Sunday, December 30, 2007

What’s The Motivation?

Laws are spider webs through which the big flies pass and the little ones get caught.

Behind every great fortune there is a crime.
-- Honoré de Balzac (1799 - 1850)

When the Stella Adler Theatre Studio was located on the upper West Side during the 60’s, she had a reputation for getting to the bottom line with aspiring actors. Few got in the door without an interview that involved a soul-searching stare and a penetrating glare into the heart and mind of every thespian that passed through those portals. The heart of method acting, sort of an instant psychoanalysis, begged one crucial question: What’s my motivation?
What followed was the actor’s raison d’etre – his or her drive to acquire the persona, which they were to become – at least for that one role.

We have a series of actors on our Downtown stage too, known as the politicians and activists that are playing out their own theatrical spectacle, which we all hope will result in a rational social fabric. Perhaps the most important thread in that fabric, however, is crucial to the design of our city. Kevin Lynch, in his Theory of Good City Form offers the dimensions of a city’s performance: vitality, sense, fitness, access and control – and to that he also adds efficiency and justice. The vital city fulfills the needs of its inhabitants, who understand its form and function. A good city is one, which is arranged so that its citizens have a say in the management of the spaces in which they work and reside. City Planning, as a function, therefore relies on the legal tool of Zoning to put that plan into effect.

Take Downtown, or more specifically Hudson Square, SoHo and Tribeca. Tribeca appears to be somewhat rational. Lots of condo development with areas of commercial building, City government surrounded by the courts, and parks for the children. While it’s hard to understand how Wall Street, long the center of world finance and banking has remained dilapidated and archaic (especially in the Nassau/Ann/Fulton areas) as it has in certain areas, the rationality of its direction is understandable.

SoHo has expanded almost monolithically along the lines of residential development. Home to some of the highest prices per square footage in Manhattan, its zoning as manufacturing has only driven the cost of a residential variance skywards. But, the variances are almost always approved.
As you move further west, the mood gets a little dicier.

As you approach the border of SoHo and Hudson Square, things start to break down. Interspersed between condos on Avenue of the Americas and new hotels on Watts Street and Spring Street, there are Manufacturing facilities, commercial buildings still owned and operated by Trinity Church and a number of hotels, hotel-condos, condos, possible institutional structures and a few new residential developments – all on the books or in planning stages.
In other words, there appears to be no agency at the helm to modify or correct out of control development.

The results of this lack of planning, vested in our agency called City Planning, is playing out just as it appears – it’s the Wild West of Manhattan.

The take on the Bloomberg Administration, throughout the tenure of the now retired Dan Doctoroff, was and has been a benign and paternalistic attitude, which basically has come across, as “We know what’s best for you.”
This has played out through Doctoroff’s apparently neglectful method of pushing through what he felt was best.
With Bloomberg now sitting on $14 Billion in cash and harboring Presidential ambitions, one could understand how that degree of arrogance could exist – as the boys from Harvard run the ship. The fact that Doctoroff was unpopular, even among Bloomberg’s people, makes his appointment to Bloomberg media’s top post makes you wonder what information should not be shown the light of day.

As a result of the benign neglect of City Hall, Trump SoHo has set the stage for a completely out of scale building that perverts the meek zoning which currently does exist in Hudson Square. The City Council has run for cover and Bloomberg joked with The Donald about having Billions – and the concept of contextual zoning is buried.
There are several hotels either just completed or nearing completion in this area as well as a Department of Sanitation project -- a 14-story garage on Greenwich and Spring. The latter has prompted The Steering Committee, a group of individuals from the Hudson Square area, aided by Michael Kramer; a publicity operative who consults with this group as well as with St. John’s to seek alternative sites. St. John’s can go either way – commercial (hotel) or condo – but they just want to know which way. In this instance, the condo owners across from the site are not at all happy with the zoning mix, which is arguably going to happen. The Charrette which this group has devised, with much fanfare, is precisely what City Planning has failed to do – they have proposed a zoning plan.

