You need to contact a family law attorney as soon as possible. The court ultimately decides what is in the best interests of the minor children and it looks like you need to be proactive at this point.
I agree with the prior attorney; you can not do this on your own and need to retain an experienced family lawyer in the county where your sister resided. You need this attorney to advance your position in a legally compelling way. This can only be done by an experienced attorney who deals with these matters on a daily basis. Ask around, talk to people to get a recommendation of such a lawyer. This will give you peace of mind and will fully protect these children in the way you want.
am not a NY real estate attorney and since this is really a real estate question you should probably repost it here under real estate. But my guess would be if the lease was with both your mom and dad, your mom would still be able to take advantage of the rent stabilization rules. Repost and if you do not get a NY real estate attorney to answer, then call around to find one who can help you and any costs would be minor.
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I agree that you need to retain a lawyer to handle this - even if you can get the eldest child to agree. If you sister left a Will she may have nominated someone to become guardian of her minor children in the event of her death. If so, that would give you an advantage but you will need to file a Petition for Guardianship in any event. You may also consider filing a Third Party Custody Action.