By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
When a Brooklyn Rail reporter asked Suarez how she felt, she said: "Of course I'm angry. It's too much. Stuff like this is why people flip out and kill each other."
Online reports of the block party, however, resulted in considerable support for Bailey and Loughrey. Commenters at Brownstoner.com characterized Suarez and other rent-stabilized tenants as self-righteous beneficiaries of anachronistic rent laws. "I never had the luxury of rent stabilization when I rented. . . . Why do these folks get something that others don't?" wrote one. "To the renters: Buy your own damn house, and you have nothing to worry about next time," another commented. Others said the property owners were being unfairly vilified, and several more said they planned to vote against Councilwoman James for speaking out against the landlords. (The battle even expanded to Wikipedia, where an entry for Cheuk briefly featured a reference to the controversy before it was taken down.)
In May, Meltzer attempted to videotape a deposition of Bailey and Loughrey, but the two refused to answer questions on-camera; their attorney filed a motion to block the videotaped deposition, calling it "psychological warfare," and referred to Suarez's comment in the Brooklyn Rail as "public threats of bodily harm" and the Wikipedia material as vandalism meant to intimidate Cheuk. Goldman tells the Voice that his clients were afraid a videotaped deposition would end up on YouTube.
In response, Meltzer labeled Bailey and Loughrey's claim of feeling physically intimidated ridiculous and claimed that they must live in a "paranoid, delusional world."
A Housing Court judge sided with Bailey and Loughrey last month, telling Meltzer to put the video camera away. Goldman was happy with that decision, and says he hopes the Suarez case will be heard by the court before the end of the year.
Meanwhile, the tenants in the Economakis building on the Lower East Side have challenged the owner-occupancy provision, arguing that it was never meant to empower landlords to convert entire buildings into single-family mansions. But in June, an Appeals Court decision came down in favor of the landlord, declaring that restrictions on the number of units an owner can "recover" is an issue for the state legislature to address, not the courts.
Assemblymen Richard Gottfried and Vito Lopez have both sponsored bills that would restrict or abolish the ability of owners to take over rent-stabilized units for their personal use. Gottfried, who supports the complete abolition of the owner-occupancy provision, notes: "People who have the financial resources to own apartment buildings will almost always have many more housing options available to them than long-term rent-regulated tenants." Those bills have little chance of becoming law, however, unless November brings a Democratic majority to the Republican-controlled state senate.
In the meantime, Miller believes the Economakis ruling could encourage more property owners to clear out affordable units in Brooklyn's trendy neighborhoods. "All the owner has to do is live there for three years, and then he or she has complied with their requirement. Then you have a mansion in Brooklyn Heights to sell, which is a lot more valuable than a rent-stabilized building," Miller says. "I can look out my window and see all these brownstones and small apartment buildings that could be converted. What landlord now wouldn't want to try to make a profit? It's terrible, because you are talking about the heart and soul of the working class of New York."
Meanwhile, Suarez and her family continue to share their uneasy co-existence with Bailey and Loughrey, who live just upstairs.