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MSCC HOMELESS & HOUSING MEETING RECAP: December 6, 2022

(MSCC) Sharon Jasprizza, Posted: January 17, 2023, Event Date: December 6, 2022, 9:30 am-10:30 am, ZOOM.US

SUMMARY

Sarah Shapiro, Cross-union Retirees Organizing Committee (CROC), Victoria Grevenberg, Housing Coordinator,The Housing and Tenant Protection Unit, Financial Fraud Bureau, New York County District Attorney’s Office 

CHAIR: John Mudd

WELCOME / INTRODUCTIONS / PURPOSE

John Mudd opened the meeting with introductions and outlined the purpose of the meeting.

POLICY MEETING 8.30 AM SUMMARY

John Mudd (MSCC) and Alex Yong (WSNA NYC) Members of the End Apartment Warehousing Coalition reported on discussions from the policy meeting.

  • MSCC attended a hearing on December 5 about Local law 18; the law gathers data on AirBNB and seeks to prevent warehousing and add more available housing to the market
    • Intro 195 (an anti-warehousing measure) has support from 7 or 8 City Council members; a tenant can call 311 to report empty (adjacent) apartments
  • The earlier meeting discussed the new HURT committee, which focuses on apartment repairs and related issues (still in development)
  • People are welcome to join the 8.30 AM Policy. The zoom link is the same as for the 9.30 AM meeting

ACTIONS

For more info or support for Intro 195, the anti-warehousing bill at:

NOVEMBER HIGHLIGHTS 

The following are some of the November highlights. For more information on MSCC’s progress, please visit midtownsouthcc.org and its social media, where many events, work in progress, challenges, and successes are highlighted each week

  • The CROC committee and MSCC held further meetings and rallies to support the city municipal and retirees’ protection of their Traditional Medicare plans
  • Both urban farms are closed for the winter. Metrics for the 2022 growing season follow:
    • 475 pounds from the Midtown Urban Farm on 53rd Street
    • 775 pounds from the Upstate Farm 
    • Expanded the fresh food distribution network from Encore, Dwelling House, Maravian house to include Main Chance, The Fridge, Hartley House, individual tenants
  • MSCC volunteered at the Metro Baptist Church Thanksgiving Day dinner on Thursday, November 24, that served approx. 650 people
  • Rallies are being planned to highlight inequities and poor policies in Midtown near Port Authority, Hudson Yards, NYCHA, and Penn Station. More information will be available in 2023. Please get in touch with MSCC for further details at john.mudd@usa.net or Sharon Jasprizza at hello@midtownsouthcc.org
  • Taproot (more information below) has invited MSCC to be on a panel. MSCC Members speaking at the Taproot include John Mudd, Rob Robinson, and Ted Houghton. A link and outcomes will be shared in January 2023 if you miss it
  • “Taproot hosted event with nonprofit leaders is on Wednesday, December 7 at 1 PM ET/10 AM PT for an open conversation spotlighted:
    • Housing insecurity challenges that people are facing across the country
    • Community-driven solutions that nonprofit organizations are implementing  
    • The support these organizations need from skills-based volunteers   
    • If you’re interested in learning more about housing & homelessness or how your volunteerism can support this important social issue, this panel is for you! Bring your colleagues and bring your questions! This free discussion highlights a pressing social issue and creates connections that drive positive change
    • This is a free Taproot Plus event. Taproot Plus is a program of the Taproot Foundation, a US-based nonprofit that connects nonprofits with experienced business professionals. Get involved in this free program by visiting: https://bit.ly/3Dqjqa8”

SPECIAL INTRODUCTIONS

Clay Turner, Account Manager, Housing Works Community Health Care, (934) 800-8886, c.turner@housingworks.org

  • Clinics are open for primary care and psych evaluations, therapy, and substance abuse services (The Brochure outlining services and contacts is available HERE, and John Mudd will add the brochure in the MSCC newsletter)
  • Housing works received a shipment of women’s clothing two weeks ago, and it is available at Housing Works; Lower East Side Clinic’s Rainbow Closet is at 749 East 9th Street

ACTIONS

  • Refer clients needing assistance to Clay Turner

Marni Halasa (MSCC) 

  • Many underserved folks in front of Holy Apostles, 28th and 9th Ave line up every day between 10.00 AM and NOON need services. It would be helpful if organizations could physically go there with their services, clothing, etc.

