Thursday, May 31, 2012

This Thursday June 7th's Town Hall, & RGB Meetings

Want to express your tenant needs?  

Here are some suggestions:

1. Tenant Town Hall 
(Manhattan & Bronx tenants)
Thursday, June 7 at 6:30 PM
Hartley House, 413 W. 46th St. 

Tenants will talk about what we need and elected officials will talk about  how we can get it this session. 
Specific legislative changes include:

Housing Conservation Coordinators & Westside Neighborhood Alliance are organizing the event with the  support of other R3  member organizations and other community groups (list in progress)
Barack Obama Dem. Club of Upper Manhattan CAAVA (Chinatown Tenants)
CASA-New Settlement (Bronx Central Park Gardens Tenants Assoc. 
Chelsea Coalition on Housing Community Voices Heard
Cooper Square Committee Goddard Riverside Community Center
Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) Met Council on Housing
Riverside & Edgecomb Neighborhood Assoc. Tenants & Neighbors
Three Parks Democratic Club more coming!
and Assembly Members Daniel O'Donnell, Linda Rosenthal and Richard Gottfried and
State Senator Bill Perkins  . . . and more coming!

If you'd like to co-sponsor, contact Bennett Baumer 
Get the word out on Facebook.  

Harley House is wheelchair accessible: 

Call 212-246-9885 when you arrive 
to get the ramp gate unlocked. 

2. Rent Guidelines Board hearings 
There are 2 hearings left and then the final vote and tenant rally.
Wed., June 13 at 10:00 AM at
Repertory Theatre of Hostos
Community College/CUNY
450 Grand Concourse
Bronx, NY 10451

Monday, June 18, 2012 at 10:00 AM at
The Great Hall at Cooper Union
7 East 7th Street, at corner of 3rd Ave.
New York, NY 10003

FINAL VOTE (no testimony)
Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 5:30 PM
The Great Hall at Cooper Union
New York, NY 10003

Click here for a flyer in English.
Click here for a flyer in Spanish. 

Registration of speakers is required.
Pre-register for the June 13 hearing in the Bronx at (212) 385-2934 until 1:00 P.M. on Tuesday, June 12, 2012.
Pre-register for the June 18 hearing in Manhattan at (212) 385-2934 until 1:00 P.M. on Friday, June 15, 2012.

An exact time for speaking cannot be provided, but those pre-registering will be informed of their number on the list of pre-registered speakers when they call the above listed phone number.
Written requests for pre-registration must be received at

Rent Guidelines Board
51 Chambers Street, Room 202
New York, NY, 10007

before 1:00 P.M. on Tuesday, June 12 for the June 13 hearing and before 1:00 P.M. on Friday, June 15 for the June 18 hearing. Those who have not preregistered or need to re-register can register at the hearing location from 4:15 PM until 7:00 PM at the June 13 hearing and from 9:45 AM until 6:00 PM at the June 18.

To request that a sign language interpreter or other form of reasonable accommodation for a disability be provided at a hearing, notify Ms. Charmaine Superville at the Rent Guidelines Board (212) 385-2934, 51 Chambers Street, Room 202, New York, NY 10007 by Thursday, June 7, 2012 at 4:30 PM.

Pre-registered speakers who have confirmed their presence on the day of the hearing will be heard in the order of pre-registration and before those who have not pre-registered. If a speaker's pre-registered position has been passed before he or she has confirmed his or her pre-registration, his or her position is forfeited and he or she must re-register. There will be no substitution of one speaker's position for another.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tenants Need Reform THIS Year

This article mentions last week's Brooklyn/Queens Tenant Town Hall.  On June 7, come to the Manhattan/Bronx Tenant Town Hall!

NY tenant groups gear up for another round

PostDateIconSunday, May 27, 2012 08:42 PM | PostAuthorIconWritten by David Howard King | Print | E-mail

Gov. Andrew Cuomo touted it as “the greatest strengthening of rent laws in decades” when the state Legislature approved a package of bills last year that renewed the city’s rent control laws until 2015. But the most optimistic housing advocates would only call it a draw in their battle with real estate interests.

