Steinberg shoots down RSA’s argument that MCIs are ‘laughable’

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

At a Manhattan hearing of the Rent Guidelines Board, where both landlords and tenants were invited each year to give testimony on their respective suffering, Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg took umbrage at one owner representative’s argument that MCIs are not sufficient rent increases.

She spoke up after Rent Stabilization Association president Jack Freund, whose organization represents landlords throughout the city, said at the hearing that Major Capital Improvements (MCIs) and preferential rent increases don’t offer enough income to sustain landlords.

“You cannot substitute MCI increases for maintenance and operating rent increases,” he said. “MCIs have nothing to do with this issue and the suggestion that preferential rents somehow should play into this, that you can eliminate the need for rent increases because owners can increase rent (with MCIs and preferential rent increases), is a ludicrous notion. Both of those suggestions, that MCIs and preferential rent increases, can somehow substitute for a necessary, across-the-board rent increase, are just laughable.”

Later, Steinberg, who said she’d originally planned to read pre-written testimony, changed her mind in order to respond to Freund.

“Perhaps he forgot that MCIs get onto a tenant’s rent in perpetuity,” she said during her testimony. “It goes way beyond recouping the landlord’s costs and if you’re a tenant living in a building and have received several MCIs that get added permanently on top of the RGB increases, that adds up really fast. Maybe it’s laughable for the landlord but it sure isn’t for tenants.”

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Local Law 11 facade repairs begin in ST

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

Repairs on Stuyvesant Town building facades began last Monday and will continue through October 2017. Management announced the work in a newsletter sent to residents earlier this month, noting that the work is being done to comply with Local Law 11, a citywide program through the Department of Buildings that requires owners to inspect and maintain building facades.
StuyTown Property Services community affairs manager Marynia Kruk said that the amount and scope of the work are building-specific based on what repairs are necessary, but most of the work may result in noise and will require scaffolds that will be dropped from the roof of the building.

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Opinion: Five tips to testify effectively for fair rent in front of the RGB

Some of the members of the Rent Guidelines Board, pictured at a hearing last year (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Angela Pham, member, Met Council on Housing

At my day job, I’m a professional storyteller — I use words and stories strategically to get executives to buy something. This kind of persuasion is handy not only in a business context, but also to be heard in other areas.

But you don’t have to be a professional storyteller to see impact. With the upcoming Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) vote, we all have the opportunity to use stories for persuasion.

If you’re a rent-stabilized tenant, or are just an everyday citizen concerned about the lack of affordable housing in our city, you can use your voice for good by providing a 2-minute testimony in one of the upcoming public hearings.

The downtown Manhattan Hearing will be Wednesday, June 14 from 2-8 p.m. at Alexander Hamilton U.S. Customs House 1 Bowling Green.

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Leases indicate plan to submeter, but management said language is nothing new

Susan Steinberg

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg

By Sabina Mollot

Language in leases signed by Stuyvesant Town residents indicates that the owner has plans to submeter Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, which would make individual tenants responsible for paying for the electricity they use.

However, according to StuyTown Property Services, there is no plan to submeter the property any time soon.

The issue came up this week after a resident pointed out the language on Facebook and wondered if this meant Blackstone intended for file an application with the Public Service Commission (PSC) to have the property submetered.

In response, a property spokesperson, Marynia Kruk, told us, “The Facebook post (on the ST-PCV Tenants Association’s page) is accurate in that our current lease does have a clause about submetering or direct metering. However, this is not new language. New leases have contained the same language since 2009. Ownership has no current plan for submetering.”

Meanwhile, if Blackstone does eventually decide to submeter, it would be the second attempt by a Stuy Town owner to pass on the costs to renters. Tishman Speyer had planned to do this but then abruptly dropped the project upon losing the Roberts v. Tishman Speyer lawsuit at the Appellate Court level.

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ST-PCV Tenants Association to fight video intercom MCI

By Sabina Mollot

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association is seeking neighbors’ help in an effort to challenge the recently announced video intercom MCI.

The major capital improvement rent increase, if approved, will impact the following Peter Cooper Village buildings: 420 and 440 East 23rd Street, 350, 360, 360 and 390 First Avenue, 2 and 3 Peter Cooper Road and 431 and 441 East 20th Street.

