http://eastvillage.thelocal.nytimes.com/2011/10/19/with-politicians-in-tow-tenants-protest-conditions-at-515-east-fifth-street/With Politicians In Tow, Tenants Protest Conditions at 515 East Fifth StreetBy LIV BULI, 20 Cooper Square and DANIEL MAURER, 20 Cooper Square
I have to say that your coverage of the press conference and the grievances of the "remaining" long-time tenants there was slanted and not worthy of affiliation with the New York Times. More than half the text was either a direct quoted comment from Marvin Mitzner, high-powered zoning attorney and the legal representative of the building owners in litigation with/against the tenants association and later Corporation Counsel, or else he was being paraphrased. The piece was full of factual errors and provided no context even for Mitzner and his legal chicanery which is well documented by looking at the legal record in the cases brought against the building owners and their ensuing appeals. Shame on you for not doing your homework. This has been a David and Goliath fight from the very beginning when the current building owners threatened all residents of the building with eviction no more than 3 weeks after taking ownership. The fight is and always has been between the tenants association, now down to three people, and the Dept. of Buildings which has handicapped the tenants by illegally allowing illegal work and then refusing to 1) use its legal authority granted under the Multiple Dwelling Laws of 1929 as amended to issue vacate orders for illegally constructed and/or altered apts. and; 2) a gross failure to enforce even its own violations, the few (relatively) they have been forced into issuing. In response, those tenants have had to defend themselves against frivolous litigation and abusive living conditions. At least one was hauled into Supreme Court to defend him/herself against a SLAPP suit. That same tenant also defended him/herself against four eviction proceedings in Housing Court. Others also had to defend themselves in Housing Court on multiple occasions. The tenants association initially successfully fended off a phony demolition threat being instrumental in bringing this issue to the attention of the public at large, and successfully litigated against the DOB at the Board of Standards and Appeals not once, but twice. First on ZR 23-692 (Sliver Law) and then on MDL 211 along with 514-516 E. 6th St. Both cases were won by the tenants with unanimous decisions at the BSA. The first was appealed by the Shaouls up to the Appellate where it was finally dismissed so that is res judica. The MDL case which has to do with the requirement to fully fireproof a non-fireproof tenement if you add vertically is important for the following reason: the DOB and the owners have averred and apparently keep saying that the "costly" installation of a sprinkler system (a whopping $30k maybe) is superior to the strict requirements of the MDL which mandates among other things a fully enclosed 3 hr. fire rated stairwell, the 3 hr. fire rating of all floors and ceilings, etc. But the recent fire at the building puts this lie to the test. In that fire caused by workers a fire spread through interior walls and was only extinguished by the Fire Dept. which had to tear out a ceiling to prevent it from spreading any further. The infamous sprinkler system was not triggered so alot of good it would have done. If that fire had not been reported instantaneously by the workers it would probably have spread throughout the building and might have caused deaths. That is precisely what the MDL laws are there to prevent and precisely why the tenants have spent so much of their valuable time fighting this fight. The tenants have always said that if the building owners and the DOB don't like the State Laws they should seek to have them amended legislatively but until then they must be enforced. The BSA agreed. The story is dramatic and heroic from the tenants' side but you ignored it. The fact is that these issues transcend the particular players involved. They are, instead, significant because they indicate a predisposition at the DOB to allow illegal construction which places tenants in increased jeopardy and at risk for displacement. We are talking about rent regulated tenants and that is crucial to the story since these buildings are targeted by speculators specifically because for that reason. It is part of the metric of investment. Do us all a favor and don't cover the story if you are just going to act with overt bias.
A Person Who Knows the Facts of this Case