[Hpn] Show Me the Money: Landlord Rep Tried to Keep Public Info Private;Village Voice
Morgan W. Brown
Sun, 17 Jun 2001 17:38:20 -0400
Note: Recipient list undisclosed
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
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
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
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
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.
**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this
material is distributed without charge or profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving
this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**
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Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA
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