Susan Steinberg

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Susan Steinberg, president of the Tenants Association, said this particular MCI, one of four on the horizon, is expected to cost tenants $2.13-$2.50 per room per month.

At a meeting last month, Steinberg said the four MCIs would be challenged for different reasons, including issues with paperwork.

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Speeding cyclists, dogs, MCIs, L train and other issues addressed at ST-PCV Tenants Association meeting

Stuyvesant Town General Manager Rick Hayduk speaks at a meeting alongside State Senator Brad Hoylman, Council Member Dan Garodnick. ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Stuyvesant Town General Manager Rick Hayduk speaks at a meeting alongside State Senator Brad Hoylman, Council Member Dan Garodnick. ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Safety and quality of life issues for Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village residents were addressed on Saturday at a Tenants Association meeting, from the upcoming “L-pocalypse” to speeding cyclists who terrorize local seniors.

As for the latter issue, Rick Hayduk, Stuyvesant Town’s general manager, told residents that soon new signs would be placed around the complex’s entrances warning cyclists to slow down and keep their lights on after dark.

In other complex news, management is also lightening the workloads of porters who will soon only be focused on two buildings each instead of three. Hayduck said tenants could expect to see the impacts of this in 60-90 days, since first management had to hire a few more part-time porters.

Hayduk also discussed a few other initiatives, like bulletin boards soon to come to in lobbies to provide property alerts and the “good neighbors” campaign, which he said has already had an effect on some people’s habits of slamming doors and smoking near buildings.

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Local pols, Rick Hayduk will speak at Oct. 22 ST-PCV Tenants Association meeting

ST/PCV General Manager Rick Hayduk

ST/PCV General Manager Rick Hayduk

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association will hold an open tenants meeting on Saturday, October 22, at 1 p.m. in the auditorium of IS 104, 20th Street between First and Second Avenues.Speakers will include: President of the ST-PCV Tenants Association Susan Steinberg, City Council Member Dan Garodnick, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Rick Hayduk, CEO/General Manager of StuyTown Property Services. The general theme will be the state of the community. Each speaker will briefly address issues as they directly relate to and affect Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, from the L train shutdown to the telephone scams targeting the community, from MCIs to rent-freeze month. An open-mic question-and-answer period will follow.

“Tenants will want to hear from our own elected representatives as to what they have been doing on our behalf,” said Steinberg. “We also plan to provide a summary of TA activities during the year. This is an important meeting, and we hope to see a packed auditorium.”

800 ST/PCV residents who qualify for SCRIE/DRIE haven’t enrolled

City pushing rent freeze programs on East Side

Last Thursday, Finance Commissioner Jacques Jiha and Council Member Dan Garodnick announced that citywide, eligible seniors and disabled tenants aren’t taking advantage of an available rent freeze, especially in Stuyvesant Town and along the East Side of Manhattan. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Last Thursday, Finance Commissioner Jacques Jiha and Council Member Dan Garodnick announced that citywide, eligible seniors and disabled tenants aren’t taking advantage of an available rent freeze, especially in Stuyvesant Town and along the East Side of Manhattan. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Last Thursday, the city rolled out what’s it’s calling East Side Rent Freeze Month, a series of events in October aimed at getting eligible New Yorkers signed up for programs that would exempt them from rent hikes, including MCIs (major capital improvements).

The reason for the push was that in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village alone, 800 eligible tenants have yet to sign up for the programs. According to Jacques Jiha, the city’s finance commissioner, the number of eligible people citywide is 80,000, and many of them are East Siders.

“The East Side of Manhattan has the highest number of eligible participants,” said Jiha, as he stood outside Stuyvesant Town’s Community Center with local elected officials and tenants for a press conference. “During the month we’ll sign up as many eligible seniors and people with disabilities as possible.”

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MCIs for façade work at Peter Cooper buildings approved

Susan Steinberg

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg, pictured at a Rent Guidelines Board hearing in June, describes the ways stabilized rents are legally padded until they’re unaffordable. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The state housing agency has approved major capital improvement rent increases (MCIs) for four buildings in Peter Cooper Village that underwent exterior restoration work — and more are expected to be approved.

The Tenants Association warned neighbors about the approvals of the MCIs, previously referred to by TA President Susan Steinberg as CWCapital’s “goodbye present,” in an email blast on Sunday.

