Rent-Stabilized Residents At 85 Livingston Fuming Over Rent Hike

Residents of 85 Livingston Street at the Brooklyn Heights/Downtown Brooklyn border are battling a $60 to $90 a month rent hike for 30 or so rent-stabilized units in the coop building, saying it will “devastate” the mostly elderly folks living in those apartments. While the majority of the building was converted to coops in 1989, developer Mark Teitelbaum—who owns the rental units—insists that improvements to the building warrant the increase.

The New York Daily News reported Tuesday May 29 that Teitelbaum insists the hike is justified because he financed work to caulk and waterproof bricks on the building’s facade that co-op owners in the building decided to do.

The issue in question: Those renovations began in 2004, while Teitelbaum filed with the state Department of Housing and Community Renewal for the rent increase two years after the work was finished. Initially, his application was denied, but he appealed and the agency reversed its decision. On Thursday, DHCR issued an order upholding the rent increase, saying work on the building continued long enough that the application met the deadline.

In addition to the monthly increase of $60-$90 a month, Teitelbaum is demanding $2,500 in retroactive rent from each tenant. He originally owned 75 rental apartments in the building, and has sold them at market value as tenants moved out. Note: The Daily News story evades what seems to be an important detail: What the current monthly rent is for any of those 23-year stabilized units.

Residents insist the DHCR decree to increase rent isn’t valid, since Teitelbaum didn’t file for the hike until 2008. They also claim it will displace the elderly, including 94-year-old Margaret Cafiero, who has lived at 85 Livingston Street for 30+ years: “It’s putting a burden on people to raise the rent so much at one time,” she told the Daily News. “It’s like fighting City Hall; you never win.”

However, Deputy Commissioner Woody Pascal wrote about the Thursday decision, “At their core, the tenants’ primary objections are based on the impact of the increase rather than its supporting factual basis. DHCR must administer the increase in accordance with law.”

Zaida Concepcion, 62, another resident who has lived in the building 35 years, said, “He wants us out. He wants the apartments. He’s licking his chops, waiting for them.”

City Councilman Steve Levin (D-Brooklyn Heights), is siding with residents: “Almost every one of the renters are senior citizens, and many on fixed incomes. If these rent increases go through, some of these seniors may be out on the street.”

Read the Daily News story here.

(Photo: New York Daily News)

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  • Quinn Raymond

    The jerk store called and they’re running out of Mark Teitelbaum.

  • Mark

    I am a bit torn on this. I feel bad for the seniors, but I have been in this situation myself and dealt with it. I left Manhattan after my apartment was no longer rent stabilized and I wasn’t willing to pay the new rate. It sucked, but that is life.

    I noticed neither articles mention what the monthly rent is, only the proposed increase. I get the feeling if people know what the seniors were paying they won’t be as sympathetic. Coming from the South I have never understood NYC rental laws to begin with. It is the only place I know of that does not have a free market for rental rates.

    Apartments are designed to be temporary housing, not permanent.

  • Nancy

    I hate to say this, we are all on fixed incomes, unless we are self employed. My paycheck hasn’t changed in 6 years.

  • Knight

    Mark raises an excellent point: we don’t know what these people are paying and might think differently if we did. I do know that if someone has been living in a rent stabilized apartment for over 30 years, there’s not much chance that what they are paying covers the cost of maintaining the premises. And Teitelbaum isn’t running a charity. I’m all for affordable PUBLIC housing, but not at the expense of landlords.

  • travy

    hope it’s not any of your grandparents. jerks

  • stuart

    The rent laws in NYC are like the labor laws in Greece or Spain. Everyone knows they are stupid and antiquated and that they hurt the young but no one can do anything about it.
    Seniors rent apartments and houses all over the United States. In NYC they feel entitled to stay in the same apartment they lived in when they were thirty years old, when they had two children and were making a good salary.
    It is not their fault, it is a stupid system, perpetrated by politicians looking for votes. It ultimately hurts the very people it is meant to protect because it is economically unsustainable.

  • tb

    It’s kind of crappy what this guy is doing. What if they paid market? Would it be ok then?

  • Quinn Raymond

    It doesn’t matter what their current rent is– they are protected by both the law and also common decency.