Dan Pichinson, Executive Director, Ryan Chelsea Community Health Center, 10th Ave between 

45th and 46th Streets

  • Flu shots are available, and this is one of the worst flu seasons we have had in a while
  • Covid Boosters are available. There is an increase in Covid in the community

ACTIONS

  • Make an appointment at the health center

Sueranna Antoine, Community Liaison, Main Chance, santoine@gcnssc.org

  • Their Holiday Party on December 23 is open to everyone
  • Coats and toiletries will soon be available for people
  • New York Cares is hoping to donate coats before the Holiday Party
  • The pantry is available every third Wednesday
  • Three hot meals a day are served every day
  • Many migrant families are coming to the center, and thus, many children are coming too. Coats are needed for the children too

Luana Green, First Fruit Community Outreach.org, psalm316.lg@gmail.com, (917) 678-8353

  • City harvest distribution every second Saturday 
  • A recent shipment of toys has been received for distribution
  • Regular outreach for the homeless, giving out clothes, sox, PPE, etc.
    • Currently, outreach is in East Harlem and the Bronx, but hoping to start the initiatives in Midtown and Lower Manhattan
  • Luana is on the Board for Penn South and fighting the MTA substation issue
  • Please get in touch with Luana for more information 
  • Involved in networking and looking for partnerships to boost the services with Shower Power

ACTIONS

  • Luana will contact Richard to partner with Shower Power

Tom Cayler, Coalition Against Illegal Hotels (CAIH), Tom Cayler tacayler@verizon.net

  • Tom had to leave the meeting. The following information is a summary of the discussion he was to present
  • Help preserve our scarce rental housing! Stop apartment warehousing!, Stop illegal hotel activity
  • The Coalition Against Illegal Hotels urges you to testify at a virtual public hearing on Monday, December 5
  • The Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement is having the hearing on the proposed rules to implement Local Law 18 of 2022
    • The bill the City Council passed last year requires short-term rental hosts to register with the City, and prohibits booking services like Airbnb from marketing
      unregistered hosts
    • The law becomes effective in January. 10, 2023
      Once fully implemented, the law is expected to put tens of thousands of apartments back on the market
  • Airbnb is mounting a full-court press against Local Law 18, pressuring Mayor Eric Adams to water down the regulations. They have hired a well-connected Lobbyist and a significant law firm. For the hearing, Airbnb is trotting out their usual homeowners claim that they will not be able to make ends meet unless these regulations are weakened. But Local Law 18 in no way affects their ability to short-term rent out a room if they comply with existing state and City housing laws
  • See the attached “Talking Points” for suggestions about organizing your testimony. For a deeper dive, see the attached “Background” memo. There is a link on the Talking Points to the full text of the proposed rules
  • The hearing begins at 10:30 am the following Monday, December 5, and is virtual. You
    can sign up before the hearing by emailing oserules@cityhall.nyc.gov or by calling 646-576-3533. You can also sign up during the online hearing. You can speak for up to three minutes
  • Tom is attending the Tenant Protection Unit meeting on Monday, December 12, to discuss building professionals who file false documents with DOB for construction to harass tenants. Tom will report the findings at the next meeting in January

ACTIONS

  • Stop illegal hotel activity to ensure apartments come back on the Market. Contact Tom Cayler at tacayler@verizon.net

TRADITIONAL MEDICARE FIGHT 

Sarah Shapiro, Cross-union Retirees Organizing Committee (CROC)

  • CROC has been fighting since the spring of 2021 to keep its traditional Medicare rather than be transferred to inferior private Medicare Advantage Plans, which Sarah calls “Medicare Disadvantage Plans”
  • The City and the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC) have been negotiating to move people to these private plans
  • CROC has won every law suite so far because Code 12 – 126 says the City will pay the total cost of health coverage for city employees, city retirees, and their dependents, not to exceed 100% of the total cost of Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) – healthcare.gov, on a category basis. This law has been in effect since 1967, a year after Medicare was passed.
  • The HMO benchmark ensures that everyone receives health care is approximately $918.  Retirees’ Health care falls below that since the government pays 80% because retirees are on Medicare. In effect, the city is paying only 20% of what’s left over for the Medi gap plan. The retirees get the senior plan
  • Since the city has lost all its law suites, it is going after the law, which is the only protection the workers and retirees have. The city wants to change the language of the code and change the benchmark from $918 to $7.50, which is the rate for the Medicare Advantage Plan. Retirees would have to pay over $200 monthly to keep their Traditional Medicare plan with senior care.
  • Unfortunately, the unions are not protecting the benefits of their members, so members are now fighting their unions, which they are members of
  • The City Council may not want to amend the Administrative Code 12 – 126 because the retirees’ campaign has been successful 
  • Most of the City Council is in support. For example, Christopher Marte demanded that retirees are present and have equal time at the MLC and the City presentations. Christopher Marte has rallied many times at City Hall with the Retirees. Alexa Aviles and Charles Barron are strong advocates. Carlina Rivera has said she would vote no. These and other members are educating their City Council colleagues to make sure they understand what is at stake for retirees’ health. Erik Bottcher and several others need to be pushed
  • However, others and the MLC are leading a disinformation campaign with the active union members
  • The retirees’ message is changing to include solutions that acknowledge high healthcare costs because of healthcare costs 
  • Several solutions were outlined. One includes the City can bridge funding for the next few years by drawing reserves in the retirees’ health benefits trust fund to sure up the health stabilization fund. The city could also set up a self-insurance plan rather than insuring everyone through private insurance companies. The solutions outlined support savings for the City due to inefficiencies and waste within management. 
  • Another class action lawsuit has been announced this week for 55 million dollars against the City because they have been charging $15 co-pays which violate Administrative Code12 -126
  • The retirees continue to work with the City Council to vote no to any amendments to Administrative Code 12 -126
  • Medicare is for people with disabilities also. Retirees’ families with children with disabilities will be affected also
  • The Unions supported some City Council members’ campaigns; the expectation is for the members to coalesce as the rank and file fights against their unions
  • Much dissemination of information about finance, particularly concern about the liquidity of the health stabilization fund
  • The retirees’ health care is only 6% of the city’s budget for health care. The message the retirees are communicating with the Mayor, the City Council, and anyone else is about the other ways to save money 

