Saturday, June 22, 2013

R3 Helps Stop Bad Bill in Albany's Waning Hours

In the last minutes of the 2012-2013 legislative session, the real estate lobby tried to pass a  bill to expand the J-51 tax subsidy program by allowing benefits for development projects that did not qualify under the “One Big Ugly” combined bill enacted in January of this year (Chapter 4, Laws of 2013).

Jaron Benjamin, facilitator of R3, went to Albany to make sure that the landlords did not sneak any bad bill through. With the support of the Met Council report on 421-a tax giveaways, reported in the NY Daily News, he stopped it.

A Bad Bill: The current bill, S3851/A7005, would allow J-51 tax subsidies for conversion of office buildings to market-rate, luxury apartments, which are now banned. Under current law, conversions of non-residential buildings to apartments qualify for J-51 tax benefits only if the conversion is “carried out with substantial governmental assistance” – meaning “affordable.”
S3851-B is sponsored by Republican Senators Marty Golden (Brooklyn) and Cathy Young (Jamestown).
A7005 is sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joe Lentol (Brooklyn), William Colton (Brooklyn), David Weprin (Queens), Peter Abbatte (Brooklyn), Karim Camara (Brooklyn), Steven Cymbrowitz (Brooklyn), Robert Rodriguez (Manhattan), Rafael Espinal (Brooklyn), Alec Brook-Krasny (Brooklyn), and Luis Sepúlveda (Bronx).
If you live in one of these Assembly districts, tell your Assembly member this is bad legislation and ask him to take his name off the bill.
Learning from Experience:  In June 2012,  with no tenant advocate there, the “One Big Ugly”  bill surfaced mere hours before the Legislature went home. (Tenants lucked out when Governor Cuomo refused to issue a message of necessity allowing an immediate vote, so the Legislature had to wait until its return in January to pass it.)
Stopping this Bill:  Early in the morning of June 20, Jaron learned that S3851-B had suddenly appeared on the active calendar in the State Senate, meaning the leadership planned to bring it up for a vote. And a well-known real estate lobbyist was working the bill, trying to convince Assembly Members to support it. The Assembly bill was still in the Real Property Taxation Committee.
At the Capitol, Jaron alerted a number of pro-tenant Assembly members as well as Assembly staff about the bill, and asked them to make sure it did not pass.  Jaron stayed in Albany overnight (again) until the State Assembly recessed at 9:00 pm. 
 
The Assembly bill never came out of committee. The Senate bill is still on the active list, but now that the Assembly has left town, the Senate might not waste the time to debate the bill. (The Senate is trying to finish up, just having passed Cuomo’s casino gambling bill and Cuomo’s “tax-free zone” bill, and gone into another recess.)
 
The Senate and the Assembly could come back sometime before next January, or that the Governor will call them back into extraordinary session. But for now the Assembly is done for the year, and the Senate is tying up loose ends. Tenants must continue to be on our guard.
  
Excerpted from a report by Michael McKee.  See also Michael McKee's report in Tenant/Inquilino.