Mayoral candidates: We’ll be more pro-tenant than Bloomberg

Christine Quinn

Christine Quinn
Photos by Maria Rocha-Buchel

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Last Wednesday, the candidates for mayor attempted to appeal to residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village by discussing the property’s and other tenant issues at the first-ever mayoral forum to be held by the Tenants Association.

All nine candidates were invited to participate at the event, which was held at Simon Baruch Middle School.

TA board Chair Susan Steinberg moderated the forum, attended by over 200 people, and posed questions to the eight candidates who attended, which included former New York City Council Member Sal Albanese (D), City Comptroller John Liu (D), former City Comptroller Bill Thompson (D), former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion (I), former US Representative Anthony Weiner (D), City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D), Public Advocate Bill de Blasio (D) and businessman John Catsimatidis (R). Republican candidate and former MTA chairman Joe Lhota was invited but did not attend.

“The fact that this forum is so well attended by both residents and candidates shows that it’s an important time,” City Councilmember Dan Garodnick said at the outset of the event. “In January, we’ll have a new mayor so it’s important that we hear from all the candidates now.”

Garodnick set the tone of the event, noting that Mayor Michael Bloomberg had not wanted to get in

Bill DeBlasio

Bill DeBlasio

volved with the conflict between the tenants and Tishman Speyer in 2006 because it was a “private real estate transaction” and many of the candidates addressed this issue, as well as focusing on general affordable housing concerns.

A number of the candidates insisted that they would take a much more active stance than Mayor Bloomberg has in his decade in office, most specifically in terms of housing.

“We need a mayor who will stand with you and make sure affordable housing is part of what New York City is,” Thompson said. “Using the bully pulpit that I have, I would stand side by side as you purchase your homes. The sale (in 2006) was national news. It was an opportunity for the mayor to make a statement about affordable housing and he didn’t.”

John Catsimatidis

John Catsimatidis

Liu expressed similar concerns about the current mayor’s lax approach. “How can it have nothing to do with the mayor’s office when tens of thousands of New Yorkers are involved? It makes no sense,” he said. “It shows neglect and a dereliction of duty. I’m willing to engage actively. If companies want to take over where tens of thousands of tenants live, City Hall has to pay attention.”

Steinberg asked most of the candidates if and how they would help ST/PCV tenants in their efforts to purchase the property and all said that they supported the plan while taking a more active role than Bloomberg has in the past.

“The mayor has the responsibility to intervene on behalf of the tenants,” Carrion said. “We can’t watch the market crush the middle class. It’s a shame that we’re in this situation, this bidding war. I support your efforts to buy the property but in a much shorter time frame than CW Capital is asking.”

Quinn said that as mayor, she would use a more hands-on approach as well when dealing with CW Capital.

Sal Albanese

Sal Albanese

“All the efforts so far haven’t worked yet but there is no bigger bully pulpit than the mayor’s office, save for the US President,” she said. “I will use that to bring CW Capital to the table. We would do it publicly.”

Weiner, like most of his opponents, said that he would be more involved in tenant issues than the current administration and would also support the tenant bid.

“There is too much at stake so I would take an active, not passive role, not just watching it play out. We need to make sure that someone is looking over the shoulder (of real estate developers),” he said. “There is a role for ownership but tenants should be able to continue to rent.” And while Weiner said that he would take a more active role in tenants’ issues, when asked about what he would have done during the Tishman Speyer deal, he said that he wouldn’t necessarily be the one calling the shots. “I would have had a presence at the table but would have left it to the residents,” he said.

John Liu

John Liu

Liu, Quinn, de Blasio and Thompson all noted that there are disparities between the tenants and the rent increases voted on by the Rent Guidelines Board in recent years and Albanese expressed support for the recent bill sponsored by Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh that would give City Council more oversight when appointing members of the board.

“I would lead the tenant lobby and get the Urstadt Law repealed,” Quinn said. “There has been an erosion of tenant protection. We need to have power back here.”

Both Thompson and de Blasio called for more tenant representatives on the board.

“City Hall is supposed to think of the people who live here, not about the landlords,” de Blasio said.