As of July, the association had heard about the MCIs being filed for 19 different buildings in Peter Cooper and Stuyvesant Town. The cost varies at different addresses, from about $1.15 to $3 per room per month.

Reached on Monday, Steinberg said the association, which did challenge the MCIs, will continue to do so.

“There are a variety of reasons,” said Steinberg. “In a couple of instances, it was past the two-year window when it should have been submitted. There was some question whether Sandy insurance money had been used for some of the work. So we are not letting it go.”

Some of the MCIs were requested as far back as August of 2014.

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ST-PCV TA bracing for more facade MCIs

Susan Steinberg

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Sunday, June 26, the ST-PCV Tenants Association sent out an email to neighbors to warn that dues for membership would be going up to $50 a year, but also to mention that additional MCIs were expected.

When explaining the dues raise, the TA said it was due to legal fees mostly for legal challenges like those aimed at fighting MCIs (major capital improvements).

“And we know more MCIs are on the way,” came the warning.

Asked about this later, Susan Steinberg, president of the TA said while this wasn’t in reference to anything new she’d heard about, CWCapital had applied for “a number of them covering many buildings, and only some were issued.”

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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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Letters to the Editor: Feb. 18

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

An election closer to home

Forget Donald. Forget Hillary. Forget Bernie. Forget Ted and Marco.  The election that counts is coming this spring.  It’s the election of members of the Board of Directors of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association. Like the run for the US Presidency, this is not for sissies.

Members of the board serve all residents in a variety of ways. They negotiate with management on quality of life and other community issues. They, together with the Tenants Association’s attorney, handle appeals of Major Capital Improvements (MCIs) and other rent and lease issues with the Department of Housing and Community Renewal. They work with other tenant organizations in lobbying Albany and City Hall for fair rent laws and practices. They communicate with community residents via printed notices, a website, Facebook, Twitter and a phone-and-email Message Center.

“They” are the members of the Tenants Association’s Board of Directors, elected by Association members for rotating unpaid four-year terms. Although their names appear on the TA’s letterhead and many of its communications, you might like to know what special expertise they bring to our organization, which works on behalf of all Stuy Town and Peter Cooper residents.

The Board includes the hands-on vice president of a New York City construction firm; an urban planner with 20 years of experience in real estate development, property management and city government; a technology director of a major hospital; a marketing director; a special education teacher on child-rearing leave; a retired writer, editor and public relations professional; a writer and book editor.

Several members have been community activists for years; two serve on Community Board 6.  Four members are attorneys, in diverse fields of law, one with a practice focusing on estate and commercial matters, another is a supervisor in the Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Practice. A third is the retired partner and chairman of the litigation department of a leading law firm, and the fourth is in the office of Mayor De Blasio as a senior health policy advisor and attorney.

Each spring, the Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association holds an election for its Board of Directors.

Being a member of the board means working to solve a problem when the solution is bound to leave at least some residents unhappy. It means hours of work with no compensation.

But current and past members of the board report that their time and effort pay off in other ways because being a member of the board of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association is a commitment to the continued protection and preservation of a unique experiment in urban living.

Susan Steinberg,
President,
Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association 

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Blackstone addresses tenants’ concerns

Market raters bash deal, ask for insider priority on affordable apts.,

Blackstone says students have been top complaint of residents

Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Blackstone senior managing director Nadeem Meghji, Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been, Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, Council Member Dan Garodnick and ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg listen as Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Blackstone senior managing director Nadeem Meghji, Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been, Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, Council Member Dan Garodnick and ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg listen as Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Following the news about a change in ownership just a few days earlier, over 500 Stuy Town residents showed up at a meeting on Saturday where a representative for the new landlord, Blackstone, answered questions.

Mayor Bill de Blasio popped by for a bit and spoke, as did U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, but the real star of the show wound up being Nadeem Meghji, senior managing director for Blackstone. Meghji started off by telling tenants at Baruch College’s auditorium that their various concerns, brought up in the days following the sale, were being taken “very seriously.” He indicated CompassRock would not continue to manage the complex, but then later said there isn’t a timeline for any change in management teams. Meghji, who was in charge of the Stuy Town deal, frequently elicited applause when responding to tenants’ questions although he admitted he didn’t yet have enough information to answer them all. He told tenants, in response to questions about student apartments, that Blackstone had been hearing about this issue more than any other.

