community removal. We have worked hard over the years, invested our life savings in Manhattanville and want to be a part of any revitalization of our neighborhood. This is our business home and we plan on staying here. Our historic properties (over 100 years) cannot be duplicated. Thank you for speaking up and supporting us. We welcome Columbia to our neighborhood, but not to bulldoze long time residents and businesses. Thank you again for your concern and support. Anne Zuhusky Whitman
Often I have to go to the Columbia campus to meet someone from work in the "quad" area. At first I thought this didn't mean much, but now it must because the situation about Manhattanville is so tense. Back in the time of late April and the beginning of May this year I saw something unusual and mean going on. One of the best employment companies in Harlem was getting the lime colored flyers ripped off bulletin boards on a regular basis. The person doing this was a young Latina that others identified as Elia Roldan, a Columbia English major student and Barnes and Noble worker. After seeing this happen more than twice I asked a few people if they knew her and what was with taking down the Hudson flyers and not the other storage people. It was crazy like she was stalking the replacements on a daily basis. I tried to be neutral about the whole expansion. Now I'm not. I tell you as a Latino who also has a lovely Eastern wife. I would not lie on my ancestors about what I saw. I am over 60 years old! Would someone do everybody a favor? Let this Elia know that she is making a bad situation worse as far a the community and campus relations go.
The Zuhuskys have been helping Harlem remain stable for many years. She had no right to rip up or remove the Hudson storage signs for any reason. Was she paid by a rival company? Was she doing this on Columbia's behalf? What kind of Columbia student would do this? The Manhattanville tension is there and doesn't need instigators to make it worse. When nobody wanted to stay in Harlem, the Zuhuskys did and provided WORK to many in and out of the neighborhood? My own person in facilities working on campus also commented that she was ripping the signs off the bulletin boards here and there like she was obsessed with sabotaging Hudson storage. It is not important whether I come in or the staff person talks to you. We saw what we did and having ties to Harlem and Columbia we didn't like it. Why now? It kept bothering me not to say something on behalf of Harlem's ties with the Zuhuskys. Then I knew it was the same girl when my wife and I went to the bookstore - a short Latina wearing dark-rimmed eyeglasses with her hair pulled back in a short ponytail. The community groups have been told about this prankish nuisance and mean action. This happened so much in the weeks I mentioned that it was not random and had to be intentional to sabotage Hudson storage.
cc: Manhattan Community Council #9, Morningside Area Alliance and NYPD Community Council
Piden evaluar la ley de expropiación pública
Por Igor González Diario HOY
29 de julio, 2005
¿Se imagina perder su casa, negocio u otra propiedad en nombre del desarrollo económico?
Eso es lo que teme un grupo de legisladores, encabezados por el senador David Paterson, quien solicitó ayer al gobierno estatal una moratoria en la aplicación de la ley de dominio eminente o de expropiación pública.
El tema resuena en momentos en que la Autoridad Metropolitana de Transporte (MTA) negocia terrenos ferroviarios en Brooklyn, y residentes del Alto Manhattan acusan a la Universidad de Columbia de querer usar el recurso de dominio eminente para expandirse.
En junio la Corte Suprema de Estados Unidos determinó (5 a 4) que la firma New London Development de Connecticut podía "apropiarse" de un terreno no para uso "público", sino para levantar un hotel de lujo.
Antes del fallo, el recurso de dominio eminente se restringía a proyectos que implicaran un genuino beneficio para el público, como carreteras y escuelas.
"El Estado debe crear una comisión compuesta por legisladores, constructores y organizaciones para delinear la puesta en práctica de esta ley", dijo Paterson, junto a concejales y activistas en las escalinatas de la Alcaldía.
El senador agregó que está preocupado por sus constituyentes en Harlem, quienes "han visto una ola de desarrollo inmobiliario que está aplastando a los inquilinos".
Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, presidente de la junta comunitaria número 9, afirmó que en el Alto Manhattan vive una gran comunidad inmigrante que quedaría sin empleo de concretarse la expansión de la Universidad de Columbia. "Ellos prometen empleos, pero para profesionales y técnicos, y en nuestra comunidad la mayoría son trabajadores", dijo.
Susan Brown, vocera de esa casa de estudios, replicó que "Columbia está enfocada en considerar las necesidades de la ciudad y de los residentes del Alto Manhattan, al tiempo que continúa negociando para comprar las propiedades que necesita para su expansión".
This is a WorldNetDaily printer-friendly version of the article which follows.
To view this item online, visit http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=45516
Friday, July 29, 2005
THIS LAND WAS YOUR LAND
Another Supreme home scoped for confiscation
Posted: July 29, 2005
8:30 p.m. Eastern
By Joe Kovacs
Justice Stephen Breyer
Call it eminent domania.
Public outrage over the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing governments to seize private property and give it to another private party has spread to a second justice whose home is now targeted for confiscation.
Justice Stephen Breyer has joined his high-court colleague David Souter in feeling the wrath of the public, specifically the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire, which wants the city of Plainfield, N.H., to seize Breyer's 167-acre vacation retreat by eminent domain.
In its place, Libertarians hope to see a "Constitution Park" featuring monuments celebrating the U.S. and New Hampshire constitutions.
"The point is: What goes around, comes around," party spokesman Mike Lorrey told the Concord Monitor. "This is a way of saying, 'You're going to be held to your own standard.'"
Lorrey told the paper that Edward Naile, president of the Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers, has already recruited some town residents to seek signatures for the petition regarding Breyer's land.
"We just started it up the other day," Lorrey said. "We're just getting going."
New Hampshire home of Justice David Souter
This latest attempt to put the justices' own property in the crosshairs follows the effort by Californian Logan Darrow Clements, who wants the public to use eminent domain powers to snatch the home of Justice Souter in Weare, N.H., in order to create the "Lost Liberty Hotel," a kind of museum commemorating the lost right to private property in America.
That effort recently hit a roadblock when town selectmen decided against moving ahead with Clements' plan.
As WorldNetDaily reported, Clements is now targeting the selectmen themselves to be ousted from office.
Clements wrote to the board, explaining he needed to find out if members already opposed the proposal so he would know whether it was worth the money and effort to produce a formal presentation.
Selectman Joseph Fiala replied, saying in conclusion, "While I understand your frustration with the offending decision of the Court, I hope you will reconsider your position and take one I'm sure you are more comfortable with � that is to defend the property rights of all citizens, whether we agree with them or not. Peace, Joe Fiala, Weare Selectman."
Logan Darrow Clements
But Clements contends Fiala doesn't understand that in taking that position, he is giving Souter special rights.
The Los Angeles entrepreneur is encouraging people to write to the selectman board members "and explain that giving Mr. Souter a special exemption from his own ruling is not defending property rights, as they are trying to assert."
"Equal justice under the law means we all are treated equally," he said.
Clements said he's asking the residents of Weare to continue with a ballot-initiative drive to circumvent the board and to investigate whether local laws allow them to remove the entire board of selectmen from office.
"America now needs the assistance of the residents of Weare so that the torch of liberty can enlighten one who has so soundly turned his back on all those who died to keep it lit," Clements says on his website.
The town of Weare has been inundated with calls in support of the proposal since WND first publicized the story of how Clements plans to turn eminent domain against one of its champions.
Clements says he's received more than 5,000 e-mails and over 400 phone calls.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 last month that local towns and cities can seize homes and private businesses through eminent domain and turn the properties over to private developers for no other reason than the fact that it would result in higher tax revenues for the municipality.
A few days after the ruling, Clements faxed a request to Chip Meany, the code enforcement officer of Weare, seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road, the present location of Souter's home.
The Kelo v. City of New London decision allows the New London, Conn., government to seize the homes and businesses of residents to facilitate the building of an office complex that would provide economic benefits to the area and more tax revenue to the city.
Though the practice of eminent domain is provided for in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, the case is significant because the seizure is for private development and not for "public use," such as a highway or bridge. The decision has been roundly criticized by property-rights activists and limited-government commentators.
Souter-home campaign targets pols
Movement builds to seize Souter home
Souter suitor wants a real hotel company
Supreme Court justice faces boot from home?
Property battle heads to states
High court's property decision stirs anger
Court rules cities can seize homes
Joe Kovacs is executive news editor for WorldNetDaily.com.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Date: 7/27/2005 11:18:02 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)
July 28, 2005
Transit Surplus Announced, Along With Plan to Spend It
By SEWELL CHAN and CHARLES V. BAGLI
Buoyed by an unexpected surge in tax revenue, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced yesterday that it would have a surplus of $833 million this year and that it would consider using the money to create a giant platform over its West Side railyards, which it could then sell to developers for office and apartment towers.
