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Comments by YACCS
Wednesday, May 10, 2006

It isn't about the rich getting over

Tenant who shut down meet had 335 reasons


The feisty Brooklyn woman who stopped Monday's Rent Guidelines Board meeting by yelling she has no hot water in her apartment wasn't telling the half of it: Her building has 335 outstanding housing violations.

During a visit yesterday to 546 Bainbridge St. in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the Daily News found that apartment dweller Cathy Allen, 58, isn't the only unhappy tenant.

The landlord, Abraham Sofer, has been cited for violations including a lack of hot water, and rampant rats and roaches. Yesterday, The News also saw a foot of backed-up sewer water stagnating in the basement.

The city's Housing Preservation and Development Department has already done $31,000 in emergency repairs to the three-story building and may have to step in again, agency spokesman Neill Coleman said.


But Allen said she and her sister - who was paralyzed by a stroke - feel like they are under a steady attack so the landlord can rent out her $750-a-month apartment for a market rate rent.

"They're trying to put out a simple woman who didn't hurt anybody," Allen said. "They thought I'd get fragile and just move. But I don't live in fear."

For some reason, people who live outside New York, think rent control/stablization is some kind of scam for rich people and it simply isn't.


RE the 300+ violations that this slumlord had. That is NOT UNCOMMON.

If the City did what the law says and actually started seizing these run-down rent stabilized units from slumlords, maybe there wouldn't be such a housing crunch.

And don't forget what I said RE the warren-like subdivided houses in Queens--remember that fire a few years ago in (I think) Elmhurst? The one where the lease said that 8 adults and 4 kids lived there? The one where they pulled out pelvic bones and mandibles from something like 27 adults and 13 children? The one where they had to send shots of the bodies to Pakistan so that people could maybe identify the charred remains?

THAT is what rent deregulation will get us more of.

Tenants hitting the roof
Say they can't afford hikes


When Angela Baker heard the rent on her stabilized apartment could shoot up as much as 8.5% over two years, she shook her head and looked to the ground.

"I don't know how anybody can afford that," said Baker, a 44-year-old home health aide who lives in a rent-stabilized apartment in the Bronx. "Everything is going up except my paycheck."

Tenants around the city reacted angrily yesterday when they heard the Rent Guidelines Board was considering hiking rents anywhere from 3% to 6.5% for one-year leases and 5% to 8.5% for two-year leases.

"I understand that heating oil went up but this is very difficult for people on fixed incomes," said Maria Orcino, as she leaned on her cane.

"I can't just raise my pension when my expenses go up," said the retired secretary who pays $825 for a rent-stabilized apartment in the Bronx.

There are more than 1 million rent-stabilized apartments in the five boroughs. It is one of the few sources of affordable housing for middle-income New Yorkers - making those who have those apartments the envy of those who don't.

"I cut down on going out to dinner, taking trips and going to the theater," said 76-year-old Helen Thompson, who has lived in Peter Cooper Village for 38 years. "It takes away everything that is the reason you live in New York."

Ninety-year-old Herbert Hagan, who has lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Peter Cooper Village for 30 years, already pays almost $1,000 a month in rent.

"I'll have to cut down on the nightlife," he joked.

Irma Rabinowitz, who is 87, said she knows many people who can no longer afford dinner in a restaurant or a movie.

"This is for people who have worked all their lives," said Rabinowitz, who pays almost $700 for a two-bedroom apartment at Brightwater Towers in Coney Island. "You are supposed to get some pleasure if you live long enough."

Janet Henne said young families are staying in smaller apartments because they can't afford the higher rents.

"Some of them are paying $1,600 for a one bedroom," said Henne, who lives in a rent-stabilized apartment in Rego Park, Queens. "It's just about impossible to have a family. Some of them still have 2- or 3-year-olds sleeping in their bedrooms. It's awful."
This is who is affected by rent control, not doctors and trustifarians. It is the elderly, working families, retirees. If they lose any control over their rents, they will lose their apartments, and while some landlords will benefit, a lot of buildings in once marginal areas, Red Hook-Park Slope, Long Island City, will be less attractive than Essex County and Westchester for many New Yorkers.

What people need to understand, and it's only something you understand walking the streets of New York, is that despite the high levels of residential segregation, there is a physical integration missing in many cities. The rich and poor live often side by side and share the same subways and stores.

One of the reasons for that is that rent stablization allows for people to remain in the city and keep it vibrant. The idea that landlords are being screwed is short of a joke, and I heard this directly from the large landlords. They never bring up the tax exemption they get for running a stablized building. They put up the small landlords as fronts, while the large landlords like Trump live off the tax benefits of stabilized buildings. And yes, Trump's major holdings are the apartments his father built in Brooklyn and Queens. Most of the buildings with his name on it are a marketing deal.

What people who live in places like Boston don't get is how hard it is to commute into and out of New York. If you live in a new city like Austin or Miami, this need for rent control is simply mystifying. Sure, you have more space, but what is your neighborhood? Except for those in the city, it's apartments, parks and malls and lots of driving.

New Yorkers tend not to own their homes and avoid driving because public transportation works. New York had a transit strike for three days, Westchester County had a bus strike for weeks. Why? Because New York doesn't work well without subways and buses.

But rent stablization is also about keeping New York stable. It allows people to not only live here, but keeps neighborhoods stable and stores stable for decades. When cities lose their workers, they lose their tax base. That's the other part of the argument people lose. When rent control ended in Boston, there were enough home owners and part time residents to not affect the tax base. In New York, it would gut most of Manhattan and then slowly spread to the other boroughs, as former Manhattanites looked for new places, shoving out those residents, the working classes of the city.

posted by Steve @ 6:39:00 PM

6:39:00 PM

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