New pols promise stronger rent regulations

Tenants carry signs at a rally in front of City Hall. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Since the flipping of the State Senate last month, local Democrat elected officials have been crowing that 2019 will be the year of the tenant.

That point was hammered home on Monday when about 70 tenant activists and about a dozen members of the State Senate and Assembly held a rally in front of City Hall on the laws that regulate rents for about 2.5 million New Yorkers. On June 15, the rent regulations will expire in Albany, but with many new members-elect of the State Senate having campaigned on the issue of affordable housing, there is a better chance than ever before that they’ll make good on those promises.

State Senator Liz Krueger, who got to witness an embarrassing coup in her chamber a previous time the Democrats won the majority, said this time it will be different.

“This is a statewide cry that’s been building louder and louder,” she said about the demands for more affordable housing. “It was this issue that every single senator downstate ran on and now it’s a statewide issue. Now housing is unaffordable in many areas in the state, not just the city.”

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Police Watch: Woman arrested for swiping ice cream, Man charged with assault

WOMAN ALLEGEDLY SWIPED DOZENS OF CARTONS OF ICE CREAM
Police arrested 32-year-old Christina Figueroa for an alleged theft inside the Food Emporium at 10 Union Square East on Monday, December 3 at 7:12 p.m. Police said that Figueroa took 50 containers of ice cream from the store without paying for the items.

MAN CHARGED WITH ASSAULT OF OFFICERS AT BETH ISRAEL
Police arrested 28-year-old Julian Dejesus for an alleged assault inside Beth Israel Hospital at 281 First Avenue on Monday, December 3 at 9:22 p.m. Police said that Dejesus went to the hospital voluntarily to be evaluated but once he became aware that he was going to be admitted into the psychiatric ward, he became irate and allegedly began fighting with security. Police said that two security officers were injured while trying to subdue him.

MAN CHARGED WITH 2017 ROLEX THEFT
Police arrested 32-year-old Tyrone Hood on Monday, December 3 at 10:09 a.m. inside the 13th precinct for an alleged theft that took place last year. Police said that the victim invited Hood and another person who wasn’t arrested back to his apartment at 332 East 18th Street after meeting them at a bar on September 9, 2017 around 3 a.m. When he woke up later, the men were gone and his watch and Rolex were missing. No other arrests have been made.

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Tenants talk strategy at town hall

Sheila Garcia of CASA and State Senator Brad Hoylman (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

With Democrats having taken the State Senate last month, local elected officials and tenant advocates held a town hall last week, essentially to rally the troops for what will still be a battle to pass tenant-friendly legislation next year.

More than 200 people attended the event hosted by State Senator Brad Hoylman last Thursday in the New York Public Library Schwarzman Building.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Aaron Carr of the Housing Rights Initiative (HRI), Delsenia Glover of Tenants and Neighbors and Sheila Garcia of Communities for Safe Apartments (CASA) joined Hoylman for the discussion on vacancy decontrol, the LLC loophole and the possibility of strengthening the rent laws now that the State Senate has gone blue.

Hoylman said that in addition to vacancy decontrol, another policy that the State Senate should focus on is the LLC loophole.

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Democratic lead too big for attempts at power grabs: Hoylman

State Senator Brad Hoylman with new Senate majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (Photo by Avery Cohen)

By Sabina Mollot

Nearly a decade ago, Democrats won the State Senate, but their victory was short-lived, thanks to a coup orchestrated by a pair of renegades. When the party next regained power in numbers, this too was brief thanks to a power-sharing arrangement that was brokered between eight breakaway Democrats and Republicans.

But this time it will be different, State Senator Brad Hoylman is saying, due to some unexpected wins last Tuesday that gave Democrats too large of a lead to even try to play behind-the-scenes games with.

“We now have a 16-seat majority,” said Hoylman, “which is extraordinary and provides Democrats with a level of comfort going into vote. A 16-seat majority is a safeguard against Albany’s funny stuff. While there might be some disagreement in our conference, we are a united conference.”