Tenants Political Action Committee and other tenant advocacy groups wanted more -- they wanted the state to limit landlords’ abilities to claim that they made costly repairs to apartments, thereby pricing them out of rent regulation. They wanted tougher enforcement to make sure claimed improvements to apartments were actually made. And they wanted the 2011 increases to keep up with inflation. But they didn’t get any of it.  [Emphasis added]

While still smarting from last year's brawl with real estate interests, advocates for tenants have renewed their push for rent law reform this year, arguing that current policies are continuing to decimate the ranks of rent-controlled apartments and making it harder for low-income families to live in the city.

Last Wednesday night, several of the groups, including the Real Rent Reform Campaign -- made up of organized tenants, labor organizations and community groups that advocate for “progressive” pro-tenant legislation -- held a well-attended town hall meeting in Brooklyn (they estimated the crowd at about 200 attendees) while the board of the influential Tenants PAC met separately and decided on endorsements for state legislative races.

The groups hope that, with the entire state Legislature up for re-election this November, they can help get candidates into office that are more willing to pass legislation they favor.

Meanwhile, the groups are sensing a deal between the Assembly and Senate might be possible because of the sunset of the
 J51 tax abatement that gives developers tax breaks to renovate apartment buildings as long as they provide low income housing.

The idea goes something like this -- the real estate lobby wants the tax renewed and, while Senate Republicans want to give it to them, the Assembly Democrats won’t pass it unless pro-tenant sweeteners are included.

Meanwhile, the piece of legislation that could have the greatest impact on rent that is being backed by advocates would change the requirements for serving on the
 Rent Guidelines Board -- the group that sets the rates for rent-controlled apartments and give the City Council approval over the Mayor’s appointments to the body. The board has raised rates by around 3 percent each year for the past 40 years. Its deliberative process is secret. [Note: The recent levels were often higher: The rates were 4.5% in 2007, 4.5 in 2009, and 3.75% in 2011.]

Putting the mayor’s picks in the hands of the Council would be a major loss of power for the mayor. Currently, the nine-member board is made up of two appointees to represent owners; two tenant representatives; and five members representing the general public.

Jack Freund, vice president of the Rent Stabilization Association, slammed the bill.

“We think it’s a catastrophic idea. It would be the death knell for private rental housing in New York. There would be zero increases forever. I certainly hope the bill doesn’t go anywhere,” he said.

Stefan Ringel, spokesman for City Councilman Jumaane Williams, said his boss thinks the current makeup of the RGB “fails to reflect the interests of real people. It seems like no matter what the economic condition is, the rent goes up.”

State Sen. Daniel Squadron and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh are sponsoring the bill. The City Council is expected to pass a resolution in support of the legislation, and Council Speaker Christine Quinn has attended rallies and spoke out against the RGB. At a rally to support the legislation held in front of City Hall on April 16, Quinn compared the RGB to a "kangaroo court" because its decisions seemed to be preordained.

Missed Opportunity

Michael McKee, treasurer of Tenants PAC, said the 2011 increases were “bare bones” and didn’t even keep up with inflation.

The deal raised the level at which apartments can be removed from rent regulation from $2,000 to $2,500, and the income threshold for rent-control apartment eligibility from $175,00 to $200,000. But the $2,000 -- set in 1997 -- should now be somewhere around $3,100, tenant advocates argued. 
In June 2011, McKee had practically lived in the capital for weeks with fellow tenant activists by his side, chanting, cajoling, arguing and pleading with legislators and staffers for rent laws that would end loopholes that allow landlords to take rent-regulated apartments off the roles.

The Tenants PAC had watched in horror for the past two years while the Senate Democratic majority they had helped elect ignored and buried their legislation.

Former state-Sen. Pedro Espada was not shy about his ugly relationship with housing advocates. Espada, recently convicted of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the network of Bronx clinics he helped start, was repeatedly accused of bottling up housing bills. In multiple interviews with the Gazette, he said he disdained tenant advocates who he insisted did not care about his constituents’ interests. In 2010, the Tenant’s PAC made a commitment to defeat him and helped elect Gustavo Rivera to replace Espada.

