Volume 81, Number 5 | June 30 - July 6, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photos by Jefferson Siegel

In photo at left, a clearly disappointed Councilmember Rosie Mendez, left, and Lower East Side resident Georgina Christ watched as the R.G.B. relentlessly voted to jack up rents yet again. At right, a tenant shouted, “Shame! Shame!” as the board voted.

Rent board socks it to tenants again amid recession

By Jefferson Siegel

Hundreds of angry tenants yelled themselves hoarse at Monday night’s Rent Guidelines Board hearing on rent increases.

The increases, which apply to the city’s nearly 1 million rent-stabilized apartments, were set at 3.75 percent for a one-year lease and 7.25 percent for a two-year lease.

A contentious proposal to implement a 1 percent fuel surcharge on tenants in oil-heated buildings was not voted on.

“The proposed guidelines and the 1 percent fuel surcharge are excessively high, given the recessionary economy,” said Wasim Lone, director of organizing for GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side).

“The Rent Guidelines Board is acting like the recession’s over. That’s news to me,” Lone observed.

The steep hikes stand in stark contrast to last year’s significantly lower increases of 2.25 percent and 4.5 percent.

As the evening wore on, R.G.B. members cycled through various proposals, from calling for no increase for a one-year lease to as much as 9 percent for a two-year lease. At times, as audience members screamed, “Shame! Shame!” and “That’s not right!” board members had to stop speaking. Many board members wore headphones so they could hear each other above the yelling.

The vote took place just days after Albany voted to maintain rent regulation for another four years. State legislators also voted to raise the limits on when an apartment can be removed from rent protections.

Previously, an apartment was deregulated if the rent reached $2,000 a month and the tenant made more than $175,000 two years in a row. Last week, the limits rose to $2,500 a month rent and income of $200,000 for two years in a row. Also, under another new change, when property owners renovate or improve vacant apartments, they can now only pass on 1/60th of the cost to the new tenant in the form of a permanent rent hike, as opposed to 1/40th of the cost, as previously.

The rent increases take effect with leases beginning Oct. 1.

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