Island House Tenants Association, Inc.

NEWSLETTER

Number #4/February 12, 2005

 

 

UPDATE

 

The Executive Board of the Island House Tenants Association would like to thank all the tenants who attended the public meeting on Monday, January 31.  That the meeting was standing room only is testament to the concern each of us is experiencing as we venture in to the future.   Going forward we will take in to account, and act upon, the issues facing the entire tenancy.

 

Another public meeting will be held during the first week in March.

 

Please look for an announcement--under your door, in your e-mail account or on the Island House web site (islandhouse.us)--for the date, time and location!

 

SUMMARY OF PUBLIC MEETING

 

The Letter from the Attorney General.  On January 27, 2005 the IHTA received notice from the New York State Attorney General approving our affidavit to “seek out interests of other tenants in converting their building or complex to cooperative or condominium status and to collect moneys from such tenants [for that purpose]”.

 

The previous occasion an affidavit had been filed on behalf of the tenants in 1999, the Attorney General denied the IHTA the ability to explore a tenant-sponsored buy-out.  The recent AG letter, in contrast, allows the Executive Board to explore a variety of options in maintaining Island House as an affordable place to live.

 

Meeting with Sheldrake.  On January 17, 2005, the Executive Board of the IHTA met with Chris Daly and Bob Klehammer of Sheldrake.  Mr. Daly expressed interest in selling the building to the tenancy, either through an owner-sponsored or tenant-sponsored buyout.  Given that we had not yet received the AG letter, details of the buy-out plans could not be discussed.  Only general items were--and could be--brought up in conversation.  Chris Daly communicated his interest in the following subjects:

 

*Protecting the 10-15% of Island House tenants that would qualify for low-income rent vouchers.

 

*Bringing Island House up to standards--i.e., improving its infrastructure; providing adequate insulation; replacing windows; the possible installation of laundry rooms on each floor; cosmetic improvements to entrances and lobby; and electric sub-metering.

 

Meeting with the Attorney.  On the morning of January 24, 2005, the Executive Board met with our attorney, Arlo Chase, and apprised him of our conversations with Sheldrake.  Chase suggested several courses of action regarding financing if we were intent on maintaining the building as middle-income housing.

 

We will be pursuing the following avenues:

 

*Meeting with the Community Preservation Corporation (CPC), a mortgage lender for low, moderate and middle-income housing, to discuss financing possibilities.

 

*Meet with the owners of Cathedral Parkway Towers, a Mitchell-Lama building on the Upper West Side, as a possible ownership model for Island House.  At Cathedral, the tenants formed a partnership with the owner until construction to the building was complete, upon which the owner divested himself of his holdings in the project and the tenants became sole owners of the building.

 

*Investigate the role the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB) in supporting  our efforts to purchase the building and bring it up to standards.

 

Meeting with DHCR.  On January 19, 2005, Amrah Cardoso and Mario Naves, co-chairs of the IHTA, attended a meeting of the Mitchell Lama Task Force organized by the office of Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields.

 

We learned of a new program--“The Retention Program”--sponsored by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).  The program helps owners of distressed buildings get funding if they commit to stay in Mitchell-Lama.

On January 26, 2005, the Executive Board met with David Cabrera, Deputy Commissioner of DHCR, and Richmond McCurnin, Assistant Commissioner of DHCR.  In attendance were district managers from the offices of Assemblyman Pete Grannis, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and City Council Speaker C. Gifford Miller.

 

Among the issues discussed with Cabrera and McCurnin were the following:

*The notification to tenants of an owner filing papers to DHCR for the dissolution of a building from Mitchell-Lama program.  Cabrera and McCurnin noted that the owners must, by law, inform DHCR of such a move in a public hearing  100 days before the effective date.

 

*When asked if DHCR had approved the contract of sale between Charles Lucido, current managing partner of Island House and Westview, to Sheldrake, Cabrera and McCurnin said the agency had not yet been asked to do so.

 

*When asked if Island House would be eligible for ESDC’s Retention Program should the tenants purchase the building, Cabrera and McCurnin answered that the possibility could be discussed.

 

*Cabrera and McCurnin were curious in ascertaining whether Island House was interested in maintaining the building as middle income housing or keeping it within Mitchell Lama as part coop and part rental.  The new DHCR regulations permit us to buy the building with 50% commitment from tenants.

 

*DHCR will be calling RIOC to clarify the Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) question.  Both Cabrera and McCurnin believe that as long as the building is under the state control there are no taxes to be paid.  The members of the Executive Board, as well as our political representatives, reiterated that there is a deadline frequently mentioned (Fall 2005) and there will be an escalation in PILOT for Island House.