Gov. Cuomo had never made it clear in the lead-up to the legislative showdown what qualified as tougher rent laws -- only that he wanted them.

The new laws were scheduled to sunset in 2015 -- meaning that advocates wouldn’t have the benefit of the pressure created by an evaporating law to lobby legislators. But, on Dec 31, 2011, the J51 Rent Abatement expired, and tenants’ advocates saw opportunity.

Another Bite

In April, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver held a news conference focusing on tenant legislation. The to-do list read something like this: close the preferential rent loophole; make rent increases for major capital improvements temporary; reduce the vacancy bonus; limit a building owner's ability to recover a rent-regulated apartment for personal use; and reforming the Rent Guidelines Board.

That was only the start of an ambitious list -- ambitious because Senate Republicans have almost religiously sided with real estate groups that donate generously to their party’s candidates; ambitious because the laws are not set to sunset and be vigorously reviewed until 2015; and ambitious because real estate interests have generally opposed these sorts of changes.

“Last year we were able to ensure the rent regulations were renewed and strengthened,” Kavanagh said. “This year, we hope to see some modest improvements to the system.” 
Specifically, his bill would change the requirements to serve on the RGB.

Current requirements dictate an appointee must have a background in financing, economics or housing. But Kavanagh’s bill would add allow appointees to have backgrounds in social sciences, urban planning, public service and philanthropy.

The assemblyman said he thinks the current requirements “don’t reflect all of the aspects” that need to be considered by a board that is tasked with setting guidelines for rent-controlled housing.

“If the bill passed, it would make a significant improvement in how the guideline board is structured,” said McKee.

No deal has been proposed, and tenants’ advocates like McKee said the real estate industry has not been making much of a fuss over J51. “In a non-sunset year it is really hard to get the Legislature to do anything on rent,” said McKee.

“No one has said a specific trade is on the table,” Kavanagh said. “But many think the real estate lobby would like to see a renewal of the J51 tax program this year. Its sunset prevents the city from giving out new exemptions.”

Freund said he thinks there won’t be any deal. “I think J51 will be renewed because it is in the city’s interest. When the city puts its weight behind it, it will happen and it won’t be tied to anything.”
The Legislature and the Council would have to approve any renewal of the abatement.

Kavanagh’s bill has made it out of the Housing Committee and could come to a vote in the next few weeks. A spokesman for the Senate Republicans did not return requests for comment. The Council’s resolution is still in the housing committee.

Back-Up Plan 

Still, if things go awry this legislative session, the Tenants PAC is ready to try the electoral route. They have backed a number of Democratic Senate candidates.

McKee’s group will be focused on backing a challenger for Republican state Sen. Martin Golden -- one of only two Republican Senators from the five boroughs -- but it has so far not endorsed a candidate in the race. Golden has voiced support for tenant bills at times, but has angered advocates like McKee for not pushing his majority harder for tenant rights.

Golden has at times insisted that the problem of vacancy decontrol -- where landlords claim to make repairs to vacant apartments to price them out of rent control -- is not a real problem in his district but instead a worry for Manhattan legislators. However, a 2008 study found that 30 percent of Golden's constituents lived in rent-controlled housing. Golden did not return calls requesting comment.

Tenants PAC is backing Rivera again, as well as Sens. Joe Adabbo, Toby Anne Stavisky and Neil Breslin. They are also backing challengers like Assemblyman George Latimer, who is running in the 37th Senate district, and Ceceilia Tkaczyk, who is running in the new 46th Senate District.

“It is not a foregone conclusion that the Republicans will control the Senate in 2013,” McKee said.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Brooklyn/Queens Town Hall a Success!

Sam Stein, facilitator for the Real Rent Reform Campaign, reported:

The town hall was good!  We had a couple hundred tenants there music, elected officials and clergy. 

The event was sponsored by the Pratt Area Community Council with the support of ANHD (Association of Neighborhood and Housing Development), DC-37Make The Road, New York Communities for Change, and Tenants & Neighbors, and was emceed by Jon Furlong of PACC.  

