Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mayoral Candidate Bill De Blasio's Answer to Tenants PAC's Questionnaire

Check out the questionnaire on line


Questionnaire for Candidates for Mayor
New York City Election 2013
Name of candidate: Bill de Blasio
Campaign contact person & complete contact information: Emma Wolfe –
emma@billdeblasio.com

1. What do you believe are the greatest housing problems and housing needs in
New York City?

We live a Tale of Two Cities. The wealthiest New Yorkers enjoy a life of luxury,
while many working and retired families can barely pay the rent. At the very
bottom, 50,000 New Yorkers sleep in shelters every night. But the challenge is
much greater. Almost half of all New Yorkers spend more than 30 percent of their
income on housing—and one-third of households spend at least half on housing.
In 10 years, New York City has lost nearly as many affordable apartments as it
has built or preserved. Gentrification, unscrupulous landlords and the real estate
lobby’s hold on government have pulled tens of thousands of apartments out of
rent stabilization, and more are lost every year.



RENT & EVICTION CONTROL

2. Do you support the concept of rent and eviction regulation as a matter of policy
or do you believe that a market-based approach is preferable? Explain.

As a matter of policy and principle, housing is too important to working families
and cannot be left to the whims of the market. The City has to be able to set the
rules for the rental process and the eviction process.

3. Do you support repeal of Vacancy Destabilization? Yes.

4. Do you support re-regulation of all apartments that have been deregulated
since the 1994 enactment of permanent Vacancy Destabilization by the New York
City Council?

No. I am not sure of the details on how the City would re-regulate apartments but
the sheer number of apartments that were deregulated after 1994 illustrates the
need for new affordable housing. What we need are permanent solutions to
increase protections and expand affordability for all New Yorkers.

5. If you are elected mayor, will you travel to Albany with tenants in February 2014
to lobby for repeal of Vacancy Destabilization and return of home rule to the New
York City Mayor and City Council over rents and evictions? Have you done so in
previous years? When?

Yes, I will stand with tenants to demand Vacancy Destabilization and call for a
return of home rule to New York City. I made those actions part of my platform. In
2011, I participated, along many others, in a campaign that pushed the governor
and the legislature for better rent laws along with the Real Rent Reform
Campaign.

6. If you are elected mayor, will you travel to Albany with tenants to lobby for
stronger rent and eviction protections at least once a year in 2015 (a sunset year),
2016 and 2017?

Yes.

7. What do you think can be done to overcome political opposition in the State
Capital to restoration of home rule over rents and evictions? What specific
actions would you take to help make this happen?

It will take a Mayor that is truly dedicated to the affordability of our City to restore
home rule. I have pushed for an aggressive affordable agenda and will continue
to prioritize housing if elected. I understand home rule is pivotal – currently our
housing policies are decided by those who do not need to live with the result. I
will build a coalition around these issues if elected and ensure that we have
home rule.

8. If home rule over rents and evictions is restored, what substantive changes
would you propose to our current rent laws? Explain.

If we won home rule, besides the obvious task at hand – repealing vacancy
deregulation – I would work tenants, housing activists and community
stakeholders on a complete review of the current rent laws that NYC is operating
under.

9. Will you push for legislation to provide rent and eviction protections to
apartments in post-1973 Mitchell-Lama and project-based Section 8 buildings
when landlords take them out of those programs?

Yes – Developers benefited from these programs and owners benefit even more
after a building leaves these programs. Fairness demands that we don't throw
tenants out of these affordable apartments to the whim of the market.


PUBLIC HOUSING

10. The city’s public housing portfolio constitutes a crucial source of affordable
housing that is troubled by under-funding and bloated, inept management. In
addition, the New York City Housing Authority has adopted punitive policies
directed at public housing residents.

a. How would you propose to solve the chronic under-funding of public
housing?

