Bronx Mitchell-Lama Tenants Fight 65% Rent Increase

Two days before they were to be hit with the first installment of a 65 percent rent increase, tenants at the Tracey Towers complex on Mosholu Parkway won a temporary restraining order holding it off.

Bronx Supreme Court Justice John Barone granted the order Aug. 30, and Justice Howard Sherman extended it on Sept. 5. Sherman will decide Sept. 12 whether to postpone the rent hike while the tenants’ challenge to it is being litigated.

RY Management, which runs the two 41-story towers for landlord Tracey Towers Associates, had sought a 77 percent increase in 2011, saying it needed more money to repair the buildings’ roofs and façades. The city Department of Housing Preservation and Development approved the 65 percent increase in July. It would be spread out over four years, with the first round of higher rents to start Sept. 1.

Tenants objected to the increase on two grounds. First, it was too much. Tenant Margaret Mack, 66, a retired welfare worker, told the Daily News on Aug. 30 that her rent would go from $925 to $1,500 per month. “This is going to put grandma out on the street,” added Jean Hill, president of the Tracey Towers Tenant Organization.

Second, they say RY Management has let the buildings de-teriorate for years, while receiving millions of dollars in loans for repairs that were never made. “The building has multiple violations—nothing ever gets fixed,” Hill told Norwood News, a neighborhood biweekly, in August. ”How many times do you get paid to do the same work?” Tenants won a suit against RY in 2001 to get the elevators repaired, but still complain about them not working. 

HPD said a $4 million loan intended for the roof and façade work was instead used to make emergency heat and hot water repairs. It said the rent increase would help RY pay off a $40 million loan to fix the roofs and boilers and to renovate the apartments’ kitchens and bathrooms. HPD and RY have both promised to help eligible tenants get Section 8 and SCRIE subsidies to cover the cost of the increase.

The last rent increase was in 2006. RY claims rents are too low for it to make a profit. Rents were frozen from 1987 on, Norwood News reported in 2003, and Housing Court had ordered the owners to correct major hazardous violations before they could raise rents.

The two buildings, built in 1974 as part of the Mitchell-Lama program, have 869 apartments, which makes them the second largest residential property in the Bronx after Co-op City. RY, which acquired Tracey Towers in the 1980s, also runs more than a dozen high-rise developments in the city, including Knickerbocker Plaza on the Upper East Side, Marcus Garvey Village in Brownsville, and Westview on Roosevelt Island.