JULY 11, 2008
An influential Harlem congressman who regularly criticizes his district’s lack of affordable housing enjoys four rent-stabilized apartments in that area, violating House ethics rules as well as state and city regulations in the process.
Democrat Charles Rangel, chairman of the powerful House and Ways Committee, loves to rant about the huge reductions of rent-stabilized apartments and the callous evictions by real estate firms seeking to convert the units into more lucrative market-rate housing. One such Harlem building has suspiciously been spared from Rangel’s wrath, however.
That’s because it’s owned by one of Rangel’s campaign donors, who happens to be one of New York’s premier real estate developers. The congressman gets quite a bargain from his pal at $3,894 a month (the current marked value is closer to $9,000) for the four luxury apartments in the upscale development, including three adjacent units on the 16th floor overlooking Upper Manhattan. The building itself has been described in real estate publication’s as Harlem’s most prestigious address.
Rangel uses one of the apartments as a campaign office, in violation of state and city regulations that specifically require rent-stabilized apartments to be used as a primary residence. He also violates the House of Representatives’ ban on members accepting gifts of more than $100.
Congressional ethics experts say that the difference between what Rangel pays for the second, third and fourth apartments and what a market-rate tenant would pay amounts to about $30,000 a year. It is clearly considered a banned gift because it is not available to the general public and certainly not your typical Harlem resident.
It’s not like Rangel needs the rent break, which would undoubtedly be immediately be scooped up by one of his constituents. His government salary is nearly $170,000 and he owns properties throughout the country as well as the Dominican Republic. No wonder his only comment to the newspaper that broke this shameful story was: “Why should I help you embarrass me?” before abruptly hanging up.
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