[Hpn] Show Me the Money: Landlord Rep Tried to Keep Public Info Private;Village Voice

Morgan W. Brown morganbrown@hotmail.com
Sun, 17 Jun 2001 17:38:20 -0400


Note: Recipient list undisclosed

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Week of June 13 - 19, 2001
Village Voice <http://www.villagevoice.com>
[New York City, New York]
City & State section

Towers & Tenements
by J.A. Lobbia

Landlord Rep Tried to Keep Public Info Private
Show Me the Money
<http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0124/lobbia.shtml>


Vince Castellano, who represents landlords on the
Rent Guidelines Board, often talks about what he
considers the city's two real estate markets: "core"
Manhattan below 96th Street, where stratospheric rents
and profits rule, and the rest of New York, where, in
Castellano's view, landlords struggle while collecting
rents that are considerably more earthbound.

The 49-year-old landlord apparently thinks there are also
two worlds when it comes to financial disclosure. At a
public hearing last week, Castellano badgered a group of
tenant advocates about their money—did they have
savings accounts? Retirement plans? Where was their
money invested?—then suggested that if landlording is
as lucrative as they claimed, they should get into the
business themselves. At the same time, he has tried to
keep private his own financial reports despite city laws
that require RGB members to publicly disclose such
information every year.

This spring, Castellano took the highly unusual step of
seeking a waiver to keep his annual financial disclosure
reports to the city's Conflict of Interest Board off-limits to the press. 
Such reports are generally public except for information regarding the 
filer's family members. COIB financial disclosure director Jerry Rachnowitz 
said the board rejected Castellano's request, adding that waivers are rarely 
granted, typically reserved for cases in which disclosure would compromise a 
filer's personal security. Elected officials, high-ranking city workers, and 
paid commission or board members must file the reports.

In April, Castellano told the Voice that he felt entitled to a waiver 
because he advocates for landlords, not the
public, on the RGB, which each year sets rent-hike rates
for 1,020,588 rent-stabilized apartments. The board has
two members who represent landlords, two who represent tenants, and five who 
represent the public at large.

"I view the owner and tenant representatives in a different light," says 
Castellano, a real estate broker and owner of two buildings in Queens. 
Castellano had for years hosted a radio and cable television show, Real 
Estate Nightmares, dedicated to the plight of landlords. He is known for his 
provocative remarks about tenants. "I am not here representing the citizens 
of New York City. Disclosing that information is out of place. And besides, 
it's none of your damn business. . . . If you write anything about my 
private affairs," Castellano told the Voice, "I will not talk to you ever 
again."

Castellano's most recent available disclosure form, covering 1999, shows 
that he owns two buildings in Rockaway Beach, one of which has three 
commercial units, and is valued in the disclosure form's $100,000 to 
under-$250,000 range. Castellano's second building has seven units including 
rental apartments, too few to fall under rent regulation (RGB members are 
not allowed to own buildings covered by the rent laws). Castellano reported 
that the building is worth more than $500,000.

Castellano also reported having invested between $60,000 and $99,999 in a 
Queens liquor store, which he has since transferred to a family member. His 
most recent report, reflecting the year 2000, will not be available until 
late June.

Castellano's disclosure forms show that he runs a real estate brokerage 
valued at between $20,000 and under $60,000 and described it as "primarily 
limited to
apartment rentals to residential tenants whose rent is paid by government" 
subsidies—ironic considering that Castellano routinely rails against rent 
regulation as government interference with the market but is apparently 
willing to accept taxpayers' dollars as rent.

He is an ardent advocate of the so-called "poor tax," which sticks an 
additional monthly hike onto low-rent apartments, most recently those 
renting for $500 or less.
Castellano's tirade last week came after five tenant advocates called for a 
moratorium on this and any other rent hikes, arguing that landlords are 
doing very well while rent-stabilized tenants are not. Patrick Markee of the 
Coalition for the Homeless testified that the city's robust economy and the 
accompanying brutal rental market
have contributed to a burgeoning shelter population, which last month 
approached an average of 27,000 people a night. If the RGB were to adopt the 
preliminary hikes it approved last month (3 percent for a one-year lease and 
5 percent for a two-year lease), Markee calculates it would mean a minimum 
transfer of $275 million from the pockets of tenants to landlords. This 
year's proposed poor tax of $15 a month amounts to an additional $37 
million, much of it coming from the city's poorest tenants.

But what sent Castellano into a rage was the tenant advocates' claim that 
landlords' net operating income (money left over after paying operating 
costs not including mortgages and taxes) is about 45 cents on the dollar. "I 
want to know why these people are not investing in real estate," Castellano 
taunted, insisting the numbers were off. "If they say that you get 45 cents 
on the dollar in real estate, why don't they just put their money there?"

The RGB will hold a public hearing on the proposed rent hikes on June 13 
from 10 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. at the Langston Hughes Auditorium, 515 Malcolm X 
Boulevard, at 135th Street. Its final vote is scheduled for June 20.

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-------End of forward-------

Morgan <morganbrown@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA

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