NY Press Letters to the Editor

NY Press, May 7, 1997


THANKS FOR PRINTING SOMETHING ELSE this year about local politics
(William Tucker, "Rent Control is Your Issue," "The Resident,"
4/30). It's great to see this article in a paper where the
editor's idea of local politics seems to be where he has brunch
on Sunday, or Al Sharpton winning the mayoralty. Now if he could
only stop referring to himself as "we." Or is there something we
don't know: does MUGGER have Multiple Personality Disorder? Is he
a member of the royals?

Tucker left out a few key items in his discussion of rent
controls and NYC housing, such as whatever happened to the
billions of dollars the Koch Administration had in place for
rehabbing every single city-owned apartment -- some of which I'm
sure are occupied by middleclass people; I mean who really wants
to discuss those non-demographic-types anyway? -- or the reality
of upstate pols dictating NYC politics, like the piece I just
came across in the Sunday paper about TV ads upstate showing a
drug dealer being released from prison to his rent-controlled
apartment that you, the taxpayer, are subsidizing. But hey, my
friend who works for Housing Preservation and Development has
been saying for years that rent controls are history. And she
oughta know.

One more thing: a message to your "fag" beat writer Thomas
Woolley ("First Person," 4/30). As a devoted and single reader,
I'd like to say wake up! Liberate yourself from being a token at
this paper. Either press for more (and more substantive) out
gay/lesbian writers and assignments (okay, there is Jessica
Willis, whatever) or go where you are really treasured -- and
edited. I know how much NYPress needs you, and from what I hear
about your "exclusive," you should also -- so work it,

-- David Blaustein, Manhattan


THERE MIGHT BE SOMEONE -- A RWANDAN refugee, say, or a being from
another planet -- who is less informed about the New York
residential real-estate market than NYPress' William Tucker. But
I doubt it.

Reading that a group of Upper East Side tenants who were
interviewed in the Daily News had an average rent of $1100,
Tucker blithely declares that they couldn't possibly live in rent-
regulated apartments. In fact, $1100 is not much more than the
typical asking price for a rent-stabilized studio on the Upper
West Side. A stabilized one- or two-bedroom apartment goes for
hundreds of dollars more often more than $2000. Ignorance of this
basic fact may explain Tucker's laughable assertion that a
hypothetical tenant might be "willing to pay $1000" for an Upper
West Side two-bedroom if there were no rent regulation. Willing?
Willing? Half the city would sacrifice a first born for a deal
like that.

The depths of Tucker's ignorance are revealed when he unveils his
grand conspiracy theory: the Census Bureau says the average New
York City rent is $630 a month, but the average rent for an
apartment advertised in The New York Times is $1700. Someone
probably a cabal of liberals -- is hoarding all the cheap

No, shmuck. The Census Bureau is surveying rents across the city
as a whole. The landlords who advertise in the Times advertise
only those apartments that might be of interest to the upmarket,
well-educated, white-collar readers of the Times -- readers who
wouldn't consider a low-rent apartment in a bleak neighborhood
like Morrisania, or even a middleclass neighborhood like Howard
Beach, that has crummy access to Manhattan below 59th St, where
all the office jobs are (prejudices these readers presumably
share with Tucker and, for that matter, MUGGER).

I realize that NYPress writers (apart from Cockburn) are expected
to toe the right-wing party line. But there is such a thing as
objective reality -- and, funny thing, sometimes reality and
right-wing political correctness don't jibe.

-- Steve Messina, Manhattan


Dear William Tucker: Thanks so much for illustrating exactly
what's behind all those laughably naive arguments in favor of
scrapping rent controls: yet more whining yuppies. This time the
song goes, "I Don't Have a Good Deal on My Apartment, Therefore
Nobody Should." Contrast this with, I Have a Good Deal on My
Apartment and Everybody Should." Rents are damned high enough and
landlords aren't starving.

When we moved into our place 10 years ago, we didn't and still
don't care if old-time tenants were paying 25 cents a week for
their apartments. We were able to afford the rent and thanks to
rent stabilization, continue to do so.

Scrapping stabilization would result in landlords lining their
pockets with every cent of people's discretionary income. And to
that I say, better my pocket than his. Or a restaurant's pocket
than his, or the drycleaner's than his, or the greengrocer's than
his. Get the point?

And as for Mia Farrow and her 41 kids, good luck to 'em.

