NY Lawmakers on the Move June 20, 2022

Lawmakers on the Move

Brewer Testimony Before Rent Guidelines Board

City Council Member Gale Brewer

City Council Member Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan) last week released testimony she made before the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) as they ready this week to make a final decisions regarding possible rent increases to about a million apartments throughout New York City.

“I urge the Board to view the above findings in the context of three decades of RGB  determinations that favored property owners over rent stabilized tenants. Seen this way, the  unaffordability of rent stabilized units is the result of cumulative rent increases of 30% since  1991. Though it is the pandemic that caused some tenants to suddenly become unable to pay  rent, the amount of total rental arrears among rent stabilized households is higher than it should  be if there hadn’t been historic overcompensation to property owners. It is thus the Board’s  responsibility to close the overcompensation gap rather than to maintain or to further widen it,” said Brewer.. 

“Additionally, as evidenced by the Community Service Society of New York (CSS), state  unemployment rates are twice the national average and the job deficit is three times the  nationwide average. Furthermore, coupled with the significant increase in the ratio of median  rent to income, which increased from 40% in 2002 to 52% in 2017, rent stabilized tenants cannot  afford further increases. 

“Moreover, the New York Eviction Moratorium expired on January 15, 2022, and there are  227,000 eviction filings in court as of April 26, 2022.3Increasing the burden on rent stabilized  tenants will also increase the burden on housing courts, slowing due process for everyone. 

In voting to adopt preliminary guidelines of a 2-4% increase for one-year leases and a 4-6%  increase for two-year leases, the Board is contemplating increases that are well beyond reason. I  ask the Board to reconsider this decision and to vote for a rent freeze for another year in order to  help to close the historic overcompensation gap.”

Proposals put forth by members of the NYC Rent Guidelines Board will be considered for adoption at the RGB Public Meeting (Final Vote) slated for 7:30 p.m., tomorrow, June 21 at  Cooper Union in Manhattan.

Kaplan, Solages cut ribbon at Elmont Road Park

State Sen. Anna Kaplan
Assembly Member Michaelle Solages

State Senator Anna M. Kaplan (D-North Hills) and Assemblywoman Michaelle C. Solages (D-Elmont) held a ribbon cutting event Friday at Elmont Road Park in Elmont to celebrate the completion of the $3 million renovation project, and to announce that the park is open for residents in the community to enjoy.

As part of the development of the UBS Arena in Belmont Park, the developers of the project, New York Arena Partners (a joint venture of the New York Islanders, Oak View Group, and Sterling Project Development), agreed to a comprehensive community benefits package that was developed in partnership with Kaplan and Solages. 

Empire State Development, the State agency responsible for overseeing the project, took an active role in managing the park redevelopment and ensuring that goals and targets set by the community were met by the developers.

“I was adamant that our community get significant benefits as part of the UBS Arena construction, and I’m grateful that New York Arena Partners and the New York Islanders delivered on their promise to invest in our community. It’s been a long road to get here, but I’m so thrilled that today the Elmont community has an all new park to enjoy with their families just in time for summer,” said Kaplan.

“For decades the Elmont Road Park has been in a state of disarray, but now, thanks to the advocacy of Elmont residents, we have a renovated and refreshed park just in time for families to enjoy in the summer,” said Solages. “I am delighted to announce the opening of the park. Since the beginning of the Belmont redevelopment effort, I have been committed to ensuring that Elmont receives tangible community benefits as a result of the project. Through community partnerships, we will ensure that all of the items promised by the developer are fully realized.” 

Comrie, Krueger, and Sepúlveda to Co-Chair Hearing on Penn Station Revitalization Plan 

State Senator Leroy Comrie
Senator Liz Krueger
Sen. Luis Sepúlveda

Senators Leroy Comrie (D-Queens), Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), and Luis Sepúlveda (D-Bronx) on Friday will co-chair a joint public hearing on the Penn Station Revitalization Plan. 

Comrie serves as chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Corporations, Authorities & Commissions. Krueger serves as Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Sepúlveda serves as chair of the Committee on Cities 1. 

In advance of the hearing, Comrie said, “My goal is to provide oversight and gain additional perspective on outstanding challenges, potential challenges, and contingency plans. I believe the timelines, finances, and underlying assumptions of the plans all deserve our attention. Both the authorities and advocates have insights they can offer. In addition, I believe we may gain insights from testimony on topics like inclusion, ADA accessibility, MWBE participation, and additional community input. I want to give stakeholders an opportunity to testify; from there, we can make better-informed decisions about what our next steps should be as legislators, as advocates, and as New Yorkers.”

Krueger said it’s important that legislators and the public have a clear understanding of the impact of financing plans for the Penn Station project on State and City coffers and the economic assumptions underlying the financing plan. 

In addition, the hearing is an opportunity to explore the extent to which the plan best addresses transportation needs and provides needed improvements to the surrounding community, including affordable housing and public amenities. I view this hearing as about providing an opportunity to get answers to important questions and increase transparency around the project,” said Krueger.

The public hearing is slated for 10 a.m., Friday, June 24 in the Senate Hearing Room, 250 Broadway in lower Manhattan. It will also be livestreamed (NYSenate.gov site). 

AG James protects Bronx tenants housing rights

Attorney General Letitia James

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Friday that she has reached an agreement with Kucker, Marino, Winiarsky & Bittens LLP (Kucker) for unlawfully providing improper and damaging legal advice to New York tenants

An investigation by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) found that Kucker sent a letter to 263 unrepresented tenants in the Bronx giving them unwarranted legal advice about their rights to rent stabilization. Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA), a tenant organizing project, was already working with the tenants to fight for safe, affordable housing. 

Kucker’s letter gave tenants a false sense of security regarding rent stabilization, and CASA’s organizing efforts were stalled as a result. As part of the agreement, Kucker will pay $50,000 to CASA for the money and resources it spent to combat Kucker’s improper letter. Kucker will also adopt official trainings and procedures to ensure complete and ongoing compliance with their ethical duties. 

Kucker sent the letter to six buildings in the Bronx: 1187 Anderson Avenue, 1195 Anderson Avenue, 1997 Anderson Avenue, 1220 Shakespeare Avenue, 1210 Woodycrest Avenue, and 1230 Woodycrest Avenue.

“As New York City continues to face a housing crisis, we must do everything we can to ensure tenants are informed of their rights and are protected against unscrupulous landlords and their lawyers,” said James. “Today, we are holding Kucker accountable for jeopardizing New Yorker’s housing stability and failing to comply with the law. I will continue to use the full force of my office to stand up for tenants who are organizing their communities to ensure that safe, decent, and affordable housing is a reality for all New Yorkers.”