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November 3, 2009 @ 3:43 pm

Part Two of Our Back Story on Independence Plaza

From Seth Miller:

As we know, the city didn’t bother to enforce the J-51 law at Independence Plaza North, under which every apartment should have been registered as stabilized before HPD permitted the development to leave Mitchell Lama. Instead, nearly two years after IPN left the Mitchell Lama program, after numerous in-person meetings between HPD’s commissioner and Gluck’s lawyers (to which the tenants were not invited), HPD accepted back Gluck’s repayment of the post-Mitchell Lama J-51 benefits, giving Gluck a fig leaf to defend against what had by then become the tenants’ lawsuit for rent stabilized status. Part of the logic here is that, to Bloomberg, it is better to have the federal taxpayer pay for vouchers that protect only the poorest tenants, while the landlord gets market rents, than for the City to actually enforce a law that mandates affordable rents for everyone.
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October 5, 2009 @ 5:01 pm

Michael Bloomberg — The Affordable Housing Mayor?

The Spin

Mike started the largest municipal affordable housing program in the nation. When complete, this bold initiative will have provided affordable housing for half a million New Yorkers. Since Mike took office, nearly 94,000 units of affordable housing have been completed.1

The Facts

“It is my pleasure to bring back Marvin Markus as Chairman of the Rent Guidelines Board.”

With those words, uttered on March 21, 2002, Michael Bloomberg made clear his bad intentions towards the 2 million plus New Yorkers who live in rent regulated apartments. The notorious Marvin “Markup” Markus, a Goldman Sachs investment banker, earned his nickname when he chaired the RGB from 1979 to 1984 and engineered rent increases of 11 and 14 percent.2 Bloomberg’s guy.

Here is what the Marvin Markup Markus’ Rent Guidelines Board has done since Bloomberg brought him back.

In the aftermath of September 11, RGB’s first order was a modest 2%-4% increase.

The annual increases each June thereafter were as follows:

2003 — 4.5%-7.5%
2004 — 3.5%-6.5%
2005 — 2.75%-5.5% (Bloomberg up for reelection)
2006 — 4.25%-7.25% (Post-election)
2007 — 3.0%-5.75%
2008 — 4.5%-8.5% (Bloomberg term limited and not expected to run)
2009 — 3.0%-6.0% (Bloomberg up for reelection)

If you were a tenant in a rent-stabilized apartment paying, say, $1,400 a month when Bloomberg took office, your rent would now be up to $2,294. The widely accepted rule for determining whether an apartment is affordable is that a tenant should pay no more than 33.3% of household income for rent. That means our hypothetical tenant in 2009 should be earning at least $82,584 a year.

The Spin

“Mike is also protecting existing affordable housing and improving housing conditions. His administration has brought tenants and landlords together to keep more than 21,000 apartments from exiting the Mitchell-Lama program, one of the most effective middle-class housing programs in the city’s history.”

The Facts

Here is how many rent stabilized apartments have been lost to the private market under Bloomberg

2003 — 7,556
2004 — 4,709
2005 — 7,378
2006 — 6,022
2007 — 5,088
2008 — 8,267
2009 — You Ain’t Seen Nuthin’ Yet.

These are only net losses. Owners place new apartments under rent stabilization because they calculate that regulation for a period of time with tax benefits and existing market conditions is more profitable than no regulation without the benefits. There are many variations on the theme of why some apartments transition into rent stabilization, including those that go from rent control to stabilization, the J-51 and 421-a programs, and so on. Often, the tenants in these newly regulated apartments end up paying higher rents.

Here is how many apartments were lost to rent stabilization during that period.

In 2002, New York City lost a total of 11,421 previously rent stabilized apartments.
In 2003, New York City lost a total of 12,692 previously rent-stabilized apartments.
In 2004, New York City lost a total of 13,017 previously rent-stabilized apartments.
In 2005, New York City lost a total of 14,045 previously rent-stabilized apartments.
In 2006, New York City lost a total of 13,974 previously rent-stabilized apartments.
In 2007, New York City lost a total of 14,205 previously rent-stabilized apartments.
In 2008, New York City lost a total of 16,833 previously rent-stabilized apartments.

