Friday, December 26, 2014

NY Times' "What's Up Next in NY: Airbnb and Rent Regulation"

NY Times article  EXCERPT: 

Meanwhile, New Yorkers living in the city’s nearly one million rent-stabilized apartments should brace for a fight in Albany in June, when the rent-stabilization law expires. Housing advocates hope to see a reversal of a rule that allows landlords to deregulate vacant units if the rent reaches $2,500 a month.

Over the past 20 years, at least 133,000 units in the city have gone market rate because of this rule, according to the Rent Guidelines Board.  If the trend continues, rent stabilization could be further weakened, undermining Mayor de Blasio’s efforts to preserve affordable housing, say supporters of the policy.

“This is our make or break moment for the tenant movement,” said Ilana Maier, the program director for the Metropolitan Council on Housing. “If we aren’t able to drastically strengthen the rules now, none of this will matter in 10 years.”

But with a Republican-controlled State Senate, opponents of rent stabilization doubt that 2015 will be a watershed year for the tenants’ movement. Sherwin Belkin, a lawyer who represents landlords, said: “Landlords view this as an opportunity to make some much-needed changes to rent regulation.”

One suggested change: require rent-stabilized tenants to verify their income.

This website's editorial comment: That suggestion (apparently by big real estate interests) for changing the rent laws would require rent-stabilized tenants to verify their income.  

But income is irrelevant to keeping New York City's stock of affordable housing by repealing vacancy deregulation.  Some 95% of apartments that are de-regulated lose their protection when they are VACANT - so the tenants' income has nothing to do with it.  Only about 5% of rent stabilized apartments are de-regulated because the household income is $200,000 or more AND the rent is at least $2500.  In any event, the median income for rent stabilized apartments is roughly $39,000/year. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

US private equity firm gives up as London tenant fight back, and more: McKee's articles 12/21/2014

Long Dark Shadows of Plutocracy - Bill Moyers Show

Check out the excellent video of the Bill Moyers show, The Long, Dark Shadows of Plutocracy.   He links together the super-tall towers, like private safe deposit boxes for oligarchs, and the shadows these investment properties cast over Central Park and the 40 million New Yorkers who use it yearly.  There are clips from interviews with Jaron Benjamin, former head of Met Council on Housing, and State Senator Liz Krueger (among the good folks), and State Senator Martin Golden (among the baddies).

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bill would give lawyers to many tenants in Housing Court

First in the nation - if it passes.  This bill builds on a concept presented earlier by NYS Chief Justice Jonathan Lippman.

Council Member Mark Levine has proposed a bill to pay for lawyers in housing court for low-income tenants. 

Currently, 90% of tenants in  Housing Court have no lawyer, while 90% of landlords have one.  Guess who wins.

Ensuring legal representation for what can be a life-changing court decision is crucial, says Council Member Levine.  It makes sense morally and economically:

  • Many families are made homeless by court eviction.
  • Homelessness costs the City an enormous amount (over  $3,000/month for shelter). That doesn't count the obvious costs to those suffering homelessness, including extra travel to get the kids to their regular school and to get to work, mental and physical ailments requiring treatment, and more. 
  • Landlords whose business plan includes trying to evict many tenants at once  may well be dissuaded when they know that the tenants will be represented. 
So paying $2000 for a private lawyer could save the City many thousands of dollars. And it's the right thing to do. 

It would cover those whose incomes do not exceed 125% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). These are the 2014 figures: 
For a family of 1, 125% of the FPL is $14,587.50
For a family of 2, 125% of the FPL is $19,662.50
For a family of 3, 125% of the FPL is $24,737.50
For a family of 4, 125% of the FPL is $34,887.50
About 60% of tenants in Housing Court are within those income levels according to C.M. Levine.

NY Times:  Push to Provide Lawyers in New York City Housing Court Gains Momentum, by Mireya Navarro, Dec. 16, 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sign a petition to repeal vacancy deregulation

Many groups are working together to repeal vacancy deregulation, to reduce or end the bonus landlords get when they re-rent a vacant apartment, to limit Major Capital Improvement increases, and more.  (See the  legislative program.).  Work with those groups, AND  express your individual voice on the matter by clicking here. 

Sign the petition!

Petitioning Governor Andrew Cuomo
Repeal Vacancy Deregulation

Because of vacancy deregulation, New York has lost more affordable housing than it can build in the near future.  Some 90% of apartments taken out of rent control or rent stabilization are deregulated because they are VACANT.  (Only about 5% are deregulated because of the tenant's income.)  In fact, the median income for a rent regulated family in NYC is about $39,000 a year. 
Ending vacancy deregulation will end landlords' incentive to get tenants out - and reduce harassment.  
Ending vacancy deregulation will mean fewer families become homeless.
Passing (2014 legislative numbered) bills A.1858 and S.1167 will mean more affordable, regulated apartments for our children and the 99% of New Yorkers who need it. Regulation protects tenants' rights
  • to a renewal lease at a rate fixed by the Rent Guidelines Board
  • to complain without fear of eviction
  • to have the family members living with them for years get the apartment if the primary tenant leaves.
And under those bills many apartments would be re-regulated.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Nat'l Low Income Housing Trust Fund comes to pass!

