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Current Issues - June 2007

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Section 8 / HPD Issues


Community Recreation Facility - B'Ball City?


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Advocating For Voucher Tenants

Section 8 vouchers are supposed to protect LEOTA’s low-income tenants.  But ever since this program began for us in January 2005 tenants have had problems.  Sometimes losing, without a hearing, the voucher a tenant depends on to stay in his or her home.  Removal of a voucher without allowing a hearing is against the law – but it has happened.  While the Mayor’s Office talks about creating affordable housing, affordable housing is being lost when low-income tenants lose their vouchers out of public view. 

In March, LEOTA members and voucher tenants met with a representative from Borough President Scott Stringer’s office to ask for assistance in solving voucher tenants’ problems with HPD.  These problems have included missing or misplaced papers, misfiled applications, and miss-spelled names, all claims made by HPD.  To make matters worse tenants cannot reach anyone at HPD on the phone or get an appointment for a time certain.   A tenant lucky enough to get an appointment can wait for hours – and then not be seen. Tenants who made mistakes on their applications had their vouchers cancelled before any hearing took place. There would seem to be no acceptable remedy.

Borough President Stringer promised to call together our elected officials to ask HPD to stop treating voucher tenants so poorly and to generally improve voucher processing.  We have given his representative information about at least dozen tenants’ experiences with HPD

If you have been denied assistance in preparing your re-certification papers, denied an opportunity to make an appointment, lost your voucher without a hearing, have a hearing scheduled and need assistance – please give your information to LEOTA so we can pass it on to the Borough President or otherwise try and assist you. Leave a copies of your complete file if you can (HPD correspondence, your summary, contact numbers for you & email) under the Tenant Meeting room door next to the laundry room. We will contact you. This must be done immediately. If you can, you should email info@leota.org to let us know to expect your file – and give a summary. We stongly advise not waiting on us or anyone for that matter before taking action yourself, and in that regard consider the following tips:

What Voucher Tenants Can Do
  1. Report all household income to HPD including money earned by any member of the household, even if they are not the tenants of record –  no matter how small their earnings. HPD follows HUD regulations to decide which income or assets they  consider.

  2. Failure to report all household income can result in termination of the voucher. This has happened to some of our tenants already.

  3. If HPD says that your voucher is in jeopardy, you must request an “informal hearing”  within 10 days.

  4. If after an informal hearing you have been told that your voucher is being terminated you can appeal that decision by filing an Article 78 proceeding in New York Supreme Court.  You have four months to file.  An Article 78 proceeding is a request that a judge review HPD’s decision.  A judge can overturn HPD’s decision if there is no basis in the record pursuant to HUD’s regulations to support the termination of your voucher.

  5. If you need legal assistance but cannot afford a lawyer contact Ellen B. Davidson, Legal Aid Society Civil Law Reform Unit. 199 Water Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10038, Tel: (212) 577-3339, Fax: (212) 509-8753, ebdavidson@legal-aid.org. She will decide whether she can handle or refer your case. She has already handled several cases for IPN tenants.

  6. If you can afford to pay for legal services contact our attorney Michael Schwartz, and be sure to ask for the "Community Rate" extended to LEOTA tenants.  LEOTA cannot pay for such services.   Call Barry Mallin & Associates at (212) 285-1200. Of course you can use your own attorney who has experience in housing issues.

Join our blog and post your comment here.

MAY 29th
Memorandum Of Understanding (Excerpt)

Item 5 (in MOU) - "The remaining (northern) one-third of the Pier 36 pier shed, to comprise an inside area of approximately 64,000 square feet, will be permanently dedicated for use by the community as a community recreation facility as determined by the ad hoc committee..." To view the MOU click here.

Remember the ad hoc committee is accountable to YOU as they do not and should not have unilateral authority to make decisions on behalf of an entire community without broad based community support as determined by a fair and transparent process.

Brief History of Pier 35/36 regarding the Community Rec Faciltiy

Stemming from a lawsuit filed against the Dinkiins Administration by Assemblyman Sheldon Silver and other petitioners the Memorandum Of Understanding was created. The MOU called for a Community Recreation Facility. The Assemblyman and the petitioners later became what would be known as the Ad Hoc Committee.

