Thursday, July 12, 2007



NEW YORK, NY -- Buyers and Renters United to Save Harlem, Inc. (BRUSH), and the law firm of Jenner & Block, LLP, has filed suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against one of New York’s biggest residential landlords, The Pinnacle Group, and its CEO, Joel Wiener.

The lawsuit, filed with the full support of NY Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, accuses Pinnacle and Wiener, who together own over 21,000 apartments in New York City of engaging in wanton and widespread violations of New York rent laws as well as the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) statutes.

In the lawsuit, BRUSH contends Pinnacle engaged in:

“… reckless and intentional systematic acts and business practices of demanding and collecting rents in amounts beyond those permitted under the law …” and “… an overall pattern and practice of tenant harassment, which includes: … failing to timely make necessary and reasonable repairs, to address housing maintenance code violations, or to provide essential, required services and then threatening and taking action to evict tenants who have reasonably and legally withheld rent because of such illegal conduct; (iii) commencing unfounded eviction actions to demand rent that already has been paid; (iv) commencing unfounded proceedings to challenge tenants' succession rights and harassing and intimidating tenants by demanding an unduly burdensome, unjustified, and unwarranted amount of evidence regarding a tenant’s succession rights; (v) unjustifiably refusing to accept tenants’ rent checks and then claiming non-payment of rent and commencing eviction actions or other proceedings challenging succession rights; (vi) directing, encouraging and allowing the superintendents of its buildings to, among other things, harass tenants by making unacceptable and shoddy repairs or making false promises to conduct repairs; scheduling appointments that the superintendents do not attend; issuing false notices and documents regarding tenants’ activities or conduct; and ignoring tenants’ complaints and acting in a hostile and retaliatory manner to tenants who have made complaints; (vii) failing to offer tenants lease renewals, or lease renewals on proper terms; (viii) failing to comply with orders issued by the New York Department of Housing and Community Renewal requiring Pinnacle to pay monetary awards to tenants for rent overcharges and rent reductions; (ix) seeking to restore original rents that have been reduced in accordance with Department of Housing and Community Renewal orders, knowing that the housing violations giving rise to the rent reductions have not been resolved; and (x) refusing to respond to and ignoring tenants’ inquiries and requests for documents relating to rental histories, rent increases based on individual apartment improvements and major capital improvements, and lease renewals.”
Kim Powell, President of BRUSH said: “The Pinnacle Group is a parasite in the community, profiting unfairly and illegally from harassment and loopholes in the rent laws without giving anything back to the community. They have acquired thousands of affordable, rent-controlled and rent-stabilized units in New York City, and have systematically victimized tenants by illegally inflating rents while at the same time reducing the quality of repairs and services. What’s Pinnacle’s goal? To push out long-term tenants, drive up rents until apartments are deregulated, and shove through condo conversions that replace affordable rentals with million dollar condos. This landlord has made a mockery of the NYC Housing Court, abused and crippled NYS and NYC housing agencies by its egregious conduct. We hope that this lawsuit sends a clear message to the Pinnacle Group and other landlords that the community will not tolerable abusive and illegal conduct.”
BRUSH is a non-profit association founded to promote tenants’ rights and preserve affordable and quality housing in the West Harlem and Northern Manhattan communities. BRUSH does outreach in the community and hosts seminars and workshops to raise awareness of tenants’ rights. BRUSH has played a key role in organizing tenant associations and works with various state and local agencies and officials in an effort to combat displacement of tenants by the forces of gentrification.

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