Mel Watt, the Director of the Federal Housing Finance 
Agency, has lifted the suspension on Fannie Mae and 
Freddie Mac’s obligation to contribute to the National 
Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) and the Capital Magnet 
Fund (CMF). At long last, the NHTF will be funded.
After eight years of advocacy to get the NHTF established 
and another six years to secure a dedicated funding source, 
the NHTF will have resources to begin ameliorating the 
shortage of housing that the lowest income and most 
vulnerable people in our country can afford, providing 
a major boost to efforts to end homelessness and housing 
poverty in the United States.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Screening of Documentary Footage to Preserve Affordable Housing

Our first screening of a documentary about organizing to preserve affordable housing on the Upper West Side and in other communities - including clips from Crown Heights, RAFA march in Harlem in August, RGB hearings & vote and Great Neck, Long Island:

What:      Mitchell-Lama Film Project, A Work In Progress
Where:     Goddard Riverside Community Center
                 647 Columbus Avenue at West 91st St
When:      Wednesday, November 19th at 7:30pm

Friday, November 21, 2014

Tenants in Bankruptcy shielded from losing rent stabilized home

New York State's highest court has ruled that a tenant in bankruptcy need not sell her rent stabilized lease back to her landlord to raise money for the tenant's creditors.  
The NY Times has covered this:  Rent-Stabilized Leases Shielded in Bankruptcy.
Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam wrote the Nov. 20, 2014 decision that the tenant could not be forced to give up her home and sell her rent stabilized lease to the landlord.   Relying on a state law that exempts "public assistance benefits" from being seized by the bankruptcy trustee,  Judge Abdus-Salaam said that rent stabilizes leases are such a benefit.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Talking about affordable housing - on MNN TV

NYC Councilmember Helen Rosenthal, attorney Sue Susman, 
Tenant activist Khadijah Canns discuss the future of rent regulation.

Repeal vacancy deregulation (also known as vacancy decontrol) and 
re-regulate apartments deregulated under vacancy deregulation if rents 
are below a goodly amount.

Close the loopholes that make affordable apartments unaffordable 
(Major Capital Improvements, Individual Apartment Improvements, 
preferential rents, illegal fees, and more).

Keep illegal hotels - including AirBnB - from depleting our stock of 
affordable housing..

Friday, November 14, 2014

Southbridge Towers in the news

Divided by a Windfall: Southbridge (former Mitchell-Lama) residents are the topic of a NY Times article
Privatizing assumes financial risk, particularly for the type of tenant the program was designed to serve — someone who can barely afford the current costs. No longer eligible for tax abatements, Southbridge would have to pay at least $8.1 million a year in real estate taxes, significantly more than the $1.64 million it now pays.  The development could also be on the hook for a $27.77 million transfer tax if the New York State Court of Appeals rules in favor of the city in an ongoing case involving a former Mitchell-Lama
development in Coney Island that privatized in 2007.

Tenant Legislative Goals

All the major tenant groups are working together for these goals:
  • Repeal vacancy deregulation (also known as vacancy decontrol) and re-regulate
    apartments deregulated under vacancy deregulation if rents are below a goodly amount. 
  • Close the loopholes that make affordable apartments unaffordable (Major Capital Improvements, Individual Apartment Improvements, preferential rents, illegal fees, and more).
  • Keep illegal hotels - including AirBnB - from depleting our stock of affordable housing.

Come to the Rally to Strengthen the Rent Laws 
Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at 10 AM (get there early)
at City Hall.  Click here for a flyer in Word - so you can add your group's name.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Astoria Cove: Mayor gets better deal

Mayor de Blasio and the City Council's Land Use Committee have won a better deal (see NY Times article) for
Astoria Cove in Queens:  

  • 27% of the apartments (instead of 20%) will be affordable.
  • Most of the affordable apartments will rent to people making no more than 80% of the area median income* with some as low as $800/month
  • A ferry dock will be built since the project is a mile from the nearest subway
  • Union members will build, maintain and service the project. 
*  Area Median Income (AMI) The area median income for New York City in 2013 was $63,000 for a family of four.   But in the Astoria Cove area, the median income is $56,000.  (To get the median, line up all the incomes, highest to lowest.  The one that is halfway down is the median.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Nov. 18, 2014 Rally to Strengthen NYS's Rent Laws




Monday, November 10, 2014

Rent Laws Expire in June - so Tenants Need . . .

