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Thread: For Congressman Rangel, Four Rent-Stabilized Apartments

  1. #1

    Default For Congressman Rangel, Four Rent-Stabilized Apartments

    For Rangel, Four Rent-Stabilized Apartments



    July 11, 2008
    By DAVID KOCIENIEWSKI

    While aggressive evictions are reducing the number of rent-stabilized apartments in New York, Representative Charles B. Rangel is enjoying four of them, including three adjacent units on the 16th floor overlooking Upper Manhattan in a building owned by one of New York’s premier real estate developers.

    Mr. Rangel, the powerful Democrat who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, uses his fourth apartment, six floors below, as a campaign office, despite state and city regulations that require rent-stabilized apartments to be used as a primary residence.

    Mr. Rangel, who has a net worth of $566,000 to $1.2 million, according to Congressional disclosure records, paid a total rent of $3,894 monthly in 2007 for the four apartments at Lenox Terrace, a 1,700-unit luxury development of six towers, with doormen, that is described in real estate publications as Harlem’s most prestigious address.

    The current market-rate rent for similar apartments in Mr. Rangel’s building would total $7,465 to $8,125 a month, according to the Web site of the owner, the Olnick Organization.

    The Olnick Organization and other real estate firms have been accused of overzealous tactics as they move to evict tenants from their rent-stabilized apartments and convert the units into market-rate housing.

    Tensions are especially inflamed in Harlem, where the rising cost of living and the arrival of more moneyed residents have triggered anxiety over the future of the historically black neighborhood. And Vantage Properties, a company established by Olnick’s former chief operating officer, has attracted billions in private equity financing by promising investors that it can aggressively convert tens of thousands of rent-stabilized apartments, many in Harlem.

    Yet Mr. Rangel, a critic of other landlords’ callousness, has been uncharacteristically reticent about Olnick’s actions.

    State officials and city housing experts said in interviews that while the law does not bar tenants from having more than one rent-stabilized apartment, they knew of no one else with four of them. Others suggested that the arrangement undermines the purpose of rent regulation.

    “There are families who manage to get two, when one tenant marries another, things like that,” said Dov Treiman, a lawyer who publishes The Housing Court Reporter, a legal trade publication. “But I’ve never heard of any tenant managing to get four.”

    Mr. Rangel’s use of the fourth apartment as an office, in addition to his 2,500-square-foot residence, was especially troubling to some advocates, given the city’s chronic shortage of housing for low- and moderate-income residents.

    “Whether it’s an elected official or not, no one should have four apartments, especially when one is being used as an office,” said Michael McKee, treasurer of the Tenants Political Action Committee, who was not aware of Mr. Rangel’s situation when he was interviewed.

    Mr. Rangel, who was first elected to Congress in 1970 and is one of the city’s most recognizable elected officials, has written and spoken extensively about his devotion to his home in Harlem, but does not appear to have ever publicly acknowledged that he has been permitted to lease four rent-stabilized apartments there. According to a public records database and interviews with neighbors, he has lived in the building since the early 1970s, but it is not clear when he amassed the four units.

    Mr. Rangel, 78, declined to answer questions during a telephone interview, saying that his housing was a private matter that did not affect his representation of his constituents.

    “Why should I help you embarrass me?” he said, before abruptly hanging up.

    Olnick officials declined to discuss when or why they decided to permit Mr. Rangel to lease multiple rent-stabilized units. Asked why he had been allowed to use one as an office, Jeanette Bocchino, a spokeswoman for the company, replied: “This is a private matter for the Olnick Organization and Mr. Rangel to evaluate.”

    Mr. Rangel is not the only prominent resident with a rent-stabilized apartment at Lenox Terrace. Gov. David A. Paterson told The New York Sun in May that he pays $1,250 for a rent-stabilized two-bedroom apartment in the complex that rents for $2,600 or more at market rates. Basil A. Paterson, the governor’s father, pays $868 per month for his apartment there, in the same building as Mr. Rangel’s apartments, according to state records.

    Percy E. Sutton, the former Manhattan borough president and a longtime ally and friend of Mr. Rangel’s, also lives at Lenox Terrace, though records about his rent were not available.