First, I will end the practice of the City pulling NYCHA funding to pay for City
Services, like the NYPD and Sanitation. But that isn’t enough – I will build a
coalition to fight for state and federal funding. Lastly, we need to improve
NYCHA's management so we can be more thorough in acquiring funding that is
already available to NYCHA buildings. I will ensure we take advantage of historic
preservation tax credits, NYSERDA financing and grants and federal
weatherization grants and subsidized loans.

b. Do you have any proposals for restructuring the New York City Housing
Authority? If so, what changes would you make, both in terms of
appointments to the board, and how policy is developed?

As Mayor I would revamp the current structure of the New York City Housing
Authority. I support the proposal by Assemblymember Keith Wright that would
increase the size of the board and ensure that two members are current NYCHA
residents. Additionally, I would change these positions to part-time board
positions and ensure that all board members have experience in housing,
economic development or are NYCHA residents. Lastly, I would like the
administration's HPD Commissioner to have a formal role in NYCHA's
management, so that as Mayor, I would be accountable for the decisions the
Housing Authority makes.

c. What would you do to empower public housing residents, to give them
genuine input into management decisions?

Under Mayor Bloomberg the City has had a chronic problem with shutting
impacted New Yorkers out of the decision making process. I would have current
residents on the board to ensure residents have a voice in the managerial
decisions at NYCHA. I will appoint a board and chairman that is aligned with my
goal of making sure NYCHA residents have an input in decisions that directly
impact their community.

d. Do you approve or disapprove of NYCHA’s recent proposal to lease land
around public housing developments to develop 80/20 housing?
I disagree with Mayor Bloomberg's NYCHA plan which would place luxury
housing in the middle of NYCHA developments. I can’t support any plan that
doesn't put money directly into affected NYCHA developments, doesn’t provide jobs for
NYCHA's residents or doesn’t provide affordable housing options.

e. Do you have proposals for reforming the administrative procedures at
NYCHA to provide equitable treatment of public housing residents who are
subject to disciplinary or eviction proceedings, and who in the
overwhelming number of cases are not represented by counsel? Explain.

As Public Advocate I have proposed tenant support for eviction cases, and
believe that this could be expanded to NYCHA residents.


RENT GUIDELINES BOARD

11. There are many proposals to reform and restructure the New York City Rent
Guidelines Board.

a. The Rent Stabilization Law of 1969 gives sole power to the mayor to
appoint the nine members of the RGB, which adopts annual rent
adjustments for rent stabilized apartments. Will you support legislation to
give advice and consent power to the New York City Council?

Yes. Assemblymember Kavanagh and State Senator Squadron have a bill
pending in Albany that makes this and other reforms. I have supported them in
their push to pass the bill and would support this legislation as Mayor.
b. Will you support legislation to change the qualifications of the five public
members of the RGB from “at least five years’ experience in either finance,
economics or housing,” to “at least five years’ experience in either
housing, public service, philanthropy, social services, urban planning,
architecture, social sciences, economics, finance, or service with not-forprofit
organizations?”

Yes. Assemblymember Kavanaugh and State Senator Squadron have a bill
pending in Albany that makes this and other reforms, I have supported them in
their push to pass the bill and would support this legislation as Mayor.

c. What qualifications will you seek in candidates for the five public
members of the RGB, including the chairperson?

We need members of the RGB who understand not only the economics of
housing, but the way those decisions impact the lives of communities and
individuals across our city. They need experience working with tenants across
the City with good communication, outreach and organizing skills. And they have
to represent the full racial, economic and cultural diversity of the City.

d. Will you consult with tenant organizations concerning appointments of
tenant members of the RGB?

Yes.

e. Will you consult with tenant organizations concerning appointments of
public members of the RGB?

Yes.

f. Even without enactment of state legislation, the mayor can, by
administrative action, change the methodology used by the RGB to set rent
adjustments, as none of the methodology is contained in law. If you are
elected mayor, will you discontinue the misleading Price Index
methodology and implement a methodology based on actual Income and
Expense data that is submitted annually to the Department of Finance
under Local Law 63 of 1986?