Despite the surplus, the authority indicated that it still planned to raise fares and tolls in 2007 and 2009.
The windfall represents a remarkable - but probably short-lived - reversal of fortunes for the authority, which in February had projected a tiny surplus for the year and large deficits starting next year. It now predicts that a combination of soaring tax revenue and low interest rates will add $493 million, all of it not previously anticipated, to its coffers by December.
The authority also agreed to negotiate with the developer Forest City Ratner on its plans for a basketball arena and apartment buildings at another railyard it owns in Downtown Brooklyn. (Related Article)
After months at the center of one of the city's most contentious land-use disputes in decades, the authority conceded yesterday that its earlier plan to sell the West Side railyard rights to the Jets to build a stadium was, for practical purposes, dead.
Now, instead of looking for a developer with the resources and confidence to invest an estimated $350 million and nearly three years to build the platform, the authority is looking to do the job itself. Doing so would attract more bidders for the property and, presumably, a higher price.
But that could be a controversial strategy in an election year. The City Council speaker, Gifford Miller, who is running for mayor, called on the authority to use the surplus to avert or reduce the projected fare increases. "The M.T.A. should put first things first: making the trains run on time, not building a new headquarters," he said.
The authority's executive director, Katherine N. Lapp, said that with a platform over the train yards, control of the 13-acre site could be sold to a developer for $1 billion or more. The money would finance construction and renovation projects in the authority's subway, bus and commuter railroad networks.
"There are a confluence of circumstances that I would argue exist once in a lifetime," Ms. Lapp said, comparing the proposal to the development of Rockefeller Center in the 1930's and Lincoln Center in the 1960's. "It's creative. It's bold."
Under the plan, the authority would also build a new headquarters building on the platform, allowing it to vacate and then sell its current headquarters in three buildings on Madison Avenue. The site, between 44th and 45th Streets, sits in the city's premier office district.
Ms. Lapp also presented a more fiscally conservative alternative to the real estate proposal: Using $481 million - the $493 million in unexpected surplus, minus $12 million for security and service improvements - to pay down part of a $2.2 billion unfunded pension liability that accrued over decades. That plan would save $38 million in annual pension-plan contributions.
The development proposal is riskier, but it could be a lucrative move, and it appears to be entirely within the authority's powers. Experts said it would not require legislative approval. Ms. Lapp said the authority would work closely with the city to determine the best uses for the site, which is in a neighborhood of brick warehouses, tenements and factories that was recently rezoned to allow for larger buildings.
Most of the $833 million projected surplus can be attributed to two sources. The authority expects to collect $365 million more than it predicted in February from taxes on mortgage recordings and on the transfer of commercial properties. It also has identified $128 million in unexpected savings on debt service, because interest rates have remained low. The rest of the surplus comes from a combination of new state revenues, restated financial results and other accounting adjustments.
Neither phenomenon is expected to last, and the authority projects that its revenue from taxes and subsidies will be largely flat through 2009. "These transactional taxes are extremely unstable," said the city's budget director, Mark Page, who sits on the board. "These things historically are always cyclical. It is extremely hard to predict when the cycle is going to turn down on you."
The authority expects a deficit of $194 million in 2007, rising steeply to $1.5 billion in 2009 without planned fare increases and budget cuts.
The city has committed $2 billion to extend the No. 7 subway line from Times Square to 11th Avenue and 34th Street, across the street from the railyards and at one end of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. In building a new headquarters, the authority could use its power to override local zoning laws and avoid the city's lengthy review process.
News of the surplus and of the authority's proposals appeared to take city officials by surprise. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was circumspect about the windfall.
"Nobody is going to build anything on the West Side without the city being part of it," he said. "Nobody's sure yet what will go over there."
Another mayoral candidate, Fernando Ferrer, asked, "Why is the M.T.A. sitting on piles of money while New York City subways remain vulnerable to terrorist attack and in need of basic repair?"
In 2003, the authority raised the cost of a base ride to $2 from $1.50, and this year, it raised the price of unlimited-ride fare cards. Asked if any part of the surplus should be used to avoid future fare increases, the authority's chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, was noncommittal. "There are 25 things we're talking about, that possibly being one of them," he said, referring to the proposal. "The plan is just for information."
A longtime advocate for subway riders, Gene Russianoff of the New York Public Interest Research Group, seemed positive about the idea, saying it was "worth debating."
Robert D. Yaro, the president of the Regional Plan Association, a major civic organization, said he expected a vigorous debate on the proposals. "Whether or not the M.T.A. is going to become a quasi-developer is a very important issue," he said. "There is a visceral sense that we want their time and energy focused on running a transit system, not developing real property - but if that's the only way to maximize the value of their assets, it's something we should look at."
A small part of this year's surplus, $12 million, will be used for immediate improvements in service and security, in a reflection of recent concerns about subway delays and the possibility of a terrorist attack.
The authority announced that it would spend $2 million this year to begin an "intensive cleaning initiative" for subway stations, tracks and equipment; to add morning and early afternoon service on the Long Island Rail Road and late-night service on the Metro-North Railroad, and to improve rail and bus connections for Staten Island commuters.
The authority also plans to add $10 million this year in security spending. The money will pay for police overtime, a public awareness campaign and more platform conductors, who are trained to evacuate riders onto the tracks in an emergency.
Jim Rutenberg contributed reporting for this article.
ONE OF THREE TO LEAVE THE ROOM: PATAKI SINGS ALBANY SWAN SONG WITH 17 MONTHS LEFT IN HIS TERM, HE'LL CHASE BRASS RING IN IOWA.
Date: 7/28/2005 9:34:49 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)
ONE OF THREE TO LEAVE THE ROOM:
PATAKI SINGS ALBANY SWAN SONG
WITH 17 MONTHS LEFT IN HIS TERM,
HE'LL CHASE BRASS RING IN IOWA.
By Henry J. Stern
July 28, 2005
Governor Pataki's announcement yesterday that he will not seek re-election has a number of desirable aspects. For one thing, it spares him a laborious, uphill race, presumably against State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. He will also distinguish himself from three major New York political figures who unsuccessfully sought a fourth term: Mayor Ed Koch (1989), Governor Mario Cuomo (1994), and Senator Al D'Amato (1998).
His entrance into the Presidential race can help him even if he is not nominated, which appears almost certain to be the case. First, the Presidency is the highest office in the country, and it is no disgrace not to be elected. That is, unless you are nominated, run in the John Kerry mode and get blamed for your party's defeat. It is unlikely that Mr. Pataki will receive the nomination, so whatever attention he gets and the longer he lasts in the race, the better-known he will become. We will see how far a relatively liberal Republican can get?
We listened to the governor's announcement Wednesday. It sounded as if his first-term speechwriters had been called back for this special occasion. He spoke well, showing the gift that made him an effective vote getter. As they so often do, the Democrats co-operated by running progressively weaker candidates against him, ending up with Carl McCall, who began his campaign of inclusion by declining Liberal Party support, even though the Liberals had supported him in his races for State Senator and State Comptroller.
McCall's last public role was as chair of the Compensation Committee of the New York Stock Exchange, which gave Richard Grasso a $180 million package on his departure, most of which was previously authorized and contracted for. When the payments became a public issue, Grasso and Kenneth Langone of Home Depot were severely criticized, but McCall somehow escaped official mention despite his role in the alleged giveaway.
Governor Pataki was good on parks and conservation issues, possibly the result of his admiration for Theodore Roosevelt. On fiscal responsibility, he seesawed, soft in election years, tough in odd numbered years. His supervision of state agencies was intermittent at best, reflecting the ebb and flow of his labile interest in public matters.
Perhaps his biggest flaw was the prevalence of 'pay to play' in his administration. Lobbying, favoritism, and campaign contributions informed many state decisions, including questions of procurement when vendors sought state contracts. Some agencies, particularly the State Department of Labor, were infested with political appointees who were not effective in performing whatever modest duties they may have had.
When he relied on able staff, like Brad Race, Mike Finnegan, and John Cahill, the governor did better. When they left and government devolved to people of lesser ability, the state suffered. He is wise to leave on his own, as Mayors LaGuardia and Wagner did after their three terms in office. The four-termers in New York State politics were iconic figures: Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller and Senators Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jacob K. Javits. We do not believe that Pataki is perceived by anyone as being at that level.
There are other advantages in announcing one's impending departure a year and a half in advance. First, it clears the field fso others can compete for the Republican nomination in 2006. Since the Attorney General is giving up his office to run for Governor, that position will also be an open seat. Comptroller Hevesi will be a heavy favorite for re-election.
