Thursday, July 10, 2008

'Why Should I Help You Embarrass Me?'

Must be great to be a liberal Democrat and enjoy such privileges while your constituents struggle to pay the rent and face eviction.

How heartless.

What I can't figure out is how on earth the New York Times summoned up the nerve to expose Charlie Rangel for the fraud that he is.
While aggressive evictions are making rent-stabilized apartments increasingly scarce in New York, Representative Charles B. Rangel is enjoying four of them, including three adjacent apartments in a sprawling penthouse overlooking Upper Manhattan, courtesy of one of New York’s premier real estate developers.

Mr. Rangel, the powerful Democrat who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, uses his fourth apartment, six floors below, as a campaign office, despite state and city regulations that require rent-stabilized apartments to be used as a primary residence.

Mr. Rangel, who has a net worth of $566,000 to $1.2 million, according to Congressional disclosure records, paid a total rent of $3,894 monthly in 2007 for the four apartments at Lenox Terrace, a 1,700-unit, six-tower luxury development with doormen that is described in real estate publications as Harlem’s most prestigious address.

The current market-rate rent for similar apartments in the building would total $7,465 to $8,125 a month, according to the Web site of the owner, the Olnick Organization.

The Olnick Organization and other real estate firms have been accused of overzealous tactics as they move to evict tenants from their rent-stabilized apartments and convert them into market-rate housing.

Tensions are especially inflamed in Harlem, where the rising cost of living and the arrival of more moneyed residents have triggered anxiety over the future of the historically black neighborhood. And Vantage Properties, a company established by Olnick’s former chief operating officer, has attracted billions in private equity financing by promising investors that it can aggressively convert tens of thousands of rent-stabilized apartments, many in Harlem.

Yet Mr. Rangel, a boisterous critic of other landlords’ callousness, has been uncharacteristically reticent about Olnick’s actions.

State officials and city housing experts interviewed by The New York Times said that, while the law does not prohibit tenants from having more than one rent-stabilized apartment, they knew of no one else with four of them. Others suggested that the arrangement undermines the purpose of rent regulation.

“There are families who manage to get two, when one tenant marries another, things like that,” said Dov Treiman, a lawyer who publishes The Housing Court Reporter, a legal trade publication. “But I’ve never heard of any tenant managing to get four.”

Mr. Rangel’s use of the fourth apartment as an office, in addition to his 2,500-square-foot penthouse, was especially troubling to some advocates, given the city’s chronic shortage of housing for low- and moderate-income residents.

“Whether it’s an elected official or not, no one should have four apartments, especially when one is being used as an office,” said Michael McKee, treasurer of the Tenants Political Action Committee, who was not aware of the particulars of Mr. Rangel’s situation when he was interviewed.

Mr. Rangel, who was first elected to Congress in 1970 and is one of the city’s most recognizable elected officials, has written and spoken extensively about his devotion to his home in Harlem, but does not appear to have ever publicly acknowledged that he has been permitted to lease four rent-stabilized apartments there. According to a public records database and interviews with neighbors, he has lived in the building since the early 1970s, but it is not clear when he amassed the four units.

Mr. Rangel, 78, declined to answer questions during a telephone interview, saying that his housing was a private matter that did not affect his representation of his constituents.

“Why should I help you embarrass me?” he said, before abruptly hanging up.

Mr. Rangel is not the only prominent resident with a rent-stabilized apartment at Lenox Terrace. Gov. David A. Paterson told The New York Sun in May that he pays $1,250 for a rent-stabilized two-bedroom apartment in the complex that rents for $2,600 or more at market rates. Basil A. Paterson, the governor’s father, pays $868 per month for his apartment there, in the same building as Mr. Rangel’s apartments, according to state records.
Clearly, we must have an investigation into Mr. Rangel, if only because of the appearance of impropriety, the usual standard for Democrats.
Some Congressional ethics experts, while saying it appears legitimate for Mr. Rangel to have one rent-stabilized apartment, question whether his acceptance of the additional units may violate the House of Representatives’ ban on members’ accepting gifts of more than $100. They suggest that the difference between what Mr. Rangel pays for the second, third and fourth apartments and what a new market-rate tenant would pay — some $30,000 annually — could be considered a gift because it is given at the discretion of the landlord and it is not generally available to the public.
It would be a noble gesture of the hypocrite to give up three of his posh pads so some needy families could find shelter.

Nah. It'll never happen, because he doesn't give a rat's ass about anyone but himself.

Instapundit links. Thanks!

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