    Under state and city rent regulations, tenants can continue renewing the lease in their rent-stabilized apartments for as long as they use it as a primary residence, and landlords can increase rent only by an annual percentage set by a city board.

    A spokesman for the governor said that Governor Paterson, who owns a home in an Albany suburb and recently moved into the executive mansion, considered Lenox Terrace his primary residence. A secretary to the elder Mr. Paterson, who owns a home on Long Island, said he could not be immediately reached.

    Luminaries are nothing new at Lenox Terrace, a large development on 135th Street between Fifth and Lenox Avenues. The Olnick Organization built it in 1958 as the first luxury community in Harlem. The family-run company has a broad portfolio of retail, commercial and residential buildings, and holds a contract to lease office space to federal agencies in Morristown, N.J.

    According to Federal Election Commission records, Mr. Rangel received $2,000 in campaign contributions from Sylvia Olnick, an owner of the company, in 2004. His separate political action committee received $2,500 donations from her in 2004 and 2006.

    In addition, city records show that in 2005, a lobbyist for the Olnick Organization met with Mr. Rangel and Mr. Paterson, who was then the State Senate minority leader, as the company set out to win government approvals of a plan to expand Lenox Terrace and build another apartment complex in the Bronx.

    Ms. Bocchino said that Mr. Rangel was not asked to do, nor did he do, anything for the company. A spokesman for the governor said he also did not act on Olnick’s behalf.

    Neither project has advanced.

    Mr. Rangel’s residence, which has custom moldings and dramatic archways, is decorated with Benin Bronze statues and antique carved walnut Italian chairs, and was featured in the 2003 book “Style and Grace: African Americans at Home,” by Michael Henry Adams (Bulfinch Press). The article called the home a penthouse, although it is on the second floor from the top.

    The book does not mention that the units are rent-stabilized, but says that the penthouse had been assembled by combining separate apartments. Mr. Rangel’s wife, Alma, is quoted describing the congressman as “the shopper in this family” who has a penchant for hunting down antiques like cut-glass champagne flutes and walnut chests to furnish their elegant abode.

    The State Division of Housing and Community Renewal does not publicly release information about rents paid by tenants in rent-regulated apartments. But The New York Times obtained a copy of the agency’s 2007 rent roll report for Mr. Rangel’s building, which showed that the congressman holds the leases on Apartments 16M, 16N, 16P and 10U.

    Neither Mr. Rangel nor the company would describe the dimensions or layouts of the apartments, but neighbors and a doorman said the apartments included a studio, a one-bedroom and a two-bedroom on the 16th floor. A Times reporter visited the 10th-floor office, a one-bedroom.

    The records showed that the congressman paid $1,329 monthly for his two-bedroom apartment, which is about half the $2,600 market-rate rent the development now charges new tenants. For the adjacent one-bedroom, he also paid $1,329. The one-bedrooms are now rented for $1,865 and up.

    He paid $606 a month for the adjacent studio apartment, while market rents for studios there are now $1,300. He pays $630 for the 10th-floor office, and federal election records show that he splits the cost between his Congressional re-election fund, which has raised more than $3.6 million this election cycle, and his National Leadership PAC, a committee he controls, which raised more than $1.6 million.

    Some Congressional ethics experts, while saying it appears legitimate for Mr. Rangel to have one rent-stabilized apartment, question whether his acceptance of the additional units may violate the House of Representatives’ ban on members’ accepting gifts of more than $100. They suggest that the difference between what Mr. Rangel pays for the second, third and fourth apartments and what a new market-rate tenant would pay — some $30,000 annually — could be considered a gift because it is given at the discretion of the landlord and it is not generally available to the public.

    Landlords can — and routinely do — force tenants who have more than one rent-stabilized apartment to give up any additional units.

    Meredith McGehee, policy director for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center in Washington, said she was not familiar with the particulars of Mr. Rangel’s accommodations, but said that under House ethics rules, a gift is defined as any “gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan, forbearance, or other item having monetary value.”