If Mayor, I would work collaboratively with stakeholders to review all possible
changes to rent regulations, including administrative changes to RGB.


HOMELESSNESS

12. For three decades, the City of New York provided subsidies to help homeless
families move out of shelters and into permanent housing. The Bloomberg
administration reversed this policy in the belief that people were voluntarily
entering the shelter system in order to get an apartment.

a. If you are elected mayor, will you return to the policy successfully used
by other mayors of providing subsidies to place homeless families in
permanent housing – allocating a portion of NYCHA public housing and
Section 8 vouchers and of HPD-subsidized apartments for this purpose?

Yes.

b. What are your thoughts about developing a new rental assistance
program?

Too many of our families are entering the shelter system. While the Advantage
program was not perfect, it helped families stay in their apartments. I will work
with state and federal partners to establish a new housing support program.
We need a new rental subsidy program. I will work with state and federal
partners to establish a new housing support program for families at risk of losing
their homes or who find themselves on the streets. New vouchers will enable
them to afford private housing—at a fraction of the cost of a shelter stay. These
are tried-and tested solutions that help families avoid crisis.

c. Will you support increased funding for anti-eviction programs including
legal services programs for poor New Yorkers?

Yes. As mentioned above, I will expand the innovative pilot program I launched
as Public Advocate to provide pro-bono legal counsel to tenants fighting in
housing court. Expanded access to information and legal representation for
tenants at risk of eviction will help keep families in their homes.


LAND USE

13. Critics complain that virtually every certified Uniform Land Use Review
Procedure project gets approved, in spite of community concerns, and that the
ULURP process gives inadequate consideration to environmental impacts and
infrastructure burdens. What changes, if any, would you make in the ULURP
process?

While many projects get approved, my appointee has not been a rubber stamp
and she has voted “no” on projects multiple times. The concerns she raises are
generally addressed in the ULURP process.

We need to increase the collaboration between City Planning and Community
Boards and ensure the City Planning Commission is using community plans to
guide the development process. We need to focus the ULURP process on
infrastructure impacts not just density. East Midtown rezoning is a perfect
example of this – there will be profound burdens on the region’s infrastructure
and addressing those burdens up front ought to a be a core part of the ULURP
process.


COMMUNITY BOARDS

14. What changes, if any, would you make in the appointment of members of
community boards?

I am open to ideas on how we can alter the appointment process for community
board members.

a. Will you support direct election of members of community boards by
registered voters, rather than appointment by elected officials?

I am open to ideas on how we can alter the appointment process for community
board members.


BAD HOUSING CONDITIONS

15. 

a. What do you think should be done to address the problem of mold in
residential housing? Does New York City need a local law to address this issue,
and, if so, what should such a law provide?

Under my administration, the City will establish an ongoing health surveillance
network where individuals who have faced respiratory issues resulting from mold
problems, where they can sign up for long-term health monitoring and
information. Additionally, the Health Department will maintain a reporting system
to monitor cases of respiratory illness at hospitals and medical practices.

b. Do you have suggestions for dealing with recalcitrant landlords of
buildings with persistent code violations?
The City should have zero tolerance for landlords who break the law with
persistent code violations. As Public Advocate I launched the NYC’s Worst
Landlords Watch list in 2010 to allow tenants to look up their buildings, organize
with fellow tenants, and pressure bad landlords into providing safe, decent
apartments, making it one of the most-used resources in City government. I will
continue to build this list as Mayor. I would also create real consequences for
contracts and subsidies for landlords with persistent code violations. We cannot
reward landlords when they have multiple code violations.


RENT CONTROLLED APARTMENTS

16. The Maximum Base Rent system, first enacted in 1970, once applied to more
than one million rent-controlled apartments, but today applies to fewer than
38,000. The MBR subjects rent-controlled tenants, who are almost all elderly and
living on fixed incomes, to annual rent increases that are much higher than those
imposed on rent-stabilized tenants. In addition, rent-controlled tenants pay a
separate fuel cost pass-along, and in some cases a labor cost pass-along, neither
of which exists under rent stabilization.

a. Will you push for legislation in Albany to end the MBR system and place
rentcontrolled apartments under the jurisdiction of the Rent Guidelines
Board for purposes of rent adjustments only?

