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NYT article

Posted by Chelsea on January 18, 2001 at 12:32:16:

In Reply to: Who pays for ? posted by There Are No Stupid Questions on January 17, 2001 at 23:46:10:

New York Times
February 6, 2000

NEW YORK ON LINE; Where Tenants Find a Haven

In a city where finding and keeping an apartment can verge on the Kafkaesque, it may be comforting to
know that a renter-friendly Web site appeared on the scene before there was even an Internet for it to
call home., which guides visitors through the complexities of renting in New York City,
started as an electronic bulletin board in 1990 when John Fisher, a computer consultant, decided to use
the wisdom he had gained as a renter in New York.

''I was a tenant who had a nasty landlord,'' he said in a telephone interview. ''Over the years when trying
to get repairs done and trying not to get overcharged, I collected a lot of information. I figured, why keep
it to myself?''

Mr. Fisher's site moved to the Internet in 1994; since then it has grown into a multifaceted resource
serving everyone from wide-eyed newcomers to hardened veterans. It includes handbooks on zoning and
rent regulation and information on rent laws and city housing court decisions. A detailed Tenant
Organizing Manual provides blueprints for anything from forming tenants' associations to fighting
harassment, and includes a list of agencies and resources that aid tenants.

The site is more than just an information source, Mr. Fisher said. ''We give out phone numbers for people
to call, addresses to write letters to; we send out mass e-mailings,'' he said. ''On the Internet a lot of
people are just figuring out that they can combine local activism with information, but we've been doing it
for years.''

WHAT YOU SEE -- Updates on housing law; clippings from local newspapers and journals; articles by
tenant lawyers and other experts; a database of New York City addresses that lets viewers check a
specific building's rent regulation status.

The site includes a forum where tenants exchange ideas on everything from when to legally withhold rent
to how to bypass ''bloodsucking realtors'' to how to handle intractable sublessees.

Discussions can turn philosophical, as in one heated debate about profit versus social responsibility for a
tenant vacating a $131 rent-controlled apartment.

''I would not go for less than 40K,'' one subscriber wrote, referring to the amount a landlord will
sometimes pay a long-term tenant to relinquish a desirable rent-regulated apartment.

Another responded: ''How about using his leverage to help the next tenant by keeping it rent-stabilized at
a cheap rent? That would be a sign of true humanity.''

LINKS -- Related links are interspersed throughout, including links to Mr. Fisher's other sites, among
them, a similar site for residents of Hell's Kitchen, where Mr. Fisher lives. The site
also provides information on rental laws elsewhere in the United States and abroad. In addition, it has a
link to the text of Abbie Hoffman's counterculture classic, ''Steal This Book.''

WHAT YOU GET -- A comprehensive, up-to-date guide to the ins and outs of renting in the city. At
times the tone can be hotly partisan, but the information runs deep and wide and the site is replete with
practical advice. TARA BAHRAMPOUR

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