NY Rent-Freeze Bill Draws Fire

2 min read

It didn't take long for the bill (S. 6811) introduced last week by New York State Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. to attract detractors, most visibly a young woman holding a sign next to Sen. Espada at his press conference announcing the bill.

Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

Pedro Espada Jr.

New York-It didn’t take long for the bill (S. 6811) introduced last week by New York State Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. to attract detractors, most visibly a young woman holding a sign next to Sen. Espada at his press conference announcing the bill.

The sign said, “Beware! This Bill (Just Like Espada) is a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing.” The image was captured widely both as a still photo and on TV.

The bill in question would modify parts of New York’s current byzantine rental regulations, in particular by freezing rents for all New York rent-stabilized tenants who make less than $45,000 a year and pay more than one-third of their income in rent–perhaps as many as 300,000 households, according to Sen. Espada, who represents the Bronx. The cost of doing so, according to the majority leader, “will come out of the pockets of landlords.”

That is, the money would come from allowing landlords to return to the state a subsidy known in New York as J-51, which they received in the form of a tax break for renovating buildings. Landlords are not allowed to de-regulate rents in buildings for which they accepted J-51 subsidies, as the highly leveraged former owners of Peter Cooper Village-Stuyvesant Town found out to their regret not long ago.

Estimates vary on the number of apartments that could be taken to market rates under the bill. But the prospect was enough to rile various New York tenants’ organizations (and the sign-holder at the press conference), who claim that the proposal would result in large rent increases for those above the income threshold specified by the bill.

The Rent Stabilization Association of NYC Inc., which represents owners of rent-stabilized buildings in the city, has published no official position on the proposal. However, lobbyist Frank Ricci of the organization told the Bronx News Network last week that, “as long as [J-51 refunds are] voluntary, we support them.”

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