Joint Public Hearing Held by Three Community Boards Draws Hundreds, Elected Officials
By Tanveer Ali, Staff Writer
May 16, 2006
Residents of buildings owned by Pinnacle Group LLC had a message Monday night for their landlord—they are ready for a fight.
Hundreds were present at a public hearing held in Riverbank State Park concerning Pinnacle, headed by large-scale developer Joel Weiner, over allegations that it has been abusing its tenants in rent-controlled and rent-stabilized housing.
The event, held in conjunction with Community Boards 9, 10, and 12 of Manhattan, drew several elected officials to voice support for the tenants including City Councilwoman Inez Dickens (D-Harlem), Councilman Robert Jackson (D-Washington Heights), Borough President Scott Stringer (D-Manhattan), Representative Charles Rangel (D-Harlem), and the city’s Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum.
“The purpose of this effort is to gather factual information and whatever documentation we can for those facts,” said Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, chair of CB9. He said that information would then be conveyed through the appropriate legal and governmental avenues.
Twenty-five tenants approached the podium presenting their cases against Pinnacle, which has reportedly filed over 5,000 eviction notices against its tenants over the past three years. Some said that Pinnacle has been trying to force out lower income residents to make way for more lucrative real estate.
Residents of 706 Riverside Drive have been in an ongoing legal battle concerning rent overcharges with Pinnacle since it bought the building. According to Ernestine Temple, member of the 706 Riverside Tenants’ Association, Pinnacle had appraised the building far above its actual value.
Holding up a part of her apartment’s roof that had broken off three months ago to cameras from the local news media, Temple said that Pinnacle had failed to provide necessary services and repairs for families that had been living in the building for years.
“I truly believe a picture is worth a thousand words,” Temple said.
Bobby Jones, a Pinnacle tenant who has been brought to court by his landlord six times in the past eight months, echoed the words of several others present at the hearing.
“I have a message for Pinnacle … I am not afraid. You cannot make me leave,” Jones said.
Many tenants voiced concern that city and state officials have ignored the tenants, with a few saying that state and city agencies have even been complicit with Pinnacle and similar landlords. But, all the elected officials present at the meeting said that they would ally themselves with the tenants’ cause.
“We have the law on our side. We have morality on our side. We will have the appreciation of the lawyers that know that you [the tenants] are organized,” Rangel said to the receptive crowd.