David Stone
Behind the locked doors: Manhattan Park Electric Breaker Panel
Behind the locked doors: Manhattan Park Electric Breaker Panel

"Hi. I just read an article of yours regarding electricity charging at Manhattan Park, could you give me a call?" The elephant stepped back into the room. What's it about? "The electricity bill thing. While we were gone 2-3 months our bill was 300 up and we were not there and all was turned off."

We thought it was best to let the elephant stay. The elephant brought friends.

Since last year when we wrote RIOC Caves, Aligns with Manhattan Park, Dumps Tenants in Sub Metering Dispute, we'd pulled back from a painful, months long exercise in frustration.

We proved, beyond a doubt, that Manhattan Park, owned by Grenadier Realty, violated key requirements designed to protect tenants in their ground lease, and RIOC, recent noise about ethics notwithstanding, proved that political connections with real estate companies carried a lot more weight than resident concerns.

We could either return to a relatively peaceful life or get involved in a years long battle to help recover the losses Manhattan Park tenants suffered over the years. And because RIOC could not be counted on for any kind of help with violations of the their own lease, we'd have to fight them too.

The most any elected officials would do is write letters and try to push responsibility off on the the Public Services Commission. Obviously, they didn't think they could do anything with RIOC and their friends in real estate either.

Life's short.

We decided to take the peaceful life route, much to the disappointment of some friends who'd been burned and hoped we'd lead the charge.

What Changed Our Minds

In short, other tenants' frustrations in trying to deal with Manhattan Park Management forced us to take responsibility.

"I saw your recent article about Manhattan Park billing system," one wrote, "and I do believe there is something shady going on. Sometimes I wouldn't be at home for a few weeks straight, but at the end of the month the bill would be still much higher, about $300 (I've got 2 bed, 2 bath), instead of regular $100. Also, the bills would sometimes vary significantly, which I've never observed in any other places I lived in, excluding different usage of AC and heat."

Another reported, "I've been following this story with interest ... especially since a few years ago, I got socked with a $600 electricity bill for the month of March -- for a small (660 square feet) one-bedroom apartment. (For about three years straight, my tax refund would go directly to the electric bill.)"

And: "Several years ago, I think when MP began with Quadlogic or they installed new meters, my bill increased astronomically (some 300%) so I contacted Brian Weisberg via email, who was of no help (I can't recall exactly what he did or said, but it was essentially what you have reported in your articles)."

Why Is This So Wrong?

Let's get the technical points out of the way. Here is Manhattan Park's (Grenadier Realty's) legal obligation according to the ground lease signed with RIOC in 1989 and essentially unchanged since:

Section 23.07. Charges for Electricity. In the event that Tenant seeks to charge Subtenants for electricity Tenant shall

(a) Prior to billing any Subtenants therefor, have established a grievance procedure that is either
(i) approved and administered by the New York State Public Services Commission, or
(ii) approved by Landlord and if there is a failure to approve Tenant may seek arbitration in accordance with Article 35.

(b) Not make any profit from such charges.

(c) Charge Subtenants of Market Rate Rental Units or any Subtenants of non-residential space for actual usage determined by submetering and actual billing charges received by Tenant, plus an allocated portion of Tenant's administrative charge for meter reading and billing permitted by the New York State Public Services Commission, and for no other charges.

In clear English, Manhattan Park can charge tenants only for the electricity they use, cannot profit, and must have established a grievance procedure. A grievance procedure was actually agreed to by Manhattan Park and approved by RIOC, the landlord in this case.

The trouble is, it was never established. Only RIOC and Manhattan Park ever knew about it.

Here's why.

Way back in 1989, Grenadier agreed to a grievance procedure for Manhattan Park that promised...

"If a tenant's complaint is predicated on the charges of a rendered bill, then management will provide the tenant with a detailed explanation and relevant calculation showing how the bill was arrived at."

It continues: "Should a tenant not be satisfied with decisions reached after the preceding steps have been taken to achieve an equitable resolution of the problem, the matter will be referred to a disinterested third party knowledgeable in submetering."

Grenadier/Manhattan Park never lived up to that binding legal agreement, leaving tenants helpless, and what makes matters worse, RIOC got out its spine removal kit as soon as this became obvious.

In fact, Grenadier/Manhattan Park could not provide a single example of a tenant who was aware of the grievance procedure, let alone used it. They could not even come up with the identity of a single third party who'd been brought in to settle a single dispute.

RIOC? After a private visit form Manhattan Park, they crumbled like graham crackers on a baby's table top.

What We've Done So Far

The last time we asked President/CEO Susan Rosenthal to reopen discussions, she dismissed our concerns as "conspiracy theories," an odd term since her own legal staff had been caught buttressing their position with obvious untruths, to use the nicer word.

She didn't identify the specific conspiracy theory to which she referred.

That made the score on untruths: RIOC 4 Us 0. 

But with all the new evidence, we decided to send her another letter, citing the new evidence and how it fit into a pattern of Grenadier/Manhattan Park evading terms of the ground lease.

Which we did. In detail.

For good measure, we copied State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, State Senator José Serrano Jr. and City Council Member Ben Kallos, all those who promised to come to our aid should we have problems. That, of course, was during election campaigns, but still...

We also copied RIOC legal counsel Jaci Flug and all the resident Members of RIOC's Board, knowing how committed they are to making sure residents are treated both fairly and legally by their corporation. I'm kidding.

Rosenthal, et al, have not had the time or temperature to respond or acknowledge even receiving our letter.

We got the message and are preparing to take the next step..