The Ad Hoc Committee with little fanfare over the course of a few years and no significant public meetings selected Basketball City. That was at least 10 years ago; before 9/11, and the subsequent real estate & economic boom to the affleunt. To view more on the History click here.

Basketball City Stories

The following is an unordered list of various points and issues regarding the Basketball City selection: (for BBC & Pier 35/36 Articles click here)

  1. Basketball City (BBC) is arguably not a Community Use Facility as called for in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
  1. The Ad Hoc Committee though they were the original petitioners in the case Silver v. Dinkins 103245/1993 was comprised of an inadequate representation of the affected or relevant community, as it did not include representatives of all the affected developments along/around the proposed site.
  1. The Ad Hoc Committee’s decision to select BBC is more than 10 years old, and does not account for the significant changes to the community since then.
  1. By many accounts including BBC’s own account, their patrons are schools, youth groups, & corporations from all over the city; likely more than a fair share from outside the CB3 district in order to be defined a “Community Use Facility”.
  1. BBC will disproportionably serve a narrow segment of the community, most of which will likely be found outside of the CB3 district, which would not serve the needs of Seniors, Adults, and many youth to the extent that they may not belong to an organization that has booked time, or otherwise aren’t prepared to pay a premium for a community resource that should be free or more nominally priced and accessible to all.
  1. The Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) whose board members are appointed by the Governor, Mayor, & Borough President ultimately ousted BBC, as it’s community favored park space despite the assertions that BBC was to the Westside and will be to the Eastside a community resource, and frankly despite the fact that BBC paid to the HRPT an annual rent of $276,000.  So we've gone from getting a facility that would benefit the local community at the expense of the City, to a facility that will benefit the City at the expense of the community.
  1. Our community doesn’t have powerful local community organizations like the Westside or something comparable to the Hudson River Park Act to protect our waterfront as community use space.  All we have is the MOU that calls for a Community Use Facility, which the ad hoc committe, CB3, Assemblyman Silver, and others apparently believe is open for interpretation.
  1. Then Assemblyman Scott Stringer and other officials representing the Westside rebuffed attempts by an upstate Republican Assemblyman Howard Mills to save BBC as Mills wrote a letter to his fellow state legislators pointing out among other things BBC’s provision of extensive free court use to thousands of public school students.  Stringer and the other Westside officials fired off a letter paraphrasing, “Our constituents desperately need and want open park space,”  Hey Mr. Borough President Scott Stringer!  What are we?  Chopped Liver!
  1. Bruce Radler has indicated that BBC requires a 30-year lease in order to finance the project, however CB3 under Harvey Espstein preferred a 10-year lease with a 5-year renewal option, but was not willing to exceed a 15-year lease.  Lois Regan of CB3 echoed those sentiments at the May 10th Committee meeting as she also indicated that they didn’t want a 30-year lease, as Mr. Goldman of BBC jokingly made light of wanting a 30-year lease during BBC's presentation.
  1. David McWater of CB3 questioned the veracity of the BBC’s stipulated pricing to the community board when the RFP gave no financial parameters, or there was otherwise no concept of the expenses involved in operating on Pier 35/36.  How can the confirmed financially shaky BBC be assured that they can meet their commitments made to CB3 on behalf of the community?  Note:  BBC and EDC are expressly barred from including the pricing in any proposed lease according to BBC and EDC, so they aren’t even contractually bound to the pricing commitments made to CB3!
  1. Even Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff in a May 30, 2006 letter to Bruce Radler said, “We appreciate all that Basketball City has done to provide an amenity to it’s customers, including corporations and youth groups,” Doctoroff further writes, “But…the Trust’s mission is to complete the park itself so that it may serve as a free public amenity for all New Yorkers.”  So even Doctoroff acknowledges that BBC is an amenity that serves too narrow a demographic to be suitable for a public work.  Don't we Lower East Siders deserve the same?
  1. Ironically, Pier 36 apparently isn’t even preferable to Bruce Radler of BBC, as he waged a campaign to be relocated on Pier 40 after BBC’s ouster from Pier 63, even as Dan Doctoroff agreed to assist them in securing space on Pier 36.  Radler further complained that the proposed Eastside BBC would take too long to open (end of 2007), and that he had already made commitments to Lower East Side community groups for court time at the proposed BBC, and now he doesn’t have enough room at the proposed BBC for the existing BBC programs in place at Pier 63.  How can that be with six courts in both facilities?  The LES has to compete with broader Manhattan for use of it’s so called Community Use Facility a.k.a. BBC?  The HRPT would have entertained BBC on Pier 40, however they were required to put out an RFP, which BBC first rejected, then wanted to redefine the terms of the proposed RFP that would be acceptable; what they called “competitive”.  As it turned out the RFP was too ambitious for BBC to compete.
  1. We are losing exclusive use of our local schools visa vie charter schools, our affordable day care programs are being routed as they are supposedly underutilized, our landlords are opting out of affordable housing programs for obvious reasons, new buildings are sprouting up all over the community that are priced way out of our range, and we are losing our shops and stores that cater to low & moderate income residents as they have landlords who want to cash-in on or otherwise accelerate the ongoing gentrification.  Many residents of the area are left to wonder what is worse, dealing with a hostile environment caused by crime, as was the case in past years that stayed the gentrification, or dealing with a hostile environment brought on by the cruel whims of market economics that we face now?  At least we knew how to deal with the crime.  Who will check these whims?  Basketball City isn't as much of a factor in the cause of the gentrification as much as they are a product of it.
  1. Back in June of 2006 BBC filed for Bankruptcy Chapter 11, which allows for them to reorganize.  Typically, companies that do this are allowed to receive a stay of an eviction, however, that ploy didn’t work as BBC was nevertheless ordered to vacate by September 1st, 2006.  Which is worse, the insolvency of BBC, or using their insolvency as a tactic to buy some more time to stay in a place where they were not wanted?
  1. Technically speaking, as stated in the beginning portion of the By Laws of CB3, Item No. 1 states:
    ”All members shall serve on the Board in their capacity as private citizens only.  Their actions shall not be instructed by, or responsible to, any other organization with which they may be affiliated.  Any members participating in the Board's consideration of a matter involving self-serving or conflict of interest shall state the nature of the conflict in speaking to the issue and shall not vote on such matters, but shall be recorded as present and not voting for the purposes of a quorum.”
    At least one member of the Ad Hoc Committee that selected and approved BBC, now also sits on the Parks Committee of CB3 who voted unanimously to approve BBC on May 10th, and later voted to approvel BBC's land use in CB3's full board meeting on May 29th.  If this isn’t a Conflict of Interest, it surely has the appearance of one.  In many places in the private sector, the appearance of a conflict isn’t even acceptable.  We only make this point as we give them the benefit of the doubt that they mean well, to illustrate the total loss of objectivity of those who support this plan.
Statement To Community Board 3
(Submitted May 29th with small revisions for the web)

