NEW YORK—With rent regulation laws set to expire at midnight, Bay Ridge residents rallied outside state Sen. Marty Golden's office yesterday to demand the strengthening of the existing rent laws and the repeal of an unpopular vacancy decontrol measure.
“I think that this is an important issue and that the rent laws need to be extended and strengthened, specifically getting rid of vacancy decontrol. That is one of the biggest things that's hurting housing in New York today,” said Tom Murata, a Bay Ridge resident since 1981. According to Murata, Golden has been siding with the residents on extending the rent regulation laws while not getting specific as far as strengthening them.
As part of the Rent Regulation Reform Act of 1997, vacancy decontrol allows the city to drop all rent regulatory measures on housing units with monthly rental costs higher than $2,000. More than 300,000 apartments have been deregulated since 1997, according to Murata.
The state Assembly has already passed a package that would renew and strengthen rent laws. Protesters rallied to push for the same measures pass in the state Senate.
“Senators like Marty Golden have a key role right now, partly because the Republican Party has the majority in the Senate and partly because he is one of the Republican senators in New York City representing a lot of rent-regulated units in his district. We feel like he should be representing the interests of the tenants. We are concerned that he may be backing the interests of the landlords,” said Hilary Klein, lead organizer for Make the Road New York.
“Renewing the rent laws is important, but strengthening them is important as well,” she added.
Klein went on to say that the $2,000 cap for vacancy decontrol is no longer reasonable. Given a 40-percent inflation since 1997 and a protracted recession, people currently paying over $2,000 in rent are no longer the demographic originally targeted by the act.
“Without these laws, tenants will face huge rent hikes, unsafe apartments, and unfair evictions. Rent laws protect more than a million apartments in New York City. If these laws are not renewed, all these apartments will go to market level,” said Angel Vera, tenant representative and member of the Real Rent Reform campaign.
John Quaglione, spokesman for Golden stated: “Sen. Golden supported the renewal rent regulations the last time they were voted on in 2004. Since then, he has maintained the position that rent regulations are very much part of the rental housing fabric of New York City. When they come up again for a vote, Sen. Golden will again vote in favor of renewing these important regulations.”
There are some 39,000 rent-regulated units in Golden's 22nd District.
“The neighborhood is becoming an attractive option for young families and people just starting off in life,” said Ahmed Tigani, who grew up in the Bay Ridge and Sunset Park neighborhoods and whose mother lives in Bay Ridge.
“That has allowed prices to go up. That has allowed the neighborhood to become more unaffordable to the people who have lived here for a long time or even to the same people who are becoming the catalyst for that change,” Tigani added. He also noted that the increased residential rent prices are affecting commercial properties, which in turn force business owners to raise prices on goods, thus driving up the overall cost of living.