By Julie Shapiro and Della Hasselle
TRIBECA — Independence Plaza North tenants rejoiced Monday after a State Supreme Court judge ruled that their apartments ought to be rent-stabilized.
Tenants of the 1,331-unit TriBeCa complex have been arguing since 2005 that their landlord, Laurence Gluck, illegally removed hundreds of apartments from rent-stabilization. Gluck ought to have kept the apartments regulated because he was receiving tax breaks from the city, the tenants said.
On Monday, after five years of hearing the case, Judge Marcy Friedman sided with the tenants and ruled that everyone who moved into Independence Plaza before March 2006 is now rent-stabilized.
“We’re ecstatic,” said John Scott, 59, who has lived in Independence Plaza since 1975. “There was a lot of anxiety and a lot of frustration, but the tenant association stayed the course. We fought a hard fight.”
Friedman ruled that Gluck owed the tenants rent protections because he received a J-51 tax break, which is given to landlords who renovate their buildings, as long as they provide reduced rents.
Meister, Gluck’s lawyer, had argued that Gluck owed the tenants nothing, because Gluck cancelled the $7,550-a-year tax break in 2006 and repaid it going back to 2004. The NY State Division of Housing and Community Renewal issued an opinion earlier this year that sided with Gluck.
Friedman, though, said that just because the city allowed Gluck to cancel and repay the tax break did not mean he was free from providing rent-stabilization.
The battle between Gluck and the tenants is not over: Stephen Meister, Gluck’s lawyer, said in an e-mail that he plans to appeal “promptly.”
Still, the mood was jubilant at a press conference tenants and local elected officials held Tuesday afternoon in front of the TriBeCa building. More than 50 IPN tenants attended, applauding loudly as Borough President Scott Stringer and others spoke.
"The relationship between landlords and tenants is a give and take," State Sen. Daniel Squadron said. "You can't just take, take, take, and not expect to be asked to give back as well."
Friedman’s ruling comes too late for many IPN tenants, who have already moved out because of the climbing rents and uncertainty about the future.
Gluck offered the tenants some protections when he privatized the building in 2004, but many tenants had to pay more than they would have under rent-stabilization.
Ed Rosner, a tenant leader, said at Tuesday's press conference that he believes he should be paying about $925 a month for his apartment, but Gluck is charging him over $1,500.
Seth Miller, the tenants’ lawyer, said in an e-mail that hundreds of tenants have left Independence Plaza over the past five years.
“Because of that, this victory is significant but bittersweet,” Miller said.