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Not first time: NYC landlord sued again by tenants for overcharging

Larry Gluck knows his way around a courtroom.

Gluck's Stellar Management, a well-heeled property management and real estate development company, has a decade-long history of appearing in New York State Supreme Court to defend against allegations that his enterprise has engaged in unlawful tactics aimed at deregulating rent-stabilized units and jacking up prices.

Court cases involving Stellar Management have centrally involved claims that the company is exploiting the so-called "J-51" exemption and abatement program.

Landlords participating in that program receive coveted tax breaks. As a condition for obtaining that benefit, they agree to retain rent-stabilized apartments in multifamily buildings in that status and to accurately register J-51 units with the agency that administers the initiative, namely the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR).

A lawsuit recently filed on behalf of scores of tenants residing in multiple Stellar-owned buildings across the city alleges that Gluck's firm is blatantly violating J-51 mandates.

The tenants' claim cites wrongdoing on several fronts. It contends that Stellar is abusing the government program (and, thus, both residents and taxpayers) by illegally hiking rents while pocketing subsidy monies. The complaint also alleges that Stellar has not been registering apartments as required with the DHCR and that the company has sometimes fraudulently misstated improvement costs for units, claiming amounts expended that exceed a threshold requirement for taking a dwelling out of stabilized status and charging a higher monthly rent.

As noted in a publication reporting the details of the Stellar litigation, J-51 cases "have been coming to the courts in increasing frequency" in recent years following a seminal 2009 unlawful deregulation case in which tenants won nearly $69 million.