John Mudd, MSCC

  • This applies to all people accessing Medicare 
  • Medicaid is also under threat
  • Health is vital for stability
  • The MSCC health committee is developing

Nancy Pascal, MSCC

  • People need to keep their Medicare and not switch to Medicare Advantage Plans
  • Wendell Potter is working with MSCC. Wendell notes that the Medicare takeover is the biggest in this century by corporations
  • Corporations deny care
  • https://www.democracynow.org/2022/10/12/medicare_advantage_program_healthcare_providers_unitedhealth
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6l4YZSRTNGw
  • MSCC is educating people about the changes, but language is complex because of the complexity
  • MSCC is also watching the actions of the Mayor, where he is allowing the NYPD to put people in hospitals involuntarily

Luana Green, President of Chelsea Reform Democratic Club

  • Luana has worked with Medicaid for 13 years and retired last year
  • Knowledge of the city’s negligence in taking care of the elderly
  • Heartbreaking to see the elderly and people with disabilities pay additional charges for their Medicaid while the wealthy get their Medicaid for free
  • The City has constantly been pushing for the privatization of Medicaid. Unfortunately, it began with Obama care and then continued; it’s a pot of money that can be extracted through the privatization of Medicare
  • The unions say that because they only have $800,000 in reserve, they will not be able to negotiate if they don’t agree to this amendment to Administrative Code 12 – 126 and will not have enough money to cover medical services the retirees already have, nor have enough money for the current municipal workers. Thus many Unions have agreed to this amendment 
  • Erik Bottcher is up for re-election, so it’s a good time to push it

ACTIONS 

  • For further info about rallies and other outreach regarding the municipal retirees’ fight to protect their Medicare with Senior Care healthcare coverage, contact Cross-union Retirees Organizing Committee at crocnyc22@gmail.com
  • A need to lobby the City Council members not yet on board, particularly those up for re-election, such as Erik Boettcher
  • Contact the City Council to vote no to Administrative Code 12 -126, protect retirees’ healthcare, Medicare with the seniors care supplement (which they have always had since 1967), to push for other cost savings measures to reign in health costs rather than diminishing municipal retirees’ much deserved health coverage
  • Inform your constituents about the need to keep their Medicare
  • MSCC is educating people about the changes, but language is complex because of the complexity
  • Advocate for mental health resources
  • Join the MSCC Health Committee. Email John.mudd@usa.net

UPDATE since the December 6 Housing Meeting follows:

Chris Sommerfeldt and Cayla Bamberger, New York Daily News, on Dec 16, 2022, reported that Mayor Adams’ administration won a key ruling Thursday in its efforts to move thousands of retired NYC municipal workers into a highly controversial privatized Medicare Advantage plan. The main points are summarized below and will be on the agenda of the Housing Meeting on January 3, 2023.

  • The decision, from an independent arbitrator overseeing the health care dispute, appears to pave the way for the administration to implement the Medicare Advantage Plan as the only insurance option available to municipal retirees
  • Marianne Pizzitola, president of NYC Organization of Public Services Retirees, which successfully sued the city over the Medicare Advantage debacle before, blasted Scheinman for not involving her group in the arbitration proceedings, accusing him of “voicing the interests” of Adams’ administration.
  • Pizzitola also said her group would likely sue the administration again if it moves ahead with Scheinman’s recommendations.
  • “Retirees were not part of the arbitration process, but if the city seeks to violate retirees’ rights again, retirees will once again have to seek judicial intervention to protect their healthcare rights,” said Pizzitola, whose group has maintained that an Advantage plan would wreck their health care benefits.

