The Surreal Estate

Perspectives on Tenant Organizing from the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board

Tag Archives: crain’s new york

Crain’s New York Business: “Receiver Tapped for 36 West Side apt. Buildings”

Move comes after owner Joel Weiner of Pinnacle Group, which manages 15,000 apartments in the city, defaulted on his loan. This affects 1,083 apartments.

A New York State Supreme Court judge appointed a receiver to oversee a portfolio of 36 apartment houses owned by Pinnacle Group and the Praedium Group, which are being foreclosed on by Dune Real Estate Funds.

Joel Weiner, the head of Pinnacle Group, is a well-known landlord managing more than 15,000 apartments. Pradium provides the financing for his deals. The partners fought unsuccessfully to block the appointment of the receiver, arguing Pinnacle should continue to manage the portfolio of buildings with 1,083 units located on the west side of Manhattan, including Morningside Heights, because it would benefit the tenants. Mr. Weiner also argued that Dune’s predecessor caused him to default by giving him assurances that the loan would be restructured.

Dune recently bought the loan on the portfolio, which had been in default for over a year, and started a foreclosure proceeding early last month. It said in court papers that a receiver was necessary because Mr. Wiener was collecting approximately $10 million in rents, which serve as collateral for the mortgage, that were not being paid to the lenders.

Crain’s New York Business: “Sold! Birthplace of Hip Hop Beats the Rap.”

A Bronx building famed for its role in the origins of the musical phenomenon escapes the clutches of a “predatory equity” scourge the tenants feared would lead to its demise.

Read more at Crain’s New York Business.

 

Occupy Wall Street: Our Perspective

Two weeks ago, Occupy Wall Street formed as a group of unidentified youth with unclear demands, poor media attention, and with no support from local New York politically left groups.  Mostly it was an inconvenience to us at UHAB, with Wall Street blocked off to prevent protesters from getting too close to the NY Stock Exchange.  Rather than dissipate with time and rain and mass arrests, the protest has grown in bodies, energy, and perhaps even credibility.  Following the infamous occupation of the Brooklyn Bridge that led to over 700 arrests, Occupy Wall Street has become a force to be reconciled with.

What are their demands?  Who is organizing it?  How long will they stay out there?  Walking down Broadway past the protesters, one can hear the snickering of bankers and corporate folks.  “They’re just mad because they can’t get jobs” I heard one banker laugh to a friend.  “They say it’s a movement.  A movement,” joked another.

But to me, the exciting part of Occupy Wall Street is that it is a movement- and a growing one.  The organizing structure of the protest is through a General Assembly, in which anyone is able to speak their minds, participate in the consensus decision making process, or join a working group.  Rather than begin the protest with a list of demands and top-down strategies, Occupy Wall Street is working on forming its demands collectively, and in the meantime allows people the opportunity to experience real democracy.  Art supplies, a library, the constant flow of free food, and donated tents and sleeping gear is readily available to any and all who enter the plaza.

Over the past week, celebrities such as Cornel West, Russell Simmons and Susan Sarandon have shown up to demonstrate their support for the protest.  The labor and left movement is also begining to back the protest, lending experience, local knowledge, as well as more concrete ways to show solidarity against corporate greed.  Today protesters are joining the Teamsters Local 814 to show support for the unionized art handlers who have been locked out of Sotheby’s for 8 weeks while struggling to negotiate for improved conditions.   New York teachers this weekend participated in a “grade in” in which teachers from all over the city went down and graded papers in the plaza to show their solidarity with the protest.

As an organization that works against banks with irresponsible lending practices like New York Community Bank, UHAB understands Occupy Wall Street’s stance against corporate greed.  Through our organizing, UHAB envisions a type of world other than one where banks and wealthy investors profit while damaging communities.  Unions, immigrant rights groups, and other politically left groups of New York are putting their energy behind Occupy Wall Street, and are organizing a march on Wednesday at 4:30 from City Hall to Zuccotti Park.  We will be there marching!  Will you join us?

To follow the movement, visit www.occupywallstreet.org. To see the faces behind the protests, visit wearethe99percent.tumblr.com.

Crain’s New York Business: “Housing bust; busted housing”

People usually go to their neighbors for a cup of sugar or a stick of butter. Idalina Padilla, 87, makes a more personal request of fellow tenants in her Bronx building: She asks to use their toilets.

“I’m afraid to use my bathroom,” she said, “because the ceiling might fall and hurt me.”

Her sagging, dripping ceiling is one of many problems faced by residents of her building, a mile north of Yankee Stadium. In July 2010, Manhattan-based investment firm The Bluestone Group purchased the mortgages on the foreclosed property and five others in the Bronx from Dime Savings Bank for $10 million, promising to end a cycle of neglect wrought by two previous landlords. Tenants feared that Bluestone, which had little experience in fixing dilapidated housing, had overpaid and would be forced to skimp on repairs.

Bluestone principals promised to spend $5,000 to $7,000 per unit and prove the skeptics wrong. (Twenty times more is being spent to rehabilitate similarly run-down buildings in the Bronx.) They had some initial work done—painting walls, laying vinyl tile and rewiring, reducing the number of violations on the portfolio to 225 from almost 3,000.

But tenants are still suffering—many of the violations were fixed with patchwork repairs, leaving underlying problems—and the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development reports “little progress” at the properties.

Read more at Crain’s New York.

The Real Deal: “Bluestone sells former Ocelot Bronx portfolio for $17.6M”

The real estate investment firm the Bluestone Group, which denied for months it would unload a six-building portfolio of once severely distressed Bronx properties, sold the package for $17.6 million, a source close to the deal said.

The sale closed yesterday as part of a bankruptcy case filed by the former ownership company BXP 1, controlled by investor Susumu Endo. The buyer was Anthony Gazivoda, owner of Gazivoda Realty, a prominent landlord in the Bronx Albanian community, an employee at Gazivoda said. Gazivoda himself was not immediately available for comment.

Bluestone, led by principals Eli Tabak, Ari Bromberg and Marc Mendelsohn, purchased the defaulted notes on the six properties, with a face value of $13.15 million, for about $10 million in June 2010, according to city property records.

Tabak, speaking for Bluestone, declined to comment on the sale.

Bluestone, formed in 2006, has been an active player in the distressed real estate market, especially through note purchases.

The Bronx units were in terrible condition in 2010, with Crain’s reporting in July last year that there were 2,936 housing code violations on the buildings’ 260 units, or 11.3 violations per unit. Yesterday there were 334 housing code violations, or 1.3 per unit, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development website shows.

Read more at The Real Deal.


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