By Kristen Lombardi
Posted In The Streets
May 25, 2006
Tenants gained some ground in their ever escalating battle against the mega-landlord known as the Pinnacle Group, the most hated landlord in upper Manhattan these days.
This week, the Voice wrote about the litany of complaints that tenants have lodged against Pinnacle and its owner, Joel Wiener, which include everything from aggressive evictions to intentional harassment to possible fraud. Today, tenants took their complaints straight to Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, calling on the state's top cop to open a criminal investigation into the real-estate firm's tactics.
Dozens of tenants, members of the Mirabal Sisters Cultural and Community Center, in Washington Heights, gathered outside Spitzer's downtown offices on Broadway Street, carrying signs that read SPITZER INVESTIGUE A PINNACLE and DEMANDAMOS INVESTIGAR A PINNACLE, and chanting,"What do we want? Justice! Now!" City Councilman Robert Jackson, a Harlem Democrat and prime Pinnacle foe, made an appearance, complete with rousing remarks. And then Luis Tejada, who heads the Mirabal Sisters, delivered this message to Spitzer, a.k.a., Champion of the Little Guy: "We are here to tell you to investigate this company because Pinnacle is one of the big landlords in New York and is abusing the poor people of this city."
Thirty minutes into the demonstration, Henry Lemons, Spitzer's deputy chief investigator, descended from his office to the lobby to meet with Tejada and tenants. Tejada handed Lemons a 2,000-strong petition requesting a formal inquiry into Pinnacle for, as the petition states, "illegal rent increases and overcharges, deceiving management practices, illegal eviction, discrimination, and harassment." In an accompanying letter, the group also demands the attorney general review all Pinnacle eviction cases, repair complaints and harassment complaints, and rent increase applications in order to stop what is called "the frauds and abuses of Pinnacle."
Lemons promised to deliver the materials to the criminal investigations unit, which would assign an attorney to review the matter.
Wiener declined to comment on this latest development. But sources close to the firm say the petition is laced with errors and misinformation.
Whether Spitzer believes the same or not? Well, stay tuned.
As Lemons told Tejada today, "I assure you that we will respond."