En Español Know Your Rights
Source: Indypendent
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Tenants Target Sen. Golden to Strengthen Rent Laws

The statewide campaign to end vacancy decontrol and strengthen the
rent laws is quickly coming to a head. Tenants groups targeted
Republican South Brooklyn State Senator Marty Golden on Friday by
holding a boisterous rally in front of his Fifth Avenue district office
in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. The rally featured two marching bands,
including the Rude Mechanical Orchestra and a group of musicians from
Make the Road New York. The assembled crowed pinned Golden and his
staff inside their office all morning and afternoon, as participants
reported seeing Golden entering the office earlier in the morning but
they were unable to coax him outside to address the crowd of 150
tenants.

“We need [Golden] to cosponsor [the bill], so far he hasn’t given us
any word,” Tom Murata a Bay Ridge resident since 1981 and a Tenants and
Neighbors member said. “If you price the middle-class out of Brooklyn
where are we all going to live? In the same basement apartment in
Queens?”

Westchester State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins is the lead sponsor
of the bill to repeal vacancy decontrol and thus far the bill has 24
cosponsors. If Golden were to sign onto the legislation he would join
Queens Republican Frank Padavan, the lone GOP senator backing the bill.

Vacancy decontrol is the mechanism that landlords can take rent
stabilized and controlled apartments out of regulation when there is a
vacancy and the rent surpasses $2,000 a month. Former Republican
Governor George Pataki, a Republican controlled State Senate and
compliant Democratic Assembly passed the deregulation in 1997 after
heavy landlord lobbying and campaign contributions. Since then Tenants
and Neighbors estimates that 100,000 affordable rent regulated
apartments became market rentals due to deregulation and condo/coop
conversions.

“Many of our clients live in rent regulated apartments but they are
not secure,” said Nina Valmonte, Associate Direct of Parish and
Community Outreach and Services at Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and
Queens. “Once families leave apartments they can no longer afford,
there are not many options.”

Valmonte is also a Bay Ridge resident. Catholic Charities assists
tenants with rent arrears grants and runs other social service programs.

“The most dreaded option is a shelter,” she said.

Tenant advocates contend vacancy decontrol has contributed to
increased landlord harassment because deregulation gives owners an
economic incentive to evict tenants. Once evicted, landlords get an
automatic 20 percent increase and then 1/40 of the cost of any
renovations. Indypendent contributor Steve Wishnia reported on 1/40
renovation fraud in the last edition of The Indypendent.

The City Council will vote to renew the rent laws and pass
resolutions to repeal vacancy decontrol and restore home rule to the
city tomorrow at 1pm. State government has had power over the rent laws
since 1971, a source of contention for council members, tenants and
better government advocates as real estate interests fill upstate
campaign confers to weaken the rent laws. These upstate rural and
suburban politicians have little if any rent regulated tenants.

“Bay Ridge is a place where my daughter can get a decent education
and I can afford the rent,” said Antonia Pizzichemi, a single-mother
and Bay Ridge tenant. “Do we want a chic chic city?”

The crowd roared, “No!”