Opinion: Save the Landlords!

Dan Meltzer
Chelsea Clinton News
It takes colossal nerve to claim that ending rent regulations would result in lower apartment rents in New York City or anywhere else because of supposed increased competition among landlords.

Landlords do not compete. They collude and conspire and consort with lugubrious lawyers and legislators upstate and downtowm with the single-minded goal of creating a world in which even the skywill not limit their profits.

Look around you. What did the deregulation, several years ago, of commercial rents do to your neighborhood but drive out the many useful, local retailers who served you, and replace them with national chain outlets? And remember, if you will, the storefronts that stood empty for years while your poverty- pleading landlords sat at home in Riverdale and Dutchess County writing checks to politicians and tallying their tax writeoffs. The former Conran's space at 81st Street and Broadway, more recently Man's World, has stood empty for months now while its lease, we are told, rests safely in a drawer belonging to Barnes & Noble, lest another major book seller like Borders dare to move into the neighborhood and, if you will, pardon the expression, compete. And McDonalds, yes McDonalds, is moving into the space once filled by Teachers Too.

Where is the destitute landlord today whose existence is threatened by rent stabilization? Where is the landlord hocking his antiques to maintain his or her own home(s) and grounds to send his daughter or son to Hotchkiss and then Yale and from there to the carpeted suites of a Park Avenue collection office because of your selfishness as, you hog, you have a stabilized "luxury" one-bedroom walk-up?

Where, too, are the alleged armies of sneaky media stars and "intellectuals" living lavishly in floor-through river-view flats, keeping them from the more deserving, upwardly mobile bond traders and athletic shoe designers dying slow deaths from nightlife deprivation, second-rate nail care and inferior scones out in Brooklyn or, God forbid, Hoboken.

If the upstate gentlemen farmers and their downstate sponsors have their way come June 15, your current rent could be increased by 100, 400, even 1,000 percent or more within months. Market value. What the traffic will bear. This is what your poor, hard- working landlord claims to need so desperately that he has somehow managed to regularly scrape together enough of your rent dollars to stuff into the coffers of political campaigns of equally impoverished state legislators.

On June 15, those legislators, most of them Republicans who live hundreds of miles from you, will decide whether your rent goes up.

The numbers are on your side. But they only matter if you show. The Million Man March changed things, they say. So can 2.9 million rent-stabilized and controlled New York City tenants. Don't cry into your Corn Flakes when your new rent bill arrives in July or next January, if you did nothing to try to stop it Equally important, after all is said and done, remember who, in their positions of power, did what had to be done to help you, and who did not. The long-term answer lies in campaign finance reform, in stopping the flow of those fat envelopes from starving realtors somehow able to muster the strength to reach up and deposit them, into the ever welcoming pockets of the best elected officials money can buy.