A grand total of 96,187 rent-stabilized, affordable apartments lost under Bloomberg.3

Bloomberg’s praise of Mitchell-Lama is really a whopper. My wife and I have lived for more than twenty years in what used to be a Mitchell-Lama rental complex known as Independence Plaza. It housed about 3,000 people in Lower Manhattan. Mitchell-Lama housing, where folks from every ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic group live with a substantial degree of harmony, is the single most important program in New York City — not housing program — program.

We don’t have an office of bogus statistics to prove what candidate Bloomberg wants to prove about schools, crime, affordable housing or anything else. Many independent experts have done that already. The problem is that the mainstream media won’t allow the facts to penetrate the Bloomberg Blitzkrieg. I know, as do most of the folks who live in Mitchell-Lama developments, that if the billions of dollars being sunk down the rat hole of Bloomberg’s school program in a futile effort to make separate but equal work, were instead put into a real, integrated affordable housing program such as Mitchell-Lama where the kids live in the same complexes and go to the same schools, the results would be astonishing.

We watched our neighbors’ kids grow up in our complex. Poor white, black, and Hispanic kids hung out together and attended the same schools. For the most part, they turned out great — much, much better than the usual segregated communities and schools that are the indisputable outcome, if not the lynchpin of the Bloomberg policy.

Michael Bloomberg is one stubborn, wrong-headed, and deceptive mayor. He’s fudging the statistics on schools and on just about everything else. And he isn’t about to change his ways. He’s just got to get past the nuisance of an election. Then watch out.

Here’s the story of Independence Plaza in brief. You can read about in greater detail in our archives here. I haven’t told this part of it yet.

I was the reluctant tenant association president. We had negotiated a bill with Gifford Miller, the city council speaker. It would have forced the landlord Laurence (Call me Larry) Gluck to negotiate in good faith with the tenants before being able to exit the Mitchell-Lama program and go to market rents, his stated intention. Doctoroff had already given him the go ahead to privatize the complex.

Miller had finally agreed to sponsor the bill we had negotiated with him. With the help of the Working Families Party, we had lined up more than 2/3 of the City Council, enough votes to override the certain Bloomberg veto. But this was late 2003 and Bloomberg was thinking about his re-election campaign. He didn’t want a veto. He had already taken some political punishment for his lead paint veto. Remember that?

Miller scheduled an October 29 press conference for noon to be followed by a City Council hearing on the bill. With police cars in front and in the rear, hundreds of Independence Plaza tenants marched on City Hall. Tenant leaders from other Mitchell-Lama developments came out to support the bill and us. But at 10 a.m. Bloomberg held his own press conference in City Hall’s Blue Room. With HPD commissioner, Jerilyn Perine, standing alongside, he announced a state legislative “initiative” that he claimed would extend rent stabilization to all Mitchell-Lama tenants whose developments were being privatized.

Reporters asked Joe Bruno’s spokesman to comment on the Bloomberg “initiative.” Bruno, who is now under indictment, was the Republican senate majority leader and Bloomberg’s good friend. He was also the recipient of millions of dollars of Bloomberg political money. Bruno’s spokesman said that he hadn’t had a chance to review the proposal. In fact there was no proposal. At the time, it was only a press release. The spokesman went on to say “we have not been supportive of efforts to expand rent regulation in the city.” Exactly. Nor had Bloomberg. So what was really going on?

At the hearing later that afternoon, Martin Connor, the former Democratic Senate minority leader whose district included Independence Plaza, testified that the Bloomberg proposal would “have a long wait” in Albany. “I serve in the State Senate and I can tell you the likelihood of passing legislation opposed by the real estate lobby is nil. The City Council legislation is needed and needed now.”

Jerilyn Perine, the HPD commissioner who now works for a real estate lobby and who for years had done her best to frustrate tenant efforts to hold on to their homes, also testified. She lauded the Council’s concern over the loss of affordable housing. But regrettably, she said, the agency would have to oppose the bill.

