Bronx Landlord Violates State’s Rent Assistance Program, Tenants Say – New York Daily News

A Bronx landlord is bucking the state’s emergency rental assistance program, say tenants who claim pressure from the wealthy landlord.

But the landlord argues that is simply not the case and that the situation is more complicated than its tenants let on.

These tenants allege that a key part of the program – which came into effect last June to help people with pandemic-induced financial problems – is being flouted to kick them out.

At 3245 Perry Ave. in Norwood, two residents shared how they applied and were approved for the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program, also known as ERAP. They also claim that their owner – a company under the Glacier Equities umbrella, which is controlled by Myles Horn – received money through the scheme.

But the owner, they say, did something strange.

Eric Urquiza and Jose Ramos said when they called the state’s ERAP hotline, they learned their landlord had returned funds sent by the state Office of Temporary Assistance and Disabilities, which administers rap.

“They just want me out of there,” said Urquiza, who has lived in the building for 17 years.

His neighbor, Ramos, recalled an exchange with Glacier’s chief investment officer, Rachel Brill, in which he claims she told him Horn wanted him and Urquiza out so he could sell their apartments.

“That’s why he’s not taking the money,” Ramos told him, Brill adding, “He wants you out.”

Brill said that wasn’t exactly what she said, but confirmed the gist. She told the Daily News that Glacier was turning down the ERAP money because the company had no plans to renew Ramos’ lease.

“Nothing would make us happier than helping him buy his apartment,” she said. “We will do everything we can to help tenants buy.”

But Ramos says he can’t afford the asking price, which is around $170,000.

The state’s emergency rental assistance program was put in place by Albany lawmakers to help tenants repay rent arrears incurred after losing their jobs due to COVID closings. -19. It was also designed to help landlords who were not receiving rent.

By joining the program, landlords must agree not to evict people without cause for at least one year after tenants’ first payment, and they are prohibited from raising rent during that time.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, a Democrat who represents the Bronx neighborhood where Urquiza and Ramos reside, said he had never heard of a situation like the one the two tenants now find themselves in and l described as “disgusting” and counter-intuitive given the intent of the law, which he voted for.

The purpose of the law, as he described it, is not just to protect tenants, but to prevent landlords from going bankrupt.

“Actions like these are causing more cases of homelessness,” he said. “This building is a beautiful building. It’s not a luxury building, but I’m sure the apartments can sell for a significant amount of money. I don’t blame people trying to make money, but I do if they try to do it on the backs of workers, especially at the risk of making people homeless.

Brill claims that Glacier is not accepting ERAP payments because he did not join the program in that building. She also pointed out that, like the building on Perry Ave. is a cooperative, Glacier does not intend to renew the leases of the apartments in which the private equity firm owns the shares.

But under state law, the tenant and landlord must participate in the ERAP application process, according to Anthony Farmer, spokesman for the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, which administers rap. Until both parties participate in this process, a payment cannot be issued, he noted.

Brill says Glacier’s participation in the process essentially amounts to the company sending the OTDA an acknowledgment that it owns the property – a missive that also included its intention not to participate in PARE because that the building is a cooperative.

When asked for details about the Urquiza and Ramos cases, Farmer declined to provide them because the agency is prohibited from sharing the information with the general public.

Glacier, Brill argued, made “incredible” offers to sell the units to their tenants — with up to 95% financing.

“We are not mean owners. We are not bad people,” she said. “We are not allowed to renew their leases. This is not a rental property. »

She said tenant-occupied units should now be turned over to co-op shareholders to help pay for desperately needed repairs to the building, and she also blamed Urquiza for “gaming the system”, pointing out that he had appealed his own already approved ERAP. application.

Urquiza, who lost his job at LaGuardia Airport during the pandemic and now works for the West Bronx Housing and Neighborhood Resource Center, a tenant advocacy group, said he used his savings to pay his rent, but when that money dried up, he was unable to maintain his payments.

He claims he appealed his PARE award because it was not enough to pay his back rent.

The alternative Brill offered to buy his house is to move – and Urquiza said that left him with few options because he couldn’t pay the down payment or get a mortgage approved.

“They don’t give us a deal,” he said.

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