Bronx landlord violates state housing benefit program, tenants say – New York Daily News

A Bronx landlord is in violation of the state’s emergency response program, say tenants who claim they are being pressured by the wealthy property owner.

But the landlord says that’s just not the case and that the situation is more complicated than their tenants make it out to be.

Those tenants allege that a key part of the program — which came into effect last June to help people with pandemic-induced financial hardships — is being ignored to kick them to the curb.

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 landlord – a company under the umbrella of Glacier Equities, which is controlled by Myles Horn – received money through the program.

But the landlord, they say, did something strange.

Eric Urquiza and Jose Ramos said that when they called the state’s ERAP hotline, they learned that their landlord had returned the money sent by the state agency for temporary and disability assistance, which manages ERAP.

“They just want me out of there,” says 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 wants him and Urquiza out so he can sell their apartments.

“That’s why he doesn’t take the money,” Ramos tells 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 is refusing the ERAP money because the company has no intention of renewing Ramos’ lease.

“Nothing would make us happier than helping him buy his apartment,” she said. “We will go to great lengths to help the tenants buy.”

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

The state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program was created by Albany lawmakers as a way to help renters pay off rent arrears incurred after they lost their jobs due to COVID-19 closures. It was also designed to help landlords who were not receiving rent payments.

By enrolling in the program, landlords must agree not to evict people without cause for at least one year after the tenants first pay, and they are prohibited from increasing rents during that time.

Councilman Jeffrey Dinowitz, a Democrat who represents the Bronx neighborhood where Urquiza and Ramos live, said he had never heard of a situation like the one the two tenants are now in and described it as “disgusting” and counterintuitive given the intent. of the law for which he voted.

The purpose of the law, as he described it, is not only to protect tenants, but also to prevent landlords from going out of business.

“Actions like this are causing even more cases of homelessness,” he said. “That building is a beautiful building. It’s not a luxury building, but I’m sure the apartments can be sold for a significant amount. I don’t begrudge people who are trying to make money, but if they try to make it on the backs of working people, especially at the risk of making people homeless.”

Brill argues that Glacier is not accepting the ERAP payments because it has not applied to the program in that building. She also pointed out that because the Perry Ave. building is a co-op, Glacier has no plans to renew leases for the apartments whose shares the private equity firm owns.

But under state law, both the tenant and landlord must participate in the ERAP application process, according to Anthony Farmer, a spokesperson for the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, which administers ERAP. Until both parties participate in that process, no payment can be made, he noted.

Brill claims Glacier’s participation in the lawsuit essentially amounted to the company sending OTDA confirmation that it owns the property — a notice also stating its intention not to participate in ERAP because the building is a co-op.

When asked for details about Urquiza and Ramos’ cases, Farmer declined to provide them because the agency is not allowed to share the information with the general public.

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

‘We are not bad landlords. We’re not bad people,” she said. “We are not allowed to renew their leases. This is not a rental building.”

She said units occupied by tenants must now go to cooperative shareholders to help pay for repairs much needed in the building, and she also blamed Urquiza for “playing the system,” pointing out that he was in 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 couldn’t. no longer able to maintain his payments.

He claims he appealed his ERAP assignment because it was not enough to pay off his rent arrears.

The alternative Brill has offered to buy his house is to move — and Urquiza said it leaves him with few options because he can’t pay the down payment or get approval for a mortgage.

“They’re not giving us a deal,” he said.

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