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Know Your Rights
Source: Daily News
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Gonzalez: State Senate duo puts landlords ahead of renters with votes that led rent regulations to expire

Two state senators from Brooklyn betrayed our city and thousands of their constituents Monday night by providing the decisive votes for a Senate bill that led to the expiration of state rent regulations.

There should be wanted posters put up all over Brooklyn for Republican Martin Golden and Democrat Simcha Felder. The two provided the slim 32-30 margin in the Senate for what tenants’ advocates have labeled “dream legislation for landlords.”

That Senate bill not only seeks to maintain for the next eight years all existing loopholes in the rent laws that have allowed landlords to drive up rents and deregulate tens of thousands of apartments, it even proposes added restrictions on tenants.

“To extend a law that’s already unfair by eight years is bad enough,” Bronx Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz said. “But to make that law worse is outrageous.”

Senate leaders brought their bill to a vote only hours before the rent laws were set to expire, even though they knew Gov. Cuomo and the Democratic majority in the Assembly would never go along with it.

They did so after refusing a last-minute proposal from Assembly Democrats to simply extend the current law for two more days and give more time for negotiations.

As a result, some 2 million people living in 1 million rent stabilized apartments have had their rent regulation temporarily expire — most of them right here in the five boroughs.

That includes more than 78,000 apartments in a huge swath of south Brooklyn that Felder and Golden represent — in neighborhoods like Borough Park, Midwood, Kensington, Bay Ridge, Fort Hamilton and Marine Park.

Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have warned landlords not to take advantage of the Albany gridlock to raise rents or take advantage of their tenants.

But there’s no excuse for Felder and Golden to join lawmakers from upstate in holding tenants in this town hostage.

The Senate proposal, for example, would require the state to create a database where all residents of rent-regulated units would have to register and where their annual income would be reported and verified.

Are these people nuts?

The state’s housing agency can’t even enforce the existing rent laws, so the Senate wants it to institute this massive invasion of privacy and use it to verify the income of 2 million people?

“Tougher limitations” are meant “to prevent criminals and dishonest people from taking advantage of a system that is supposed to help the people who need it the most,” Felder’s spokesman Shlomo Himmel said in defense of his boss’ vote.

As for Golden, he didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The governor, however, isn’t helping matters by seeking to link a final deal on rent regulations to his plan for tax credits for private schools.

“It’s like tying together apples and broccoli,” Dinowitz said. “You can’t do it.”

Which is why hundreds of tenants were protesting outside Cuomo’s Manhattan office again on Tuesday.

One of those was Vaughn Armour of Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

“I look to the left, right and behind me, and I see three new luxury buildings going up near my apartment,” Vaughn said. “It’s getting so people can’t afford to live here anymore.”

At least Cuomo has started to hear the message. Maybe the advocates should start reminding Golden and Felder about all the tenants in their own districts.

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