Suspended BOE Official Made Millions in 2014 Sale to Clinton-Supporter Nita Lowey’s Daughter

The sale, which earned Haslett-Rudiano more than $6 million takes on new dimensions in light of 125,000 voters she purged from the rolls


The sale, which earned Haslett-Rudiano more than $6 million, takes on new dimensions in light of 125,000 voters she purged from the rolls


Widespread rage flowed in New York after endless problems and confusions made the most important presidential primary in living memory a living nightmare, and a questionable affair, for thousands of New Yorkers.

Yesterday, Brooklyn's top election official was suspended after the removal of 125,000 voters.  As reported by NY1

 

Board officials say that Diane Haslett-Rudiano, the board’s chief clerk in Brooklyn, is suspended in the wake of a major controversy sparked by the removal of some 126,000 voters from the borough’s rolls.

 

 ... an official tells NY1 that Haslett-Rudiano may have "missed a step" when conducting that maintenance.

It is still unclear if the voter purge erased valid registered voters.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced an investigation of the board on Wednesda

 

http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2016/04/21/highest-official-at-city-s-boe-in-brooklyn-suspended-without-pay.html

As it turns out the story may yet go deeper. In 2014, Haslett-Rudiano turned a multi-million dollar return on a property she purchased in 1976 when she sold a much-maligned and abandoned brownstone on the upper west side of Manhattan.

The suspended official, who purchased the home for $5,000, sold it for $6.6 million -- to a company run by the daughter of Congresswoman and devoted Clinton-supporter. Nita Lowey.

Congresswoman Nita Lowey at a Bloomberg Rally
Congresswoman Nita Lowey's daughter runs a company that paid $6.6 million to Haslett-Rudiano. (Photo: Azi Paybarah/flickr/cc)

 

In fact, when Clinton kicked off her New York campaign on April 1, it was Congresswwoman Nita Lowey who introduced Hillary Clinton with adulating words to the crowd at SUNY-Purchase in Westchester.

Lowey's daughter, Dana Lowey Luttway, who runs Holliswood 76 LLC, as the West Side Rag noted, "is known for her skill at flipping upscale townhouses."
 
The sale, which earned Haslett-Rudiano more than $6 million takes on new dimensions in light of 125,000 voters she purged from the rolls.

 

UPDATED: Experience voting difficulties?: NY Comptroller Wants Your Stories

IMPORTANT UPDATE** Remember Stringer is a Clinton delegate.

Primary day voting was a messy and controversial affair in New York.

With both voter disenfranchisement and voter purging on the minds of many furious New Yorkers, Comptroller Scott Stringer has announced an audit of the New York City Board of Elections. Stringer, however, is a Clinton delegate, leading many to question whether the audit could possibly cast the Clinton political machine in a bad light.

Numerous independent and public media outlets reported on not just the purging and disappearance of thousands of Democratic voters, but also broken machinery, closed pollsites, misleading instructions from some pollworkers and even independents who were suddenly registered as Democrats.

“There is nothing more sacred in our nation than the right to vote, yet election after election, reports come in of people who were inexplicably purged from the polls, told to vote at the wrong location or unable to get in to their polling site,” Comptroller Stringer said. “The people of New York City have lost confidence that the Board of Elections can effectively administer elections and we intend to find out why the BOE is so consistently disorganized, chaotic and inefficient.  With four elections in New York City in 2016 alone, we don’t have a moment to spare.”

Stringer's team created a website where New Yorkers can report their voting difficulties. To tell the Comptroller’s Office your story about issues at the polls,  click here.

Earlier today, the state attorney general (which received more than 500 calls from New Yorkers about their voting experience) also announced an investigation (although when the results of either the state attorney general's investigation or the city comptroller's audit will be release is still a matter of uncomfortable mystery).

 

page 1 scott stringer letter to michael ryan voting irregularities in new york

page 2 scott stringer letter to michael ryan

 

40,000 Verizon Workers Strike Against Corporate ‘Race to the Bottom’

Verizon workers across the East Coast marched in picket lines on Wednesday in the largest U.S. strike in recent memory to protest the "corporate greed" of the multinational communications behemoth.

