NYC Renters Rally for Protection

By Catherine Yang, Epoch Times
November 18, 2014 11:37 am Last Updated: November 18, 2014 11:37 am

NEW YORK—A coalition of tenants, city council members, and state elected officials are calling for stronger rent laws.

At a rally in front of City Hall on Tuesday, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said tenants would organize and rally in Albany with the City Council’s support.

New York City is home to nearly 3 million tenants in about 1 million rent regulated apartments, which are subject to state laws.

Next summer, the rent laws expire and will be up for renewal by the state legislature.

Ultimately, city officials and tenants want the city to have control over the rent laws–not the state. This would require repealing the Urstadt Law, which was passed in the 1970s to give the state control over tent laws as the city was near bankruptcy.

Democratic state senators and assembly members said repealing the Urstadt Law would be unlikely unless Governor Andrew Cuomo pushed for it.

A more realistic goal, officials said, would be to strengthen the rent laws through a variety of other measures at the state level.

For instance, many regulated apartments exit regulation when a tenant moves out and improvements are made to the unit. Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly member Linda Rosenthal sponsored bills to prevent this by re-regulating most of such apartments that were de-regulated in the last 15 years. 

Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly member Daniel J. O’Donnell sponsored bills that would curb what many call a loophole to overcharge tenants outside of their regulated rents. Tenants frequently have to pay for capital improvements made to their buildings on top of their rent, and there is currently little oversight over whether the improvements were made or the effects of those improvements on tenants. The bill would cap the extra charge and make the fees temporary.