Landlords, Tenants Face Off At Rent Guidelines Board Public Hearing

Proposal Would Allow 3% Increase For 1-Year Leases, 4.5% For 2-Year Leases

June 13, 2013 2:31 PM

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The New York City Rent Guidelines Board held a public hearing in lower Manhattan Thursday.

As WCBS 880′s Marla Diamond reported, landlords were pitted against tenants and neither side was happy.

The rent board has proposed an increase on tenants of about a million rent-stabilized apartments.

Tenants hold signs at the Rent Guidelines Board public hearing, June 13, 2013. (credit: Juliet Papa/1010 WINS)

Under the proposal, a one-year lease could see a rent increase from 3.25 percent to 6.25 percent. A two-year lease could go up from 5 percent to 9.5 percent, according to the rent board.

Crown Heights building owner Constance Nugent-Miller said the proposed increases aren’t enough.

“Especially after Hurricane Sandy, how are we going to make our building safe? How are we going to protect those boilers from flood? It’s not going to be done for free,” she told Diamond.

“My taxes are 80 percent higher now than five years and my rent revenues have gone up less than 20 percent,” Washington Heights landlord Michael Vinocur told Diamond.

Susan Steinberg, who has a rent-stabilized apartment in Peter Cooper Village, said the cards are stacked against the tenants.

“This is a real problem. Many people are losing their homes and it’s just time for tenants to get a break,” Steinberg told Diamond.

Two Democratic candidates for mayor addressed the board at the hearing.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio both called for a rent freeze this year.

“You have raised rents throughout the crisis. It’s time to stop doing that and provide people relief,” de Blasio said.

The rent board approved increases of 2 percent for one-year renewals and 4 percent for two-year leases last year.

The hearing goes until 7 p.m. Thursday evening at the Emigrant Savings Bank Building located at 49-51 Chambers Street.

No public hearing will be held in Brooklyn, the Bronx or Queens this year, due to past poor attendance.

A final vote on the rent increase recommendations is scheduled for Thursday June 20.

Source: CBS New York

 

At Hearing, 3 Mayoral Candidates Advocate Rent Freeze

By MONA EL-NAGGAR

Kathleen Jones, with a Bronx community group, cried at a public hearing in Manhattan while talking about higher rent costs.

At the Rent Guidelines Board public hearing on Thursday, much of the theater and drama were as always: tenants insisting that the proposed increase at rent-stabilized apartments in New York City was far too high, and landlords complaining that it was far too low.

But with this being a mayoral election year, the hearing featured a few different actors.

Among those in attendance were three Democratic mayoral candidates,Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker; Bill de Blasio, the public advocate; and John C. Liu, the city comptroller. All three spoke in favor of imposing a rent freeze.

“It is time we finally consider the tenants,” Ms. Quinn said, arguing that owners have fared better than tenants over the course of the recession.

“Good luck on your campaign,” replied Steven J. Schleider, who represents property owners on the nine-member board.

“So you’re taking a position that government can dictate how much money or profit or return a private owner can have?” Mr. Schleider asked.

“We’re focused on the needs of tenants,” Ms. Quinn repeated.

Mr. Schleider shook his head.

Ms. Quinn shot back: “We’ve danced this dance before, we know who’s leading when, who’s following when, and at what point we go from waltz to fox trot.”

The audience broke out in laughter. Some cheered from the back of the room. One man waved his sign that read, “Justice for tenants.”

In a way, the gist of Ms. Quinn’s remark summed up Thursday’s hearing.

This year, the board has proposed an increase ranging from 3.25 percent to 6.25 percent for a one-year lease and 5 percent to 9.5 percent for a two-year lease. Last year, the board approved an increase of 2 percent for a one-year lease and 4 percent for a two-year lease. An additional supplement, which tenant advocates refer to as the “poor tax,” would impose a higher increase in rent for those tenants who live in a rent-stabilized apartment and pay less than $1,000 a month.

Judith Seigel, an 83-year-old artist who owns an 1835 brownstone on Morton Street in the West Village, said her property tax had doubled to about $40,000 over the last decade. And while she said the Village had become more often populated by “movie stars than artists,” it is still her home.

“My husband would come home from his job as a buyer in training at Bloomingdale’s, hang his clothes and lay bricks and scrape paint until midnight,” Ms. Seigel said. “Back then, we could never imagine that World War II emergency rent controls would last beyond 1984, much less 2001. And now it’s 2013.”

Mr. de Blasio criticized the board for holding only one public hearing; since 2005, a second hearing has been traditionally held in the Bronx, Brooklyn or Queens. “By not holding a single hearing in the outer boroughs, the board has marginalized the voices of more than 700,000 renters who face the prospect of higher rents,” Mr. de Blasio said. The board’s solitary hearing “is not just an inconvenience; it’s an outright failure of democracy.”

Mr. Liu called for a one-year moratorium on rent increases.

The board will reconvene next Thursday to vote on the proposed increases.

“It feels like the two sides come from alternate universes, that they are living in different realities,” said Harvey Epstein, another board member who sits on the opposite side of the hearing table from Mr. Schleider. “We have to hear the two sides and try to find some balance.”

Source: New York Times

All the politicians are standing up for tenants at the RGB. Owners need to stand up for themselves. Register now to testify.

Christine C. Quinn, Speaker, NYC Council

 

Dear New Yorker,

Last month, the NYC Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) adopted a proposed range of increases for NYC rent stabilized apartments: between 3.25% to 6.25% for 1-year leases and 5% to 9.5% for 2-year leases.

If approved, these increases will negatively impact millions of low- and middle-class New Yorkers, many of whom are still recovering from Hurricane Sandy and pay more than 50% of their income in rent.  That’s why this year we’re once again calling for a rent freeze.

Unfortunately, the RGB has only scheduled one public hearing before their final vote this year – and it’s in Manhattan, mainly during working hours, which will make it extremely difficult for folks, especially in the outer boroughs, to attend and testify.  Additional details below:

  • Thursday, June 13, 2013, Public Hearing (Public Testimony), Emigrant Savings Bank Building, 49-51 Chambers Street (between Broadway and Centre Street), New York, NY 1007, starting at 10 AM
  • Thursday, June 20, 2013, Public Meeting (Final Vote), The Great Hall at Cooper Union, 7 East 7th Street (at corner of Third Avenue), Basement, New York, NY 10003, starting at 5:30 PM

These rent increases will affect ALL of our neighborhoods, so it’s important not to let this deter us and to make every effort to ensure that our voices are heard.

Tenants and advocates have requested that an additional outer borough hearing be scheduled during the evening hours – but, so far, the Board has refused to do so.

 

In response, Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA) and other tenant advocacy groups are hosting their own unofficial RGB hearing in the Bronx next Wednesday, June 5, 2013, at the New Settlement Community Center, located at 1501 Jerome Avenue and 172nd Street, starting at 5:30 PM.

Given the RGB’s decision to forgo outer borough hearings, we wanted to help CASA and its partners get the word out and encourage folks to attend.

More importantly, we want to urge everyone, if at all possible, to testify at the RGB’s public hearing on June 13th.  If taking time off from work, school and/or family isn’t an option, you can submit your views in writing instead by addressing them to the Chairman, or any Board member, c/o the NYC Rent Guidelines Board, 51 Chambers St., Suite 202, New York, NY 10007 or by email at chair@nycrgb.org.

Additional information about this year’s rent guidelines process can be found on the RGB’s website at www.nycrgb.org.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Christine C. Quinn

Speaker

NYC Council