Rangel not only famous rent-stabilized tenant

By Jovana Rizzo | July 15, 2008 01:47PM

For many New Yorkers, rent stabilized apartments might seem like a real estate myth. Who really knows who gets them, who’s allowed to keep them and where can you possibly find one?

As regular New Yorkers remain bewildered, some celebrities and politicians have managed to land these coveted apartments.

The New York Times revealed last week that Congressman Charles Rangel has four rent-stabilized apartments at Lenox Terrace, a luxury development in Harlem. Rangel pays less than half the market rate of $3,894 per month for each apartment, one of which he uses as a campaign office. 

But Rangel isn’t the only public figure living the rent-stabilized life. He can call Governor David Paterson his neighbor, who lives in a stabilized unit in the same building, paying $1,250 a month.

Stars of the entertainment world have been able to finagle cheap apartments too. Writer and director Nora Ephron, who penned “Sleepless in Seattle” and “When Harry Met Sally,” lived for years in an eight-room rent stabilized unit in the Apthorp, on the Upper West Side, for $2,000 a month. She paid $2.47 million for a co-op on the same block last month.

Bianca Jagger, the former wife of Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger, was evicted from her stabilized Park Avenue apartment last year. The landlord at 530 Park said the home couldn’t have been her primary residence because she had an apartment in London, and was only in the U.S. on a tourist visa.

Actress Mia Farrow inherited a rent stabilized apartment overlooking Central Park at 73rd from her family. She paid $2,900 per month for an 11-room unit in the building, which was featured in the Woody Allen film “Hannah and Her Sisters.”

And when ’80s pop star Cindi Lauper found out her apartment at the Apthorp used to be rent stabilized, she went to court to restore its stabilized status. Lauper moved into the apartment with her husband, actor David Thornton, in 1992, and saw her rent increase from $3,250 to $3,750. After finding out the apartment had cost only $500 per month when it was rent stabilized, she sued her landlord for overcharging her and succeeded in getting the rent reduced to $989 in 2005.

Rangel, meanwhile, has announced that he will move his campaign office, following a complaint filed yesterday by the National Legal and Policy Center with the Federal Election Commission, which called the use of a rent stabilized apartment for a campaign office illegal.

Comments posted on The Real Deal’s blog about Rangel didn’t hold back.

“Be a man and give it up to some family who actually needs it,” one commenter wrote.

There are no income-based requirements or restrictions for rent-stabilized units. According to Nora Gross, leasing director at the rent stabilized community Flatbush Gardens in Brooklyn, getting a stabilized apartment is really just luck.

The only way a tenant’s income becomes a factor in a rent-stabilized unit is if the rent goes over $2,000 per month. If rent exceeds $2,000 and the tenant makes more than $175,000 per year, the landlord has the option of deregulating the apartment.

“The way rent stabilization works is just being at the right place at the right time,” Gross said. “It’s not a question of money you have or don’t have. If you walk into a rent stabilized apartment, you just follow the rent stabilization board increases.”