Tenants lose bargaining power under new state budget

State Senator Brad Hoylman (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Sunday night, when the New York State budget was passed by the Senate, landlords won an extension of the 421 tax break for new developments while tenants lost some leverage in the ongoing effort to renew and strengthen the rent laws.

The combined budget bills had totaled nearly 2,000 pages, as noted by State Senator Brad Hoylman last week. He’d voted no as a protest to being expected to review a Bible-sized stack in a matter of hours.

However, with the voting now over in the Senate as well as the Assembly, Hoylman gave Town & Village a recap.

The 421a tax break for developers, which was included in the budget, will no longer sunset at the same time as the rent negotiations. The timeline had previously been seen by tenants as an opportunity to bargain for stronger rent laws.

“The fact that the 421a real estate tax exemption was negotiated behind closed doors is scandalous,” said Hoylman, “but what is also extremely scandalous is that it was not linked to renewal of the rent laws. Albany made a colossal mistake in de-coupling the renewal of 421a with rent laws. That was a major leverage point.”

Additionally, ethics reforms, including the closure of the LLC Loophole (which allows donors to give nearly limitless campaign cash to politicians through LLCs), were not included.

“There was no mention of ethics reform in any part of the budget,” said Hoylman, “which is extremely disappointing. Not an iota. They blocked the LLC Loophole (closure), they blocked measures to limit outside income. Once again the Senate majority refused to take action. The budget process itself was dysfunctional.”

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Republican candidate runs for Garodnick’s City Council seat

Rebecca Harary at her campaign launch event on March 29 with Council Member Joseph Borelli of Staten Island (Photos courtesy of Rebecca Harary)

By Sabina Mollot

Last Wednesday, Upper East Sider and nonprofit founder Rebecca Harary officially launched her campaign for the City Council seat soon to be vacated by Dan Garodnick.

Harary, who last year ran for Assembly in the 73rd District, is the first candidate to officially declare she’s running as a Republican. Self-described “progressive Conservative” Melissa Jane Kronfeld previously told Town & Village she hadn’t yet committed to running on the GOP ticket, only saying she would not run as a Democrat.

Harary, however, has the backing of Manhattan GOP and has also collected a couple of endorsements from Republican City Council members as well as former Governor George Pataki.

The mother of six this week spoke with Town & Village about her priorities if elected, and why running as a Republican in a mostly Democratic city and district isn’t the lost cause it might appear to be.

When running for Assembly, though she ended up losing to incumbent Dan Quart, she did get the highest number of votes for a Republican running for that position since 2000.

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Maloney hopes Fearless Girl will save women’s rights in Washington

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is hoping that the momentum surrounding the Fearless Girl statue will encourage members of Congress to pass legislation beneficial to women. The Congresswoman shared the wish at City Hall this past Monday after announcing that the artwork will stay in its place in front of Wall Street’s Charging Bull until 2018.

“It empowers women in so many fields and now with all the energy around the Fearless Girl, hopefully we can pass my legislation,” she said. “I’m hoping this will spark a movement in Congress to pass legislation I support that focuses on women, like the National Women’s Museum and the Equal Rights Amendment. It inspires us to get out and get things done.”

Maloney said that the statue’s extension was thanks to the mayor and commissioner of the Department of Transportation because the piece was officially accepted into the DOT’s art program.

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McMillan planning citywide rent strike

UPDATE: Jimmy McMillan, early today, announced he was calling off the strike in light of a judge’s decision on Tuesday to keep the rent freeze in place.

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Jimmy McMillan is now running for Rosie Mendez’s Council seat.  (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Sabina Mollot

Jimmy “The Rent is Too Damn High” McMillan, now a Republican City Council candidate, is calling on the tenants of New York City to join him in a rent strike this October.

McMillan, an East Village resident who’s been in and out of court with his own landlord for years, said the plan is inspired by what he’s blasting as conflicting interests in the New York City Housing Court.

“The attorneys that sit on a committee that appoint New York City Housing Court (judges), stand before that same judge against the tenant representing the landlord,” he stated in a press release.

The 70-year-old Vietnam vet also believes this setup has impacted his own case.

According to current information on the New York Courts website, the advisory committee that helps appoint judges to the Housing Part of the Civil Court includes three representatives of the real estate industry, including the chair of the NYC Housing Authority, three members from tenants’ organizations, two members representing civic groups, two bar association members, two public members, one mayoral appointee and the commissioner of the state housing agency, Housing and Community Renewal.

McMillan’s plan to strike, meanwhile, is also aimed at raising awareness of his campaign platform — affordability. His goal is to see rents slashed across the board.

