Richardson - Civic Minded

Civic Minded 5 – More on Housing

On May 18th I went to the fifth session for 2019 of Diana Richardson's “Civic Minded,” her monthly meeting with constituents on Empire Boulevard. This was the second meeting on housing issues. I drifted into the school auditorium at P.S. 61 early and took a seat. Someone passed out cards for one of the judges running in the June 25th Democratic Primary. Richardson did not like the implied idea that she was endorsing this judge and went around collecting the cards before the meeting got started. In any event, the cards were still be passed out in the lobby and on the front steps of the school. Right after this, Richardson began the meeting with a combination of congratulations for what had been done and urgency to do more. She mentioned that the current rent laws would expire in 29 days, and she went over the status of the nine laws that have been proposed to replace them. Five she considered to be in good shape to pass; these were – Reform of Preferential Rent, End of Vacancy Decontrol, Elimination of the Vacancy Bonus, Reform of the Four Year Rule, and Rent Control Relief. For four others there was more negotiation to be done and some opposition; these were Eliminate Rent Hikes Because of Major Capital Improvements, Stop Harassment and Deregulation Caused by Individual Apartment Improvements, Expand the Emergency Tenant Protection Act, and Good Cause Eviction.

She said more organizing and pressure was needed to push through all nine bills, and she had people stand up who had gone to Albany and also people who had gone to meetings like the Assembly and Senate hearings to collect testimony. She called for a round of applause for these people. Also she showed videos, including one of State Senator Julia Salazar calling for tenants' rights upstate. Senator Myrie was present also, and he spoke about the testimony at Medgar Evers College on May 14, saying that 2,000 people had showed up to testify and how important it is to have all these stories in the official record. Richardson talked about politicians who have not spoken up on the issues, one of them being Robert Cornegy, Jr. of the 36th Council District. She called on his constituents to let him know how they felt.

Then there was a video of the demonstrators who tried to block the Senate hearing. Richardson had found the man leading the “protesters” and paying for their services. She had followed him around taking video and asking him who he was and who was paying him. Myrie talked about how the Real Estate industry tries to hide behind workers in buildings to create confusion through their provocations. In testimony inside the hearings of the Assembly, Joseph Straley of the misnamed Rent Stabilization Association had said the rent bills would make all housing like NYCHA housing, neglected and in bad repair because the money to do upkeep would be gone. Myrie pointed out that honest landlords have nothing to fear from the nine bills. What those bills do is put a stop to the various forms of abuse and profiteering that have become rampant.

Again Richardson and Myrie called on people to go to Albany to put pressure on those who have not made up their minds. A representative of the Crown Heights Tenant Association solicited volunteers for a telephone bank. Brian Kavanaugh has been made co-chair with Myrie of the effort to get the nine bills through the Senate. Myrie said as a result that he would be in Albany for the next month, this after appearing in numerous events in his district. And so it is that the legislation is moving forward as a set of bills that might dramatically change the lives of millions of people in New York State making for a safer more secure environment in which they could conduct their lives with reasonable rents and without fear of harassment and abuse at the hands of landlords who will do the most despicable things just to make a buck. We are living in a time that may very well become one of the moments when the plates shift and a whole new world appears.

– John DeWind

UpdatesRobbie Klein