So, Western SoHo zoning is adrift as is Hudson Square. What is being done about it? Very little.

Christine Quinn has discussed a request that City Planning re-zone this area. City Planning’s response is that there is no plan to do so.

Meanwhile companies like Bayrock erect buildings like Trump SoHo – and activist organizations organize to sue – which our revered leader Mr. Bloomberg has allowed to happen. Rather than take the lead and review the credentials of the players in that development and the effect it will have on an area whose zoning is adrift, he jokes about it.
Donald Trump is a 5 per center (his part of that deal) and has little to do with its construction other than his name.
A Mr. Sater, a friend of Trump’s, is rumored to be either a partner or owner of Bayrock, and is a convicted criminal – whose association with Trump SoHo would make the condo plan illegal.
And, we have the elected officials sitting on their hands throughout this entire ruination of a potential jewel in Manhattan – a Manufacturing zone which could be developed as a rational plan that includes residential, institutional, commercial cooperation – augmented by parks and open space.

Political trends.

Eric Goia is an effective young member of the City Council who appears to be headed for a shot at the Public Advocate spot next time around. He has the look of a younger, more energetic, and more personable Andrew Cuomo. He’s persistent and intelligent. While we are happy Cuomo is where he is – reaching his staff during the campaign was impossible. Not so, Eric Goia.

The City Council race for District #1 where Alan Gerson will have been for eight years is still in the distance but as of this point it seems to primarily be sought by Pete Gleason, Madeleine Wils and Julie Menin. Wils may have the edge but Menin (whose detractors have grown) has the money – although Wils has access to deep pockets as well. A rumor that Kathryn Freed may return has been denied but should strike fear in the hearts of all who hear it – that plan to run for that spot. Pete Gleason and also McWater (of CB3) have been quiet as of late.

A rumor has circulated that Alan Gerson will be going on to NYU after leaving his City Council spot in ’09 – as he is term-limited.

The City Council spot that Quinn will leave in ’09 is being sought after by Brad Hoylman, current Chair of Community Board #2 and Vice President/General Counsel of PFNYC (Partnership for New York City), a business group created by David Rockefeller which merged with the New York Chamber of Commerce in 2002. Henry Kravis had charge of its investment fund. Hoylman is also President of GLID, a Democratic Club that is hooked in to many of the gay (and straight) politicians. It should not be lost on anyone downtown that there would be BIG money, in theory at least, supporting Hoylman’s run for Quinn’s seat.

While Hoylman will likely have the support of Quinn, Tom Duane and possibly Deborah Glick, he will have at least one formidable opponent in Andrew Berman, Executive Director of GVSHP, a very visible non-profit organization that has supported many Downtown initiatives involving housing and zoning. Hoylman is also making his presence known in the community but the strong business connections (PFNYC) does pose a question mark with reference to his frame of reference.

Floaters have also been mentioned – such as Maria Derr, former Board #2 Chair – who is know to also have an interest in Glick’s Assembly seat but may be thinking of a lesser starting out point.
She recently sold a development parcel on Seventh Avenue and with her Passanante background seems unlikely to be hurting for money.

Since Arthur Schwartz is known to have spent something in the neighborhood of $80,000 to challenge Larry Moss for State Committee – and won – we can only imagine the amounts being contemplated for a City Council race. Obviously, running for City Council is not based upon the salary being offered.

The money and the power in politics – comes in other, less direct ways.
But, it does arrive at some point.
Ask Chuck Schumer about the big money donations known to have found a way into his campaign fund arriving via a Nursing Home guru – which is also embarrassing Tom Spota – current D.A. of Suffolk County.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Christmas story – Schmucks ‘R Us

Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself.
-- Charlie Chaplin (1889 - 1977)

Christmas shopping was much more interesting this year.

To instill some sense of responsibility in our children it is sometimes necessary to teach the young ones a lesson. Instead of using a toy for an hour and discarding it, this year we provided an interesting twist.

