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Good-faith charity or bad-faith landlord?

The answer to the above-posed headline query in today's blog post rings adamantly clear for a number of New York state and municipal politicians who are joined by various tenants' advocacy groups in opposing the recent actions of a tax-exempt organization that also operates as a city landlord.

The New York School of Urban Ministry "is talking out of both sides of its mouth," notes one state government official. On the one hand, she says, it touts its role as a charity. On the other hand, though (and simultaneously), its actions manifestly underscore its status as "a bad landlord trying to evade the law."

The source of what has invoked the wrath of many is a letter that the ministry sent to apartment residents of a Long Island City building late last year. The communication served as a notice to vacate their dwellings within a month.

The tenants' rejoinder: a lawsuit filed in mid-February that seeks to enjoin that action pending applicable agency determination regarding whether the property is subject to NYC's rent stabilization law. The filing contends that the ministry's apartments are subject to stabilization and that the ministry's executive vice president is unlawfully claiming an exemption that will enable his organization to expel tenants and raise rents.

One tenants' representative says that the ministry's attempt to force residents out of their units serves as a "brazen example of landlord harassment that is ... an epidemic in every borough."

Elected officials say that they have recently made efforts to engage in dialogue with the ministry, but to no avail. As a result of that failed communication, they are asking New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to formally look into the eviction matter.