Kavanagh to run for NY Senate

Brian Kavanagh

Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

A few hours after State Senator Daniel Squadron announced he’d be leaving Albany, citing special interests and corruption preventing true democracy from taking place as a reason, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh said he’d be running for the position.

Since state elections aren’t until next year, the election for the Senate seat, which covers downtown Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, will be a special election. The date would be determined by the governor though it will likely be in November during the general election for citywide races. Prior to that candidates will be nominated by the county committee for each party.

According to State Senator Brad Hoylman, this process tends to be an insider game, which would make it easier for a well-known candidate like a current elected official to get the nod from the party as opposed to an unknown aspiring lawmaker. While Hoylman admitted he thought this process could use some reform to become more egalitarian, he nonetheless praised his colleague, an 11-year veteran of Albany, as a potential senator.

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Community celebrates National Night Out

Genesis Parra gets behind the wheel of a police car at the 13th Precinct’s National Night Out Against Crime event on Tuesday. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Genesis Parra gets behind the wheel of a police car at the 13th Precinct’s National Night Out Against Crime event on Tuesday. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

National Night Out Against Crime, an annual event aimed at growing relationships between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve, took place on Tuesday night.

The event organized by the 13th Precinct and the precinct’s Community Council, went off without a hitch at the M.S. 104 Playground, despite some blustery wind and clouds that looked to be threatening rain. Fortunately, after two weeks of scorching heat and rain, many attendees from the neighborhood commented that they enjoyed the rare breeze. Families from the surrounding neighborhoods mingled with the local cops and business owners who had booths at the event while chowing down on chicken and rice from the Halal Guys, as well as burgers and dogs cooked up on the grill by officers from the precinct.

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Tenants not filing for SCRIE/DRIE

Some of the attendees at Monday’s workshop go over literature on the rent freeze program. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Some of the attendees at Monday’s workshop go over literature on the rent freeze program. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Despite increased eligibility for the rent freeze program for seniors and the disabled, many tenants in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village who could qualify for the break are not signing up for it.

“Only 25 percent of Stuy Town and Peter Cooper residents who are eligible are enrolled,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman. “It’s owed to these residents that we help them register.”

In order to spread the word about the program, which seniors and disabled people with up to $50,000 in household income could qualify for if one third of their incomes go to rent, Hoylman and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh held a workshop on Monday in Stuyvesant Town.

The workshop on Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) took place at the complex’s Community Center.

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Report finds election exploitation through LLC Loophole

State Senator Daniel Squadron

State Senator Daniel Squadron

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

While this will probably not come as a surprise to anyone who’s been following the scandals in Albany this past year, a report by State Senator Daniel Squadron found significant LLC loophole exploitation in state elections contributions, with Tishman Speyer Development LLC one of the names topping the list.

Assemblymembers Brian Kavanagh and Jo Anne Simon, along with Squadron and other advocates, announced the findings of the report last Wednesday.

While the state prohibits corporations from giving more than $5,000 a year to candidates and political campaigns, through the so-called LLC Loophole, limited liability corporations, which are defined as businesses that share attributes of corporations and partnerships, are allowed to donate up to $60,800 to a candidate per election cycle and up to $150,000 a year to candidates and political committees overall. Corporations and individuals are also allowed to set up an unlimited number of LLCs through which to donate, and developers often have an LLC for each of their properties.

“This is why Albany and real estate interests run roughshod,” State Senator Brad Hoylman said of the loophole. “They can manipulate the law. These are often shadowy entities and have multiple owners. They exist primarily to circumvent detection of true ownership. The fact that they’re treated as individuals is outrageous and that needs to be fixed.”

Hoylman is a co-sponsor of Squadron’s bill in the State Senate that would close the loophole.

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Lawsuit to close election loophole

Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh (pictured at a rally in May) is one of the plaintiffs. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh (pictured at a rally in May) is one of the plaintiffs. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday, three Democratic state legislators filed a lawsuit against the Board of Elections aimed at closing the “LLC Loophole.”

