Executive board denies co-op shareholders a voice

Residents at Jamie Towers, a 624-unit, 12-acre Mitchell-Lama cooperative, were blocked in their attempt to start an ad hoc shareholders’ committee to address living conditions and recent increases in carrying charges and maintenance fees.

Linda Milner, a shareholder at the cooperative, approached the cooperative’s executive board in November 2016 about creating the grievance committee.

According to a letter sent to Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda, Milner gathered 200 signatures from Jamie Towers shareholders in support of the ad hoc committee.

However, a representative from the NYS Department of Housing and Community Renewal informed Milner that the cooperative’s executive board had the option of shutting down the committee.

Sepulveda echoed the representative’s sentiments.

“[The shareholders] are well within their right,” said the assemblyman. “However, we must remember there is a duly elected board.”

In early January, after waiting two months for a response, the executive board rejected the shareholder’s proposal for the ad hoc committee.

According to Milner’s letter, shareholder’s wanted the committee “for the purpose of providing advocacy and justice for safe, decent and affordable housing.”

The committee would have had no power but would have created a place for the shareholders to let their concerns be heard.

Some shareholders have been battling with the executive board and management – First Service Residential – for months over higher fees and issues with their living conditions.

Barbara Jones, a 21-year residents of Jamie Towers, previously told the Bronx Times heat in the building has been inconsistent.

Jones, who serves as chair for Jamie Towers’ Gems and Gents Senior Group, said there is insufficient outdoor lighting which can create a scary environment for seniors.

According to Jones, 60 percent of the residents in Jamie Towers are senior citizens and some are 80 and 90 years old.

Milner said many residents are wondering why their carrying charges and fees are rising when the conditions in the building have not improved.

In addition, she said many of the residents in the building have retired and, while the charges and fees are rising, their income is not.

In 2016, air conditioner fees rose from $25 to $35 and parking fees rose from $50 to $75.

According to Milner, when she first moved into Jamie Towers in 1994 her carrying charges and maintenance fees were approximately $480 per month.

By the mid 2000s they had reached approximately $600, she said, and by 2010 her carrying charges had climbed to $800.

In addition, Milner said the hours that security personnel are on the grounds have been reduced and shareholders were not notified.

The Bronx Times asked multiple times to speak with Earl Washington, president of the executive board, but he declined a phone interview twice.

He did not respond to email questions at the time of this article.

The DHCR along with Senator Ruben Diaz and Sepulveda, met with shareholders and the executive board on November 4.

Mark Colon, president of the Office of Housing Preservation for HCR, told Diaz the carrying charges and fees increases allow the state to make repairs to the cooperative.

The Bronx Times attempted to contact First Service Residential but did not receive any response.

Reach Reporter Robert Christie at (718) 260-4591. E-mail him at rchristie@cnglocal.com.

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