    And rent stabilization laws are crucial to maintaining what little balance is left in an increasing economically polarized city.

  • Promenade Princess

    When I moved to New York in 1995, I paid $620 for a 400-square-foot apartment on the Upper West Side. One of my neighbors who had a sprawling one-bedroom laughed and told me she was rent stabilized and paid about $200 for twice the square footage.

    It’s hard for me to find a lot of sympathy for any New Yorker that is living under the guise of rent stabilization, whether you’re 95 or 25. If you’re paying next to nothing to live in this city, you should be smart enough to be sacking away all that extra money so that one day when the stabilization bubble bursts, you have been a responsible adult and pay the price for being a New Yorker or move to a retirement community in Florida.

    Sorry to sound harsh, but anyone living in NYC for $400 a month is getting a gift. Time to pay the piper.

  • eg

    You miss the whole point. Fixed income in these cases usually mean LOW fixed income, paid by social security, and other low incomes. These people cannot go out and get another job that pays more, or move to another place they can afford. where could they go? being senior also means not having the energy that younger people have.

    This should be negotiated one at a time. the landlord will get his apartments when his tenants go out feet-first. Not everyone can afford to move to Florida where there may not be any family and friends. This landlord is not hurting, trust me – he probably made money on the coop apartments already sold – they also get lots of tax offsets.

  • Bob Sacamano

    The cost to run a building (i.e. maintenance, taxes etc.) have been rising and tenants need to share in the burden of the higher costs. If you can’t afford to live there then these people should move to an area where the cost of living is more affordable. It is disgusting that due to arcane housing laws that the landlord has to subsidize the cost of living for these people. This goes for all people who are in rent controlled or rent stabilized building. Nobody rides for free.

  • Quinn Raymond

    You are missing the entire point of rent stabilization.

  • Livingston

    What is the point of rent stabilization?

  • Esther

    Why so much resentment towards Rent Stabilized tenants? I guess that envy is natural for humans – but why the contempt?

    Anyway, imperfect as it is, I think Rent Stabilization is great. For one thing, at least it helps to keep real New Yorkers – the one’s who made New York the awesome place that you all flocked to – spread throughout the city. They are the ones who had the hugest part in making this city the culture, creativity mecca that it is. So it’s okay for others to exploit that, make undeserved money off of it, and kick the true architects to the curb? I guess that IS the American way, though.

    Maybe our tax dollars should be used to make up the difference so landlords can collect a market rate for all of their apartments. Or maybe a law should be passed so that minimum wage is high enough to pay “market rate” rents. But then, costs of goods and services would increase dramatically. Either way, we ALL, would just be putting more of our hard earned money in wealthy pockets. Cause that’s where it all goes, anyway. I think Rent Stabilization is the better alternative – for now, at least. (though we still need more affordable housing. and most stabilized rents are still pretty high these days)

    These landlords buy these buildings for pretty cheap, in the first place BECAUSE they have rent controlled apartments. Don’t cry for them. Don’t fall for their propaganda.

  • Bob Sacamano

    Ester – Are you out of your freaking mind! I don’t want my tax dollars going to landlords.

  • EHinBH

    This is a free market economy. If you dont like it, move. The ultra-liberal propaganda is just unreal here…

  • Esther

    This isn’t a “free market” economy. This is a PREDATORY system. We need rules and regulations because so many can’t be trusted. Sorry if that impedes your desires.

  • AEB

    I also question the animus toward rent stabilization from those other than landlords.

    I live in a rent stabilized apartment–getting it was the luck of the draw–and, moreover one in for which my blessed landlord doesn’t charge me the full rental amount she’s entitled to under rent stabilization guidelines.

    I’m 66 and my income is just about fixed. I depend on supplemental scratch from book-writing assignments, which, fortunately, have been steady in the last several years. But what of the future? I can’t see a cash windfall around the corner, nor, due to age, will I be getting more employable any day soon. So I’m extremely thankful that my rent isn’t subject to market caprice.

  • Esther

    And what if all of these rent stabilized, true New Yorkers DID move? New York has already been so homogenized, Disnified, and whored-out over the past decade or so. It would REALLY suck, then.

