New York, NY – Few Rent Control Apartments Left in City

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    New York, NY – It is among the cheapest rents in all of New York City: a 750-square-foot one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn for $63 a month.

    In other ways, however, it’s one of the most costly. Its inhabitants, Magnus Saethre, 97, and his live-in caregiver, Devron King, have been locked in a vicious battle with the building’s landlord for years over the conditions of the unit — which are decrepit — and what they claim are attempts to force them out.

    “The landlord’s been calling Adult Protective Services on us,” said King, 56. “He’s trying to suggest that I’m taking advantage of Magnus.”

    According to King and his lawyer, John Hlavaty, the landlord, Jack Geula, has also claimed that other tenants complain about noise.

    “Magnus is 97 years old and hard of hearing,” Hlavaty said. “They yell. That’s how they communicate.”

    There are fewer than 40,000 rent-controlled apartments among New York’s more than 2 million units.

    And it’s increasingly the city’s elderly, clinging to the spaces in which they’ve lived most of their lives, who are left to live in cramped, rotting rooms while their landlords wait them out.

    Rents can be repeatedly lowered until the problems are addressed, but there is no recourse other than civil court for neglect and harassment.

    “You hit landlords where they live, with fines,” said DHCR spokesman Andrew O’Rourke.

    “Ninety-five percent of landlords are accommodating,” O’Rourke said.

    But some are aggressively stubborn, and what they’re doing isn’t technically criminal.

    Saethre and King, for example, live in a 750-square-foot fourth-floor walk-up on Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park. Saethre is so fragile that he almost never leaves the apartment. The paint on the ceiling is peeling so badly that the curling strips resemble stalactites.

    “Magnus has laid out $25,000 in legal fees,” said Hlavaty. “That’s what the landlord is trying to do — ruin them financially.”

    Saethre, who has lived in the unit since returning from World War II, does not want to leave. “When you talk to him when he’s fully coherent, he says, ‘This is my apartment. I’ve lived here for 62 years. There’s no way that S.O.B. is getting me out,’ ” Hlavaty said.

    The landlord Geula responded, “It’s lies, all lies,” before hanging up.

    Saethre and King’s lawyer — who believes the landlord is most afraid of King inheriting the apartment when Saethre dies — believes his clients will prevail.

    “We are going to send a message to them,” he said, “to stop going after the elderly and the vulnerable.”

    Out of control

    Number of rent-controlled units in NYC

    1987: 155,361

    1991: 124,411

    1993: 101,339

    1996: 70,572

    1999: 52,562

    2002: 59,324

    2005: 43,317

    2008: 39,901

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    4 COMMENTS

    1. Getting rid of ALL rent control apartments will be the best outcome for the new york rental market. We don’t tell the bakery what to charge for the price of bread, Why should landlords be told how much to charge for their products?? Its just another form of socialism from the New York Dems. All the jewish groups should demand the immediate end to rent control and all other government interference in the market. We cannot say keep the money flowing to our mosdos but eliminate all the subsidies and welfare payments to the goyim and minorities. We need a consistent message. Lower taxes and lower spending. If yidden cannot afford to live in BP or Willy, let them move to Monsey, Lakewood, or form new communities in upstate NY, Pennsylvania and West Virginia where land is very cheap.

    2. Rent control destroyed the residential stock of affordable housing in this town. I am sorry for the 97 year old tenant, but I doubt that Con Ed gives the landlord a break on the cost of electricity in the common areas, nor does the oil company and insurance company take the rent control status of the building’s tenants into consideration when issuing the bills. When the landlords cannot make a profit on their buildings there in no incentive to stay. Everyone will scream, “it’s not that way in Manhattan!” that may be true, but in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens it won’t take much for the landlords to walk away, especially in marginal neighborhoods.

    3. #1,

      Actually halachah DOES tell the baker how much he can charge. See the fourth chapter of Bava Metzia.

      And unlike you I’m not in favor of the ethnic cleansing of poor Jews from New York.

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