Perine had a better idea: “Let’s all work together with the governor and the state legislature to achieve passage of this crucial legislative initiative [the Bloomberg initiative] and protect the viability of this important housing stock.” She laid it on thick.

A skeptical council member asked “If you don’t get your proposal passed in Albany, what’s plan B?” “We’ll do everything we can to pass the bill. There is no plan B.” What the council members didn’t come right out and say was that there was no plan A either. It would be months before the administration actually sent a bill to Albany. Bloomberg did nothing to pass it and it now sits safely buried somewhere in the bowels of a legislative committee and in the archives of the Bloomberg/Quinn New York City government. It will not be resurrected even though the state legislature and governor’s office are occupied by Democrats. Too many of those seats have been bought and paid for by Bloomberg and the real estate lobby.

The incident calls to mind a legendary moment in the City Council in the 1970’s when Dominick Corso, a Brooklyn member, was so frustrated with a reformer that he blurted out his existential truth: ‘You think it takes guts to stand up for what is right?’ he asked. ‘That doesn’t take guts. What takes guts is to stand up for what you know is wrong, day after day, year after year. That takes guts!’”4 Bloomberg has guts.

The Albany “initiative” was hastily put together and announced two hours before Miller’s press conference. Except for the New York Times, which appeared to take it seriously, everybody knew the Bloomberg initiative was a fraud. But it worked. The feckless City Council speaker buried the bill “now that the mayor has stepped up.” He picked up some real estate contributions that he otherwise would have lost. Some 1300 once affordable apartments now bring upwards of $5,000 a month. The existing tenants managed to survive but that’s a long story and has nothing to do with this one.

Michael Bloomberg has eviscerated affordable housing, wrecked neighborhoods, and destroyed lives in the process. Give him four more years and there won’t be another affordable apartment left in New York.

It is why every legitimate tenant advocacy group in the city wants to see him defeated. We’ll all breathe a great sigh of relief to see him go — just as we did when George Bush slunk back to Texas, leaving the wreckage behind for someone else to clean up.

Let’s take back our city from these wise guys. William Thompson is a no charisma man without hundreds of millions of dollars to create a bogus image and a spurious record of achievement. He’s a moderate, and we think a well-intentioned Democrat. We admire his courage. The City needs him. We need him. Let’s support him.

[1] From the Bloomberg campaign site:
[2] The Rent Guidelines Board is the entity that establishes guidelines for rent stabilized apartments, lofts and hotels in NYC. All members are mayoral appointees.
[3] All statistics taken from the RGB official website.
[4] As cited in The Permanent Government: Who Really Runs New York?, Jack Newfield and Paul DuBrul, The Pilgrim Press New York, 1981 (Published in 1978 under the title: Abuse of Power)

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September 28, 2009 @ 5:09 pm

Residents Fight for Affordable Housing

A familiar issue facing many tenants in Mitchell-Lama complexes that have been privatized under Bloomberg: The owners refuse to make repairs or maintain the apartments of long-time tenants who receive some sdort of housing subsidy. This puts pressure on them to move out to make room for market rate tenants. A friend sent us this quote, which has great resonance in this mayoral election

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” — Ben Franklin
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September 10, 2009 @ 5:09 pm

Bloomberg Revealing His True Attitude About Affordable Housing

Bloomberg: Mitchell-Lama tenants just want to get rich by buying their own apartments.

Many previous posts have detailed how Mitchell-Lama developers made fortunes by getting urban renewal land at bargain prices, getting government-financed construction loans at 1% interest rates, getting multimillion dollar government-financed developer fees (cash in their pockets), getting additional millions of dollars in limited partnership tax shelter deals, and too many other ways to explain in this short post, some legal and some not. Even Mitchell, a lawyer, and Lama, an architect, both of whom were state legislators, made tons of money in these deals, as did many other politicians.

