Masaryk Towers offer hundreds of New Yorkers affordable housing on the Lower East Side, in its 21-story, six building co-op. All of its residents are low to middle-income, and almost half of them are senior citizens. So it came as a shock to many when the New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) raised the building’s carrying charges by 11 percent in March 2011, and then fifteen months later by an additional 18 percent. New York housing law states that there must be a two year gap between increases in carrying charges. Nearly 200 residents have now filed a suit against the HPD, saying that not only was the hike illegal, but it occurred without notifying residents or allowing them to partake in a public hearing, to which they have a legal right.
“Masaryk Towers is supposed to be affordable housing. If HPD won’t follow its own laws, what protections do residents have against arbitrary increases?” said resident Maria Muentes. Under the announced hikes, shareholders of two bedroom apartments will have to pay $150 more a month, on top of last year’s 11 percent increase.
Attorneys from the Urban Justice Center’s Community Development Project filed the suit today in the Manhattan Supreme Court, aided by housing advocates from the Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES). GOLES is a local housing and preservation organization founded in 1977. Members of the Community Development Project (CDP) have come out strongly in defense of the residents.
“The Mitchell-Lama corporation flagrantly violated the city’s rules that are supposed to protect certain due process rights,” said Shafaq Islam, a member of the CPD. Shareholders explained that such hikes were particularly unwelcome amid a recession.
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