Verizon has failed to negotiate a fair contract with its employees despite making billions in monthly profits and multiple concessions on the part of union members. Verizon employees' contract expired eight months ago and talks over a new contract, which have gone on for ten months, broke off last week.

About 40,000 members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBW) unions are joining in the strike.

"We’re standing up for working families and standing up to Verizon’s corporate greed," said CWA District 1 Vice President Dennis Trainor in a press statement.

"If a hugely profitable corporation like Verizon can destroy the good family-supporting jobs of highly skilled workers," Trainor said, "then no worker in America will be safe from this corporate race to the bottom."

Furthermore, the multinational corporation "is also refusing to negotiate any improvements in wages, benefits or working conditions for Verizon Wireless retail workers, who formed a union in 2014."

CWA also detailed the "devastating cuts" Verizon is attempting to force on workers, "even after significant worker concessions on healthcare." The desired cutbacks include offshoring jobs to countries with low wages, cutting job security, sending technicians on jobs away from home for as long as two months, freezing pensions, slashing benefits, and refusing to negotiate improvements to wages and working conditions.

The unions argue that "Verizon is making these demands despite having made $39 billion in profits over the last three years—and $1.8 billion a month in profits over the first three months of 2016," as Common Dreams reported.

"Verizon's corporate greed isn't just harming workers' families," CWA states, "it's hurting customers as well. Service quality has deteriorated to the point that New York State’s Public Service Commission has convened a formal hearing to investigate problems across the Empire State. In the last few weeks, regulators in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have launched similar inquiries into Verizon's operations."

Members of National Nurses United joined a Verizon picket line in Scranton, Pa., and expressed their solidarity with the workers' demands. Net neutrality advocacy group Fight for the Future also announced its solidarity with the striking workers.

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has lent vocal support to CWA, who endorsed the Vermont senator for president over rival Hillary Clinton back in December. Sanders met with CWA workers preparing to strike on Monday.

In a speech in Rochester, N.Y., on Tuesday morning, Sanders told the crowd that the communications giant's employees "are going on strike because they refuse to be beat down by a greedy corporation who could care less about them or the people of this country."

Sanders went on to lambaste what he described as Verizon's tax evasion and poor labor practices to a cheering crowd:

All they want is more and more profit, and it doesn't matter what happens to their employees or people in America. This is what they want to do: they want to cut benefits for their employees, they want to throw American workers out on the street, and move their calling centers to low wage countries around the world. They are not investing in inner cities in America, where people today do not have quality broadband. And they've got their lawyers and tax accountants working overtime so that in a given year, despite making billions of dollars in profit, they pay nothing, not a nickel, in federal taxes.

Sanders reiterated his support for the workers' demands in a speech on the picket line on Wednesday.

CWA members spoke about their reasons for striking in a video released by the union on Tuesday. "Corporate greed is them constantly getting raises as executives, growing profits, yet crying poor," said a call center employee in Delaware. "I'm worth a good contract. My kids are worth a good contract."

"A good contract would mean a lot to us, because we've fought long and hard," said a retail store employee from Brooklyn. "I truly believe this is something we deserve."


(this article is republished via CC license from CommonDreams. Photo: Verizon Workers picket a Verizon Wireless store in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn)

NY State Data Indicates Even More Landlords Duck Rent Limits

As many as 200,000 New York City apartments could be missing from rent regulation as required by law, according to figures released by the state’s housing agency.


 

 

Since the 1990s, New York City has published, and public officials have quoted, an estimate that there are 1 million rent-stabilized apartments in the city, giving some 2 million tenants protections from eviction and unlimited rent increases.

The estimate comes from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, or HPD, which publishes a survey on which the number is based. Rent-stabilized apartments are vital to affordable housing and thus an important gauge of the housing market.

There’s one problem with the figure, however: It could be off by as much as 20 percent.

Data provided to ProPublica by the state’s Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) — which oversees rent-stabilized apartments — shows that, as of 2014, New York City had 839,797 rent-stabilized apartments registered with the state. For that same year, HPD’s survey estimated 1,029,918 units.

