Harlem Residents Sue for Illegal Rent Hikes

Did they not get the memo?

All over New York City, rents are (finally!) going down, but apparently the owners of Harlem's Lenox Terrace are trying to raise rents, and some residents say they're doing so illegally.

LT tenants are suing the Olnick Organization, which runs the sprawling complex once dubbed "Harlem's best address." The prize they hope to win: somewhere between $400,000 and $6 million, say the tenants' lawyers.

Some of these apartments have been deregulated, or removed from the city's rent stabilization program and leased for market value. But last year, the New York State Appeals Court ruled that units at Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village could not be deregulated and still receive J-51 tax benefits for making improvements. A number of other rent-regulated buildings, Lenox Terrance included, are filing suit based on that decision.

Not all units in the building will be included in the suit because not everyone has seen a rent hike. Congressman Charles Rangel's infamous four apartments in the building-yes, that's right, he has four apartments--are all rent stabilized; thus he is not among the plaintiffs. Smart of him to steer clear, since we're not sure it's legal to have four rent stabilized apartments leased to the same person, anyway.

But what will become of the building if the tenants win? Will it go the way of Stuy Town, half-luxuried and in limbo? Probably not, since it has the same owners and many long-time tenants remain. Those owners will just be a little, or maybe a lot, less rich.
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