Supreme Court Finds Neighborhood Arguments Could Prevail Over City’s
Can our Neighborhood In The Nineties ultimately win its suit to stop The Alexander Shelter?
We had our day in court on Thursday April 17th. NYS Supreme Court Justice Lyle Frank told City attorneys that the zoning issue and shelter size arguments made by our attorney, Stewart Wurtzel of Tane Waterman & Wurtzel, P.C., had enough merit that he only modified, but kept a temporary restraining order (TRO) in effect.
The shelter will be allowed to expand their current TRO limit from 50 to 75 rooms, but the judge said, “I won’t lift the TRO entirely because if Neighborhood wins, you (the City) will not have to remove as many people.”
Mr. Wurtzel advanced four major arguments:
- The proposed Shelter size of 220 individuals is larger than allowed by law;
- SRO Tenants are suffering from constructive eviction tactics incentivized by the huge gap between what the City pays for shelter rooms and the tenant’s rent. Mr. Wurtzel tied the poor treatment of the tenants to the fact that Alexander Scharf’s Esplanade LLC is paid $2 million annual rent, while shelter operator Praxis is paid $2500 a room per month, about five times what the SRO tenants pay
- Fair Share – there are two other properties within a half a block that are de facto shelters, in addition to many other facilities serving homeless populations nearby
- Under zoning, the change of the building to a shelter requires the building to be brought to current building code standards.
The first and last issues seemed to be the judge’s primary concerns.
The City shut down The Alexander when it tried to run a hotel allowing short term stays of less than 30 days. The City arguments, in closing the hotel are that it is not fireproof and did not conform to the more stringent building code standards required for buildings that are occupied for transitory or temporary purposes. Their logic was that a building that has longer term stay tenants would be less dangerous to their safety, as the tenants would have the chance to familiarize themselves with the location of fire exits and fire escapes. One look at the Alexander shows that it has a fire escape in the front, and one in the back. It has three hallways, but only two lead directly to fire exits.
The emergency shelters by the City’s own contract and plans is for temporary, housing with residents placed as expeditiously as possible into permanent housing. It is not intended to be long term permanent placing..
The City by making a non-fireproof building into a shelter is flagrantly breaking its own laws;the very laws used to close the same hotel.This means that the City is willing to forego the same protections it rigidly enforces on behalf of tourists, to leave its shelter clients less protected.
City attorneys claim that because the “expeditious temporary stays” routinely keeps populations for closer to 600 days, they should be treated as permanent long term tenants and not be subject to the increased safety requirements afforded temporary housing..
Mr. Wurtzel counters that the City not only violates its own definition of transitory shelter housing, it is ignoring that fact that shelter residents have many issues which impact their ability to react in event of emergency. He also claimed that the City’s failure to act expeditiously, as they are required, should not allow them to jeopardize the safety of all residents; the City should not take advantage of its own failures in this regard. The City’s own statistics maintain that 25% of shelter occupants have mental illness, while many others have issues with alcohol and drug dependency In a building that is not fireproof, which does not meet the standards for egress for tourists, the challenges for a population with impairments and disabilities could pose a danger to them, the SRO tenants and neighbors in the surrounding buildings in event of an emergency.
In addition, Justice Frank voiced serious concerns about the size of the shelter. City law prohibits shelters for adults from housing more than 200 residents. Here, the proposed shelter was for 220 residents (and, presumably, if the SRO tenants could have been driven out, even more than that). While the City argued that the limitation was supposed to only apply to shelters for singles (this is a shelter for families without children), Mr. Wurtzel argued that the clear limitations of the statute applies to this shelter.
We await the judge’s written decision .
Mortgage and Bank Fraud, Wire Fraud and Tax Evasion Tied To de Blasio Overpayment For Shelter Buildings
See page 6 and 7 from Daily News Link
The family which owns 315 West 94th Street, 316 West and 330 West 95th Street just closed a deal with Mayor de Blasio that some experts say has the City overpaying to the tune of $100 million. It is instructive in how money for the shelter system enriches certain owners and has been leveraged by de Blasio to fund his presidential campaign overtures. Here is an excerpt from a Daily News exclusive investigation:
“Mark Rottenberg of Lawrence, L.I., invested in one of the Bronx properties, 1058 Teller Ave. He recalled losing about $80,000 on it when he cashed out. “The rent roll wasn’t covering expenses,” Rottenberg said. The properties were allegedly put under the control of a Podolsky associate with connections at the city Department of Homeless Services who began taking on homeless tenants through the city.
“New York City was paying us almost six times more than what Chuck was getting paid from regular tenants,” Dfouni wrote in his autobiography. “This portfolio that landed in the brothers’ laps accidentally started generating over $1 million a month, bringing the homeless portfolio in our company to an excess of $40 million annually.”
Attention Building Captains and Neighbors!
Join us this Wednesday, April 24th
2. Security Patrol
3. Sanitation — getting our corner receptacles back
Please R.S.V.P. for location
to info@N90s.org – ASAP
Please support our efforts to fight back. Lawyers and private security guards are expensive. The alternative is unthinkable.
We ask that more people step up—individuals, building owners, business owners, co-op boards and tenants—and contribute to keep these two important efforts going.
Checks may be written to:
Neighborhood In The Nineties, Inc. Please indicate “Security Patrol” or “Legal” on the check.
Neighborhood In The Nineties
310 West 94th Street
New York, NY 10025-6868
Credit card donations are accepted at www.N90s.org. Hit “DONATE,” follow PayPal prompts.
And thank you to our many individual neighbors, co-op/condo building donors, as well as the businesses and institutions that have made it possible for Neighborhood In The Nineties to hire security guards and attorneys to protect the safety and quality of life of our beautiful neighborhood.
600 Hundred-Year-Old Gets Makeover
The southern portion of Joan of Arc Island (West 91st to West 93rd St.), where the statue of the young martyr who died more than 600 years ago sits perched with her sword raised high, is undergoing a new design. The renovation begins Monday, April 29th, and the area from the monument south will be fenced off. Joan of Arc Island was dedicated in January 1919 as part of Riverside Park.