The results of the election paved way for 16 new senators. Six of those senators had defeated candidates during the primary who were formerly members of the breakaway Democrat group known as the Independent Democratic Conference. The new crop of elected officials is also a more diverse bunch: the capitol now has its first Taiwanese-American lawmaker, its first Salvadorian-American, its first Indian-American, its first Colombian-American and its largest number yet of Latinos and women to serve. The Senate’s new majority leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, is the first woman to hold the position, effectively ending the three-men-in-a-room tradition of lawmaking.

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What a Democratic State Senate means for tenants

Nov20 Mike McKee color

Mike McKee of TenantsPAC (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

For years, Democrats in Albany have been pledging to strengthen rent regulations in New York City, but whenever legislation aimed at doing so dies on the chamber floor, fingers get pointed at their Republican colleagues, who, up until November 6, held a majority in the State Senate.

Now, with the chamber having turned unquestionably blue, tenants might just have a chance at seeing some of the legislation, most notably the repeal of vacancy decontrol, get signed into law. Following the election, the Democrat to Republican ratio is 40 Democrats to 23 Republicans. While this figure includes Simcha Felder, a Democrat who caucuses with Republicans, the Democrats still have a clear majority.

But even still, it won’t be easy, Michael McKee, the treasurer and spokesperson of Tenants Political Action Committee, is warning.

“Nothing is guaranteed,” McKee said. “We are going to have to work very hard to make sure our friends in both houses do the right thing and hold them accountable. Just because the Senate is now under Democratic control, it doesn’t mean stronger rent protections are automatically going to happen.”

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Democrats retake State Senate, Maloney and Epstein win easily

A line snakes out of a Stuyvesant Town polling place, with turnout being similar to presidential election years. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Local politicians were easily re-elected on Tuesday, with none of the state and federal candidates facing any serious challengers in this year’s midterms.

State Senator Brad Hoylman had the easiest path to victory, not having to face any challenger at all, although many of his fellow Democrats vying to flip seats in the State Senate had much closer races. But enough were successful in their campaigns that Democrats were able to regain a majority for only the third time in the last 50 years.

Some Senate races had still not been called as of Wednesday afternoon but by Tuesday night, at least 32 Senate Democrats had won their races, and Republicans won 21 seats. The win means that Democrats control the State Senate and Assembly as well as the offices of the governor, comptroller and attorney general.

Incumbent Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney won against Republican Eliot Rabin with 86.2 percent of the vote. Rabin received 12.3 percent of the vote, and Green Party candidate Scott Hutchins got 1.5 percent of the vote. Incumbent Assembly Member Harvey Epstein beat out Juan Pagan of the Reform Party and Republican Bryan Cooper with 87 percent of the vote.

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Maloney’s Green Party opponent has been homeless for years

Scott Hutchins has applied for 3,000 jobs since becoming homeless and has worked at seven. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, who recently bested an East Village hospitality executive in an unusually competitive primary, must still face two opponents in the upcoming general election. Neither opponent is well known or well-funded, and this is especially true of Green Party candidate Scott Hutchins, who’s been in New York’s shelter system for the past six and a half years.

Still, this isn’t the first time Hutchins, 42, has attempted to run for office, and since he has bounced from shelter to shelter in recent years (though not by choice), he has done so in more than one district.

When he filed his petition, he was staying in a shelter in Long Island City, but he has since been transferred to a hotel in Bushwick. Hutchins initially attempted to do an interview with this newspaper by phone, but his government-issued cell hasn’t been working right since he dropped it a few weeks ago, shattering its screen. During the interview, he lost service after a few minutes, which he had warned would probably happen. So he later met up with a Town & Village reporter at a Coffeed shop in Flatiron, to share his reasons for running and for sticking with a party that’s as broke as he is.

