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§ 281 (5) Multiple Dwelling Law and exisiting C of O?

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§ 281 (5) Multiple Dwelling Law and exisiting C of O?

Postby Manorborn » Wed Mar 16, 2011 5:13 pm

We're trying to determine what the owner of the our building is up to.

The scene: A 10-story, (48 units) residential and (12 units) commercial building in lower Manhattan, built in the 1930's, a former printing building.

This building was converted from a commercial to residential, receiving the last C of O in 1981. Per the zoning, a portion of the building had to remain for commercial use. The ground, 2nd and 3rd floors were specifically designated in the C of O to remain for commercial use only. The floors above, residential. This was not converted or developed to be a rental building, the original sponsors intended it to be a co-op. When units failed to sell in 1979-80, the sponsors sublet the units.

One sponsor bought out the rest and applied for and received J51, all 48 residential units received rent-stabilization in 1982. Out of 48 RS units, 9 remain to date, all others have been decontrolled one way or another.

The owner turned a blind eye to the use of the commercial units, if the lessee happened to be living in them, the owner didn't bother them as long as the rent was paid.

5 years ago, the owner sought to change the zoning, and obtain a new C of O, to make all units in the building residential. That effort was thwarted by tiny group of RS tenants, using it as a bargaining chip to get the owner to maintain services in the building. In effect, we offered to support the zoning change if the owner, who had seriously slacked on services, would step up and restore and maintain service. The owner rejected the offer, and we appeared before the BSA, lending evidence that the owner was spinning a tall tale, they had no knowledge of the commercially zoned space being occupied by tenants living in them. The BSA demanded the rent rolls from the owner, and rather producing them, the owner withdrew the application to change the zoning.

3 months ago, several of the tenants occupying commercial units applied to the Loft Board for § 281 (5) of the Multiple Dwelling law. The owner is not contesting this coverage application.

How does a building which has a C of O that clearly states it's use, now qualify for parts of it to be covered by 281 (5) of the Multiple Dwelling law?

The few remaining RS tenants have very little fire power left, this zoning issue was one of the last, but it seems they've found a way around it, or city agencies simply don't communicate with one another, which would come as no surprise.
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Postby TenantNet » Wed Mar 16, 2011 5:45 pm

I could be wrong, but I'm pretty certain t hat the BSA (Board of Standards and Appeals) does not have the authority to change zoning. That authority rests with City Planning. The BSA can issue a variance allowing an owner to avoid enforcement of the zoning, if the owner satisfies five different requirements. That's how it should be ... but the BSA seems to rubber-stamp whatever building owners desire.

Also consider that the BSA is for all intents and purposes an arm of the Dept. of Buildings, an agency that makes DHCR look like a pro-tenant good citizen.

I'm quite surprised that you report the BSA is actually doing what it is intended to do.

I'm not familiar with MDL 281(5). My first question is whether the commercial tenant have legal standing to make the application. How can they get away with it? Corruption at all levels of government. Have you consulted with any attorneys that have experience with the Loft Law? How about the Lower Manhattan Loft Tenants (if they are still alive)?
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Postby Manorborn » Wed Mar 16, 2011 9:50 pm

I don't have many answers in the response, but thank you for responding, much appreciated.

I should have qualified that I don't have all the language or knowledge of zoning, statutes, or the boards and departments of this fine muddled city government.

In regard to the BSA. This happened 5 years ago, so my memory is murky. We had somewhat of a functioning Tenants Association at that time, before the great decontrol, replete with an attorney 'n everything. I only understood that whatever the BSA was asking for from the owners, they didn't want to provide. We (the RS tenants) regularly used the issue of illegal occupancy of the commercial units in complaints. As we had less and less power to "encourage" the owners the maintain the building, we were using any issue we could find. This evidently pitted RS tenants against those tenants living in the commercially zoned units. However, at the worst times when services like heat, hot water, working elevators, to mention a few that were completely ignored on a regular basis, those tenants living in commercial units simply sat back and let us (the RS) do all the heavy lifting and pay the attorney. They missed the your scratch my back, I'll scratch yours thingy.

We don't understand how those commercially zoned units are now going to covered under the Loft Law. Some of we the RS , have invested heavily in our spaces over the years, and won't enjoy the same advantage to legally sell the fixtures.

What's even more annoying is that most of the tenants living in the commercial units have and still are paying below market rents, at least 3 RS tenants are paying much higher rents. They are now crowing to us that they'll be getting RS leases, starting at the current low rents they're paying.

This building has a C of O, and no one, not any person I've spoke to at the Loft Board, can explain to me why a building with an exitising C of O, which complies with the zoning of this area, can be chopped into parts, allowing some units, but not all, to be covered by the Multiple Dwelling Law.

No, we haven't consulted an attorney. The enthusiasm to invest in one is at an all time low.
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