​Please write a 200 words discussion paragraph and a 150 words comment / response

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Please write a 200 words discussion paragraph by following the description below and a 150 words comment / response to the words file. Thank you

Neil Smith discusses gentrification and urban redevelopment as a part of a larger process of uneven development, which is rooted in the capitalist mode of production. Several key points are discussed.

1. The structure of capitalism has two tendencies: equalization and differentiation. Equalization could be seen as an on-going process of homogenization and commodification of "everything." A result is the creation of wage labor (this is a narrow definition, but we will consider it as an example here). Differentiation, on the other hand, creates urban differences (rents, geographical differences, etcetc.). An example these two tendencies can be seen in the relationship between the suburb and the city. First, suburbanization is a process of equalization that brings the suburb closer to a city setting; second, it is a differentiation process because suburbanization also created the differences in ground rents between the former and the city (also the differences between wages).

2. Capital also invests in built environment. It creates two cycles: valorization cycle and devalorization cycle. In the Post WWII era, capital moves to the suburbs where ground rent was low. This was a period when redevelopment in the city was not economically an option. However, the city center was still functional; therefore, it meant that the city was in a cycle of devalorization (whereas the suburbs were experiencing a cycle of valorization). Devalorization leads to "physical decline, which in turn lowers the market price of the land on which the dilapidated building stand," and "when and only when, this rent gap between actual and potential ground rent becomes sufficiently larger, redevelopment and rehabilitation into new land uses becomes a profitable prospect, and capital begins to flow back into the inner city market" (Smith, p.149). Devalorization and valorization follows one other. When investments in the city experienced a barrier, investment left and moved to the suburbs. This movement led to a devalorization cycle in the city; the development of rent gap, however, in the city could then once again led to new development opportunities in the city. This periodic movements of capital defines the uneven developments between the city and the suburbs.

3. The return of capital from the suburbs to the city is not a separate process of suburbanization. "Albeit a reversal in geographic terms, the gentrification and redevelopment of the inner city represents a linear continuation of the forces and relations that led to suburbanization. Like suburbanization, the redevelopment and rehabilitation of the central and inner cities functions as a substantial source of profit" (Smith, p.149). The movement of capital thus created a locational seesaw that moved from successive development, undevelopment and redevelopment (see Smith et al's measurement of this pattern by using tax delinquency). The valorization of city space (once again) does not mean urbanization in the country has stopped; it is still an on-going process then.

It can be claimed that: On the one hand, the "locational seesaw" could be seen in the previous documentary films as well as the ones for this week. If the films - South Bronx and People's Firehouse - are referring to a period of devalorization in NYC, the films - My Brooklyn, Gutted Renovation, and Rezoning Harlem - are referring to a period of (re)valorization in NYC. The first (devalorization) led to disinvestment, planned shrinkage, benign neglect; The second (valorization) led to rezoning, gentrification, and displacement. These are tow distinguishable periods of capital movements, but these are also two phases of gentrification. If the first phase is to disinvest and set up an environment for gentrification, the second phase is to set up conditions where tenants, working people and small businesses cannot stay in. What we can suggest here is that the relationship between racism and gentrification are not one and the same across different periods. They are moving in phases in accordance to capital movement. On the other hand, the "gentries" or the "gentrifiers" are also a result of the movement of capital (as D. Rose argues). Gentrifiers do not share the same class position. Indeed, they may be single-parent working mothers. D. Rose argues that the "gentrifiers" are results of changes in the "labour processes, the production of different fractions of labour and changes in their reproduction [hence, child services, housing units, etcetc.]" (p.206). In other words, the production of "marginal gentrifiers" (D. Rose, p.196) and gentrification are both results of the movement capital.

With this given context, please answer the following questions and discuss with your classmates:

1. How do you define "marginal gentrifiers" in your own terms?

2. The NYT articles outline an on-going housing crisis in NYC. Will the "marginal gentrifiers" and the low-income tenants be affected in the same way or differently? Could they be both affected? How? You may yse news articles or your own personal experiences to illustrate your points.

Gentrification and Uneven Development Author(s): Neil Smith Source: Economic Geography, Vol. 58, No. 2 (Apr., 1982), pp. 139-155 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/143793 Accessed: 21-05-2018 19:08 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at http://about.jstor.org/terms Taylor & Francis, Ltd. is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Economic Geography This content downloaded from on Mon, 21 May 2018 19:08:58 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms GENTRIFICATION AND UNEVEN DEVELOPMENT NEIL SMITH The Johns Hopkins University A debate is emerging over whether gentrification and urban redevelopment are temporary, ephemeral processes or only the beginning of a long-term restructuring of urban space. In order to assess the future of the inner city, it is necessary to understand the origins of the present redevelopment process, yet little or no theoretical work has been done. In fact, gentrification and urban redevelopment are the leading edge of a larger process of uneven development which is a specific process, rooted in the structure of the capitalist mode of production. According to this perspective, gentrification is only a small part of a restructuring of urban space which is, in turn, part of the wider economic restructuring necessitated by the present economic crisis. After a decade of intensive research the empirical evidence on gentrification is mounting. Unfortunately, the development of theory has not kept pace. On the face of it, this may be surprising since traditional urban theory has tended to focus on the protracted experience of urban decline, and the new reality of gentrification seems to oppose this experience. Do the traditional theories anticipate the advent of gentrification? Can they at least account for it? Does the reality of gentrification contradict the epistemological basis of much conventional theory, built around the twin processes of expansion at the periphery and decline in the center? In the light of gentrification, is new theoretical work necessary? Along with the more empirical questions concerning who the gentrifiers are and where and when the process is occurring, these more theoretical questions are inevitably thrown up by the extensive rehabilitation of depressed working class neighborhoods throughout the cities of the advanced capitalist world. It is natural that theoretical development will lag behind the development of reality, but as attention increasingly turns to the uncertain future of gentrification as a major urban process, researchers will be forced more and more to answer these broader theoretical questions as a means to understand not just the who, where, and when of gentrification but also the why. This paper will not attempt to provide answers for all of the above theoretical questions, but will, rather, sketch out one theoretical framework within which gentrification can be more cogently grounded. As such, it is a development of earlier empirical and theoretical research [36; 37] and should be viewed as the prelude to future empirical work. The theoretical framework advanced below is put forward in the spirit of a hypothesis and is useful only to the extent that it offers insights into the concrete, historical emergence of gentrification;' I By gentrification I mean the process by which working class residential neighborhoods are rehabilitated by middle class homebuyers, landlords, and professional developers. I make the theoretical distinction between gentrification and redevelopment. Redevelopment involves not rehabilitation of old structures but the construction of new buildings on previously developed land. A number of other terms are often used to refer to the process of gentrification, and all of them express a particular attitude toward the process. "Revitalization" and "renaissance" suggest that the neighborhoods involved were somehow de-vitalized or culturally moribund. While this is sometimes the case, it is often true that very vital working class communities are de-vitalized through gentrification. Open doors, street games, and stoop-sitting are replaced with This content downloaded from on Mon, 21 May 2018 19:08:58 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms 140 ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY GENTRIFICATION AND THEORY The future of the inner city and the extent to which gentrification will continue are increasingly prominent issues in the broader urban literature, and a brief examination of the response to these issues will illustrate the urgency of developing new theoretical perspectives in the light of gentrification. For there are emerging two distinct assessments on the future of gentrification, and, despite the fact that these are based explicitly or implicitly on the same body of urban theory, these two assessments are mutually contradictory. Adherents of the first position hold that gentrification is a localized, small scale process which, while maybe symbolically important, is purely temporary and of little long-term significance. This is the position that Berry, for example, has consistently taken [3, p. 144; 4]. His reasoning is that the particular factors combining to encourage gentrifica- from the suburbs, but which also involves the spontaneous re-emergence of the very services, recreational facilities, and employment opportunities that will encourage this trickle to expand. While it has not yet fully proven itself according to adherents of the second position, this movement has the potential to reverse the historic decline of the central and inner city, and it should be actively supported by federal urban policies. With one or two notable exceptions, this is the perspective held by various authors in Laska and Spain [22]. Among researchers directly involved in gentrification issues the "back-to-the-city-school," if we may dub it that, has won many adherents. But whatever its merits, this rosy assessment of the future of gentrification is rarely based explicitly on any broader explanatory perspective, such as that employed by Berry. Its grounding in optimism more than theory was vividly illustrated when one of its better known adherents, Jimmy tion are themselves purely temporary; the Carter, chose the South Bronx to symbolhigh cost of suburban housing, low housize decay that could be reversed; more ing vacancy rates, lifestyle changes in the than knowledge and understanding it was baby boom generation, and other specific hope and belief in the long-term salutory factors will prevail only over the shorteffects of gentrification that motivated term, and when they are no longer operaPresident Carter's sojourn to the South tive, the "revitalization" of American Bronx and the National Urban Policy that inner cities will cease. followed. In opposition to this, adherents of the The back-to-the-city school is less consecond position maintain that gentrificacerned to explain gentrification than to tion is only part of a larger "revitalization" document the process in close empirical of the core and the inner city, and a recendetail, from the median age, race, and tralization of certain urban activities. In profession of gentrifiers to their lifestyle short, there is a back-to-the-city moveand the gamut of their individual preferment, which at this point admittedly ences. Explanations are not absent, to be represents only a trickle of migrants back sure; it is just that they are more likely to be implied or taken for granted. Where these explanations are actually made iron bars, guard dogs, high wooden fences, and a scorn for the streets. The idea of "urban pioneers" is explicit, it is striking that they are similar as insulting as the idea of the original "pioneers" in to the explanations employed by Berry to the West. Now, as then, it implies that no one lives in explain the opposite conclusion.2 This, the areas being pioneered-no one worthy of nomore than anything else, should lead us to tice, at least. In Australia the process is known as trendification, and elsewhere, inmovers are referred to as the "hipeoise." The term gentrification expresses the obvious class character of the process and for that reason, although it may not be technically a "gentry" that moves in but rather middle class white professionals, it is empirically most realistic [41]. 2The majority of essays in the Laska and Spain collection [22] invoke the same combination of demographic, lifestyle, economic, and energy factors as Berry. See also the essays in the collection by Rosenthal [31]. This content downloaded from on Mon, 21 May 2018 19:08:58 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms GENTRIFICATION 141 question the conventional theoretical framework within which gentrification tends to be viewed. How can a consistent urban theory lead to directly opposite conclusions? We could perhaps side with Berry and argue that in their enthusiasm for an apparently novel development the back-to-the-city school have ignored or undervalued the counsel of hard tested theories. But Berry's own position is not unproblematic. It is not at all accidental, then, that Berry, who adheres most consistently to the traditional urban economic theories, is led to undervalue the extent and significance of gentrification. For the very assumptions upon which Berry's conclusions are based do not allow the possibility of gentrification. space, the more space one will purchase. Smaller, less desirable spaces are left behind for those less able to pay. Other factors certainly impinge on demand for housing as well as its supply, but this preference for space together with the necessary income constraints provide the foundation for neo-classical treatments of urban development. Gentrification contradicts this foundation of assumptions. It involves a socalled filtering in the opposite direction and seems to contradict the notion that preference for space per se is what guides the process of residential development. This means either that this assumption should be dropped from the theory or that "external factors" and income constraints were so altered as to render the Important contributions have already preference for more space impractical been made toward a critique of the theand inoperable. Gentrification is thereby ory and assumptions underlying tradirendered a chance, extraordinary event, tional urban economic theory [2; 16; 32], the accidental outcome of a unique mix of and this is not the place to do more than summarize results of these critiques as exogenous factors. But gentrification is not extraordinary in reality; it is extraorthey relate to gentrification. To explain dinary only to the theory which assumes it contemporary changes in the inner city impossible from the start. The experience housing market, Berry adopts the filterof gentrification illustrates well the limitaing model. According to this model, new tions of neo-classical urban theory since housing is generally occupied by betterin order to explain the process, the theory off families who vacate their previous, must be abandoned, and a superficial less spacious housing to poorer occuexplanation based on ad hoc external facpants, and move out toward the suburban tors must be adopted. But a list of factors periphery. In this way, decent housing "filters" down and is left behind for lower do not make an explanation. The theory income families; the worst housing drops claims to explain suburbanization but out of the market to abandonment or cannot at all explain the historical continuity from suburbanization to gentrificademolition [4, p. 16; 23]. Leaving aside tion and inner city redevelopment. Berry entirely the question whether this "filterimplicitly recognizes the need for (but ing" in fact guarantees "decent" housing lack of) such historical continuity when for the working class, the filtering model he concludes: invokes a number of assumptions that must be examined. Like most traditional a restructuring of incentives played a critiurban economic theory, this model simply borrows concepts and assumptions from neo-classical economics and applies them to the urban problem at hand. Specifically, the filtering model assumes, as an exogenous factor, that people have a set of consumer preferences, one of which is for more and more residential space. It assumes, therefore, that the greater one's ability to pay for cal role in the increase in home ownership and the attendant transformation of urban form after the Second World War. There is no reason to believe that another restructuring could not be designed to lead in other directions, for in a highly mobile market system nothing is as effective in producing change as a shift in relative prices. There is, then, a way. Whether there is a will is another matter, for under conditions of This content downloaded from on Mon, 21 May 2018 19:08:58 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms 142 ECONoMic GEOGRAPHY democratic pluralism, interest group politics prevail, and the normal state of such politics is "business as usual." The bold changes that followed the Great Depression and the Second World War were responses to major crises, for it is only in a crisis atmosphere that enlightened leadership can prevail over the normal business of politics in which there is an unerring aim for the lowest common denominator. Nothing less than an equivalent crisis will, I suggest, enable the necessary substantial inner city revitalization to take place [4, pp. 27-8]. Today, I would suggest, we are entering just such a crisis-not just nationally but internationally, not just in the residential sector but throughout the economyand this crisis has indeed begun to realize a restructuring of prices and, hence, of "incentives" [13; 28]. But crisis is not an exogenous factor, an accidental departure from equilibrium, as assumed in neoclassical theory. Economic crisis is a concrete historical product which, as well as throwing up new situations and relationships, realizes in a short period a number of tendencies already developing in the economy [12; 19]. It remains to be seen whether Berry's expectations are justified concerning enlightened leadership; there is hardly room for optimism at present. And although such "leadership" could undoubtedly affect the precise outcome of crisis, it is equally clear that, with or without such enlightenment, a restructuring of urban space is already afoot. While this restructuring certainly involves such 44factors" as the baby boom, energy prices, and the cost of new housing units, its roots and its momentum derive from a deeper and very specific process of uneven development. At the urban scale, gentrification represents the leading edge of this process. UNEVEN DEVELOPMENT AT THE URBAN SCALE Somewhat akin to gentrification the process of uneven development has become a popular topic for research in the last decade. By uneven development is often meant the self-evident truth that societal development does not take place everywhere at the same speed or in the same direction. Such an obvious notion would barely deserve mention, far less the scrutiny it has received. As discussed here, uneven development is a specific process that is both unique to capitalism and rooted directly in the fundamental social relations of that mode of production. To be sure, societal development in other modes of production may well be uneven, but it is so for quite separate reasons, has a different social significance, and results in a different geographical pattern. The geography of the feudal market town is systematically different from the geography of the capitalist metropolis. Under capitalism the relationship between developed and underdeveloped areas is the most obvious and most central manifestation of uneven development, and occurs not just at the international scale but also at regional and urban scales [43]. No matter at what scale, capital moves spatially for similar (not identical) reasons, and it is this similarity of purpose and structure that engenders a similar spatial unevenness at different scales. Here it is possible only to sketch part of the underlying economic rationale, and to do so in the most summary fashion; a more detailed derivation is available elsewhere [39]. I will take three central aspects of uneven development and, by examining them sequentially, will piece together a framework for the theory. At each step, I will locate gentrification within the analysis, thereby providing an illustration for uneven development theory as well as a broader theoretical framework within which to understand gentrification. TENDENCIES TOWARD DIFFERENTIATION AND EQUALIZATION Inherent in the structure of capitalism are two contradictory tendencies toward, on the one hand, the equalization of conditions and levels of development and, on the other, their differentiation. The tendency toward equalization emerges from the more basic necessity for economic This content downloaded from on Mon, 21 May 2018 19:08:58 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms GENTRIFICATION 143 expansion in capitalist society: individual Capital by its nature drives beyond every spatial barrier. Thus the creation of the capitalists and enterprises can survive physical conditions of exchange-of the only by making a profit, but in an econmeans of communication and transportomy ruled by competition between septhe annihilation of space by time-becomes arate enterprises, survival requires exan extraordinary necessity for it.... Thus, pansion-the accumulation of larger and while capital must on the one side strive to larger quantities of capital. At the level of tear down every spatial barrier to interthe national or world economy, this transcourse, i.e., to exchange, and conquer the lates into the necessity of permanent ecowhole earth for its market, it strives on the nomic growth; when such growth does other side to annihilate this space with time, not occur, the system is in crisis. Ecoi.e., to reduce to a minimum the time spent in motion from one place to another. The nomic expansion is fueled by drawing more developed the capital, therefore, the more and more workers into the wage more extensive the market over which it labor relation, by locating and exploiting circulates, which forms the spatial orbit of increased quantities of raw materials, and its circulation, the more does it strive simulby developing the means of transportataneously for an even greater extension of tion that provide cheaper and faster the market and for greater annihilation of access to raw materials and markets. In space by time.... There appears here the short, expansion is fueled by creating a universalizing tendency of capital, which larger number and broader variety of distinguishes it from all previous stages of commodities, by selling them on the production [26, pp. 524, 539-40]. market, and by reinvesting part of the profit in a further expansion of the scale of The economic correlate of this universalthe productive forces. Pre-capitalist soizing process is the tendency which Marx cieties are pressed into the service of capiidentified toward an equalization in the tal and subjugated through the world rate of profit [25, III, Ch. 10]. Both tenmarket to the rule of the wage labor reladencies are realized in the circulation of tion. With the transformation of the earth capital but express a deeper process into a universal means of production, no rooted in the production process: the unicorner is immune from the search for raw versalization of abstract labor and the materials; every inch of the land surface, consequent hegemony of "value" over as well as the sea, the air, and the geologi- social interchange [19; 42]. cal substratum is reduced in the eyes of To those who have followed the develcapital to a real or potential means of opment of urban theory in the last twenty production, each with a price tag. This is years, this equalization tendency as it what lies behind the tendency toward operates at the urban scale will have a equalization. Thus it is that a new car familiar ring. But before examining the plant in Tokyo is much the same as a new urban scale per se, it is necessary to look car plant in Essen or Brasilia, and that at the process of differentiation which except for superficial details the well off operates