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Know Your Rights
Source: West Bronx Blog
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Rally Calls for End to Vacancy Decontrol

More than
500 NYC residents gathered together on Tuesday, December 9th at the New York
Society for Ethical Culture to demand an end to vacancy decontrol, a practice
by which landlords can take a vacant apartment out of rent regulation when the
rent reaches $2,000. This rent control deregulation offers landlords incentives
to raise rents to reach this threshold by whatever means necessary, including
unsubstantiated improvements to common areas (major capital improvements),
apartment renovations, and tenant harassment. Coalition members believe that
they can get this law passed in Albany
with a democratic-controlled state Senate, although that reality has been
thrown into doubt by the unraveling of Malcolm Smith’s deal with the Three


A high
school band kept energy levels high with pep songs at the start of the rally,
and tenants led the room in chants like “La renta sube, sube/el pueblo sufre
sufre” (The rent gets higher, higher/the people suffer suffer). Organized by
Housing Here and Now, a coalition of non profit affordable housing providers,
tenant groups, and community organizers, the rally called for the New York
State Assembly and Senate to pass legislation to end this loophole.


Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC) was one of eight
organizations that planned the spirited gathering, along with ACORN, Community
Voices Heard,
Make the Road NY, NYS Tenants & Neighbors
Coalition, New York Immigration Coalition, NYC AIDS Housing Network, and the
Working Families Party. Tenants involved with each of these organizations
shared personal stories and reflections on the impact of vacancy decontrol on
their struggle to maintain apartments in neighborhoods throughout New York City.


New York
State Senators and Assembly members (or their representatives) in attendance
signed a statement pledging to address repeal of vacancy decontrol with their
chamber’s Speaker, Housing Chair, and the Governor by January 10, 2009. State
senators in attendance were José M. Serrano, who represents parts of the South
Bronx and East Harlem, Tom Duane, Andrea
Stewart-Cousins, and representatives from Senators Liz Krueger, Diane Savino,
Joseph Addabbo, and Daniel Squadron. There were also representatives from
Assembly members Karim Camara, Hakeem Jeffires, Linda Rosenthal, and Deborah


Sitting in
one of several NWBCCC sections underneath the balcony, it was difficult to
assess the full size of the audience in the 812 seat venue but the main level
was filled to capacity. We received a visit from Senator Jose Serrano who came
to see his “Bronx people,” thanking us for
coming and encouraging the work of New Settlement Apartment’s CASA Housing
Organizing Initiative. Folks can get involved in future efforts to end vacancy
decontrol by visiting the Housing Here and Now website or their blog.