He added that Blackstone would be seeking further tenant feedback via focus groups and a hotline.

“We know that we are going to need to earn your trust,” he said.

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Tenants blast ‘framework’ deal for rent regulations

Assembly Member Carl Heastie, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (Photo via Governor Andrew Cuomo Flickr)

Assembly Member Carl Heastie, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (Photo via Governor Andrew Cuomo Flickr)

By Sabina Mollot
On Tuesday afternoon, the rent regulations, over a week after their expiration, were discussed in what was called “the framework of an agreement” that was immediately blasted by tenant advocates for not repealing vacancy decontrol or reforming preferential rents. The plan was announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan in an Albany press conference.

The plan, which, as of Town & Village’s press time, was still being discussed by both legislative houses in conference, calls for a four-year extension of the rent laws, reforming major capital improvements (MCIs) so that tenants’ payments are lower though they will still have to be paid in perpetuity. Other changes include increasing penalties on landlords who harass tenants and raising the threshold at which an apartment can be subject to vacancy deregulation. Additionally, according to a press release put out by Cuomo, the state housing agency’s Tenants Protection Unit will be put into statute and vacancy bonuses and will be limited for tenants paying preferential rent, although how much or in what way it would be limited wasn’t explained. Cuomo’s office did not respond to a request for clarification by Town & Village’s deadline.

The rough draft of the plan also includes an extension of the 421-a tax credit for developers for six months, though that could be increased to four years if developers and labor can come to an agreement on wages, funding for nonpublic schools to compensate them for mandated services and extending property tax caps along with a one-year extension of mayoral control of schools.

Cuomo, with Flanagan and Heastie at his side, said it was a “great deal” that had been accomplished despite all the “tumult” in Albany. This was in reference to the two former house leaders stepping down amidst scandal.

Cuomo said that they wouldn’t be getting into details until both houses were able to discuss the deal in conference. On the rent regulations, Cuomo called it “an unprecedented package that protects tenants.” He then noted that property taxes are the top reason people leave New York State.

On Flanagan and Heastie, Cuomo said, “These new leaders were brought it in at the seventh inning and handed the ball and told to pitch.” He added, “Both leaders stepped up and performed.”

Flanagan and Heastie then spoke on the topic of compromise, with Heastie saying, “We stake out our position early on and you try to work from there. We did the best we could in trying to get that done. It gives homeowners some relief, it gives renters some relief.”

Shortly after the announcement, Mike McKee, treasurer of TenantsPAC, blasted the plan. “This is a disastrous deal,” he said, adding that he immediately emailed Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh to ask him to oppose it in conference.

“It really preserves the status quo for four years, which is exactly what we were hoping to avoid,” McKee added. “We’re going to lose 80,000 to 100,000 apartments over the next four years through various forms of deregulation.”

With Kavanagh and local State Senator Brad Hoyman both in conference as of Town & Village’s Wednesday afternoon press time, neither could be reached for comment.

McKee continued, “They raised the threshold of which an apartment can be deregulated from $2,500 to $2,700, which means nothing. There’s been some tinkering around with MCIs, but they’re going to leave MCIs as permanent increases compounded with the base rent. They’re going to make the increases somewhat less but it leaves the rent laws in tact with all of their weakness. It’s just unacceptable. It only renews mayoral control of schools for one year, so they city’s getting screwed and renters are getting screwed.”

The deal that was announced was different from a second Assembly bill that was introduced on Friday. The original bill had called for stronger tenant protections including repeal of vacancy decontrol, reform of preferential rents and MCIs so that MCIs would become temporary surcharges and for the reduction of vacancy bonuses from 20 percent to 7.5 percent.

But on Friday, the Assembly made a rather surprising move, pushing an amended version of the rent law bill that simply called for a straight extender for two years.

According to McKee, this was done with the purpose of throwing the governor and the Senate off guard — and it succeeded, at least for a while.

This revised, albeit unpassed Assembly bill, McKee explained, didn’t call for a continuation of 421-a. Meanwhile, he stressed that he has never been in favor of a straight extender, but didn’t expect that the bill would be passed without the continuation of 421-a.

