Supreme Court May Take On Rent Regulations As City Council Wants More Say Over RGB

04/16/2012 09:34 PM
By: Zack Fink

As the U.S. Supreme Court put off a decision on whether or not to hear a case challenging the constitutionality of the city’s rent regulation laws, some city legislative leaders demanded more say over appointments to the city Rent Guidelines Board. NY1’s Zack Fink filed the following report.

While the U.S. Supreme Court did not agree to hear the case, a process known as granting certiorari or “cert,” it did not deny the petition either.

That leaves the door open for the high to court to consider its first New York city rent regulation case since the 1920s.

“I don’t think there is much to read into it. I think the court obviously has a very large docket. They looked at hundreds of cases this past week, they granted cert in one case. They denied cert in many other cases,” said attorney Mathew Brett.

The case stems from a rent-regulated brownstone on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The owner, Jim Harmon, who declined to be interviewed by NY1, is trying to evict at least one of his three-rent regulated tenants to use for a family member. One of those tenants owns a house in the Hamptons.

Meanwhile, local leaders held a Monday demonstration at City Hall to expand local control over rent regulations.

Currently, members of the city’s Rent Guidelines Board are appointed by the mayor, but a bill in Albany would give the City Council more say.

“When this bill passes, it will bring a more balanced system, a system that will hopefully move us away from the days of the Rent Guidelines Board being nothing more than a kangaroo court,” said City Council Speaker Christina Quinn.

“Look, I think this bill’s got a real shot. I think there is a real push for it this year,” said Manhattan-Brooklyn Senator Daniel Squadron. “There really is no coherent opposition to this bill.”

Some lawmakers said it would be unprecedented for the Supreme Court to overturn rent control, but others are not so sure.

“I think people are concerned. It’s the most conservative court of my lifetime. And we hope that they won’t weigh in. That case law is very clear that rent control, rent stabilization is constitutional,” said City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin.

The Supreme Court has delayed action on the Harmon case by a week. That means the justices are likely to conference it this coming Friday, with a decision expected on whether to hear the case to come next Monday.

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