Dozens of tenant advocates were arrested outside of Governor Cuomo’s office in Albany this afternoon during a demonstration over New York State’s controversial rent laws, which are set to expire in eight days.
Urban Homesteading Assistance Board organizer Kerri White is currently on the scene, and estimates that a small handful of arrests took place in the first ten to fifteen minutes of this afternoon’s action, soon after 1 p.m.
About 200 tenant advocates, led by NYC councilmembers Jumaane Williams, Laurie Cumbo, and Corey Johnson, traveled to the State Capitol this morning for a press conference about rent regulation laws. The conference took place in the War Room, which, according to White, connects to the Governor’s office via a stairwell. When the scheduled conference ended, protestors flooded the stairwell and gathered outside of Cuomo’s office.
According to White, between 50 and 65 protestors are currently sitting on the floor in front of the Governor’s office, waiting to be arrested with zip ties. She says that Councilmembers Williams, Cumbo, and Johnson will be arrested last, because they are stationed closest to the Governor’s office door.
“They made an announcement to say that we were endangering the place, and proceeded to make arrests,” said Renata Pumarol, director of communications for New York Communities For Change.
The plan, White says, is to block the entrance to Cuomo’s office “until the rent regulations are strengthened, or until everyone has been arrested.”
In recent weeks, tenant advocacy groups have staged large-scale actions in support of stronger rent regulation laws and more affordable housing. In mid-May, thousands of protestors marched over the Brooklyn Bridge, with signs calling for an end to vacancy allowance, which allows landlords to increase the rent in rent-controlled apartments by a whopping 20% in certain situations, and vacancy decontrol, under which a rent stabilized apartment is no longer protected once the rent reaches $2,500.
Advocates would also like to see reforms to the Individual Apartment Improvement (IAI) and Major Capital Improvement (MCI) rent increases in regulated apartments. Currently, landlords have the right to permanently increase the rent when individual apartments, or entire apartment buildings, undergo renovations.
However, as the deadline approaches, the Post reports that Cuomo has spoken out in favor of extending the current laws with one adjustment: setting the vacancy control threshold at $2,700, rather than $2,500. “That would be a reasonable proposal,” he said on Monday. “You have more extreme proposals, but I think that would be a reasonable proposal.”
According to an official mayoral transcript, Cuomo discussed the issue as recently as this morning, at a property tax-cap event on Long Island. He told reporters, “We’re losing too many affordable housing units by the current rent regulation…. I believe that we can make modifications…. The most notable is the vacancy decontrol. I think we should raise that. I [also] think that MCIs could be reduced. I’m fighting not just to renew the rent laws, but to improve and expand them.”
According to Pumarol, Cuomo has been noticeably absent this afternoon. “We hope that he is [here],” the said. “Because if he is, he is definitely hearing us.”
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