Last week, a large group of organized tenant associations in the Vantage/Lone Star buildings met with their new landlord, Alma Realty Corp, for the first time. (With both Vantage and Lone Star out of the picture, I guess the tenant associations will have to decide whether they want to rename the coalition!) Alma Realty Corp is a large scale New York City area landlord, and this is not the first time they’ve purchased buildings in foreclosure from Vantage Properties. They came to last week’s meeting hoping to impress upon tenants that, despite their similar address (Vantage and Alma operate out of the same office building in Long Island City, on different floors), they are NOT Vantage and they are not the same kind of landlord. Vantage’s bad blood with New York City tenants and elected officials is well known, and Alma made it clear that they will not be repeating Vantage’s policies of harassing and illegally evicting tenants with the intention of increasing revenue.
The meeting was a major victory for tenant associations who have been fighting for years for a healthy relationship with their landlord. We believe that Alma presented themselves as willing to work with tenants- even offering up their cellphone numbers- because for the past year, tenants have demonstrated their power through organizing, emphasizing that “We Don’t Want Another Vantage.” As a result of tenants’ hard work engaging elected officials, talking to press, protesting outside Lone Star’s office, and regularly meeting as tenant associations, Alma appears to be willing and ready to work with tenants, and allow tenants to have a say in how their building functions.
During the meeting, tenants had the opportunity to ask burning questions for their new landlord. Representatives from Alma also had the chance to present their plans for the building, and their policies for working with tenants. In addition to behaving better than Vantage once did, Alma made a host of promises to the gathered tenants, including:
- No MCIs in the foreseeable future
- Increased security, including a better door, working intercoms, and keys for every member of the household
- Maintenance to the roof (to prevent future leaks)
- No immediate evictions resulting from the confusion of taking over the building from Barberry Rose Management — tenants will have opportunity to meet and discuss with Alma any outstanding rental concerns
- Availability to meet with tenants, at the office or at the building, at tenants’ requests
- Posting correct contact information in the hallways
- Supplying all tenants with rent statements and return envelopes, enclosed in envelopes
- Provide tenants in each building with their plans for repairs/work going forward
Tenant leaders are hopeful about their relationship with Alma, though they intend to stay vigilant. After all, words are just words and we hope to see Alma back up what they promised with real action. As we move into the next few months, we hope that Alma will continue meeting with tenant associations, and demonstrating their commitment to being good, responsible landlords for the current residents of the buildings.