Washington Heights: Co-op Scam for Rent Increases?

Tenants in seven Washington Heights buildings have received rent increases of up to 100% when they renewed their leases — on the grounds that the buildings are “co-ops” exempt from rent regulations.Mark Scharfman, the new owner of the seven buildings — 20 Magaw Place; 709 West 176th St.; 710 West 173rd St.; and 250, 255, 270, and 280 Fort Washington Ave. — claims that the tenants are renting from cooperators and therefore not subject to rent control and rent stabilization. The previous landlord, Lester Tanner of Northwest Management Corp., also claimed that the buildings were co-ops, but gave tenants rent-stabilized leases with normal rent increases.

Several tenants have done their own investigations and found out that although a co-op plan was filed with the state attorney general’s office in 1971 by a “CPMC Realty Corp.,” there are no records of the plan actually having been implemented. This means that perhaps no one actually bought the apartments which were offered for sale.

Tenants believe these are illegal co-ops. No one who was living in the buildings in the early ’70s remembers them being converted. No one knows any cooperator owner. Everyone is renting from the same landlord.

Tenants have also complained of intimidation by one of the managers, Craig Goodman. In April, he invaded a tenants’ meeting at 270 Fort Washington Ave. and scared them into stopping it, telling them it was illegal for them to have meetings in the lobby. Several of the building’s white tenants also say he told them that he was getting rid of all the “spics” in the building.

The Riverside Edgecombe Neighborhood Association has begun an organizing drive and is working with lawyers from the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation, who will represent tenants facing possible eviction and challenge the legality of the co-op conversion in court.

Reprinted with permission from RENA News.