The difference of close to 200,000 units, or about one-fifth of HPD’s estimate, indicates that a large number of city apartments aren’t actually rent stabilized when they should be, putting tenants at risk of overcharges or illegal evictions.

As part of a continuing investigation into oversight of New York City’s rent laws, ProPublica reported in November that landlords had failed to register 50,000 units for rent stabilization as required in exchange for receiving city property tax breaks worth over $100 million each year.

The 200,000 figure also covers apartments subject to rent stabilization under a separate requirement that applies to buildings with six or more units constructed before a 1974 state overhaul of rent-stabilization laws.

Asked about the gap between the estimate and registrations, the state DHCR cited the potential for statistical error in HPD’s survey. But the city said the primary explanation is that not every building owner who should register with DHCR does so. HPD said it is working with the state to boost compliance.

HPD’s survey methodology blames the unregistered units in part on the fact that lawmakers in 1993 reduced the penalties for not registering. To adjust for that, the survey counts both units that are and should be registered as rent stabilized.

The exact size of the registration gap is unknown. But housing advocates told ProPublica that margin of error in the survey — plus or minus 34,000 units, according to the latest estimate — isn’t big enough bridge the difference.

“The number of owners that do not properly register rent-stabilized apartments is enormous,” said Celia Weaver of the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board. “We have come across numerous instances where a building should have rent-regulated units but doesn’t because the owner doesn’t register.”

The Rent Stabilization Association, which represents property owners, said in a statement that it is “concerned about lack of registration because of the potential liability owners may incur.” The group said it provides a registration service for landlords to help them comply with the law.

Failing to comply with rent stabilization rules can expose landlords to overcharge claims, which can go as high as triple the amount of the overcharge. In cases where the landlord is also receiving tax breaks to provide rent-stabilized housing, they risk losing the benefit — although such revocations are rare.

Older apartments covered by the 1974 rent-regulation overhaul appear to be the biggest part of the problem. Chris Henrick, creator of AmIRentStabilized.com, a website that helps tenants figure out if their units should be registered, said his analysis found 11,922 of these older buildings that weren’t registered with the state’s DHCR as of 2013.

Landlords often take these apartments out of rent stabilization illegally — for example, by falsely claiming that the rent has crossed a threshold, now $2,700, when landlords can begin charging market-rate rents. Unless a tenant complains, the apartments are likely to remain missing from the rent-stabilized count.

The scenario is especially acute in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods like Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant, where a landlord’s recent attempt to illegally take apartments out of rent stabilization prompted city Council Member Robert Cornegy to host a meeting with tenants to help them seek legal advice.

“We know that for some people it’s affordable to pay $2,500 dollars [a month] or $3,000 dollars, but when it’s illegal, it’s still not affordable,” Cornegy told tenants gathered at the early December meeting.

As ProPublica has reported, the city has been aware of the problem of missing registrations for years but failed to address it. Stephen Werner, an analyst at HPD who helps put together the agency’s triennial housing survey, noticed the registration gap 20 years ago, but higher-ups ignored his warnings.

Werner, who also has estimated 200,000 units were missing from rent stabilization, said he feels “vindicated” by the state’s release of the summary registration data, which came in response to a ProPublica request to DHCR. The data on rent-stabilization normally isn’t public; state law explicitly prohibits disclosure of apartment registration data.

“My numbers are now really being shown to be valid,” Werner said.

Michael Dardia, former deputy director of the city’s Office of Management and Budget now at the nonprofit Citizens Budget Commission, said he doubts that all 200,000 apartments are missing from rent-stabilization rolls. But some portion of them certainly is, he said. “Do I believe there are unregistered units? Yes,” Dardia said. “How many is a different story.”

Regulators have begun to tackle the problem. In the biggest move to date, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday the state would target owners of 50,000 apartments who had accepted a tax break known as J—51 but then wrongly claimed to be exempt from rent stabilization, as required by law.

HPD Commissioner Vicki Been recently acknowledged that enforcement has been lacking and vowed to step it up.