The racing car actually stopped working an hour after buying it at the toy store. There was no lack of interest in using it – it was just defective. So, instead of putting it in the closet and taking the loss, we drove to the store to replace it.
Granted, it was a week later before we managed to get there, but everyone was feeling proud that we were not just going to accept it and forget about it in the pile of other unused or broken toys. It was a remote-control car that was actually fun to play with. And, we were going to turn over a new leaf.

The fact that the sales receipt was missing, of course, made it much more interesting. But, hey, it’s almost Christmas! Surely, a famous chain of stores catering to children would be accommodating.

Dan, the manager who had no last name – since it’s Corporate Policy not to give out last names (giving you that warm, personal feeling) – looked at the remote control race car which was packed neatly in its original box and with a completely straight face asked for the receipt. There was none.
It was at that moment that we ceased to exist as humans.

Well, then, Dan explained, he could not help us. He walked away.
Expecting this, but not happy about it, we called out again to him and reasoned that the identification from the optical scan on the box, the identification of the exact date it was purchased, and the information about the amount that was paid – should be enough for him to at least be able to check his records and identify this sale. Was it not?

“Sorry” he said. “If you don’t have a receipt, I can’t help you.
“We have no records of cash sales. We only have records of credit card sales.” There is no record of cash. I was incredulous. This was now a learning experience.

“Do you mean that even though you charge sales tax and you collect cash, you have absolutely no record of this transaction? How is that possible?”
He looked directly at us, with an emotionless face that one could see he may have put on a thousand times.
Whoa, we thought. How many defective toys sold for cash could that generate income for? How many customers who pay cash have been down this road before?

This was really getting interesting. We have a batched out tape with – maybe, hopefully, some sales tax – that cannot be located or identified – for a toy that may or may not work – and no way to recover your money or get a replacement. There was no sign over the register that said, “We keep no record of cash transactions” or “Hold on to your receipt since cash transactions don’t exist.” Even better, “Sales Tax is reported only on credit card transactions.” And, I like the one that would say, “Please advise clerk if you’re going to pay cash. Her college fund is dwindling.”

“So, does that mean that we have to sue you to get money back or a replacement??” We thought, well even in Riverhead Small Claims court it would have to cost more than the toy just to get in front of a judge. But, he already had his answer: “You can do whatever you have to do,” said Dan and he walked away. He was well trained in “Corporate Policy.”

“Well, how do we speak to management about this,” we said – and he came back and pointed to two white phones (Khrushchev preferred red for hot lines. Hopefully, those had worked.)
One phone did not work and the other had a weird Verizon recording telling us that the number the manager had actually dialed for us, which was for “Corporate” was a non-working number. Apparently, “Corporate” phone lines were not often used.
Things were starting to get a little frustrating. Not unexpectedly, of course.
This was corporate America at its best.

“Riverhead Police” came the answer on the line.
The officer was actually helpful and said he would come right over – and then, he did. In less than 10 minutes. It was like we were on a movie set. People on the Customer Service line were starting to look at us like we were Alien Humbugs. Voices were raised, blood pressure was bubbling, faces got flushed, and there were uncomfortable stares. Some actually smiled sympathetically as if they had been there, done that, and had gotten the same results. What in the world were we doing, expecting to get satisfaction from minimum-wage workers who had been trained in “Corporate Policy.”

Except, that I was pissed. We had paid good money – in real U.S. Dollars – even if they are nearly worthless compared to the Euro now – and we had gotten bad merchandise. The value of those dollars had not depreciated THAT much in one week. The store probably had no idea that the toy was defective – but they DID know that the toy came from their store. They admitted that in front of the Riverhead Police Officer. I was eager to operate the racing car and show them how it stopped working. The battery was even charged, ready to demonstrate.