in opposition to equalization. suburbs of Santiago resemble the suburbs Unlike equalization, the differentiation of of Sydney or San Francisco. levels and conditions of development In terms of geographical space, the does not emanate from a single focus but expansion of capital and the equalization occurs along a number of axes. In the first of conditions and levels of development place, contemporary capitalism clearly are what leads to the so-called "shrinking inherits an environment that is differenworld." Capital drives to overcome all tiated according to natural features. This spatial barriers to expansion and to meanatural basis of differentiation was a funsure spatial distance by transportation damental ingredient, in earlier societies, time. This is the process which Marx perof the uneven societal development that ceptively labeled the "annihilation of occurred. To cite but one example, there space with time": developed regional divisions of labor, This content downloaded from on Mon, 21 May 2018 19:08:58 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms 144 ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY based on the differential availability of of the urban scale where the analysis of natural materials: textiles where sheep differentiation can be made concrete. The essential point at this stage, however, could graze, iron and steel where coal and iron ore were available, towns at port is that a tendency or series of tendencies operate in opposition to the equalization sites, and so on. This, of course, was the of conditions and levels of development bread and butter of traditional commerin a capitalist economy, and it is the concial and regional geography and in part tradiction between these, as it plays itself the basis of the "areal differentiation" out in concrete history, that lies behind theme. But the advanced development of the real pattern of uneven development. capitalism has brought about a certain More than anything else, this process of emancipation from nature and natural differentiation, counterposed as it is by constraints. "Important as the natural difequalization, is responsible for the oppoferences in the conditions of production sition of developed versus underdevelmay be," wrote Nikolai Bukharin nearly oped regions and nations and for the seventy years ago, "they recede more and opposition of suburb and inner city. more into the background compared In the early 1960s, Melvin Webber with differences that are the outcome of developed the concept of the "urban nonthe uneven development of productive place realm" [48; 49; 50]. Webber reaforces" [7, p. 20]. Thus contemporary soned that with the development of techgeographical differentiation, while retainnology, especially in communications ing deeply interwoven remnants from and transportation, many of the old forms earlier nature-based patterns of differenof social diversity were being broken tiation, is increasingly driven forward by down. For an increasing number of peoa quintessentially social dynamic emanatple, economic and social propinquity had ing from the structure of capitalism. This dynamic involves the progressive become emancipated from spatial propinquity; with the exception of the poor, division of labor at various scales, the spahe argued, urbanites had freed themtial centralization of capital in some places at the expense of others, the evoluselves from the restrictions of territorialtion of a spatially differentiated pattern of ity. Webber's notion of a "non-place wage rates, the development of a ground urban realm" was given a wide and rent surface that is markedly uneven over appreciative airing, not just because its optimism and idealism were wonderfully space, class differences, and so forth. It in tune with the times and because it would be a mammoth task to attempt a seemed to express the rising liberal vision general dissection of the intricacies of of the urban planning profession, but also each of these processes and relationships that contribute to the tendency toward because, however nebulously, it did geographical differentiation. In any case, express a real, concrete tendency in postthese processes and realtionships take on war urban development. What Webber a radically different significance dependcaptured, albeit often implicitly and at ing upon the scale being considered. times obliquely, was the tendency Wage rates, for example, are one of the toward equalization as it operated at the central determinants of uneven develurban scale. Against this emphaisis on opment at the international and regional equalization, David Harvey emphasized scales, but at the urban scale, I will argue, the opposite process, the differentiation of urban space, and stressed the imporare relatively unimportant. Elaborating the general dynamic of differentiation tance of class beneath this differentiation remains one of the most challenging process [16, p. 309]. From the standpoint obstacles to the construction of a general of the 1980s, and from the above discustheory of uneven development [39, Ch. sion, it should be clear that both positions 4], and will not be pursued further here. express at least a half-truth, and that Instead, we will move on to a discussion beneath their apparent theoretical con- This content downloaded from on Mon, 21 May 2018 19:08:58 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms GENTRIFICATION tradiction lies a real contradiction in the spatial constitution of capitalism. Harvey's subsequent work has provided a more sophisticated treatment of the real contradiction involved [18; 19]. At the urban scale, the main pattern of uneven development lies in the relation between the suburbs and the inner city. The crucial economic force mediating this relation, at the urban scale, is ground rent. It is the equalization and differentiation of ground rent levels between different places in the metropolitan region that most determines the unevenness of development. In making this assertion, I am aware that other social and economic forces are involved, but many of these operate through the ground rent structure. The transportation system, for example, makes some locations more accessible and therefore (generally) more favorable, leading to higher land prices which represent nothing but higher capitalized ground rent. But as we might have expected, the chicken and egg question arises here: does a new transportation system restructure the ground rent surface, hence leading to new development, or do changes in the relative ground rent structure hasten development, thus necessitating new transportation systems? Certainly at the urban scale, the latter is the norm where fundamental alterations are concerned. This is the difference between suburbanization, a fundamental process in urban development, and ribbon development, which is relatively ephemeral; although clearly enhanced and encouraged by the development of the means of transportation, suburbanization was a product of deeper and earlier forces [45; 46]. Ribbon development, on the other hand is precisely the case where new transportation routes alter the pattern of accessibility and hence the ground rent structure, leading to new development that clings exclusively to the new route. Without the new road, railway, or canal, development would not have occurred. The pattern of ground rents in an urban area is highly functional in that it is the mechanism by which different activities 145 are allocated through the land market to different spaces. While managing or mediating this differentiation of urban space, ground rent is not in itself the origin of differentiation. Rather, the ground rent surface translates into a quantitative measure the actual forces tending toward differentiation in the urban landscape. These differentiating forces are of two major sources in contemporary capitalist cities. The first is functional, meaning the difference between residential, industrial, recreational, commercial, transportational, and institutional land uses. Within each of these categories there is a differentiation according to scale; large scale modern industrial plants tend to be geographically differentiated from small scale, labor intensive workshops, for example. The second force, and this applies mainly to residential land use, is differentiation according to class. and race [17]. These two sources of social and functional differentiation are translated into a geographical differentiation mainly through the ground rent structure. Having made this generalization about the pivotal role played by ground rent in the process of uneven development at the urban scale, it is necessary briefly to examine the issue of wage differentials. It is generally assumed that there is little spatial differentiation in wages across urban space, but in a recent insightful study, Allen Scott shows that on the contrary, at least in Toronto, and elsewhere in North America it would seem reasonable to assume, there is a distinct and systematic spatial pattern of wage differentials [35]. Scott finds that the farther one goes toward the urban fringe from the core, the higher are the wages. Interpreting this result, he suggests that while a number of other factors are important, the higher wages in the suburbs are predominantly the result of the relationship between supply and demand; where the supply of labor is least, due to lower densities, namely the suburbs, wages will be higher, and vice versa. Even if this is the case, differential wage rates are seen as a This content downloaded from on Mon, 21 May 2018 19:08:58 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms 146 ECONoMic GEOGRAPHY result of the suburbanization of industry rather than its cause, since no matter how capital intensive are the industries that move to the suburban fringe, they will move despite, not because of, higher wages. In fact there is another possible interpretation of the data, suggesting a more direct relationship between the type and scale of industry and the wage rate. It is possible that the higher wage rates toward the suburbs are due to the fact that industries relocating in the suburbs tend to represent newer, more capital intensive, more advanced sectors of the economy where levels of skill and of unionization, and hence wage rates, are comparatively higher. Scott admits this possibility though never lets it supplant the essentially neoclassical explanation based on supply and demand for labor. Ultimately, this question requires historical resolution, but as I shall argue, the actual history of suburbanization supports treating wage rates as the dependent variable, but dependent less on intraurban population density and more on the nature of the work process. This applies for the urban scale only; at the regional and international scales the opposite obviously pertains [24; 47]. The urban labor market is not strongly subdivided due to direct spatial constraints on access. Essentially, it is a single geographical labor market no matter how differentiated it may be according to skills, race, and sex. The urban scale as a single geographical labor market, and that the developments of the transportation network have extended significantly the area over which the daily commute can be made, the tendency toward equalization has realized itself in reality at the urban scale. But this is equalization in a rather trivial sense. A far more fundamental equalization takes place historically in the ground rent structure. The traditional ground rent surface, assumed by neoclassical models, is usually described as a function or curve which declines with increasing distances from the center. This surface is purported to evolve because of the participation of different kinds of actors in the land market, each with different preferences for space and therefore with different "bid-rend curves." Thus, when we disaggregate, we get the familiar result of intersecting curves, each representing a land use with a different rate of change. If we now disaggregate within residential land uses according to class, we get the equally familiar result of intersecting income curves-low income at the center, high income at the periphery. These ideal models of the urban land market are entirely consistent with the filtering model, and while they may have had some empirical validity in earlier years, they no longer describe the real urban ground rent structure. Today's pattern, first recognized as early as 1929 by Homer Hoyt [36], is a bimodal curve of ground rent declining with increasing distance from the center. This patttern suggests the operation of both an equalization process and a differentiation process. On the one hand, the development of the suburbs has significantly reduced the general differential between central distinct spatial scale is defined in practice in terms of the reproduction of labor power and the journey to work. The entire urban area is relatively accessible for most commuters; one can get from city to suburb and from suburb to city relatively quickly, and with a little more and suburban ground rent levels for any difficulty from suburb to suburb. Whethergiven location in the suburbs. But on the or not we accept Scott's explanation of other hand, a "land value valley" has the wage differentials across urban space, emerged in the inner city surrounding the the essential point here is that present central area. This area has been spatially patterns of industrial location at the urban differentiated from surrounding areas, giving it a ground rent level quite at varscale are not a product of whatever wage iance with the assumptions implied in the differentials do exist, but rather, help to create such differentials. earlier neoclassical bid rent models. With To the extent that the urban area is a a different ground rent level, the potential This content downloaded from on Mon, 21 May 2018 19:08:58 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms GENTRIFICATION uses of this land are also quite different from those that would be consistent with the neo-classical model. In order to understand the concrete origin of this pattern and to assess the potential for future land uses, it is necessary to make a more historical argument concerning uneven development. This brings us to the second aspect of uneven development to be considered, the valorization and devalorization of capital invested in the built environment. Notice that here there is an implicit assumption, opposite to that of the neo-classical model. While the neo-classical model emphasizes demand for and the consumption of space and assumes a geographical tabula rosa, we here focus on the production of space through the investment of capital and assume not a tabula rosa of urban space but a ground rent surface that is itself the product of previous investments of capital in the built environment. THE VALORIZATION AND DEVALORIZATION OF BUILT ENVIRONMENT CAPITAL Capital invested in the built environment has a number of special features, but the emphasis here is upon its long turnover period. Whether it is fixed capital invested in the direct production process or capital invested to provide the means of reproduction (houses, parks, schools, etc.) or the means of circulation (banks, offices, retail facilities, etc.) capital invested in the built environment is immobilized for a long period in a specific material form. The valorization of capital in the built environment-its investment in search of surplus value or profit-is necessarily matched by its devalorization. During the period of its use through immobilization in the landscape, the valorized capital returns its value piece by piece. The invested capital is devalorized as the investor receives returns on the investment piecemeal. The physical structure must remain in use and cannot be demolished, without sustaining a loss, until the invested capital has returned its 147 value. What this does is to tie up whole sections of land over a long period in one specific land use, and thereby to create significant barriers to new development. But new development must proceed if accumulation is to occur. As well as creating barriers to the further valorization of capital in the built environment, however, the steady devalorization of capital creates longer term possibilities for a new phase of valorization, and this is exactly what has happened in the inner city. Concerning capital invested in housing, the economic devalorization process is often marked by an obvious sequence of transitions in the tenure arrangements, occupancy, and physical condition of properties in a neighborhood. This downward sequence is referred to as the devalorization cycle.3 With capital invested in factories, offices, or retail outlets, the economic cycle of devalorization may not be marked by such a clear transition in tenure relations, occupancy, or physical conditions as it is in housing, but the devalorization cycle proceeds nonetheless. The only way to prevent this devalorization cycle is if capital is periodically invested in the form of repairs or replacements to the physical stock. Whether a residential neighborhood experiences the devalorization cycle, or whether the necessary repairs and replacements are made, depends on many things. If the neighborhood is predominantly owner occupied, it depends upon the ability and inclination of owners to finance the necessary repairs and replacements. If dwellings are predominantly rented, it depends more directly on the profitability of this investment compared with other plausible invest3In a previous work [36], this devalorization cycle for housing was modelled in five stages: new construction and first phase of use, landlordism, blockbusting and blowout, redlining, abandonment. There the sequence was incorrectly described as a depreciation cycle rather than a devalorization cycle. Depreciation refers strictly to changes in price whereas devalorization is a deeper economic process implying the loss or negation of value as a necessary part of the valorization process [40]. This content downloaded from on Mon, 21 May 2018 19:08:58 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms 148 ECONOMIc GEOGRAPHY ments for the landlord. In either case, landlords and homeowners are competing for mortgage and loan funds, and if the financial institutions have more profitable and less risky investment opportunities, then loans to small scale landowners will be limited and will carry high interest rates and other unfavorable terms. In a society where accumulation of capital is the central dynamic of growth, it is only "rational" that, in general, large scale, new construction attracts capital before small scale, piecemeal repair activity. The economic decline of inner city neighborhoods is therefore a "rational" predictable outcome of the free enterprise land and housing markets [5; 23]. Historically, this is precisely what has happened to cities in much of the ad- part of the more general emancipation from nature. More concretely, capital accumulation and expansion leads to a specific annihilation of space by time at the urban scale. An expanding area of the non-urban periphery is brought into the sphere of urban space. In its spatial aspect, this explosive expansion of urban space has been led by the process of suburbanization. In that it progressively reduces all society to urban society, this urbanization of the countryside represents the most acute form of equalization of conditions of development under advanced capitalism. As was noted above, the accumulation of capital lies behind the expansion of urban space and the equalization process. The accumulation of capital necessitates the accumulation of a growing labor vanced capitalist world. The pattern is clearest in North America where the state market, and with the increased social is least concerned to ameliorate some of centralization of capital along with the the negative effects of the land and housoperation of agglomeration economies, ing markets. Just as the devalorization of there is a strong tendency for new and capital is implied in its valorization, the expanding productive activity to locate itself in urban areas. The social centralizadecline of the inner cities is implied in the tion of capital-its concentration in larger more general expansion of urban areas, and particularly in the development of and larger quantities in fewer and fewer enterprises-is necessitated by the conthe suburbs. As Walker points out, a number of very complex forces are instant drive to accumulate [25, I, pp. 625volved in the development of the sub28], and this social centralization transurbs. The following sketch is not meant to lates (at least partially) into a spatial be a complete or even a balanced explacentralization of capital. If this helps nation of the process, but is meant to explain the explosive urban expansion of identify the key forces and processes the nineteenth and twentieth century, it involved in order to understand the necstill remains to explain the differentiation essary complement between suburbanibetween suburb and inner city. This difzation and inner city decline and the ferentiation was both the product of coherence of uneven development at the expansion and the means by which exurban scale [46]. pansion occurred. Suburbanization is the product of the The earliest development of upper interplay of the processes of equalization class residential suburbs was the spatial and differentiation at the urban scale. expression of two divisions of labor. In Fundamentally, it represents a considerthe first place, it represented the division able historical emanicipation of urban between work and home, or rather, it social form from space. This process has came to represent this division as the several dimensions. First, since space is middle class suburbanized, because not an autonomous realm of reality, many of the first suburbanites were not rather spatial relations and the spatial properties of matter are included in their 4Accumulation of capital ... is increase of the natural properties [38; 39, Ch. 3], the proletariat" [25, I, p. 614]. Further, it is increase of the urban proletariat. emancipation from spatial constraint is This content downloaded from on Mon, 21 May 2018 19:08:58 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms GENTRIFICATION employed. But secondly, it also represented the division between classes, spatially expressed, since only in the most recent phase of suburbanization since the Second World War (in North America) has there been any appreciable working class suburbanization, and even then, it was the white, better paid sections of the working class who tended to suburbanize. Working class suburbanization followed the suburbanization of industry, which began in earnest after the 1890s. The suburbanization of industry was also, in part, a product of the progressive division of labor, particularly at the scale of the individual plant. As many labor processes were broken down into a larger number of simpler, less skilled tasks, the recombination of these separate activities into a single composite production process required more space. This was partly due to the multiplication in the number of individual tasks, partly due to the in- creased scale of machinery, and partly due to the fact that to remain competitive, productive units had to be larger. Thus, the division of labor and the necessary recombination of these divisions necessitated an expansion in the spatial scale of the production process. Movement to the suburbs, where ground rent was low, was the only economical alternative. It is not that suburbanization was the only alternative per se; it is just that at the period when suburbanization was taking place, the redevelopment of the established city was not an economical option. The center was still functional, meaning that it was still in the process of devalorization. And as shown above, there was a strong impetus toward an urban location, so the urban periphery became the rational locus for growth. The development of the suburbs should be seen not so much as a decentralization process, as Walker [46] tends to do, but more as a continuation of the vigorous centralization of capital into urban areas. Yet, simultaneously, it was the internal differentiation of urban space. Thus the suburbanization of capital from the late nineteenth entry on- 149 ward was simultaneously the economic abandonment of the inner city both in terms of new construction and repairs. It is this spatial shift of capital investment that led to what has previously been labeled the rent gap [36]. Essentially, the devalorization of capital invested in the inner city built environment leads to a situation where the ground rent capitalized under current land uses is substantially lower than the ground rent that could potentially be capitalized if the land use were changed. This is because devalorization leads to physical decline, which in turn lowers the market price of the land on which the dilapidated buildings stand. When, and only when, this rent gap between actual and potential ground rent becomes sufficiently large, redevelopment and rehabilitation into new land uses becomes a profitable prospect, and capital begins to flow back into the inner city market. To summarize, the investment of capital in the central and inner city caused a physical and economic barrier to further investment in that space. The movement of capital into suburban development led to a systematic devalorization of inner and central city capital, and this, in turn, with the development of the rent gap, led to the creation of new investment