Maloney, he feels, has a conservative voting record, on economic policy and bank regulations, including leading up to the economic crisis a decade ago. He also brought up that Maloney had initially voted to support the Iraq war. “Even though she had tons of protesters in her district.”

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Friends and foes debate Small Business Jobs Survival Act

Supporters of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act rally prior to a long-awaited City Council hearing. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Monday, the City Council chamber was packed with small business advocates, real estate professionals and others with an interest in the first step taken to move the now 32-year-old Small Business Jobs Survival Act in nearly a decade.

At a lengthy hearing, those in support of the bill, aimed at getting businesses an automatic 10-year lease renewal, through mediation and binding arbitration if necessary, carried signs that said things like “Pass Intact SBJSA Now” and “Evict REBNY.” Those against it wore blue caps that read, “Vote no commercial rent control.”

The hearing followed a rally in support of the SBJSA led by David Eisenbach, a Columbia professor who heads a group called the Friends of the SBJSA.

Eisenbach compared the fight for the bill’s passage to “a battle for the soul of New York. Will it be a New York of chains or a New York of Chinatown? It’s David against Goliath.”

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Maloney’s Republican opponent: I’m left enough to court Democrats

Eliot Rabin, pictured at one of his Peter Elliot boutiques on the Upper East Side, says he is in it to win it. (Photo courtesy of the candidate)

By Sabina Mollot

Eliot Rabin, the Republican candidate in this race, is tired of being thought of as a token candidate for his party.

“I’m in it to win it,” he said this week, while also lamenting he hasn’t gotten much support from his own party other than an early endorsement from Manhattan GOP.

Besides, said the longtime New Yorker and South Carolina native, the campaign has been going well in that he has gotten some support from the Democrat voters he’ll need to stand a chance against a party fixture like Maloney. Donations as well as interest for his campaign have come from his customers at the two Upper East Side Peter Elliot clothing boutiques he’s owned for decades as well as from his fellow alumni from Citadel Military College in South Carolina and neighbors at his building on 81st Street.

“The first question out of their mouths is, ‘Are you a Democrat or are you a Republican?’” he admitted. “But as you’re talking to people, they say they’re Democrats, but they’re not really. They have their own views. After they’ve been speaking, (you can see) they’re independent.”

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Dems say Republican club is to blame for assaults

Powers and pols

Council Member Keith Powers questioned the club’s judgment, while Council Member Donovan Richards questioned why there weren’t more arrests. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

After an Upper East Side Republican Club was vandalized on Friday, followed by a street brawl that is believed to be between members of a far-right group and left wing counter-protesters, local Democrat elected officials said the club had itself to blame.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and a handful of other politicians, including Council Member Keith Powers, who represents the neighborhood, questioned why the Metropolitan Club invited Gavin McInnes, a speaker who founded the Proud Boys group. Proud Boys has been deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Johnson said that McInnes, the co-founder of Vice Media, has used anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, sexist, racist and homophobic language.

A Vox report this week said McInnes has made statements about why he hates Jews as well as wanting to defile women. He has also made statements about Muslims being inbred.

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SBJSA will finally get Council hearing

Sept27 closed Loop

Loop restaurant on Third Avenue in Gramercy closed over the summer. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The Small Business Jobs Survival Act, which has existed in some for over 30 years, will finally be getting the hearing its advocates have been pushing for.

According to the Small Business Congress, possibly the bill’s most vocal supporter, the City Council’s Small Business Committee will be holding a hearing on October 22 at 1 p.m.

Meanwhile, the SBC and others who’ve been pushing for the bill’s passage, as well as its opponents in the real estate industry, have expressed some pessimism over how the bill will be debated. In the case of the former, it’s over a belief that the bill is just going to get watered down, and in the case of the latter, over the argument that the bill is illegal.

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Former opponent of Maloney loses lawsuit against Board of Elections

Sander Hicks

By Sabina Mollot

Sander Hicks, a Brooklyn Democrat who’d been knocked off the ballot — twice — in an attempt to dethrone Congress Member Carolyn Maloney this election season, has now lost a lawsuit he’d filed against the Board of Elections.