Mitchell-Lama developers all made fortunes beyond the rents they were allowed to charge. The rents were the smallest parts of these deals. Everyone who has had anything to do with real estate development knows this to be the case. And yet the story line that Michael Bloomberg continues to promote is that in exchange for keeping rents low they got a few tax breaks, and when thirty years were up the deal was they could sell the developments. And tenants just want to get rich!!!
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July 28, 2009 @ 2:14 pm

Here’s Another Tale From the Mike Bloomberg Crypt

Laurence (Call Me Larry) Gluck walks off with millions while Michael Bloomberg issues press releases on affordable housing.

Via Mother Jones:
Mortgage Default: Landlord Edition
When private equity leverages affordable housing, guess what happens?
By Adam Matthews

Riverton Houses, a cluster of redbrick high-rises near Harlem River in Manhattan, is the sort of development where elderly parents pass apartments along to their children. Built to shelter families of black soldiers returning from World War II, the 1,230-unit complex has long been an affordable middle-class bastion. Edna Hunter, an 86-year-old widow and retired school librarian, tells me she’s spent most of her life there. She pays just $750 a month.
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July 24, 2009 @ 11:34 am

Bloomberg and the Boys Political Vignette: The Fundraiser

Last week, I told the story of a press conference that Gifford Miller, Christine Quinn’s predecessor as speaker, had called and a tenant rally that we had organized to announce city council legislation on a Miller-Quinn bill that we were going to get passed to force Mitchell-Lama landlords to negotiate in good faith with tenants.

The city council scheduled a hearing on the bill. Before the hearing, Ethan Geto, our lobbyist, called to invite me to a Gifford Miller fundraiser at the home of Judith and Robert Rubin on October 27. Months earlier, I had volunteered that I would try to raise some campaign money, not anywhere near as much as the real estate crowd, but maybe enough for Miller to notice. It was time to make good on the commitment.
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July 17, 2009 @ 11:36 am

The Real Christine Quinn Stands Up—and Quickly Sits Down

In a previous post I described a meeting with Laurence (“Call me Larry”) Gluck, the new owner of our Mitchell-Lama development, Independence Plaza. He was planning to take the development out of the program and go to market rents as quickly as possible. With the exception of tenants whose low incomes qualified them for housing vouchers, the rest of the 3000-3500 tenants would be unprotected.

We were determined to stop him. We knew Albany and the courts would be hopeless. Instead, we had prepared and negotiated city council legislation. Gifford Miller, Christine Quinn’s predecessor as speaker, had agreed to sponsor the legislation. Quinn had agreed to co-sponsor it. Eventually, we assembled a veto-proof majority of the city council. You might think that with the speaker and a veto-proof majority, we were home free. We knew it was only the beginning.
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July 14, 2009 @ 6:22 pm

Albany Democrats show their true colors

The one-House Tenant Bills passed in the Assembly for years have finally moved over to a Democratically-controlled senate. There, they are likely to suffer the same fate as occurred under Republican control — deep-sixed. If tenants forget, we’ll remind them in 2010.

Thanks to Sue Susman for pointing out this piece.
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July 14, 2009 @ 11:59 am

Madness: Tenants PAC Endorsements for New York City Council

“Insanity,” Albert Einstein said, “is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Michael McKee, the veteran tenant advocate, is not insane. But his endorsement of Christine Quinn and a group of other would-be, three-term incumbents to the city council is madness. I haven’t followed closely the tenant positions of all of them, but I’ve had enough direct experience with Christine Quinn to understand that she is typical of many of her colleagues on the Democratic side: Sound and Fury on behalf of tenants, signifying nothing.

Tenants & Neighbors, the organization that — with one title or another — McKee has led for many years, is a membership organization that champions stronger rent regulation in New York City. It helps mobilize tenants to attend and testify at the hearings conducted each year by the city’s Rent Guidelines Board (RGB).

New York City cannot enact stricter rent regulations without Albany’s approval. The real estate lobby understood long ago that unless Albany maintained control of the issue, local politicians, who were more vulnerable to organized tenant pressure, might be forced to enact tougher rent regulations. As president of a Mitchell-Lama tenant association in 2002, I and other tenant board members had to deal with the politics of a buyout that threatened the homes of some 3000 tenants. We hoped to change the political venue of our struggle to New York City.

