In a comment made on this blog on May 15th, Tim Collins, head counsel for the Tenants Association, wrote:
On November 8, 2013 following the TA meeting in which I explained what
the TA faced with regard to the MCI fight, Stuy Town Reporter said...
3) Collins stated with assurance that the DHCR errors would delay the
MCI charges, but that it's not a certainty that all or some of the MCI
charges could be stopped. That's what the fight will be about.
November 8, 2013 at 10:55 AM
that you trashed my good name and distorted my legal advice by implying
in your more recent posts that I promised a permanent recission of the
MCI increases (contrary to your own characterization of my statements
back in November and any reasonable interpretation of the audio tapes),
and now that I fully explained my position and responded to questions re
the MCI settlement at the May 10th meeting, perhaps you will issue a
It is the honorable thing to do.
I wrote back that I would review everything and make a post on the matter, issuing a public apology if warranted.
This is that post.
me immediately get the following out of the way: On May 2, I made a
post, after hearing a portion of the audio tape of the November Town
Hall TA meeting that was provided by a blog reader and not, as promised,
by the TA. This was my post:
The "money-shot" is around the 19:00 mark. Tim Collins, TA counsel:
"The good news is that I'm fairly confident--I can never make any
guarantees--but I'm quite confident that every single one of those MCI
orders is going to be rescinded."
Wow. Wow. Just wow.
All I did in the above was
quote exactly what I heard on the audio tape. I did not, however,
proceed to listen at that point to what came afterward because there was
a break of vigorous, joyful applause and I was involved with imperative
distracting work that forced me away from continuing on. And, frankly,
blood was already squirting out of my eyes at the bravado of such a
statement because, from the vantage point of time, no MCIs had been
rescinded. Tenants and CWCapital received notice of the DHCR affirming
these MCI's in October and they were attached to our rent bills in
January. So the statement "I'm quite confident that every single one of
those MCI orders is going to be rescinded" was bewildering and
infuriating in the face of the reality that occurred afterward with our
rent bills and the MCI settlement between the TA and CWCapital.
I was later informed in the comments section that after the applause Tim Collins said the following:
"But before you get your hopes up too much, it'll only be temporary, and we'll be back to square one."
this point, I listened to this sentence, though its beginning was, and
is still, garbled to me by the noise in the hall. I concentrated then on
what was meant by "rescinded," for, whether temporary or permanent, the MCIs had not been rescinded at all. (Mr. Collins is free to correct me on this point.)
regret one thing: I was going to attach to that May 2nd post Mr.
Collins' statement ""But before you get your hopes up too much, it'll
only be temporary, and we'll be back to square one," but other events
and concerns distracted me in the debate that continued on in the
comments section for that post, which did include Mr. Collins' further
words and comments taking his side. My mistake. So, if I led anyone to
believe that Tim Collins affirmed at that November meeting that the MCIs
were going be rescinded permanently and with certainty that was not my
intention and for that Mr. Collins does have my apology. I will review
and revise any prior statements I may have made that even give a hint of
such an implication.
"square one" that Tim Collins spoke of was slightly amplified later on
by him at that November meeting. The "rescinding" of the MCI orders (by
the DHCR) would have meant that the TA would challenge once again their
justification, with both parties presenting their case before the DHCR.
That was the important back to "square one." It appears that we never
reached that stage because talks between the TA and CWCapital took a
different turn, with the result being the MCI Settlement that gave
long-term RS tenants a 5% reduction on these MCIs (to evaporate once the
RS tenant moved out or died) and a removal of all retroactive charges
attached to the MCIs. There was no legal fight before the DHCR on these MCIs,
so that, for instance, the MCI for shoddy work on the sidewalks is now
affirmed as a just MCI permanently attached to the rents of those
buildings affected. An important point to consider: Had the TA won on
this one MCI, the retroactive charges, if they stood, would have been
less because there'd be one less MCI to charge for retroactively.
