Tenants Assoc. to Cuomo: Loopholes in rent laws are eroding Stuy Town’s stability
Dear Governor Cuomo,
I’m writing on behalf of the 25,000 residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. Our residents, as well as tenants throughout New York City, are facing the worst housing affordability crisis in the city’s history. This crisis is damaging the economic and social fabric not only of our city but of our state as well.
As our residents devote an ever-increasing percentage of their income to rent, the drop in their discretionary income has impacted local businesses.
We see more and more empty storefronts. Local businesses have not only experienced precipitous drops in sales, their own rents are rising. The small, individually owned stores that provided a great diversity of needed services are disappearing, replaced by an oversupply of chain pharmacies and banks.
The ST-PCV Community is at the center of the loss of affordable housing. Our apartments are currently rent regulated. However, in the wake of the NY State Court of Appeals decision Roberts v. Tishman-Speyer, which reregulated destabilized units, many of our apartments are renting at or above market rate.
We want new families – not just the transient renters who currently make up a large percentage of new residents – to be able to afford to come to ST-PCV, put down roots and return this community to what it was originally designed to be during the administration of Gov. Thomas E. Dewey.
However, excessive rent increases due to loopholes in the existing regulations are destroying the laws that keep New York affordable for more than one million people. One of these loopholes, known as preferential rent, slams preferential renters with hundreds-of-dollar increases at lease renewal time. Many of our neighbors, young families with preferential rents, are one lease renewal away from having to move.
Major capital improvements have also unfairly burdened tenants. Tacked on to the rent in perpetuity, this windfall for owners simply is not justified beyond the recovery of actual costs. It is unconscionable.
But the overarching issue which we hope you will support is repeal of Vacancy Deregulation, which has been responsible for the loss of thousands of rent-regulated apartments over recent years. This continued bleeding of affordability will ultimately destroy the city.
Thirty-one years ago, your father addressed our nation about a “shining city on a hill.” It was a vivid presentation about what people could accomplish with hard work and a little help from their government in times of need. We are doing the hard work. Now we need that help from our government so that people who work in this shining city can afford to live in it.
For the sake of our community’s future and for all other rent-stabilized middle- and lower-income New Yorkers, I urge you to give your full support for renewing and strengthening rent laws.
President, Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village
Major capital project costs could be shared
To the editor:
In a recent letter in T&V, June 4, Councilman Daniel R. Garodnick noted three areas in law that need improvement in what has become a quite nearly outright political war between tenants and large landlords. The three areas are: vacancy decontrol, preferential rents and Major Capital Improvements. I wish to comment on the last. As it stands the law allows a landlord to pass on to a tenant the cost of a major capital improvement.
The neat part is, whatever the improvement, it becomes part of tenants’ rent forever, even after the improvement itself is replaced.
The reasoning behind MCI is this: We want landlords to maintain their property, and MCI is a way to encourage them to do just that! Swell! Now what about the flip-side? Within the current law, we do not just “encourage” a landlord to maintain what is his/hers. No, there is more to it than mere encouragement. Within our common language, one that tenants and landlords share, the tenant actually gifts the improvement to the landlord. That is to say, while the tenant does not do the actual purchasing, the tenant pays and the landlord does the keeping. It’s a kind of legal dole — a grant to the needy.
So my question is this: Why are we asking for so very little? Why are we being so fair? Why are we not doing a better job representing our interests?
Isn’t there a balance between gifting and encouraging? Why isn’t our position this: Okay, we do not want to discourage a landlord from maintaining his/her own property, but must we gift them the entire amount? Why not do it this way: The tenant pays 50 percent; the landlord pays 50 percent and gets to keep the whatever-it-is?
As far as I know that is a better deal than the one ordinary people get when they own a car, or anything else. Something breaks… we pay to have it fixed. That’s simply part of ownership, but I have not suggested such a radical plan for landlords. We would not want our position to smack of wanting something for nothing… would we?
John M. Giannone, ST