2003-02-15 / Columnists

Chatting With Chapey

Democratic District Leader
Lobbying In Albany To Protect Tenants: February 3 & 4 - 2003
By Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey,

Democratic District Leader
Lobbying In Albany To Protect Tenants: February 3 & 4 - 2003

On February 3rd and 4, 2003, I traveled to Albany to fight for stronger laws to protect tenants.  I was in Albany with other tenant advocates to support a bill in the Assembly, #2716A.  The position of tenants will be strengthened if the Assembly passes a bill with very strong improvements in rent stabilization before they begin their negotiations with the Senate and the Governor.  State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver heard the voices of the tenants and did lead his chamber to pass a bill that would extend rent regulation laws - but without a key provision that has let landlords remove thousands of apartments from rent regulation.  By moving expeditiously on the tenant issue Shelly Silver has made this a top priority of this years session.  Therefore it is up to the tenants to keep this issue alive.

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer and Assemblywoman Michele Titus are very strong supporters of tenant's rights.  The Assembly Bill #2716A includes (1) renewal until June 2008 of state rent and eviction protection laws, which are scheduled to expire in June 2003, and (2) the reduction of the statutory vacancy bonus from 20 percent to 10 percent.  According to the material distributed by the tenant advocacy groups to members of the New York State Assembly and Senate, "reducing the statutory vacancy bonus from 20 percent to 10 percent helps preserve affordability and limiting its collection to once in any calendar year removes an incentive to bad landlords to under-maintain their buildings in order to encourage turnover."

The year 2003 is very important for tenants because rent laws expire in both New York State and New York City.  The Emergency Tenant Protection Act, which applies to rent stabilized buildings, is due to expire as well as three other closely associated laws.  It is most likely that these bills will be considered and renewed at the same time.  The renewal of these laws will require that the Governor and leaders of the Senate and Assembly negotiate a final package.  Since the Assembly is the strongest group on the side of the tenants, it is important for the tenants that they begin the legislative year with the strongest pro-tenant stance.  Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the Chairman of the Housing Committee, has scheduled a hearing on rent regulation issues on Thursday, February 13th at 250 Broadway.  I will present testimony to advocate on behalf of our tenants.

On the New York City side, city rent stabilization will expire on March 31st unless the City Council passes a bill and the Mayor signs it.  The City Council's housing committee will hold public hearings on the rent laws near the end of February.  The full Council will vote on rent stabilization in March.  Mayor Bloomberg will hold a public hearing on rent stabilization in late March and sign a bill shortly thereafter.

It is important that tenants be a strong part of the process so that there will be a shift away from simply renewing the laws and movement toward strengthening them and a limit placed on expanding them.  Even though the Urstadt laws limits New York City's control over the rent laws, it is important that the City Council and Mayor Bloomberg strengthen and improve these laws for the tenants.  It is imperative that the City Council and the Mayor let those in State government know that they support the tenants.

Write to your elected officials and ask them to support the strengthening and expansion of the rent laws.  Let your voice be heard.

Please remember that the Trinity Senior Services Van is available for use by groups of seniors.  Please call my office Monday through Friday between 11 AM and 4 PM at (718) 474-1641 to schedule a trip.

In order to raise funds to continue the van we will be holding a luncheon on Wednesday, April 30th at 12 Noon at Russo's on the Bay.  Tickets are $40. Please call (718) 474-1641 to order your tickets.

Happy Birthday to Barbara Morris!

The James Conway Sullivan Memorial Queens St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee will be holding a fundraiser at Antun’s on Saturday, February 15th.  Please call our office to reserve tickets. 

Mike Benn our tireless and dedicated President, has a weekly TV show entitled "Eyes of the Irish."  Please watch his show on Wednesday at 9:30 PM and Thursday at 3:30 PM on Channel 35.  His shows are timely, interesting and informative.

Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey and Assemblyman Vito Lopez, chairman of the New York State Assemble housing committee, discuss strengthing and expanding the laws that protect tenants.

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