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The Soapbox: Many questions remain on East Midtown Rezoning

Town & Village is proud to present “The Soapbox,” a column featuring a different voice from the neighborhood in each one. All are welcome to submit columns on the topic of the author’s choice, preferably not longer than 650 words, to editor@townvillage.net.

By Barry Shapiro

For those not aware, East Midtown Rezoning is a city initiative to rezone roughly from 39th Street to 57th Street from Fifth Avenue to Third Avenue.
The proposed changes in the area will allow real estate developers to build higher and increase overall free space for development by about 6.5 percent. There will also be development of some public spaces and improvements to subway stations.

This along with the LIRR terminal at Grand Central planned to open in 2022 will significantly add to the area’s population density.

Major rezoning has to go through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which requires pertinent community boards to have their say. Negative votes by community board reps on the project’s Borough Council would have a somewhat damaging effect.

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Protesters mourn loss of affordable housing

Tenant activists gather outside an event held by the Real Estate Board of New York. (Photo courtesy of Faith in New York)

By Sabina Mollot

A group of tenant activists, dressed in black, disrupted a real estate industry luncheon in midtown last Wednesday to mourn the loss of affordable housing in the city. One of the groups organizing the effort was Faith in New York along with Tenants and Neighbors, the latter of whom have a tradition of protesting at events held by the Real Estate Board of New York.

“REBNY has led the charge for pro-gentrification and pro-displacement policies across New York for decades,” Katie Goldstein, executive director of Tenants & Neighbors later said in a written statement. “We are here standing with faith leaders and tenants across New York to mourn the death of affordable housing as we actively organize against REBNY’s policies and practices.”

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Maloney calls for formation of coalition to fight anti-Semitism

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney discusses the recent rash of anti-Semitic vandalism across the country. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Last Monday, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney called for a domestic adaptation of Europe-based commission to fight anti-Semitism, after multiple acts of vandalism have damaged tombstones in Jewish cemeteries across the country.

Maloney pointed to the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, which works to protect and preserve monuments and buildings in Europe associated with the heritage of U.S. citizens, but no such government agency exists to protect monuments within the United States.

“We spend time in foreign countries helping them preserve their cemeteries,” she said. “What about here?”

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The rent is too damn high, says this Republican Council candidate

Jimmy McMillan, who hopes to replace Rosie Mendez in the City Council, has also run for governor and mayor. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The race for the City Council seat currently occupied by a term-limited Rosie Mendez is beginning to heat up, with the newest candidate being Jimmy McMillan, otherwise known as “The Rent is Too Damn High” guy.

McMillan, who has previously run for mayor of New York City and governor as well as having had a brief dalliance with the 2012 presidential election, said he was approached about running for Council by Manhattan GOP.

The organization, formerly known as the New York Republican County Committee, gave McMillan its blessing in an email blast to members last week.

On getting the local Republican nod to run, McMillan, who’s running as a Republican as well as on his own party, The Rent is Too Damn High, said, “I almost cried.”

And this is no small thing. As the 70-year-old, mutton chopped, Vietnam vet and martial arts aficionado, who claims he was once tied up and doused with gasoline when working as an investigator, also told us, “I’m not a baby. I don’t cry.”

He’s also here to say what he’s been saying all along, that the rent is unquestionably too damn high, and if this is fixed, specifically by halving rents across the board, many of the other problems facing this city — like struggles faced by small businesses — will solve themselves.

“If you raise rents and you go to the store, they have to raise their prices in the store,” he said. “There is no way around it. The rent is too damn high,” he said, before going on to blast economic experts who opine on such matters. “I don’t have a degree, but they (think they) know more than me because they call themselves professors or economic experts. I’m an economic master.”

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City Council supports Hoylman’s TRUMP Act

City Councilmember Andrew Cohen with State Senator Brad Hoylman and Councilmember Mark Levine (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

On Thursday, State Senator Brad Hoylman announced the introduction of City Councilmember Andrew Cohen’s resolution urging the state legislature to pass Hoylman’s bill requiring presidential and vice presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to appear on the ballot in New York. Cohen, whose district is in the Bronx, joined Hoylman on the steps of City Hall for the announcement, along with Councilmember Mark Levine, whose district is in northern Manhattan.

Hoylman noted that it isn’t a coincidence the legislation, known as the Tax Returns Uniformly Made Public (T.R.U.M.P.) Act, shares its name with the president, “but it did take a very long time to come up with it,” he admitted.

The senator argued that the legislation is important because President Trump broke a 40-year tradition in which presidential candidates make their sources of income and other financial information available to the public.

“Another reason it’s important is that presidents aren’t subject to conflict of interest laws,” Hoylman said. “What is he hiding? He could be getting money from Russian oligarchs. Voters need that information to vote intelligently.”

