Housing Justice Town Hall Held

By Robert Press

State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi addresses the Met Council audience. Credit: Robert Press

On a rainy Thursday night which cancelled a New York Yankee game The Housing Town Hall meeting by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes, State Senators Alessandra Biaggi and Jamaal Bailey, and Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez went on to standing room only. This was organized under the Neighborhood organization Bronx Park East Community Association, but included organizations such as the Northwest Bronx Church and Clergy Coalition and CASA (a South Bronx community organization specializing in housing problems).

New York Rent Laws protecting millions of New York renters are set to expire on June 15th, and Housing Justice For All has come up with a nine point plan to renew and reform the Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1974 to protect renters across the state. This will also close certain loopholes that can cause rents to go up at any time, harassment and displacement of renters.

The nine points are
* Reforming the Preferential Rent leases for the duration of the tenancy.
* Eliminating the Vacancy Bonus when a renter moves out.
*Eliminate Rent Hikes caused by Major Capital Improvements.
* Stop Harassment and Deregulation caused by improvements to individual apartments.
*Reform the Four Year Rule on challenges to rent increases.
* Rent Control Relief to bring Rent Control increases in line with Rent Stabilization increases.
*Expanding the Emergency Tenant Protection Act to all New York State.
* Good Cause Eviction giving every tenant in New York State the right to renew a lease with fair terms from the landlord, and not be evicted for ‘good cause’.

Each of the four elected officials were asked if they support all nine points, and all said yes. The problem it was said is with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie who has only said that he is in favor of only the first eight points right now, and not with the Good Cause Eviction point.

US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) spoke to the Met Council gathering. Credit: Robert Press

Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortes spoke about finding a luxury apartment in Washington, and when she went to a new non-profit senior housing development in queens it looked very similar to what she had moved into. She wondered why this could not be the norm, and then went into public housing and the disparities. lack of heat, hot water elevator service to name a few. She said that good housing is not a privilege but a right.

Assemblywoman Fernandez said that the Town Hall is right in the middle of her district. She added that she supports all nine points, and hopes that when enough assembly members get together that they will convince Speaker Heastie to back all nine points. She would like to know who has not signed on to all nine points so she can speak to them to sign on.

Senator Biaggi opened by saying there are only sixteen days left until the rent laws expire. She is in favor of all nine points, but the state senate has to come out with its position on all nine points. She said that the in talking to people around the state New York City issues are not the same as in Buffalo or Rochester or other areas of the state, because ‘they have more cows in their neighborhoods’. Biaggi said that she has not heard that there is not enough support in the senate and reiterated that there were only sixteen days left,

Senator Baileysaid that he is in favor of all noine points. He added that he has lived in affordable housing and thanked his landlord for being one of the good guys. He said that the current system allows for bad landlords to bump up rents, and it must be changed. Senator Bailey was asked about Governor Cuomo holding out or vetoing the nine points. Bailey said that he does not like what the governor is doing. He added that he is not in the Executive Branch, but believes this will be done on time.

Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortes spoke about closing the financial loopholes in the campaign finance laws which allow real estate money to be funneled through LLCs. AOC added that she was outspent 10 to 1 in the2018 primary contest, but through her hard work she won.

A few questions were taken from the audience with the first question not coming from a person living in the district or even the Bronx, but Washington Heights in Manhattan. While it was a good question, it appeared to many to be a staged question (as a few others seemed to be as well).

There will be another Housing Justice For All Town Hall meeting on Thursday, June 6 at the Eastchester Gardens Community Center located at 3016 Yates Avenue starting at 5:30 PM in Assembly Speaker Heastie’s district. Sen. Biaggi is hosting a housing resource fair on Friday, June 7 at PS 83 (950 Rhinelander Avenue) from 4:00 – 7:30 PM.

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