NY Daily News reports that a class action lawsuit by Harlem tenants accuses their landlord of illegally jacking up rents and abusing city tax breaks in more than 20 apartment buildings.
The Manhattan Supreme Court filing charges Big City Properties LLC and Big City Realty Management with “a scheme designed to inflate rents over and above the amounts which they are legally permitted to charge.”
The lawsuit, with 28 named plaintiffs, charges the companies abuse the city’s J-51 program by taking the offered tax breaks without providing tenants with rent-stabilized leases.
Rent hikes based on a system known as individual apartment improvement — installation of new doors, counters, cabinets, for example — were levied despite a lack of actual work in the apartments, charged the lawsuit brought by the law firm of Newman Ferrara.
“J-51 offenders are not only cheating on their taxes, but also robbing our city of affordable housing,” said Aaron Carr, founder of the nonprofit Housing Rights Initiative.
A message left Tuesday for Big City Realty was not returned.
Plaintiff Sheresa Jenkins-Risteki said she agreed to pay $1,800 a month for a rent-stabilized apartment on W. 151st St. — only to have the landlord bump the cost to $1,950 and then $2,200.