Anthony Weiner

Anthony Weiner

Thompson added that there is a more urgent need for tenant representatives on the board due to the seeming disparities between the rent increases and landlord increases.

“The Rent Reform Campaign report said that the price index used by the Rent Guidelines Board is less accurate than what increases actually were,” he said. “We need more tenant-friendly people on the board.”

Adolfo Carrion

Adolfo Carrion

Weiner was one of the later candidates to speak and when he got to the stage, attracted a bit of attention due to his bright orange pants. His explanation for his fashion choice was that he’d worn them for a “West Village” audience. “I don’t normally dress like this but I just came from a rally in the West Village celebrating the Supreme Court’s ruling against DOMA,” he said.

In his time at the podium, Catsimatidis made an attempt to appeal to a broad spectrum of residents, branding himself as a Republican Liberal. “I’m pro-business but I’m not going to give the streets back to the hoodlums,” he explained.

Public advocate candidates Daniel Squadron, Cathy Guerriero and Letitia James were also at the event.

Editorial: Candidates get on the tenant soapbox

Last Wednesday night, candidates demonstrated their interest in the tenant vote by showing up at a forum held by the ST-PCV Tenants Association. Asked about issues such as a possible tenant-led purchase of the property, the Rent Guidelines Board and major capital improvements, the candidates were given the opportunity to shine in the eyes of renters. But in the end, the biggest statement of the evening seemed to be a fashion one — who could miss those bright orange pants worn by would-be comeback kid Anthony Weiner? Or his explanation about how they were actually intended for a gay audience he’d addressed earlier.

As for what the candidates would do, if elected, to help residents, all gave the expected lip service that they would be much more active in fighting those battles than the current mayor is. But unfortunately, statements like that don’t actually say that much. As noted by Council Member Dan Garodnick during the forum, Bloomberg had shied away from any involvement during the historic sale in 2006 of Stuy Town to Tishman Speyer. And then, over the next few years, when things went south for tenants as well as the owner, there was still no interference. So really, by just showing their faces to residents at a single forum, the candidates have already been more of a presence in the ST/PCV community than Bloomberg.

In a more promising note, a few of the candidates (Christine Quinn, Sal Albanese, Bill Thompson and Bill de Blasio) seemed to understand the need for reform of the RGB.

Not everyone was impressed though.

As attendee Kay Vota later relayed to Town & Village, the candidates “just said what everyone wanted to hear.

“I’ve been to three mayoral forums, and at every one I went to they say what they think the people want to hear and I think that’s pandering to the audience,” said Vota. “The question is are we having any real discussion of the issues? There are some really serious issues in the city.”

While she declined to get into who she’s supporting at this point, Vota, a longtime Stuy Town resident, does know who she doesn’t want to see get elected.

Commenting on Weiner’s statement about his outfit choice, Vota said, “I thought it was a double slam. It was insulting to say he dressed for gay people but he wasn’t dressed appropriately for us. If that’s what he was wearing, he should’ve been comfortable anywhere. I don’t think it showed common sense, but I guess he thought it was cute. But of course he’s the guy who put a picture of his package on the internet.”

In other forum-related news, the TA also hosted the candidates running for public advocate, since someone in this position could end up as mayor if something happens that prevents the mayor from serving.

Noticeably absent from the event was public advocate hopeful and former Wall Streeter Reshma Saujani, who some residents may remember from a very heated campaign for Congress against Carolyn Maloney in 2010.

Reminder: Tenants Association hosting mayoral forum tonight

May30 signThe major candidates for mayor have accepted the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association’s invitation to be part of a forum on the evening of June 26th at Simon Baruch IS 104, East 20th between First and Second Avenues. The audience will have an opportunity to learn first hand the candidates’ positions on a variety of issues, not the least of which is the matter of affordable housing.
All of the major mayoral candidates were invited and those who confirmed were Sal Albanese, Adolfo Carrion, John Catsimitidis, Bill de Blasio, Joe Lhota, John Liu, Christine Quinn, Bill Thopmson and Anthony Weiner.
The four candidates for public advocate were also invited to the event. The public advocate candidates are: Cathy Guerrero, Letitia James, Reshma Saujani and Daniel Squadron.
The meeting will be held from 7-9 pm. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors open at 6 p.m