The Memorandum of Understanding was the result of a lawsuit brought against the City by Assemblyman Silver and other petitioners. 

The MOU called for the creation of a community recreation facility in the eastern portion of the pier shed on Pier 36. 

The petitioners were later appointed by Assemblyman Silver as the Ad-hoc Committee. The Ad-hoc Committee was comprised mostly of public officials and residents of Governuer Gardens.  

Not to take away from the good intentions and hard work of the petitioners or the Community Board’s own Parks Committee – but sometimes the best of intentions have unintended consequences:  

  • Consequences felt by the vast majority of low income residents in our area who can’t afford a facility that isn’t free or inexpensive.
  • Consequences felt by many new market rate residents of our area many of whom pay upwards of 50% of their incomes on housing expenses; who can’t afford to pay for extra-curricular activities.
  • Consequences that would allow a profit oriented business that has filed for bankruptcy within recent years to make promises rather than contractually binding agreements on pricing to the community.
  • Consequences that would place a business that in serving its prime directive to earn a profit would limit community use time, rather than placing a true community recreation facility that would strive to be of use to all in the community all the time.
  • Consequences that would go forward with a 10-year old selection based on a 12-year old RFP process, rather than maximizing the community’s benefit in initiating new RFP process.      

Please say no to a commercial for-profit business on Pier 36! 

Recommend that the Ad-hoc Committee be reconvened and that they initiate a new inclusive RFP process.  

Say yes to a true Community Recreation Facility!

Join our blog, and post your comment about BBC here.

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