Second, it gives the Governor an opportunity to govern for the next year and a half free of political considerations. Except as it may impact his Presidential race, he is free to do whatever he believes to be the right thing. It would be superb if the Governor would use his remaining time in office in the public interest.
That is not overly likely for four reasons: 1)To serve the public interest, you must have a fairly clear idea of what it is. 2)You must then want to serve it, even at the expense of private interests which may have been good to you. 3)You must detect and frustrate the temptation that some of your supporters will salivate over, taking every economic advantage of their positions before leaving office. 4)You must be willing to spend political capital to pursue honorable goals. That phrase was used by Bush 43. It still has meaning.
The Governor ought to draw up a list of problems to solve in the remaining 17 months. The first item should be the mess in Medicaid. It makes one wonder what the Health Commissioner has done about Medicaid fraud and waste in the six years she has served. Was she looking? Another item should be transportation, and how to fund it. Unfortunately, the MTA overbuilds, wasting billions of dollars on boondoggles of limited transportation value, because the agency relies on people whose judgment is worse than theirs. The real parties in interest in many of these projects are the construction unions and contractors.
Historically, the Pataki years will be compared with the twelve Cuomo years that preceded them. Nelson Rockefeller built the State University, the Albany Mall and many other projects. Hugh Carey saved the City of New York from bankruptcy and replaced its hapless mayor. The legacy of Governors Cuomo and Pataki, who between them served for an entire generation, is more difficult to discern. Pataki, however, still has the chance to burnish his record. We hope he takes advantage of the historic opportunity he fleetingly enjoys.
Henry J. Stern
New York Civic
520 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018
(212) 564-5588 (fax)
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
This is the NYC.gov News You Requested For: "Apartments for Rent"
Applications Available for 32 City-sponsored Affordable Rental Apartments in Brooklyn
The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) has updated its web content concerning listings for City-sponsored apartments for rent.
The City itself does not rent apartments, but works with real estate professionals and community sponsors who market them. You will need to contact them directly to fill out an application and enter it in the lottery. There are no broker fees and no application fees.
We suggest you look at HPD's apartment lists at least once a month.
See HPD's list of apartments for rent
When apartments created under HPD's affordable housing programs are ready to be rented or sold they are advertised in both local and major newspapers. The apartments are also listed on HPD's Affordable Housing Hotline, which you may reach by calling 311 (311 can be accessed outside of New York City by dialing (212) NEW YORK).
The City itself does not rent apartments, but works with real estate professionals and community sponsors who market them. You will need to contact them directly to fill out an application and enter it in an apartment lottery. There are no broker fees and no application fees.
If you would like to receive an e-mail when the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development has updated its web content concerning apartment and home listings for City-sponsored housing in the five boroughs, please register for this feature at www.nyc.gov/hpd
The full descriptions of the apartments listed below are available in .PDF format. To download these descriptions, you will need the latest copy of the Adobe Acrobat Reader. This program can be downloaded for free from this link: "Acrobat and the Web."
The New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) also has a variety of programs that finance the development of low-, middle-, and mixed-income apartments. For more information, visit the apartment-seekers section of the HDC Web site.
Supportive Housing:The Supportive Housing Network of New York provides a list of SRO units and studio apartments operated by non-profit agencies which provide some level of on-site supportive services. The majority of the units are for single individuals who are currently homeless in the NYC shelter system and/or who have a disability. Call the Supportive Housing Network at (212) 870-3303, ext. 0 for a New York City Intake List. There are very few vacancies.
This is the NYC.gov News You Requested For:
Apartments for Rent
To subscribe please go to this link:
Comment on this news service:
PLEASE DO NOT REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE!
You can view it in the context of the entire discussion by going to: http://forums.delphiforums.com/HDFCCentral/messages/?msg=605.1
Date: 7/26/2005 6:47:23 AM Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)
The New York Sun; Date: Jul 26, 2005; Section: Front
Ratner-Extell Fight Turns Ugly
By DANIEL HEMEL Special to the Sun
The fight over the Metropolitan Transportation Authority�s rail yard in
downtown Brooklyn turned ugly yesterday morning as supporters and opponents
of developer Bruce Ratner�s bid for the site exchanged bitter,
profanity-laden personal attacks during a public meeting at the MTA�s
When a spokesman for the anti-Ratner coalition Develop Don�t Destroy,
Daniel Goldstein, rose to speak at the MTA real estate committee�s monthly
meeting, the treasurer of the pro-Ratner group BUILD, Jasmin Miller,
muttered: �Trust fund baby.� Mr. Goldstein wheeled around, looked Ms.
Miller in the eye, and unleashed an expletive.
Members of both groups were still fuming as they congregated on a Madison
Avenue sidewalk after the meeting.
�What I do for a living is not the issue here,� Mr. Goldstein, a freelance
Web designer, said.
Just steps away, the president of BUILD � the group�s full name is Brooklyn
United for Innovative Local Development � James Caldwell, cast the conflict
over the 8.4-acre Vanderbilt Yards site in racial terms.
�If this thing doesn�t come out in favor of Ratner, it would be a
conspiracy against blacks,� Mr. Caldwell said.
He said Mr. Ratner, a 60-year-old white who served in the Koch
administration, �is like an angel sent from God� because the developer is
willing to negotiate with local black leaders.
The Vanderbilt Yards sale did not appear on the real estate committee�s
agenda, according to its chairwoman, Nancy Shevell Blakeman, who said the
committee was breaking with long-established precedent by allowing public
comment on a non-agenda item.
Another member of the MTA board, Barry Feinstein, told the activists:
�You�re talking to people who don�t have any details about the two proposals.�
But the 17 members of the authority�s board, including the 12 who sit on
the real estate committee, are in for a crash course on the Vanderbilt
Yards debate. They received background briefings from MTA staff yesterday
and today, and the full board could cast a final vote on the competing bids
for the rail yard site as early as tomorrow morning.
The Ratner plan calls for a high-rise urban hub and a basketball arena for
the New Jersey Nets on a 21-acre expanse. The developer has already
purchased most of the land adjacent to the rail yard, while city and state
officials have said they will use their power of eminent domain to seize
about 20 remaining parcels from residents and businesses that have not
agreed to sell their properties to Mr. Ratner�s firm.
A rival bidder, Extell Development Company, has submitted a competing
proposal to build a smaller-scale project within the confines of the
MTAowned rail yard.
Mr. Ratner is offering the MTA less cash for the site: $50 million,
compared with Extell�s $150 million cash bid.And Mr. Ratner�s bid relies
more heavily on public money: Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg have
pledged $200 million in aid for the Ratner project, while Extell says it
would need $150 million in city and state funds.
The BUILD group favors the Ratner plan, however, in part because it would
provide more housing for low-income and middle-class residents: 3,000
�affordable� units, versus Extell�s promise of 573 affordable units.
As activists waited inside the MTA headquarters before being allowed into
the committee meeting, the fifthfloor hallway was as racially segregated as
an Alabama bus in the 1950s. When one white Park Slope resident ventured
over toward the corner where several black BUILD volunteers stood, he
received an earful from build�s small business director, Michael West.
�When you reject the Ratner project and embrace the Extell project, you�re
saying you don�t care about the 55% unemployment in the black community,�
Mr. West said. Mr. Ratner has said his firm�s plan would create 15,000
construction jobs and 7,500 permanent jobs.
According to documents released Friday by the MTA, Extell has promised that
20% of construction work on its project will go to businesses owned by
minorities and women. An Extell spokesman, Robert Liff, said the firm�s
pledge accords with the guidelines set forth by several community
activists, including members of Mr. Goldstein�s group, in meetings with
Extell officials. But that is less than the 30% of construction contract
dollars that Mr. Ratner promised his firm would award to businesses owned
by members of minority groups and women, under an agreement signed last
month by the developer and a predominantly black group of Brooklyn leaders,
which included Mr. Caldwell.
Also on Friday, a Democratic state assemblyman from Park Slope, James
Brennan, and a Democratic City Council member from Brooklyn Heights, David
Yassky, sent a letter to the MTA board urging members to stall
consideration of the Vanderbilt Yards bids, arguing that both the Extell
and Ratner plans are �too big.�
Even if the MTA board does vote on the bids tomorrow, that might not be the
last word on the future of Vanderbilt Yards. Before the Ratner project or
the Extell plan can receive state subsidies, it would need the approval of
all three members of the state�s Public Authorities Control Board: Mr.
Pataki; the state Senate majority leader, Joseph Bruno, and the speaker of
the state Assembly, Sheldon Silver.
