Tenants rally for rent rollback before first RGB meeting

Tenants rallied outside 1 Centre Street on Thursday (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Rent stabilized tenants geared up for the upcoming Rent Guidelines Board vote at a rally before the board’s first public meeting of the year this past Thursday morning. Encouraged by a recent ruling by the New York Supreme Court, tenant advocates pushed for a rent rollback.

“As Judge Debra James ruled in her courtroom on Tuesday, the RGB must consider tenant affordability, along with landlord expenses, income and profit,” said Anne Cunningham, a tenant of a residential hotel on the Upper West Side who has been coming to RGB-related housings rights protests for more than 30 years. “And when the RGB votes, they must consider a rent rollback for tenants as a fair and reasonable rent adjustment.”

The ruling on Tuesday was the result of a lawsuit filed by the Rent Stabilization Association, which claimed that the freeze was imposed by the mayor for political reasons and the board shouldn’t take tenant affordability into account when making their decision.

Upper West Side resident Anne Cunningham

Other tenants at the rally argued that limiting the rent freeze to one-year leases was unfair to tenants who wanted some sense of security in their living situation, because while many tenants wanted to sign two-year leases, the two-percent increase voted on by the board last year was still too steep for some.

Tenants fighting for the rollback said they were frustrated by the increases voted on during the Bloomberg administration and that because of so many years of rising rents, a decrease in rents is warranted.

“Mayor Bloomberg really raised rents in an unfair fashion,” said Upper West Side resident Maxine Zeifman. “Everyone on the board when he was the mayor was from Wall Street and the banks. We really need these rent regulations to keep it from getting even worse.”

The meeting itself, held in a conference room at the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1 Centre Street, included presentations from RGB staff on the most recent income and expense study and the mortgage survey report. Tenants and landlords will be able to provide testimony at another public meeting, held on April 20, also in the Landmarks Preservation conference room.


4 thoughts on “Tenants rally for rent rollback before first RGB meeting

  1. I remember a day when our TA would partake in things like this. Unfortunately those days are long gone, and we all know that it would just be for show if they actually did something.

  2. Sadly, what you say is true. I don’t think the TA represents tenants anymore. I think it represents Management, though I don’t understand why.

  3. TA board members regularly testify in person before the RGB. Any tenant can do so or submit testimony electronically. The TA regularly makes the information available. This was my testimony last year arguing for a rollback (although I’m a TA board member, I testified as an individual). It helps to know that the RGB’s public members and the chair essentially make the decisions since the 2 landlord and 2 tenant members tend to cancel each other out.

    My name is Anne Greenberg, and I’m a rent-stabilized senior citizen in Peter Cooper Village.

    My comments are addressed to the public members and the chair. Tenants applaud our members, Harvey Epstein and Sheila Garcia, who are true champions. I also want to thank Mr. Walsh [owner representative] for his pertinent questions.

    It all comes down to the numbers.

    When the PIOC [price index of operating costs] said the landlords’ costs went up, they were granted increases.

    This year the PIOC says costs are down. Logic dictates that rents should be rolled back to reflect that. Anything else makes no sense. Costs up—rent increases. Costs down—rent decreases. It should be inarguable.

    But here’s another argument: Tenants are the public, and the public members should be taking our interests into account. We contribute to the city just as much as the fat-cat owners. We are the city, not the absentee oligarchs in their shiny high-rises. We work hard. We support cultural institutions and local activities.

    And we want to age in place.

    But we can’t do that if you allow rent hikes to destroy our neighborhoods.

    My landlords—three in the past ten years—have churned the apartments out of real affordability. They’ve put up fake walls and crammed in more people than the apartments were designed to accommodate. They spend on entertainment events while busting unions and cutting back maintenance staff. They’ve monetized the property with paid activities and outrageous fees to change lightbulbs.

    And all the time the rent has been going up, up, up.

    So don’t worry about the big owners—tax breaks and MCIs and IAIs and such allow them to do just fine. If you’re a public member, it’s time to start doing right by the public—and the public are us, the tenants.

    Thank you.

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