By the time the police arrived, everybody was staring at us and many were hoping that the offending ex-customers would be taken out of the store in cuffs for asserting their rights – or, at least the rights that one reads about in political novellas describing America’s freedoms.
It just wasn’t right. You pay cash, they know you bought something at their store and then they refused to acknowledge that they took your money.
And, they were condescending about it as well. Bet you that they would find a video of the transaction if I had lifted a $50 from the till, or tickled the clerk.

The “Store Manager” finally arrived and he told the police that the store had been threatened with a State Sales Tax audit for claiming that they had no record of transaction and that they had a “Corporate Policy.” After all, how did they know whether we really bought the truck?

At that point I was reminded of Jamie Lee Curtis in “A Fish Called Wanda.”
In her scene with Kevin Kline, Curtis is being attacked by Kline’s character – a second story man dressed in black – for calling him stupid – apparently a phrase he had heard before and was very sensitive about.
Curtis says to him: “Oh, I’m sorry. Calling you stupid would be an insult to stupid people.”

I thought, yes, this store manager is right. We could have been lying.
We could have tracked the purchase of people that bought that toy – followed them home and watched to see that it didn’t work and purloined the broken toy – all the while taking note of the day that it was purchased, or even better, stole the receipt for cash. Then, we waited a week and made a lot of noise about the fact that we paid cash, pointed out that the store could check the optical scanner information on the toy – and then called the Police over.
Or, we could have bought it Downtown on Canal Street from an Asian gang for $5 and had it completely re-packaged, and THEN drove to Riverhead to make $39.95 for our troubles. All the while planning to obtain the help of the Riverhead Police.
The possibilities were endless.

The absurdity of the situation was starting to dawn on Mr. Store Manager and he finally said, “Well if I had been asked nicely whether I would make an exception to ‘Corporate Policy’ I might have considered giving store credit.”

Without genuflecting, in my best supplicant’s voice, I repeated his words verbatim back to him. He was obviously thrilled by the lengths that I would go to in order to obtain satisfaction.
The Police Officer was satisfied and we were satisfied. Mr. Toy Store Manager was, well, resigned to making an adjustment to “Corporate Policy.”

Somehow, it seemed, it shouldn’t be so difficult to deal with a giant corporation whose real customers are just kids.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Downtown Dilemma

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.
Voltaire (1694 - 1778)

Making decisions on the waterfront are just as difficult now as it was for Brando’s character in On the Waterfront. And, the old ILA was notorious but today is a group of Teamsters who are trying to keep passenger ships in Manhattan as well as save their livelihoods on Pier 92.
Lucky Luciano was the man that ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence) finally made a deal with when they needed an anti-sabotage ring on the piers. In return, Luciano got a better deal than Dannemora.

Some of those thorny decisions still plague residents who are trying to keep Pier 40 away from the developers. The newest threat if Pier 40 were not to be developed as “Vegas-on-the-Hudson” by Related comes partly from the frustration among Hudson Square residents with the Department of Sanitation’s plan to build in a few locations. A fourteen story garage at Spring and Greenwich Streets has generated a major amount of heat with residents in that location and the “Steering Committee,” as they are known has developed plans for Hudson Square and proposed several alternative sites.
At the same time, the Gansevoort Recycling plan, which includes a transfer station that Bloomberg and Doctoroff were pushing, may get some new attention in Albany at the beginning of next year.
The problem with the recycling plan and the DSNY building is the following dilemma. As a result of the settled lawsuit brought by the Friends of Hudson River Park several years ago, DSNY has to be off the Gansevoort Pier by 2012 and was supposed to move to the UPS site – on Greenwich and Spring. If they cannot move off Gansevoort they violate the terms of the settlement or they move to where the Steering Committee doesn’t want them to move.