THE PROGRAM:  The interim pastor from Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church - Rev. Carmen Mason-Browne- introduced the event and welcomed everyone there. Tenants spoke about the issues affecting all our lives: Major Capital Improvements (MCIs), 7.5% Maximum Base Rent (MBR) increases for rent controlled tenants, the need for Rent Guidelines Board reform, and preferential rents.  

Ericka Stallings from ANHD spoke out about the need for new rules and regulations to improve enforcement by the state's housing agency, NYS Homes & Community Renewal (HCR), and about Individual Apartment Improvements (IAIs)  in particular.  

Maggie Russell-Ciardi, executive director of Tenants & Neighbors, spoke out about the city's new proposals for J-51, and the need to fight for new tenant protections, not just defend the ones we have.  

Assembly Member James Brennan spoke out in favor of the bills R3 has championed this year.  

Council Members Jumaane Williams and Letitia James spoke out about the need for stronger rent protections, and the role NYC should play in crafting them.  

District Leader Walter Mosely pledged to continue fighting for tenants, and said it would be a top priority of his going forward.  

There was music from the Filthy Rotten System Band, a band of Catholic Workers.  

CALL TO ACTION:  Tenants pledged to demand change before the end of this legislative session.

Manhattan/Bronx Town Hall on Thursday, June 7, 2012

Following on the heels of the Brooklyn/Queens Tenant Town Hall on May 21st, is a

Manhattan/Bronx Tenant Town Hall

Thursday, June 7 
6:30 - 8:30 PM

Stop landlords from getting J-51 renewal unless tenants get stronger protection!
         Reduce preferential rent increases
                    Limit Major Capital Improvement increases to costs
                               End MBR increases for rent-controlled tenants
                                      Reform the Rent Guidelines Board!

Come tell your story as a tenant. 

Click here for a flyer in English (Spanish coming soon)

Sponsored by  these member organizations: Housing Conservation Coordinators, West Side Neighborhood Alliance, GOLES, Tenants & Neighbors, CASA New Settlement, Central Park Garden Tenants' Association, Chelsea Housing Coalition and Goddard Riverside, SRO Law Project, Community Voices Heard, REINA & Met Council on Housing - as well as Assembly Members Richard Gottfried, Daniel O'Donnell and Linda Rosenthal - and more elected officials (see the flyer!). 

Would you like to co-sponsor?  Contact Bennett .



Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Brooklyn & Queens Tenants Town Hall WED. MAY 23 at 6 PM

Tired of soaring rents?
               Fighting gentrification? 
                             Need more tenant protection?

Come to a 
on Tenant Rights & Housing Affordability
Wed., May 23, 2012 at 6 PM
85 S. Oxford St. 
Trains:  C to Lafayette Ave.;  G to Fulton St2/3/4/5/B/Q/D/N/R or LIRR to Atlantic/Pacific stop

with elected officials representing Brooklyn & Queens.

The Brooklyn meeting is sponsored by the several members of the Real Rent Reform Campaign: 
Pratt Area Community Council (PACC), the Association of Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD), Make the Road New York, and Tenants & Neighbors. 

For more information, or to volunteer, please contact Juanita Edwards at PACC, 718-522-2613, ext. 024. 

Bronx & Manhattan Tenants Town Hall will be 
Thursday, June 7th  to Hartley House413 W. 46th St.
  Contact Bennett,, for more information. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

City Council hearing on Rent Guidelines Board reform

The New York City Council held a hearing on Monday about Rent Guidelines Board Reform Legislation we've been championing.   (The vote will be at the end of May.)

On Monday, May 21, 2012,  the City Council's Committee on Housing and Buildings held a hearing about  Resolution #1329.   

This resolution, which was introduced by Council Members Levin, James and Dilan, calls on the NYS Legislature to pass S741B Squadron/A6394B Kavanaugh – legislation that would make the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) more inclusive by requiring members to have experience in areas beyond finance, economics and housing.  This will help ensure that a wider range of voices are represented on the board.

This state legislation would also grant the City Council the power to confirm mayoral appointees to the RGB.  That way, we'll be able to ensure a better balance between tenant and landlord interests.     Click here for the testimony of State Senators Squadron and Kavanagh

Friday, May 18, 2012

Brooklyn & Queens Tenants Town Hall - Wed. 5/23

6 PM at Lafayette Ave. Presbyterian Church
86 S. Oxford St.  in Brooklyn (between Fulton St. & Lafayette Ave.)

Dinner will be provided!

