Clinton Hill, do you know who Leslie Westreich is? He is a disbarred attorney (disbarred in 1995) and used to be a partner with one of the most notorious slumlords in NYC, Baruch Singer. Westreich’s mode of operation is to buy distressed properties – rent regulated – and to convert them into condos or coops. He does the conversions illegally. He hires eviction specialists to lie to and deceive residents. He buys people out for chump change. The other tenants he tries to sue, often for frivolous reasons. He goes on ‘fishing’ expeditions. After he evicts a tenant, he will illegally convert the apartment by renovating it without Dept. of Building permits. He will convert a 1 bedroom to 2 bedroom, etc. He will cut up the spaces, remove walls, add walls, build bathrooms, make rabbit hutches. He will spend $$$$ for quality contractors to convert these apartments…all the while neglecting the repair of rent regulated tenants’ apartments. Because of the rent regulation statues, if he can get the rent of the regulated apartment above $2,000, it comes off rent regulation FOREVER. He reaches the $2,000 figure by doing Major Capital Imrovements (MCI) to the apartments …a landlord is allowed to add 1/40th of the cost of MCI to the registered lease rental amount of the apartment. So for example, if the apartment was renting to a long term resident for $1,000/month, he will put $40,000 into renovations (1/40th of $40,000=$1,000; $1,000 added to the old regulated rent of $1,000=$2,000…and presto! The apartment is now DEREGULATED. What that means is he can legally charge ANY amount for the apartment in the future …and in this neighborhood it is often 3x the previous rent regulated/controlled price. Often landlords ‘cook the books’ to make it appear they spent the $40k, $50k, $60k or whatever they claim, in MCI renovations. They fabricate receipts, use old receipts, use receipts for work done in other apts or buildings, etc. There is very little oversight . These landlords are masters at flying under the radar and avoiding government regulation.
Of great importance is that the rent regulation laws give tenants important rights to protect them from avaricious and greedy landlords…and deregulated tenants have none of these rights! Deregulated tenants do not have to be offered a renewal lease. He kicks them out and pumps up the rent again…or slaps them with huge rent increases…again, the new tenants have no protections. Plus, one more apartment in NYC is taken away from Rent Regulation. He also bought 420 Clinton Avenue in the middle of the block a month after he bought the 400 Clinton Ave building.
WHY DOES HE WANT YOU OUT???
Because, the first stage is just to evict as many tenants as possible, raise rents, and get apartments de-regulated. The second stage is to convert the building to coops or condos, which means that each apartment will no longer be rented out, but SOLD, individually, to a new owner. That price will probably be about $350-$1,000,000 (yes, one million dollars) depending on the size and condition. He will put a little money renovating the apartments and then he will sell them for HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of $$$$ profit for each individual apartment. He paid only $2.5 million for the building! There are 35 apartments in the building. 35 x $350-$1,000,000 = $12-35 million. Why was the building sold so cheap? Because it is rent regulated and the owner cannot raise the rents. But, the old owner probably wasn’t as sophisticated or brutal as Westeich, or didn’t have the money and knowledge so he didn’t realize he could de-regulate the building. Westreich will make a HUGE profit on this building. To the tenants living there now: you are sitting on a gold mine. This is like the Americans having to kill the Indians to take over the West in the 19th century…the Redman was in the way of the Whiteman’s plans and they had to be removed. History is replaying itself here: your neighborhood is being taken over. YOU are in the way of Westreich’s profits. You MUST be removed. By any tactic possible. DO YOU UNDERSTAND NOW? Do you understand why the ‘drug letter’, why the parking lot lights, why the razor bars, why there is probably a hidden video cameras in the building, why you are being fed misinformation and lies by his eviction specialists, why you are being sued, why you are being manipulated, why he is offering you buyouts of $25k- $60k, chump change compared with what your apartment is worth as a coop or condo (if you accept a buyout, do not accept for under $150-300k).
…WAIT A MINUTE, WHAT ABOUT THE DRUGS???
Read a little further dear reader, we are getting to that!
What is the outcome of this process? Displacement. Otherwise called gentrification. Gentrification is a polite term for a very brutal, dirty, and greedy business. What the landlord is doing, is he is forcing people out of their homes. He is forcing them out of their neighborhoods, often the neighborhood they were born and raised in. He is destroying the community. He then replaces the old rent regulated tenants with new ‘yuppie’ tenants. This is class warfare. Yes, it is often replacing black with white, but not always…often it is replacing poor or low income black or white tenant with a higher income professional black tenant. In order to rent an apartment that used to rent for $750 a month for $3,500 a month, he has to make not only the apartment but the building appeal to that new sort of customer. A bunch of black men (and women) hanging in front of the building is going to repel that sort of renter. Westreich is trying to drive those people out of their building. It is a subtle form of harrasment. He recently installed 3 POWERFUL halogen Quartz lights in front of the building shining down on the entrance…it lights up the entire corner and even the building across the street. The pretext is drugs. He also put razor spike barriers on all the masonry that rings the building entrance and property so that NO ONE CAN SIT DOWN OUTSIDE THE BUILDING. A NYC tradition, people sitting on their stoops…he is trying to stop this from happening. He wants you black dudes out of his building and this is one of his many tactics to drive you out. He will try many more. He is a sleazy reprehensible man. He wants profit at the expense of you losing your home.
What you do not understand is this has NOTHING to do with drugs.
If you throw a brick at any gathering of people in NYC, you are likely o hit someone smoking a little weed. So this is a convienient strategy. Plus, folks that are scared of a gathering of black youth will fall into line and support these charges because they play off stereotypes and fears. Anti-Drugs is a multi-use topic…it is something that everyone can sort of get behind and support. I am, btw, a white middle aged man who lives in this neighborhood. To those that are puffing, I recommend you do it discretely. If you are dealing/distributing from a rent regulated apartment and get convicted, the landlord can use that conviction (only if it is a felony [?] I am not certain, you need to check further into the laws) to evict you. Landlords can also pursue eviction proceeding for tenants who are a ‘nuisance’: but to charge black men who are just sitting in front of their building or hanging out on a stoop with their guests, is going to be VERY hard to impossible to prosecute in housing court…after all, sitting on a stoop on a hot summer night is a NYC tradition.
What you are witnessing by these ‘drug’ charges, and all the rest is a front, a cover for something much much larger. This is a war for Clinton Hill. Will the old tenants – who lived here through the tougher times of the nabe and made this a great neighborhood that other people now want to move to – will these older residents be pushed out and replaced by yuppies from elsewhere? This is a war over housing. This is a war about $$$. This is a war about class. This is about culture. This is a war about GREED. This is NOT about smoking a joint. Do not be fooled. DO NOT waste your energy fighting a diversionary topic. Go to the source. You need to fight Westreich and Gc Clinton LLC (the name of his company that bought 400 Clinton Ave.).