The so-called loophole, created by the board in 1996, came under scrutiny this year due to all the campaign cash that had been legally funneled to legislators through limited liability companies. Many of the LLCs were controlled by real estate interests, most infamously Leonard Litwin of Glenwood Management. The loophole has allowed them to give nearly limitless contributions — up to $60,800 in a single election year by allowing them to be considered individuals.

“It’s not just (Litwin),” said Brent Ferguson, an attorney with New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, which helped prepare the lawsuit. “In the real estate industry, they can operate a separate LLC for every building they own.”

He added, “We think it’s an incorrect reading of the law.”

The Brennan Center got involved with a suit on the loophole, said Ferguson, because it’s “become very popular” in recent years. “The amount has skyrocketed.”

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OP-ED: Why renewal of Rent Law is not enough

Stuyvesant Town tenants Arlene Dabreo and Marina Metalios were among hundreds protesting Airbnb outside City Hall before  a legnthy hearing attended by Airbnb execs, hosts who use the service, tenants and politicians. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Stuyvesant Town resident Marina Metalios (right) with neighbor Arlene Dabreo pictured at an anti-Airbnb rally earlier this year (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Marina Metalios

Our rent laws expire on June 15, 2015. At the last ST/PCV Building Leader meeting in February, we discussed what is at stake. Guest speaker Michael McKee (treasurer, Tenants PAC) explained that if we cannot reduce the phase-out of protections this year it may be too late to do so at the next renewal. The real estate lobby is quite content on a “straight extender” this June because the rent laws as currently written are doing exactly what the real estate lobby scripted.

The combo in the current laws of legal rent increases from individual apartment improvements and MCIs and vacancy destabilization are doing yeoman’s work for the real estate lobby. Simply put: Our current laws contain the seeds of their own destruction. Consider this proof: In our last renewal in 2011 the tenant movement wanted a three-year extender only (to get a renewal in the politically advantageous election year of 2014).

But the real estate lobby wanted a 14-year extender, to 2025! A 14-year extender would have rewarded the real estate lobby richly with minimal exertion. During this time the landlords would have waited patiently, their deregulation plans successfully on auto-pilot. By 2025, so few units would have remained rent-protected that the lobby would have won just by waiting it out. If not “won” outright they would be close enough to order champagne.

Strengthening our rental protections is detailed in the nine-point “Tenant Legislative Platform” of the Real Rent Reform (R3) Campaign and Alliance for Tenant Power (ATP). For more information visit the website.

Of them, the first and #1 most important demand is to repeal vacancy destabilization. (Of the others, the ones which are compelling to our community are repealing the automatic 20 percent vacancy bonus, making MCIs temporary, making preferential rents the base for a rent increase and tightening individual apartment improvement increase calculations.)

You may say this list is familiar. Yes, we still need to expand tenant protections, despite the 2011 renewal. I say “despite” because the 2011 renewal was technically the first since the 80s (approximately) during which the rent laws were not shrunk further. Cuomo made a huge gigantic broo-ha-ha deal about his (puny) expansions to our tenant protections in 2011. He strutted about the improvements he engineered that year. But let them be cautionary: the 2011 expansions to the rent laws are almost imperceptible and Cuomo prodigiously fund-raised from real estate during both his elections. In his 2014 re-election he raised more money from landlords than even the Senate Republicans and seven of his 10 biggest donors were landlords or developers.

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CB6 urges expansion of SCRIE to some unregulated tenants

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program is currently only available to residents who live in rent regulated housing, but a resolution in the City Council is urging the State Legislature to change that.

The council wrote a resolution in September that encourages the legislature to pass, and the governor to sign, a bill that would allow residents living in non-stabilized buildings where landlords have agreed to abide by Rent Guidelines Board increases to be eligible for the program.

The Community Board 6 housing committee met last Monday to discuss the Council’s resolution and write one of their own in support of such legislation. According to a representative for Councilmember Margaret Chin, who sponsored the resolution, there is currently no proposed legislation in Albany to make the change to the SCRIE program but both CB6 and the City Council are hoping to put pressure on the legislature to do so.

A representative for Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, who has supported expanding the SCRIE program in previous legislation, said that he has been working on expanding the program, but no specifics on the legislation was available.

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