Tired of soaring rents?
Living amid gentrification? 
Seeking stronger tenant protections? 

Friday, May 11, 2012

New York News

Lower East Side Neighbors Rally Against Notorious Landlord

Throughout our coverage of evictions and foreclosures these past few months, there's been a giant elephant in the room: Just about everyone one we've reported on has been black or hispanic.
Although there is no doubt the housing crisis is affecting minorities in the outer boroughs the most, this very serious problem can be found all over New York City.
Yesterday evening, a crowd of over 100, made up mostly of Lower East Side residents and activists gathered outside an apartment complex on 58 East 3rd Street to rally against the building's landlord, who has, apparently, demanded residents of the five-story apartment building, along with two neighboring buildings (50 and 54 East 3rd Street), to move out within 60 days.  [Click on "read more" or for the rest of the article]

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Save the date: June 7 Town Hall - W. 46th St.

On June 7th, come to a Tenants Town Hall, focusing on J-51.
A proposed law will continue this tax benefit for landlords while protections for tenants fall by the wayside. Let's pressure the state legislature to pass some bills that benefit tenants.

Date: Thursday, June 7, 2012
Place: Hartley House, 413 West 46th Street (btw. 9th & 10th Avenues)
Time:  6:30 - 8:30 pm

Would your organization - or office -  like to co-sponsor this with several members of the Real Rent Reform Campaign?  Contact

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Elected Officials Back Independence Plaza Tenants in Court Case

Independence Plaza North tenants and their supporters rallied against the state's mid-level court decision in Denza.  The court ruled that as soon as an owner takes a building out of Mitchell-Lama or a similar program, any J-51 tax benefits end along with the tenants' J-51 stabilized rents.  The tenants are seeking permission from New York State's highest court to appeal.

Tribeca Trib
Elected Officials Back Independence Plaza Tenants in Court Case
Elected officials joined a gathering of Independence Plaza tenants outside the complex in a display of support for the tenants' legal case.
Elected officials joined a gathering of Independence Plaza tenants outside the complex in a display of support for the tenants' legal case.
Downtown elected officials are throwing their political weight behind the Independence Plaza North Tenant Association in its protracted legal fight with the landlord of the 1,331-unit Tribeca complex.

On Thursday, the officials stood with tenant leaders and about 100 IPN tenants in a show of support for their effort to reverse a recent court decision against the tenant group.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Borough President Scott Stringer, state Senators Daniel Squadron and Tom Duane, City Councilwoman Margaret Chin and Community Board 1 chair Julie Menin joined the tenants outside one of the three IPN towers.

In response to the April 3 decision by the state's appellate division court, tenant leaders want to convince the state's highest court to hear their appeal in a case that they had hoped would bring all tenants in the complex under the state's rent stabilization laws. They argue that the landlord’s acceptance of tax benefits after exiting from Mitchell-Lama, a state-subsidized housing program, required that the apartments in the complex be rent regulated.

"You can't move the goalpost in the middle of the game," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. "You have to play by the rules."

IPN, now renting apartments a luxury housing, was under Mitchell-Lama for nearly 30 years. After its owner, Laurence Gluck of Stellar Management, removed the complex from the program in 2004, the Department of Finance continued to grant him J-51 tax benefits for two years. The tenants maintain that as a result the development should revert to rent stabilization because, according to city law, landlords who enjoy J-51 tax benefits must give their tenants rent regulation.

"A tax credit is not a benefit for just one side of the ledger and not for the other…" said state Sen. Daniel Squadron. "When you get the tax break you are committed to the affordability. Period."

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

RGB Preliminary Vote: Read all about it!

There was a good crowd  at the Tenants General Assembly outside the Rent Guidelines Board's preliminary vote on May 1, 2012.  And it rent increases may be lower this year.

Check out the articles below from
(2) NY Post
(4) DNAinfo (first article), and DNAinfo (second article)
(5) NY 1
(6) Curbed