‘We qualify’: Carlina Rivera, husband defend living in Section 8 apartment

Carlina Rivera.

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Updated Thurs., Sept. 14, 12 a.m.: As the City Council District 2 race to succeed Rosie Mendez was heading down to the wire, a recent Page Six item about the frontrunner’s low-income apartment was making some waves — as were photos being floated of her husband sailing in regattas.

Also percolating through the story is the grind of running a chain of local coffee shops in a city increasingly unfriendly to small business.

Opponents of Carlina Rivera seized on the story about the apartment and were spreading it around, hoping it could help derail her campaign.

The New York Post’s Page Six reported that Rivera and her husband, Jamie Rogers, the chairperson of Community Board 3, live in a federally subsidized, low-income Section 8 apartment — whose annual entry income limit for a family of two is $61,050.

The Post reported that Rivera’s income, until she stepped down as Mendez’s legislative director in February, was $41,770, meaning Rogers “earns less than $20,000 a year,” the tabloid gossip column said.

Rivera told Page Six that if she wins the East Village Council seat — with its $148,050 salary — she and Rogers would no longer qualify for the subsidy. Matt Rey, her campaign spokesperson, added that the couple would then look for another apartment, so that “another deserving family” would get the affordable Lower East Side unit.

Rogers has also previously told The Villager back in February that he plans to step down as C.B. 3 chairperson should Rivera win the Council seat.

Rivera, who is in her early 30s, grew up in the apartment in El Pueblo Nuevo, at 210 Stanton St. at Ridge St., and has lived there her entire life.

In separate interviews with The Villager, Rivera and Rogers both said that it’s perfectly legal for them to live in the apartment and that their incomes were fully vetted under the requirements of the Section 8 program.

Rogers, originally from Bronxville, attended Cornell Law School and formerly worked at the white-shoe law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell. However, he ditched the law for a career as a small businessman. He became a co-owner of Puschcart Coffee, which grew into a small chain of coffee shops, but has found a hard time making a go of it.

Jamie Rogers with his bicycle outside the Community Board 3 office on E. Fourth St. File photo by Tequila Minsky

A Villager reader who is a staunch supporter of Mary Silver — who is seen by many as Rivera’s toughest opponent in the primary — further tipped off the newspaper that Rogers’s dad is William Rogers, a retired partner at another white-shoe firm, Cravath, Swaine & Moore, where he was a highly successful attorney. According to the Cravath “Lawyers” Web page, the senior Rogers represented corporate and financial-institution clients on “international securities offerings, corporate governance and SEC compliance matters, mergers and acquisitions, and derivative financial products.”

The page notes William Rogers advised Royal Dutch Shell on its $70 billion acquisition of BG Group, as well as Banco Santander SA in the $100 billion acquisition of ABN AMRO by a group of bidders, including Santander.

Rivera said of her father-in-law, “His [own] father was the manager for a local Woolworth’s. He was a partner at Cravath — obviously doing well [financially].”

She said Jamie is one of William’s four children.

Rivera said that her husband went into debt in 2011, and “is still in debt, in multiple ways.”

“Jamie doesn’t get an allowance, doesn’t get anything from his father,” she said. “All of our income has been federally vetted. We qualify for that apartment.”

She noted that, even if she does win the Council job, they legally could stay in the Stanton St. unit — though would have to pay market-rate rent, or $2,775 per month.

“But I don’t want to because I want someone who qualifies for it to get it,” she said of their plans, assuming she wins the seat.

They currently pay around $1,600 a month. If their combined income exceeds $111,000, then they would have to start paying market rent.

Another source sent The Villager a document from the city’s Department of Finance, showing that Jamie Rogers, in late 2012, purchased a co-op apartment at 568 Grand St., in the East River Houses co-ops.

“It’s true. I own an apartment on Grand St.,” Rogers told The Villager. “The apartment is rented through the co-op board, it’s perfectly legitimate. After expenses, I report the income to the landlord at 210 Stanton St.”

He noted he also provides his tax returns and 1099 forms for Section 8 verification.

“The landlord has all my information,” he said.

“I lived at the Grand St. co-op from December 2012 to the end of 2015, when Carlina and I were married,” he said. “In 2016, I made a net income of $4,546 on the apartment. It’s in my tax returns, and I reported it to my landlord at 210 Stanton. I have substantial debt on the apartment that I’ll be paying off for years.”

He purchased the Grand. St. unit for $320,000. For the purposes of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 8 program, he said, that apartment is assessed at the greater of either what is known as the “passbook value” — 2 percent of its total value, or $6,400 — or the rental income.