I will work with stakeholders to explore and review all ideas and suggestions for
reform to the RGB.

b. Will you push for legislation in Albany to end the fuel cost pass-along
and the labor cost pass-along for rent-controlled apartments?

I will work with stakeholders to explore and review all ideas and suggestions for
reform to the RGB.


TAX SUBSIDIES (421-a)

17. The statute authorizing the 421-a tax subsidy program for market rate housing
expires in 2016 in the state legislature. Rather than renewing the program, will
you support termination of this statute and instead re-direct the almost one
billion dollars in 421-a subsidies that now go to luxury housing to programs to
create or preserve low income housing, and to fund rent vouchers for low and
moderate income tenants?

No. I have proposed an across the board review and reduction in economic
development subsidies, and I would not exclude 421-A from this review. By
reforming and tightening our tax credits and subsidies, we can free up resources
for other City services.


LOFT TENANTS & MANUFACTURING

18. The Bloomberg administration pursued a tactic that pitted tenants against the
perceived need for manufacturing space to the benefit of neither party, but giving
a considerable boost to the city's tax base and the pace of gentrification of the
outer boroughs. For nearly a decade the administration ignored ongoing
residential conversions while giving lip service to the protection of manufacturing
space and industrial business zones. Having done nothing to discourage
conversions, the city strenuously objected to the 2010 loft law expansion and
insisted that several anti-tenant provisions be added that
will result in the eviction of many of the pioneering tenants while leaving those
vacant spaces ripe for luxury development.

a. Do you think there is a future for manufacturing in the outer boroughs
and, if so, how would you foster those manufacturers?

Absolutely. Manufacturing remains a vital part of the NYC economy and will build
on existing programs to preserve the physical integrity of Industrial Business
Zones, stop illegal conversions of industrial areas and support better infrastructure and
workforce development planning. We will replicate the success of the Brooklyn
Navy Yard in other industrial areas owned and managed by the City.

b. Do you see a way to modify the Rules the Loft Board adopted regarding
incompatible use to protect the people who helped revive these
neighborhoods and slow gentrification?

We need to study the Loft Board laws and regulations to determine if they are not
compatible with residential use. As Mayor I would review the laws to help make
sure we are keeping residents safe and maintaining these Loft spaces.

c. For thirty years the City ignored the fact that landlords of commercial
buildings were illegally renting spaces to creative folks who both lived and
worked in their lofts, without a Certificate of Occupancy. Then when the
Legislature acted in 2010 to provide protections to the tenants and to
require that the landlords perform work to provide fire and health safety,
the City responded by suddenly pretending to be concerned
about preserving manufacturing spaces. How would you propose to
establish a process that would make sure the interests of tenants and
manufacturers are served fairly, and to avoid a repeat of this cycle in future
years?

I will work with stakeholders in the manufacturing community and the tenant
community to ensure that we are protecting both interests.


BIG DEVELOPMENTS & AFFORDABLE UNITS

19. In approving the Hudson Yards project on Manhattan’s far West Side eight
years ago, city officials promised that at least 28 percent of the newlyconstructed
apartments would be affordable. As reported in the New York Daily
News on May 7, 2013, only 16 percent of the new units are actually affordable, and
the affordable units are much smaller and otherwise markedly inferior to their
market-rent counterparts; in one case, the developer Larry Silverstein erected a
separate building containing 88 affordable units, segregated from the twin 60-
story Silver Towers. More than $2.5 billion in tax-exempt bonds have been
granted to Hudson Yards developers, and all the market-rate apartments will
pay sharply reduced taxes for at least 20 years, thanks to 421-a tax benefits.

a. How will your administration apply the lessons of Hudson Yards to
future development projects?