 

Tenant Survey.  The goal of pursuing middle income housing or a Mitchell Lama co-op came from the tenant responses indicated on the surveys, which indicated an interest to buy, but showed limited ability to purchase.   A significant number of tenants answered that would be able to pay no more than 10%-30% over current costs.  If you have not yet handed in your survey, please do so and place it in the secure IHTA box located by the package room in the 555 lobby.

 

FUNDING

 

Treasurer Geoffrey Kerr provided reports on the current financing of the IHTA and reiterated the need for continuing financial support from the tenancy.  To cover the costs of exploring the possibility of the tenants purchasing Island House, as well as maintaining the building as affordable housing, the Board of Directors recommend that tenants contribute $50.00 per month per apartment or such other amount as they are able to make. 

 

The total cost to the IHTA of completing a purchase is likely to be in the order of $100,000.00-$200,000.00; this estimate includes the following items:  an appraisal, an engineering study and an offering plan. 

 

We urge all tenants to make a contribution.  Without the necessary funds we will be unable to complete the transaction.  This is the third request for a $50 contribution. 

 

 

Any “catch-up” payments from those who have not previously contributed are helpful--and appreciated.

 

Contributions can be left in the IHTA mail drop box located next to the mail boxes in 555.

 

Kerr also made the distinction between funds used for general operation of the IHTA and those specifically demarcated for use in a tenant sponsored buyout, as outlined by the Attorney General.  A separate bank account will be established to hold the funding earmarked for the latter.

 

MAINTENANCE REPORT

 

The Executive Board has been in contact with Jennifer Jones of Blackwell Management about a variety of issues, among them vacant apartments.  Ms. Jones assured us that empty apartments were now being displayed to prospective tenants.  She stated that internal transfers are being honored first, the outside list second.  The renting of apartments was on hold, we were informed, due to the ongoing transition between management companies.

 

INDEPENDENT NEWSLETTERS

 

Not a few residents of Island House have raised questions about the yellow newsletters distributed to the tenancy. 

 

It should be stressed that the Executive Board of the IHTA did not contribute to the handouts in any manner. 

 

The opinions and information expressed on the yellow newsletters are solely attributable to the people responsible for it and do not accurately reflect the status of current negotiations.

 

MITCHELL-LAMA DISSOLUTION

 

Island House is still a Mitchell-Lama building.  The Executive Board of the IHTA met with the Sheldrake Corporation on the evening of February 2, 2005 and were told that the process of privatization has begun for Westview alone.

 

Sheldrake assured us that it had not yet filed papers with DHCR to do the same with Island House--though this action will occur in the future.

 

The IHTA will keep the tenancy informed--through e-mail, announcements and via our web site, islandhouse.us--of major developments as they occur.

 

GOING FORWARD

 

We would like to extend our gratitude to the tenants who have contributed financially to our cause. 

 

You hard-earned money is being put to work.

 

Without your contributions, the IHTA cannot act on your behalf.  Upon receipt of each month’s billing, please be so kind as to contribute to the cause of affordable housing on Roosevelt Island.  Should you wish to contact the IHTA you may do so through the Island House web site, islandhouse.us, or by slipping a note in to the IHTA box in the lobby.

 

Island House

Tenants Association, Inc.

 

Amrah Cardoso*Renato Folla*Geoffrey Kerr

Harriet Lieber*Mario Naves

The Island House Tenants Association sends its best wishes for a happy and healthy new year to each and every tenant of Island House! 

 

Before the close of 2004, we wanted to inform you of what the IHTA has been working on and the goals it is working toward.

 

Tenant Elections

 

The IHTA would like to thank those Island House residents who voted in the recent tenant elections.  As specified in a flier delivered to each apartment and posted in the lock box located in the lobby, residents were given the option of either placing their own name on the ballot or writing in a suitable nominee.   

 

The subsequent election, overseen by members of the outgoing IHTA Executive Board, yielded the following results:  Amrah Cardoso, Co-Chair; Mario Naves, Co-Chair; Renato Folla, Vice-Chair; Geoffrey Kerr, Treasurer; and Harriet Lieber, Secretary.

 

The new Executive Board looks forward to working with the tenancy in the effort to maintain affordable housing on Roosevelt Island.

 

The IHTA is a not-for-profit corporation; the tenants listed above constitute its Board of Directors. 

 

Letter to the Attorney General

 

Pursuant to a tenant-sponsored buyout, permission must be granted by the Attorney General to raise funds for the purpose of merely considering the step.  A letter to Eliot Spitzer, New York State Attorney General, has been filed on behalf of the tenancy by Arlo Chase, our legal representative from the firm of Manatt, Phelps and Phillips.  It allows for the raising of funds--including those devoted to an engineering study and financing possibilities for a conversion--specific to exploring a tenant sponsored buyout.  We will be alerting tenants as to the Attorney General’s response upon its receipt by the IHTA.

