Friday, July 03, 2015


Tom Siracuse, a long time activist who is a UFT member, was interviewed on the Malachy McCourt's WBAI show "Talk Back - New York, Thee And We Edition" about rent regulations.

To listen, go to WBAI's archive page at and scroll down to the "Talk Back - New York, Thee And We Edition" for Wednesday, July 1. Tom's interview starts at almost exactly 60 minutes into the 2-hour show. You can move the bar to the 1:02.38 mark and then listen. It lasts for about 30 minutes.

Tom also recently penned the piece below on how tenants suffered a setback with the recent rent regulation renewal legislation in Albany that was part of the bill called the big ugly.  Nice to see our friend and Jamaica High School alum Senator Leroy Comrie was among the legislators who voted no. Comrie also opposed the new teacher evaluation law. The parallels with education are kind of obvious.

Voting out the politicians who say they are our friends but vote against us is the obvious answer.  The UFT has supported stronger rent laws but will we punish those who vote for these watered down bills?

Governor and State Legislature sell out tenants

Once again the renewal Charade is repeated.  The Democratic controlled NYS Assembly votes to renew the rent regulations or even at times, improve them.   The Republican controlled NYS Senate refuses to vote to renew the rent laws with real reforms.  The Governor sides with one chamber or the other.  This creates a deadlock and the word is sent out by the mass media, the two political parties and the tenant organizations that we have a crisis.  Over two million rent regulated tenants now fear they may face unregulated market rate rents that they cannot afford although many cannot even afford the "regulated" rents they already pay.  Sometimes the renewal date goes by and this creates even more fear.  Then the Governor, the Speaker of the Assembly and the Leader of the Senate get together and renew the rent laws, either weaker than before or essentially the same, with very minor adjustments.  

On June 24 the NYS Assembly voted for a disgraceful sell out to landlords proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Leader John Flanagan .  Supposedly only those vacated apartments whose monthly rents exceed $2,700 can be deregulated.  However, in practice this is meaningless because landlords deregulate vacated apartments regardless of the previous rent.  The City or State do not automatically inform new tenants what their rents should be.  New tenants would have to file a challenge but most are unaware of this or are afraid to anger their landlords.  

That means NYC will continue to lose  thousands of affordable regulated apartments every year.  It is estimated that over 300,000 regulated apartments have already been lost to market rate rents. New prospective low and moderate income tenants will continue to find it almost impossible to find affordable apartments in NYC.  Vacancy decontrol has led to gentrification and the disappearance of "mom & pop" businesses as property values go through the roof.  Vacancy decontrol also leads to landlords harassing regulated tenants to get them to vacate their apartments.  Vacancy decontrol has destroyed the ethnic character of neighborhoods exacerbating the segregated character of NYC. 

To add insult to injury, the Assembly extended for 6 months or more a billion dollar a year tax exemption (421-a) for up to 35 years supported by Mayor Bill DeBlasio to put up high rise luxury residential buildings.  In return these developers must provide up to 30% of the units as "affordable" but affordability is defined in such a a way that these rents are often the same as the market rates.  "Affordable" units can rent for more than $2,500 a month!

What would have happened if the Assembly had voted against these sell out rent regulations?  They would have expired as they had twice before in the past.  The Rent Stabilization Association  (RSA), the landlord organization, has stated that it is not against the rent regulations as they are and if they expire, it has instructed landlords not to take advantage of the expiration.  Why?  The RSA knows that it is better to gradually end rent regulation through vacancy decontrol, than to end it all at once and risk creating a revolt among over two million tenants.  To avoid a growing crisis, the State Legislature would have to reconvene and pass new rent regulations without vacancy decontrol.  Congratulations to five NYC  Assembly members who had the guts to buck the landlords and vote against the sell out:

Charles Barron -Brooklyn
Brian Kavanaugh--Manhattan
Diana Richardson-Brooklyn
Joanne Simon-Brooklyn
Joseph Lentol-Brooklyn.

What happened to the other  "pro-tenant" legislators who constantly decry the plight of tenants and small businesses?  Tenants are told to be glad that the sell out rent laws have been renewed so they can stay in their apartments until the next renewal charade comes up in 4 years  And what about the tenant organizations who ritually lobby these politicians?  Not until tenants organize rent strikes and stop voting fo those politicians who vote to renew the rent laws without real rent reform will we see any significant change.

Tom Siracuse
Committee to Protect Rent Controlled Tenants

State Senators voting against the sellout:

Congratulations also to those twelve NYS Senators who voted for the tenants and against the sell out renewal of the rent laws (The Big Ugly):
Gustavo Rivera- District 33-Bronx
Serrano, Jose-D 29-Bronx & Man
Espaillat, Adriano-D 31-Man
Krueger, Liz-D 28-Man
Hoylman, Brad-D 27-Man
Squadron, Daniel-D 26-Man & Brooklyn
Hamilton, Jesse-D 20-Brooklyn
Montgomery, Velmanette-D 25-Brooklyn
Gianaris, Michael-D. 20-Brooklyn
Sanders, James-D 10 Queend
Dilan, Martin-D18-Brooklyn
Comrie,Leroy, D 14- Queens

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