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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pro-tenant Housing Bills Continue to Languish

It’s an annual tradition in Albany as old as the budget being late. First, the Assembly passes a raft of housing bills aimed at strengthening New York’s rent laws and protecting tenant rights. Then the Senate ignores them and the bills die before ever getting out of the chamber’s housing committee.

In years past, the overwhelmingly Democratic Assembly could blame Republicans who made secret about their distaste for these laws. But last year, for the first time in more than 40 years, Democrats took control of the state senate and its committees. Assembly members and housing advocates thought there would finally be some action on these housing bills, which they believed would go a long way toward keeping the city’s housing affordable.

But with Bronx Senator Pedro Espada, Jr. in charge of the housing committee and receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in support from pro-landlord lobbyists, it hasn’t worked out exactly how they planned.

Last year Espada flip-flopped numerous times on his support for several housing bills passed by the Assembly and championed by affordable housing and tenant advocates. In the end, he didn’t address any of them.

This year, Espada has pushed an alternative bill he says will preserve hundreds of thousands of affordable housing units, but that advocates say is completely unrealistic and basically a gift to the city’s wealthiest landlords. Vito Lopez, the head of the Assembly’s housing committee, told the Village Voice that the bill was “not something I find acceptable.”

Meanwhile, the other pro-tenant bills, many of them simple rule changes -- like repealing vacancy decontrol of apartments renting for more than $2,000 a month; reducing the amount a landlord can hike up rents of vacant apartments; or limiting a landlord’s ability to recover a rent-regulated apartment for personal use -- continue to languish.

“Tenants need strong laws in place that protect their rights and ensure they have affordable, safe places to live,” said Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz in a statement announcing his chamber’s passage of the housing bills. “Without rent regulation -- which prevents rapidly rising housing costs -- working families would not be able to afford living in New York City.”

You can tell Dinowitz is getting a little exasperated.

“Last year, the senate did not pass any of these pro-tenant bills even with a Democratic majority for the first time in 40 years,” he said in the release. “I hope the senate finally acts this year and does the right thing for the people of New York.”


  1. I'm glad Mr. Dinowitz is sending out a press release. I'll believe he is really concerned, however, when he and the rest of the Bronx county leadership shuns Mr. Espada and gets behind one his opponents in the September primary. Also the Bronx County Democrats need to decide if supporting tenants is more important than retaining the services of Mr. Sidney Schlein -- lobbyist for the landlords, lawyer for Espada and apparently still counsel to the Bronx Democrats. As long as Schlein is still working for Dinowitz and Heastie -- tenants will have a hard time believing they really want change.

  2. Sorry -- Stanley Schlein is the landlord lobbyist and lawyer for Mr. Dinowitz and Heastie and the Bronx machine. Typo. My apologies if there are any Sidney Schleins out there.

  3. Your claim about Espada "getting hundreds of thousands of dollars from Landlords" is patently false!
    His campaign report shows Espada recieved less than $47,000 ($46G to be exact)and has a lot less from that group than Jeff Klein, Vito Lopez whom you extol as some kind of advocate.
    Lopez has over $175G) from Landlords and the Bronx News says nothing.
    Please get your facts straight before you discredit Espada with impunity as is your custom!

  4. You can not be a non profit newspaper chain that takes public money and appropriations from elected officials, and then publicly support certain political campaigns. You need to be fair and objective to all candidates and office holders, even those that you don't like. A lot of what you allow here is defamatory, and libelous to say nothing of your mis representations of facts! None of your reporters writes anything original because they are too busy copying what the Daily News publishes and using their cell phones to text each other. That's not journalism!

  5. It's true that other elected officials receive money from real estate lobbyists. But you're numbers are not accurate, "anonymous." And nothing we've written here is even close to libelous.

    Espada has received well over $100,000 in contributions from real estate lobbyists, none of them pro-tenant organizations, according to the Espada's own filings with the state board of elections. (Not sure where the $46G comes from). The Village Voice reported that he's received more than $300,000 from landlord lobbyists. Espada won't say what the real number is. The Real Estate Board PAC gave him $10,000. The Affordable Housing PAC contributed another $8,100. The Neighborhood Preservation PAC, another $5,000. Those are the biggest landlord lobbyists in New York.

    Secondly, and in terms of full disclosure, the Norwood News (which I work for) is published by the Mosholu Preservation Corp., a nonprofit support organization of Montefiore Medical Center, that does receive some public money. However, none of that money goes into the newspaper. It's all earmarked for specific programs, like graffiti removal or parks improvements. Unfortunately, we don't get a dime of that.

    And we don't support candidates. We don't endorse candidates. We report on candidates and politicians. If charges are being filed against an elected official, we will report on that. If a well-regarded activist who's worked on numerous local issues gets into a political race, we'll report on that. If one of our state senators is in a position to move legislation supported by the assembly and pro-tenant and affordable housing advocates throughout the city and he's not doing it, we will report on that. The Bronx is a borough of renters/tenants. Our readers care about what's happening with this legislation.

    Obviously, there are those who think otherwise and everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I'd argue that our reporting is accurate. That's journalism.

  6. Not to mention nobody benefits from rent control but a few extraordinarily lucky individuals who happened to rent thirty years ago.

    Half the rental housing in NYC is rent regulated in one form or another. Get rid of rent regulation completely and so many apartments will flood the free market that rents will plummet.

    Of course this will never happen. Politicians are beholden to their constituents (free loading rent stabbers) and never do the right thing.

  7. Why does every Espada staffer trolling the internet have to rant about the Daily News, even when it has nothing to do with the topic at hand?



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