Tenants Sue Landlord Over Illegal Rents and Illegal Deregulation Efforts

Tenants in Bronx Apartment Building Sue 421-a Landlord in NYS Supreme Court Over Illegal Rents and Attempts to Deregulate Apartments 

Eighteen tenants from a Bronx apartment building sued their landlord in NYS Supreme Court today, challenging the owner’s unlawful attempts to raise their rent above legal limits while receiving millions of dollars in 421-a tax breaks from the State.

1111 Gerard Avenue, a 122-unit rental building located in an area of the Bronx slated for re-zoning under the Mayor’s proposed Housing New York Plan, was built in 1991 using a 421-a tax abatement which reduces developers’ taxes in exchange for providing affordable, rent-stabilized apartments. Tenant Marjorie King, who has been living in the building since 1991, said, “When I moved in the building was lovely. We had a community room, storage rooms and a playground.” Now, more than 20 years later the building is in poor condition and the landlord, Shree Ganesh Bronx, LLC, says that it plans to deregulate the building as early as next year.

The tenants’ lawsuit argues that their landlord has raised rents as much as 40% above legally allowed limits in an attempt to force low-income residents from their homes. With assistance from the Tenant Rights Campaign, a joint initiative of The Legal Aid Society and Legal Services NYC, the tenants are challenging their landlord’s illegal rents and plan to deregulate their building. The lawsuit argues that the apartments should remain rent stabilized because the landlord, while receiving massive tax breaks, failed to follow the most basic rules of the 421-a program.

“We just want the landlord to obey the law. They have agreed to this program and they get a benefit from that, and they should respect our rights to rent stabilization because the 421-a is already in place.” said Emmanuel Yusuf, a Leader of CASA-New Settlement Apartments, a tenants’ rights organization that fights to protect and maintain affordable housing in the Bronx.

“The rules of the 421-a program are clear and simple,” said Carolyn Norton, Staff Attorney at Legal Services NYC. “Shree Ganesh Bronx, LLC flouted these rules but still reaped the benefits of the tax exemption. Now they plan to deregulate the entire building and displace over one hundred low-income New Yorkers who have called this building home for decades.”

“If the landlord goes through with this plan to deregulate the building, that would mean the loss of 122 units of affordable housing from the dwindling stock of rent-stabilized apartments in New York,” said Edmund Witter, a staff attorney at The Legal Aid Society.

The tenants are asking the NYS Supreme Court to affirm that all apartments in the building are rent stabilized and are seeking damages to address their landlord’s rent overcharges.

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