Good news on the legal front. Another two tenants have had their apartments acknowledged as Rent Stabilized. The one case I am at liberty to talk about is Jim Georgiou’s, though the other tenant’s case had a similar resolution.
Everybody knows Jim: he’s that guy with dark hair and a small mustache who often wears a porkpie hat, and can be seen daily walking his big, friendly black and white dog, Teddy. Jim, who has lived at the hotel for 6 years, is a specialist in a form of the ancient Chinese healing art that some call Qi-Gong (Jim calls it something else that I can’t pronounce). Jim has been under the weather lately, suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, among other ailments, and so fell behind in his rent. (In the past, on another occasion when he fell behind due to illness, the Bards let him slide for awhile, and he was able to repay the debt in full once he recovered. In other words, he’s not some slacker; he’s able to make good money in his profession.)
Although Jim received assurances from hotel management that his case was not yet critical, a few weeks back they sprung a surprise on him, taping a notice to his door telling him he had three days to pay or be evicted. Luckily, Jim was able to scramble and come up with the money in time. On Thursday, August 21, when he went down to housing court, a representative of the hotel’s law firm, Belkin Berdin, granted him a discontinuance, which means they are dropping the eviction proceedings. (They could have sent Jim this document earlier, or just told him over the phone, but they made him come all the way down to Centre Street, either hoping that he wouldn’t show, or else just to inconvenience him.)
The ironic thing about the case is that, in order to file eviction papers against Jim, hotel management had to first register his apartment as Rent Stabilized with the DHCR. (The strategy was to evict him and then convert the room to transient use, thus legally deregulating the room.) So, by not paying, Jim has ended up in much better shape now than he was before!
This is not to say that you shouldn’t pay your rent; everyone should pay their rent except on the advice of an attorney. But withholding rent is turning out to be one way of forcing hotel management to address the issue of Rent Stabilization. (The other case I referred to was settled in the same way: the tenant withheld rent; management registered the room as rent stabilized; and then the tenant simply paid the back rent.)
An even more important lesson to be learned is that hotel management is, at present, only going after tenants who are not represented by a lawyer. Neither of these tenants had legal counsel at the time they were served with eviction papers (Jim received some legal advice before he went to court). What’s more, there are two other Chelsea tenants in housing court at the present time, and neither of them had counsel either when they were served with eviction papers (one has since retained counsel). -- Ed Hamilton