Meeting To Set Rent Increases Becomes So Uproarious, Vote Delayed
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The final meeting to set increases on rent-stabilized apartments devolved into protests so raucous that the chairman of the Rent Guidelines Board delayed a vote until after 9 p.m.
The vote, which was scheduled to be held at the 5:30 p.m. meeting, was postponed when the chairman of the Rent Guidelines Board, Marvin Markus, was unable to regain control over audience members who were holding up signs with profane slogans directed at him.
Board member Adriene Holden offered a motion to amend the agenda so that an advisory motion, recommending that the Urdstadt law – which allows Albany to control rent laws in New York City – be repealed.
All but the two tenant representatives – Ms.Holden and David Pagan – voted against amending the agenda, and the crowd erupted in chants, jeers, and noise. A 15-minute recess did not quell the noise, and at 6:30 p.m. Mr. Markus postponed the vote. At issue were rent increases for the city’s 1 million rent-stabilized and 43,000 rent-controlled apartments. Some advocates expressed fear that the vote would be called early and that the postponement was a strategy for getting some of the protesters to leave. “He’s hoping that when he comes back at 9 o’clock there won’t be enough of us to give him any trouble, and we are going to prove him wrong,” the treasurer of the tenants political action committee, Michael Mckee, said.
Others saw it as a small victory. “This is fantastic,” said the executive director of Tenants & Neighbors, Jumaane Williams, who encouraged the crowd to keep chanting even after the meeting was called to order.
“I think the tenants representatives wanted to play politics, and in doing so they disrupted the entire process,” the director of government affairs of the Rent Stabilization Association, Frank Ricci, said. He said the RSA was hoping for a 6% or 7% increase on one-year leases,and was not focusing on two year-leases because “you can’t predict what’s going to happen one year down the road.”
“Whatever the increase is, it won’t cover the costs,” an owner of a six-family building in Brooklyn, Arnold Fine said, citing rising insurance, gas, and plumbing costs.” It would have to be like 10%.”
But Tom Diana, who owns an eight-family apartment building in Brooklyn, said he would have been satisfied with an increase that would allow him to break even. “What I’m looking for is to get a low rent adjustment,” he said.
The Manhattan borough president, Scott Stringer, said that he thought there was a housing crisis in the city. “We are driving out middle income people,” he said.” We should wake up to the fact that there is a housing crisis.”
The board voted in early May to consider rent hikes between 3% and 6.5% for one-year leases and 6% to 7% for two-year leases. The vote angered both tenants, who saw the rise as unreasonably high, and landlords who said the proposed raises would not cover increased operating costs. Last year, rent-stabilized apartments went up 2.75% for one-year leases and 5.5% for two-year leases.