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After Vow to Stay and Fight, a Move to Washington Heights

Sue PalhakSarah Darville Sue Palchak-Essenpreis

When Council Member Rosie Mendez joined the residents of three buildings on Third Street last month to protest the non-renewal of their leases, Sue Palchak-Essenpreis vowed to stay put past the end of her lease on May 14. And she did just that: her one-bedroom apartment is still jam-packed with bookshelves, and plants are perched on almost every windowsill. But last night, she signed a new lease for an apartment in Washington Heights. On July 4, she’ll move out of her third-floor apartment at 50 East Third Street. But first, she has an appointment downtown.

On Friday, she and her husband Greg Essenpreis will appear in Housing Court in hopes that a judge will keep them from having to pay the legal fees of their landlord, Abe Haruvi. That would mark the end of the high-profile protest against the owner of 50, 54, and 58 East Third Street, who did not renew the leases of some 17 tenants whose contracts with his company, Abart Holdings, were running out this summer. After a few months of outcry, most of the buildings’ residents are now moving on.

Since Ms. Palchak-Essenpreis began organizing tenants, she said, there has been more fleeing than fighting. “There has been a different moving truck in front of the building almost every day for the last two weeks,” she admitted. “After I sent off the e-mail – ‘We’re going to court!’ – it was like a cartoon: everyone ran off.” Read more…

Making It | Linda Scifo-Young of Foot Gear Plus and Village Kids

P1030888Shira Levine

For every East Village business that’s opening or closing, dozens are quietly making it. Here are two of them: Village Kids and Foot Gear Plus.

While in high school, Tony Scifo worked part-time for a shoe guy. In 1980, at the tender age of 19, he bought Foot Gear, the shoe shop across the street at 131 First Avenue. Two and a half years ago, he and his big sister Linda Scifo-Young opened Village Kids, selling children’s kicks just a block away at 117 First Avenue. Ms. Scifo-Young used to work in corporate real estate, so she wasn’t scared of going into business during a financial crisis. “As a real estate broker, I knew that the only time I could get a decent lease for the second store was when the market was bad,” she said. The Local spoke to her at Village Kids about whether her gamble paid off.


What influences your business the most?


The funny thing is that in actuality we’re in the weather business. If the weather cooperates, we’re good. If it’s cold when it’s supposed to be cold, then we have a good season. If it’s hot when it’s supposed to be hot, then we have a good season. If any of those things don’t work, you have no season. This year was hard with how the weather cooperated. Read more…

Good News for Renters

Curtains - Lower East Side - New York City

A pair of items offer a rare bit of good news for those who rent. First, a change in policy in the New York State Unified Court System will eliminate easy access to so-called tenant blacklists, The Village Voice reports. Landlords have been able to buy the lists of people who participated in housing court cases from a third party as a way to weed out troublesome tenants. Now, plaintiffs and defendants in court cases will remain in the public record, but the lists of names in bulk will no longer be available for purchase online. Concern over the blacklists is real: it even came up in the comments of our coverage of the landlord-tenant fight brewing on East Third Street. In other news, the Post reports that the annual rent increase for rent-stabilized apartments will likely be the smallest its been since 2002.

Know Your (Tenant) Rights

The housing advocates at Good Old Lower East Side will host a workshop next Wednesday on how to use the state Department of Housing and Community Renewal to one’s advantage in the fight against neglectful landlords. The talk will cover how to best to combat “harassment, rent overcharges, reduction of services” and other common tenant woes. A lawyer will be on hand to answer questions beginning at 7 p.m. at the Perseverance House at 535 East Fifth Street.

A Look at Rent Law Changes

In 11 days, changes in the laws that regulate how much your landlord can charge in rent per month will begin to take effect.

However, the changes are not exactly what local tenant advocacy groups wanted. Many groups, including the Cooper Square Committee, Real Rent Reform, Tenants and Neighbors and the Good Old Lower East Side were hoping state legislators would eliminate the rent laws’ vacancy decontrol, which allows a landlord who renovates a unit to charge more in rent per month to a new tenant after the previous vacates the unit. Instead, vacancy decontrol remains in the law.

The renewed laws, which were passed in conjunction with but overshadowed by the passage of same-sex marriage in New York, affect the residents of 1 million rent-regulated apartments across the state. It also affects the landlords of those buildings.

In the video above, The Local’s Khristopher J. Brooks offers a breakdown of some of the most significant changes.

East Eighth Street Tenants Fight Back

Janette BrownRachel OhmJanette Brown holds a copy of the letter she and six other residents sent to the state Attorney General in an effort to fight against the purchase of 390 East Eighth Street, a low-income housing building, by Tower Brokerage.
Carlos BaezCarlos Baez has been a resident of 390 East Eighth Street for over 30 years. Rachel Ohm

For 36 years Carlos Baez, 63, has called 390 East Eighth Street home. The two bedroom apartment that he shares with his niece on the first floor of the building holds his large collection of VCR tapes, which includes every Whoopi Goldberg and Charles Bronson movie ever made. Because he used to be the super of the building, Baez’s apartment is bigger than most and is conveniently located on the first floor, the perfect spot because his 14-year-old dog, Little, has arthritis and can barely walk up stairs.

And yet he’s thinking of moving.

On Feb. 25, 390 East Eighth Street, a dedicated low-income housing building, was sold to Tower Brokerage, an East Village real estate developer with plans to put in market-rate apartments.

The HDFC, the tenant-owned and operated corporation that currently owns the building, finally conceded to the sale seeing no way out from a financial debt that accumulated during the years the building was being run by a non-profit called Interfaith Adopt-a-Building.

The building “owes the city about $1.2 million in water bills and taxes,” said Robert Perl, president of Tower Brokerage. “This sale is the only way to pay the city funds.”
Read more…

Damage From Sixth Street Fire Lingers

507 E. 6th St.Suzanne Rozdeba

More than a week has gone by since a fire blazed through a restaurant on East Sixth Street, and residents who live above it are still without house and home.

“We’ve been sleeping on a friend’s couch on the Upper East Side. It’s still unclear when we’ll be able to move back in,” Paul Canetti, a tenant on the third floor at 507 East Sixth Street, told The Local.

The fire on Jan. 4 occurred around 7:30 a.m. inside 6th Street Kitchen, a restaurant on the first floor. All tenants were evacuated, and the restaurant was destroyed. Read more…