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Latino Community Charges City Duped Them Out Of Home Ownership

Tenant Interim Lease Community Tall Hall. Photo courtesy twitter.
Tenant Interim Lease Community Tall Hall. Photo courtesy twitter.

Thousands of low-income Latino residents of city-owned buildings throughout Manhattan are alleging the city duped them into thinking they were on the verge of home ownership only to have the carpet pulled from beneath their feet.

The residents packed the community room at 3333 Broadway in Harlem last Friday to tell the story of how the City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) snookered them through their Tenant Interim Lease program (TIL).

TIL, established in the 1970s and 80s, when the city was rife with slumlords and abandoned buildings, allowed tenants to live in the buildings. The City during this time was required as owner of the building to do all repairs and clear its outstandings nsding violations, before transferring ownership to the tenants.

During such time, the tenants paid rent to a tenants association for maintenance and upkeep, with the understanding that the city would  sell the units to the tenants for $250 a piece, creating a Housing Development Fund Corporation (HDFC) co-operative.

However, in 2012, with about 190 TIL buildings still waiting to become HDFC co-ops, HPD stopped accepting property into the TIL Program. The city then started a new program, Affordable Neighborhood Cooperative Program (ANCP), to address the disposition of the buildings that remained in TIL.

Under ANCP, the building is given to a “qualified” nonprofit or for-profit developer, who in turn move out existing tenants while they redevelop the properties with a subsidized city loan. Upon completion of the redevelopment, the developers then move the residents back in the buildings selling their units back to them as co-ops for $2,500 plus they are now on the hook to pay back the subsidized redevelopment loan.

“The TIL program originally was for us tenants, in neighborhoods that no one wanted to live in, to keep these buildings running and vibrant. HPD at the time when they needed us for that. With the ANCP program they are trying to get the tenants to pay the rehabilitation ” Louisa Rodriguez, a member on the Board of Directors of PA’LANTE Harlem and a TIL program resident at 615 West 150th Street.

“We have done our part for over 20 years, and now that the neighborhood is changing because of gentrification HPD wants to turn the tables and not fulfill their promise,” she added.  

Residents at the meeting claim this was never the agreement they entered into decades ago, many of whom are now are seniors and living on fixed incomes.

“I only receive $928 a month off of social security. I obviously don’t have ethe $2,500 to pay to own back my unit. So the increase in maintenance fees on top of the unit costs is such not possible. I am not going to be able to afford it,” said Eddie Torres, 68, who has has been living at 503-05 140th Street for over 30 years and is still waiting to own his unit.

Torres and residents at the Harlem building entered into the TIL program in 2009 with hopes of owning their units, but now a decade later the building is still City-owned.

Juan Santiago giving his testimony during the TIL Community Town Hall. Photo credit Kelly Mena.

Juan Santiago, 50, was relocated from his home at 204 Avenue A on the Lower East Side  earlier this year as part of the redevelopment portion of the program at his building. Santiago alongside other tenants, originally entered the TIL program in 1998, but now face staying renters as they face increased cost for their units.

“I think that they way that they are structuring the program, will all of these new requirements. We are being setup to fail. They changed the rules of the game in the middle of what they are requiring us to do,” asid Santiago.

Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa

Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa (D-Northern Manhattan), a member of the Assembly Housing Committee, grew up in 79 Post Avenue, a TIL buildings on the Upper West Side, that has yet to be given to tenants, a property that has spent over 25 years in the program.

“They are one of the buildings that have been living in this TIL nightmare for I believe my entire childhood and my adulthood. They are one of the good guys, that has been following all the steps and rules to be in compliance that the city has put forth and still they cannot say they are the owners of their own home. Because the City keeps changing the goal. The city keeps changing the rules on you guys so that you will never be compliant,” said De La Rosa.

City Councilman Mark Levine

City Councilman Mark Levin (D-Manhattan Valley, Manhattanville, Hamilton Heights) echoed these sentiments, recognizing the failure of the city to keep their promise.

“The City had a promise. They said, ‘we are going to take the building from the negligent landlord and give it to you, as tenants to own as cooperatives.’ But the city has violated that promise again and again and again for 5, 10, 15 and in some cases 25 years. That is an unforgivable dereliction of the duty that they have to all of you, as the people who have lived through a hellish landlord and now have lived through the neglect and bad treatment of the city,” said Levin.

HPD did not comment in time for posting.

Stephen Witt contributed to this story.

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