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November 2005

Where We Are Now: J51 and Other Issues

Here’s a summary of developments concerning our landlord’s participation in a tax-abatement plan known as J-51, IPNTA’s response, and its implications for tenants at IPN. For new tenants who have not been informed of these issues, J-51 requires that certain benefits be given to tenants, such as keeping rents in accord with state regulations, as opposed to market demands.

The IPNTA has taken time – maybe more than some of us anticipated – to thoroughly research the law and rights afforded under J-51 abatements. Though we can never be 100 percent certain of any situation’s outcome, we must not move forward on issues that affect all the tenants without doing our homework and first knowing the worst case and best case scenarios.

Some History
Before our last meeting in August, all of you received a threatening note from Stellar Management’s attorney, trying to intimidate tenants by insinuating that if we even investigated a J-51, our underlying deal—reached last year after four years of organizing— would be threatened. We informed tenants that the threat was an empty threat. Our negotiated deal is binding.

We further explained to you that the J-51 tax abatement for IPN was discovered through conversations with West Village Houses Tenant Association President, Katie Bordanaro. The WVHTA’s attorney, Carole Ule, discovered the J-51 by accident while the tenants were preparing to purchase their building in 2005. It was quite a surprise to her and all involved. That’s how buried the J-51 is if the landlord does not register with the government after receiving it.

It was the West Village tenants who could not afford to buy (not represented by Carole Ule but by Collins, Dobkins & Miller) who realized the J-51 could help them.

When we researched and discovered that, in fact, IPN also had had a J-51 tax abatement since 1998, it was this law firm we ultimately contacted because it represents tenants who are dealing with the J-51 situation. (We considered retaining Ule, but there was a potential conflict of interest.)

We did further research to determine what J-51 would mean for all IPN tenants in various situations (voucher, LAP & free market tenants). The IPNTA Executive Board was motivated primarily by a desire to protect our voucher tenants against the threat of reduced federal funding.

We, of course, appreciate the initial discovery of J-51 from our friends at West Village Houses and wish them all well in settling their particular conflicts so that all tenants are protected in their future plans.

At that August meeting informing tenants of their J-51 rights, we mentioned a plan to distribute surveys to collect information from our three types of tenants, but were told by our attorney that we did not need that information at this time. We asked people to put their questions in the lobby boxes and responded to some personally and by printing several fliers and memos distributed to all tenants. Our
attorney advised us to postpone our promise to discuss our strategy with tenants at a subsequent meeting, citing the need for confidentiality.
I’m sure you can understand why it’s important to protect our strategy. Discussing next steps in a meeting is like calling Stellar Management and telling them what our plans are. We have considered the concerns of the tenants who took the time to contact us and based our strategy on what is good for everyone.

Next Steps
In fact, next steps, which we are negotiating with our attorney, are simpler than most tenants think. After those next steps are taken, we will inform all tenants of their participation possibilities in a J-51 suit and encourage a discussion of how each of you wants to proceed (or not) with the IPNTA’s suggestions.

We will rely strongly on what our attorney believes would be the most prudent course to take. Again, no steps will be taken without keeping the security of the tenants at IPN into consideration.

We will call a general tenants meeting in about a month to explain what the first steps are. We will also keep you informed with newsletters and memos. We are obviously trying to conserve money, but we hear you want more communication. Anyone who can donate printing, please contact us. (We print about 1500 copies each time, so if you can offer free printing even for a partial number of copies, thanks. )

Regarding the distribution of notes from tenants outside of the IPNTA, we again remind you that unless the information is from the IPNTA, you are not getting fully researched and accurate information.

Such notes are often riddled with inaccuracies and serve only to confuse people and make them nervous. After taking the time and great effort over these five years to organize the tenants of IPN to save our homes, we are a bit protective. We trust that you can tell the difference between those who try to inform with research based facts and those who try to break unity – our biggest strength.

Not to Worry
We are proud of the good work that has been done in the past 5 years by the IPNTA board, floor captains and active members. We are also proud of the IPN tenants who have stepped up to the plate and supported all of our struggles. You have all helped write a big chapter in the history of affordable housing in New York City AND community response in an emergency (9/11/01.)

We are also proud of the respect and reputation we have outside of IPN. For members who may have forgotten what we’ve accomplished, or who weren’t living here and wish to learn the history of our transition from Mitchell-Lama to private ownership—including our attempts to purchase the buildings from our original landlord—please drop us a note in the tenant box with your name and address and we’ll get you a summary.

Our past commitment speaks for our future efforts. Having found out about a tax abatement that should have made IPN stabilized, we are committed to effect the best possible outcome for all our tenants. Many of the IPNTA Executive Board members and active tenants—most of who have full time jobs—are working 10 to 30 hours a week in your behalf.

Have Concerns? Offer Your Services
For better communications, here’s what we suggest. Those of you who are simply talking to each other, questioning what is happening, etc. please come forward and volunteer. We need more captains- more members of committees – in other words: active people.

Even if you already have a captain on your floor, step forward. The more people who are willing to do the work, the better. Then, work closely with your building Vice President. Encourage the board to set up more captains’ meetings by suggesting dates, speaking to other captains – and helping to get people there. Captains can help pass info around and field tenants’ questions. Committee members help us get the work done. We hold elections every year.

The Near Future
Finally, we look forward to many changes at IPN this coming 2006. Anyone who joins right now will have his or her membership count for 2006. If you have never been a member, it’s time to become one. Ensuring the affordability of your home is too important to either sit on the fence or pretend nothing is happening.

Join and get involved. Write to info@IPNTA.org or leave a note in the tenants’ box in the lobby, but don’t make it anonymous or it just gets tossed. Volunteer your services. Help us raise money for legal service+es. By all means, come look at our books if you are a member. Membership is $20 per adult, $10for seniors.

Note that the board is also busy every day on the following matters: our other 20 plaintiff case in court, helping people with voucher issues with HPD & security and maintenance matters, working on the J-51 strategy, serving on other boards for the sake of our larger community as it relates to IPN. We are, as always, committed to protecting IPN tenants by making their homes as secure as possible.

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