Here’s an interesting piece by the Post’s Steve Cuozzo commenting on an issue raised in a recent Wall Street Journal article regarding rent stabilization coverage in the Financial District.
It seems that old-line tenant advocates, steadily losing their traditional constituency, are looking for new constituencies to support rent stabilization. The advocates are failing to find support in FiDi for the same reason they are losing support in the outer boroughs– in most of the City there is little difference between market rents and regulated rents.
– Jack Freund, Executive Vice President, Rent Stabilization Association
(Views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the RSA.)
Why downtown’s cool to rent control
By Steve Cuozzo, October 12, 2012
It’s great news to most New Yorkers that the Wall Street area has become one of the city’s best places to live — evidenced by a Financial District population that’s nearly doubled to 57,000 since 1999 and will soon hit 60,000.
Just about every apartment that comes to market is swiftly snatched up. People love the new FiDi — anchored by the country’s healthiest office market, now also throbbing with families, shops and amenities.
It’s so popular that the rental apartment vacancy rate is below 1 percent.
But to “tenant advocate” reactionaries, the picture is bleak.
Now a family-friendly ’hood: Crossing the street near Battery Park.
Why? Well, tenants there won’t fight to have their market-priced apartments rent-stabilized.
Paul Newell, a Democratic district leader who is trying to inflict rent-stabilization on thousands more apartments downtown, whined to The Wall Street Journal last week that a mere 10 residents responded to his campaign.
Stabilization, the ruinous residue of World War II-era “emergency” rent-control law, to this day warps the city’s housing scene by keeping 1 million apartments effectively off the market — sometimes for decades.
A 2010 court ruling left some 5,000 more downtown units potentially subject to stabilization (on technical grounds involving landlord receipt of a tax benefit). But to win stabilized status, tenants must prove an “overcharge” to the state Department of Homes and Community Renewal or sue their landlord.
Newell, a leftist activist who sued the NYPD over “illegal” arrests (including his own) involving Occupy Wall Street’s Zuccotti Park takeover, is dismayed that FiDi residents haven’t taken up the rent cause in droves.
To explain it away, he absurdly claims the area is full of short-term residents who just have no interest in trying to reduce rents long term. Community Board 1 member Tom Goodkind echoed him, “Our area has always been quite transient,” and lamented, “We don’t want 15 college kids crashing in an apartment. We want people to hunker down and stay.”
Newell and Goodkind claim that people don’t stay long because it’s a lousy place to live lacking “basic trappings” like grocery stores.
Huh? What neighborhood are these guys talking about?
A 2009 poll by the Downtown Alliance found two-thirds of respondents had lived in the district for five years, and most intended to stay. More recent data from the Alliance show a median FiDi household income of $143,000 and average household income of $188,000. Some bunch of student drifters.
If FiDi were a transients’ camping ground, would Rose Associates spend a half-billion dollars to convert 70 Pine St. into a luxury address with 750 apartments at the highest rents in the area’s history?
Food shortage? The area’s proliferating choices range from huge new 55 Fulton Market to supermarkets to scores of gourmet shops.
Well, then — if it’s laughably false that residents want to bolt as soon as they can, why are they failing to fight for rent stabilization?
For one thing, the gap between market-rate and stabilized rents in the area is so small as to make the time and legal fees to seek stabilization not worth the struggle.
But there might well be a deeper explanation — anathema to activists who’d turn the clock back:
Maybe young, affluent residents dwelling amidst capitalism’s nerve center don’t buy into the culture of housing dependency and subsidy that animates “make our landlord beg” activists.
Very possibly, unlike 1960s rent-strike leaders, they recognize greater value in a building priced by the law of supply and demand.
Just as possibly, they understand that lower rents compromise a landlord’s inclination to provide the best service and maintain properties in the best condition.
And they love Downtown the way it is — striving and growing with no need for help from “advocates” whose day is long over.
Source: New York Post