It's the second court-ordered victory in two months for New York City's rent-stabilized tenants. In the first case, the state's highest court ruled that stabilized leases cannot be used as assets in the case of bankruptcy, meaning the leases cannot be seized and sold to pay off creditors. The year-long legal battle saved the East Village apartment of one Mary Veronica Santiago Monteverde, who can keep paying $703/month for the two-bedroom in which she has lived since 1963. Now another middle-aged woman is getting reprieve in her fight to earn back her rent-stabilized place. The Times chronicles the case of 50-year-old Tranquilina Alvillar, who paid $700 in rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Williamsburg for about 25 yearsuntil 2011, when her landlord began renovating the building, leaving it basically unlivable; a building inspector ordered her out. This is an all-too-common trope of rent-stabilization in the city: harass tenants until they leave, so that landlords can renovate and rent out units for higher prices.
The second-floor apartment, located on Bedford Avenue between North 6th and North 7th streets, was in prime high-rent territory. After Alvillar moved out, in November of 2012, a young woman named Jennifer Pagano who signed the lease with her dad moved in... paying $2,900/month. (Yup, typical.) But Alvillar didn't give up without a fight, heading to court and getting a lawyer to take her case. In June, a Housing Court judge said she was allowed to return to her old place, and pay what she used to pay. Market rent-paying Pagano has been told she must leave by today.
Legal experts say this case may set a precedent because Alvillar will still be paying her old rent, even though the apartment has been renovated, and because another innocent tenant has to be kicked out in the process, which is an unfortunate byproduct. Said one lawyer at the nonprofit representing Alvillar: "It is certainly strange to be on the other side of an eviction, but it also feels so good to know Tranquilina can finally go home." That home, at 193 Bedford, has been transformed for the tenants around her old place, who can afford those higher rents. Think industrial light fixtures, artwork, and stainless steel appliances.
Says Alvillar: "The building is now for people who have a lot of money, who can pay big, expensive rents. I hope it will be O.K." We do, too.
· In Twist, Tenant Who Was Forced Out Will Displace One Who Moved In [NYT]
· Rent-Stabilized Leases Can't Be Treated As Assets, Court Rules [Curbed]
· Lifestyles of the Rent-Stabilized archive [Curbed]