To The Editor:
Re. Joseph Strasburg’s May 14 op-ed piece: “Mayor de Blasio’s war on renters.” As a rent-regulated tenant for the past 47 years, I dispute Mr. Strasburg’s remarks reflecting his position as president of the Rent Stabilization Assn., a powerful landlords’ lobbying group. He defends vacancy de-control by saying “we need to protect tenants, not apartments.” Wrong. We must protect both. Deregutation of stabilized apartments motivates ruthless landlords like Joe & Amrom Israel to pressure long-term tenants to leave by gutting their apartments, so they can charge market rate rents in a gentrified Brooklyn neighborhood. They now face 15 years in
But arrests & indictments won’t solve the problem. Vacancy de-control has removed nearly 300,000 affordable apartments from NYC’s housing market in the last decade, according to City Comptroller Scott Stringer. If Mayor de Blasio wants to achieve his goal of 200,000 affordable units, he must end vacancy de-control. But he can’t do this alone. It’s up to our legislators in Albany (a.k.a. Rikers Island North), where many of our problems lie.
Many state rent laws expire in June, including vacancy decontrol. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie won majority support for a bill to abolish below market rate deregulation. But, this bill faces an uncertain future in the GOP (“Gratify One Percenters”) controlled Senate. Former Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a real estate lobby lap-dog, was de-throned by corruption charges, but many Senate Republicans owe their election to real estate lobbyists’ cash and want to pay off their debt.
The final result rests with two Albany factions:
1. The Independent Democrats Conference, five Senate Democrats, including Tony Avella, who broke with their party to work with GOP colleagues
across the aisle. Their critics say IDC means “I Don’t Care.” To make them care, rent regulated tenants must bombard them with e-mails, letters & phone calls urging them to end vacancy decontrol.
2. Gov. Andrew Cuomo must support this bill & sign it, if passed. He’s crafted strong tenant protection measures, but also got huge donations from the Real Estate Board of N.Y. Will he act as a tenants’ champion or landlords’ chew toy? We’ll know by the end of June.
The debate over rent law speaks to a larger issue; our need for more home rule. Our destiny is determined by folks we didn’t elect, who live closer to Canada than Queens. Unless we gain greater control, we should consider forming a separate state. Seceding from New York faces tough constitutional & political hurdles. But NYC has enough people, power and purse strings to become the 51st state. Let’s hope we don’t have to make this happen.