Hoylman: Why I needed to get arrested

Photo courtesy of Brad Hoylman

Photo courtesy of Brad Hoylman

By Brad Hoylman, State Senator, 27th District

Bayard Rustin once wrote, “We need in every bay and community a group of angelic troublemakers.”

I can’t think of a more angelic cause than protecting people’s homes. So last Wednesday, I was one of 55 troublemakers, including eleven elected officials, arrested for civil disobedience outside of Governor Cuomo’s office in Albany protesting Albany’s inaction on strengthening the rent laws this session.

As 25,000 of our Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village neighbors know all too well, New York’s rent laws will expire next week – midnight on June 15. The issue isn’t if the rent laws will be renewed, however. It’s practically a given they will be. The real question is whether protections for rent-regulated tenants will continue to be eroded by the status quo that favors landlords at the expense of tenants.

Tenant activists have put it bluntly: a straightforward extension of the rent laws is an unmitigated disaster for tenants and New York’s affordable housing stock. I agree. The reason is because currently landlords can take advantage of a raft of anti-tenant provisions in the law to flip regulated apartments to market units, making the rent out of reach for most New Yorkers.

Vacancy bonuses allow landlords to hike rents by 20 percent when an apartment becomes available for a new tenant, creating an incentive to push old tenants out.

They use so-called preferential rents to bait prospective tenants into a deceptive sense of safety with a single year of rent below the legal maximum allowed, and then shock them with huge rent increases based on that legal maximum when their leases come up for renewal.

And they make tenants pay extra for major capital improvements (MCIs) — often after the cost of the improvement has been recouped. The result is that over the last two decades, New York has lost 400,000 rent-regulated apartments. Tenants quite literally cannot afford to lose any more.

Thankfully, tenants and their allies are fighting back. In addition to organizing the mass arrest of the “Albany 55,” they’ve held marches, rallies and letter writing campaigns. And by most accounts, they’ve caught the attention of our elected leaders and the news media.

Shortly after our arrests, Governor Cuomo said he would keep legislators in Albany until they agreed to strengthen – not just extend – tenant protections. Mayor de Blasio, in addition to working on the issue for months with state legislators like Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and me, has made strengthening the rent laws a major cornerstone of his affordable housing plan and legislative agenda in Albany. The New York Daily News has been publishing a hard-hitting series over the last few weeks showing the negative consequences of vacancy decontrol. And just this week, busloads of tenants arrived in Albany, including members of the ST-PCV Tenants Association and Council Member Dan Garodnick, demanding tougher laws to protect rent regulated tenants.

The stakes are high. More than 100,000 rent-regulated apartments are on the verge of flipping to higher market rates because of vacancy decontrol. Some parts of our Senate district, including Chelsea and the Upper West Side, could lose as much of half of their rent-regulated apartments as a result.

Back to that arrest in the State Capitol. While I didn’t come to Albany to be a political stuntman, I think we have to play every card to bring attention to the dire situation facing our rent-regulated tenants – including acts of civil disobedience. We’re doing just that thanks to tenant activists like the ST-PCV Tenants Association, our community’s angelic troublemakers.

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8 thoughts on “Hoylman: Why I needed to get arrested

  1. This protest bruised Cuomo. Holyman’s one Democrats who’s not afraid of Governor Glenwood. Bravo to Brad and to all involved!

  2. I hope they are going to renew the rent laws because I’m sure that the ghouls at CR are licking their chops in anticipation of getting rid of all the [real] rent stabilized tenants, especially the older ones in unrenovated apartments. Will they let us set up tents in the Oval to live in?

  3. Thank you Senator Hoylman for getting arrested. I would be afraid to do that in today’s climate. They want us to live in fear and would probably beat up regular folk when the cameras were not running. I do appreciate your efforts, though.

  4. MARIO CUOMO WAS A STATESMAN BUT ANDREW IS JUST A “POL”

    And a quite ambitious governor and it’s clear to me that he has his eyes on the White House.
    So, since we elect those who are capable of getting lots of money, he will need the real estate industry to back him. So, be careful. He seems to have fallen far from the tree.

    • Andrew Cuomo has as much chance of getting into the White House as I do. He certainly is NOT a chip of the old Mario block. I’d think that maybe Mathilda strayed in her youth, but that kisser is Mario’s except for the evil eyes.

      • Re: Comment by Vickie (not to be confused with Victoria)

        Many “pols” are egomaniacal and use denial. Though I voted for him, his action of shutting down the Moreland Inquiry when it got to close to him and his friends was the first indication of who he really was.

        You and I both agree he has little chance of getting to be president — but, I believe that he does. So, my warning is: he may use the rent laws to get support from the real estate industry.

        We have a democratic republic where money buys whom each party selects.

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