RGB votes for lowest increases ever

Madeline Mendez, one of many tenants gathered outside the Cooper Union building holds a sign prior to the Rent Guidelines Board vote on Monday. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Madeline Mendez, one of many tenants gathered outside the Cooper Union building holds a sign prior to the Rent Guidelines Board vote on Monday. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Although the rent freeze that stabilized tenants were desperately seeking did not pass at the Rent Guidelines Board final vote on Monday evening, the board still made history with its lowest ever increases of one percent for one­-year leases and 2.75 percent for two­-year leases.

The vote took place as it usually does in a packed Great Hall at Cooper Union but with some new faces on the nine­-member board. Unlike in previous years, the vote did not go in favor of the chair, Mayor de Blasio appointee Rachel Godsil, who was urging the board to vote for a rent freeze.

Instead, the 5-4 vote was in favor of a proposal submitted by public member Steven Flax, also newly appointed by de Blasio, which the owner members adopted as their own. Flax ultimately decided to go in favor of his own proposal but he said that he had struggled with his vote.

“I heard what you’re saying and I know what you’re going through. I’ve developed and managed affordable housing — and you’re not going to like what I have to say,” he said as the crowd cheered him on, “but the takeaway is that it costs money to run buildings.”

Before the vote, Godsil recognized that Flax’s proposal was a historic low but argued that it was not low enough.

“I don’t think it’s supported by the data,” she said. “It doesn’t acknowledge the assumptions from previous years of expenses that did not occur. It is our goal to make sure that the tenants and owners are balanced and I don’t think this proposal does that.”

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