Harvey Epstein Appointed to RGB
(This article was originally published in the April 2013 edition of Tenant/Inquilino)
On April 1 Mayor Michael Bloomberg finally filled a vacancy on the city Rent Guidelines Board by appointing attorney Harvey Epstein as a tenant member. He replaces Adriene Holder, who resigned in 2012 and was a formidable tenant advocate for the last 11 years.
Epstein, associate director of the Urban Justice Center, joins Brian Cheigh as one of two tenant representatives on the nine-member board. There are also two landlord representatives and five so-called public members, including the chair, Jonathan Kimmel. All are appointed by the mayor. A bill introduced in the state Legislature would require RGB nominees to be confirmed by the City Council.
The RGB will take a preliminary vote April 30 on one-year and two-year rent adjustments for rent-stabilized apartments. There will be a public hearing June 13, and the final vote will be on June 20
Epstein came to the Urban Justice Center in 2007, when he became director of its Community Development Project. This project represents community organizations throughout the city on issues including housing struggles, through litigation, legal assistance, and research. Before then, he supervised staff attorneys and organizers at Housing Conservation Coordinators in Hell’s Kitchen. A graduate of the City University of New York School of Law, he also worked at Queens Legal Services and at the Harlem Community Law Offices of the Legal Aid Society. He served two years as chair of Community Board 3 in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Because Bloomberg has consistently appointed public members who are against rent stabilization, and because the five public members form a majority on the board and usually vote as a bloc, it is important that the tenant members be strong advocates. With Brian Cheigh and Harvey Epstein, tenants will be well represented.
Original post below.
R3 supports the letter that Tenants & Neighbors has written to Mayor Bloomberg protesting the ongoing vacant "tenant" seat on the Rent Guidelines Board - whose first meeting is set for March 14, 2013.
The full letter states:
Tenants & Neighbors is deeply disappointed to learn that just days before the New York City Rent Guidelines Board is set to meet, a second tenant representative has still not been selected to serve. This puts tenants at a severe disadvantage in the deliberations over a fair rent adjustment, and violates the spirit of the law and the process it lays out. This imbalance must be corrected before the first meeting of the year, which will be held on March 14th.
The Rent Guidelines Board is supposed to be made up of nine members: two representing tenants; two representing building owners; and five public members. All RGB members are appointed by the mayor. A bill has currently been introduced in the state legislature (S208- Squadron/ A104- Kavanagh) that would give the New York City Council an advice and consent role in choosing new board members. We believe that this is a more just and accountable model for picking board members. In the future, board appointments should be made well in advance of the first meeting, and should follow a fully transparent public process.