In a time of recession and economic strife, when national unemployment rates average 10% and those for the African American community are significantly higher, the chance to voice concerns at a proposed rent increase for Rochdale Village would seem a opportunity many would fully embrace. However, at last night’s NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) rent conference the turnout was disappointingly low. This is the conference where inputs from Cooperators, Board Members and elected officials are relayed to the Commissioner prior to the increase determination.
Approximately 70% of auditorium seating were filled which is nowhere near the amount of residents the complex’s 5,860 apartments contain. No elected officials were in attendance, the Management Company of the complex was also not in attendance and only half of all Board Members were present. The cooperators that were in attendance were primarily the senior population and regulars who follow Board proceedings.
Denise Schneider from the DHCR opened the informal gathering with a guide to the order and purpose of the meeting along with general information about the process. Comptroller Darius George spoke of the significant change to the budget while it was under review by the DHCR, the reduction in energy costs based on the new fuel contract. The State Accountant, Randall Wilson, spoke about the independent analysis done on the budget which resulted in a higher percentage increase proposed by the DHCR than that requested by the Board. He noted that DHCR percentage did not consider that “wonderful” fuel contract. However, the complex continues to age making repairs and emergencies an item of consideration in the budget with a cushion to prepare for such necessities.
Cooperators comments focused mostly on the mismanagement of funds from the past which may have contributed to the current fiscal crisis. This included little movement to collect from those in arrears and the empty state of the property commercial spaces and community center. Many noted that increases come at the expense of the Cooperators with no outward appearance of improvements or quality of life.
Tensions simmered briefly when issues of political games and personal attacks surfaced. Board member Elaine Jackson stuck to her pattern of questioning issues and exercising her right to speak up going so far as to defend her stance and take issue with its subsequent backlash at being sited as merely an instigator. She told Cooperators they had to come together, pick up on what was going on and disputed the notion that Cooperators didn’t have a voice.
Throughout the course of the meeting, there were several calls for an independent audit which was applauded by Cooperators. Comptroller George chimed in with an agreement but noted the Board did not want to fund a $500,000 audit during a financial crisis.
There was no indication from the DHCR representatives on which way the determination would lead. Most likely, there will be an increase lower than the $13.19 per room initially proposed by the DHCR. Any increase would take effect the first of March.
For a summary of Cooperators comments at the DHCR rent conference, please click here.