IHTA Mission Statement

 

The mission of the IHTA is to represent the tenancy in matters concerning rent, quality of life, public safety, maintenance and possible conversion from the Mitchell-Lama program, all the while maintaining the Mitchell-Lama objective--affordable housing for middle-income New Yorkers--as a reality.

 

To achieve this mission, the IHTA will rely on the following tenant-volunteer committees:  Quality of life; public safety; maintenance; rent; and housing transition.  Members of the committees will make recommendations to the board as to appropriate courses of action pertaining to their particular field.  The Board has the right to ask the Committee to follow up on a particular action.  Following are the responsibilities of each committee:

 

Quality of Life:  The objective is to follow up, and possibly challenge, RIOC measures that decrease the quality of life on Roosevelt Island--i.e., diminution of open space, new construction, excessive noise and public nuisances, etc.  The committee will maintain contact with our elected officials about legislation pertaining to Roosevelt Island.

 

Public Safety:  The objective is to follow up on RIOC's or Public Safety's measures that will have financial and/or safety implication to the residents of Roosevelt Island.  This responsibility requires meeting with RISK and Public Safety, as well as attending RIOC public meetings.

 

Maintenance:  The objective is to follow up on the management company's measures that will have a variety of implications--in terms of safety, quality of life and financial impact--for Island House residents.  This will require meetings with the operating staff of the Management Company.  (As of December 2004, the maintenance committee is fully represented by tenant volunteers.)

 

Rent:  This committee will be called in to action once a request to increase rent is made by the owners.  Responsibilities include examining maintenance and capital costs submitted to DHCR.

 

Building Transition:  This committee will be called in to action upon receipt of the Attorney General to conduct conversations with the owners regarding a possible conversion from a Mitchell Lama rental.  The committee will examine the ground lease and "PILOT" requirements; and federal, state and city legislation that could have an impact on the financial ability of tenants to purchase the building or continue as renters.

 

Web Site

 

The Island House web site is up and running and can be found at the following address:  www.islandhouse.us  Though still under construction, the web site affords tenants the opportunity to become involved in the future of their homes.   Currently the web site features a bulletin board on which residents can engage in discussions that address their questions, concerns and hopes.  In the future, IHTA announcements and newsletters will appear on the web site. 

 

To those without regular access to a computer:  Don’t fret.  Information will continue to be supplied via fliers posted in the display cases by the building’s mail boxes.

 

Please go to the web site today, securely register and make your voice heard!  With your participation, the IHTA will gain a clearer idea of the will of the tenancy. 

 

The IHTA would like to acknowledge Frank Farance, whose continuing efforts in building the web site, as well as serving as its webmaster, are gratefully appreciated.

 

 

 Tenant Survey

 

The IHTA is collating the information gathered from the housing surveys delivered to tenants last month.  We are grateful to those residents who took the time to fill out the survey.  We will post the preliminary results of the survey on the building’s web site after the new year. 

 

If you haven’t had the opportunity to do so, please take a moment, fill out the survey and place it in the IHTA box in the lobby.  If you turned in a survey and were subsequently asked to re-submit another copy of the same survey, please accept our apologies. 

 

The IHTA would like to be as accurate as possible in ascertaining the will and need of the tenancy.

 

Fund-Raising

 

The efforts to save our homes comes at a cost.  Each of the tenants who serves on a committees does so as a volunteer.  Our legal team does not.  Nor will the services of an engineering firm--a necessary service that will help us determine the condition of Island House. 

 

The effort to maintain affordable housing will be an expensive venture; it is also a necessary venture.  Without adequate and ongoing funding the IHTA cannot work on your behalf.    At the beginning of January 2005 we will be instituting  an ongoing donation schedule.  The suggested monthly donation for each apartment will be $50.00 per month. 

 

We realize that not everyone will be able to afford this amount.  Please know that any amount you can donate to our cause is appreciated.  However, in order to realistically pursue the cause of affordable housing significant funds need to be raised as soon as possible.  The more each and every one of us participates the more effective the IHTA will be in working for our common cause--and the more likely the suggested donation can be lowered in coming months.

 

Our Treasurer, Geoffrey Kerr, intends to provide full and frequent accounting for all funds received and disbursed by the IHTA.

 

In the coming weeks a flier will be distributed listing the details of our fund-raising drive.  In the meantime, donations can be left in the new and secure IHTA box in the lobby, located by the mailboxes in the south lobby.  We would like to thank Jennifer Jones of Blackwell Management for providing the new box.

 

Public Meeting

 

A public meeting of the IHTA Executive Board will take place during January 2005.  Important updates will be announced and discussed.  Please look for an announcement on your doorstep as to time and date.  Join your fellow tenants and voice your questions, comments and concerns!

 

Island House Tenants Association, Inc.

 

Amrah Cardoso*Renato Folla*Geoffrey Kerr

Harriet Lieber*Mario Naves