This is how the idea of Pier 40 as a quasi-garage for garbage trucks came to pass recently. The problem with that solution is that a tremendous amount of community opposition is expected – since the Trust just spent $5 million for ball fields and the consensus is that the pier should be a park, not a substitute garage for sanitation trucks. It’s bad enough that Downtown is inundated with diesel smoke, the kids don’t need to breathe it while they’re playing soccer or baseball.
A major part of any solution needs to involve Pier 76, where there is room for lots of parking and is not directly part of a residential neighborhood.
Turning Hudson Square into a parking garage for DSNY makes as little sense as turning Pier 40 into a garbage truck facility.
Hudson Square, SoHo, the West Village may have some manufacturing zones – which need to be changed – but the trend towards residential use is undeniable. It should not be forced into an ugly bastardization of this potential future by encouraging numerous hotels, hotel-condos and DSNY facilities.

As Doctoroff moves off into the sunset in January – rumored to have been awarded the keep-your-mouth shut post as head of Bloomberg media – we look beyond the horizon. Perhaps he’ll hook up with Karl Rove and write a book on “Development Strategies for a neighborhood without zoning” or make a deal with Trump to build a 75 story Disney tower in the Hudson River Park.

The head of HPD (Housing Preservation and Development), Mr. Sean Donovan, has moved on.
HPD, a city agency, DHCR, a state agency and our very own Buildings Department, are among the major agencies involved with housing in Manhattan. Landlord abuse of tenants has risen to a crisis level and Deborah Glick (Assembly), Christine Quinn (City Council), as well as Scott Stringer (Borough President) have been active in different ways to address this issue.
Stringer has pushed for more affordable housing, Glick has been pushing for controls on “phony demolition” and landlord abuse and Quinn has recently introduced legislation to curb harassment of controlled and stabilized tenants.
In addition,Brad Hoylman, Chair of Community Board #2, has weighed in on these issues and is planning to hold hearings at the beginning of 2008.

As the Trump Godzilla (Trump SoHo) project reaches for the last few floors of its 45-story height, the stories have unfolded about the developer himself.
As a hard money lender (higher interest, shorter terms, and not a bank) described him, Trump is known in the trade as a Five Per center. He puts his name on a deal and the money guys and developers come in and do the “The Real Deal.” Trump doesn’t have any money in the project, he basically skims off the top for lending a moniker that, god help us, connotes “something” that people have been taught to want. Americans deserve what they get. With a Five Percenter who has to run a T.V. career to help promote his carnival barker antics, the Forbes article that placed his net worth at $150 million seems closer to the truth.
And, in this case, the “stories” are a little dicier than usual. Apparently, one of the major players in the Bayrock company who handled the development with money rumored to have come from Dubai, is a character know as Sater.
Trump, who normally has a good memory, does not remember rubbing elbows with someone who was the focus of a recent New York Times piece. Sater is currently known as Satter and apparently has been around the corner a few times – from the Soviet Union to Brighton Beach – via the Central Intelligence Agency and Wall Street – stopping off long enough to be accused of laundering some money. He currently identifies himself as real estate executive and does business with The Donald.

The whole project has smarmy written all over it – and it would be interesting to see how it would all play out if the “condo” part of hotel-condo were rendered illegal. The SoHo Alliance is betting that will happen.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Home Rule

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam, Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.
John Howard Payne (1791 - 1852)

You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
Bob Dylan (1941 - )

If you can remember Housing Court in the 70’s, it was a wild experience.
Judges were so pro-tenant attorneys had to do little more than urge their clients to show the Court a copy of the front side of a rent check in a non-payment action and the case was dismissed out of hand.
It was difficult to be evicted from a rent-controlled or stabilized apartment for anything other than not having paid rent for months or years – and even then the Judge usually ordered the landlord to take minimal payments and forestall the act of putting the tenant out on the street.

A visit to one Housing Court Judge's chambers was as likely as not a visit to the inner sanctum of a not-so-closeted Liberal. One visitor to Chambers reported seeing a poster of Che Guevara on the wall.

That was then.

The pendulum has moved so far to the right that the poster on the Judge’s wall is now more likely to be that of Karl Rove or George Bush. Come to think of it even those luminaries are a little too far to the left.