    Mr. Rangel, who earns $169,300 base pay as a congressman, owns a villa in the Dominican Republic that is worth $250,000 to $500,000, his disclosure form states. He has also bought and sold properties in recent years; he bought a condominium in 2004 in Sunny Isles, Fla., for $50,000 to $100,000 and sold it last year for $100,000 to $250,000. In 2004 he also sold a building on 132nd Street, around the corner from Lenox Terrace, for $250,000 to $500,000. He owns mutual funds with a combined value between $266,000 and $765,000

    Mr. Rangel is among New York’s most influential politicians. He is a member of the legendary “gang of four” black Democratic power brokers — along with Mr. Sutton, the former Manhattan borough president; former Mayor David N. Dinkins; and the senior Mr. Paterson, the former secretary of state and the governor’s father — who have dominated Harlem affairs for a generation.

    Mr. Rangel is frequently re-elected with more than 80 percent of the vote. In the 1990s he wrote the Federal Empowerment Zone demonstration project, a $5 billion program to revitalize urban neighborhoods throughout the country. More than $200 million of that money has been steered to the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, where Representative Rangel has served on the board, and which has been credited with helping spur Harlem’s resurgence.

    But critics, including some Harlem residents, complain that Mr. Rangel has too often used his public office to help himself and his friends. In 1999, Mr. Rangel was forced out as chairman of the Apollo Theater foundation after the state attorney general’s office charged that the board had failed to collect more than $4 million owed to the theater by a company controlled by his ally Mr. Sutton. Mr. Rangel and Mr. Sutton denied any wrongdoing.

    Last year, government watchdog groups criticized Mr. Rangel for pushing through a $1.9 million earmark to build the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York, which is to include an office for Mr. Rangel and a presidential-style library for his official papers. The congressman and the college said that by lending his name to the project, he had helped the college raise millions from private donors.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/11/ny.../11rangel.html

  2. #2

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    Few Things Fuel Debate Like a Sweet Apartment Deal

    July 12, 2008
    By RALPH BLUMENTHAL

    Morton Perry was walking down West 135th Street in Harlem on Friday afternoon just as Representative Charles B. Rangel was finishing a sidewalk news conference defending his four rent-stabilized apartments in the Lenox Terrace towers.

    “I have a dream,” intoned Mr. Perry, 54, a retired hospital worker occupying decidedly less luxurious quarters on 132nd Street, “that one day I can live in a condo.”

    He said he had long voted for Mr. Rangel, a Democrat who is chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, but would not do so again.

    “I really thought he was about something and was for this community,” Mr. Perry told onlookers and reporters. “But how can you be for the community if you’re taking from the community? Don’t swallow all the wealth. Share it. That’s unacceptable. No one can condone this.”

    Throughout a gentrifying Harlem and the precincts of cyberspace, Mr. Rangel’s living arrangements, as detailed on Friday in The New York Times, stirred spirited debate, from denunciations of the congressman as a hoarder of scarce housing to accolades for a faithful native son.

    That longtime residents are being priced out by the real estate boom — “Now You Can Have a 5th Avenue Address,” beckons a sign at the new St. Claire condominiums at 128th Street, boasting white oak floors, gas fireplaces and a private massage room — seems to have fueled the resentment.

    Signs of poverty endure: the colony of homeless living under the Park Avenue railroad trestle on 125th Street, including Junior Carter, 53, a former printer, who sat in a wheelchair with all his belongings on the street and said he would be happy to take one of Mr. Rangel’s apartments.

    “I ain’t got a room right now,” he said. “I ain’t got nothing. Who’s going to pay for it?”

    Mr. Rangel, the Times article said, lives in three adjacent units on the 16th floor of the prestigious development and uses a 10th-floor apartment as an office. Last year, he paid $3,894 a month in rent for the units, about half the market value if the units were decontrolled.

    Some found no fault with the congressman’s arrangement.

    “Rangel was living in Lenox Terrace since back when no one wanted to live in Harlem,” said Walter Dawkins, 74, a retired school social worker who lives three blocks away.

    “He and the other politicians came here to stabilize the neighborhood. He is a representative of the community and it only stands to reason that he should live in the heart of the community.”

    In a posting to the City Room blog on The Times’s Web site, a reader identifying himself as Dan Stackhouse said Mr. Rangel got the units “by intelligently seizing an excellent deal decades ago and then just sticking with it.”