If one listens to the November Town Hall meeting
and juxtaposes it to the reality that followed, they are two different
impulses: In one, the fight is against the MCIs with the "retroactive
charges" considered for what they are: temporary and not attached
permanently to the rent rolls. In the other, the removal of the
retroactive charges has become the primary victory with the MCIs a cross
tenants must bear because of the pro-landlord laws of the State.
is understood that talks between two combating entities are fluid, with
a give and take that can erase or alter previous plans and goals. As
I've stated several times already, I am thankful that the retroactive
charges for the MCIs have been removed and for this the TA and its
counsel (Mr. Collins, et al.) should be applauded. I am not thankful
that affordable housing has once again lost the battle in ST/PCV because
unjust MCIs have now been codified in rents that will be the basis for
more higher rents on long-term RS apartments with every lease renewal.
On this important issue, CWCapital stuck to their plan and won, and
long-term RS tenants lost.
If Mr. Collins wishes to respond to the above, I will gladly post his statement below.
Tim Collins has responded, and as promised, here is his statement:
First, I appreciate your integrity in printing my post.
I accept your explanation and apology (although a limited apology). The
fact that a formal "recission" of the MCI orders was not issued (even
if temporary) came as a major surprise to me. DHCR's issuance of orders
without consideration of the TA's last set of submissions was a flat
violation of due process -- a violation of the type that has routinely
resulted in remands from the courts. Despite the strength of our
position in seeking recission, it was not worth wasting resources on a
short term correction of the problem. We needed to focus on a long term
resolution. Hence we did not launch a court challenge to the MCI
increases in place during the negotiations. There are several other
tactical reasons for this decision which I won't go into.
I understand your disappointment and disagreement with the final deal.
Nonetheless, I had the difficult task of weighing our chances of
success in litigatino against securing the deal on the table. I am very
familiar with DHCR practices. They often allow owner do-overs if the
MCI's are found to be defective. Even if we won on the pavement MCI (due
to defects) DHCR probably would have allowed corrections and reinstated
the increases at a later date. Tenants continue to have the right to
raise service complaints for items that are in disrepair.
elimination of large retroactive charges was a significant achievement.
The prior 23% reduction of the increases applied for by the owner had
already addressed many of the objections we raised in our (ignored or
misplaced) submissions. Hence, our target had been narrowed. By the
way, TA submissions which predated my involvement were submitted and
considered by the DHCR and may have played a significant role in
achieving those initial reductions. Removing an extra 5% rendered the
overall reduction quite good.
I must add that it is annoying
and demoralizing to listen to a bunch of Monday morning quarterbacks
second guess the hard work of the TA leadership. I can tell you that
the TA's leadership is vigorous (some close to militant) and very well
informed of the issues. They spend a huge amount of time and effort
trying to best serve the tenants. Nothing is perfect. There is always
room for disagreement. But personal attacks (from some of your readers)
are cheap, ill informed and unwarranted.
Finally -- and I will
be blunt -- anyone who says that support for the TA is inconsistent
with the best interests of the tenants is an idiot. The TA remains --
far and away -- the best hope for the tenants. In addition, every one
of the elected officials I have dealt with supports reform of the MCI
laws. Some form of MCI increases will always be necessary to encourage
building upgrades and sustainability. But the current laws are badly in
need of reform -- particularly to the extent that such increases are
I thank you in advance for printing this. And I
hope that you will play a constructive role in keeping tenants informed
of important issues -- perhaps in occasional opposition to some TA
policies, but hopefully in loyal opposition.
All comments to posts have to await approval. Please be aware that, depending on when I'm logged onto the internet, it may take me hours, even longer, to moderate comments, so if they don't turn up in a speedy fashion, they are still in the queue. Comments that cross a line I'm not comfortable with will not get approved. NOTE: Comments reflect the opinions of the person writing them and should not be assumed to reflect the opinion of the blog.