Activists on both sides said they are closely watching Mr. Silver, who last
month blocked the Jets stadium plan on the West Side because it would have
created competition for the rebuilding effort in his Lower Manhattan
district. Also last month, about 20 members of Mr. Goldstein�s group
trekked to Albany to lobby Mr. Silver�s staff on the Vanderbilt Yards
issue. A Silver spokesman, Charles Carrier, said the speaker had no comment
on the Ratner and Extell proposals yesterday.
MANHATTAN BOROUGH PRESIDENT
C. VIRGINIA FIELDS
and the CENTER FOR JEWISH HISTORY
Cordially invite you to
GREETINGS FROM HOME:
350 YEARS OF AMERICAN JEWISH LIFE
To celebrate the 350th Anniversary of the first permanent Jewish settlement in
North America in 1654, the American Jewish Historical Society, in cooperation
with Yeshiva University Museum and the American Sephardi Federation with
Sephardic House, has created this landmark exhibition.
Featuring over 200 objects from collections of the Society and its partners, many
never before seen in public, the exhibit explores the continually evolving forms
of American Judaism and Jewish culture, and their impact on American society.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
5:30 PM to 8:00 PM
The Center for Jewish History
15 West 16th Street
RABBI ROBERT G. KAPLAN
Jewish Community Relations Council
Director, Intergroup Relations and Community Concerns
Executive Director of Ma'yan: The Jewish Women's Project of the JCC in Manhattan
Executive Director of Folksbiene Yiddish Theater
RSVP (212) 669-4462
Date: 7/26/2005 1:40:16 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)
Emergency Preparedness, Notifications and Alerts, OEM News & Events, Information for Community-Based Organizations, General New York City News and Events
MAYOR BLOOMBERG ANNOUNCES THE OPENING OF COOLING CENTERS AND PROVIDES TIPS TO BEAT THE SUMMER HEAT
July 26 , 2005 � Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Commissioner Joseph F. Bruno today announced the opening of cooling centers throughout all five boroughs to give New Yorkers relief from the extreme summer heat.
Cooling centers are facilities that are air-conditioned and open to the public.
Many senior and community centers serve as cooling centers. The heat index in the City is likely to reach 100 degrees today.
New Yorkers can call 311 or log on to www.nyc.gov to find the nearest cooling center or public pool.
"During a scorching hot and humid day, New Yorkers should limit their outdoor activity as much as possible and try to stay cool and drink plenty of liquids," said Mayor Bloomberg.
"In addition, New Yorkers should check on their elderly neighbors, relatives, and friends and see if they can help with shopping, errands, or other tasks. I urge all New Yorkers to conserve energy and take advantage of these cooling centers located throughout the five boroughs as well as our free outdoor pools and beaches."
The Mayor urged New Yorkers planning to spend time outdoors to be mindful of the heat and heed the following tips to stay safe:
* If possible, stay out of the sun. When in the sun, wear sunscreen (at least SPF 15) and a hat to protect your face and head. Dress in lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
* Drink fluids - particularly water - even if you do not feel thirsty. Your body needs water to keep cool. Avoid beverages containing alcohol or caffeine.
* Avoid strenuous activity, especially during the sun's peak hours - 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cool down with repeated cool baths or showers.
* Never leave children, seniors, or pets in a parked car during periods of intense summer heat.
* Make a special effort to check on neighbors, especially seniors and those with special needs.
* Report open fire hydrants by calling 311.
* Recognize the symptoms of heat-related illnesses including heat exhaustion and heat stroke:
Heat exhaustion: Symptoms include heavy sweating, weakness, headache, weak pulse, dizziness, exhaustion, fainting, nausea or vomiting, and cold, clammy skin. Body temperature will seem normal.
Heat Stroke: Symptoms include flushed, hot, dry skin, weak or rapid pulse, shallow breathing, lack of sweating, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and unconsciousness. Body temperature will be elevated, and victim should receive immediate medical attention.
Energy Conservation and Power Outages
* During periods of hot and humid weather, regional electricity use rises. Residents should conserve energy to help prevent power disruptions.
* Set your air conditioner thermostat no lower than 78 degrees.
* Only use the air conditioner when you are home. If you want to cool your home before you return, set a timer to have it switch on no more than a half-hour before you arrive.
* Turn non-essential appliances off.
* Only use appliances that have heavy electrical loads early in the morning or very late at night.
Fire Hydrants and Spray Caps
Opening fire hydrants without spray caps is wasteful and dangerous. Illegally opened hydrants can lower water pressure, which can cause problems at hospitals and other medical facilities and hinder fire-fighting by reducing the flow of water to hoses and pumps. Children can also be at serious risk, because the powerful force of an open hydrant without a spray cap can push them into oncoming traffic. Call 311 to report an open hydrant.
Hydrants can be opened legally if equipped with a City-approved spray cap. One illegally opened hydrant wastes up to 1,000 gallons of water per minute, while a hydrant with a spray cap only puts out around 25 gallons per minute. Spray caps can be obtained by an adult 18 or over, free of charge, at local firehouses.
Learn more about how to stay cool all summer long with OEM's Ready New York: Beat the Heat guide (in PDF). For more information about heat-related hazards and the Ready New York campaign, visit OEM's website or call 311.
This is the NYC.gov news you requested for:
Emergency Preparedness, Notifications and Alerts
OEM News & Events
Information for Community-Based Organizations
General New York City News and Events
To subscribe please go to this link:
Comment on this news service:
PLEASE DO NOT REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE!
Monday, July 25, 2005
Jackson Secures 197-A Funding
Money Should Finish Plan
By Jimmy Vielkind
Spectator Senior Staff Writer
July 25, 2005
Councilman Robert Jackson has secured $150,000 to complete Community Board 9's 197-A plan.
The money was secured from City Council funds in the 2006 fiscal budget and was announced to the Board in a letter dated July 19 and distributed at a public meeting Monday.
While conducting a town hall meeting in early June, Jackson (D-Washington Heights) reported that the Board was roughly $100,000 short of what it needed to complete the study, which will serve as a framework for any future development in West Harlem.
"It's a statement of need and a statement of possibilities," said Susan Russell, Jackson's chief of staff. She said the 197-A plan was historic, and that securing funding when constituents needed it for a worthy cause was his job.
"We're very pleased with our Council Member's support of and commitment to the completion and submission to ULURP of Community Board 9's 197-A Plan," said Pat Jones, chair of the Board's 197-A Plan Committee, and co-chair of the Manhattanville Rezoning Taskforce referring to the approval process.
The money will be used for technical assistance and other final costs of producing the report, which was approved by the community board in October and must be approved by several city entities.
This easy thing to add to your cell phone is spreading all over the US after the bombings in the London. Police and paramedics are being instructed on how to check cell phones for an emergency contact number.
Please take a couple of minutes to read the attached link and enter an "ICE" number into your cell phone.
"In Case of Emergency ( ICE ) " campaign.
The idea is that you store the word " ICE " in your mobile phone address book, and against it enter the number of the person you would want to be contacted "In Case of Emergency".
In an emergency situation ambulance and hospital staff will then be able to quickly find out who your next of kin are and be able to contact them. It's so simple that everyone can do it.
Email this to everybody in your address book; it won't take too many 'forwards' before everybody will know about this.
It really could help the emergency services in doing their job. For more than one contact name use: ICE1, ICE2, ICE3 etc.
Date: 7/25/2005 2:34:57 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)
Monday, July 25, 2005
Come to the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) Auto Auction this Wednesday, July 27th, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Doors open at 8:30 AM for inspection; sale starts at 9 AM. Over 200 items including trucks, 4x4s, vans, scooters and sedans!
Check out our "Select Values" page - http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcas/html/auctions/autoauctions_bestbuys.shtml
Learn more at http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcas/html/auctions/autoauctions.shtm l or dial 311.
For more City Auctions and Sealed Bids information, visit:
This is the NYC.gov news you requested for:
Auctions and Sealed Bids
To subscribe please go to this link https://www.nyc.gov/portal/signin.jsp
Comment on this news service: http://www.nyc.gov/html/misc/html/news_feedback.html
PLEASE DO NOT REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE!
Date: 7/24/2005 11:54:58 A.M. Eastern Standard Time
Please let folks know about this event.
Subj: Re: Waterparks: Designing Waterfront Parks and Public Spaces APA-MWA lecture
Date: 7/22/2005 3:23:49 P.M. Eastern Standard Time
Thanks. I think the term "waterparks" now refers specifically to
water-based amusement facilities.
Also, Gantry Plaza State Park had several designers.