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See Dan run for mayor… maybe

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Council Member Dan Garodnick (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

For months now, Councilman Dan Garodnick would only say he’s exploring his options when asked what position he’s now fundraising for. But according to a Saturday item in the New York Post, Garodnick is “seriously considering” running for mayor. Citing unnamed sources, the paper said he is “50-50” about running. Garodnick didn’t return our call requesting comment, nor did Waterside Plaza owner/former lieutenant governor Richard Ravitch, who the Post said Garodnick had spoken to about his thoughts about running. In February, Politico also ran a story about how he’d been speaking with donors, consultants and others about possibly throwing his hat in the ring.

It’s been expected that Comptroller Scott Stringer will run for mayor at some point, when and if charges are brought against Mayor Bill de Blasio for his fundraising tactics. Former mayoral candidate Christine Quinn has also been a rumored candidate. However, at this time, de Blasio’s most serious opponent seems to be Republican developer Paul Massey.

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Teens: This presidential election made us pay attention to politics

Interviews and photos by Maya Rader

This week, Town & Village asked teens in the neighborhood if this presidential election has made them care about politics more or less. All the individuals we interviewed said it definitely piqued their interest.

mar2-maya-annia-gimanAnnie Giman
“I think the election overall made me care a lot more. Going to a public school in New York, I’ve been exposed to a lot more situations than the average kid has. I’ve had kids coming up to me after the election saying they were scared for themselves and their families getting deported. In 2012, I was only 11 so I didn’t really care as much, so to kind of be aware, especially with the caliber of this election, has really been interesting, and it’s kind of driven me to not only care but to get more involved and to really try to make a difference, since I can’t actually vote.”

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Maloney’s tips for women candidates

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, pictured at center campaigning last June in Stuyvesant Town, said candidates need to be prepared for constant battle. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, pictured at center campaigning last June in Stuyvesant Town, said candidates need to be prepared for constant battle. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

With the presidential election still a recent memory and New York City races for mayor and the City Council now heating up, Town & Village turned to Carolyn Maloney, who’s represented Manhattan’s East Side in Congress for nearly a quarter century, for some advice for would-be elected officials.

Note: While this article was actually supposed to be a guide for women seeking office, all the tips that were shared by Maloney would work just as well for male candidates. For some background, prior to first getting elected in Washington in 1992, the Upper East Side Democrat served for 10 years as a member of the City Council.

Read on for her guide to success at the voting booth and upon getting elected, success as a lawmaker.

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Stuy Town resident quits mayoral race, joins Massey’s campaign

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Joshua Thompson, pictured in Stuyvesant Town last summer (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Joshua Thompson, the Stuyvesant Town Democrat who ditched a campaign for City Council last year to run for mayor has announced he is “suspending” that campaign to serve as senior adviser to another candidate for mayor, Republican developer Paul Massey.

In an email blast on Thursday, Thompson, 31, said that although he’d raised nearly $200,000, it was “time to put values before party politics.”

“I believe deeply in his vision for this city and believe that consolidating resources is the best way to spread our message and affect the lives of New Yorkers,” Thompson wrote.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Thompson’s title will be director of policy and outreach for the campaign and he’ll be focusing on education and homelessness.

Thompson previously worked for the Cory Booker administration in Newark, New Jersey, as well as having held a government position in education in Bridgeport, Connecticut from 2012-2014.

He’s lived in Stuyvesant Town since 2014 with his wife, Julia, who runs a Brooklyn charter school.

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Maloney warns seniors about possible repeal of ACA

Crowd at the Stein Center (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Crowd at the Stein Center (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is putting seniors on alert about how a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) would affect their drug prices.

“(The ACA) is helpful to seniors and it would be dangerous to repeal it,” Maloney told seniors at the Stein Center on Friday. “It would threaten the economy, children and seniors. Healthcare is better under the ACA and seniors have more protections.”

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Opinion: Big Plastic wins, environment loses

By State Senator Brad Hoylman

The winner in Albany’s repeal of the City’s “bring your own bag” law earlier this month wasn’t your average shopper who would have been charged 5 cents per plastic bag – although opponents of the law would like you to believe that.  No, the biggest beneficiary in the year-long showdown between the State Legislature and City Hall over plastic bags was Big Plastic — the plastics industry itself.

Big Plastic is represented by two shadowy groups that have spent millions nationwide to defeat bag laws just like New York City’s, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and American Chemistry Council. ALEC, a consortium of right-wing state legislators, works as a clearinghouse for model pro-business state legislation, ranging from weakening labor unions to loosening environmental regulations, like rolling back restrictions on plastic bags. ALEC is bankrolled by the American Chemistry Council, which also lobbies for Big Plastic on behalf of petroleum and plastics industry companies like Shell, Exxon Mobile and DuPont.

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