East Harlem building sues city over co-op conversion ouster

Tenants at 240 East 119th Street removed from city's Third Party Transfer program
September 18, 2015 02:40PM

The tenant association of an East Harlem building is suing the city after getting kicked out of a co-op conversion program designed to offer low-income tenants a chance to own their apartments.

In May, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development sent the tenants of 240 East 119th Street a letter notifying them that they would be removed from the Third Party Transfer program – citing low attendance at mandatory training sessions, tenants not having current leases and 54 percent of tenants being behind on their rent.

But the tenants filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court on Tuesday blaming their noncompliance issues on the nonprofit that manages the building, according to DNAinfo.

The suit alleges that the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, or SoBRO, issued defective lease renewals, miscalculated rents and failed to make repairs.

The nonprofit, which is not named in the lawsuit, has denied the allegations and said it spent millions renovating the building, as well as working with HPD and the tenant association to get the building converted into a co-op.

To become a co-op under the Third Party Transfer program, a building must meet attendance and rent-collection standards of at least 80 percent of tenants. The building at 240 East 119th Street had a 58 percent attendance record at mandatory meetings, with only 46 percent of rents collected, according to a January letter from HPD.

Those numbers increased to 64 percent and 77 percent, respectively, the next month, but were still under the 80 percent requirement. If the building is removed from the program, residents will lose the opportunity to own their homes and the units will become rent stabilized.

“HPD bent over backwards to try to accommodate them,” SoBRO president Phillip Morrow told DNAinfo. “It’s been a struggle with that building.”

Earlier this year, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito set a timeline for a proposed rezoning of East Harlem, with expectations to “have a clear community-based neighborhood plan” in place by November. The rezoning would impact roughly 60 blocks and allow for taller buildings in the neighborhood, as well as create a commercial corridor on Park Avenue[DNAinfo]Rey Mashayekhi