opportunities in the inner city percisely because an effective barrier to new investment had previously operated there. The issue to be examined now is the rhythm and periodicity of these movements of capital, and this is the third and final aspect of uneven development to be considered. REINVESTMENT AND THE RHYTHM OF UNEVENNESS The rhythm of unevenness in a capitalist economy is closely related to the broader rhythm and periodicity of the national and international economy. Thus Whitehand [51] has shown how urban expansion and suburbanization has taken place in consecutive waves occurring at particular points in economic boom-bust This content downloaded from on Mon, 21 May 2018 19:08:58 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms 150 ECONoMic GEOGRAPHY cycles. As Harvey [18] has shown, there is a strong empirical tendency for capital to undergo periodic but relatively rapid and systematic shifts in the location and quantity of capital invested in the built environment. These geographical or locational switches are closely correlated with the timing of crises in the broader economy. Whereas from the perspective of neoclassical economics, crises are accidental interruptions in the general economic equilibrium, from the perspective of Marx, crises are the necessary product of an economic system based on profit, private property, and the wage relation. The necessity to accumulate, Marx shows, leads to a falling rate of profit and an overproduction of commodities and hence to crisis [25, III, Ch. 13]. The phenomena accompanying crises, including the movement of capital both locationally and between sectors, cannot therefore be dismissed as accidental but must be seen and explained as products of the structure of capitalist development itself. By way of the simplest explanation, with falling rates of profit in the major industrial sectors, financial capital seeks an alternative arena for investment, an arena where the profit rate remains comparatively high and where the risk is low. At precisely this point, there tends to be an increase in the capital flowing into the built environment. The result is the familiar property boom, such as affected a number of cities throughout the advanced capitalist world from 1969 to 1973. But the question of where this capital flooding into the built environment will locate has no automatic answer. It depends on the geographical patterns created in the foregoing economic boom. In the case of the present crisis, the geographical pattern confronting capital was created through the dual process of suburban development and inner city underdevelopment. The underdevelopment of the previously developed inner city, meaning the systematic lack of capital investment in those locations, brought about the rent gap, and this, in turn, laid the foundation for a locational switch of capital invested in the built environment, simultaneous in part with a sectoral switch. This locational switch is rarely smooth as is illustrated by recent dramatic fluctuations in new housing construction. Uneven development at the urban scale therefore brought not only gentrification-a relatively minor part of the process, in fact-but the whole gamut of processes: condominium conversions, office construction, massive redevelopment projects to build hotels, plazas, restaurants, marinas, and so on. All involve a movement of capital not simply into the built environment in general, in response very much to the approaching or already present economic crisis, but into the central and inner city built environment in particular. In this light, it is necessary to reassess, somewhat, our traditional liberal view that the state-subsidized urban renewal schemes of the 50s and 60s were a failure. Regardless of how socially destructive they were, they have been very successful economically in laying the foundation for the phase of redevelopment, rehabilitation, and land use conversion that is presently taking place [33]. Economic crisis both necessitates and provides the opportunity for a fundamental restructuring of the economy. Together with this economic restructuring comes a restructuring of social and economic space. Suburbanization was a concrete spatial response to the depressions of the 1890s and 1930s in the sense that suburban development opened up a whole series of investment possibilities which could help to revive the profit rate. With FHA mortgage subsidies, the construction of highways, and so on, the state subsidized suburbanization quite deliberately as part of a larger solution to crisis. Albeit a reversal in geographic terms, the gentrification and redevelopment of the inner city represents a linear continuation of the forces and relations that led to suburbanization. Like suburbanization, the redevelopment and rehabilitation of the central and inner cities functions as a substantial source of profit. This content downloaded from on Mon, 21 May 2018 19:08:58 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms GENTRIFICATION Gentrification is part of the restructuring of inner city residential space. It follows the previous and ongoing restructuring of office, commercial, and recreational space, and while this restructuring has a variety of functions, it operates primarily to counteract the falling rate of profit. In his National Urban Program, President Carter implicitly understood this. For the first time, the "revitalization of the cities" was seen as integral to the overall revitalization of the U.S. economy. This implicit realization is symbolized by Carter's attempt to create a new government department by consolidating HUD and the Economic Development Administration into the Department of Development Assistance. The program never came to fruition, of course, but it was an ambitious state plan to lubricate the restructuring of urban space in the name of national economic revitalization. President Reagan's attempt to return responsibility for redevelopment to the private market should be a sufficient test of the robustness of the process. While gentrification represents the leading edge of spatial restructuring at the urban scale, the process is also occurring at the regional [27; 28] and international [13; 14] scales. And while the urban scale may in the end be the least significant in terms of the overall restructuring of the world economy, in the attempt to prepare it for another phase of sustained capital accumulation and expansion, still at the urban scale, the internal logic of uneven development is most completely accomplished. The logic behind uneven development is that the development of one area creates barriers to further development, thus leading to underdevelopment, and that the underdevelopment of that area creates opportunities for a new phase of development. Geographically, this leads to the possibility of what we might call a "locational seesaw": the suc- cessive development, underdevelopment, and redevelopment of given areas as capital jumps from one place to another, then back again, both creating 151 and destroying its own opportunities for development. There are clearly severe limits to the possible extent of this locational seesawing. At the international scale, where, with few exceptions, the distinction between developed and underdeveloped nations is rigidly set, the process occurs not at all. At the regional scale, it is too early to predict; the future of some presently depressed areas in New England, Central Scotland, and Northeast England will be of particular importance, since in each there is just the beginnings of new investment alongside precipitous decline [8]. Only at the urban scale has this seesawing begun to complete a single cycle. Once developed, then underdeveloped, the central and inner cities are again in the midst of an active redevelopment. I am not at all suggesting an end to suburbanization; just as new construction and repairs continued in the city during the most vigorous period of suburbanization [52], the urbanization of the countryside will also continue, with the emphasis increasingly on the areas beyond the present suburbs. This is clear, if for no other reason than that central and inner city redevelopment, while it can absorb massive quantities of capital in the process of economic restructuring, can never be the exclusive geographical focus for reinvestment. The scale at which economic restructuring is necessary in the present crisis will make central and inner city redevelopment only a small part of the overall restructuring process. The differentiation of the city from the suburbs, through redevelopment and the probable decline and underdevelopment of selective suburbs, will be matched by the continued urbanization of the countryside. CONCLUSION In the beginning it was suggested that revitalization was rarely an appropriate term for gentrification, but we can see now that in one sense it is appropriate. Gentrification is part of a larger redevel- This content downloaded from on Mon, 21 May 2018 19:08:58 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms 152 ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY quote from 1872 [10, pp. 71-4] lends hisopment process dedicated to the revitalitorical perspective to the present zation of the profit rate. In the process, analysis: many downtowns are being converted into bourgeois playgrounds replete with In reality the bourgeoisie has only one quaint markets, restored townhouses, method of settling the housing question boutique rows, yachting marinas, and after its fashion.... This method is called Hyatt Regencies. These very visual alter"Haussman,"... By "Haussman" I mean the ations to the urban landscape are not at all practice, which has now become general, of an accidental side-effect of temporary making breaches in the working-class quareconomic disequilibrium but are as ters of our big cities, particularly in those rooted in the structure of capitalist which are centrally situated, irrespective of whether this practice is occasioned by consociety as was the advent of suburbanizasiderations of public health and beautification. The economic, demographic, lifetion or by the demand for big centrally style, and energy factors cited by Berry as located business premises or by traffic rewell as the back-to-the-city school are quirements, such as the laying down of relevant only after consideration of this railways, streets, etc. No matter how differbasic explanation in terms of uneven ent the reasons may be, the result is everydevelopment at the urban scale. where the same: the most scandalous alleys The conclusions presented here are and lanes disappear to the accompaniment certainly tentative, no matter how firm of lavish self-glorification by the bourgeoisie on account of this tremendous success, the theoretical fundament on which they but-they appear again at once somewhere are based. In order to sketch the entire analysis it has been necessary to cut many else, and often in the immediate neighbourhood.... This is a striking example of how corners and omit much detail, some of it the bourgeoisie settles the housing question at least which would raise questions in practice. The breeding places of disease about the interpretation given here. The ... in which the capitalist mode of producentire analysis raises far more questions tion confines our workers . .. are not abolthan it answers. If it succeeds only in setished; they are merely shifted elsewhere! ting some of the foundation for the The similarity between 1872 and the debate over the future of the central and present day is obvious. The difference is inner cities, it will have been eminently that the example Engels describes was worthwhile. As regards empirical validaisolated, if not unique, whereas today the tion of the perspective presented, meanprocess is virtually universal. Much as ingful data on the trajectory of inner city capitalism strives toward the annihilation redevelopment is scarce. Janes's data on of space by time, it also strives more and Atlanta and Washington, D.C., for exammore to produce a differentiated space as ple, seems to confirm the relationship a means to its own survival. between gentrification and economic criA predictably populist symbolism sis [21, p. 169], but the problem with most underlies the hoopla and boosterism with such building permit data is that it is which gentrification is marketed. It impossible to tell definitively which focuses on "making cities liveable," repairs and replacements truly represent meaning liveable for the middle class. In gentrification. To emphasize the need for fact, of necessity, they have always been empirical verification of the hypotheses "liveable" for the working class. The soand analysis presented is merely to state the obvious. called renaissance is advertised and sold Gentrification, and the redevelopment as bringing benefits to everyone regardless of class, but available evidence sugprocess of which it is a part, is a systegests otherwise. According to HUDs matic occurrence of late capitalist urban Annual Housing Survey, approximately development. This is not to say it has never occurred before, only that it has 5000,000 U.S. households are displaced never been so systematic. The following each year [44], which may amount to as This content downloaded from on Mon, 21 May 2018 19:08:58 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms GENTRIFICATION many as 2 million people. Eighty-six percent of these households are displaced by private market activity, and they are predominantly urban working class. The federal government has sidestepped the problem of displacees, claiming alternately that there is no accurate data on displacement, that it is an insignificant process compared to continuing suburbanization, or that it is the responsibility of local government [15]. Further, the socalled renaissance is generally sold as a means to raise the cities' tax revenues and to decrease unemployment, but there is little evidence that this has in fact occurred. Urban unemployment has continued to rise, and in some instances, property taxes were held down to subsi- 153 3. Berry, B. The Human Consequences of Urbanization. London: Macmillan, 1973. 4. Berry, B. "Inner City Futures: An American Dilemma Revisited," Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, N.S. 5.1 (1980), pp. 1-28. 5. Bradford, C. and L. Rubinowitz. "The UrbanSuburban Investment-Disinvestment Process: Consequences for Older Neighbourhoods," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 422 (1975), pp. 77-86. 6. Braverman, H. Labor and Monopoly Capital. New York: Monthly Review, 1974. 7. Bukharin, N. Imperialism and World Economy. London: Merlin, 1972 edn. 8. Carney, J., Hudson, R. and J. Lewis (eds.). Regions in Crisis. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1980. dize gentrification [37]. 9. Edel, M. "Planning, Market or Warfare?Recent Land Use Conflict in American Cities," In connection with the present ecoReadings in Urban Economics. Edited by M. nomic crisis, a massive restructuring of Edel and J. Rothenburg. New York: Macmillan, industrial production activity is afoot. 1972. The restructuring, through gentrification, 10. Engels, F. The Housing Question. Moscow: of working class communities-the locus Progress Publishers, 1975. of the reproduction of labor power-is not separate from this restructuring of the 11. Gillman, J. The Falling Rate of Profit. London: Dennis Dobson, 1957. production process. In both it is becoming increasingly clear that there is a class 12. Harman, C. "Marx's Theory of Crisis and Its struggle over the use and production of Critics," International Socialism, 11 (1981), pp. 30-71. space. Gentrification is part of a larger class strategy to restructure the economy, 13. Harris, N. "Deindustrialization," International Socialism, 7 (1980), pp. 72-81. a strategy which leaves the basis of exploitation (the wage-labor relation) 14. Harris, N. "Crisis and the Core of the World intact. Just as economic restructuring (in System," International Socialism, 10 (1980), pp. the form of plant closures, runaway 24-50. shops, social service cuts, etc.) is carried 15. Hartman, C. "Comment on 'Neighborhood Reout to the detriment of the working class, vitalization and Displacement: A Review of the so too is the spatial aspect of restructuring Evidence," Journal of the American Planning at the urban scale-gentrification and redevelopment. While opposition to this strategy has developed in Europe, it is as yet more sporadic and less organized in the United States. LITERATURE CITED 1. Alonso, W. Location and Land Use. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1964. 2. Ball, M. "A Critique of Urban Economics," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 3 (1979), pp. 309-32. Association, 45.4 (1979), pp. 488-91. 16. Harvey, D. Social Justice and the City. London: Edward Arnold, 1973. 17. Harvey, D. "Class Structure in a Capitalist Society and the Theory of Residential Differentiation," Processes in Physical and Human Geography. Edited by Peel et al. Edinburgh: Heinemann, 1975. 18. Harvey, D. 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5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times UNSHELTERED Behind New York¡s Housing https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 Crisis: Weakened Laws New York and Fragmented Regulation Affordable housing is vanishing as landlords exploit a broken system, pushing out rent-regulated tenants and catapulting apartments into the free market. By KIM BARKER MAY 20, 2018 The assault began shortly after a new owner bought the building at 25 Grove Street in June 2015. Surveillance cameras arrived first, pointed at the doors to rent-regulated apartments. Then came the construction workers, who gutted empty units and sent a dust cocktail of lead-based paint, brick and who knows what else throughout the building. Worried, a pregnant woman and her husband left, dooming their apartment to the demolition derby. Violations were issued; violations were dismissed. And on a Friday morning in early August 2016, Temma Tainow, who had lived in the West Village building for 34 years, was jarred awake by what sounded like an explosion. She stumbled into her kitchen and screamed. A leg dangled from a hole punched through her ceiling. “I think it is imprinted on my brain forever: looking up and seeing five men staring down through the hole,” recalled Ms. Tainow, 70, a tiny therapist with a halo of reddish-brown hair who speaks deliberately and walks with a slow limp. “It’s been awful. It’s been a nightmare. It’s exactly what the owner wants.” U N S H  LT  R  D Articles in this series examine New York's broken system for protecting tenants and affordable apartments. Part 1: The Vanishing Affordable Apartment Part 2: The Eviction Machine https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 1/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times Part 3: 69,000 Housing Crises What You Need to Know as a New York Tenant https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 Across much of New York City, construction scenes like these play out New York regularly at buildings with rent-regulated apartments — the city’s largest stock of affordable housing, where rents are set at a prescribed level and are supposed to increase only a small amount each year. These apartments — seen as the scourge of landlords and the salvation of struggling New Yorkers — are at the center of a housing crisis that has swelled the ranks of the homeless and threatens to squeeze all but the affluent from ever-wider swaths of the city. But even as Mayor Bill de Blasio has made adding more affordable housing a signature pledge of his administration, the system that protects the city’s roughly one million regulated apartments is profoundly broken, a New York Times investigation has found. In neighborhoods already gentrified or in the throes of gentrifying, a relatively new class of mega-landlords has driven up rents by exploiting enforcement gaps in a web of city and state agencies. By churning through enough tenants and claiming enough renovations, landlords can raise the rent enough — beyond $2,733.75 a month — to wrest an apartment from regulation’s grip and into the free market. What You Need to Know a a Tenant New York’s housing system can be complicated to navigate. Here’s a quick primer on what your rights are and how to exercise them. New York is among the global boomtowns, like London, Los Angeles and San Francisco, where skyrocketing rents — and the struggle to shelter those who can’t afford them — have struck a deep political chord. But New York grapples with its own peculiar contradictions. It has the nation’s largest rent-regulation system. On paper at least, it still has some of the most robust tenant protections, bolstered by new city laws https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 2/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times designed to fight tenant harassment and give poor tenants free legal representation in housing court. (Rea d a bou t how la ndlor ds ha v e com m a ndeer ed the hou sing https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 cou r t sy stem to pu sh a pa r tm ents into the fr ee m a r k et, in Pa r t 2 of New this York ser ies.) Yet without more fundamental change — especially in the basic laws governing rent increases — regulated apartments in New York are in danger of vanishing, one by one. It is happening already: Since city and state lawmakers started gutting the rent laws in 1993, the city has lost over 152,000 regulated apartments because landlords have pushed the rent too high. At least 130,000 more have disappeared because of co-op and condo conversions, expiring tax breaks and other factors. And while government officials say the losses have slowed, even regulated apartments are becoming increasingly unaffordable. In some ways, this is an age-old story: New York has been in some form of housing crisis for a century. Landlords and tenants have battled for at least that long. But over the last 25 years, the balance of power has been reordered by a confluence of factors: that progressive weakening of the rent laws, an immensely profitable free market driven by a surging local economy, and the evolution of the rental real estate business, with momand-pop operations increasingly subsumed by Landlord Inc. In the face of these changes, the regulators are simply overmatched. The regulatory apparatus is fractionalized, divided among three city and state agencies. It is also essentially passive, The Times found. So state regulators, relying on outdated technology, do not systematically check whether a landlord found to have overcharged one tenant regularly does the same to others. City regulators do not investigate whether an owner who has illegally gutted apartments in one building might be doing the same elsewhere. And if building inspectors fail twice to get inside to investigate complaints of illegal construction, they don’t return a third time; the complaint is tossed out. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 3/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times At the same time, the city’s housing court, mired in chaos, cannot reliably weed out frivolous and abusive lawsuits. (Go inside B r ook ly n’s hou sing cou r t, la st stop on the r oa d to https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 ev iction, in Pa r t 3 .) New York The Times interviewed more than 200 tenants, housing activists and government employees; reviewed thousands of pages of court records and building permits; and examined several government databases. In place of regulatory muscle, The Times found, the system relies on trust: trust that landlords do the right thing, trust that architects and engineers submit accurate permit applications, trust that landlords report rental histories correctly, trust that eviction suits are legitimate. It also places the burden of investigation on tenants. They must ask for their apartments’ rental histories and determine their accuracy, complain about building permits, and sue over harassment. Holding on to an affordable apartment can turn into a part-time job, not to mention a fulltime obsession. Agencies rarely take action unless someone complains, and it can take time. In 2015, tenants who filed rent-overcharge complaints waited nearly two years on average for a resolution. Landlords are hardly all bad, and smaller ones often struggle to pay their bills. But the new corporate landlords scoop up buildings with rentregulated tenants, aiming to “unlock value” promised by the free market. In advertisements, brokers describe buildings with phrases like “significant upside” and “great potential for increase.” One developer, Icon Realty Management, displayed a neon art piece for a time that preached, “Don’t make sense make dollars.” To breach the $2,733.75 threshold, mega-landlords and aspiring ones tend to follow the same playbook: After buying a building, they try to get tenants in regulated apartments to leave, often offering buyouts or harassing them with poor services or eviction suits. Once an apartment is empty, they tack on allowed vacancy increases. They often also perform renovations, enabling them to raise the rent even further while annoying the remaining neighbors, sometimes to the point of prompting them to leave. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 4/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times Some landlords willfully flout the rules, The Times found. Applying for construction permits, they say buildings have no occupied apartments when they do. They inflate the cost of renovations or claim the work will be only minor when it is major. Or they falsely claim to have performed https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 renovations, knowing that the state asks for proof only when a new tenant New York complains. If regulators catch on to one trick, landlords find another. It’s like a giant game of Whac-a-Mole. Punishment, if there is any, is seen as the cost of doing business, often a minor fine in the course of a multimillion-dollar development deal. In 2007, a developer named Ben Shaoul and his partners, private equity firms, bought 17 East Village buildings for $97.5 million. They then included false statements on almost every building permit application, enabling them to skirt tenant-protection requirements. In about six years, Mr. Shaoul, nicknamed “The Sledgehammer” by a real estate blog after he was photographed with a sledgehammer-wielding construction crew, cut the number of the most common kind of regulated apartments to 54 from 157, tax bills show. Nothing ever happened to him or his partners, even though lying on an application is a crime. In an interview, Mr. Shaoul said his company renovated buildings left untouched for decades and deregulated them properly. “The idea was to increase rents,” Mr. Shaoul said, adding that his company no longer purchased buildings with regulated apartments. “That was the business plan. That was the intent. It’s America.” In 2013, Mr. Shaoul and his partners sold the buildings for $130.2 million, making a tidy profit. The buyer was a joint venture involving companies controlled by Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and now White House adviser. The Sunet of Regulation In late 1992, Steven Croman, only 26, bought his first tenement building, a five-story walk-up at 221 Mott Street. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 5/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times The block was a slice of old, but ever-evolving, New York. Though still considered part of Little Italy, the neighborhood was by then largely Chinese. Eighteen of its 36 buildings had rent-regulated apartments, 261 units in all. https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 Beginning in the 1920s, New York experimented with regulation to battle a New York chronically low vacancy rate. Advocates argued that regulation maintained a stable housing stock and limited runaway rents. Landlords countered that regulation increased rents of unregulated apartments, restricted building upkeep and discouraged new construction. By the 1980s, the city had two types of regulated apartments: rentcontrolled and rent-stabilized. Rent-controlled apartments, with strict rules and extremely low rents, were being phased out, so most regulated apartments were stabilized, with annual increases set by a board and a menu of tenant protections. Many were stabilized according to the traditional criteria: built before 1974, with six or more units. Others, stabilized through tax-benefit programs, often had much higher initial rents and could be deregulated after a certain time. There had always been landlords who tried to drive tenants out of regulated apartments. In the 1980s, a few moved in drug dealers and prostitutes to harass tenants. One landlord couple legendarily roamed the halls with snarling pit bulls. Several earned tabloid nicknames: Dracula Landlord, Reptile Landlord. But these were generally small landlords, limited in what they could legally accomplish. Mr. Croman had good timing. New York was emerging from the dark days of the 1970s and ’80s, when boarded-up buildings pockmarked many neighborhoods. Rents climbed with demand. Within a year of Mr. Croman’s first big purchase, the rent-stabilization laws started crumbling, largely through the efforts of a well-organized real estate lobby and a group of sympathetic politicians, many of whom benefited from the industry’s campaign contributions. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 6/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times They were led by one of the state’s most powerful men, Joseph L. Bruno, an upstate Republican senator who would compare the effects of rent control to the devastation of an atom bomb. A narrative of the undeserving tenant took hold, encapsulated in the not entirely mythical $400-a-month fourhttps://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 bedroom on Central Park West. New York Previously, the only legal way to significantly increase the rent of a regulated apartment had been to pass on the cost of renovations. In the 1990s, though, landlords won concession after concession in Albany. If renters’ incomes passed a certain threshold, their apartments could be deregulated. When a tenant left, the landlords could increase the rent by about 20 percent. Rent overcharge complaints had to be filed within four years of the increase. And most crucially, if the rent was pushed high enough — initially $2,000 a month — the apartment could be deregulated forever. Mr. Croman recruited a certain kind of tenant: college students, young Wall Street workers, people who cycled through quickly, enabling repeated vacancy increases. Mr. Croman pressured longtime tenants, first offering minimal buyouts, then bringing frivolous eviction suits and harassing them with nerve-racking construction, according to tenants and advocates. Once empty, the apartments moved through the renovation mill, emerging as glass-and-exposed-brick confections, often with cramped bedrooms, primed for more roommates and higher rents. In 1998, The Village Voice named him to its 10 worst landlords list. He bought more buildings. Almost organically, a similar class of landlords rose up, always looking for buildings with regulated apartments. Some were family businesses that preferred to hold on to their buildings, banking on a return over time. Others had a more corporate face, along with investors. Some got mortgages based not on a building’s current rent roll but on its potential earnings. Some flipped buildings quickly, emptying and renovating as many regulated apartments as possible before selling to the next company, remaking neighborhoods from the inside out. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 7/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times One fairly recent example: In June 2013, BCB Property Management bought 1059 Union Street, in the fast-gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights, for $8.2 million. Twenty-eight of the 32 apartments were rent-stabilized, tax bills show. https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 In New January 2015, BCB sold the building for $13.2 million to Sugar Hill York Capital Partners, which 14 months later sold it to Sterling Equities for $17.9 million. Only 15 stabilized apartments remained. Across the city — ever deeper into Brooklyn and Queens and more recently into the Bronx — buildings have been transformed. The city has grown more crowded and more expensive. About 8.6 million people now live in New York, 1.3 million more than when Mr. Croman bought his first building. Yet the number of rental units has increased only slightly, mostly on the expensive end, while the median rent has jumped significantly. More than half of New Yorkers pay over 30 percent of their income in rent, meaning they are considered “rent-burdened” under federal guidelines. And while the raw number of regulated apartments has stayed roughly even, that figure hides a particular churn. Traditional regulated apartments pushed into the free market have been replaced by apartments added through tax-break programs, which are often much more expensive. In 2016, the median legal rent of newly registered stabilized apartments was $2,750 — roughly the median asking rent for all New York apartments on the rental website StreetEasy. In Brooklyn, the median rent of a newly stabilized apartment was almost $3,300. On the block of Mott Street where Mr. Croman started out — now part of the neighborhood rebranded NoLIta — a three-story parking garage has given way to condominiums priced as high as $21 million. An Italian funeral home has been reborn as a Japanese boutique. And where 261 traditional rent-regulated apartments once stood, only 91 remain. Six buildings have shed all their rent-regulated apartments. Mr. Croman’s building, which once had 11 apartments, all regulated, now has 18 apartments, only two of them regulated. A studio goes for north of $3,000 a month. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 8/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times How to Remake a uilding https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 Frieda Taplitz bought 25 Grove Street for $52,500 in 1957. The building — red brick, tenement-style, built in 1886 — was a family investment: A New York Taplitz always lived there. Repairs and modest improvements, such as a new chimney and a new stairway enclosure, were done. Major renovations weren’t. Rents remained low. Tenants like Temma Tainow stayed for decades, and for the most part, the tenants and the Taplitzes got along. Only three complaints were recorded, all in the mid-1990s. But in 2015, the family decided to sell. An advertisement said the 19-unit building had 14 rent-regulated apartments with an average rent less than half of market rate. Two apartments were vacant. There was, in other words, a lot of value to be unlocked at 25 Grove Street. On June 11, 2015, the building was bought for $15.2 million by a limited liability company named 25 Grove Street. The company’s public face was Abraham Sanieoff, who had married into the family that ran the Sabet Group, a developer with a history of wresting apartments out of regulation. In the fall, construction crews arrived. Protecting tenants is supposed to be the job of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. But construction is regulated by a separate agency, the Department of Buildings, and tenants are not its primary concern. In fact, no agency complaint category even mentions the word “tenant.” For a landlord seeking to free apartments from regulation, that bureaucratic limbo makes it easier to do rent-enhancing renovations hidden from city inspectors’ scrutiny. So landlords may lie on permit applications, saying that major construction is only cosmetic work, which demands far gentler oversight. They may begin work without obtaining permits at all. Whatever the violation, the median building fine between 2013 and 2017 was $800, pocket change for developers. The city’s finance department does little to ensure that fines are https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 9/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times collected. The buildings department does little to ensure that violations are fixed. Most permit applications for apartment renovations get only a cursory https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 review. That is because architects and engineers are allowed to “self-certify” that theyYork follow the rules, letting them quickly obtain permits for what they New say is minor work. A self-certified permit is often approved within days. Applications that are actually reviewed — those for more extensive work — can take months. A buildings department spokesman, Joseph Soldevere, said selfcertification helped make construction easier, faster and cheaper. Adding more red tape would simply drive illegal work further underground, he said, adding that the agency routinely audited self-certified applications, about one in every six last year. But a comparison of building permits, violations and apartment listings indicates how willfully some owners flout the rules. At 165 Avenue A, one of the East Village buildings purchased in part by Mr. Shaoul’s company, two architects submitted eight self-certified permits for apartment renovations between 2007 and 2011. Both claimed the work would not change occupancy. One, Ken Hudes, whose firm, Atelier New York Architecture, has become a favorite of mega-landlords, said his work would involve only minor partition changes. But the work was considerable: Apartments were gutted and converted from one- and two-bedrooms to four-bedrooms. Mr. Hudes denied any wrongdoing. In an email, he said his team turned nonfunctioning apartments into beautiful homes, adding, “Tenants and landlords love our work.” Just as permits are easily granted, complaints are often closed for the most basic reason: Inspectors are allowed to dismiss them if they fail twice to get inside. With regulated apartments, that has led to the dismissal of almost 3,000 complaints a year — even allegations of tenant harassment. Without other evidence, Mr. Soldevere said, the buildings department has little https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 10/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times choice but to close complaints when inspectors are refused entry or when a building is locked. Yet even when the buildings department does get inside and orders https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 landlords to fix problems, often no one seems to follow up. About a year after Mr.York Kushner’s joint venture bought 165 Avenue A — long after most New work was done, and after a ninth complaint that apartments were being illegally converted — inspectors finally got in. The company was fined $2,000 and told to restore three apartments to two bedrooms from four. The fine was paid. But the apartments are still marketed as having four bedrooms. In November, Apartment 8 was advertised for $5,500 a month. A spokeswoman for Kushner Companies declined to comment. After the sale of 25 Grove Street, the complaints piled up. In October 2015, a tenant reported apartments being gutted without permits. The building, in fact, had no permits whatsoever. In short order, the architect, Mr. Hudes’s partner, Jonathan Miller, submitted two self-certified permits, saying workers would do only minor work in four units. Within hours, each permit was rubber-stamped. City inspectors then responded to the initial complaint, dismissing it. Landlords are often tipped off to potential problems by complaints automatically logged on a public website. Only then do they file permit applications — akin to getting a driver’s license after being accused of speeding. “I’m not even as angry at the landlord as I am at the city,” said Collette Stallone, 63, a tenant. “They’re allowing this.” Mr. Sanieoff declined to comment. His lawyer, Joseph Buckley, denied any wrongdoing. Tenants soon complained of excessive dust, of illegal construction, of sloppy work. A drill punctured Ms. Tainow’s ceiling. A saw came through another tenant’s floor. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 11/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times Photographs showed a thick layer of dust inside apartments. Ms. Tainow developed a raspy cough. “I was wearing a mask all the time, even when I was sleeping,” said https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 Humberto Torres, 56, who has asthma and lives across the hall. New York Photographs later documented that the work was hardly minor: entire apartments taken down to the studs; one-bedroom units altered to have two. On Jan. 13, 2016, the owner and contractors were hit with four violations. Three of them — for working without permits and lying on one application — led to fines of $4,000. The fourth — for excessive dust in Mr. Torres’s apartment — was deemed “immediately hazardous.” Violation hearings are usually cozy affairs, with a city hearing officer, a buildings department lawyer and a representative of the building or construction firm. Tenants are not invited. Landlords routinely get the benefit of the doubt. At the dust-violation hearing, Abe Sicker, representing the construction company, argued that the violation’s class should be reduced. “It is annoying, the dust,” he conceded. “But an immediately hazardous violation?” The hearing officer agreed — and then some. She dismissed the violation altogether. The Cut­and­Pate Protection Plan In March 2015, a landlord named Asher Sussman told the buildings department that he wanted to transform his new “amazing investment opportunity” in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn from seven apartments into 10. “All he was seeing was dollar signs,” said Cynthia Wilkie, 62, who lived in one of the two occupied apartments at 632 Sterling Place. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 12/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times What happened next shows the flimsiness of the rules and paperwork designed to protect tenants in regulated apartments during construction. https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 On the application, Mr. Sussman needed to check “yes” or “no” on two boxes: NewWas Yorkthe building occupied? Did it have rent-regulated units? He checked “no” on both. Contradicting the first false statement, Mr. Sussman’s architect submitted a “tenant-protection plan.” The plan itself was a word-for-word recitation of the city building code’s definition of a tenant protection plan. Separately, under “tenant safety notes,” the architect said construction would not “create dust, dirt, or other inconveniences.” Mr. Soldevere said examiners had determined that the protection planned for tenants was appropriate for the proposed construction. As with lying about the extent of construction, lying about occupancy or regulatory status is a crime and may mean that owners are compromising safety. If a building has tenants, a tenant protection plan is required to safeguard them. “It’s not just a bureaucratic check-the-box, not-check-the-box thing,” said Brandon Kielbasa, a tenant organizer with the Cooper Square Committee. “The consequences are that tenants are put in really dangerous situations or psychologically harassed out of their homes.” Yet as at 632 Sterling Place, many architects and engineers submitted tenant-protection plans with few protections, often simply cut and pasted from the building code. And falsified permits are not uncommon, a review of thousands of permits shows. Hundreds of owners lied about both occupancy and regulated apartments. Until recently, the review showed, the city largely ignored the boxes altogether. It didn’t track whether an owner lied about occupancy or whether a building had regulated apartments, considering tax bills unreliable because they were self-reported. Only in December 2016 did the state agency that monitors regulated apartments agree to tell the buildings department whether a building had any. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 13/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times Architects and engineers are rarely held responsible for falsified permits. They are licensed by the state, which seldom punishes anyone. Those disciplined by the city often voluntarily surrender self-certification privileges to avoid more formal punishment. The reasons are never made https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 public. New York Their firms can easily bounce back. Take Atelier. In March 2015, Mr. Hudes voluntarily surrendered his self-certification privileges. His partner, Mr. Miller, took over. Then on Aug. 8, Mr. Miller voluntarily surrendered his privileges, making way for a new architect, Anatole Plotkin. Mr. Hudes recovered his privileges in November. The only criminal charge that The Times identified for a licensed contractor working on a regulated building involved Pirooz Soltanizadeh, an engineer indicted in June 2015 on felony charges of falsely reporting that no one lived at 1578 Union Street in Brooklyn. The arrests of Mr. Soltanizadeh and the owner, Daniel Melamed, were highly publicized, the first by a new citystate task force fighting tenant harassment. The building was illegally gutted around three families; construction dust contained 88 times the allowed lead level. In December, Mr. Soltanizadeh, who had faced up to four years in prison, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct — the equivalent of a ticket. He is still licensed, although he gave up his self-certification privileges a year ago. His lawyer, Paul Greenfield, said Mr. Melamed, who spent 20 days in jail and paid $200,000 in restitution, was to blame for the falsehoods. At 632 Sterling Place, after agreeing to buy the building in late 2014, Mr. Sussman had pushed tenants to leave, eventually offering buyouts. Two tenants agreed to move, including a woman with dementia. The other woman said she never received any money. But moving made no sense to Ms. Wilkie, who had lived there for 22 years and paid about $850 a month for the three-bedroom apartment she shared with her brother, daughter and two grandchildren. Ms. Wilkie had diabetes and had undergone double-bypass heart surgery. Her daughter, Wendy, 33, was blind and in a wheelchair because of childhood brain cancer. Ms. Wilkie’s brother had lost his right leg to diabetes. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 14/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times Her neighbor, Arnold Brathwaite, 68, a retired veteran, also wanted to stay. By early 2016, the building started coming down around them, despite the cookie-cutter protection plan. The heat was turned off. The second and https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 third floors were gutted. A staircase was removed. A hole was cut into the roof. Debris New Yorkwas piled in corners, against walls. Dust was everywhere. On Aug. 10, 2016, inspectors issued 10 major building violations. Still, that meant only $23,250 in fines. Neither Mr. Sussman nor the architect was fined for lying. Mr. Sussman, the managing member of the limited liability company 632 Sterling L.L.C., did not respond to requests for comment. Because the building was so unsafe, the city moved the tenants to a Days Inn in Queens, filled mainly with other refugees from damaged apartments, their rent now paid by taxpayers. Ms. Wilkie, her daughter and granddaughter shared a cramped room with two queen-size beds. The hotel’s single, shared microwave became their kitchen. With help from the Legal Aid Society, Ms. Wilkie and Mr. Brathwaite sued to fix the building on Sterling Place. That case will take years. Mr. Brathwaite eventually settled, accepting another apartment from Mr. Sussman. Ms. Wilkie decided to fight. Her family stayed at the Days Inn for more than a year, until the city tried to move her to a homeless shelter in November. To avoid that, she temporarily rented an apartment in Brownsville, a Brooklyn neighborhood still ungentrified, with a bathroom too small for Wendy’s wheelchair. The monthly rent is $2,110, almost triple what she paid before. Mthical Cloet There is one more line of defense: the state’s Division of Housing and Community Renewal, designated overseer of the rent laws, watchdog against rent fraud, guardian of the $2,733.75 threshold for traditional regulated apartments. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 15/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times Many housing advocates argue that rent fraud is rampant in New York. How widespread such overcharges are, though, is impossible to judge, because the state agency doesn’t collect much of the necessary information. When it does, it is barred from making the data public. https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 YetNew it is York clear that the agency is often helpless in the face of the myriad subterfuges that some landlords deploy to manipulate rent system guidelines. The agency, for example, requires landlords to report all regulated rents annually, along with vacancy increases and money spent on apartment improvements. But it does not require proof of that spending, unless a tenant files an overcharge complaint, which is rare. Nor does the agency check for a building permit when a landlord claims a rent increase for improvements. A missing permit could indicate that work was illegal, minor or never done. So just as they may lie about the extent — or even existence — of improvements to avoid oversight, landlords may claim whatever type and quantity of work is needed to free an apartment from regulation. If the state agency consistently comes up short, it is, perhaps unintentionally, frank about its limitations. On rental histories, the agency admits that it does not “attest to the truthfulness of the owner’s statements or the legality of the rents reported in this document.” On some rental histories, it misspells its own name: “Communtiy,” instead of “Community.” For an agency created to protect tenants, it often ends up sheltering landlords. In the name of protecting tenants’ privacy, the agency is barred from releasing rental histories, except to the tenant. It is even barred from reporting how many regulated apartments are in a building. In an attempt to quantify rent-rule violations, at least in microcosm, lawyers at the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation, an advocacy group, investigated the rental histories of the 92 apartments at 560 Audubon Avenue. The study, part of a pending 2016 lawsuit alleging rent overcharges, found unexplained rent jumps in 58 apartments and https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 16/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times registered rents that didn’t match leases in 33. Thirteen tenants signed riders certifying that their apartments had been “completely renovated in a good workmanlike manner.” No renovations had been completed. https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 In court filings, the owner, Hayco Corporation, denied overcharging tenants. New York The state housing agency is hamstrung, too, by archaic technology. So if a tenant wins an overcharge case, the agency’s 1980s computer system cannot automatically review the landlord’s other apartments for possible violations. In fact, the agency does not look for overcharges, even in the same building. “It’s like prescribing a Tylenol to a patient that has brain cancer,” said Aaron Carr, founder of the Housing Rights Initiative, which investigates rent overcharges for possible class-action lawsuits. The agency has had to do more with less: In 2017, only 27 examiners looked at overcharge complaints. In 2007, there were 37. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has still claimed successes, including a plan in January 2016 to re-regulate up to 50,000 illegally deregulated apartments. So far, only 1,900 have been returned to the rent rolls. In 2012, Mr. Cuomo also set up a Tenant Protection Unit, which undertook the first-ever audits of owners who had reported significant increases for apartment improvements, recovering $4.5 million for tenants. The unit says it has returned 67,000 apartments to the regulated rolls. But tenant advocates called that figure illusory, saying owners were merely allowed to register their apartments as stabilized, but at their current higher rents, without penalties, “ratifying their earlier fraud,” said Edward Josephson, litigation director for Legal Services NYC. The state refused to give any information about those apartments, which in any event would barely stem losses. The city now has 6,500 fewer stabilized apartments than in 2011, according to state numbers. The tenant protection unit has enemies. Real estate industry groups sued, challenging its existence. Though the suit was dismissed, they have https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 17/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times appealed. State lawmakers, who still rely heavily on industry donations, have consistently denied the unit’s budget request. The state housing agency funds it. Its commissioner, RuthAnne Visnauskas, said she hoped lawmakers would increase the unit’s funding “so that we can do even https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 more.” New York Recently the unit audited 560 Audubon, looking at three apartments and ordering rent reductions after no proof of improvements was provided. Investigators neither fined the landlord nor examined other apartments there. “I was gobsmacked,” said Matthew Chachere, a lawyer with Northern Manhattan. In 2016, the state started requiring landlords to give new rent-regulated tenants explanations of their rent, and to provide more proof of apartment improvements. But tenants rarely check explanations, and the government rarely investigates the authenticity of landlords’ proof. Christopher Leahy, a landlord and contractor who has testified as an expert witness for tenants, believes some landlords claim improvements and then fabricate evidence if tenants file overcharge complaints. The landlords “keep doing it because they so often get away with it,” he said. “Most tenants don’t complain.” Matt Pavoni did. The 37-year-old actor filed a complaint last year after seeing a huge jump in his rental history at 600 Lincoln Place in Crown Heights. In response, the landlord, a limited liability company under the umbrella of the Watermark Capital Group, claimed about $42,500 worth of improvements in 2013 — just enough to push the rent above the then-$2,500 threshold, into the free market. The proof was riddled with problems. The check copies were so tiny as to be illegible. One company, Pinpoint Builders, claimed to have done $20,000 of the work. But the address on its letterhead — 5041 16th Avenue in Brooklyn — did not exist. The new bathroom tiles it claimed to have installed were cracking. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 18/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times Another company, Yankels Demolition and Rubbish Removal, charged $4,000 for “rubbish removal” but classified it as an apartment improvement, yielding a $100 monthly rent increase. The company also claimed to have redone the closets. The apartment has no closets. https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 “That Newreally Yorkupset me,” Mr. Pavoni said. Watermark defends the rent increase. The company said Pinpoint was now based out of another office and blamed tenants for the cracked bathroom tiles. As for the closets, Watermark said they were included in the original work order, then omitted. In January, the state housing agency ruled in Watermark’s favor, saying it had never received Mr. Pavoni’s mailed response. He has appealed. Hardl a lip The vanishing affordable apartment is having an extended political moment. In the brewing race for governor, Mr. Cuomo’s challenger, Cynthia Nixon, has proposed overhauling state rent laws to make it harder to deregulate apartments. And last August, the city adopted a package of measures to fight tenant harassment, establishing a tenant advocate, slightly increasing some penalties and beefing up requirements for tenant protection plans. But the buildings department will be the primary enforcer, and its commitment is unclear. In March, department officials told a City Council committee that new employees would not be hired for the advocate’s office. The commissioner, Rick Chandler, said the department had long advocated successfully for tenants. “I’m very disheartened,” Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, who pushed for the new office, told The Times in April. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 19/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times Last week, after questioning by The Times, the department appeared to have changed its mind: Mr. Soldevere said funding had been requested for two new employees for the advocate’s office. In addition, he said that because of the new laws, the agency planned to hire more than 70 new https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 employees to focus on tenant protection and set up a quick-response unit York of work without permits. forNew complaints “We won’t tolerate landlords who use construction to harass tenants,” he said, adding that since September, the department had issued 547 violations for lying about occupancy and regulation on permits. The Times identified 370 that had been resolved. Out of $1.8 million in fines, about $280,000 has been paid; the median fine was $2,400. With the new scrutiny, some large landlords have stopped lying on permit applications, a review of hundreds of applications shows. They have amended their playbook. But while they are now more likely to check the boxes saying that buildings are occupied with regulated apartments, their tenant protection plans are still pro forma and vague. In the first three months of 2018, Mr. Plotkin of Atelier filed at least 55 identical plans — 475-word statements that used phrases from the building code and garbled statements like, “Noise will kept to a minimum during working while ongoing construction is taking place.” Since harassing a rent-regulated tenant became a crime in the state in 1997, no landlord has been convicted. The few landlords successfully prosecuted for crimes like reckless endangerment have faced relatively small fines and little jail time. The exception is Mr. Croman, accused in 2016 of intimidating tenants with a private investigator and turning buildings into hazardous construction sites. Those were civil charges, brought by the state attorney general. An accompanying criminal case charged him not with harassment but with 20 felonies, stemming, in part, from allegations that might have sprung from a developer’s magical thinking: To secure loans, prosecutors charged, he claimed that stabilized apartments were actually renting at market rate. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 20/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times Eventually, Mr. Croman pleaded guilty to three felonies and settled the civil case. He agreed to pay a $5 million tax settlement and set up an $8 million restitution fund. And while he was sentenced to only a year in jail — he had faced up to 25 — he was supposed to go to the crowded and dangerous https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 Rikers Island jail complex. New York Mr. Croman did not go to Rikers. Instead, he ended up at the Manhattan Detention Complex in Chinatown — more convenient for family and friends. He is to be released next month. His company still owns its buildings, though the state monitors them, as part of his settlement. And his buildings and contractors have continued to rack up violations; as of April, they owed almost $875,000, records show. Since his arrest, 123 of 139 permit applications identified by The Times were self-certified. A spokesman for his company, Sam Spokony, declined to answer questions but said the company was “diligently implementing” the settlement, “in line with our ongoing focus on using best practices to provide quality housing for our residents.” At 25 Grove Street, a few regulated tenants eventually sued, winning a temporary rent reduction. After the worker fell through Ms. Tainow’s ceiling in August 2016, the hole was immediately patched. A few hours later, as Ms. Tainow sat at her computer, workers punched another hole, this time in her living room ceiling, sending another large chunk of drywall onto the floor. Ms. Tainow started screaming. Neighbors called an ambulance: Her blood pressure had shot up to a dangerous 190/130. Despite the two cave-ins, a building inspector wrote up only one Class 1 violation, the most serious kind, for a “localized collapse of ceiling” in the living room and cracks in Mr. Torres’s apartment across the hall. At the hearing, Mr. Sicker, again representing the construction company, argued that the violation class should be reduced. An engineer’s report about the living room, he said, showed “there was nothing really there.” No photographs were provided. Vivian Currie, the buildings department’s lawyer, described the two ceiling collapses as “a small localized area,” https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 21/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times explaining that he had hesitated calling the building inspector to testify because it would have taken time. “Yeah, I mean, to avoid getting the inspector, you know, we will move to amend.” https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 Ms. Tainow was not mentioned. Mr. Sicker won his reduction. The fine was halved, to $5,000. New York January 2017 brought another complaint about illegal construction. After learning about the complaint, Mr. Sanieoff, the landlord, texted the rental agent, Alice Bahar, blaming Ms. Tainow and describing her as “a piece of garbage!” The complaint was closed because inspectors failed twice to get inside. In June 2017, the apartment above Ms. Tainow’s finally hit the market: The former one-bedroom was now the “BEST TRUE 3 BEDROOM apartment in the West Village area,” according to the StreetEasy listing. The rent: $6,500. For all its problems, 25 Grove is hardly a blip in the world of rent regulation. Tenants complained to their local officials, with little response. Their lawyer wrote to the attorney general’s bureau investigating landlords, which sent back a form letter: “Because of the volume of complaints, the limits of our resources, and the constraints of our jurisdiction, the bureau cannot act on or otherwise investigate every complaint.” Even after Mr. Sussman practically dismantled Ms. Wilkie’s building, the attorney general’s office declined the case. “I’m pretty upset that the office didn’t think there was a basis for prosecuting him,” said Stephen Myers, Ms. Wilkie’s lawyer. On May 4, the buildings department decided the landlord could continue renovations. “O.K. to work,” said the order, posted out front. After questioning from The Times, the department on Thursday stopped work. Mr. Sanieoff has expanded. His companies bought two more properties, including 37 King Street, a half-mile from 25 Grove, purchased in November for $17.5 million. The advertisement for the building proclaimed, “Tremendous value can be captured through the https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 22/23 5/21/2018 Behind New York’s Housing Crisis: Weakened Laws and Fragmented Regulation - The New York Times destabilization and renovation of the residential units that remain untouched for years.” https://nyti.ms/2Gwrir7 Jeica Silver­Greenerg, Grace Ahford, Sarah Cohen, Agutin Armendariz and John Krau contriuted reporting. Suan each contriuted reearch. New York Related Coverage Why He’s Holding Out in East Harlem, Despite the Demolition MAY 20, 2018 © 2018 The New York Times Company 3 SIGN UP Subscriber login ARTICLS RMAINING https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/affordable-housing-nyc.html 23/23
5/21/2018 The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City - The New York Times UNSHELTERED The Eviction Machine Churning https://nyti.ms/2GAaH5v Through New York City New York Housing court, a system created to protect tenants, has become a powerful tool for landlords. By KIM BARKER, JESSICA SILVER-GREENBERG, GRACE ASHFORD and SARAH COHEN MAY 20, 2018 When Neri Carranza went to see the apartment on West 109th Street in Manhattan, she folded money into the pocket of her blue jacket, just in case she liked the place. This would be the first apartment she had ever looked at, the first time she could make a home of her own, paid for with the earnings from her first job, at a glass factory. And the apartment was exactly as her friend from church had described it: small but comfortable. So on a freezing Sunday in 1956, Ms. Carranza, then 32, with a crown of black hair and a fierce desire for independence, moved into the narrow two-bedroom apartment. She made it her own, cleaning and decorating every Sunday, planting yellow roses and hot-pink geraniums in window boxes, painting the walls white when they needed a new coat. As landlords came and went, Ms. Carranza stayed, becoming a fixture in the largely Latino neighborhood. U N S H  LT  R  D Articles in this series examine New York's broken system for protecting tenants and affordable apartments. Part 1: The Vanishing Affordable Apartment Part 2: The Eviction Machine Part 3: 69,000 Housing Crises What You Need to Know as a New York Tenant “I had everything I ever wanted,” Ms. Carranza said. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/nyc-affordable-housing.html 1/21 5/21/2018 The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City - The New York Times But one day in 2010, when she was 87, Ms. Carranza learned that her new landlord wanted to evict her for what seemed like the most nonsensical reason: She supposedly didn’t live in her own beloved home. She was hardly the only tenant facing eviction by the owners, the Orbach Group, a New Jersey-based company that had recently paid about $76 million for her building and 21 others nearby, a Monopoly move that effectively snapped up most of the residential real estate along a block of West 109th Street. Orbach had filed eviction suits in housing court against scores of her neighbors in rent-regulated apartments. What happened to Ms. Carranza and the others shows how New York City’s housing court system, created in part to shelter tenants from dangerous conditions, has instead become a tool for landlords to push them out and wrest a most precious civic commodity — affordable housing — out of regulation and into the free market. What You Need to Know a a Tenant New York’s housing system can be complicated to navigate. Here’s a quick primer on what your rights are and how to exercise them. Rent-regulated apartments, often the only homes in New York that people of modest means can afford, are vanishing as gentrification surges inexorably through the city’s neighborhoods. Mayor Bill de Blasio, now in his second term, has staked much of his legacy on alleviating this crisis of disappearing affordable housing and rising homelessness. Yet the city’s efforts to create new affordable housing are locked in a duel with a countervailing force: powerful incentives for landlords to do everything possible to take existing affordable apartments away. It’s not just that the city’s booming population and economy have spawned a wildly lucrative free market. The entire structure of tenant protections — while probably still the nation’s strongest, at least on paper — has been steadily eroded by landlord-friendly laws adopted in Albany and haphazard regulation. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/nyc-affordable-housing.html 2/21 5/21/2018 The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City - The New York Times Landlords, especially the corporate owners who control an increasing share of the market, follow a standard playbook to push tenants out. That is often the first step toward raising the rent enough — beyond $2,733.75 a month, under current rules — to break the shackles of regulation. Owners may offer tenants buyouts to leave. They may harass them with poor services and constant construction. And, sometimes on the flimsiest of evidence, they may sue them in housing court. (Rea d a bou t how la ndlor ds ha v e exploited w ea k ened la w s a nd fr a g m ented bu r ea u cr a cy to r em a k e bu ilding s a nd neig hbor hoods, in Pa r t 1 of this ser ies.) It is impossible to say how many evictions are unjust. Many people sued for eviction do owe some back rent, and some tenants certainly abuse the court system, remaining in their apartments for months without paying. For small landlords, such tenants can mean fiscal ruin. But an investigation by The New York Times illustrates how the Orbach Group and other mega-landlords exploit a broken and overburdened system. In one of the busiest courts in the nation, errors often go uncaught and dubious allegations go unquestioned. Lawsuits are easy to file but onerous to fight. Landlords have lawyers. Tenants usually don’t, despite a new law that aims to provide free counsel to low-income New Yorkers. Landlords rely on what amounts to an eviction machine. A cadre of lawyers handles tens of thousands of cases a year, making money off volume and sometimes manipulating gaps in enforcement to bring questionable cases. Punishable conduct is rarely punished. Process servers, required to notify tenants that they are being sued, sometimes violate the law. Among tenants whom servers had supposedly talked to in person, The Times found several who were abroad at the time. One had been dead for years. Judges sometimes unwittingly ordered the eviction of tenants who had no idea they had been sued. “When they sent the marshal, they never gave us no notice,” said Zanden Alzanden, a Yemeni immigrant who was evicted from his home in the https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/nyc-affordable-housing.html 3/21 5/21/2018 The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City - The New York Times historic Dunbar Apartments in Harlem when he was in the hospital in January 2017. “Nothing on door, ever. Only that day, the marshal coming in, my son and an old guy sitting in there: ‘Boom boom, get the hell out of here.’” To see what happens when vulnerable New Yorkers are cast into this eviction bureaucracy, The Times analyzed a database of more than a million housing court cases filed between 2011 and mid-2016. The Times also interviewed hundreds of tenants, lawyers and tenant organizers and examined in detail more than a thousand housing court cases from the past decade. It looked especially closely at two places: the Orbach buildings on 109th Street and the Dunbar Apartments two miles uptown. What emerged were often-overlapping modes of harassment: by landlords’ fraudulent or exaggerated claims, by disrepair and by overall court dysfunction. About 232,000 cases were filed last year against tenants, roughly one for every 10 city rentals. Most tenants were accused of owing back rent. But in many cases, tenants were sued for rent they did not owe. Sometimes they had paid, only to have landlords claim that the checks mistakenly remained uncashed or had been lost in the mail; sometimes they were sued for money owed by a government program. Sometimes, tenants withheld rent only because much-needed repairs had never been done. In recent years, landlords have also increasingly turned to a different kind of eviction suit, like the one against Ms. Carranza. Known as holdovers, these cases involve purported lease violations. Often the violations are minuscule. Sometimes they are simply fabricated. Even as the overall number of eviction lawsuits has fallen over the last decade, the proportion of holdovers has grown, particularly in Brooklyn and Queens, epicenters of gentrification. A decade ago in Queens, about one in six lawsuits was a holdover. Last year, roughly one in four was. Even if a case is shown to be baseless, just being sued can hurt a tenant’s ability to rent a new apartment. Screening companies tell landlords whether a prospective tenant has been sued for eviction, without necessarily saying how the case was resolved. Attempts to abolish this “tenant blacklist” have so far failed. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/nyc-affordable-housing.html 4/21 5/21/2018 The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City - The New York Times The dislocations from housing court can echo for years. Although evictions are relatively rare — there were about 21,100 last year — many tenants, tired of battling, decide to leave on their own. Some end up doubled up with relatives or in homeless shelters. At the Dunbar, more than a quarter of the tenants sued since 2013 have left. Fallou Diop, whose family moved lived a few doors down from Ms. Carranza on 109th Street, was sued twice by Orbach: in 2009 for falling behind on his $1,144-a-month rent, and in 2011 for allegedly subletting rooms in his apartment. He paid his back rent. The “subletters” were relatives who had lived with him for 19 years. But about two years after winning the second case, Mr. Diop agreed to leave. “I was sick of fighting with them and sick of the harassment,” said Mr. Diop, a retired baker who said he took a $50,000 buyout, a seeming fortune at the time. He then rented an apartment in the Bronx for $2,700 a month. In June 2016, Orbach advertised Mr. Diop’s old apartment, urging prospective tenants, in capital letters, to “call today to view this beauty.” The monthly rent would be $4,200. The deal did not work out so well for Mr. Diop. The buyout money ran out. At 65, he sleeps on his ex-girlfriend’s couch. A Court Stem Hijacked With a monthly rent of about $300, Ms. Carranza’s apartment was a prime target. In July 2010, the Orbach Group filed its holdover suit against Ms. Carranza, charging that she was illegally using her apartment as a storage unit while living with a nearby friend. Court documents called the apartment “inaccessible and uninhabitable,” packed with newspapers and trash. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/nyc-affordable-housing.html 5/21 5/21/2018 The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City - The New York Times Photos taken five months earlier by Ms. Carranza’s niece showed her sitting in the apartment, watching TV. It was crowded with furniture but well kept, with no newspapers, no trash. But mold covered the walls. Light fixtures and kitchen cabinets had rusted out. Parts of the floor had come up. The kitchen ceiling sagged. Housing court was not supposed to be used this way, as a cudgel against tenants in decrepit housing. The system was created in 1973 with a very different mission: to foster the repair and preservation of New York’s aging housing stock. It also aimed to provide a single forum for landlord-tenant disputes, which had overwhelmed civil courts. Within a few years, it was in trouble. A scathing 1979 city comptroller’s audit said the courts had failed to crack down on bad landlords. In 1986, a task force of tenant advocates and lawyers described a system in chaos. Their report quoted one judge saying, “I don’t have time to breathe, I go from one case to another.” (Go inside B r ook ly n’s hou sing cou r t, la st stop on the r oa d to ev iction, in Pa r t 3 .) The court soon crashed headlong into a business opportunity. After years of suburban flight, urban malaise and fiscal crisis, New York in the early 1990s was a city on the rebound. Neighborhoods previously considered off-limits to the upwardly mobile began to gentrify. At the same time, state lawmakers gutted protections for tenants in rentregulated apartments. Large companies scooped up buildings, trying to flip affordable apartments into luxury rentals or convert them to co-ops or condominiums. A company called the Pinnacle Group helped turn housing court into a weapon. In 2004, Pinnacle started buying hundreds of buildings around the city, often with partners. In August 2005 alone, Pinnacle and Praedium Group, a private-equity firm, bought 104 buildings, including Ms. Carranza’s building and the Dunbar. By 2006, Pinnacle had filed about 5,000 eviction lawsuits, almost one for every four apartments. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/nyc-affordable-housing.html 6/21 5/21/2018 The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City - The New York Times Pinnacle was so large and aggressive that it ran into problems, including an attorney general’s investigation and a tenant class action, both of which settled. Prompted in part by Pinnacle’s tactics, the City Council passed a law in 2008 letting tenants sue for harassment, although it would prove largely ineffective. Around the same time, Pinnacle advertised its 22 buildings on 109th Street. It wanted a single buyer. The Orbach Group was a relatively new player in New York. Meyer Orbach, who grew up in his family’s real estate business, had formed the company about six years earlier, focusing on commercial and high-end residential properties. But as the 2008 financial crisis hit, the Orbach Group entered the regulated game, buying 13 buildings on West 49th Street. In May 2009, Orbach bought Pinnacle’s buildings on West 109th. Orbach also adopted Pinnacle’s business model. Between 2008 and 2010, it sued 182 tenants, targeting roughly one in three apartments, court records show. Orbach also relied heavily on holdover lawsuits. One in three Orbach eviction cases was a holdover, compared with one in 10 citywide. Holdover lawsuits have a distinct advantage for aggressive landlords: They can be filed with little proof, yet they can require tenants to go to court repeatedly and turn over years of personal information. “They are fishing expeditions,” said Michael Grinthal, a supervising lawyer with the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center. Bringing a holdover case requires so little evidence, Mr. Grinthal said, that one Brooklyn landlord filed 23 identical lawsuits, accusing tenants of “smoking and/or drinking and/or gambling and/or loitering.” Shaken, some tenants moved, Mr. Grinthal said. In response to questions about its use of housing court, an Orbach spokeswoman, Sandra Kittel, said the company was “deeply committed to affordable housing” and had kept thousands of apartments affordable. To prove that Ms. Carranza was living with a friend, Harry Tawil, the manager of most Orbach buildings in New York, said “a database search” revealed that she had not used her address to apply for credit in almost five https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/nyc-affordable-housing.html 7/21 5/21/2018 The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City - The New York Times years. He also swore that “Neri Carranza admits that she does not reside in the subject premises.” Ms. Carranza and her friend said this was not true. Lawyers for Orbach asked Ms. Carranza for documents stretching back almost five years, including hospital bills, bank statements, electric bills, W-2 and 1099 forms, and tax returns. Also any wills and codicils, passport, driver’s license, social security card and birth certificate. Ms. Carranza, who speaks only Spanish, considered every court document, written in English and slipped under her door, an insult. She was lucky enough to get a lawyer working pro bono, and ultimately she won. But the case stretched for more than three years. In the meantime, repairs were ordered but not done. Punitive damages were sought but not awarded. Still, the papers kept arriving. Ms. Carranza kept going to court. “When I’d see those papers on the floor, I would say to myself, ‘Those sons of their mothers!’” said Ms. Carranza, who holds a black belt in karate and prefers Lancôme perfume to all others. “I would shake from the anger,” she added. “It was an injustice.” ‘Throwing a Spitall’ The Dunbar Apartments began as one of America’s grandest experiments in housing reform. Built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in the 1920s and named for the black poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, the complex was the nation’s first large housing cooperative for African-Americans. With six brick buildings overlooking a central garden, the Dunbar is a microcosm of Harlem history in a single city block, at the corner of 149th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard. In its early days, the Dunbar was home to the likes of the civil rights leader and sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois and the entertainer Bill (Bojangles) Robinson. It is a city landmark, on the National Register of Historic Places. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/nyc-affordable-housing.html 8/21 5/21/2018 The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City - The New York Times Eventually, though, the co-ops became rentals, and the Dunbar slid through a series of owners and stages of disrepair. The current landlord is a limited liability company formed by a Brooklyn company, E&M Associates, which bought the complex in 2013 after a foreclosure on Pinnacle’s mortgage. And with Harlem a real estate hot zone, E&M has worked to remake the Dunbar, pushing out longtime tenants, remodeling vacant apartments and charging far higher rents. The churn and renovation have left the Dunbar in turmoil, divided between old tenants and new, and sometimes between black and white. To some longtime residents, the fresh paint and gleaming appliances installed next door signify that the landlord is letting their own homes decay to drive them out. “I’m gonna put it to you straight: They want the black folks to move out,” said Lynette Williams, 80, who has lived in the Dunbar for 21 years. “Because the white people can come in and pay more.” Through a web of limited liability companies, E&M has an ownership interest in at least 90 New York buildings with regulated apartments, property records show. Until recently, a section of its website aimed at investors boasted that E&M approached every property “from an investor’s point of view, seeking to understand the underlying intrinsic value of the property, as well as the steps that must be taken to unlock that value.” A link to the section for residents was broken. (After The Times reached out to the company, it took down its website. In response to questions, E&M also said it had “had no involvement with Dunbar Apartments” since mid-2017, although property records show no sale. The company did not respond to requests for an explanation.) Housing court has helped E&M unlock value. In less than five years of ownership, records show, the landlord has sued at least 250 rent-regulated tenants — almost half the Dunbar — some multiple times. There have been more than 500 lawsuits in all. Housing court records show only six successful evictions. But 15 more tenants may have been evicted: Records show that eviction warrants were https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/nyc-affordable-housing.html 9/21 5/21/2018 The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City - The New York Times issued, and those people are no longer in their apartments. Eleven other tenants agreed to leave to settle their cases. But that tells only part of the story: Dozens of others left after being sued. Many said they were tired of going to housing court to fight over repairs. All told, 67 of the tenants who were sued — more than one in four — are no longer living in the Dunbar. Most Dunbar cases examined by The Times were brought over back rent, as are most eviction suits citywide. And many tenants did owe money. But roughly a third of the cases either were discontinued because the rent had been paid or were simply dropped, indicating that the case had been filed by mistake, or that the tenant had paid after being sued or had simply moved. That raises questions about whether such suits are aimed at harassing tenants. In another third of cases, tenants admitted that they had stopped paying rent but also said their apartments needed repairs. By law, tenants may withhold rent to secure repairs. Several tenants said the only way to get problems fixed was to stop paying rent, be sued and then tell a judge. “When they took me to court I was frustrated and upset, so I was withholding my money,” said Katrina Stanley, 51, who lives in the apartment her great-grandmother moved into in the 1920s. “They sent an unlicensed person to fix my ceiling. And just as quick as he fixed it, the ceiling fell again.” Many tenants complained of leaks. One apartment needed so much work, it failed an inspection for federal rent subsidies. One woman was awarded a major rent reduction after complaining of mold, cockroaches and the improper disposal of a corpse in a nearby apartment. Idrissa Sidibe, 54, a truck driver, moved into the Dunbar in 2001. Over the years, he said, he complained repeatedly about a loose hot-water tap in his bathtub. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/nyc-affordable-housing.html 10/21 5/21/2018 The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City - The New York Times Last July, the Dunbar sued Mr. Sidibe for almost $2,600 in back rent, which Mr. Sidibe disputed. Three days before the first court hearing, Mr. Sidibe tried to add hot water to a lukewarm bath when the running water blasted scalding hot. Shocked by the pain, Mr. Sidibe struggled out of the tub, then collapsed onto the floor. His closest friend found him and called an ambulance. Photographs showed layers of skin peeling off his right foot and burns on his legs. Mr. Sidibe required skin grafts and spent more than seven weeks at Harlem Hospital Center. While he was there, his kidneys nearly failed — and the judge approved his eviction. “I was in the hospital thinking, ‘How am I going to get out of here and make a payment?’” said Mr. Sidibe, who staved off eviction and sued the landlord for his injuries. That case is pending. In response to questions, E&M said through its lawyers that because of neglect by previous owners, the Dunbar required vast work to meet the company’s safety, cleanliness and security standards. The lawyers said they could not comment on individual cases but questioned whether tenants had actually left over the lack of repairs or fatigue at going to housing court. “We believe it reasonable to assume they left without paying rent that was owed and/or to avoid eviction,” wrote Renee Digrugilliers, a lawyer with the firm Horing Welikson & Rosen. Ms. Digrugilliers said many tenants filed “bogus repair claims” and often made it difficult to do repairs by refusing to allow workers into their apartments. The owner, she said, sued only tenants who did not pay rent or otherwise broke the rules. Even when cases are quickly abandoned — as in a fifth of eviction suits citywide — there can be significant repercussions. Laurie Weisman says she was not behind in her rent when she was sued by the Dunbar in March 2017. So she was shocked when a reporter informed her of the lawsuit. (Ms. Digrugilliers said her firm had been given ledgers showing Ms. Weisman behind in rent.) https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/nyc-affordable-housing.html 11/21 5/21/2018 The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City - The New York Times “It’s almost as if they’re throwing a spitball and seeing if it sticks,” Ms. Weisman said. Though that case and another filed nine months later were dropped, Ms. Weisman hopes to move soon. But the tenant blacklist makes finding a new apartment difficult. “I feel cornered,” Ms. Weisman said. “I don’t want to stay here, but I can’t leave.” Lawuit Mill On April 11, 2017, the law firm Green & Cohen sued three rent-regulated tenants in a building on West 111th Street. One case was filed and dropped. The tenants in another hired a lawyer, who got Green & Cohen to agree that the lawsuit had been filed in error. In the third case, the tenant, Carolyn Opalisky, a retired jazz club owner, didn’t hire a lawyer. She signed an agreement known as a stipulation, affirming that she owed about $1,325. The next day, Green & Cohen filed eviction papers, though her first payment wasn’t due for more than a month. “I did comply!!” Ms. Opalisky wrote in a court response. “So why eviction???” The judge sided with Ms. Opalisky. Because few lawyers are ever sanctioned, the system creates an incentive to file as many cases as possible, regardless of merit. Volume is central to the business model of many law firms that represent landlords in New York. One firm, Gutman, Mintz, Baker & Sonnenfeldt, brought almost 110,000 eviction cases over five years, more than 10 percent of all cases for privately owned buildings. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/nyc-affordable-housing.html 12/21 5/21/2018 The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City - The New York Times Some firms, The Times found, repeatedly sued tenants even after being told that they owed no rent. Sometimes rent ledgers were wrong. Sometimes lawyers sued for money owed by government programs, usually not allowed. Firms often file cookie-cutter suits, filling in rent numbers and landlord names on documents that otherwise remain the same, without verifying landlords’ information. The filings echo abuses committed during the foreclosure crisis, when banks churned through hundreds of documents without reviewing them for accuracy. And with the barrier to filing a housing court case so low — a $45 fee — the volume is such that each of the 50 judges hears as many as 90 cases every morning, making it easy for errors and even outright lies to slip through. In January, a commission of lawyers and judges issued a highly critical report on housing court, calling the number of judges “grossly inadequate” and saying that at least 10 more were “not simply requested, but mandated.” Most tenants do not have lawyers, even as big landlords keep lawyers on retainer. At the Dunbar, tenants had lawyers in fewer than 10 percent of the cases reviewed by The Times. Landlord lawyers go from courtroom to courtroom, pulling tenants into hallways to agree to stipulations before they ever see a judge. Tenants who do not speak English face particular problems: In Queens, more than 160 languages are spoken, but the court has staff interpreters for just three, the commission reported. Some tenants said they felt pressured to agree to deals they did not understand. “They go in there with their fancy lawyers, and don’t let tenants speak,” said Pandora Holt, who has lived at the Dunbar for 22 years and has been sued four times by E&M. Although a new law aims to provide free lawyers to poor tenants within five years, advocates worry that the city funding for the project is insufficient, and that a heavier caseload could stretch pro bono lawyers and judges too thin. Judges are hard-pressed to tell if certain landlords are filing inordinate numbers of eviction suits. Housing cases, unlike those brought in other courts, are not available digitally, and often lawsuits identify only the https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/nyc-affordable-housing.html 13/21 5/21/2018 The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City - The New York Times limited liability company listed as landlord, not the underlying owner. Judges can’t even get a full picture of what is happening in one building. On Feb. 5, Horing, Welikson & Rosen sued 38 tenants at the Dunbar. Those cases — among 60 suits that a single lawyer filed that day against tenants in 18 buildings — were parceled out to at least six judges. Ms. Digrugilliers said Horing, Welikson & Rosen, which also represented Pinnacle when it was investigated by the attorney general, was “as cautious as possible” in bringing lawsuits, and that neither the firm nor its clients intentionally filed meritless lawsuits. Green & Cohen is considerably smaller than other firms but has represented large landlords like E&M and Orbach. (Orbach appears to have recently stopped using the firm.) An analysis of hundreds of Green & Cohen’s cases revealed sloppy paperwork in many. The firm sued tenants for money due from government agencies, misstated rents and misspelled names. It submitted erroneous rent ledgers and documents that belonged in different cases. In 2015, a federal class-action lawsuit against Green & Cohen said that the firm had seemingly used “the same template for all the hundreds of cases that they filed against tenants within the State of New York within the past year,” and that it had determined that meaningfully reviewing cases before filing was “not as lucrative as the filing of pleadings and motions” without review. The case was confidentially settled. Green & Cohen did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Even lawyers who engage in misconduct are unlikely to face penalties. Between 2011 and 2016, landlords or their lawyers were sanctioned or cited for contempt in housing court fewer than 50 times. The court doesn’t even track lawyers or landlords who get in trouble. Housing court judges rarely impose sanctions unless lawyers request them. But more than two dozen tenant lawyers said they feared seeking sanctions. In October 2016, for instance, Orbach sued Margarita Galvez, saying she owed more than $12,000 on her Upper West Side apartment. Green & Cohen pursued that lawsuit even though Ms. Galvez’s lawyer, Rachel https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/nyc-affordable-housing.html 14/21 5/21/2018 The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City - The New York Times Hannaford, insisted that the rent had been paid. The rent ledger itself showed a $138.50 credit. Ms. Hannaford asked for sanctions, but only against Orbach. “I knew that my little lawsuit wasn’t going to get Green & Cohen sanctioned, and didn’t think it was worth the risk and the harm to future clients,” she said. Ultimately, as part of a stipulation, she dropped that request. Ms. Galvez had not wanted to drag out the case. Ms. Carranza also ran afoul of Green & Cohen. In July 2014, almost a year after the last court date in her first case, Orbach sued her again, saying she owed about $5,500, more than half her annual income. “The neighbors would tell me, ‘The landlord is saying you owe a lot of money,’” Ms. Carranza recalled. “Can you imagine? I was so embarrassed.” It took her lawyers almost seven months to prove that whatever rent was missing was owed by a city program. Poorl Served Wesley Moise is a process server, charged with notifying tenants that they face possible eviction. Judging from entries in court records, he also appears to have acquired some of the salient skills of a mountain goat. On March 24, 2017, Mr. Moise reported, he delivered notices to six Dunbar tenants in 12 minutes. The Dunbar has 44 stairwells and 536 apartments. Each stairwell has its own front door. There are no elevators. Yet Mr. Moise claimed that, in those 12 minutes, he raced from the third floor of one stairwell to the fourth floor of another stairwell, to the sixth floor of a third stairwell, to the third floor of a fourth stairwell, to the third floor of a fifth stairwell and finally back to the fifth floor of the fourth stairwell. Each time, he needed to ring a doorbell and be let inside the building. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/nyc-affordable-housing.html 15/21 5/21/2018 The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City - The New York Times “I know this building,” said Julio Almonte, who lives in the fourth apartment Mr. Moise claimed to have visited that morning. “Even if I wanted to, there’s no way I could go to six different apartments in 12 minutes.” Mr. Moise, he insisted, did not show up at his door. A process server’s job may sound mundane, but it is crucial: A tenant who does not appear in court can end up evicted after a default judgment. “You have to get notice and be able to defend yourself,” explained housing court’s supervising judge, Jean T. Schneider. The Times examined hundreds of cases involving an agency that contracts with Mr. Moise, Howard Belfer Inc., which is routinely hired by law firms representing Orbach and E&M. A range of problems emerged: improbable routes, hard-to-recreate travel times, signatures by one notary public on top of another’s typed name, and in-person encounters that tenants say never happened. In an eviction case, a landlord must try to notify a tenant in person on two separate occasions, with two separate documents. Each time, a process server should knock and wait several minutes, returning another day if no one answers, according to case law. If there is still no response, the server must leave a notice on or under the door. There is one further opportunity to alert a tenant in person. The landlord is supposed to verify that the tenant is not in the military or dependent on a service member, a federal requirement protecting military families from eviction. But the courts depend on process servers and those who file nonmilitary affidavits to do what they say. Servers must keep GPS tracking data, which is notoriously fuzzy, and log books, but audits are rare. About 33,000 tenants last year faced judgments for failing to appear in court. It’s not clear how often bad service leads to such default judgments. But tenants who first learn about a case from subsequent eviction notices look like scofflaws in court. Mr. Alzanden, the Dunbar tenant evicted while hospitalized, had to pay more than $4,200 to recover his apartment — for rent he said he didn’t https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/nyc-affordable-housing.html 16/21 5/21/2018 The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City - The New York Times owe, as well as marshal and legal fees and storage of his belongings. “We had no choice,” he said. A judge can order a hearing when service is disputed; about 800 are held every year. Service agencies are supposed to report them to the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs. Not all comply. Most violations result in modest fines and consent orders. Instead of revoking licenses, the city usually opts to deny license renewals. Since 2014, only one agency, JDG Investigations, and five servers have been denied for enforcement reasons. Regulators claimed that JDG, based in Queens, had hired unlicensed people to serve court papers at least 1,800 times. Others have kept their licenses despite numerous violations. In August 2016, Nationwide Court Services, based on Long Island, settled 287 violations. Mr. Belfer, who runs the agency bearing his name, has been in and out of trouble for almost as long as he has been licensed. In 1987, a civil court judge found that affidavits from Mr. Belfer and another server “are suspect and are not to be granted simple credence.” In 2012, his agency’s license was suspended for a month. In 2013 Mr. Belfer paid a $60,000 fine and agreed to monitor servers. Yet his servers continued to have problems. Camera footage showed that one Belfer contractor, Dwayne Thomas, had not appeared when he claimed to have served a legal notice in May 2015, a federal lawsuit says. In 2016, the city denied a license renewal to another server, Hakeem Jamal, in part because he claimed to have served a woman at Vincent Yeats’s apartment in the Dunbar one minute before serving someone 17 miles away in Queens. “It was total malarkey,” said Mr. Yeats, who lived alone and found out about the case days before a possible eviction. “I had such hassle from them, I just gave up and moved.” Mr. Jamal, who also worked for Nationwide, said it had fabricated the service in Queens. Nationwide disputed that, saying it had been “duped by https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/nyc-affordable-housing.html 17/21 5/21/2018 The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City - The New York Times an unscrupulous server.” Mr. Thomas and Mr. Moise did not respond to requests for comment. Ms. Digrugilliers, the lawyer for E&M, said Mr. Belfer’s company was one of several used by her firm. She said the firm was not aware of any fine against Mr. Belfer’s company, and disputed tenants’ claims of being improperly served. Last fall, The Times requested public records on Mr. Belfer’s company from the Department of Consumer Affairs. In late February, after months of extensions to gather documents, the agency denied much of the request, citing an investigation into Mr. Belfer. At the Dunbar, Mr. Belfer handled many of the nonmilitary affidavits himself. He reported speaking with 15 tenants in 2016 and 2017, one twice. But all 15 tenants told The Times they had never met Mr. Belfer. Two were out of the country when he said he visited them. Five had moved out. Mr. Belfer also claimed to have spoken to another tenant, Edward Robinson, on Dec. 5, 2015. Mr. Robinson had died — 22 years earlier. There was significant fallout: Since 2015, six tenants whom Mr. Belfer claimed to have spoken to were locked out. Three had to pay legal and marshal fees to recover their apartments. When a reporter visited his Long Island office, Mr. Belfer said he did not want to discuss his business. But when asked about nonmilitary affidavits at the Dunbar, he responded: “These people do not pay their rent. They will say anything to anybody.” A Neighorhood Changed The Orbach Group’s buildings on 109th Street illustrate how a landlord can alter a neighborhood. Once an apartment empties out, workers chop it into smaller rooms and install new fixtures, all catering to students at nearby Columbia University. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/nyc-affordable-housing.html 18/21 5/21/2018 The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City - The New York Times Orbach even markets the neighborhood as “CoSo,” for Columbia South, and has advertised on the university’s internal housing site. College students don’t complain much, don’t know much about rent regulation and don’t stay long. Every new tenant means an opportunity for a higher regulated rent, until the apartment hits the free market. The plan is working. In 2009, when Orbach arrived on 109th Street, 285 of the 381 apartments were rent-stabilized, the most common kind of regulation, tax bills show. But by 2016, the most recent data available, only 121 were. Orbach’s aggressive use of housing court attracted the attention of the state attorney general’s office, which in 2015 informed tenants that Orbach was under investigation, in part for “frivolous eviction proceedings.” By then, Orbach was filing far fewer lawsuits, though it still relied extensively on holdovers. That investigation continues. Orbach now owns about 75 buildings near Columbia. Meyer Orbach has branched out, buying into the Minnesota Timberwolves N.B.A. team and guiding his company into a new market: buildings that depend on federal subsidies for the poor. In November 2014, at age 91, Ms. Carranza was living on about $830 a month in what her lawyers described as “horrendous conditions.” She had been through 19 court dates. That month, a judge ordered Orbach to fix the apartment. Because the work would be so extensive, Ms. Carranza’s belongings were moved into storage. She went to stay with her niece, Melinda Torres in Carlisle, Pa. The family regularly visited the empty apartment to check on repairs. Nothing much was done. By June 2015, the apartment had no running water and was infested with roaches. Ms. Carranza sued the Orbach subsidiary that owned her building in housing court to force repairs. Separately, she sued the Orbach subsidiary; Mr. Tawil, the building manager; and Green & Cohen in federal court for violating the law prohibiting unfair or abusive debt-collection practices. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/nyc-affordable-housing.html 19/21 5/21/2018 The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City - The New York Times But by spring 2016, tired and worn down, her apartment still in disrepair, Ms. Carranza decided to settle, for about $100,000. Ms. Kittel of the Orbach Group said Ms. Carranza had consistently demanded a six-figure payment to relinquish her apartment, despite the fact that she was living in Pennsylvania. “We believe that Ms. Carranza truly demonstrates how broken the system is,” she said. Ms. Carranza now lives with the Torreses, near cornfields, barns and woods. There is no church with services in Spanish. No grocery catering to Latinos. No old friends to visit. There are not even any sidewalks. She spends her days inside, mostly alone. She cooks for herself on a hot plate, fried chicken legs and potatoes. “I lost everything,” she said. “I feel so bitter inside, and I don’t like it.” Every month or so, her relatives drive her back to New York, back to her neighborhood. It is always bittersweet. A yoga studio has replaced her karate school. Where a 99-cent store once stood, Orbach has set up a real estate office: “CoSo,” a sign announces in big blue letters. Last fall, Ms. Carranza returned to close her bank account. She stood in front of her building, surrounded by friends, telling them that there were no Latinos in all of Pennsylvania. “There’s no one to talk to,” she said. “You can talk to the trees.” Her name was still on the buzzer at 247 West 109th Street. After a tenant invited her inside, Ms. Carranza ran her hand along the hallway as she walked, pointing out her apartment — No. 2 — and her mailbox. After years of failed requests for the most basic repairs, her apartment had been completely remodeled — illegally, as no building permit was ever filed, buildings department records show. Two Columbia students paid about $3,500 a month to live there. Ms. Carranza walked through the home she could no longer recognize, running her hand along the new kitchen counter, touching the new sink, remembering where she used to keep her French dining set, where she used https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/nyc-affordable-housing.html 20/21 5/21/2018 The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City - The New York Times to sleep. A stairway had been added, leading to new basement rooms. She gave one tenant a sideways glance. “Do you think he’ll leave?” Ms. Carranza asked her niece. She paused, thinking. “What if they’d give me my apartment back?” She would sit on the stoop again, and she would invite people over for dinner again, and she would fry chicken again. What happiness she would have, she said, if only she again had her home. Ivett Verde, Sean Piccoli, John Krau and Paul Moon contriuted reporting. Suan each contriuted reearch. Related Coverage Why He’s Holding Out in East Harlem, Despite the Demolition MAY 20, 2018 De Blasio Bolsters Affordable Housing, but at What Price? MARCH 4, 2018 At $3,700 a Month, ‘Affordable’ Apartments Go Begging NOV. 17, 2017 De Blasio Says City Will Hit AffordableHousing Goal 2 Years Early OCT. 24, 2017 Longtime Tenants in Manhattan See an Effort to Push Them Out JUN 19, 2015 © 2018 The New York Times Company https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/nyc-affordable-housing.html 21/21
5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times UNSHELTERED Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe the Case for Keeping Their Homes New York Settlements are pushed in chaotic hallways, emergency loans are held up as cure-alls and delays are seemingly endless. Welcome to housing court. Take a number. By N. R. KLEINFIELD MAY 20, 2018 Outside, shuddering in the cold, they waited. For regulars, the ones flung repeatedly into this quizzical place, they knew it was going to be a long, sour wait, for the line looped back and wiggled around the corner and touched the Lane Bryant store. The Lane Bryant store usually meant upward of an hour’s wait. This was the line to get into 141 Livingston Street in Downtown Brooklyn, premises of Brooklyn Housing Court. Its business is deciding whether to evict people. It was this way in rain and howling wind and snow. Under the gray slab that was the sky, a gangly man slid down the line, barking out his spiel, offering cards for a free program to pay moving expenses, modest consolation if things went badly inside. An abundant woman with a hurting look was stammering into her glowing cellphone: “I don’t know what to do. I’m not going to go live on the street. I’ve got a son. How do I tell my son we’re living on the street?” U N S H  LT  R  D Articles in this series examine New York's broken system for protecting tenants and affordable apartments. Part 1: The Vanishing Affordable Apartment Part 2: The Eviction Machine Part 3: 69,000 Housing Crises What You Need to Know as a New York Tenant https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 1/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Farther along, a man fingering his beard, his eyes narrowed to slits, said into his phone: “I’m waiting in line, seeing if I got a home. I’m a broken https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe homeboy.” New York Sullen people with derailed lives being reset to zero, inching toward the unknown. The waiting added to the stress. It added to the humiliation. In Brooklyn, you waited in line to get evicted. What You Need to Know a a Tenant New York’s housing system can be complicated to navigate. Here’s a quick primer on what your rights are and how to exercise them. On the second floor, first-timers took numbers and sat until called over the loudspeakers to a clerk’s window to learn their next court dates. Like bakery numbers. Bingo numbers. Yellow Ticket 71, Window 3. White Ticket 50, Window 7. Yellow Ticket 72, Window 3. At the help desk in the waiting room run by Housing Court Answers, a research and advocacy group, a man said loudly: “Seven times the landlord has tried to evict me. The lawyer calls me a Gypsy. I’m not a Gypsy. I’m not a thief. You can call the F.B.I., anyone, I’m not wanted, I’m not a thief. I’m a grandfather. Their lawyer wanted to beat me up, too.” Next to him, a man with a prosthetic leg explained that he had missed a court date while in the hospital to fix his heart, and now his landlord was evicting him. “They got a bunch of trumped-up things because they want someone else in there,” he said. “They don’t want the ones that make sense.” (Rea d a bou t how la ndlor ds ha v e exploited w ea k ened la w s a nd fr a g m ented bu r ea u cr a cy to r em a k e bu ilding s a nd neig hbor hoods, in Pa r t 1 of this ser ies.) https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 2/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Nearby, a young man sat at a folding table, entering cases into a computer for the tenant-screening services that offer blacklists — compilations that landlords can buy to identify tenants who have been in housing court, people they’ll avoid renting to. You can win your case, yet you still make the https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe list, still depart wearing the taint of housing court. New York A Lopided Court New York City’s housing crisis doesn’t start in housing court. But it ends here, the last stop on the road to eviction. It’s the system’s busiest court. Each borough has a housing court, but Brooklyn’s stands apart. It isn’t a courthouse, but a repurposed commercial building whose better days have long been forgotten. There’s inadequate space. Balky elevators. Grimy bathrooms. No privacy. Judges squeeze into the same elevators as everyone else, sometimes skipping a car if a litigant they’ve ruled against is inside. One judge remembers being tailed to the bank. A precaution whispered by seasoned courtgoers is to wash your clothes when you get home. Bedbugs. The court is due to move to more appropriate accommodations in the municipal building, but it never seems to happen. Almost no one is pleased with the court’s tortured workings. Plodding and confusing, the court often seems diffident in dealing with the homes of human beings. Landlords complain that the court tilts toward tenants, that it commonly takes three to six months to evict someone, whereas in some other states it can take mere days. But while New York is considered to have strong tenant protections, bewildered tenants still routinely find themselves outfoxed by landlords. They battle for their homes largely unrepresented by lawyers, making housing court the most lopsided court in the system. “It has always been the single defining thing about housing court since it was created, to try to create justice when most of the people on one side were represented and one side was not,” said Judge Jean T. Schneider, the citywide supervising judge for housing court. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 3/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times New York’s housing court was created in 1973, with the main objective of making sure apartments stayed in good repair. Today the bulk of its work is eviction proceedings. Little of its activity has to do with getting repairs done, something it is notably ineffective at doing. https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe Last year brought a blur of nearly 69,000 filings in Brooklyn, second only New York to the Bronx. Only about 6 percent were so-called HP cases (for Housing Part), in which tenants bring actions against landlords for offenses like lack of heat, broken fixtures or vermin. Virtually all the rest were eviction actions, mainly over tenants’ falling behind on the rent. But with landlords keen to empty apartments to raise rents, a number of cases have been brought over lagging rent payments that are hairsplittingly minimal. And there has been aggressive use of another species of eviction proceeding, known as a holdover, that can involve minute — and sometimes fabricated — violations of a tenant’s lease. In Brooklyn, about 17 percent of eviction cases last year were holdovers: One tenant had no right to a lease and wouldn’t move; another kept an unauthorized washing machine; a child, as claimed in one case, was throwing rice out the window. (Rea d m or e a bou t how la ndlor ds ha v e com m a ndeer ed the hou sing cou r t sy stem in Pa r t 2 .) Yet while housing court is increasingly used as a tool to wrest apartments from the shackles of regulation, it is a lot more complicated than that. Inside its courtrooms are the textbook bad landlords, but also plenty of dishonorable tenants. Mostly, there are hurting families fighting to keep a basic human necessity — a home — at a time when tenant protections have eroded and gentrification is shoving ever deeper into Brooklyn and the city’s other boroughs. The steady stream of people trickling into this maze of courtrooms gives the impression that an entire small town is perpetually being cleared of its citizens. The pace of evictions has slowed recently, as legal services for tenants have expanded and government payments for arrears have increased, but it remains high. Last year, there were 21,074 across the city. Of those, 5,984 took place in Brooklyn. In other words, every day an average of 16 families lost their homes. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 4/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Settling in the Hallwa https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe The hallways were jam-packed. People pushing babies in strollers, people sucking on asthma inhalers, people trailed by wheeled oxygen tanks. Most New York tenants were black or Hispanic. Most were women. A majority were on public assistance, but many were working- or middleclass, as housing cases have climbed the economic ladder. The place to understand housing court is the hallways. They are the court’s war zone. A vast majority of cases end in settlements. Otherwise the court would implode, because it hasn’t the resources to conduct many trials. The emphasis is to settle now, settle always. Unwritten protocol is that tenants wait inside a courtroom, often for hours, until landlords’ lawyers bustle in, bellow their names and beckon them to step out to talk. Settlement discussions occur in the hallways, within earshot of everyone, because there is no other space for them. Since there is little seating, these conversations usually happen standing up. It’s hard to think clearly when you can’t even sit down. A report on the court years ago said it resembled a hospital waiting room, and that seems about right. The hallways, though, feel like a bustling bazaar. Negotiations deal not with textiles or pottery, but with homes. Litigants trade money for time, until there is no more money and therefore no more time. And therefore no more home. Once an agreement is reached, the distilled terms — 30 days to pay $2,304.83, or 45 days to pay $1,922.16, or 15 days to get out — are normally handwritten by the landlord’s lawyer on a sheet known as a stipulation, or stip. Stips are the currency of housing court. Once signed, they are presented for approval in lightning-fast appearances before a judge who knows little, if anything, of their back story. The experience of James Caple speaks for many. For 12 years, he had lived in a Crown Heights apartment plagued by leaks and other shortcomings. To little avail, he complained about mold and the stink of garbage outside his https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 5/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times windows. He lived with his girlfriend, two dogs and two cats. The apartment was rent-stabilized, $1,175 a month. He is 62. His biography of a dwindling life includes the facts that he was a https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe mechanic and worked in housekeeping at a nursing home in California, became H.I.V. positive, lived on Long Island with his aunt until she died, New York slept in a shelter for six months. One day, his girlfriend’s brother stopped by. When he left, the police arrested him outside and found drugs on him. They knocked on Mr. Caple’s apartment and asked to look around. He let them in, and they discovered nothing of interest. Several weeks later, he received notice that the landlord was seeking to evict him because he was a drug dealer. He didn’t understand, thinking he was simply accused of being a nuisance. He knew he was a complainer. He said he never sold drugs, didn’t use drugs. At court, in February 2015, the landlord’s lawyer pulled him into the hallway and offered a paltry $5,000 to clear out. He said no. At the next court date, pressed again, he signed a stipulation to leave. Why? “Because the landlord’s lawyer said it was in my best interest,” Mr. Caple said. “Said I couldn’t win. I was shook up. I didn’t know anything. I’m just me.” The agreement omitted the $5,000. The judge approved it. Tenants wind up signing all sorts of dubious stips. Because they’re scared. Or bewildered. Or ashamed. Or have children to pick up from school. Or can’t skip another day of work. Or think they’re speaking to an impartial court official when it’s actually the landlord’s lawyer. Court lawyers and judges review stips, but in many instances those are inadequate safeguards. Judges routinely face 40, 50, 60 cases a day. One judge had 83 on a recent day. Another had 92. They say they would like to have half as many, a third as many, to be able to consider them more thoughtfully. Mr. Caple feared he would wind up homeless again. A tenant in a nearby building told him that landlords were squeezing people out of the neighborhood and that Brooklyn Legal Services would represent him pro https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 6/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times bono. The lawyer got the stip vacated, and finally, nearly two years after the case began, the landlord discontinued it. Mr. Caple’s apartment still needed repairs. His health wavered. On good https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe days, he hunted for discarded cans to redeem, to help cover the expenses of hisNew pets.York ‘I’m So Ahamed’ In a corner courtroom, Judge Jeannine Baer Kuzniewski shushed the room and addressed the tenants who filled the pews, saying that they had to check in by 10:30 a.m. or risk being defaulted. “Unless my administrative judge tells me the elevators aren’t working, which happens fairly frequently, then this may delay defaults,” she said. Then the judge addressed a 74-year-old man about to be evicted, with nothing left to avert that end. She spoke tenderly. He was from Baltimore. She was from Baltimore. She dwelled on that commonality. “Baltimore is a nice place,” she said. She asked if he had children. He had seven. She asked if he had told them of his plight. He had not. She said: “Should I presume when your children were young you did everything for them? Wouldn’t they want to help you if they knew? Think about it. It’s up to you. It’s your call. If it were my father, it would hurt me to know my father didn’t turn to me.” Blank-faced, he said nothing. She granted him until the end of the month to leave. She finished up, 50 more cases beckoning. “Sir, do you have any questions?” she asked. “Do you understand this?” He stared with flat affect. He understood. In the hallway, his voice was shy and hesitant. His name was Ulrick Alcindor. He used to have a construction business. His marriage had ended. Seven months before, he had left for New York, a city he had never seen, banking on its mythic infinity of possibilities. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 7/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times He arranged to work as the maintenance man in a building in East Flatbush in exchange for a dank basement apartment. He gave out his card at Home Depot to solicit jobs for income. Calls were scant. Six weeks earlier, as he was leaving for church, the landlord announced that he had to https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe leave. New York He said he needed to get to church. When he returned, the locks had been changed. This was illegal. The police made the landlord give him keys. Two days later, he received a notice summoning him to housing court. He had no lease and no standing. A lawyer told him she couldn’t help. So he returned alone for this final verdict. He had been trying to find a place, scouring ads on the computer at the library. At best, he could afford $500. That went nowhere in today’s Brooklyn. His savings totaled $400. His voice thinned. He began to cry. He said he had nothing. He had put belongings in a storage unit in Baltimore but fell behind on the rental fee. “I came here with two pairs of shoes,” he said. “Two pairs.” “I’m ashamed,” he said. “I’m so ashamed.” In succeeding weeks, time slipping away, he retreated to Baltimore, to temporarily occupy his old house that his wife was selling. Late last year, he returned to a Brooklyn room that cost $600 a month. One of his eyes yielded to glaucoma, and he couldn’t work. His Social Security left him without enough money for food. He needed someplace cheaper, but had no idea where it could be found. Swapping Storie Amid the patter and the corrosive exchanges in the hallways, tenants told stories, the grotesqueries that overtook them, stories that gained legs and got retold as revelations. It was the way conversation was made in housing court. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 8/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Two women were talking on the fifth floor. Four roommates shared an apartment. One day they found a young Italian woman setting up house on the foldout couch in the living room. The landlord had rented out the couch. They tried to glean some understanding from the Italian woman, https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe but she spoke essentially no English. For all they knew, she thought such New were theYork eccentricities of New York life. They protested to the landlord. His response: Tough. One of the roommates, a restaurant hostess, put up with the weirdness for a month and a half before moving out. The Italian woman took her room. Then this: a couple with an autistic son, mushrooms growing on their bathroom walls, rats the size of their cat. The woman said the ceiling fell on her while she was showering. When they complained, the landlord slapped an eviction notice on their door, ordering them out in three days. At court, they found out the notice was a fake that he had printed up. And: a man with a Crown Heights apartment, the rent a controlled $235. A new owner offered him $50,000 to leave. He moved. He deposited the check. The landlord had put a stop on it. When he called the landlord, the response was unsympathetic. He received a new check that did clear: $2,500. One­Shot Deal Outside the one-shot room on the fourth floor, people piled up. They pulled numbered tickets from the dispenser on the wall, then stood in the hallway burble until motioned in to plead for money. About 55 tenants a day came calling. The one-shot room is where the Human Resources Administration, the city’s social-services agency, processes emergency payments to extinguish the arrears of tenants facing eviction. The payments, called one-shot deals, are talked about all day, every day. They’re the magic elixir of housing court. In a single wondrous act, a one-shot vanishes that $2,351 in debt, that $6,802, that $4,013. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 9/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, significantly more money has been paid out as the program has been marketed more aggressively and caseworkers have been told to stress averting homelessness when they weigh applications. In Brooklyn, $62.6 million was spent on one-shots in https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe fiscal 2017, up from $35.2 million three years earlier, the individual New York amounts averaging $3,800. The rental assistance staff members in the one-shot room have the authority to approve infusions of up to $15,000 on the spot. Higher-ups have granted one-shots topping $30,000. But often the figures are shockingly small. “I’ve seen one-shots for $200 or $300,” said Mayra Infante, a former supervisor for the Brooklyn unit. “I’ve seen cases where someone was being evicted for $50.” In they marched. No. 29. No. 30. No. 31. A 68-year-old woman with glittering eyes, $1,800 behind on rent for her apartment of 38 years, had been sick with cancer. Her granddaughter lived with her and had lost her job but had just been hired at H&M. Approved for a one-shot, her mood ascendant, the woman said: “Thank you. Thank you, Jesus. I was worried to death.” A woman with wobbly finances had paid her daughter’s college tuition instead of the rent. The agency considers such choices misguided money management, a common failing cited in the one-shot room. The caseworker scribbled down a referral for a financial counselor. Approved. In their questioning, the caseworkers must ask what led to the arrears. Usually it’s loss of income. Family emergencies. A relative’s death. But there are outliers. A few years ago, a woman admitted that she’d fallen behind because she had gone to the Dominican Republic for liposuction. A retired police officer told how he had met a woman online who visited for the weekend and departed with $7,000 of his money. Both were approved for one-shots. Among all the agency’s offices citywide, the approval rate is 67 percent. But in this office, it is close to 99 percent. “These are people about to be evicted,” Ms. Infante said. “Some of them are hours away.” https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 10/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Technically, one-shots are loans. But older New Yorkers and people collecting Social Security disability don’t have to repay one-shots. Others on public assistance are expected to repay between 5 and 10 percent. The rest, who are a minority, get repayment schedules that can stretch for https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe years. According to the social services agency, about 80 percent of people York areNew behind on repaying the loans. To get a one-shot, you must show pay stubs, prove your income, your rent. A popular rule of thumb is that people should spend no more than a third of their income on rent, but that’s a fantasy in the one-shot room. Half is pretty much the norm, and many are paying 75 or 80 percent. The city’s expectation is that no one should get multiple one-shots in a year. Yet some people collect two or three. Lawyers and even judges dart into the one-shot room to check on applications. A landlord’s lawyer whisked in, saying, “Where’s it stand? I’m having a stroke here, a ministroke.” Do one-shots permanently solve these crises? Hard to know. For a tenant who has missed the rent because of one of life’s occasional calamities, a one-shot can mend things, perhaps for good. Many in housing court, though, know of manipulative tenants. One tenants’ rights advocate acknowledged that she knew people who, upon receiving a one-shot, ceased paying rent. Numerous people live on income insufficient to keep the marshal away for long in a changing Brooklyn. They cycle in and out of court and get two, three, four one-shots before being denied. Landlords’ lawyers deal with regulars they see every year or two. They inquire about one another’s children, like old friends catching up. “The service we provide is a prevention tool,” Ms. Infante said. “It’s not a solution.” No. 69. No. 70. No. 71. No Trading Down in rookln https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 11/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Grand Rapids, Mich. Plainfield, N.J. Sioux Falls, S.D. The Dominican Republic. Kenosha, Wis. To the question of where the evicted of Brooklyn went, these were some https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe answers. A lot of housing court ends in geography. New York Woman going to Puerto Rico. To stay where? Mom’s. Woman going to Jersey City, over the river. To stay where? No idea. Woman going to Indiana. To stay where? Her son, carries the mail, keeps a parakeet. It used to be that people moved farther into Brooklyn as their lives went askew, to the next neighborhood or the next. Traded down. Now Brooklyn offered no down. These were, in a number of instances, people working fundamental jobs. A UPS driver. A nanny. A gravedigger. Part of the human infrastructure of the city. The well-housed want their packages delivered, their children minded, their graves dug. But where do these workers live? A woman ousted from her apartment with her daughter and grandson had searched endlessly, but Brooklyn’s economics no longer intersected with hers. “These rents are like a bad stomachache,” she said. So on to Albany. A three-bedroom there for $1,000 would renovate her disappointed life. “I’ve got to bleed Brooklyn out of me,” she said. “Get an Albany vibe.” “My best to you in the Snow Belt,” the judge said. “You know Albany gets a lot of snow.” Triage at Legal Aid Now it was Thursday and the weekly case review meeting at the Brooklyn offices of the Legal Aid Society, just down the block from housing court. Legal Aid keeps an office at the court, where a paralegal hears tenants seeking free representation. The demand is too great — around 120 visitors a week — so people are prioritized. Some earn too much to qualify. Some need cheaper housing or more income, not a lawyer. Inability to be helped is a big category. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 12/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times From this weekly rush, the paralegal grants appointments with a staff lawyer to two dozen or so people. The lawyers gather details and then, on Thursday afternoons, assemble to chew over the tenants’ circumstances and determine whether to accept their cases. This day’s agenda listed 21 https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe cases. New York It’s striking how many eligible tenants don’t even consider a lawyer. They assume it’s not an option or don’t trust lawyers. They think little of a paid lawyer, less of a free one. One morning at housing court a woman was told she could walk down two floors and apply for a lawyer. She waved it off. “It’s not worth the trouble,” she said. Studies used to show that as few as 1 percent of tenants in housing court had lawyers, compared with more than 90 percent of landlords. A survey in 2016, after the city allotted tens of millions of dollars for legal help for tenants, found that 27 percent of tenants had lawyers, against 99 percent of landlords. Last year, the city announced that it would phase in far greater funding for lawyers for the poor, and tenant representation has been climbing significantly. Tenant lawyers, however, have been scrambling to meet the heavier caseloads and finding themselves unable to devote as much time to individual cases. Some of this day’s cases were straightforward: A woman with developmental disabilities was behind on her rent, which equaled half her monthly income. Another woman had had a cracked floor that the landlord wouldn’t fix. She had it repaired and subtracted the cost from her rent. He was moving to evict her for nonpayment. Now a peculiar one. A man responded to an apartment listing on Craigslist, was given a tour and took the place. He paid the rent by money orders he slid into a box in the lobby. After nine months, he received notice that he was being evicted. He learned that the tenant of record lived in Alaska and was apparently in arrears, and thus he and anyone else occupying the apartment were being thrown out. “He literally has no idea who showed him the apartment and was renting it to him,” said the woman presenting the case. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 13/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times The lawyers found the case interesting but beyond their help. It seemed the tenant had been swindled. Next: a 61-year-old woman being evicted on the grounds that she had https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe refused to allow an exterminator to rid the apartment of bedbugs. Huh? Who would New Yorkrisk their home out of affection for bedbugs? The case had lingered since July 2015. Facts were fuzzy. The woman maintained that she had let the exterminator in but he had done nothing. The landlord said she hadn’t prepared appropriately. Seemed a solvable problem, yet the case was lined up for trial. Stephen Myers, a supervising lawyer in the office, suspected that bedbugs were the landlord’s pretext to dispense with the woman. She occupied a $737-a-month rent-stabilized apartment in what had become a co-op building. Next: a landlord alleging that a woman had allowed her sinks to overflow three times, damaging the apartment beneath her. The tenant below had been the woman’s best friend but no longer was. “Client has not the best memory,” the lawyer said. “The first time she forgot to turn off the bathroom faucet and went to bed. Another time she was washing dishes and overfilled the sink. Then her granddaughter flushed her doll down the toilet and stuffed it up.” The afternoon was gone. Of 21 cases, two were rejected outright: the Craigslist con and a woman with no capacity to pay the rent. Eight were “reps,” meaning they would be taken on, and 11 needed further research. ‘Your Attitude I Off the Wall’ There’s often a good show in Judge Marc Finkelstein’s courtroom. He is known for theatrics and a certain grumpiness, an egalitarian grumpiness directed at one side as much as the other. At times, he pulls out a prop. For instance, he will confess that a case is giving him a headache, display a large bottle of aspirin and ask the litigants, “Do you need one of these?” https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 14/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Here was a middle-aged woman he knew too well — in the midst of a divorce, evicted from her apartment but not fully moved out, given extension after extension — and his patience with her had faded. https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe JUDGE FINKELSTEIN: You’ve appeared in front of me umpteen New York times. I’ve given you umpteen opportunities. You’ve brought another order to show cause. You’re to move your stuff by June 14. What’s the problem now? She said she needed a man to help. JUDGE FINKELSTEIN: You tell me that you can’t do it without a man helping you. What am I supposed to do about that? WOMAN: I need to work. JUDGE FINKELSTEIN: I don’t care. She wanted two more weeks. She showed him pictures of her furniture, how strong arms were needed to move it. JUDGE FINKELSTEIN: So get a man. What do you want from me? She said she had found her books from college dumped in the garbage, had donned a face mask to try to dig them out, and some were missing. She began to choke up. JUDGE FINKELSTEIN: Now we go into the crying thing. This happens every time. You come in here with a smile like I’m your buddy, and when you don’t get what you want you start crying. WOMAN: Maybe you can find my books. JUDGE FINKELSTEIN: I’m a judge. I’m not the Sanitation Department. He granted her six more days. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 15/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Another day, there was Ruth Jeanniton, a 46-year-old hairstylist with a modest income and a 6-year-old daughter. She was being evicted from an apartment in East Flatbush. A new owner was carving the place into multiple units. While she had previously agreed to leave in two weeks in https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe return for $3,000, now she was asking for more time to find a new place. York to the judge that she didn’t have heat or hot water. SheNew mentioned The landlord lawyer said: “This is just a shakedown. I don’t believe there is no heat or hot water. But if there was, to move her stuff out she could get a pair of gloves.” That got the judge’s back up. “That comment is outrageous,” he said. “I could turn off your heat and tell you to get gloves.” The lawyer continued to dispute the claim. The woman said the city had inspected the apartment and confirmed an absence of heat and hot water. The judge checked on the computer. The city had. Judge Finkelstein told the lawyer, “Your attitude is off the wall,” and then, ”When it’s time to fold your tent, it’s time to fold your tent.” The lawyer couldn’t restrain himself: “If she’s freezing, she shouldn’t be there.” “You can’t quit,” the judge said. “That’s your answer — if it’s freezing, she shouldn’t be there?” The judge gave her another month. Turning to the lawyer, he said, “If I could, I would sentence you to live in this apartment.” ad conomic Charles Wasserman motored through the hallways. A housing court regular, he mainly represents landlords. In his load of cases, he was puzzled by one against a tenant who owed $45,000, having not paid rent in 27 months. His colleague said, “That’s the gestation period of an elephant.” Mr. Wasserman learned that the building management somehow hadn’t noticed that the tenant had ceased paying rent. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 16/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Then he had Shane Peters, 36, who had bought his first house in Canarsie. It contained three rental units, and relatives of his would occupy the extra https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe two. The previous owner’s husband had died and the existing tenants had stopped paying rent. Unable to afford to take them to court, she sold the New York building. Now one tenant refused to leave. Hence housing court. “Some tenants I see once a year,” Mr. Wasserman said. “Some have known me since I’ve had children. That’s 15 years. Some of them do it to themselves or sometimes the system doesn’t help them get out of the way.” Another lawyer, also a regular, said: “I’ve seen too many people who make the rent back-burner. Behind school uniforms, Christmas presents, graduation presents.” He recalled one evicted tenant who showed up in court with the iPhone that had just been released. James Kasdon, a veteran landlord lawyer, said: “I’ve sued some people a dozen times. I sued one person 15 times. Same building. They’re gaming the landlord.” He said, “At the end of the day, the landlord is not the social safety net.” One afternoon, in chambers, Judge Gary F. Marton reflected on the challenges of deciding cases: “I’ve had any number of instances when I’m presented with a stipulation and it has something in there that doesn’t really make sense, and I’ll ask the tenant, ‘Why did you sign this?’ And they don’t have an effective response.” He added: “Tenants will agree to paying all the rent in three months, and they know they need six months. A lot of people are counting on miracles.” He knows the court befuddles tenants: “I’ve often had this discussion with tenants: ‘How much rent do you owe?’ They say four months. I say, ‘How much is that?’ And they can’t do it. The rent is $1,200 a month. They can’t ballpark it.” Are landlords right to complain that evictions take too long? “In certain cases, yes,” he said. “In most cases, I’d say no. If you’re a landlord and you don’t know the process you’re getting into, then that’s on you. If you’re https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 17/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times going to be a landlord and you think you’ll never have a tenant who doesn’t pay the rent, you’re naïve.” Judges recognize that there are bad landlords and bad tenants, but many https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe cases boil down to bad economics. “I’d say most cases are unfortunate circumstances,” said Judge Eleanora Ofshtein. “I’ve said from the bench New York that both of you could end up in a shelter. ‘This person has a mortgage to pay, and you have rent to pay.’” It frustrates her to see so many tenants who don’t budget well, “so few people who have a Plan B.” And she has presided over many actions by landlords that infuriated her. “They want to evict over $10?” she said. “Really? I’ve seen $18. I’ve seen $36.” Don’t Have Guet in the Winter Abigael Puritz and Kate Klenfner could often be found at housing court. They were subsumed into it four years ago and couldn’t escape. They occupied separate apartments in a building in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Ms. Klenfner, 39, is on disability. Ms. Puritz, 26, is an artist and student. They contended that their rents had been improperly raised in the rentstabilized building, and that their landlord wouldn’t fix things. Ms. Puritz said she had had no working toilet for five months and was using the bathroom in the park across the street. Ms. Klenfner said: “In the winter we can see our breath inside. I have fibromyalgia and I’m cold like an 80-year-old woman.” She avoided the bathroom sink. Sewer gas came up. She stuffed it with baking soda and put steel wool over the drain. She brushed her teeth in the kitchen sink. Once, she turned the kitchen faucet on and roaches poured out. She kept her dishes and toothpaste in the refrigerator. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 18/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Mr. Klenfner said: “I’m from New York. I expect a few rodents. They were coming under the door, ‘Hey, what’s up, what’s for dinner?’ I found a dead mouse in my bed.” https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe City inspectors identified 218 violations. The women stopped paying rent until theYork landlord resolved the issues. New Their landlord, Abdus Shahid, lives in the building. He said they had damaged their own apartments, including breaking the toilet on purpose. He has brought multiple actions to evict them. Experienced in these proceedings, he would lose one case and begin a new one. Ms. Puritz and Ms. Klenfner got Legal Aid to represent them in 15 separate cases. Like many housing court proceedings, these didn’t follow a straight line, but zigged and zagged and retreated back to where they had begun. One case brought by Legal Aid sought a court-appointed administrator to manage the building, as had happened with another of Mr. Shahid’s buildings. A trio of eviction cases were dismissed by a judge when Legal Aid pointed out that Mr. Shahid had filed documents that appeared to have been notarized by someone who was dead. Ms. Klenfner showed texts from the landlord. One read: “You’re a stupid girl. You’re a foolish girl. I don’t like foolish girls.” Another: “My building is bad, I don’t want somebody will stay in bad building.” When she complained about the lack of heat, he advised her to go down the street, where blankets cost $20. Well, what if she had guests over? Don’t have guests in the winter, he told her. Mr. Shahid has gone through five lawyers. The court, he complains, conspires against him. “I’m from Bangladesh,” he said. “In Bangladesh, I’ve never seen a court like this. It is no good.” Ms. Puritz said: “This has taken its toll. I wasn’t in therapy before. Now I’m in therapy.” Why do they stay? “I don’t have the money to move,” Ms. Puritz said. “And it’s too important to let him win. I’m the sort of person who, when they see something wrong, just gets stuck on it.” https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 19/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Ms. Klenfner said: “I feel it’s sort of like Frodo and ‘Lord of the Rings.’ I feel we can do this.” Fearful of the electrical wiring, Ms. Puritz slept with a fire extinguisher https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe beside the bed. Once, she found an extension cord on fire. Ms. Klenfner often slept with a light on, hoping it would dissuade the mice and roaches. New York Some nights, as further deterrence, she slid an ammonia-soaked rag beneath the bed. In October, the court agreed to turn the building over to an administrator. The judge declared the living conditions there dangerous and found Mr. Shahid guilty of harassment. At the end of February, the Brooklyn district attorney filed charges of forgery and related offenses against Mr. Shahid, stemming from the allegations that he had used a dead notary’s stamp and signature on court filings to evict tenants. At his arraignment, Mr. Shadid pleaded not guilty. Going to Trial Part Ex, on the fifth floor, was at a standstill. It was the waiting room for the fraction of cases actually destined for trial. “Ex” is for expediter, a term with hollow meaning in housing court. When you report here, it does not mean you will have your trial. When you first come to Part Ex, you receive a number. Then you sit with the other new arrivals to see if there is a trial judge available. “It’s one level of Dante’s ‘Inferno’ — I’m not sure which,” one lawyer said of Part Ex. For those whose numbers aren’t called, lawyers who know the drill will pick a new date far enough in the future — a month or so — to secure a low number next time. A woman named Gloria waited with her son, holding No. 6. Her case had dragged on for many months. Her son has schizoaffective disorder. He hears voices. He lives in a studio apartment in Midwood. She had pictures: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 20/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times A hole near the radiator, emitting a foul sewage smell. Windows falling apart. Leaks. No electricity in the bedroom or bathroom. “I would call management and they would actually insult me,” she said. https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe Thus rent was withheld. An eviction action began. A year ago, her son showed up in court alone. He couldn’t understand the goings-on. The New York landlord’s lawyer persuaded him to sign a stipulation agreeing to be evicted. The judge approved it. When Gloria found out, she got it reversed. She told the lawyer: “You’re a vulture. I’ll bet you do this to a lot of people. How dare you!” An agreement was reached that arrears would be paid and repairs done. But she wanted a partial abatement for what her son had endured. “His life has been diminished enough by his disease that he shouldn’t be shortchanged this way too,” she said. She would take $1,000. Her son needed a new bed. The landlord refused even a penny. The landlord’s lawyer strolled in now and asked the clerk, “Anything go on yet?” Told no, he said, “Zippo, huh?” and marched out. He wouldn’t look at Gloria. The clock ticked. People worked their phones. Slept. Snored. A lawyer popped in, saying: “I’ve done bedbugs before. This is maggots.” He had a trial over an abatement for sharing quarters with maggots. Settled by the window was a small landlord, 85, who owned two rentstabilized apartments in a building that had been converted to condominiums. The woman living in one of his units had died and her daughter wished to establish tenancy. He wanted her gone. He hated housing court. He described himself as “a victim of society.” He believed that many tenants were “getting away with thievery.” The landlord had No. 2. He nodded at his lawyer slumped across from him, whose wife was pregnant. “His wife will have the baby before we’re called,” https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 21/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times the landlord said. At 3:30 the case was finally called. The trial began, then was postponed when the lawyer’s wife phoned. She was feeling it might be time. https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe No other numbers were called. Gloria and her son got a return date a New York month away. “What a spectacle,” she said. “What a disgrace.” ‘That’ How I Live’ In the end, housing court disappoints pretty much everyone, because its resources are inadequate and the core problem it finds is beyond the power of 141 Livingston Street. The court doesn’t build housing. It doesn’t create jobs. It stamps stipulations and wishes everyone a good day. As a judge wrapped up a case involving a woman who had been given four months to move, the tenant added that a drunken neighbor had the habit of bursting into her apartment in his underwear. “I’m just a lowly Housing Court judge,” the judge said. “I have no jurisdiction over people who come into your apartment in their underwear.” And then Princess Codwell. She saw a lot of housing court. Her arrears case had begun in July 2015. The judge had signed 13 extensions and now was signing a 14th. By her latest tally, she owed $5,023 in rent, plus legal fees. A week earlier, she had been evicted. She wound up in a homeless shelter and wanted her apartment back. She was 44, a home health aide. She said she had one primary patient, and whenever that person entered the hospital — which had been happening recently — she didn’t have work. Her rent was $1,300, and she didn’t earn much beyond that. “You know how I live?” she said. “I buy 25-cent bags of peanuts and I wash the salt off because I have high blood pressure. Sometimes I go and beg at the restaurant once they’re done for the day, at 10 at night, and they give me leftovers. That’s how I live.” https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 22/23 5/21/2018 Where Brooklyn Tenants Plead the Case for Keeping Their Homes - The New York Times Already she had been granted two one-shot deals and was heading to the one-shot room to get a third. It would put her back in her apartment until the next crisis. https://nyti.ms/2ITBCPe The judge was exasperated (“I’ve given you umpteen times to take care of this”). landlord’s lawyer was churlish (“This is abuse of the system”). NewThe York One could see their point. And one could see hers. She was doing a job that needed doing but that didn’t pay the rent. And so she had a life that didn’t square in today’s Brooklyn. Housing court was a place to come but not to find salvation. Related Coverage Why He’s Holding Out in East Harlem, Despite the Demolition MAY 20, 2018 De Blasio Bolsters Affordable Housing, but at What Price? MARCH 4, 2018 On Tenant Blacklist, Errors and Renters With Little Recourse AUG. 16, 2016 © 2018 The New York Times Company 2 SEE MY OPTIONS Subscriber login ARTICLS RMAINING https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/20/nyregion/landlord-tenant-disputes-housing-court.html 23/23
Marginal gentrifiers are members of the middle class seeking to live in gentrifiable areas looking for culture different from theirs. Marginal gentrifiers differ from classic gentrifiers in that they have lower incomes, yet they still cause a shift in the culture and atmosphere of the neighborhoods that they inhabit. They typically have higher incomes than the original residents, and bring different values and spending patterns with them, which will inevitably cause a dramatic shift in the culture of the area. I think both groups would be affected by a housing crisis, however original residents will always be affected more heavily. Gentrifiers, marginal or otherwise, have more disposable income, and city governments actively want gentrifiers in a neighborhood as increase city revenue follows gentrification.

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New York City Housing Crisis
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New York City Housing Crisis
The aspect of development in a particular locality is often associated with the
improvement of the livelihood of a particular place to a higher level. This involves the intrusion
of investors with vested interests who in turn decide ...

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