The Grand St. pad is not located in City Council District 2, though, so Rivera could not live there anyway if she is elected to the City Council.

Rogers also told The Villager that he has a trust fund that stood at $50,000 last year. He said he has tapped into those funds in the past for business investments, but not for living expenses — and, even if he wanted to use it to live on, would need to get permission from the trustee first anyway.

“It should sit and earn interest for a future investment,” he said of the trust, adding that currently he’s likely to invest the dough in the stock market because the retail climate in New York City is so bad.

“My parents opened the account when I was a baby,” he said, “to help pay for college and then law school.”

Again, the trust fund is valued based on its “passbook value” — $1,000 in this case.

Under Section 8, the rent that he and Rivera pay at Stanton St. is one-third of their annual income.

Rogers said it’s also true that in 2016 he made “a little under $20,000” in total income, which he admitted was his worst year financially. That amount included the income from his business, along with the “passbook value” of both his apartment and trust fund.

“I haven’t been as successful as I look or appear in my business,” he said. “It’s frustrating.”

“With Carlina’s 2016 income and mine, we made about $70,000 combined,” he told The Villager. Rivera actually made about $50,000 per year when she worked with Mendez, he noted. Since Rivera was already living there and making below the $61,050 salary entry cap, it wasn’t illegal for Rogers to join her in the apartment.

In sharing all of his and Rivera’s financial information with the newspaper, Rogers stressed, “I want to be transparent.”

Like Rivera, he said they are expecting to move. Whoever won Tuesday night’s Democratic primary election — it was Rivera — is a lock to win November’s general election.

“The minute 9 p.m. tomorrow night rolls around, we’ll start looking,” he said, speaking on Monday.

He said the days before the primary election were very difficult for him due to the Page Six story, and that he feels terrible about the whole thing.

“I really hate that it’s me that’s become the drag on Carlina’s campaign and what she can do,” he said. “It sucks that it’s about me. I don’t want to be part of the equation.”

Echoing Rivera, Rogers, who is in his mid-3os, stated that his father doesn’t support him financially.

“I have a substantial loan from my father that compounds with interest each year,” he said. “I do not mooch off him. I haven’t taken a loan from him since 2016. We are completely financially independent of him. I lost a tremendous amount of money last year.”

Rogers launched his first Pushcart Coffee on East Broadway in 2011.

He said another Pushcart Coffee branch of his, at E. 12th St. and Third Ave., only lasted four months before closing in 2015.

“We only lost a little bit of money on that,” he said.

Another shop, Bustler, a self-serve-concept coffee shop in Midtown (the name was a riff on “hustle and bustle” and Hustler) also closed after four months.

“That was a huge loss,” he reflected of Bustler going bust.

His Chelsea Pushcart Coffee shop, at W. 25th St. and Ninth Ave., did all right for a while. But then the extension of the No. 7 subway opened up and killed its business, since some straphangers started using that line instead of the A/C/E, and so have been getting on and off the subway farther west, he said. Rogers handed off that shop to two Australians, who renamed it Citizens of Chelsea, and Rogers remains an investor.

As of now, he has two coffee shops left: Ava Brew, on Willoughby St. in Downtown Brooklyn, which is “doing well,” he said, and a Pushcart Coffee on E. 22nd St. and Second Ave., which is facing stiff competition from a Think Coffee that opened two blocks away a year ago.

“I’ve only made about $1,000 since August” on the E. 22nd St. shop, he said.

“Coffee shops have a low profit margin,” he noted.

Describing the current climate for small businesses in this city, Rogers said, “Pardon my language, it’s become a f—ed up business.”

“I had grand visions of becoming the next Howard Schultz,” he reflected, referring to the Starbucks executive chairperson. “When Bustler failed, which was the first quarter of 2016, and when [the Pushcart Coffee in] Chelsea continued to slip, we were basically living hand-to-mouth,” he said of Rivera and himself.

Recalling their plans when he moved into Rivera’s apartment last year, he said, “If I was successful, we [would] move out. If I wasn’t, we don’t.”

Jamie Rogers, left, sailing with his father, William Rogers, on his father’s boat, “Big Boat,” in 2013.  Facebook

He told The Villager that, at this point, he’s now actually thinking about possibly returning to the law.

Asked about the photos being floated of him participating in sailing races, Rogers responded, “My dad is retired and he owns a small sailboat. I don’t own the boat.”

A fellow Community Board 3 member who is a Rivera supporter said with a laugh that being a “yachtsman” is not necessarily a bad thing for an activist who wants to serve his community.

“Yachtsmen have been some of our greatest humanitarians,” he said, referring to Robert F. Kennedy — and the Kennedy clan, in general.

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