The typical response of others faced with the same situation was to retain lawyer-litigators who were Mitchell-Lama specialists. They knew Mitchell-Lama and they knew how to litigate so they brought lawsuits based on Mitchell-Lama laws. Invariably, unless there were peculiar circumstances, the lawsuits only delayed the inevitable. They were forced into one-sided settlements that ended in a doubling and tripling of rents.

Our strategy was to seek passage of city council legislation that would force Laurence (“Call me Larry”) Gluck to negotiate in good faith with the tenants. It was the flip side of the landlords’ determination to keep things in Albany. That’s when I met Christine Quinn and her predecessor as speaker, Gifford Miller. This is a story I will tell later.

A Meeting With Michael McKee

At the time, McKee was doggedly working through the Democratic-controlled Assembly to try to pass state legislation to get rid of the Urstadt law and enact a host of tenant measures. I was supportive, of course, but his work had little to do with the Mitchell-Lama buyout problem. We weren’t part of the rent stabilization system and our rent increases weren’t tied to RGB guidelines.1

Because McKee was a well-known tenant advocate, I wanted to enlist his support for our city council bill. I went to his office to talk things over. He was noncommittal. He told me he would follow the lead of the Mitchell-Lama Residents Coalition and the Borough President’s Mitchell-Lama Task Force. (I have written elsewhere about the fraudulent task force that borough president Virginia Fields established to burnish her tenant credentials while financing her career with real estate money.)

McKee told me that Silver had included Mitchell-Lama in the Assembly’s rent-stabilization renewal bill, and he suggested that I bring Independence Plaza tenants up to Albany for a Tenant Day of Action to help get Silver’s bill passed.2 It was tough enough to get tenants to turn out to a City Hall demonstration, much less bring them to Albany for what I knew would be a futile mission.

“I don’t know much about it,” I said, “but I’m sure the Mitchell-Lama provision will fall off the table as soon as Silver and Bruno (the then Republican senate majority leader and present felony corruption defendant) get into a room and close the door. Bruno is never going to let it happen and Silver doesn’t care. If anything is going to be done for Mitchell-Lama, it’s got to happen in the city.”

McKee disagreed. He had been a tenant activist for many years. In fact, he had been a vice-chairman of Met Council when in 1971, Nelson Rockefeller pushed through a restriction on the city’s authority to impose stricter rent regulations than those authorized by Albany — the Urstadt law.

I knew McKee would have no more success in Albany than he and other tenant advocates had had for the past thirty years, which, except for the unusual circumstances of Governor Malcolm Wilson’s failed reelection campaign strategy in which he sought to woo New York City tenants by passing a new rent stabilization law, was none. That story should be told here as it provides a historical and political context for some of what’s going on today, not only with respect to tenants, but also the recent Republican coup fiasco — much of it real-estate related.

Republicans Pass Rent Stabilization in 1973

The Wilson story is a true man-bites-dog tale.

In 1973, Nelson Rockefeller resigned as governor to become Gerald Ford’s Vice-President. Malcolm Wilson, Rockefeller’s conservative lieutenant governor, moved up to the governor’s chair. Seeking election in his own right, he tried to win New York City tenant votes by pushing through the Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1974 (ETPA). The law allowed the rents of decontrolled apartments to rise to market levels when they were vacated, but then placed them under the rent stabilization system, giving tenants the right to renew their leases at regulated rents. 400,000 apartments that had been decontrolled since 1971 went into rent-stabilization.

Wilson was badly defeated in New York City anyway. He lost the election to Hugh Carey. Apparently, New York City tenants hadn’t appreciated what he had done for them. That history hasn’t been forgotten in Albany. Republicans would never again make the mistake of competing for New York City tenant votes by damaging the interests of the real estate lobby, the hand that feeds them, and which, aside from Michael Bloomberg, is their major contributor.

