Hundreds head out for tenant rally

Tenants carry signs at a rally for stronger rent laws. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Tenants carry signs at a rally for stronger rent laws. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Thursday night, hundreds of tenants and housing activists and numerous politicians gathered to rally for stronger rent laws, with the laws expected to be renewed in Albany on June 15.

The rally took place downtown in Foley Square, followed by a march over the Brooklyn Bridge.

During the rally, politicians spoke on the theme of needing to end vacancy decontrol and end 20 percent vacancy bonuses and to reform MCI (major capital improvement) rent increases to make them temporary as well as reforming IAI (individual apartment improvement) increases.

City Council Housing Chair Jumaane Williams was one of the speakers, eliciting cheers when he told the crowd if the rent laws weren’t strengthened it would be the fault of one person — “Governor Andrew Cuomo.” He then led a chant of “We will remember!” that reverberated through the street.

Other speakers at the event included Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Public Advocate Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Assembly Housing Chair Keith Wright. Local attendees included State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and Council Member Dan Garodnick.

The real stars of the event, however, were the many creative signs brandished by tenants, including a bunch that depicted building windows with spaces for their holders’ faces to show through with the slogan “Not moving.” Some tenants carried signs or wore boxes designed to look like buildings. Even more signs included, “Blood sucking landlords call for stronger rent laws” with a graphic of a giant bedbug, a banner with landlords depicted as dragons shootings flames onto a building, and the ST-PCV Tenants Association’s graphic of a vulture overlooking Stuyvesant Town.

One of the Stuy Town residents marching, Nancy Arons, commented on statements recently made by Cuomo about how the rent laws could just be extended as they are or tweaked slightly. The reason for this, the governor had explained, was all the turmoil in Albany.

“Well,” commented Arons in response. “That’s not our fault, is it? He wants to run for president, but if you don’t support the people who vote for you, I’m not going to vote for you for president. He thinks he’s his dad, I guess.”

Another marcher was Kavanagh, who, while heading across the bridge, discussed the fact that the “LLC loophole” has been getting some attention in Albany. The loophole has allowed developers to funnel enormous amounts of campaign cash to elected officials through numerous limited liability companies.

Legislation authored by Kavanagh would cap contributions from corporations to a total of $5,000 per calendar year to candidates and/or committees. The legislation passed the Assembly on Tuesday. “Now it’s up to the Senate,” said Kavanagh, although he added that new Senate leader John Flanagan has been dragging his feet on bringing it up.

As for whether or not the legislation will be voted on in the Senate before session ends in five weeks Kavanagh said he doesn’t know. But, he added, “I want to say this is about doing the right thing because people are watching and people are realizing the corruption both in legal and illegal forms.”

One of the rally’s organizers was the healthcare workers’ union, with an 1199SEIU speaker explaining that 70,000 healthcare worker members live in rent regulated housing.

TA attends rally outside Cuomo’s office

Stuyvesant Town tenant leaders participated in a rally for stronger rent laws outside Governor Cuomo’s Manhattan office last Wednesday.  Photo by Rebecca Dumais)

Stuyvesant Town tenant leaders participated in a rally for stronger rent laws outside Governor Cuomo’s Manhattan office last Wednesday. (Photo by Rebecca Dumais)

By Sabina Mollot

Last Wednesday, a group of residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, including leaders from the ST-PCV Tenants Association, joined a rally for stronger rent laws in front of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s midtown Manhattan office.

The Tenants Association demonstrators carried signs that read “Strengthen the rent laws—Do not feed vultures,” complete with a graphic of a vulture hovering over Stuy Town. The graphic was designed by TA member John Sicoransa and another version of the sign read, “Landlords feed on middle class renters.”

TA Chair Susan Steinberg noted the turnout among neighbors was a high as was the response to a recent effort, highlighted in this newspaper, to get tenants to write letters to key Albany legislators. During a recent trip to the Post Office, Steinberg learned at around 500 letters had been addressed to Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and local Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh.

A package slip had been left in the TA’s mailbox and when Steinberg went out to collect said package, a postal worker brought out the letters in two large trays. Upon seeing the amount of mail, “I almost fainted,” said Steinberg.

“So,” she added, “we are very happy people are paying attention, and we’re going to send them off in large batches.”

The TA is also participating in a march for stronger rent laws to be held on Thursday, May 14 at 5 p.m. The event will begin with a rally at Foley Square (corner of Centre Street and Worth Street) followed by a march across Brooklyn Bridge to Cadman Plaza.