Howard Simmons/NewsThe rents of nearly 72,000 rent-stabilized tenants in the Bronx could soon go up if the Emergency Tenant Protection Act expires next week, said Sen. Gustavo River (D- Bronx).
DAILY NEWS WRITER
State legislators are at war in Albany over renewing the rent laws that protect tenants in nearly 200,000 Bronx apartments.
"We have just seven days left before the laws sunset," state Sen. Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx) said Wednesday. "I have 72,000 rent-stabilized apartments in my district. That means hundreds of thousands of people are in danger. A straight renewal is not good enough. We need to strengthen the laws."
With the Emergency Tenant Protection Act set to expire next Wednesday, many Democrats are pushing for tougher rent laws. They want to eliminate the loophole that allows landlords to remove units from rent stabilization.
But Senate Republicans and the state's landlord lobby are opposed to such changes.
"The real problem is the city imposing excessive costs on landlords with real estate taxes, water and sewer rates," said Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association.
Ed Figeroa, a tenant at 1521 Sheridan Ave. in Mount Eden, pays $855 per month for his one-bedroom apartment. But his landlord is demanding more, based on improvements.
Figeroa's rent could jump to nearly $1,000 this fall, counting the annual increase for all apartments set by the Rent Stabilization Association.
"It would be hard for me," said Figeroa, 53, a school custodian organizing at his building with Community Action for Safe Apartments, a tenant advocacy group. "The governor and legislators need to strengthen the laws."
Currently, rent hikes based on capital improvements are permanent, but many Democrats want them to become temporary.
Gov. Cuomo has shown support for more regulation, but has yet to single out vacancy de-control, which releases empty apartments from stabilization when their rents hit $2,000 per month.
Property owners claim the $2,000 cap allows them to charge rich Manhattan tenants higher rents that they can afford to pay.
But tenant advocates say the rule encourages landlords to get rid of longtime renters such as Figeroa because rent hikes are permitted when new tenants move in.
The state has lost 300,000 rent-stabilized units to vacancy de-control since 1997, said Rivera.
State Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester) said the Legislature will likely renew the rent laws on time and expects a compromise.
Meanwhile, Albany's rent war has Figeroa "scared."
"We're in a depression," he said. "It's a shame we have to beg our legislators to extend these laws. It's a disgrace."