Last month, Hicks filed a suit against the BOE after he was removed from the ballot over issues with his petitions. Hicks said he got well over the necessary number of signatures at around 5,500, with 3,500 being required for candidacy, but his petition was rejected because he’d included two addresses on the cover, one his residence and the other his work. The board then sent him a letter informing him he’d have to correct it, although, according to Hicks, he had to guess the problem because he was never told what it was.

A spokesperson for the Board of Elections did not respond to requests for comment.

The letter, Hicks said, was dated August 3, but he only received it a week later, and when he resubmitted the petitions on August 13, he was told he was too late. In response, he filed his lawsuit in the New York City Supreme Court and attended a hearing on August 30.

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Local primary voters say they wanted change

Voting signs at 360 First Avenue (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Governor Andrew Cuomo defeated activist and challenger Cynthia Nixon by a significant margin in the Democratic primary election on Thursday evening, with the election called for the current governor less than an hour after the polls closed at 9 p.m., although the victory was much narrower among Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents than it was for all five boroughs.

Citywide, Cuomo received 66.45 percent of the vote and Nixon got 33.24 percent, but of the almost 4,000 Democratic voters in Stuy Town and Peter Cooper, the governor only received 51.1 percent to Nixon’s 48.9 percent.

Incumbent Assemblymember Harvey Epstein also won his race by a large margin in the 74th District, getting 62.4 percent of the vote over newcomer Akshay Vaishampayan, who received 19.2 percent and multiple-time candidate Juan Pagan, who got 17.9 percent.

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Public can weigh in on how district dollars get spent this year

Council Member Keith Powers

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Residents of City Council District 2 and 4 will be getting a say on how to spend $1 million that’s being allotted to each district, starting this summer.

The opportunity to weigh in on which projects are most important for the community, through a program called participatory budgeting, started citywide in 2011. This year’s cycle is currently underway and the City Council is soliciting suggestions from New Yorkers for “capital” projects, which means proposals that make improvements to physical infrastructure in spaces like city parks, public schools or any other city-owned property. “Expense” projects, which includes ideas like expanded bus service and afterschool programs, are not eligible for participatory budgeting.

City Councilmember Keith Powers is launching participatory budgeting in District 4 (covering Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, Waterside, Midtown East, Central Park South, and the Upper East Side), for the first time, as is Councilmember Carlina Rivera for District 2 (Gramercy, the East Village, Alphabet City and Kips Bay). Neither of their predecessors, Councilmember Dan Garodnick and Councilmember Rosie Mendez, participated in the program previously.

“The process for the last cycle started the year before (I was elected) and if the district didn’t start then, we needed to wait, so this is the first year we could implement it,” Powers said. “There was big growth for it in the last City Council and additional growth in it this year, in districts like this one. All the new members that didn’t have it in their district, Carlina Rivera, other new members in districts where it wasn’t previously offered, are able to take part now.”

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Assembly candidate Juan Pagan stays in race, despite cancer

Juan Pagan has been running for local office since 2006. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Despite an ongoing battle with prostate cancer and some intensive surgery he is now recovering from, an East Village resident who’s running in the primary against Assembly Member Harvey Epstein says he is staying in the race.

That candidate is Juan Pagan, a former corrections employee who later worked as a contractor and is now retired.

In a campaign interview with Town & Village this week, Pagan shared that he’d had a radical prostatectomy (removal of the prostate gland) on August 14 at Memorial Sloan Kettering in this latest bout with cancer. This is after a recent full recovery from stage 4 lymphoma, Pagan told Town & Village previously, and now Pagan is saying his doctors are optimistic this time around as well. Still, the 62-year-old candidate is taking it easy, and while he agreed to an interview with Town & Village over the phone he also canceled his participation in a debate earlier in the day.

“I have a high threshold of pain, but I’d be squirming in my chair,” he explained.

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