[please see http://www.asla.org/meetings/awards/awds01/gantry.html ]
>>> "Loren Talbot"
Waterparks: Designing Waterfront Parks and Public Spaces Lecture
Location: The Urban Center, 457 Madison Ave between 50th and 51st
Date: Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005
Time: 6:00 - 8:00 pm
Please call (212) 935-3960 to RVSP. Event is free.
The redevelopment of New York's waterfront has created unprecedented
opportunities to build new parks and public spaces. From Brooklyn
Bridge Park to Queens West, from Lower Manhattan to Williamsburg, new public
waterfront open space is being designed or constructed.
Join us for a discussion on what makes a successful waterfront park
and how to create vibrant waterfront spaces.
Panelists include four leading waterfront open space innovators:
* Donna Walcavage, designer of Stuyvesant Cove Park
* Michael Samuelian, Department of City Planning
project manager for the Lower Manhattan East River Plan
* Thomas Balsley, designer of Gantry Plaza State Park
* Jonathan Kirschenfeld, designer of a floating swimming pool
for the East River
The discussion will be moderated by Bonnie Harken, co-chair of the
American Planning Association's New York Metro Chapter Waterfront
Co-hosted by the American Planning Association's Metro Chapter
Waterfront Committee and the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance
Hell's Kitchen is Burning
With a ravenous market and a pro-development mayor, West Side tenants say they don't stand a chance
by J. A. Lobbia
September 2 - 8, 1998
On a map, Hell's Kitchen looks like a perfectly squared-off and straightforward neighborhood, a grid par excellence. Especially in its northern end, from 42nd to 59th streets, block after block is gridded out with die-cut precision from Eighth Avenue to the Hudson River. But the West Side community's cartographic clarity belies the complications it faces as an onslaught of development promises--or perhaps threatens--to permanently reshape it.
"This place is arguably the most pressurized urban area in the city, maybe even the country," says Bob Kalin, who for 19 years has worked as a local housing organizer. "As we head into the next century, who knows where we'll end up, with all that's going on?"
What's going on is the pairing of an unbridled real estate market coupled with a mayor whose policies spur rather than control that market. The combination leaves tenants in Hell's Kitchen, long a neighborhood of affordable and even cheap rents, in a squeeze. Increasingly, the low-rise community finds itself surrounded by megaprojects like the Disneyfied Times Square, Trump's Riverside South, a proposed Yankee Stadium and convention center expansion, and an ever-rising wall of luxury towers moving in from the east.
And next week, top real estate moguls will meet to contemplate bidding on a city-sponsored market-rate development project on Tenth Avenue. Bids are due at the end of this month.
"It's amazing," says Marge Pearson, a broker for Douglas Elliman, Manhattan's biggest high-end realty agency. "You're moving the East Side over to the West, and it's going farther West than it has ever gone before. Very clearly, the whole city is becoming one."
Not everyone shares Pearson's enthusiasm for such a unified New York. "When everything becomes the same, when tourists rule and Ranch One is the main restaurant, you have to ask if this is really a place that will attract people with different kinds of talents, interests, and new ideas," asks Joe Restuccia, who heads a local nonprofit housing group. "Will it still be a city? It looks like it's going to be Afghan Kebab House or Ranch One."
Longterm Hell's Kitchen residents and activists are wary of media pronouncements--whether by The New York Times or Time Out New York--that their neighborhood is "hot." Indeed, in a neighborhood steeped in history--the dominant political club is 106 years old and local gangs have been the stuff of Hollywood movies and Broadway plays--being declared a cutting-edge community is itself a tradition.
For 15 years, the Times has regularly deemed Hell's Kitchen--or Clinton, as it is also known--as up-and-coming, a backwater where renters could still enjoy the ambience of an authentic immigrant neighborhood without spending Uptown sums for rent. And it's true that, though rare, a few two-digit rents survive in some Clinton tenements; many old-timers shriek at the $1000 walk-up studios that many New Yorkers consider standard. But while rents and co-op and condo prices have crept up over the years, more often than not, the Kitchen has cooled off as regularly as it has heated up.
But the same West Siders who shun media labels for their neighborhood agree--in fact, fear--that this time, those labels might stick. That's because the robust market is bolstered by an unprecedentedly clear shift in city policy that backs developers and landlords. In early August, for instance, the City Council rezoned Clinton's Eighth Avenue border to allow larger buildings, despite bitter community opposition. In the upcoming months, the city department of Housing Preservation and Development will be carving up the Clinton Urban Renewal Area, and on one site has already scrapped plans for affordable housing, instead seeking a predominantly luxury building. All this happens as community members complain that the city's Department of Buildings has abandoned a law intended to protect their neighborhood.
"This is the moment that I think people have feared the most since the 1960s, when the city condemned land and wanted to bulldoze the entire neighborhood," says Mary Brendle, a longtime resident who has written a history of Clinton. "There was a time when Robert Moses wanted the People Mover, which would be a second-level street with commercial buildings underneath it and luxury residentials on top. Now, on 42nd Street beyond Tenth Avenue, suddenly there's luxury towers. Trump is moving down, Eighth Avenue is getting much bigger, and we'll be left stuck inside this little box."
For 35 years, Anna Soares has lived in a studio on 53rd Street just off Eighth Avenue. There's nothing fancy about the place--Soares's kitchen features a dorm-style half refrigerator and hot-plate stove--but Soares, who, at 76, still works as a secretary, says it's always been plenty for her.
But recently, she's had complaints. Increasingly, new tenants are arriving in groups to share rents of $1500--more than three times Soares's own rent. And they're young, playing "I don't know what you'd call it; I guess it's music," loud enough to send Soares shopping for another place to live.
"I go to 888 Eighth Avenue every time my lease expires," she says, referring to a nearby 22-storypostwar building down the street. "I'm there so often they know me. But the studios are $1500!" She's shopped at the soon-to-be- opened Gershwin, a tower built by developer Jack Resnick at 50th and Eighth Avenue. "But they want $2200 for a one-bedroom!" gasps Soares. "The sign outside did say 'Luxury.' I guess I was warned."
It's not unexpected that the Eighth Avenue corridor is burgeoning, since it arguably belongs more to Midtown and the theater district than to Clinton. It's the area west of Eighth Avenue and off 42nd Street, along the low-rise side streets that slope to the river, where the boom is more surprising.
Between Eighth and Tenth avenues, tenants are paying $2000-plus rents not for luxury high-rises, but for renovated tenements. Even west of Tenth Avenue, where 1996 rents in low-rise rehabbed buildings ran from $800 for a studio to $1550 for two-bedrooms, they now range from $1100 to $1900. Studios there in relatively new high-rise buildings ran from $1200 and two-bedrooms were $2200 in 1996; now, they fetch $1500 to $2800.
Erich Giebelhaus, a 28-year-old who works in public relations for a health care association, came to Hell's Kitchen two years ago to snag what he calls a deal: a $1200 studio loft on 39th near Ninth Avenue. "This was my first New York apartment," says Giebelhaus, who moved from Minnesota, "and I went door-to-door in the neighborhood because I heard you could get more for your money in Hell's Kitchen, and I found that to be true."
Giebelhaus appreciates the "true and honest specialty shops and the real neighborhood feel here; it's very genuine." And he's happy he arrived when he did. "This area has definitely priced up since I got here, so now it's not much different from most of Manhattan."
Still, Giebelhaus knows he's not living on Sutton Place. He finds some stretches "a little rough around the edges," and, sounding more like an old-timer than a newcomer, reminds: "Not too long ago, even Ninth Avenue was not a place for the fainthearted."
In fact, just west of Ninth Avenue on 45th Street is the site of a rough bit of Hell's Kitchen history that is not unrelated to the neighborhood's current housing dilemma. Just after midnight on August 29, 1959, a handful of Puerto Rican teens came to the May Mathews Playground, a lot that spans 45th to 46th streets, "to beat up Irish and Italians," according to a police report. Among the youths was 16-year-old Salvatore Agron, a member of the Vampires gang who made it a habit to wear a cape to rumbles. Agron stabbed to death two Hell's Kitchen teens, who stumbled into a pair of West 45th Street tenements to die. Agron entered legend as the Capeman.
The Capeman murders ultimately prompted something more successful and long-lasting than Paul Simon's Broadway musical. In response to the violence, the community formed the Clinton Planning Council. One of its most enduring accomplishments came in 1974, when the council and other community groups got the city to create the Special Clinton District (SCD), a series of laws designed to keep the neighborhood's housing supply solid and affordable.
Under the SCD's rules, Clinton landlords cannot get alteration permits unless they prove to the city that they have not harassed tenants. And the SCD attempts to keep the neighborhood's low-rise character, in part by limiting buildings to the standard tenement height of six stories. The presumption was that if old tenements were preserved and new towers prevented, the gentry would be kept away.
