What If New York Had No Rent-Regulated Apartments?

Categories: Real Estate

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Wikimedia Commons
Apartments on Essex Street between Canal and Hester streets
Mayor Bill de Blasio will be in Albany today to nudge state legislators about a few of his agenda items, including extending and strengthening rent regulations. But a report released Tuesday by the Citizens Budget Commission — "Five Myths About Rent Regulation in New York City" — pushes in the other direction. What if they got rid of rent-controlled and -stabilized apartments altogether?

"To start from the beginning, if we had a perfect situation, we probably wouldn't create this bifurcated housing market," the CBC's Rahul Jain tells the Voice about his report. "We need to slowly phase it out for households that can afford market-rate units."

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Meet the Manhattan Assemblyman Who Is Fighting Albany for Rent Reform

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Photo courtesy of Brian Kavanagh's office
With the most recent budget fight behind them, legislators in Albany are getting ready to turn their attention to the state's expiring rent regulation laws. It's a fight that Brian Kavanagh knows well.

The Democratic state assemblyman from Manhattan has emerged as a leader on the side of strengthening the laws, a position rarely shared by Albany's more landlord-friendly Republicans, who control the Senate. Kavanagh won an early victory during the budget fight, restoring funding for the Tenant Protection Unit, which senate Republicans had zeroed out in their version of the budget.

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Will Brooklyn's Insane Real Estate Market Doom This Long-Stalled Park?

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Courtesy NYC Parks Department
Bushwick Inlet Park, as it stands now in its nine acres of glory
Hundreds of Brooklynites flooded City Hall on Thursday to protest the city's slow action on buying land for Bushwick Inlet Park, as real estate prices have soared in line with condo construction along the East River.

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The Rent Is Too Damn High Guy Continues to Fight Landlord's Eviction Efforts

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Screenshot via YouTube
Jimmy McMillan is not homeless.

The Rent Is Too Damn High party founder Jimmy McMillan was scheduled to be evicted in February from his $872-a-month rent-stabilized apartment in the East Village. But the fierce affordable-housing advocate has still managed to stay in his home — at least for now — thanks to the intervention of the city's Adult Protective Services program.


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Crown Heights Landlord Is Taking Tenants to Court in Attempt to Drastically Raise Their Rent

Categories: Real Estate

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Katie Toth, the Village Voice
Tenants at 285 Schenectady and 1646 Union, here protesting outside Brooklyn Housing Court, are being sued by their new landlord for refusing drastically higher rents.
Residents of two Crown Heights apartment buildings say they're being unfairly sued by their new landlords in an attempt to increase rent costs and, in two cases, force tenants to withdraw building complaints filed with the state.

Renaissance Realty bought 285 Schenectady Avenue and 1646 Union Street in Crown Heights in early 2014 and is currently suing twelve tenants for failing to sign new leases requiring them to pay drastically higher rent. Meanwhile, tenants are responding that their apartments are barely worth living in — let alone worth, in some cases, more than twice their current monthly rent. Seven of the tenants facing legal action have filed grievances with the New York State Department of Housing and Community Renewal, demanding rent reductions because of issues like leaking ceilings and rodent problems.

"I was paying $962 a month and the new landlord takes over and he wants me to pay $2,020 a month for the one bedroom," says Betsy Brown, a 28-year resident of 285 Schenectady. "I don't think that's right, so I don't sign the lease and he takes me to court. I think they want to kick us out. Where am I going to go?"


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Ditch Your Overpriced Apartment Without Leaving New York

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Via Craigslist

If New York had an official pastime, it would be real estate. In between searching for increasingly remote crawlspaces to inhabit, we love to bitch about our astronomical rents and gloat shamelessly when we find the Brigadoon of sublets (rent-controlled, roof access, close to a viable train — the stuff your friends in lesser cities consider the most basic of dwelling criteria). One-downing one another about our living quarters is practically a bloodsport: "I paid $1,200 a month to sleep in a disused elevator shaft" vs. "I showered with a stranger for reduced rent in a good location." The only solution anyone ever proposes is: "leave." But before you discard your hopes and dreams, consider these creative alternatives to your pricey apartment (also available on Craigslist).

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Lead Contamination Leads to Another Lawsuit Against Notorious NYC Landlord

Categories: Real Estate

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Katie Toth, the Village Voice
113 Stanton Street
Residents of 113 Stanton Street are suing oft-embattled landlord Samy Mahfar for harassment, arguing that by using unsafe construction tactics, Mahfar is — stop us if you've heard this one before — pressuring them to move out of their rent-stabilized apartments and making their lives a nightmare.

How much of a nightmare are we talking? Their apartment complex was said to be filled with more than 200-times the legal amount of lead.

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Residents Brave (Seriously) Bitter Cold to Fight to Preserve Historic Brooklyn Bank Building

Categories: Real Estate

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Katie Toth, Village Voice
Arthur Warren, who has lived in East New York since childhood, says the neighborhood needs more youth programs, not a medical center: "We don't have a place for our kids to go."
On February 24, about eight East New York residents stood on a post-industrial street corner, bundled in boots and scarves as they braved the brutal minus-6-degree wind chill (the actual temperature was a balmy 19 degrees) to protest the demolition of an iconic neighborhood bank, which currently sits at 91 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The four-story building, formerly home to the East New York Savings Bank, was built in 1889 in the Renaissance Revival style by respected American architect Richard Upjohn Jr. It's one of the few tall buildings in the mostly low-density neighborhood. And community members like Chris Banks, director of East New York United Concerned Citizens, say it's a local treasure.


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Haggling in the Hallways of NYC Housing Court Is Hard If You Don't Speak English

Categories: Real Estate

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Katie Toth, Village Voice
New York City comptroller Scott Stringer stands with advocates Monday outside Brooklyn Housing Court to demand more multilingual legal information from the state.
Tenants who face their landlords in housing court go up against experienced attorneys in the courtroom and when haggling in the hallways. Now imagine waging that battle without knowing what anyone is talking about.

That's what Maria Cortes, 62, dealt with when her landlords tried to evict her after she refused to accept a buyout in exchange for leaving her Brooklyn apartment.

"It's very frustrating to talk to someone and know they don't understand you," says Cortes, who switches between fragmented English and speaking Spanish through a translator. "It was difficult, it was very difficult."

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City Tenants'-Rights Plan Gets Praise, but Questions About Development Remain

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Nick Lucchesi, Village Voice
"As with 300 Nassau [shown], we see tenant harassment take the form of neglecting and destroying buildings," says Adam Meyers, a tenants'-rights lawyer.
Efforts by New York mayor Bill de Blasio to curb the strong-arm and harassment tactics used by landlords and residential property owners are receiving mixed reviews from tenants'-rights advocates across the city.

De Blasio and state attorney general Eric Schneiderman spent much of February 19 trumpeting their new tenant-harassment task force, which, they say, will foster greater communication between the city and state in prosecuting bad landlords. But some housing advocates say the mayor is sending mixed messages, as the city is also currently in the process of rezoning neighborhoods with large swaths of affordable housing and allowing developers to build more luxury residences.

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