Monday, September 21, 2009

$1000 Monthly Electricity Charges No Longer Feared By Roosevelt Island Eastwood Residents As Public Service Commission Halts Submetering Attempt

Image of Eastwood (Roosevelt Landings) from Bridge and Tunnel Club

Some good news for residents of Roosevelt Island's former Mitchell Lama Eastwood buildings, recently renamed Roosevelt Landings by Urban American (the new owners). The residents will not have to pay submetered electricity charges which some feared could reach as high as $1,000 per month.

The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) handed these residents a tremendous victory in the ongoing battle to stop Urban American from imposing unfair electricity submetering charges. According to Assembly Member Micah Kellner, who has been leading the fight against the unjust imposition
of electricity submetering:
"I cannot thank Chairman Brown and the Commissioners and staff of the Public Service Commission enough for today’s groundbreaking decision to permanently stay the submetering orders for Roosevelt Landings, Frawley Plaza, Metro North, and the Alpacas I&II.

“Initially when I challenged the PSC’s approval of submetering at Roosevelt Landings, the PSC issued a temporary stay. Now that the Commission has made that stay permanent, tenants can rest assured that they will not be subjected to any submetering scheme without their full consultation and basic tenant protections to ensure they are not unduly burdened.

“The PSC’s decision today promises a brighter future that doesn’t pit tenant rights against environmental goals—it proves that we can do both. The protections won are meaningful acknowledgements of what has been a deeply flawed process from a tenants’ rights perspective—and while more needs to be done, there is no question that we are moving in the right direction.

“The Commission’s order addresses the need for tenants to be protected from illegal eviction proceedings that are too often brought over unpaid utility bills. It also acknowledges that asking tenants to use energy more efficiently means requiring landlords to give tenants the tools that make this possible, such as installing thermostats in electrically-heated buildings.

“While I am pleased with the victories won today, more work needs to be done to ensure that tenants are treated fairly. Some of the requirements do not go far enough—for instance, I do not believe that submetering should ever be allowed in the minority of buildings left in New York City that use electic heat. At a minimum, I will continue to push for the metering of electric heating to be separated out from other electrical uses.

“Also, while this order relates to four specific buildings—creating tremendous precedent for future cases—the reality is that these basic tenant protections should be clearly written into law so that all New Yorkers share the same rights and are governed by the same rules".

The 9/18/09 Daily News reported on this decision by the PSC:
... When they received mock bills last year many were shocked to discover their monthly power bills could be up to $1,000....

"Our goal has always been to provide greater efficiency ... in order to reduce our environmental impact," said Douglas Eisenberg, Urban American's chief operating officer.

But Assemblyman Micah Kellner (D-Manhattan)"You can't ask someone to freeze to death because the heating system in the building is old and inefficient," said Kellner.

Under Thursday's ruling, Urban American could still sub-meter the complex if it installs thermostats in every unit, makes the complex more energy efficient and can prove tenants will not get unreasonably high bills.

"We need to ensure that low-income residents are not unduly harmed by electricity bills when buildings are submetered," PSC spokeswoman Anne Dalton said....

The full text of the PSC decision is here.

More information from earlier posts available here on Urban American's attempt to impose submetering electricity charges on Roosevelt Island's Eastwood/Roosevelt Landings residents.

UPDATE - 9/22/09 - The Main Street WIRE has more coverage on Eastwood/Roosevelt Landings electricity submetering issue here.

Roosevelt Island Dogs has statement by Eastwood/Roosevelt Landings tenant leader Joyce Mincheff.
Thanks for the credit but there are so many unsung heroes that they're just too numerous to mention!

There's all those folks who took action and placed the pink piglets in their windows, provided the board with data and helped keep the building informed by posting information and placing flyers under each apartment door on multiple occassions!...


Lilian Moreira said...

Hi there! It is Urban American, and the link in the website is not the company's address. :)

Anonymous said...

Unlike many years ago when Eastwood was builty, electricity is now a commodity that the consumer/landlord needs to purchase. As we saw in 2008, prices can climb (or drop) swiftly. Who bears this cost? If landlords try to lock in the purchase cost over a long period of time, this results in higher costs for the users. Only by charging the users variable prices each month can all parties keep up. And now the PSC has effectively told landlords that they have no means to collect this money from the tenants in court. Great. So now the landlord lowers the rent component of the monthly bill and has to eat the electric portion if the tenant doesn't pay? Sounds like a losing proposition to me.

Anonymous said...

Michah Kellner and all of his cronies do not care about our environment. They don't care about the skyrocketing asthma rates of our City's kids. Because if they did, they would know that buildings are the biggest users of energy - and therefore the biggest polluters - in this town. Anyone who pays their own electric bill, like most people, knows that when you have to pay for it, you use less of it. How are those bills in the warmer months, Mr. Kellner? Probably still pretty high because the tenants don't care. And they got you to support their right to continue to pollute our air. So much for GreenNYC. Maybe Bloomberg is the only guy who actually cares about our environment.