Goodybe 2011: A year in Review

For those of you new to this blog or trying to get a handle on Predatory Equity in New York City – here’s your down-and-dirty year in review.

Highlights, Lowlights, and the Stuff in Between:

1. Lowlight: In April 2011, New York Affordable Housing Associates sold eight  distressed buildings to Bronx VIII LLC (Townhouse Management). While we still don’t know how much Townhouse paid for the buildings, the disappointing transaction was facilitated by New York Community Bank – who explicitly sold the debt to a developer the tenants did not endorse.

2. Somewhere In Between: In May of 2011, Finkelstein Timberger Real Estate bought the infamous ten building Milbank portfolio for the giant sum of $30 Million dollars. This transaction, which still reeks of over leveraging, was made through financing with Signature Bank. Fortunately for tenants, their advocacy throughout the process meant that all of the tenants are protected by an agreement to ensure repairs, eliminate the quest for back-rent, and cap the amount for potential MCI’s in the next two years. Additionally, six of the buildings entered the city’s Alternative Enforcement Program, ensuring further protection from the horrible conditions these tenants suffered for years.

3.  Highlight: In May 2011, after two years in foreclosure, the tenants at Borinquen Court in the Bronx had their building purchased by the non-profit organization West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing. It was a a hard earned victory and the tenants are looking forward to living in a building with the owner they chose!

4. Somewhere-In-Between: Rent regulation was extended in June 2011! The “grand compromise” however has many complaining about the fact that  rent-regulated affordable housing has not been permanently preserved due to the fact that vacancy decontrol is still in effect.

5. Lowlight: In September 2011, The Bluestone Group sold a group of six dilapidated Bronx buildings to Anthony Gazivoda for a whopping $17 Million dollars. This made for the fourth over leveraging of this severely distressed portfolio.

6. Highlight: In September 2011, 1520 Sedgewick (AKA the “Birthplace of Hip Hop”) was saved! With tenant endorsement, Winn Residential and Workforce Housing Advisors purchased the building with an extensive rehab scope and permanent affordability plan to accompany the acquisition!

It was a busy year fighting for decent conditions and permanent affordability in New York City housing. UHAB organizers, tenants, and allies are still actively fighting to against over leveraging, bad conditions, negligent landlords, and against the banking industry’s bottom-line, top-dollar mentality. As Predatory Equity becomes a clearer and more understood trend,  we sincerely hope that our 2012 year in review will hold fewer lowlights and many more highlights as we continue to develop new tools to fight this rapacious phenomenon.

See you in 2012! We have a feeling it will be a great year!


Milbank – A Tenant Perspective

N is a resident at 1576 Taylor Avenue (one of the 10 Milbank buildings which Finkelstein-Timberger purchased.) Below is a quote she emailed me on Monday afternoon regarding the progress of repairs at her building. She asked to remain anonymous.

These are the major concerns of the tenants: the tenants of 1576 Taylor Ave., Bronx, NY – a highly publicized Finkelstein-Timberger property (formerly Milbank), state that although they have seen some improvements to the building (new windows, hallway lighting), progress is still lagging in the occupied apartments. Vacant apartments are vigorously being worked on, whereas tenants must wait for their own repairs. Some repairs are started and not completed nor are they given information as to when they will do so. This was not the agreement Mr. Finkelstein made when he addressed the tenants in person, in which he stated he would take care of “OCCUPIED APARTMENTS FIRST.”

Tenants also agree that Management needs to be more accessible and they also need to be present to ensure work is being done properly. “Too often we have to leave messages and our calls are not returned,” stated several other tenants in my building.  They also noted that hallways need to be cleaned on a regular basis (swept daily, mopped weekly). There is always garbage in the hallways. Tenants showed me the yard which is sometimes swept and the garbage is not picked up but swept up into a pile and left in a corner (pile is still out there since August 8th)!”

N is right. Conditions, though somewhat improved, are still not at an acceptable standard, and the repairs that residents receive certainly should not come second to repairs made in vacant units. Let’s hope it doesn’t stay this way for long.