Mayoral candidates: We’ll be more pro-tenant than Bloomberg

Christine Quinn

Christine Quinn
Photos by Maria Rocha-Buchel

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Last Wednesday, the candidates for mayor attempted to appeal to residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village by discussing the property’s and other tenant issues at the first-ever mayoral forum to be held by the Tenants Association.

All nine candidates were invited to participate at the event, which was held at Simon Baruch Middle School.

TA board Chair Susan Steinberg moderated the forum, attended by over 200 people, and posed questions to the eight candidates who attended, which included former New York City Council Member Sal Albanese (D), City Comptroller John Liu (D), former City Comptroller Bill Thompson (D), former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion (I), former US Representative Anthony Weiner (D), City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D), Public Advocate Bill de Blasio (D) and businessman John Catsimatidis (R). Republican candidate and former MTA chairman Joe Lhota was invited but did not attend.

“The fact that this forum is so well attended by both residents and candidates shows that it’s an important time,” City Councilmember Dan Garodnick said at the outset of the event. “In January, we’ll have a new mayor so it’s important that we hear from all the candidates now.”

Garodnick set the tone of the event, noting that Mayor Michael Bloomberg had not wanted to get in

Bill DeBlasio

Bill DeBlasio

volved with the conflict between the tenants and Tishman Speyer in 2006 because it was a “private real estate transaction” and many of the candidates addressed this issue, as well as focusing on general affordable housing concerns.

A number of the candidates insisted that they would take a much more active stance than Mayor Bloomberg has in his decade in office, most specifically in terms of housing.

“We need a mayor who will stand with you and make sure affordable housing is part of what New York City is,” Thompson said. “Using the bully pulpit that I have, I would stand side by side as you purchase your homes. The sale (in 2006) was national news. It was an opportunity for the mayor to make a statement about affordable housing and he didn’t.”

John Catsimatidis

John Catsimatidis

Liu expressed similar concerns about the current mayor’s lax approach. “How can it have nothing to do with the mayor’s office when tens of thousands of New Yorkers are involved? It makes no sense,” he said. “It shows neglect and a dereliction of duty. I’m willing to engage actively. If companies want to take over where tens of thousands of tenants live, City Hall has to pay attention.”

Steinberg asked most of the candidates if and how they would help ST/PCV tenants in their efforts to purchase the property and all said that they supported the plan while taking a more active role than Bloomberg has in the past.

“The mayor has the responsibility to intervene on behalf of the tenants,” Carrion said. “We can’t watch the market crush the middle class. It’s a shame that we’re in this situation, this bidding war. I support your efforts to buy the property but in a much shorter time frame than CW Capital is asking.”

Quinn said that as mayor, she would use a more hands-on approach as well when dealing with CW Capital.

Sal Albanese

Sal Albanese

“All the efforts so far haven’t worked yet but there is no bigger bully pulpit than the mayor’s office, save for the US President,” she said. “I will use that to bring CW Capital to the table. We would do it publicly.”

Weiner, like most of his opponents, said that he would be more involved in tenant issues than the current administration and would also support the tenant bid.

“There is too much at stake so I would take an active, not passive role, not just watching it play out. We need to make sure that someone is looking over the shoulder (of real estate developers),” he said. “There is a role for ownership but tenants should be able to continue to rent.” And while Weiner said that he would take a more active role in tenants’ issues, when asked about what he would have done during the Tishman Speyer deal, he said that he wouldn’t necessarily be the one calling the shots. “I would have had a presence at the table but would have left it to the residents,” he said.

John Liu

John Liu

Liu, Quinn, de Blasio and Thompson all noted that there are disparities between the tenants and the rent increases voted on by the Rent Guidelines Board in recent years and Albanese expressed support for the recent bill sponsored by Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh that would give City Council more oversight when appointing members of the board.

“I would lead the tenant lobby and get the Urstadt Law repealed,” Quinn said. “There has been an erosion of tenant protection. We need to have power back here.”

Both Thompson and de Blasio called for more tenant representatives on the board.

“City Hall is supposed to think of the people who live here, not about the landlords,” de Blasio said.