“We’ve been taking a very hard look back at HPD about all of our enforcement efforts,” Been said when asked about ProPublica’s report about missing registrations at a December meeting of the City Planning Commission. “We certainly understand that that has to be ramped-up.”

City legislators also announced efforts to fix the problem. In early December, Council Member Ben Kallos introduced legislation that would require landlords to register with the city as well as the state. The proposed law would impose fines for failing to register.

Asked about the new data suggesting that even more apartments aren’t registered, Kallos said, “Affordable homes cannot be allowed to just go missing as city and state regulators have historically turned a blind eye.”

“It is a problem that not only can be fixed but must be fixed," he said.

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NYC Bill Targets Landlords Who Get Tax Breaks, Duck Rent Limits

New York City landlords who get big tax breaks in exchange for capping rent increases would have to provide an inventory of their apartments to city housing officials under legislation unveiled this week.

The measure, introduced by City Council Member Ben Kallos, Housing Committee Chairman Jumaane Williams and other officials, would require the city's housing agency to keep track of every apartment built with taxpayer subsidies. It would also make it easier for tenants to get information online about apartments for low- and moderate-income residents.

The proposed law was prompted by a ProPublica investigation last month that identified 50,000 apartments in buildings receiving tax breaks under two programs, 421-a and J51. The apartments were not registered with the state for rent stabilization, which provides tenants with eviction protection and limits rent increases, as a requirement of receiving the tax breaks.

Under the two long-standing programs, meant to encourage more housing, landlords are forgiven a portion of their property taxes. Benefits can last up to 34 years and cut taxes by more than 90 percent annually. Property taxes are generally the biggest expense landlords have.

The failure to register units in more than 5,500 buildings exposes tens of thousands of tenants to the possibility of illegal rent increases or evictions. Owners of the buildings collected more than $100 million in property tax savings despite not holding up their end of the bargain, ProPublica found.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and city and state housing agencies recently cited owners of 194 buildings for failing to register. The 1,823 units they were able to get back on rent-stabilization rolls through this and previous enforcement actions are only a small fraction of a much-bigger problem, however.

"Everyone knew that this was a problem, and there was anecdotal evidence here and there, but nobody understood the gravity of the problem," said Kallos, lead sponsor of the legislation.

"Even with the Attorney General, the Governor and the Mayor looking at it here and there and finding a thousand units here or a hundred units there, nobody's actually going after the whole 50,000 units that have been identified," Kallos said.

Kallos said ProPublica's report "quantified the problem." He hopes his bill will empower the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to bring all 50,000 units into compliance.

ProPublica identified the missing units by cross-checking two databases u2014 one that tracks tax breaks and another that shows buildings that had registered for rent stabilization. Long-time HPD analyst Stephen Werner had warned higher-ups about the unregistered units for years, ProPublica reported.

The city's housing agency is responsible for approving the tax breaks, but it hands off enforcement of rent-stabilization laws, including annual registration, to the state's Department of Housing and Community Renewal. That's created a regulatory blind spot that tenant groups have complained about for years.

"If (landlords) are getting a huge tax break, and the taxes they are not paying are city taxes, we should know if they are following through with their promises," said Kerri White, of the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, a tenant advocacy group.

Under the proposed law, HPD would be able to fine landlords up to $2,000 per unit each month for failing to register. HPD did not respond to a request for comment.

Kallos' bill would also require HPD to create a new online "Housing Portal," where prospective renters could browse and apply for rent-stabilized apartments that are specifically set aside for low- and moderate-income tenants. Owners would have the option to list market-rate units on the portal as well.

Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, said his office will review the legislation and that "increasing accountability in these tax programs has been a major priority for the administration."

Housing and tenant advocates briefed on the bill said it would be a big improvement over the current system, where registration is largely voluntary and penalties u2014 such as revocation of tax breaks u2014 have been mostly nonexistent.

"Self-reporting is not sufficient," said Harvey Epstein, associate director of the Urban Justice Center, which advocates for low-income residents. "We need more government oversight and checks and balances on landlords."


 

This article republished through CC permission via ProPublica. ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.