At a meeting last week, Borough President Scott Stringer spoke at a SoHo Alliance meeting and the issue of tenants’ rights was raised. Stringer answered a few questions and elaborated upon his strong support of tenants rights groups against attempts by real estate management companies, landlords and developers to evict tenants.
What he heard from the audience was a claim that in Manhattan in particular there is a not-so-disguised attempt to de facto eradicate rent-control and rent-stabilization -- as well as silence market rate tenants. Landlords are being given immunity from criticism, complaints, prosecution, or any other legal action that would preclude them from collecting rent – even in health or life-threatening conditions through the apathy of the courts and City agencies.
Further, Stringer heard that there is a clear trend that many landlords and developers are now utilizing a favorite tactic in ridding their buildings of controlled tenants by harassing them through the use for the legal system. It keeps their hands clean and lawyers do the dirty work with the help of the court system.

The comments that Stringer heard were only the tip of the iceberg.

In fact, we are now living in the midst of an organized and well-funded system that involves several of the City agencies, law firms that specialize in Holdover actions, certain landlords, and Housing Court.
Politicians have become acutely aware of the problem but it has gone far beyond anyone’s expectations and has entered the domain of widespread and tolerated legal abuse. Department of Buildings, the DCHR, HPD and especially City Hall is involved. The Justice system, reminiscent of the bust that took down a number of cozy little relationships in the Brooklyn Courts, is starting to look a bit flaky in Manhattan.

Tenants groups look to the politicians and to the Community Boards to support them and act as an entry-level watchdog when it comes to problems that need to be addressed. Board pass Resolutions that deal with abuses and hopefully, ultimately force the government to take notice. If they are ignored the elected officials incur the wrath of tenants (voters) and must answer to them at the polls. That is the theory of how our democratic system functions. But, is it working?

Recently, Speaker Quinn introduced legislation that would impose fines for tenant harassment. The Bill would fine a landlord $5,000 for “Tenant Harassment.” It is a much needed and appreciated piece of legislation. We hope that it is followed by additional actions and legislation on the part of our elected officials – and that the missing piece is also dealt with.
That would be -- enforcement.

The current system, as interpreted by City and State agencies in their current state of apathy, mismanagement or corruption – allows the current legal system to litigate tenants out of their apartments. There is virtually no enforcement.
There is a long laundry list of what tenants can be attacked for. The list may start with having a roommate that has not been approved by the landlord; not recycling and properly disposing of garbage; or making alterations in one's apartment. It’s a long list and for the most part is neither of interest nor enforced by landlords. It’s simply available as a bag of tricks when they want to press the legal button on an offending tenant. It is a targeting mechanism.

Here’s the point.

Currently, if a landlord decides to “press the button” on a tenant, as the term is used by fellows with funny noses, there is virtually no defense against the legal anschluss. There are a few law firms in Manhattan that specialize in this form of legalized tenant abuse (several of which are under investigation) -- which utilize repeated and persistent legal actions against tenants.

Thus far, no elected official or City agency has looked carefully at the Court system and contacted the Attorney General and asked him to step in.

Law firms are acting for landlords in unison with the Courts and City agencies to perpetrate a crime against the fabric, the artistic and cultural essence, of our City. Senior citizens, artists, community activists, minorities, all face the new and relentless attempt to rob them of their homes.
It is happening because Developers want to raze buildings and sell condos, it is happening because there is no serious attempt to create affordable housing, and it is primarily happening because landlords want to raise rents beyond the restrictions on rent-controlled and stabilized apartments so to create market rate apartments.

Once an apartment is market-rate – virtually nothing can stop a landlord from evicting a tenant during or at the end of the one or two year lease that is offered.
No matter whether there is heat, water, or elevator service – or if the apartment is full of lead paint and there is black mold growing on the walls. If a tenant complains – he or she is OUT. No new lease.
With a 2 or 3% vacancy rate, nothing stops a landlord from simply telling the tenant –“If you complain, I won’t give you a new lease.”
The potential for abuse of any and all tenant rights in this situation is not difficult to imagine. Imagine it, because that IS what is happening.
And, it is obvious that this is a dangerous situation. With incompetent or corrupt agencies that do little to protect tenants, landlords employ law firms that are “Legal Hit Men.”