That presumption was wrong. "People who were attracted to the neighborhood in the mid '80s were interested in living in the city," says Restuccia. "I remember someone telling me how wonderful it was to have a tub in the kitchen, how convenient!"
Restuccia says that until recently, the district succeeded in keeping development at an even pace, but he asserts that now, the SCD has been compromised, and not by the charm of the cold-water flat. Instead, he says, the Department of Buildings (DOB) readily gives permits to owners who, for a number of reasons, should not have them, or allows those with permits to do construction and demolition work well beyond what the permit allows. DOB did not return calls for this story.
The results are varied: sometimes, a 30-unit SRO becomes a 12-unit rental apartment; other times, apartments are split to make several units out of one. In the process, tenants are sometimes endangered. In one West 47th Street building, subdivided apartments left people in five units with not a single means of secondary egress in case of a fire; two others had no fire escape at all.
Hell's Kitchen resident Meg Black says it's "extremely frustrating" to combat illegal alterations when the city is unwilling to enforce its own laws. "The attitude of this administration," says Black, "is that it will lie down for developers any day but refuse to ever stand up for the community."
Sources say one particular Clinton building shows how the SCD has eroded and suggests that DOB will cave in to pressure from landlords. The building, at 364 West 51st Street near Ninth Avenue, is owned by James Kinsey. He bought it in 1994 and, since 1995, has purchased 10 other buildings in Hell's Kitchen, including so many on West 47th between Eighth and Ninth avenues that he owns practically the whole block. Kinsey did not return calls.
Shortly after Kinsey bought the 51st Street building, DOB granted permits to install new partitions and renovate kitchen and bathroom fixtures. But in the summer of 1996, DOB revoked the permits, saying that the building's location within the SCD required Kinsey to get a "certificate of no harassment" to prove tenants had not been forced out. (In 1981, the city had found that a previous landlord had indeed harassed tenants.)
But by the time the permits were revoked, the work had been completed, including turning a cellar space into the lower level of a "duplex" apartment, which, according to a 1996 record, was the highest-renting apartment in the building, fetching $2250 for five rooms. (In contrast, rent listed for one of three longtime tenants was $109 for four rooms.) Kinsey's monthly rent roll for the single property was $22,184.30.
Kinsey took the case to the Board of Standards and Appeals, a quasijudicial city agency. There, DOB staunchly defended its revocation of the permits as recently as late March. But in June, DOB offered to restore the permits. "Accordingly," a DOB attorney wrote to Kinsey's lawyer, "your application before the Board of Standards and Appeals will be withdrawn."
Restuccia was stunned. "The owner goes to BSA and DOB starts rolling over? It's very curious. Why is it okay all of a sudden? It's clear that the special district means nothing."
Kalin says ignoring the SCD is just one reaction to a superheated real estate market. Cash offers to get tenants to leave, especially in SROs, are also common. "Buyouts are coming back in a big way," says Kalin. "I have one tenant who was offered $50,000 to leave an SRO, and another $75,000."
SROs have long been a key piece of the Clinton housing stock, though even the 8000 units there now are about half as many as a decade ago. Many SROs have been converted to tourist-class hotels. One of the most famous is the Longacre on West 45th, where Kalin says that only about 40 SRO tenants remain of the more than 100 who lived there in 1995. In the spirit of Disney, the hotel is now known as the Aladdin and is primarily for tourists.
Indeed, SRO tenants were among Hell's Kitchen's first casualties in the 1980s, when landlords converted old hotels to co-ops and condos. Some rousted old tenants by moving in criminals. Others torched buildings. And others relied on unadorned thuggery. Megadeveloper Harry Macklowe used the cover of night, ordering the midnight demolition of four SROs on West 44th Street in 1985.
Ironically, this month Macklowe will open his 26-story luxury high-rise at 50th and Eighth Avenue, complete with terraces, health club, and prewired fiber optics. Alcove studios rent for $1800. Macklowe has named the tower Longacre House.
IN LATE JUNE, a pack of the city's most powerful real estate interests assembled downtown to hear the details of a potentially lucrative scheme: The city was seeking a developer to build housing on Tenth Avenue near 54th Street. The highest bidder would be free to charge market rents for 80 per cent of the apartments, providing 20 per cent were set aside for low-income tenants. Tax breaks were offered. The deal was sweet enough to attract titans such as The Brodsky Organization, Rockrose Development, Harry Macklowe Real Estate Company, Helmsley-Spear, and Donald Zucker to a prebid conference. Bids are due to the department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) September 30.
HPD's description of the site--close to Midtown and in "one of the most popular and vibrant communities in the City"--might sound like a real estate come-on. To many Clinton residents, it also sounds like the city's commitment to affordable housing has gone down the toilet.
The lots for sale are part of the Clinton Urban Renewal Area (CURA), a square bounded by 50th and 56th streets between Tenth and Eleventh avenues. With 22 acres, including vacant lots and empty buildings, CURA is perhaps the largest parcel of developable city-owned land in Manhattan south of 96th Street--and as such, one of the last areas that can be developed to draw "a large influx of white people," says Kalin.
"Luxury and market-rate apartments are not what urban renewal is supposed to be about," says Cappy Haskins. Haskins moved into a tenement within CURA in 1983 after she and more than two dozen tenants were driven out of a Clinton building by a managing agent who went to jail for his deeds, which included threatening to murder tenants. "HPD's plans are very disturbing." HPD did not return calls for this story.
Tenth Avenue is a prime CURA location, and plans for its development have changed with the mayors. Ed Koch had floated an 80/20 plan for a span of the avenue just blocks south of the site currently up for bid, but it sunk under community opposition. David Dinkins allocated $16 million for a very low and moderate-rent development on the site that HPD is now selling. In the middle of his first term, Rudy Giuliani trimmed that to $10 million, and by 1996, he cut money entirely.
Clinton residents say that HPD's current market-rate plans also serve as sort of a shock tactic aimed at forcing the community to move forward on a long-embattled second CURA parcel. That is a turn-of-the-century tenement called The Flats on Eleventh Avenue between 52nd and 53rd streets. Opened as part of the Model Tenement Movement, The Flats featured a day-care center and co-op store on the first floor, along with a courtyard and exterior stairwells to enhance fresh air and light. But since the city took over the building when it declared the urban renewal area in 1969, the 63-unit Flats has dwindled to housing only 13 families. Four of seven floors are boarded up.
"My rent here is $70 a month," says longtime tenant Melody Brooks, "but sometimes, with leaks that last a year and no heat and hot water in the winter, it's a pain to pay even that." Brooks says some of her neighbors pay even less.
Brooks is part of the Clinton Preservation Local Development Corporation (LDC), a group that for years has planned to develop The Flats into 49 units of primarily low- and moderate-income housing, but which has never been able to win HPD approval. Now, with a hot market looming and the LDC's site control on the land about to expire, some fear that HPD may put The Flats up to bid for a market-rate development "if we don't get our act together," LDC chair John Glynn told a Community Board 4 committee this summer.
In the meanwhile, another group, CARE, has an alternative. It wants to develop both The Flats and an adjacent Eleventh Avenue site, a low-rise building that houses the We Can recycling center. Executive Director Mary D'Elia says CARE would add one story to The Flats and build a 99-unit building at the We Can site. In all, CARE's plan would add 137 low to moderateincome apartments.
Both groups have detailed plans and long local histories--the LDC was formed in opposition to Koch's luxury plan, and CARE formed to manage the low- and moderate-income apartments the city required developer William Zeckendorf to rehab when he built his massive Worldwide Plaza on Eighth Avenue. But political credentials will be key in determining which group, if either, gets to develop along Eleventh Avenue.
CARE is seen as an arm of the powerful McManus Democratic Club, a group founded in 1892 and still considered the most effective political machine in Manhattan. The club's clout soared last year when Jimmy McManus shocked Democrats by endorsing Republican mayor Giuliani's reelection. Says one Clinton insider, "HPD knows that CARE has to be part of the action on the urban renewal site."
McManus himself acknowledged CARE's ties to his club, with a twist: "People say Mary's my stooge," McManus told the Voice. "That's not true. I'm her stooge. She tells me what to do. I only help her get what she needs to accomplish what she wants." McManus added that he secured City Hall's "help on the urban renewal site" by not vocally opposing the mayor's proposal to upzone Eighth Avenue.
The LDC is headed by Glynn, who ran a local housing advocacy office and who is seen "as a nice guy but sort of out of his league." Where Glynn is frequently chided by HPD, D'Elia says she's had preliminary discussions about CARE's plan with HPD high-ups.
