Sunday, April 23, 2006

Harlem tenants and Assemblyman Wright rally downtown to end real estate giant’s “predatory practices

Pinnacle Tenants Take Protest to Landlord’s Offices


Harlem residents, elected officials and community leaders converged last week on the midtown offices of the controversial Pinnacle Group to denounce the company’s practices. The rally, held outside a plush 57-floor skyscraper near Penn Station, drew a few dozen protesters denouncing the rent hikes and harassment that they contend is Pinnacle’s hallmark. Pinnacle has scooped up hundreds of apartment buildings across the city, including dozens in the Bronx. The Norwood News has written seven previous articles on the plight of tenants after their properties were purchased by the company, including scores of lawsuits, threatening letters, harassment and inflated improvement costs. As Pinnacle employees looked on, protesters railed against them. “Pinnacle is trying to take our people from apartments that they have been in for 40 or 50 years,” said Luis Tejada of the Mirabal Sisters Cultural and Community Center, a Harlem organization that organized the rally. “Is this abuse?” he asked. “Yes!” the protesters responded.Residents began organizing against Pinnacle in the winter, and elected officials are starting to respond. “They are making a concerted effort to destabilize our neighborhoods,” said Assemblyman Keith Wright, a Harlem representative during the rally. “This must stop.” Wright claimed that a Pinnacle employee tried to indirectly pressure him to skip the protest. He rebuked the company for “picking on” tenants. Other speakers, including former Councilman Bill Perkins, said the situation has wider implications. “If they are successful, it will open the door for multiple assaults,” he said, referring to other landlords who might move to low-income neighborhoods to buy properties and raise rents. “It’s very important that this example isn’t replicated.”Advocates appealed to city officials to better police the practices of management companies. “You’ve got to do your job,” said Nellie Bailey, director of the Harlem Tenants Council.Pinnacle’s public relations firm, the Marino Organization, dismissed the protesers’ allegations. “It is unfortunate that there are a number of baseless and simply erroneous charges circulating among tenants, public officials and within the community,” said the group in a statement. “We have offered to meet with today’s protest leaders on numerous occasions to discuss any issues they may have, but it seems they are motivated more by their own selfish agenda than finding out the truth.”

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