Check out the legislative platform of several groups for this coming January-June 2015
Albany term.  In June the rent laws expire and must be renewed.  Will they be weakened or strengthened?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Tenants PAC says Vote NO on Proposal 1

The Nov. 4th ballot contains three proposals for approval or rejection by the voters of New York State. Please note that the three proposals are on the back of the paper ballot, so you need to turn it over to vote on them.  The following is a description of the proposals, with a recommendation from Tenants PAC on how to vote on Proposal 1.

Proposal Number 1, an Amendment: Revising
New York State's Redistricting Procedure
The proposed amendment to sections 4 and 5 and addition of new section 5-b to Article 3 of the State Constitution revises the redistricting procedure for state legislative and congressional districts. The proposed amendment establishes a redistricting commission every 10 years beginning in 2020, with two members appointed by each of the four legislative leaders and two members selected by the eight legislative appointees; prohibits legislators and other elected officials from serving as commissioners; establishes principles to be used in creating districts; requires the commission to hold public hearings on proposed redistricting plans; subjects the commission's redistricting plan to legislative enactment; provides that the legislature may only amend the redistricting plan according to the established principles if the commission's plan is rejected twice by the legislature; provides for expedited court review of a challenged redistricting plan; and provides for funding and bipartisan staff to work for the commission. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

Tenants PAC urges you to vote NO
. While this constitutional amendment put forward by Governor Cuomo and the legislative leaders in Albany sounds good on the surface, it contains loopholes that would allow the legislature to do what it does now: draw super-partisan district lines to protect incumbents and to protect the majority parties from having to face competitive elections. A state supreme court justice forced the NYS Board of Elections to delete the word “independent” in the above language describing the proposal, ruling that the proposal could not be called independent from the state legislature when the legislative leaders appoint the members of the commission, and because the commission must submit its proposed lines to the state legislature for approval. This is a cynical power-grab in the name of reform, and is opposed by editorial boards all over the state as well as by numerous civic groups including Common Cause New York, NYPIRG and EffectiveNY. No fake reform – vote NO.

Loopholes let big developers give Cuomo biggest donations

Crains New York: Cuomo's biggest donor is also the oldest.

In the run-up to Tuesday's balloting, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's re-election campaign collected $45 million, almost double what it raised four years earlier. But one key factor in that success, and the source of the largest slug of cash, stayed constant: the legendary—now 100-year-old—real estate magnate Leonard Litwin.
Limited-liability companies connected to Mr. Litwin's real estate business, Glenwood Management, gave Mr. Cuomo's campaign $1 million in this election cycle—three times the size of the second-ranked donor's contribution, according to data compiled by the New York Public Interest Research Group. In addition, Mr. Litwin gave, in total, almost $500,000 to the state Democratic Party and to Kathy Hochul's campaign for lieutenant governor.

Astora Cove, Prop 1, Post-Hurricane Sandy

Help Tenants PAC elect pro-tenant candidates

 Dear Friend,

The election is tomorrow, Tuesday, November 4.

Tenants PAC strongly urges a vote to re-elect Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and a vote to re-elect State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, both of whom are great supporters of tenants and tenants’ rights. Tenants PAC has made no endorsement for governor.

Tenants PAC also urges a NO vote on Proposal One, a constitutional amendment put forward by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the legislative leaders that claims to create a non-partisan system for redrawing legislative district lines beginning in 2022. In fact this is a fake reform proposal that would actually enshrine in the state constitution the ability of the legislative leaders to draw hyper gerrymandered lines in order to protect their majorities and protect incumbent legislators. The foxes that run the hen house called Planet Albany will do whatever they can to persuade voters that this is a good plan, but it is fatally flawed. Vote NO. (The proposals are on the back of the ballot.) No fake reform!

It is not too late to make a contribution to Tenants PAC to help elect our six priority candidates for New York State Senate. Just this week we have made an additional $3,300 in donations to two of them, and we want to do more by the weekend. The hope for a Democratic majority in the State Senate rests on the outcome of these six races, all of which are competitive and could go either way. All six of our candidates are solidly pro-tenant. The NYC real estate industry is pouring money into five of these races to help the Republican candidates.

We thank those of you who helped us meet our latest $1,000 match; the response was swift and much appreciated. We urge everyone to dig deep into your pocketbook and give again, or give for the first time if you have not yet done so. The stakes are enormously high.

You can send a check payable to Tenants PAC to:
Tenants PAC, 277 Broadway, Suite 608, New York NY 10007.

Or you can make a secure on-line donation at

Contributions to Tenants PAC are not deductible from federal income tax.

One week to go.