Even those who are no fans of the McManus Club say that with luxury towers looming, it's time to get practical. "Look," says one source. "McManus can access money better than anyone. They're friends of Rudy's. And they're not morons. Otherwise, I think we're going to get screwed."
Haskins, who moved to Clinton just one year after the urban renewal area was declared and who has battled at least one menacing landlord, now worries that City Hall itself is the main threat to her community. "The pressure on this neighborhood is so much greater now because this is the last big parcel and we are ever more the last frontier," says Haskins. "Under this administration, it could become a huge assault."
Towers & Tenements
Act II: The Siege
Battle Over Theater Zone Nears Final Scenes
by J. A. Lobbia
July 22 - 28, 1998
There's a new drama playing on Broadway, and the most recent scene left some of the actors themselves stunned. "The city council today gave away its power in Midtown Manhattan," said Kevin Finnegan. "It just blew my mind."
Finnegan, land-use chair of the community board that covers parts of Hell's Kitchen and Clinton, is among the cast in a municipal drama that pits the venerated world of Broadway theater against its scrappy residential West Side neighbors.
The plot centers on a zoning plan to enrich theater owners�and thus preserve theaters�by letting them sell air rights within a broad swath of Midtown and permitting buildings constructed with those air rights to be bulkier than current zoning allows. Clinton and Hell's Kitchen tenants say the plan, written by the Department of City Planning (DCP), will further squeeze renters who are already feeling the effects of a supercharged real estate market.
On July 15, the council's Land Use Committee approved the DCP plan with some modifications. Most significantly, it protected the west side of Eighth Avenue north of 45th Street by forbidding its use as an area where buildings could be developed using air rights. Both the DCP and full city council are expected to approve the revisions in early August.
Scrapping most of Eighth Avenue's west side was touted as a prize for tenants who feared mega development. But sources say theater interests never seriously banked on its inclusion. Rather, DCP kept it on the table partly to provide an easy give-back.
"This is not a victory at all because it still pierces the community at its softest part," says Bob Kalin, a Hell's Kitchen tenant organizer. "They simply wrapped up a development deal in this theater thing, and when Tony Randall is sitting there" speaking to the council, as the actor did last week, "no one is thinking of anything but how they feel for him."
Sources in and out of the council suggest that powers beyond the Broadway bigs trotted out to testify�playwright Wendy Wasserstein, librettist Betty Comden, and composer Stephen Sondheim�played a crucial part. Says Kalin: "The council members had their marching orders from [Council Speaker and gubernatorial candidate Peter] Vallone, who did not want to cross the real estate community and theater owners." Theater owner James Nederlander and theater lobbyist Ethan Geto were listed as benefactors at a June 18 Vallone fundraiser.
A Vallone spokeswoman dismisses the charge. "We had meetings until early this week and did not know which way we were going until the vote," says Carolyn Daly. Geto, who described his clients as "thrilled" with the vote, said that while Vallone had "philosophically bought into this plan at an early juncture," any suggestion of political dealmaking is "ridiculous."
Since Mayor Rudy Giuliani unveiled DCP's plan in December, a theater industry coalition including owners, actors, and some unions has argued that financial hardship threatens the Great White Way. Even though Broadway audiences are ever-growing�11.3 million in the '97'98 season, up from 8.2 million in 1993, with blowout musicals like Titanic and warhorses like Cats as the main draws�the industry is pleading poverty. Citing decades-old statistics, owners lament that many theaters have been dark for most of the past 30 years. And they warn that the straight play is in jeopardy�at least as a commercial commodity.
DCP's solution is to let theater owners sell the gold mine of air rights that hover over their landmarked properties, and dedicate part of the profits to a theater fund. Owners could sell air rights within a district bounded by 40th and 57th streets between Sixth and Eighth avenues. Within that zone are 25 theaters with air rights valued at $100 million. Twenty theaters are owned by three theater moguls�the Nederlander family, Gerald Schoenfeld of the Shubert Organization, and Rocco Landesman of Jujamcyn Theaters.
"The idea that this will help members of the Shubert Organization run off to the south of France with these earnings is absurd," Gerald Schoenfeld, chair of the Shubert Organization which owns 12 theaters, told a council committee.
Robert Nederlander, part-owner of the Yankees and president of the Nederlander Organization, which owns and operates nine Broadway theaters, balked at a requirement that buildings be used as theaters for the rest of their lives. "But the fact is we are in the theater business, have been for years, and will continue to be."
Which raises doubt about whether the city needs to offer such generous help as a major rezoning plan. The Nederlander Organization, which was cited for illegally excessive contributions to Giuliani's campaign last fall, owns a block of vacant apartment buildings on Eighth Avenue at 47th Street which could be demolished and become a receiving site for air rights.
"They'll make money both ways," says Kalin. "We're not preserving the art of the theater, but the commerce of the theater. If they had a chance to produce 19 different versions of Cats, they'd be happy."
While the council committee required stricter reviews for proposed buildings than DCP suggested, it cheated itself out of a say in the developments by leaving approval primarily with DCP. "The council just wrote themselves out of it without raising a fuss," said Finnegan. "They actually passed legislation that took power away from themselves and said, 'We don't like it, but this is as good as it gets.' How can that be?"
Only two members voted against the plan: Sheldon Leffler of Queens, who railed that the scheme "let these owners make all this money" without a compelling public interest, and Tom Duane of Manhattan, who represents most of Clinton and Hell's Kitchen.
"I have many concerns," said Duane. "I'm worried about displacement and illegal construction and evictions from SROs that are happening and will happen more because of development on Eighth Avenue. This is from the same administration that cut the budget for cultural affairs. Why cut money for theaters and then do this?"
Indeed, Clinton and Hell's Kitchen have been battling gentrification despite special protection from a zoning measure called the Clinton Special District, designed to protect affordable housing, including the neighborhood's 8000 SRO units. But lax city enforcement has meant that scores of apartments have been lost to illegal demolition and construction.
Katherine Gray, the housing chair for Community Board 4, is convinced the plan to save theaters will only endanger her neighborhood.
"In the last six months, we've had the most egregious violations," Gray told the council. "We're seeing landlords add floors with no permit, and subdivide apartments so that some have no fire escape. We tell the city we need enforcement help in the Clinton Special District and they respond by offering additonal development. How is that intepreted?"
Sunday, July 24, 2005
Phil Mansfield for The New York Times
Buildings like this one, at 1809 Seventh Avenue, at 111th Street, have been kept afloat by people with modest incomes.
New York Times
July 24, 2005
Once Derelict, Now Desirable
By PATRICK O'GILFOIL HEALY
GRACE ADAMS and her family have seen the worst days of 870 Riverside Drive.
They moved in after the landlord absconded in the mid-1970's, leaving the city to foreclose on the building for unpaid taxes. They endured corrupt managers and broken pipes. They stuck around when rape suspects were arrested nearby, and when the police shot a gun-wielding man a few doors down.
Ms. Adams was there in 1983, when the tenants organized themselves, began managing the building and, with help from the city, converted it from derelict property into a co-op for low-income homeowners. They paid $250 per apartment and managed it modestly.
Now 73 years old, Ms. Adams is witnessing 870 Riverside's latest protean twist. To her astonishment, the modest co-op building, near the corner of 160th Street, has become a hot property.
The city's churning real estate market has surged into 870 Riverside and hundreds of other low-income co-ops called Housing Development Fund Corporation buildings. Scattered through Harlem, Washington Heights, Brooklyn and the Bronx, they were abandoned by landlords, seized by the city, then renovated and converted into co-ops for low-income tenants.
For years, the apartments sold for less than $7,500, always to people who made modest incomes, and they were largely overlooked by real estate brokers. But now that these neighborhoods are in big demand, the apartments are drawing buyers who can slide in under the co-op income caps but who have significant assets because they are middle-class retirees, or young people getting help from their families. Because of the demand for these apartments, firms like Halstead Property and the Corcoran Group are listing them for $250,000, $400,000 or as much as $950,000.
From one perspective, every boat is lifted. Buyers can snap up spacious apartments for below-market prices. Sellers who endured hard years in the buildings can get their reward - cash out to retire or send their children to college. Through flip taxes, or fees paid when an apartment is sold, the buildings get a slice of the rising sales prices to pay for paint jobs, roof repairs or new boilers.
But housing advocates and some longtime residents recoil at those arguments. They say that Housing Development Fund buildings are supposed to be immune from the fluctuations of the real estate market, with its bidding wars, bubble talk and $800,000 asking prices.
Because co-op sales are not public records, there are no statistics that describe how prices have changed over the years. But brokers who sell these apartments and housing advocates familiar with the neighborhoods agree that prices have ballooned in the last few years.
