A press conference was held on Wednesday at The Dunbar where thefive West Harlem tenants, Manhattan Borough president Scott M.Stringer, several members of the City Council and the group Buyersand Renters United to Save Harlem (Brush) spoke of the importanceof a recent decision by US District Court Judge Colleen McMahon ingranting class action status to the case originally filed in 2007against Pinnacle and its CEO Joel Weiner. The tenants charge thePinnacle Group fraudulently inflated rents, failed to make neededrepairs and groundlessly harassed tenants out of rent-regulatedapartments throughout New York City.

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Ken Fisher, an attorney representing Pinnacle in the case, saysthat it has filed for leave to appeal the class action statusruling rendered by Judge McMahon on April 27 with the US Court ofAppeals.

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Supporters of the tenants in their case against Pinnacle termthe class action ruling as "one of the most far-reaching courtdecisions in New York City's history that could potentially benefitthousands of tenants in rent-regulated apartments across the city."The decision certifies that the class consists of all persons whoare rent regulated tenants in Pinnacle properties as of April 27,2010 and a liability class for rent regulated tenants who lived inPinnacle properties between July 11, 2004 and April 27, 2010.

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Pinnacle's Fisher, a member of the law firm Cozen, O'Connor,says, "three years into the litigation it is the same group of fivetenants that are plaintiffs, which speaks for itself. Pinnacle isproud of its record of providing safe and affordable housing tothousands of New York families and is confident that at theconclusion of the case the allegations will be found to bebaseless." He adds that four other tenants who had originally beenpart of the case have since settled and that no other Pinnacletenants have come forward to join the lawsuit.

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Representatives of the tenants state that Pinnacle and Weinerare linked to more than 420 apartment buildings that contain morethan 21,000 apartment units and approximately 60,000 tenantsthroughout the five boroughs.

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"This lawsuit is a huge victory for all working people in NewYork City and retired and elderly tenants, too," states AndresMares-Muro, one of the five tenants that filed the lawsuit againstPinnacle. "At a time when we are all living on less and less andterrified of losing our jobs, this...suit is the first step inprotecting us from losing our homes. It sends a [resilient] messageto flippers and speculators..."

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Stringer adds, "This lawsuit constitutes an unprecedented fightagainst [these] corporate landlords and a powerful show ofresistance for middle- and low-income residents throughout the citywho believe that illegal tactics are being used to drive themout."

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Fisher said, in response to some politicians' comments, "It isdisappointing that grandstanding politicians chose to involvethemselves in this, rather than trying to come up with realsolutions to New Yorkers' housing needs."

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In December 2006, Pinnacle Group, LLC, while admitting nowrongdoing, reached an agreement with then New York State attorneygeneral Eliot Spitzer in regards to alleged overcharges in some ofits rent stabilized apartments that had recently become vacant andrequired repair. Fisher says that the overcharges centered on about300 of the 9,000 vacant apartments in its portfolio and thatPinnacle sent refunds to the affected tenants who later tookoccupancy of the renovated apartments totaling about $900,000 andabout $100,000 in interest.

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A meeting described as "a class action classroom" has beenscheduled on May 23 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Oberia DempseyCenter on 127 West 127th St., by Stringer, the plaintiffs and Brushto provide Pinnacle rent regulated tenants with informationconcerning the litigation and provide the opportunity for tenantsto submit evidence in the case.

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John Jordan

John Jordan is a veteran journalist with 36 years of print and digital media experience.