  • Esther

    AEB – it’s because they fell for the head-game, landlords telling them their rents are so high because they are paying to make up for rent stabilization. Bull-crap. These landlords are going to gouge every penny, regardless. They are like hookers defending their pimps. lol

    It’s a whole divide and conquer thing. If anything, we should be fighting for MORE rent stabilization. Most stabilized apartments are pretty expensive by now, anyway.

  • Bobbie

    One out of three seniors in NYC lives in poverty, about $10,000 or less a year, with thousands of others just above the poverty rate. A fixed income is a fixed income is a fixed income. Asking older adults who have lived in an apartment for decades to leave their home, and yes, it is their home, is inappropriate and unrealistic. Without rent regulation, thousands of older New Yorkers would be choosing between food, rent and medicine even more than they do now. Affordable housing is key to allowing older adults to age in place in their homes. Does anyone you know want anything less than that for themselves and their loved ones?

  • AEB

    …as mine is, Esther, at least for me, relative to my income.

    The, er, bottom line in this argument, as in so many others, depends on where you fall of the line that holds, at one end, that the power should go to the strong vs., on the other, that making the world an ever-safer place for those who already hold all the cards is isn’t the way to go.

  • AEB

    And, amen, Bobbie.

  • She’s Crafty

    Hmm, not sure what I feel here. More facts needed, i.e. what they are paying. Rent stabilization is not the same as rent control. But, if there are necessary repairs to be done on the building why should the landlord have to foot the bill totall (or have the coop shareholders make up for no rent hike either?). Let’s face it we aren’t talking about a decent apartment in a decent neighborhood – this is a luxury bulidlng in Brooklyn Heights, and I’m not sure anyone is entitled to live their if they can’t afford it.

  • dobrorocks

    This is not a luxury building in BK Heights. It is a coop in Downtown Brooklyn that is a good value for the location. There are no fancy amenities. It is made up of mostly studios. The seniors in question are hardly living in luxury.

    Nobody is saying that the landlord should be letting these tenants have a free ride. Trying to get a large lump sum of retroactive rent years past the legally allowed deadline is unfair.

    I agree with the others in saying that rent stabilization is a necessity in a city where homogenization has become the norm.

    -from a NYC-native

  • travy

    these people are following the law and have planned their lives around it. to throw them out now is unconscionable. some of you people are absolute sociopaths. what an embarrassment this blog is sometimes..

  • WillowSt.Neighbor

    I tend to agree with you but sociopath is a bit strong. Narcissists might be a better word.
    Also, does anyone realize how much money it takes to move from one state to another. I moved from RI to BH seven years ago and the movers charged me close to $3,000. What senior citizen living in a rent controlled or stabilized apartment has $3,000 laying around to pay the mover to move them to a place they did not want to go to in the first place.

  • Livingston

    Whoa! I think there are a lot of sweeping generalizations being bandied about by both sides. Just because one is retired and living in a rent-stabilized unit does not automatically qualify one as low-income. I know several retired couples over in Peter Cooper-Stytown complex who have lovely rent-stabilized units any NYer would kill for. They also have fabulous out-of-town residences. One of them sold his place in Southampton so he would have cash in-hand when the place goes co-op (everyone over there is salivating waiting for their insider pricing). Poor guy has to make due w/ his condo in Palm Beach and a summer Hamptons rental.

    Not saying everyone is in this position, but as others have stated, none of us have the full details on this. And the one thing I’ve learned since coming to NYC is that rent stabilization has very little correlation w/ the renter’s income.

    And for the record, I don’t want to see anyone turned out of their long-time residences. I sincerely hope an amenable solution can be found. Owner or renter, a sudden assessment like this would be a nasty surprise.

  • Mark

    @travy “these people are following the law and have planned their lives around it.”

    So they should follow the law and pay the rent increase. Seems simple enough. Even the article says “At their core, the tenants’ primary objections are based on the impact of the increase RATHER THAN ITS SUPPORTING FACTUAL BASIS.”

  • Hicks St Guy

    not fair to landlords when people are living in units that don’t cover costs. not fair to residents to be moved out. but, over the last 10-20 years it has been obvious that rent stabilization/control was being phased out. not fair to oneself to sit there and not plan for a challenging future.