Even at their current prices, Housing Development Fund Corporation apartments, usually called H.D.F.C.'s, are some of the last bargains in New York City.
Ron Ferdinand, a broker for Halstead, received 2,191 phone messages after listing a H.D.F.C. apartment for $100,000 last May. The calls came from as far away as Germany and Italy, Mr. Ferdinand said.
At 870 Riverside, an 1,800-square-foot four-bedroom apartment with French doors and sunny views is on the market for $599,000. "Best deal in Manhattan," declares the broker, Prudential Douglas Elliman, in its online listing. A two-bedroom in the building, also listed by Elliman, is priced at $650,000.
The monthly maintenance is about 40 cents a square foot, or $712 for the four-bedroom and $576 for the two-bedroom.
But with bargains come hassles. In nearly every housing corporation building, catches and caveats are buried in the bylaws, and no two buildings share the same rules and restrictions.
Some have high flip taxes, with the sellers having to remit a portion of their profits to the co-op board. Some flip taxes are constant; others diminish the longer a resident has lived in the building. Some buildings even prohibit reselling an apartment for two to five years.
Many of the buildings carry income restrictions. Some are set against the city's median income, at 80 percent, 120 percent or 150 percent of median. Others are calculated by a formula multiplying maintenance costs by resale costs and other factors.
The limitations weed out many prospective owners. At 870 Riverside, a single buyer must earn less than $52,725 to meet the limits. A two-person family - either a couple or a parent and child - can earn up to $60,300. The limit for a family of four is $75,375.
It is difficult, however, for people who earn those salaries to afford the apartments. An annual salary of $50,000 is more than twice the average individual's yearly income in New York, but not nearly enough to get a mortgage on a $600,000 apartment, brokers say.
"The bank is not going to loan much," said Susan Skinner, one of two Elliman brokers selling the four-bedroom at 870 Riverside. "What these apartments are designed for are people who have a moderate income but a lot of cash on hand. It's very difficult to find a buyer."
So which buyers can meet the demands of a bank and the limits of a building? Recent retirees. People who have just sold a home. Anyone who's inherited money recently. Students with wealthy parents. Self-employed buyers whose income varies year to year. "If someone has a trust fund, and they don't have a big income, that's great," said Holly Price, an agent selling a housing corporation co-op in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, for $325,000. "That would be perfect because it's so easy."
The income caps apply only to new buyers, meaning that owners can remain in their apartment if their incomes rise past the restrictions.
Soaring prices and trust-fund buyers were unthinkable prospects 30 years ago, when the city and state set up the regulations and funds that would help convert 1,200 seized and foreclosed buildings into housing corporation co-ops. The conversions allowed the city to jettison hundreds of seized and foreclosed buildings while offering low-cost homes to low- and moderate-income tenants.
Many had decayed for decades and were infested with insects or drug dealers. Elevators didn't work. The boilers broke, the halls needed painting and the apartments needed new interiors. In one building, a tenant froze to death one winter night after his radiator broke.
Different buildings were converted under different sets of rules and timetables, but the basic formula was this: tenants of a city-owned building attended management classes and bought their property for a pittance. The city or state contributed tax credits and money for renovation.
"The vision was, we got to build housing for people in the neighborhood who have fought to stay and who deserve an opportunity for ownership," said Bill Perkins, a City Council member who represents parts of Harlem and has worked with housing corporation buildings for years.
And then, stasis. Years passed in buildings without any apartments turning over. The owners clung to their co-ops. Few outside brokers or buyers showed an interest. Even when a tenant died or stopped paying maintenance, the boards were loath to foreclose and sell vacant apartments, housing advocates said.
In the past few years, however, as Harlem became saturated with bargain hunters, boards discovered the value of their buildings. Apartments became available as aging owners died or retired, and the broader Manhattan real estate market discovered housing corporation buildings. Values started to soar.
"It's not a secret anymore," said Ann Henderson, associate director of the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, a nonprofit advocate for affordable housing. "We're trying to hold onto the scarce little affordable housing resources we have left, while the vultures are descending. We're fighting a losing battle."
Of course, not all of the 25,000 housing corporation units in the city are being flipped, and many are selling for $150,000 or $250,000.
"You can't find that price anyplace" for a regular co-op, said Anthony Stancil, who is buying a housing development co-op on 156th Street.
For $200,000, Catherine Ventura, a freelance writer, and her husband, a freelance television journalist, bought a studio and a one-bedroom apartment on the top floor of a housing corporation building on Manhattan Avenue at 123rd Street. The couple, who have a 6-year-old son, own an apartment in Hudson Heights but had wanted to move farther south, and Ms. Ventura said she pounced when she saw an online listing.
The building had stained glass, tin ceilings, marble hallways and income restrictions of about $70,000. Ms. Ventura's family met them, so they signed contracts and were approved by the board. They bought the co-ops in cash, and must live there for five years before they sell. When they do, they'll pay a 30 percent flip tax on the profits.
The family plans to move in on Aug. 1. "It's a middle-class building," Ms. Ventura said. "It wasn't a question of coming in with a lot of leverage and forcing people out. The apartments were on the market. We qualified."
Homeowners like Erenita Chiuza, who recently bought a housing development apartment in Harlem, said they were drawn to the working-class character of the buildings. "They were people like me, humble people and very nice," Ms. Chiuza said.
In other buildings, longtime owners are greeting their new neighbors with a mix of enthusiasm and unease. For Dawn Ziegler, president of a housing corporation co-op at Seventh Avenue and Central Park North, an apartment on the market there for $795,000 means that the owners are getting their due.
"It's a reward," she said, "for the tenants who had the tenacity to go through the program, to put up with all the different personalities you have to go through in a poor community. Just having to go through that, and go through all the requirements H.D.F.C. put you through."
But others worry about how the new buyers will change the buildings. Grace Adams's son, William, also owns an apartment at 870 Riverside Drive, and he is worried about the ramifications. Mr. Adams, 52, said the newer residents care more about property values than affordability and low maintenance. They have proposed amending the building's bylaws to eliminate income caps for buyers and have succeeded in reducing the flip tax to 10 percent of the profits of a sale from 40 percent, he said.
Mr. Adams, who has no plans to sell, said he gets upset when longtime residents decide to sell for as much as possible. He said he asks his neighbors whether they could afford a home at their asking price.
"It was intended to be affordable housing," Mr. Adams said. "I was given an opportunity that should be passed on to others. What I'm seeing is - greed is not a good word. Capitalism? I just wonder."
On 156th Street, John Culpepper worries about the type of people paying $150,000 for apartments in a building where he bought his place for $250 in 1983. Mr. Culpepper, 74, was once a shipboard engineer, and became the keeper of the boiler in his building after the landlord abandoned the building.
Mr. Culpepper said he and other longtime tenants live frugally and try to keep the maintenance as low as possible. The 36-unit building is even firing its managing agent to save $1,300 a month in fees, he said. Each apartment will save about $36 per month.
"We have to be careful about who we accept," Mr. Culpepper said. "If too many rich people come in here, they can change the agenda, and the little people have to play keep-up. We have to make sure the people we accept in here don't overrule the people who paid $250."
Most of these buildings have no limits on resale prices, requiring only that the income restrictions are met, said Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, president of the Housing Development Fund Corporations Council.
Mr. Montblanc said a lack of oversight structures allows buildings to ignore the income caps, a violation that would revoke their tax credits. Housing corporation buildings are allowed to lift their income restrictions 10 to 15 years after their co-op conversion, but few have chosen to do so.
The Urban Homesteading Assistance Board monitors sales in about 60 buildings, but most others do not have to report buyer incomes or sales prices to the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which governs many low-income co-ops.
"The rules that are out there for these buildings are very unclear," said Andrew Reicher, executive director of the homesteading board. "It leaves it open to abuse."
Two years ago, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development sought to tighten resales of new housing corporation apartments. Buildings entering the city's Tenant Interim Lease program - a precursor to becoming a housing corporation co-op - must now adopt a 30 percent flip tax and set its income limits at 120 percent of median. New co-ops must agree to abide by these terms for 30 years.
Mr. Reicher said that there are about 300 buildings wending their way through the process of co-op conversion. Those buildings would fall under these new limits.
Board members at housing corporation co-ops say that they still have many of the original tenants, but more and more people decide to cash out and retire to Florida or Georgia or move in with family.
But Ms. Adams, at 870 Riverside, said she won't be one of them.
"I have no desire to sell my apartment," she said. "I was born in New York, and I live in New York."
You can view it in the context of the entire discussion by going to: http://forums.delphiforums.com/HDFCCentral/messages/?msg=604.1