This was after the Senate pushed its own rent regulations bill which would have called for the creation of a database in which tenants would have to verify their incomes. Tenant friendly measures were the codification of the Tenant Protection Unit and stiffer penalties against landlords who harass tenants.

“I thought the Assembly bill on Friday was a brilliant tactical move, but now they’ve caved,” McKee said.

McKee, who’s quite possibly the most critical tenant activist when it comes to Cuomo, even got a call from the governor after the bill was introduced, with the governor insisting he was doing everything he could to strengthen the rent regulations.

In the phone call, which was first reported in Capital New York, Cuomo spoke to McKee “like we were old friends reconnecting,” McKee said.
The call, which he added, seemed “surreal,” opened with a cheery Cuomo asking him how he’d been. “I said, I’m fine and how about you?” It was the men’s first conversation with one another in four years when the rent laws last expired.

But, McKee, reflected, “He did not persuade me and I told him no one in the tenant movement believes he’s working on our behalf. If he wants stronger rent laws, he can introduce a bill. Who does he think he’s fooling? You couldn’t convince me that he couldn’t do this if he set his mind to it.”

Until the rent laws are settled formally, though, following conference, McKee advised tenants to continue to call the governor’s office. “Tell him, ‘If you don’t deliver on rent laws, I’ll never vote for you again.’”

Following strong statements recently made by Heastie about how he wouldn’t compromise on getting stronger rent laws, McKee added, “I can’t believe Heastie agreed to this. I don’t have any delusions about what’s going to happen (in both houses.) Most of them are sheep.”

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association was also left fuming about the deal, which they alerted neighbors to in an email.

Last week, Susan Steinberg, chair of the Tenants Association, attended numerous rent law rallies along with neighbors. At one, outside a fundraiser for Cuomo at the Plaza, tenants had shared a chuckle about the fact that while the legislature was incapable of passing the rent laws, other bills, like one naming the wood frog as the state’s official amphibian, got through.

“We were all talking about the important bill that passed about the state amphibian,” said Steinberg. “Clearly frogs have it over tenants.”

On Tuesday, though, she wasn’t laughing.
“This is no victory,” said Steinberg. “It’s very discouraging that with all the hard work we put in, that this is how it ends up. He’s not as interested in the people who vote for him as he is in his real estate development friends.”

In particular she was unimpressed by the MCI revisions. “We’re still going to have to pay for it the rest of our lives,” she said.

City Council Housing Committee Chair Jumaane Williams also issued a statement about the deal, expressing his concern about tenants paying preferential rent.

“Due to unresolved loopholes with preferential rent, estimates show that up to 250,000 tenants could see their rent go up by thousands of dollars, regardless of what the Rent Guidelines Board says and without advance notice,” he said.

Rent regs expire with no hint of progress in Albany

ST-PCV Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg and other tenants at a vigil on Sunday outside the midtown Manhattan office of Governor Cuomo. (Photo by Anne Greenberg)

ST-PCV Tenants Association Chair Susan Steinberg and other tenants at a vigil on Sunday outside the midtown Manhattan office of Governor Cuomo. (Photo by Anne Greenberg)

By Sabina Mollot

It wasn’t quite the climactic end to another four years tenants were hoping for when at midnight on June 15, the laws regulating rents in New York expired without being renewed or strengthened.

The following morning, the talks continued in Albany, though there was no sign that that they’d be concluded any time soon.

Part of the reason was that Governor Andrew Cuomo has been hoping to include the passage of an education tax credit in the negotiations, while Senate Republicans also last week passed a set of rent regulation legislation that’s wildly different from the package the Assembly passed in May. The much hyped 421-a tax abatement for developers who include some affordable housing in their projects has also been a factor, but hasn’t been given as much attention as it was expected to get, according to State Senator Brad Hoylman.

Hoylman described the tax program, which also expired on Monday, as being “radioactive” to many of his colleagues because of its being “at the heart of the investigations” into corruption in Albany by U.S. attorney Preet Bharara.

“It’s understandable that it wouldn’t be a front burner issue,” said Hoylman, adding he wouldn’t be mourning the program’s loss if it isn’t ultimately renewed and that he thinks it ought to be negotiated separately.

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