Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Housing on the Hudson

"Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game."

Donald Trump (1946 - )

There are unconfirmed rumors that Community Board #2 Chair Brad Hoylman may decide to pursue an initiative aimed at dealing with the pathetically weak response from City agencies towards rent-control/rent stabilized complaints and tenants. The number of allegations that landlords have been harassing and retaliating against tenants who complain about housing conditions with impunity -- have increased dramatically – as have illegal efforts to evict them or litigate them out of their homes.

Instead of helping tenants, however, the HPD, DHCR and Department of Buildings have more or less cooperated with landlords by ignoring dangerous conditions and instead have been focusing on complaints by landlords about tenants. HPD prosecutors have been lax to the point of incompetence and Judges have appeared to be indifferent when tenants have instituted HP actions. The 311 system has been so ineffective that many tenants no longer bother to register serious housing complaints – which may weaken a tenant’s legal defenses -- but has become an irrelevancy with regard to action by the City to coerce landlords into making repairs.

A community forum, much like the Town Hall meetings that affected the S.L.A. response to over saturation of liquor licenses could have a beneficial affect on the “legal method” of evicting tenants in Manhattan through financial intimidation. You can’t fight a phony eviction and pay rent without being forced to accept a buyout at some point.

While Speaker Quinn has been criticized for inaction on some downtown issues, it is Hoylman’s view that she has been an advocate of tenants rights and effective in dealing with landlord abuses.

Organizations like the newly formed UNYTE may choose to make their views more focused and present them to Quinn’s office.

Trump SoHo is moving upward and the controversy does not seem to quit.
Stu Klein, the SoHo Alliance attorney, has advised the Buildings Department that there are serious violations that need to be addressed and that the permit to build should be pulled.

After having outlined his reasons in a letter to D.O.B., he waited for their response.

He’s still waiting.

And, the wait is really the answer. It never ceases to amaze activists downtown how completely rude and insensitive this City distraction is to residents.

The lack of response and avoidance of even a feigned community-relations pretense is what has become the hallmark of the Bloomberg Administration.

Essentially, Klein’s objection cites three reasons why the Trump project should be stopped. For one thing, the Restrictive Declaration is a joke. There is no way that the Department of Buildings will enforce the restrictions that have been written. There is no enforcement unit in place that will stop hotel-condo tenants from exceeding their stay. Currently, no owner of one of these condo units can occupy a unit continuously.

Who’s going to put them out if they stay over?

Which is exactly why they are selling so well. A recent piece reports:

The Co-Exclusive Marketing and Sales is Prodigy International Development Sales and Core Group Marketing. The Post ran the following article on 8/16:

Early demand for developer Donald Trump's condominium hotel in Soho is impressively high, says the New York Post. Sources claim that 2,800 applications have already been received for 500 units, catching prices of nearly $2,700 per square foot. The units have an occupancy limit of 120 days per year. Trump's condominium hotel project has been controversial from its inception. Opponents have criticized what they believe is a manipulation of the neighborhood's designation as a manufacturing zone.

The Department of Buildings, by allowing the project to continue, also appears to be violating Federal Security laws.

When a condominium has substantial restrictions on its use, it is treated as a “Security” in the eyes of the S.E.C. In this instance, the restrictions on the use and temporary occupancy rise to the level of being substantial – thereby relegating the sale of condominiums to the level of selling an investment instrument that is considered a security.

It appears that further legal challenges may occur – which could result in the project being stopped by the Securities and Exchange Commission for violating Federal securities laws.

Stay Tuned.

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