    “Congratulations on your good luck,” he wrote, “and stick with Harlem no matter how irritating the press gets.”

    But others belittled any claim of loyalty to Harlem. “Well of course he lives in this neighborhood — it’s his district!” a reader identifying himself as Christopher said in another posting to The Times. “It’s not like he had the choice of moving to SoHo or Forest Hills, because doing so would have meant giving up his job.”

    Other critics included some residents of Lenox Terrace, six buildings comprising 1,700 units between 132nd and 135th Streets and Fifth and Lenox Avenues, built in 1958.

    “I feel he’s outright wrong,” Naiema Inniss, 17, a Lenox Terrace neighbor and high school student, said in an interview. “There are a lot of people struggling, and he’s got four apartments? I don’t think that’s O.K. at all. No matter how much authority you got, what’s fair is fair.”

    Manie Barron, 52, a literary agent who has lived in Lenox Terrace for five years, said: “I don’t think he should leave his apartment. I just think he should pay market value like I’m paying.”

    Lionel Perez, 32, a restaurant worker from East Harlem, agreed. “I don’t think it’s right,” he said. “I’m struggling myself to try and keep the apartment that I have. He uses one as an office? That’s crazy.”

    Sonya Murray, 40, a lifelong resident of Lenox Terrace and an administrative assistant, tied the resentment of Mr. Rangel to complaints that tenants had with the building management. “It’s hard to see that we’re going through so much and he can live here in luxury,” Ms. Murray said. “There are a lot of problems with housing in the community. I was just in housing court, and it’s overcrowded with people with these issues.”

    Andre Mitchell, 25, who lives in the Bronx, works in construction and was visiting a friend at Lenox Terrace, could barely contain his envy over Mr. Rangel’s apartments. “Wow,” he said, “Let me get one. You can’t get mad at him, because he got a good deal. He got lucky. I wouldn’t want everyone to be mad at me if I got such a good deal.”

    Some fellow politicians came to Mr. Rangel’s defense. “Well, he lives in New York City and he lives in his Congressional district, and that’s what’s important,” said Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat, a Democrat who represents Washington Heights, which is in Mr. Rangel’s district.

    “Why should everybody be concerned about his personal living situation?” Mr. Espaillat continued. “The fact of the matter is that he’s been a trailblazer for people in this community and he works hard for Harlem. I think he’s a great New Yorker. Anyone who has an issue with that should take a shower.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/12/ny.../12harlem.html

  3. #3

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    [quote] Some fellow politicians came to Mr. Rangel’s defense. “Well, he lives in New York City and he lives in his Congressional district, and that’s what’s important,” said Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat, a Democrat who represents Washington Heights, which is in Mr. Rangel’s district.

    “Why should everybody be concerned about his personal living situation?” Mr. Espaillat continued. “The fact of the matter is that he’s been a trailblazer for people in this community and he works hard for Harlem. I think he’s a great New Yorker. Anyone who has an issue with that should take a shower.” [quote/]



    "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others" George Orwell -Animal Farm

    Steven
    Last edited by 195Broadway; July 12th, 2008 at 05:18 PM. Reason: quote clarification

  4. #4
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    The only violation here is Rangel's supposed use of a Rent Stabilized unit in which he does not reside for business purposes -- the law requires that such an apartment be used for the "Primary Residence" of the tenant. The legal cure is eviction from the RS unit. So Rangel will clearly need to look for another place to do business.

    Case law allows the combining of RS units. Rangel occupies as his residence ONE RS unit (which was formerly 3 separate units, since combined into 1 contiguous unit). By all appearances everything about his residential tenancy -- including the amount of rent due & paid --complies with the law.

    The headline regarding "Four Rent-Stabilized Apartments" is misleading.

  5. #5

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    Lofter,
    Thanks for the clarification.
    It is the incredibly arrogant responses from those polititions who are defending the congressman, that really got me wrangled.

    Steven

  6. #6

    Post Spirit of the Law

    Quote Originally Posted by 195Broadway View Post
    ...........that really got me wrangled.