In solidarity,

Michael McKee
Tenants Political Action Committee

Volunteer to help Pro-Tenant Candidates

Here are some important volunteer opportunities:

10:00 am to 9:00 pm each day – 3 hour shifts, or all day
Get Out The Vote activities for Senate candidate Justin Wagner
Meet at 1 Croton Point Avenue, Croton-on-Hudson, Westchester County
(across from the Croton-Harmon Metro North station, take Metro North
Hudson Line train from Grand Central Station to Croton-Harmon)
For information or to RSVP: Adriana Carozza (914) 329-6489 or
You can also sign up to volunteer at several staging areas for Justin at the
If you have a car, please fill out the form on the above link.
Email for transportation from Manhattan on
Saturday, November 1 or Tuesday, November 4.

Every day, all day – volunteer for a shift, or all day
Get Out The Vote activities for Senator George Latimer
Campaign HQs: 172 East Boston Post Road, Mamaroneck, Westchester County
For information or to RSVP: Andrew Ferris (914) 582-2167 or 914-341-1226 or
email him at
Take Metro North New Haven line to Mamaroneck; call Andrew to arrange for
someone to pick you up at the Metro North station.
If you have a car, please let Andrew know.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 3                             2:00 to 8:30 pm
Phone Bank for Justin Wagner & Terry Gipson
Location: Chelsea
To RSVP & for address:
(212) 807-7733 or (917) 319-8557 or at
Bring your cell phone and your charger. This GOTV phone bank is co-sponsored by
Greater NYC for Change, VOCAL-NY & other groups.

Help tenants win! Many elections are won by GOTV activity on the weekend before, and on
Election Day. These races are very close, the NYC real estate industry is spending millions
of dollars to defeat our candidates, and the outcome on Tuesday could be good or bad.

Michael McKee
Tenants Political Action Committee

ReDistricting affects Tenants: Don't dilute our power!

"Instead of allowing voters to choose their representatives, elected officials have chosen their voters. That's gerrymandering at its worst: an undermining of competitive democracy that protects incumbents and invites political complacency and even, in some instances, corruption." NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Albany Times Union

See also New York Times editorial, calling Proposal 1 phony redistricting "reform”

By Thomas P. DiNapoli, Commentary | October 29, 2014

On the ballot Nov. 4 is a redistricting amendment to our state constitution that would worsen an already flawed system for drawing state legislative and congressional districts.

I'll be voting "No" on Proposal 1. Here's why.

For decades, legislators have been able to draw districts to their own specifications, even going so far as to carve out the block where a potential challenger's home is located.

Instead of allowing voters to choose their representatives, elected officials have chosen their voters. That's gerrymandering at its worst: an undermining of competitive democracy that protects incumbents and invites political complacency and even, in some instances, corruption.

Prop 1, as the redistricting amendment is called, purports to create a bi-partisan commission that "establishes principles to be used creating districts" and will "hold public hearings on proposed redistricting plans." The intent sounds good but the reality is the opposite. The state Legislature can still reject any and all recommendations from this commission. In other words, the amendment is an easily manipulated mechanism for perpetuating the current system instead of reforming it.

It's no wonder the State Supreme Court ruled against the "independent" ballot language for this amendment.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Annual West Side Tenants Conference - Sat., Nov. 1

Come for the terrific workshops, breakfast, lunch, and community - all free.  It's a terrific resource!

West Side Tenants' Conference 
  • Saturday, Nov. 1st, 2014
  • 9 AM to 4 PM 
  • at the Fordham Univ. School of Law at Lincoln Center, 150 West 62nd St. at Columbus Ave.  (Trains: A,B,C,D,1;  Bus:  M11,5,7,10,20,37,57, 104)
RSVP: 212-716-1659.

Monday, October 27, 2014

NYS Atty. Gen. puts "tenant relocator" out of busines (and more articles of interest)

Michael McKee's Articles of Interest to Tenant Advocates ARTICLES OF INTEREST TO TENANT ADVOCATES:

Renters March Great!

The rally at noon had terrific music and chants, and good speakers, including Congressman Charles Rangel who compared 80% market rate-20% affordable apartment buildings to hospitals in which only 20% of the room were for sick people. Several speakers called for the repeal of vacancy decontrol - since allowing landlords to de-regulate vacant apartments depletes New York City's stock of affordable housing and motivates the harassment so many tenants suffer

Additional speakers (in alphabetical order):  Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Adriano Espaillat (a major organizer of the event), Assembly Member Herman "Denny" Farrell, Public Advocate Tish James, Council Member Mark Levine, Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Attorney John Gorman, and several tenants - all moderated by Tenants & Neighbors' Delsenia Glover.   Apologies to anyone missed here.  (With the music and crowd's enthusiasm, it was hard to see and hear all the speakers.)  

The Renters March was co-sponsored by The Black Institute, the Goddard-Riverside Community Center, the, Northern Manhattan Improvement Coalition, P.A.'L.A.N.T.E., the 
Riverside Edgecombe Neighborhood Association, Tenants & Neighbors, and We Act, among others. 

Friday, October 24, 2014