The following is a summary of Cooperators comments at last night’s NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) rent conference. The conference collects inputs from Cooperators, Board Members and elected officials on the subject which it then relays to the Commissioner who makes the final determination of an increase. As no elected officials were in attendance, comments from the floor were solely from Cooperators. Board members chimed in their responses throughout the conference.
-Starrett City receives benefits from the state which deferred their rent increase. Why not Rochdale?
Response: Arlese Blackwell from the DHCR stated that the stimulus in question only dealt with renters and not cooperatives. They have not seen a similar stimulus done for cooperators. However, Rochdale Village has the lowest rental rate per room versus other Mitchell Lama properties.
-Questions about a past $120 million loan.
Response: Although Board Member Elaine Jackson stipulated she was not a member of the Budget & Finance committee at the time of the loan in question so she couldn’t speak to its merits. She did speak about the failure to monitor spending and addressed the issue of being labeled a troublemaker for her efforts. Comptroller George rebutted saying that any loan would be reported on the balance sheet.
-Comment that only five of the fifteen Board Members were present, current Management feels they have a lifetime commitment to manage the complex, no elected officials in attendance.
-Was the $15 million loan factored into the budget.
Response: Comptroller George said the $15 million loan is in the discussion phase and would be to raise funds for major capital work.
Rebuttal: A letter sent by the Management company dated December 3, 2009 cited that a request for a loan was made. There was call for an audit.
Second Rebuttal: Comptroller George spoke about the personal animosity that doesn’t seem to subside and if it continues it will get us nowhere.
-Capital improvements don’t extend to inside apartments but only to overall maintenance. The façade work is not being talked about in relation to the budget.
Response: Comptroller George responded that work for the façade came from the reserve portion of the budget.
-Fuel surcharges not enough to cover deficit.
Response: Comptroller George said the savings from the last few months was enough to eliminate a carrying charge, however the 2.5% increase proposed by the Board would help pay for a 15.7 million dollar loan for capital improvements. Board Member Jackson chimed in that she would not vote for a $15 million loan. Board Member Secretary Beverly Benjamin clarified that the proposed 2.5% increase was the result of the idea to create a cushion for the complex.
-Only eight written responses were sent in answer to the DHCR request for comments on the proposed rent increase. Tenants who have been in the complex for six years have seen a 35% increase during their tenure. What about folks who aren’t paying their rent and vacant apartments? There has been no improvement on the Big Mall parking lot. What is happening to the money?
Response: Comptroller George said delinquency is a major issue and there is an aggressive effort in the last two months to deal with the situation and 35 people have been evicted. In addition, sublets are also a major issue and he mentioned seeing a local ad to rent a Rochdale Apartment. The waiting list for a Rochdale Apartment is small. Renovations of the Big Mall parking lot should begin in Spring.
-Increase would be fine if the quality of life improved. Stairways are filthy and noise pollution is an issue.
Response: Comptroller George said that we must raise money for expenses and must account for inflation.
-Is the fuel surcharge going to be eliminated and will it roll into the increase.
Response: Comptroller George: No. Yes.
-The Comptroller is doing most of the speaking. We need management to response to these issues.
-Rent increase on the back of cooperators, what about the half empty community room and empty malls. These have been vacant a long time.
Response: Secretary Benjamin said there are two possible tenants for the mall, one being a catering hall for The Door, but she didn’t know if the deal for the space would go through and how long any renovations would take. Board Member Jackson reiterated that Board Members must pay attention to what is happening and gave an illustration of financing gone awry for window and elevator installations. She spoke about Cooperators having a voice and needing to pay attention to how the money is moved and pick up on what is going on. She told Cooperators to exercise their rights and sign the right petitions for the right reasons. Board Member Jackson questioned what happens to her as a result of speaking up and asking questions on these issues. State Accountant Wilson noted that the budget can only reflect signed leases so it would not account for proposed tenants.
-How much is the going rate for rental properties in the area versus Rochdale Village’s rate.
Comptroller George said rates are comparable.
-Burden on commercial property to make up the shortfall. Couldn’t we put the community to work based on the current economy and the need?
Response: Comptroller George said that commercial rents are comparable and only amount to a small percentage of the complex’s total revenue. The Board is aware of the complaints of the lack of services from the store.
-Can’t keep increasing rent and there is no improvements and we don’t see where the money is going. It’s obvious what’s going on. There should be a full investigation of the Board.
Response: Comptroller George agrees with audit asking to be shown the money in question. However, the Board did not want to pay for an audit during a time of deficit.
-Bring in our own electricians and plumbers to deal with the situation in Rochdale. No one knows what happened to the Backhoe?
Response: Comptroller George believed the statement about the backhoe was inaccurate and unfair. It was a management decision to rid of the complex of the backhoe because the replacement was costly.
-Can the increase be delayed based on the need generated by the recession?
Response: Board Member Castro asked cooperators for their help in reducing costs as lawsuits are a part of the burden. She asked cooperators if they see water spills or the like to call maintenance.
-Looks like the increase has already been determined.
Response: Denise Schneider said final numbers have yet to be determined and the final decision is up the Commissioner.
To get information on Senior rent exemption, contact the Management office of the Rochdale Village Cooperative.
To get information on Disabled rent exemption, call 311.
To read summaries of previous Board of Directors meetings, click here.
To read a summary of the DHCR’s rent conference, click here.