Moms gather by a “toxic” toy bin on Broadway and 25th Street to protest an industry lawsuit. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
A coalition of moms protesting hazardous chemicals and metals used in toys descended upon the headquarters of the Toy Industry Association on Tuesday morning, toting with them a collection of “toxic toys.”
Toys these days, they said, can include chemicals like benzene, cadmium and even formaldehyde. They gave an example in two of the toys that were on display in a trash bin, a soccer ball and a padded mat, which they said had lead. Two of the moms added they’ve even tested toys themselves and found chemicals in them.
One of them was Tenye Steele, who has two daughters. “I am always having to tell them, ‘Please take that out of your mouth’, ‘please don’t chew on that,’” she said. “I used to work with chemicals so I understand that chemicals are needed to make things, but it doesn’t take a physical scientist to understand that toxic chemicals should not be in children’s toys. It could be one less thing I have to worry about.”
The group held its press conference across the street from the Toy Industry Association’s building on 25th Street and Broadway, after being shooed away from the front of the building by an employee there. The location was chosen as a response to a federal lawsuit filed in Albany by a group of toy manufacturers fighting a local law that sets which levels of chemicals in products are acceptable. The suit is fighting it by arguing that there’s already a similar federal law and sufficient safety provisions in place.
On Thursday, The Rent Guidelines Board released its annual report on landlord operating costs, which revealed that landlords only experienced a 0.5 percent increase last year, making it the smallest increase since 2002.
Mike McKee of TenantsPAC pointed out that in that year, operating costs were actually in the negatives but the chair at the time had been appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“He said that he didn’t care what the price index showed and that we couldn’t have rent increases below 2 and 4,” McKee said. “And that’s what the increases were that year.”
In contrast, the current board that will vote this year was appointed entirely by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who made getting a rent freeze for rent stabilized tenants one of his campaign promises.
The study released last year reported that operating costs had increased by 5.7 percent in 2013, but the board had five new tenant-friendly members and set record-low increase of one percent for one-year leases and 2.75 percent for two-year leases.
The notably small increase in landlord costs in this year’s study is due primarily to a 21 percent decrease in fuel costs throughout last year. The study also noted that there was a 4.2 percent increase in taxes, 7.2 percent increase in insurance costs and 1.2 percent increase in utilities, but these were still outweighed by the drastic decrease in fuel costs.
While the report looks promising for tenants, advocates are still fighting to change the process because they say that the price index is deceptive and shouldn’t even be used as part of the RGB’s process.