As noted above, I believe every big project should have mandatory
inclusionary zoning rules without the tax giveaways too common in
projects like the Hudson Yards development. Overall, the City’s New Housing
Marketplace Plan has delivered less than promised—new units concentrated in a
few Manhattan neighborhoods and at the high end of the “affordability” spectrum
(including subsidies for studios renting for more than $2,000). We must set
tighter standards that ensure subsidies meet the needs of lower-income families
and are distributed equitably throughout the five boroughs.

b. What will your administration do to make sure that additional Hudson
Yards developments adhere to the promises of 2005, deliver affordable
units as desirable as the market-rate units, and avoid the kind of “separate
and unequal” treatment exemplified by Silverstein’s Silver Towers?

I will work with the developers to deliver on those promises and if they fail to do
so, I will take legal action to enforce the agreements made and seek to bar
developers reneging on the agreements from future economic development
partnerships with the City.


INCREASED TAXES

20. Will you support and push for a tax on Wall Street transactions to increase the
City’s budget? If so, how high a tax?

I do not support a tax increase on Wall Street transactions, rather I have called
for a tax increase on New York City's wealthiest residents to assist in the creation
of universal pre-K and afterschool programs for all middle school children.

b. To what purposes or programs would you dedicate these new revenues?
Please see above.
OVERDEVELOPMENT(?)

21. Do you think that over-development is a problem for the city? If so, what
would you do about it? How would your approach to development differ from
Mayor Bloomberg's? What do you think have been the successes and failures of
his administration as it relates to development?

I think the problem is that development has not been done in consultation with
communities and nor has it benefited communities. Development needs to occur
because we need affordable housing, community space, affordable commercial
space, and jobs in our communities.

The City needs to drive a hard bargain, instead of giving away benefits to the real
estate industry. We have scarce resources and land, we cannot afford to give
away land or money. Unfortunately, under this Mayor and City Council Speaker
we have given too much away.

22. Will you commit to making certain that all new housing created with city funds
and/or subsidies remain permanently affordable for the life of the building, rather
than affordable for a limited period as generally happens under current
programs?

Yes. I support permanent affordability in new housing that is created using City
funds and subsidies.


COMMERCIAL

23. Do you support commercial rent stabilization?

It is unfair that businesses have rents hiked anywhere from 100% to 300%. I
have seen many local businesses close shop because they cannot pay rent, and
will explore ways to lower the burden for small businesses.


SENIORS & DISABLED

24. Do you support an increase in the income eligibility ceilings for the Senior
Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program and the Disability Rent
Increase Exemption (DRIE) program?

Yes. In my affordable housing platform I called for raising the income ceilings for
these two programs. I also support initiatives that would improve outreach for and
increase access to SCRIE and DRIE programs.

b. Because of opposition from the Bloomberg administration, the income
eligibility ceiling for DRIE is significantly lower than the ceiling for SCRIE.
Will you support state legislation to bring the DRIE ceiling up to the SCRIE
ceiling?

See above.


WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING?

25. Describe any actions you have personally undertaken in your career to
protect tenants’ rights, rent regulation, or the preservation of affordable housing.

On tenants’ right, I started NYC’s “Worst Landlords Watch List” to publicly identify
landlords who took advantage of everyday New Yorkers, and pressured them to
improve building maintenance and upkeep.

On rent regulation, I recently testified before the Rent Guidelines Board to
reiterate my call for a rent freeze this year and voice my strong criticism of the
Board’s decision to forgo public hearings in the outer-boroughs.

On the preservation of affordable housing, I have introduced a plan to create and
preserve nearly 200,000 units of affordable housing across all five boroughs.
Background:

New York Times Editorial
“The city’s public advocate, Bill de Blasio, has laid out perhaps the most comprehensive
housing plan; he wants to create 100,000 and preserve 90,000 affordable housing units
in eight years, in various ways, including converting thousands of illegal units into rent
stabilized apartments.” (NY Times Editorial, “The Forgotten 50,000”, 6/16/2013)