Anthony Weiner

Anthony Weiner

Thompson added that there is a more urgent need for tenant representatives on the board due to the seeming disparities between the rent increases and landlord increases.

“The Rent Reform Campaign report said that the price index used by the Rent Guidelines Board is less accurate than what increases actually were,” he said. “We need more tenant-friendly people on the board.”

Adolfo Carrion

Adolfo Carrion

Weiner was one of the later candidates to speak and when he got to the stage, attracted a bit of attention due to his bright orange pants. His explanation for his fashion choice was that he’d worn them for a “West Village” audience. “I don’t normally dress like this but I just came from a rally in the West Village celebrating the Supreme Court’s ruling against DOMA,” he said.

In his time at the podium, Catsimatidis made an attempt to appeal to a broad spectrum of residents, branding himself as a Republican Liberal. “I’m pro-business but I’m not going to give the streets back to the hoodlums,” he explained.

Public advocate candidates Daniel Squadron, Cathy Guerriero and Letitia James were also at the event.

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2 thoughts on “Mayoral candidates: We’ll be more pro-tenant than Bloomberg

  1. My take on the forum is that wile all the candidates said they would fight for affordable housing, only one, John Liu came ready with his own study and some statistics on how much worse housing affordability has become under Mayor Bloomberg, while another, Anthony Weiner, tried to rewrite his own history of voting for policies that allowed landlords to jack up rents on vacant apartments.

    John Liu noted that under Bloomberg, from 2000-2010, New Yorkers paying unaffordable housing went from 41% to 49% see: http://www.comptroller.nyc.gov/bureaus/opm/reports/2012/Rents-through-the-Roof.pdf. He is the only candidate who seems to have actually studied the problem and had some good ideas about how to stop landlords from using phony expense numbers in the rent guidelines board process.

    Christine Quinn received the most lukewarm response, seemed unprepared on some questions, and is clearly falling behind the pack. Bill DeBlasio and Bill Thompson both did a good job of connecting with the issues and the crowd and seemed to genuinely care about tenants, and since Thompsons daughter lives in Stuy Town he understands the horrible dynamics of having developers, bond holders and hedge fund scammers playing with tenants futures.

    It became obvious though that Dan Garodnick is their main connection to PCV/Stuytown, and since he is backing a condo conversion, future affordability for all of NY is in danger as most apartments would eventually be condo converted. On this point, only Weiner was strong, saying that the current tenants should reconsider partnering with Brookfield Properties (where Bloombergs girlfriend is on the board) and also should develop a plan they helps preserve affordable rentals for future generations vs just trying to cash I on a condo deal that gives them low insider prices but high prices for anyone that follows.

    On this point the recent tenant apathy regarding mid-lease increases, and focus on a condo conversion, shows that train has left the station. Only tenants can stand up for their own rights but since so few in ST/PCV seem to care about preserving affordable rental housing for others, it’s much like what is happening at many Mitchell Llamas like East Midtown Plaza on 23 St. where some tenants thnk they should just cash out and take care of their own needs vs. keeping the building and the city that is already unaffordable from becoming completey unaffordable for future generations. Luckily the tenants at East Midtown voted the privitization plan down and won 3 major court cases, keeping it affordable for all. But for all those kids who grew up in Stuy Town, except for the rich ones they will be unable to afford to live ther down the road if this trend towards coop and comdo conversion continues. Having a non-eviction conversion plan is not the same as maintaining a large base of affordable rental units, which would eventually turn condo as older tenants leave. JohnlIu mentioned partnering with the tenans, using city and maybe getting State and Federal funds to help save it for the future, the question now is, is it too late?

  2. I am very suspicious of anything to do with Garodnick, Brookfield and anything and anyone connected to Bloomberg. Bloomberg has turned New York into his own Fifedom and has used his money to buy everyone who could be useful to him. The corruption stinks worse than a sewer. I don’t know who I’ll vote for, but it certainly won’t be Quinn. John Liu seems to be the only one who has ever really called Bloomberg out and that’s probably the reason why there was such a witch hunt concerning his campaign finances. As for STPCV going condo, I hope it never happens.

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