DA’S NEW TENANT PROTECTION UNIT

Victoria Grevenberg, Housing Coordinator,The Housing and Tenant Protection Unit, Financial Fraud Bureau, New York County District Attorney’s Office, 80 Centre Street, 3rd Floor, New York, (212) 335-8900, DanyHousing@dany.nyc.gov

  • Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., on October 13, 2022, announced the creation of the Office’s first-ever Housing & Tenant Protection Unit
  • The Unit, which is within the Financial Frauds Bureau, is led by Assistant District Attorney Chikaelo Ibeabuchi, who cannot be here today at this meeting
  • The Unit was created to target systemic criminal harassment of tenants and abuse of government programs by landlords and developers. Areas of focus will be harassment of rent-regulated tenants, deed fraud, and defrauding of government subsidy programs by landlords and developers. One example that Bragg highlighted in the press release was when the landlord removed the staircase, and the tenants could not access their apartments
  • The new sub-section 241 allows the Unit to pursue tenant harassment
  • Illegal conversions and defraud, as seen in some single-family homes, are also pursued
  • The PowerPoint presentation illustrated the decision tree and is included here XXXX. It demonstrates the criteria to be checked before making a complaint 
  • More information is found at

On October 13, 2022, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr. announced the creation of the Office’s first-ever Housing & Tenant Protection Unit, which will target systemic criminal harassment of tenants and abuse of government programs by landlords and developers.

http://nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/brian-kavanagh/da-bragg-announces-creation-offices-first-housing-tenant

  • Charisma White (Nyccoc-housing&homeless),  (MSCC) asks about landlords with multiple violations. Victoria noted that the Unit does not review violations, but harassment is. Thus, if housing is uninhabitable and if actions are egregious, e.g., failure to repair hot water or eradicate mold, then this is considered harassment, then submit the complaint to the Unit for further discussion 
  • John White (MSCC) outlined the HURT committee and how the new Unit may be part of the committee
  • Helen Morley (Community member) spoke about the history of apartments’ rent stabilization and how landlords change the rent when new tenants come in without knowing the apartments being rent stabilized. The database for rental history is at https://portal.hcr.ny.gov/app/ask 

ACTIONS

NYCHA Public Housing Maintenance Complaint

Heat or Hot Water Complaints in a Residential Building

Elevator or Escalator Complaint to report an elevator that’s not working, not inspected, or installed without a permit

Loft Complaint

Homeless Shelter Complaint to report problems in a homeless shelter or drop-in center

  • Research the work of Rob Robinson and the presentation he madeto the European Parliament on June 2nd, 2022. The Shift Directives from Financialized to Human Rights Based Housing.  Page 10 articulates the following: The Right to Adequate Housing: Legal Standards. The United Nations has determined that the right to housing is the right to live in peace, security, and dignity that requires more than four walls and a roof and can only be enjoyed if housing is “adequate.” 

PUBLIC CONCERNS

  • Janice Ollivierre, Metro Baptist Church (Staff), prudence497@hotmail.com, phone#347-336-8613, is inquiring about a section 8 voucher for her family of five

Sueranna Antoine, Community Liaison, Main Chance, santoine@gcnssc.org, directs Janice to Public Assistance to change the voucher to match the family size. Documents needed to prove family size etc

  • John Mudd (MSCC) spoke about the Thanksgiving Lunch at Metro Baptist Church
  • Guadalupe Fernandez-Soberon, (community member) moved into her apartment in January 2020. The voucher was taken away after her husband passed away. 

Sueranna Antoine, Community Liaison, Main Chance, santoine@gcnssc.org, notes that the voucher needs to be transferred to Guadalupe’s name. 

Guadalupe will send John Mudd, john.mucc@usa.net, her contacts, and John will follow up with Sueranna, santoine@gcnssc.org, and Tamara Felix, Tamara.felix@cucs.org

  • For further help contact Donna Shashoua, AM Rosenthal, office, call 212-873-6368 or email rosenthall@nyassembly.gov
  • James Oppenheim, Former attorney for Legal Aid, says there is a new encampment between 6 & 7th on 55th street. The situation is out of control as its more about drugs rather than homelessness

John Mudd (MSCC) notes that policy needs to change

AOB

NEXT Meeting Homeless and Housing Meeting: 9:30 AM Tuesday, January 3, 2022 

Always the 1st Tuesday of every month

Contact hello@midtownsouthcc.org or john.mudd@usa.net for more information and Zoom invitations.