What Speaker Quinn may or may not know is that there is no law against persistent legal actions against tenants. It is not illegal to start repeated Holdover Actions against a tenant. Whether the lawsuits are legally permitted, several law firms operate as enforcers by repeatedly suing a tenant and placing them in the position of paying more to stay in their apartments then they can afford – often using the tenant's rent money to pay their attorneys. At a certain point, by targeting certain tenants that complain or assert their rights, and who cannot afford to pay rent plus legal fees -- are forced to accept what is called a buy-out.
This small offer from the landlord, to vacate the apartment and end the litigation, is often the only option for an artist who cannot sell his paintings – or for the rent-controlled tenant who lives on a pension.

So, what can be done about this wholesale harassment of our city’s cultural life – so that we do not lose the people who created the Manhattan that everyone wants to move to?

The Community Boards need to face the fact that there is a crisis. The politicians need to understand that widespread abuse is occurring. And, the heads of City and State Agencies need to review their practices and re-allocate personnel so that tenant abuse is addressed – and PROSECUTED.
The Justice system needs to be scrutinized. Law firms need to be investigated and rated by State agencies.

A tenant recently complained to a Judge in Housing Court that as a single female she could not simply let the non-English speaking illegal immigrant workers come and go in her apartment without prior arrangements for her security. She did not know them and felt unsafe.
The Judge ruled that she had to let them in whenever they wanted to and that he saw no problem with their arriving unannounced -- and, he stated further from the bench, that there were many single women in Manhattan who let workers in and out of their apartments while the while they were home alone. Her safety was negated and she was insulted in the court.
The fact that women in the building had been raped was of no concern to him.

Doris Deither, a member of Community Board #2 had been fighting with her landlord for many years. She finally got to him for criminal actions. You don't fool with Doris.
The tenants at 80 Varick Street have been battling with the infamous Ramer & Saperstein dentist duo, which have targeted and evicted Tenants Organization members; they have been using the kinds of tactics that got Helmsley put away but so far have managed to avoid prosecution. Few have the focused ability of Board member Doris Deither to defend against illegal behavior.
The former Chair of Board #4 was the subject of years of torturous legal actions by the landlord.
Thus far, only Stringer’s actions and those initial steps by Quinn – and the nearly legendary strength of Deborah Glick – have been in evidence.

The Community Boards have done little to address the problems and while it is possible that many middle-class and upper-class members of the Boards are homeowners and thus do not have a vested interest in solving these problems – it is more likely that there is not sufficient awareness of what is going on. Community Board #1 has a Task Force and Community Board #2 has a Zoning and Housing Committee. But the issue of enforcement and harassment in the context of the City agencies and the outlaw behavior rampant in the legal system -- has not been addressed in these forums.
Rather than short-term solutions, ongoing committees need to specifically address the concerns and needs of tenants.

Entire communities like Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side and Chinatown are areas with large numbers of Rent-controlled and stabilized apartments that are being threatened. SoHo has a large number of market rate apartments with families that have no voice. Are these voters a base to ignore? Only recently, has Community Board #2 instituted a full committee, under Jim Solomon, which addresses Chinatown's needs. Until now, it has been a huge but neglected political and economic area Downtown.

New tenants organizations have begun organizing and there is little doubt that a political movement will arise due to the level of anger over the housing crisis we now face.
Community activists have started to recognize that some elected officials are more concerned with campaign contributions for landlords and developers than they are concerned with protecting their constituents – the voters.
Leaders who hope to run for political office must address this issue NOW or face a slippery downhill slope into oblivion.

We have now reached the crisis level as law firms ravage our communities. While some landlords live in gated communities, far from the eyes of the law, tenants are being robbed of their quite enjoyment, peace of mind and their homes.