    Steven
    Yea, LOL - that one got me Wrangled too. What I think is at issue here is that he is in violation of both the 'Letter of the Law' AND the 'Spirit of the Law'.

    Paul

    Wiki - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_of_the_law
    Last edited by infoshare; July 12th, 2008 at 11:40 PM. Reason: Add Wiki link

  7. #7

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    I can't believe how many of you are excusing this abuse of power. Can you imagine it we suddenly found out that KARL ROVE had 4 rent stabilized apartments in NYC!? We'd go mad! But if it's Charlie Rangel - it's all good.

    When are you going to apply the same standards to everybody. A corrupt politician is a corrupt politician and it should be admitted and condemned - no matter what party they're from.

    It's unbelievable to me that Bloomberg said "let Rangel investigate himself"! He must be a bit corrupt too with that attitude.

  8. #8
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobbiesox View Post
    I can't believe how many of you are excusing this abuse of power. Can you imagine it we suddenly found out that KARL ROVE had 4 rent stabilized apartments in NYC!? We'd go mad! But if it's Charlie Rangel - it's all good.
    Um, one, you are twisting the point into what you want to argue about.

    Karl Rove is not here, and I really do not see people here accepting his use of the apartments as such. I have only seen one qualification where they said that it is, literally, only 2 places he has.

    When are you going to apply the same standards to everybody. A corrupt politician is a corrupt politician and it should be admitted and condemned - no matter what party they're from.
    Again, you are trying to poru gasoline on something that has little to do with the original pile of crap.

    It's unbelievable to me that Bloomberg said "let Rangel investigate himself"! He must be a bit corrupt too with that attitude.
    I will have to look at the context he said that in. I do not like the fact he has this and I hate it when people of priveledge abuse the situation, but I also have a feeling that although the rent may be stabalized, the landlord may be getting payment in other ways.

    What else woudl keep him quiet for so long?

  9. #9

    Default Rangel...

    Rangel is using rent stablized apartments to make money, who do you think pays for rent stablized apartments? The taxpayers of NYC, so Rangel is pushing more taxes for people who pay him to make money. Goes along with the fact that he abuses the right of reps to own government leased cars. Look it up if you don't believe me he has one of the most expensive government paid for leases in the whole House of Reps. Rangel equals corrupt trash. He is a disgrace, its too bad most of you support him.

  10. #10
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Stop generalizing by using terms like "most of you" ...

    Rangel is not my congressional representative. I do not "support" him.

    I believe in the rule of law. I believe Rangel should be treated fairly and justly under the law. Who made you the judge?

    The law requires that his landlord take action in regards to his Rent Stabilizied units -- the government agency which oversees RS units will take no action on its own. If the landlord chooses not to act then that is the Landlord's choice. However the law does require that he give up the RS unit he is using for an office and Rangel, without action by his landlord, is giving up that space.

    No doubt that whatever else that is deemed illegal or incorrect in regards to Rangel's conduct will be dealt with by the powers that be. Congress may choose to sanction him. His constituents however may choose to keep him in office -- his seniority can serve them well, and probably far better than replacing him with a low-level junior congressman who would have little to no pwer in DC.

  11. #11
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobbiesox View Post

    A corrupt politician is a corrupt politician ...
    You might as well just say "a politiican is a politician" without adding the word corrupt. That part is generally understood to be part and parcel of those who are politicians.

    That's part of what we have put up with to maintain some semblance of order in society.

    When it gets too out of line the people tend to act.

    Or they just go on getting screwed (which seems to be the choice of the people these days).

    That's the way it's always been.

    So, tell us ... what is it that you are doing to clean up the corruption you so detest and have deemed necessary to be cleansed from the land?

  12. #12
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    He is doing what every decent minded citizen does.


    Complain about it on a BBS.


    Hey, it's what I do! :crosseyed:

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    I think it is quite disingenuous of Rangel to position himself as someone fighting for the disenfranchised, while doing this. It might be technicallylegal and fall within the bounds of "ethics rules", however, we all know that the rules for the Congress are different from the rules for the general public.

    Both Republicans and Democrats will serve themselves and corporate America before any "average Joe" gets relief.

  14. #14

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    ^^

    I agree.

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