Public Hearing Held On Tracey Towers Rent Increase

Residents of Tracey Towers finally had their chance to tell the buildings’ management why a proposed two-thirds rent increase isn’t just unaffordable, but also a virtual slap in the face given the substandard state of the buildings.

On Wednesday, July 27 one of the two towers, 40 W. Mosholu Parkway, was the site of a public hearing on the proposed increase. Representatives of the management company, RY Management, the city’s Housing & Preservation Department, elected officials, and hundreds of Tracey Towers residents attended.

A spokesman from HPD said it expects to make a decision about Tracey Towers rent this fall. RY Management’s proposal calls for a 63 percent increase over the next three years. All apartments in the complex are rentals.

The message from all tenants who took a turn at the podium was clear – “How can you raise rent when our apartments are falling apart?”

Evelyn McDonald has lived in Tracey Towers for the past 15 years and said the buildings have been deteriorating basically as long as she has lived there. She even brought chunks of cement that had been falling onto her balcony as proof.

“My door is hanging off the hinges,” McDonald said. “When someone slams my door it rattles and I was told that I would have to pay for a new door.”

Residents complained that the air conditioning in the hallways is ineffective, and the heat isn’t much better.

“You could put a baby on the radiator,” McDonald said. “That’s how much heat I get. And now you want a rent increase?”

Management representatives argued that given rising costs, the Towers have been operating at a substantial loss and the increase is necessary just to break even.

The apartments are Mitchell-Lama regulated, meaning rents are regulated to maintain affordability. Management argued those regulations don’t mean they should be hemorrhaging money.

“There is no good time for a rent increase,” Robert Vaccarello, RY’s vice president said at the hearing. “But as you know Mitchell-Lama works on two major items: income and expenses. There is a major gap between these and that’s why we put in for the rent increase.”

Jack Lawrence, an independent CPA hired to break down Tracey Towers’ finances, said the complex lost over $2 million between 2006 and 2010, mainly due to the rising cost of utilities.

Another accountant, Jeffrey Resnick, who was hired on behalf of the buildings’ tenants association, agreed that the current system was not sustainable. But he said such a steep increase would not be the solution.

“They need to look for some kind of end game here,” he said. “It’s not manageable. You do need an increase, but this (proposal) is not realistic.”

Councilman Oliver Koppell and Senator Gustavo Rivera attended the hearing. Representatives of Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera also were present.

“This is the largest request for an increase with respect to Mitchell-Lama housing I have ever seen,” Koppell said. “This building is simply not well managed and it’s hard to collect from people whose apartments are substandard.”

Anyone else who would like to weigh in on the proposed increase at Tracey Towers has until the end of August to contact HPD by mail.

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