Opinion: The moment of truth

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Throughout my entire 28-year tenure in the State Assembly, the State Senate was controlled by the Republican Majority with their leadership mostly based in conservative rural or suburban regions of New York.

The Republicans are ideologically closer to big business, such as the real estate industry, than with consumers or tenants. I don’t say that as a value judgement, but rather as a political fact.

Of course, the millions of dollars from those business groups and corporations that roll into the Senate Republican campaign coffers regularly help.

During my time in the Assembly representing the East Side of Manhattan, Roy Goodman was my counterpart in the Senate for almost all those years. We worked closely together to press for needed tenant protections and fair housing laws. But try as he might, Roy was frequently stymied by his Republican leadership. Bills passed in the Assembly never saw the light of day in the Senate.

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Letters to the editor, Aug. 31

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Speranza will protect affordability

Last month, our City Council approved a package of tenant-protection bills that will provide legal counsel to low-income tenants facing eviction, and curb tenant harassment. This is a huge victory for tenants, but there’s still much more we must do – especially in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, where rent-stabilized tenants know first-hand the struggles of rising rents. This fall, we must elect a Council Member who will adopt bold, innovative solutions to solve the affordability crisis. That’s why I’ve endorsed Democrat Marti Speranza.

While every candidate talks about affordable housing, Marti has a workable 19 point plan that will protect residents of ST/PCV while preserving and creating more permanently affordable housing throughout the district. A cornerstone of her Plan for A Livable City is creating a citywide Community Land Trust (CLT), a proven method of transforming underutilized land into permanently affordable housing.

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Soapbox: NY Democrats, fighting for landlords since 2000

By Barry Shapiro

Among rising residential and commercial rents, the demise of small businesses and dramatic increases in homelessness due to rising rents, does anyone recognize the behavior of NYC Democratic politicians as truly representing the values of the Democratic Party we have known for close to 70 years?

Dysfunction characterizes the party. Thanks to dysfunction in Albany, due to the defections of the Independent Democratic Conference and Senator Simcha Felder, Democrats remain the Senate minority and can offer little challenge to the Urstadt Law, a GOP-sponsored law that took most control of rent stabilization away from the City Council in 1971 and posited it with the state.

Overly landlord-friendly actions characterize the Democrats since 2000. Bloomberg was a Democrat who ran as a Republican and in many ways acted like a Republican. We saw some of the highest RGB increases under him even during the financial meltdown; his attitude toward real estate in Manhattan was close to laissez faire. The Trump Soho fiasco occurred under him, a saga that still hasn’t ended. And in 2002, under “Democratic” Speaker Pete Vallone, the vacancy allowance increase rule was passed by the City Council, which allows landlords to raise rent stabilized rents by 18 and 20 percent each time a unit is vacated. Given the strategy of renting to students we’ve seen applied in ST/PCV, this poorly-framed law gave landlords an invaluable tool for moving stabilized rents higher. After it passed the council, this law then passed over to Albany control.

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Letters to the Editor, Mar. 5

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

‘Local control,’ GOP-style

The GOP discovered that so-called “States’ Rights” was a good subterfuge to sabotage a more liberal federal government. We first saw this during the Civil Rights era where Southern governors stood in school house doors, wearing “never” buttons that said “no” to integrating public schools.

The States Rights pseudo-libertarian talking point was that local government was “closer to the people” than those snotty bureaucrats in far away Washington, DC. Sounds almost believable, right? There might even have been some truth in it.

Except that it turned out to be just another GOP lie. The NY Times recently had an article about so-called pre-emption laws. This is the latest ploy used by Republican statehouses to thwart leaders and voters in liberal municipalities. These pre-emption laws have barred cities from regulating landlords, building municipal broadband systems, raising the minimum wage, demanding background checks for would-be gun owners, legalizing marijuana, or raising taxes on the rich to support public education.

And it’s not just the Southern states. New York City couldn’t even lower its speed limit from 30 to 25 mph last fall without permission from Republican legislators in Albany!

And thanks to the Urstadt Law, New York City can’t pass stronger pro-tenant laws than the upstate landlord-owned Republicans would allow.