The party may have permanently lost its Assembly majority as a result. Rockefeller, who, like Bloomberg, had been financing the Republican Party, had his state party chairman, Dick Rosenbaum, tell the Republican legislative leaders that the $150,000 contribution that the governor traditionally gave to finance each chamber’s legislative campaigns would go to Malcolm Wilson. Warren Anderson, the then Senate Majority Leader, rounded up a group of Senate Republicans to personally guarantee bank loans to replace the Rockefeller money. Perry Duryea, the Assembly Speaker, declined to do so. The Republican Senators retained their majority and the Assembly Republicans lost theirs. Many regard the decisions of the two legislative leaders as the reason for the legislative configuration that exists today.

Following that election, the Senate Republicans made it their first priority to retire their bank loans. They hosted a large fundraiser, which took in hundreds of thousands of dollars more than they had anticipated, much of it from the real estate lobby. This was in an era when the average Senate campaign cost about $40,000.

Fast Forward to 1997

The Albany rent stabilization battles have always been great political theater. Before 2002, when McKee and I met, Albany had last renewed the rent stabilization law in 1997. George Pataki was thinking about his re-election as governor. Joe Bruno had threatened to let the law expire, which would mean immediate, dramatic rent increases. Landlords estimated that ending rent regulations would mean annual rent increases of at least $1.2 billion. They had a lot at stake. So did Pataki. So did the tenants. The City’s Rent Guideline Board reported that the percentage of tenants spending 70 percent or more of their household income on rent had risen by 23 percent in the previous year. One-third of New York City tenants were already spending half their annual incomes on rent.

As the final days of the 1997 legislative session approached, Bruno was still vowing to end rent regulation. If he made good on his threat, the Democrats would have a campaign issue that might defeat Pataki. Bruno didn’t care so much about that prospect – he would become the biggest political cheese in the state party – but a weak New York City showing might even bring down some city-based Senate Republicans. Moreover, Nassau County, a Republican stronghold where Democrats had made some inroads, also had a significant number of rent-stabilized developments.

Bruno’s highest priority was holding onto his Senate majority, Pataki’s priority was of course his own reelection. As always, politics trumped ideology: Bruno folded.3 The Republicans allowed an extension of rent stabilization until 2003, a non-election year.4 That’s where things stood when I met McKee.

Tenants would be lucky to come away with a continuation of rent stabilization. Democratic assemblymen had been introducing and passing pro-Mitchell-Lama tenant legislation for as long as I could remember. But the legislation was never signed into law. These were the infamous one-house bills that housing chair Vito Lopez would introduce with great fanfare every year and the assembly would pass, secure in the knowledge that the bills would die in the Republican-controlled senate. The lobbyists made money, the legislators were paid handsomely by the real estate industry, and the tenants were screwed. Albany was a non-starter.

McKee knew all the players. He thought of himself as one. He knew more about rent regulations than most people, but he was wrong about the politics. He didn’t appreciate my telling him so.

We argued a bit. He didn’t seem to know how the Mitchell-Lama provision had gotten into Silver’s rent stabilization bill. He hadn’t asked for it. I hadn’t heard any Mitchell-Lama tenants demand it. Nor were there any important politicians committed to it. But Albany was the focal point of his strategy and he wouldn’t budge.

The Albany crowd didn’t want another political battle over the issue. Why awaken New York City renters to the realization that politicians, not landlords, control their housing costs? If enough apartments were deregulated through vacancy or luxury decontrol, concessions that Bruno had won in 1997, the rent-stabilization constituency would eventually erode to where it would be a less worrisome political force. Attrition rather than confrontation was a better political strategy. The real estate lobby would still make their campaign contributions.

I knew the Republicans would never go along with anything more than a simple rent-stabilization extension bill, much less would they ever agree to adding thousands of Mitchell-Lama and other subsidized developments to the rent stabilization system. If you don’t know whose signature is on your paycheck, you are truly clueless. Politicians always know.

The meeting with McKee ended badly. A prickly fellow with a cause that he had been fighting for more than thirty years, rent regulations pretty much defined who he was; he didn’t want any disagreements from me. Affordable housing wasn’t a cause that I wanted to fight the rest of my days; we needed a solution now.

