Mayoral candidate sues Moinian

Foe of luxury development alleges landlord offered market-rate lease while receiving tax benefit

From left: Aaron Feldenauer, 90 Washington Street and Joseph Moinian (Getty, Google Maps)
From left: Aaron Feldenauer, 90 Washington Street and Joseph Moinian (Getty, Google Maps)

A little-known candidate for New York City mayor is suing his big-name landlord.

His complaint, filed today in state Supreme Court, seeks at least $300,000 in damages and attorney fees from the Moinian Group.

The plaintiff, Aaron Foldenauer, alleges that the real estate firm gave him a market-rate lease when he was entitled to a rent-regulated lease at 90 Washington Street. The Moinian Group last year offered to move Foldenauer to a different apartment — and even offered $750 as an incentive, the complaint alleges — which would have allowed the apartment to be taken out of rent-stabilization permanently.

Instead of joining an already-existing case alleging that the Moinian Group overcharged at least 500 tenants at the same FiDi building while receiving tax breaks, Foldenauer filed a separate case. He is representing himself.

“The facts of my case are very different,” said Foldenauer, an environmental advocate and litigator who hopes to curb luxury development in the city.

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A spokesperson for the Moinian Group declined to comment.

Foldenauer is running for mayor of New York City in 2021. Part of his platform is that developers are to blame for unaffordability and homelessness.

“I’m not anti-development, but I am anti-overdevelopment,” said Foldenauer. “We need much more affordable housing in the city. A lot of the housing we’ve seen in recent years is of the luxury ilk.”

His complaint is the latest in a slew of cases brought after the courts ruled that tenants receiving the 421-g tax benefit were entitled to rent-stabilized leases until the tax break expired.

The resulting onslaught of litigation has been a headache for FiDi landlords in particular. Many made use of the program, which incentivized the conversion of office buildings to residential.