Globe St. com
May 13, 2010
By John Jordan
New York City-The five West Harlem tenants that are suing New York City landlord the Pinnacle Group LLC are asking for tenants in Pinnacle buildings across New York City to submit evidence that will substantiate their charges.
A press conference was held on Wednesday at The Dunbar where the five West Harlem tenants, Manhattan Borough president Scott M. Stringer, several members of the City Council and the group Buyers and Renters United to Save Harlem (Brush) spoke of the importance of a recent decision by US District Court Judge Colleen McMahon in granting class action status to the case originally filed in 2007 against Pinnacle and its CEO Joel Weiner. The tenants charge the Pinnacle Group fraudulently inflated rents, failed to make needed repairs and groundlessly harassed tenants out of rent-regulated apartments throughout New York City.
Ken Fisher, an attorney representing Pinnacle in the case, says that it has filed for leave to appeal the class action status ruling rendered by Judge McMahon on April 27 with the US Court of Appeals.
Supporters of the tenants in their case against Pinnacle term the class action ruling as "one of the most far-reaching court decisions in New York City’s history that could potentially benefit thousands of tenants in rent-regulated apartments across the city." The decision certifies that the class consists of all persons who are rent regulated tenants in Pinnacle properties as of April 27, 2010 and a liability class for rent regulated tenants who lived in Pinnacle properties between July 11, 2004 and April 27, 2010.
Pinnacle’s Fisher, a member of the law firm Cozen, O’Connor, says, "three years into the litigation it is the same group of five tenants that are plaintiffs, which speaks for itself. Pinnacle is proud of its record of providing safe and affordable housing to thousands of New York families and is confident that at the conclusion of the case the allegations will be found to be baseless." He adds that four other tenants who had originally been part of the case have since settled and that no other Pinnacle tenants have come forward to join the lawsuit.
Representatives of the tenants state that Pinnacle and Weiner are linked to more than 420 apartment buildings that contain more than 21,000 apartment units and approximately 60,000 tenants throughout the five boroughs.
"This lawsuit is a huge victory for all working people in New York City and retired and elderly tenants, too," states Andres Mares-Muro, one of the five tenants that filed the lawsuit against Pinnacle. "At a time when we are all living on less and less and terrified of losing our jobs, this...suit is the first step in protecting us from losing our homes. It sends a [resilient] message to flippers and speculators..."
Stringer adds, "This lawsuit constitutes an unprecedented fight against [these] corporate landlords and a powerful show of resistance for middle- and low-income residents throughout the city who believe that illegal tactics are being used to drive them out."
Fisher said, in response to some politicians' comments, "It is disappointing that grandstanding politicians chose to involve themselves in this, rather than trying to come up with real solutions to New Yorkers' housing needs."
In December 2006, Pinnacle Group, LLC, while admitting no wrongdoing, reached an agreement with then New York State attorney general Eliot Spitzer in regards to alleged overcharges in some of its rent stabilized apartments that had recently become vacant and required repair. Fisher says that the overcharges centered on about 300 of the 9,000 vacant apartments in its portfolio and that Pinnacle sent refunds to the affected tenants who later took occupancy of the renovated apartments totaling about $900,000 and about $100,000 in interest.
A meeting described as "a class action classroom" has been scheduled on May 23 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Oberia Dempsey Center on 127 West 127th St., by Stringer, the plaintiffs and BRUSH to provide Pinnacle rent regulated tenants with information concerning the litigation and provide the opportunity for tenants to submit evidence in the case.