Whether housing committee chairman, Vito Lopez was a tenant advocate – he wasn’t – or wanted to do something meaningful for Mitchell-Lama tenants – he didn’t — wasn’t important. The issue rested entirely with Sheldon Silver, Joe Bruno and George Pataki, which is why we never sought a meeting with Lopez or any other housing committee member. Unless Silver intended to put Mitchell-Lama on the table as a serious item, and Bruno could be persuaded to go along with whatever negotiating cards Silver held (Bruno’s son was a lobbyist), tenants would come away with nothing, which is what happened.

The Republicans passed a rent stabilization extension bill for eight years without the Mitchell-Lama provision and went home. Reportedly, Bruno’s was a take-it-or-leave-it move. If Silver didn’t pass the exact same measure in the Assembly, no law would be enacted, rent stabilization would automatically expire and hundreds of thousands of tenants would see their rents skyrocket. McKee later railed against the outcome, thinking that Bruno had outmaneuvered Silver. It was more likely that Bruno and Silver had made a deal to take this vexatious issue off the Albany political calendar for the foreseeable future. Neither of them wanted more tenants coming to Albany to demand strengthened rent regulations.

The following year, McKee was leading demonstrations in front of Silver’s office. He was calling on Albany to grant New York City home rule on the issue, a replay of a battle that had been fought and lost years earlier.

Today, he endorses Christine Quinn, a complete and utter fraud when it comes to tenant protection and many other issues on which she professes strong support. I’ll tell that story tomorrow.

– Neil Fabricant

[1]However, rent-stabilization laws do apply to Mitchell-Lama tenants when their developments exit the program provided they were occupied before 1974. Each year, New York City’s Rent Guidelines Board, whose nine members are appointed by the mayor, establishes the ceiling on rent increases in the approximately one million apartments subject to rent control and rent stabilization. Before it issues its rulings, RGB studies landlords’ financial submissions, and other relevant materials and holds hearings. Hundreds of tenants turn out to testify and shake their fists at the board members, demanding there be no rent increases that year. They argue that landlords cook the books, and that many of the mayoral appointees to the RGB are flacks for the real estate crowd. The landlords, led by the misleadingly named Rent Stabilization Association, organize struggling owners of small residential buildings to testify to their Horatio Alger beginnings and Sisyphean struggles to survive. Often, these small owners are black or Hispanic. Landlords like Laurence Gluck don’t attend these hearings. Periodically, the industry offers up studies that purport to prove that if the rent regulations are eliminated altogether, the housing supply will increase and rents will come down. But aside from the RGB process itself; the state controls the rent-stabilization laws.
[2]Unless the state legislature renewed it, rent stabilization would expire that year.
[3]Bruno won concessions that weakened the rent stabilization system. Renters who earned more than $175,000 for two consecutive years and who lived in apartments renting for more than $2,000 per month would be destabilized, as would those who moved into vacant apartments renting for more than $2,000 per month.
[4]According to the New York Times, shortly after the law was passed in June, tenants groups discovered an ambiguously written passage that allowed landlords to collect much larger rent increases on vacant apartments than supposedly had been called for in the original deal between Pataki, Bruno and Silver. Silver’s staff had drafted the passage. He hadn’t allowed tenant groups to review the draft language. The bill was approved before they noticed the ambiguous passage. Pataki and Bruno would not agree to a redraft. Thousands of tenants paid higher rents than were called for in the original deal as it had been announced. Because of the secrecy in which the deal had been struck it was impossible to know whether it was truly a mistake or part of the deal.

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July 1, 2009 @ 4:24 pm

Michael Bloomberg: Rockefeller Redux

New York’s Last Billionaire Republican Buried the City Under a Pile of Real Estate-Related Debt and a Giant-Sized Ego. This One Has Done it Again.

[Note: It’s a long and, we hope, an interesting story. Unavoidably, we have to tell it in bite-size installments. But if ever a story embodied George Santayana’s observation those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, this is it.]
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