|Members of the tenant rights group CASA at last week's Bronx rent reform rally. (Photo by J. Evelly)|
Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's tentative budget deal with lawmakers, announced yesterday, conspicuously leaves out any provisions relating to the state's rent laws--to the disappointment of local legislators and advocates who have been pushing the governor on the issue.
Housing advocates saw a budget provision by the governor as the best chance of getting stronger, pro-tenant legislation passed this year through a Republican-controlled State Senate. Apartments that are currently rent-regulated will be subject to huge rent hikes if the laws are not renewed, supporters say.
"Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers living in their apartments are in jeopardy because the laws that currently protect them as tenants are up for renewal and are not being seriously considered by some people," Bronx Senator Gustavo Rivera said at the rally last week.
Cuomo said recently that he was open to including rent regulation in his budget negotiations, but this week said it would be "too complicated," according to the New York Times.
"It is simply wrong for Governor Cuomo to wave the white flag on this critical issue and to give the first major concession of his tenure to the Senate Republicans and their deep-pocketed allies in the real estate industry," Michael McKee, a tenant advocate with the Real Rent Reform Campaign, said in a statement today.
At last week's rally, Bronx residents from across the borough shared horror stories of skyrocketing rents forcing them from their homes, or pressure from landlords who they say want them out.
Ahleezah Sims, a school teacher, said the owners of her Grand Concourse apartment let conditions there deteriorate to unlivable conditions--a tactic to get the rent-regulated tenants to move so they could hike up rent prices for new tenants.
"They saw our rent stabilized apartments as opportunities, and they saw us, blacks and Latinos, as tiny little pawns," Sims said.
Housing advocates and most Democratic elected officials have long been pushing for the repeal of vacancy decontrol--the rule that lets landlords raise rents at regulated apartments once the tenant there vacates--or to at least raise the minimum rent at which those apartments can be deregulated, which is currently $2,000 a month.
"Over time, $2,000 just ain't what it used to be," Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said. "It's affecting every area of the city."
Supporters of rent regulation say about 300,000 New York apartments have been taken out of rent stabilization because of vacancy decontrol.
At last week's rally, several speakers made reference to Jimmy McMillan--the colorful, glove-wearing candidate who ran against Cuomo this fall as a member of The Rent Is Too Damn High Party.
"Maybe we should have voted for that guy," joked Assemblyman Nelson Castro.
"It's not really funny, because the rent is too damn high," Vanessa Pastrana, of the Kingsbridge Heights Neighborhood Improvement Association, said later. "It's about time Albany listened to our voices."
The Real Rent Reform Campaign, a coalition of housing advocacy groups that have been organizing the push for rent regulation, are planning to rally in Albany this Wednesday.