Janel Towers Tenants Avoid Rent Increases

The tenants of a Morris Park hi-rise may have officially avoided significant rent increases.

Janel Towers, a former Mitchell-Lama building located at 801 Neill Avenue, is one of four buildings in the Bronx owned by Stellar Management, that was removed from the Mitchell-Lama program in March 2006 and placed into rent-stabilization.

Shortly after, the owners attempted to significantly raise the tenants’ rent. Larry Gluck, head of Stellar Management, who would not comment, sent tenants a rent increase notice stating he was using a rent law loophole to bring the building ot full market rent.

A total of 65 buildings throughout New York City were also facing the same dilemma.

Tenants of Janel Towers are currently paying an average of $1,000 per month for rent, The market rare rents would top $5,000 per month.

The tenants of Janel Towers, along with tenants of other former Mitchell-Lama buildings, raised funds to mount a legal challenge to the rent increase.

On Tuesday, December 28, the New York State Appellate Court voted in favor of the tenants, saying that removing a building out of the Mitchell-Lama program did not meet the cirteria that would allow the formerly regulated buildings to raise the rent.

Barry Soltz, legal coordinator and organizer of the Janel Towers Tenants Association, was very pleased with the court’s decision.

“For myself and all of the tenants involved in this legal war, it was the best holiday gift possible,” Soltz said. “We knew taking this to court was going to take time, patience and money. Our wonderful tenants all came together to pay for the legal costs needed for a good attorney to help win this case.”

Soltz and the rest of the tenants association all expect the building owners to appeal the decision and take the case to the New York State Court of Appeals, which is the state’s highest court.

Sue Susman, president of the Central Park Gardens Tenants Association,played a major role over the last several years coordinating campaigns against landlords throughout the five boroughs. She is also part of the Mitchell-Lama PIE campaign, which protects current and former Mitchell-Lama building tenants. She feels the court made the most fair decision.

“The decision is phenomenal for everything that tenants have been fighting for since this all began several years ago,” Susman. “Even if the owners decide to appeal the decision in the Court of Appeals, I believe that we will ultimately prevail.”

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