Vol. 19,  No.  4 Feb. 23 - Mar. 8, 2006


Dinowitz Says Pinnacle Harasses His Constituents


Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz is speaking out against the controversial practices of the Pinnacle Group after he discovered the management company aggressively went after two vulnerable tenants in his district.

“The stories are just horrible,” said Dinowitz about the incidents, which involve Riverdale and Norwood residents and properties. “They’re trying to enrich themselves off of the misery of other people.”

In the first case, Pinnacle served a 90-year-old man with court papers for back rent due on his Henry Hudson Parkway apartment, according to Terry Colon, a staffer working on the cases. Colon found that the man had actually overpaid Pinnacle by more than $1,000. The company failed to acknowledge that they received funds from the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption program, which subsidizes the rents of low-income seniors living in regulated apartments.

“He was double dipping,” said Dinowitz, referring to Joel Wiener, who heads Pinnacle.

Colon is also trying to assist a tenant at 215 E. Gun Hill Road who was hit by a quick succession of rent increases last year. The hikes were retroactive charges allowed under the stabilization program, but they aren’t usually done all at once, according to Colon. The resident has accrued $4,000 in rent arrears. She is also disabled. “She has to go to court in a wheelchair,” Colon said.

The irregularities seem to be endemic to Pinnacle buildings. The company has quickly acquired a slew of properties in low-income city neighborhoods. The Norwood News has documented in several previous stories that tenants have been slapped with scores of lawsuits for back rent or trivial residency disputes. Residents in both Manhattan and the Bronx have charged that they are the victims of threatening letters, eviction threats and unnecessary court appearances.

“They are particularly harassing the elderly,” said Earline Nelson-Cody, a Harlem tenant, during a meeting of Pinnacle tenants last month.

The company has twice been caught by the state for intentionally overcharging Bronx tenants. Pinnacle issued credits to residents in buildings on Olinville Avenue, calling it a “clerical error.” That justification was also used in the Riverdale tenant’s case.

“It became clear to the landlord that it was becoming a public problem for him,” Dinowitz said.

Colon lives in Kingsbridge Gardens, a former Mitchell Lama building bought by Pinnacle in 2002. She, too, was overcharged by the company after they made a number of building-wide improvements in the complex. Colon says she was supposed to be charged roughly $50 for the repairs, but received a bill for $100.

“Their goal is to get as high an increase as possible,” she said.

The Marino Organization, a public relations firm hired by Pinnacle, did not return calls for comment on the cases.

Dinowitz says his office will continue to monitor Pinnacle and assist residents. He is considering conducting a mass mailing about the company’s practices to Pinnacle buildings in the district.

“We’re going to go after him and enforce the law,” he said.

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