Now what could be more local than city speed limits, rent protection, and public schools for people living in New York City?

Pre-emption is as if someone in the state legislature representing my section of Manhattan, was able to eliminate deer hunting near the Canadian border!

I also wouldn’t blame an upstate farmer for getting angry either if Manhattan representatives tried to tell him how to farm.

Pre-emption, however, is never used to reduce the power of more right-wing areas. It is only used to prevent liberal municipalities, towns, and districts from voting on measures that best serve their local needs.

And you don’t have to be a Republican to support pre-exemption. Our so-called “Democratic” Governor Cuomo might as well be a Republican because he made sure the New York Senate went GOP in the last election.

Elliot Markson, ST

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Mayor’s housing plan has tenant protections

By Sabina Mollot

Mayor de Blasio, then a candidate, was endorsed by TenantsPAC in Stuyvesant Town last August. Pictured with de Blasio is Tenants PAC Treasuer Mike McKee on the mayor's right and ST-PCV Tenants Association President John Marsh (also a TenantsPAC member) to his left.

Mayor de Blasio, then a candidate, was endorsed by TenantsPAC in Stuyvesant Town last August. Pictured with de Blasio is Tenants PAC Treasurer Mike McKee on the mayor’s right and ST-PCV Tenants Association President John Marsh (also a TenantsPAC member) to his left. Photo by Sabina Mollot

On Monday, Mayor de Blasio unveiled his long-awaited plan that would create or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing throughout the city over the next decade. The proposal, with its $41 billion pricetag, would mostly preserve existing affordable units –120,000 — while building 80,000 new ones. There would be a focused effort on city agencies using “every tool at their disposal to protect tenants in both subsidized affordable housing and rent-regulated housing from the tide of deregulation,” the mayor announced.

To accomplish this, the city would work with the state as rent regulation comes up for renewal in 2015 “to prevent abuses of the vacancy and luxury decontrol provisions and capital improvement rules.” The city would also more closely scrutinize situations of landlord harassment or neglect and possibly step in with legal action. There would also be increased support for seniors through Section 8 vouchers if they have declining incomes, working with NYCHA to implement more senior housing in its developments and expanding eligibility for SCRIE (Senior Citizen Rent increase Exemption).

De Blasio also promised to work with communities to develop housing on vacant lots, create “quality” construction jobs and cut down on red tape that would slow down development or raise construction costs. Additionally, any rezoning aimed at building bigger to accommodate more housing would require that some of that housing would be affordable. The city would also launch a mixed-income program where 50 percent of units in these “projects” would be set aside for middle-income households, and the remaining 20 and 30 percent, respectively, set aside for low and moderate income households. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) would see its budget doubled.

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Our choice: De Blasio for mayor

Bill de Blasio (center) in Stuy Town with TenantsPAC Board Member Anderson Fils-Aime, Treasurer Mike McKee, Board Member (and ST-PCV Tenants Association President) John Marsh and Tenants Association Board Member Margaret Salacan (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Bill de Blasio (center) in Stuy Town with TenantsPAC Board Member Anderson Fils-Aime, Treasurer Mike McKee, Board Member (and ST-PCV Tenants Association President) John Marsh and Tenants Association Board Member Margaret Salacan (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

With Mike Bloomberg soon to end a 12-year reign as mayor, New Yorkers will have an incredibly important decision to make in the general election in November, but perhaps even more so in the September 10 primary.

This particular mayoral race is so cluttered it’s become hard to decipher one candidate’s rhetoric from the next at times, and following the candidacy of Anthony Weiner, it’s been hard to take much of it seriously. Still, we hope that voters won’t be so turned off that they won’t show up at the polls, especially if they care about issues like affordable housing. And if they do, we believe that the best choice for mayor, on the Democrat side, is Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

A month ago, de Blasio, making a campaign stop in Stuyvesant Town, was endorsed by TenantsPAC, and with good reason. While his “tale of two cities” tagline is getting mocked at this point, Manhattanites living in luxury housing simply because they didn’t have the option of moving into regular working joe housing, know that there is absolute truth to de Blasio’s (and a few other candidates’ talk) about the disappearing middle class.

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