-- Anne Stevens, Manhattan


WHY WAIT FOUR YEARS TO END RENT regulations? Do it now, right
now! Think of all those cheap, bountiful apartments we'll have to
choose from next year!

Small wonder you got your own column in this snot-nosed
newspaper, Mr. Tucker

-- S. Bands, Manhattan


Forget your freshman economics class. There is no such thing as a
"free market." Especially when it comes to Manhattan real estate.
The "free-market hypothesis" assumes the demand to be rational,
and the supply free from conspiratorial domination.

As a former broker of Manhattan real estate, I can attest to the
absence of both prerequisites. Tenants, bullied by the inner
demons of fear and desire, happily straitjacket themselves with
exorbitant rents. In addition, Manhattan is an island, where land
is inherently scarce. This scarce resource is dominated by a
handful of individuals who operate behind a veil of "shell"
corporations. These individuals are greedy and heartless by
nature, and think nothing of jacking rents through the roof iust
to test the market's ceiling. Surely the machinations of our
newly liberated market would correct such "gross oversight" on
the part of the landlords, but such a correction wouldn't happen
overnight. Is it worth the financial and psychological hardship
inflicted on hard-working New Yorkers? Furthermore, international
purchasing power streams into the market every day, hopelessly
outbidding even the up-and-coming stockbroker who finds herself
too good for Hoboken. As you can see, the "laws" of supply and
demand do indeed stop at the Hudson River.

The image of Manhattan property owners as a ragtag band of
squeezed, small-time operators is a fucking joke! Even more
ludicrous is William Tucker's reminiscence of the Roaring '20s. I
don't know about Brooklyn, but Manhattan wasn't some weak-assed,
poetry-laden flophouse unless you were rich or a high-class
whore. It was a motherfucking jungle! Hey, Tucker! How did your
great-aunt earn her keep?

-- Plato Rosinke, Manhattan


IN WILLIAM TUCKER'S MISLEADING PIECE on rent control, he spews on
and on about celebrity deals of the century, communism and plain
ol' green-with-envy jealousy, while neglecting to wheel out any
information whatsoever on the following issues:

1. He makes no mention of the enormous number of crimes committed
by landlords who harass tenants and engage in discriminatory
leasing practices. Just go down to housing court and visit some
of the various DHCR agencies for one horror story after another.
All the evidence is there. These are real stories and most do not
involve celebrities, rumor, gossip or envy.

All over this city, landlords illegally increase turnover and
jack up the rates themselves They harass old people, minorities
and people who just want to make a home for themselves, and
either blow the rent up sky high or sell/convert the building.
Their methods are devious, dangerous and illegal.

2. In the early 80s there was a huge real estate co-op/condo
conversion boom in this town,which is why I came here to work.
This reduced the number of available rentals drastically and if
you couldn't afford to buy, too bad. You rented high. But
meanwhile all these selfish calculating landlords, real-estate
dealers, intermediaries and other assorteds got stuck with
apartments they couldn't sell, couldn't rent, etc. This
deregulation-of-rent controll thing is simply their latest, most
pathetic and disgraceful money-making scheme.

What's also left out of Tucker's grossly misleading piece is the
fact that one of the reasons rent-regulated apartments haven't
been on the market is because the landlords illegally warehouse

3. Greedy landlords have screwed new business startups and
commercial ventures so bad they've turned this city into New Gap
City. And now they want to push the so called middle class into
the suburbs, assuming that this -- not homelessness -- will be
the result. Only the very wealthy and the tourists will be left.

4. Last but not least, the jealous, manipulative writer of this
piece constantly compares this city to other cities in America
Let me clue you in: NYC is not America.

-- Name Withheld, Manhattan


MY CONDOLENCES TO YOU ON YOUR decision to hire William Tucker.
With the exception of Alexander Cockburn, every new columnist you
publish seems drearier and more ignorant than the last.

In Tucker's debut column proof of the latter, especially, was
simple to find.

Tucker begins by making the stereotypical Manhattanite's
assumption that the borough and the city are one and the same.
Anyone moving to New York can find perfectly fine quarters for
half his cited figures of $1000 for a studio and $1500 for a one-
bedroom, in any number of pleasant outer-borough neighborhoods.
But so many of them try to squeeze themselves into Manhatan -- or
rather, certain parts of Manhattan -- thus  creating a local
scarcity that has nothing to do with rent control.

Also, the relatively low construction rate for new apartments
(assuming his figures are correct) has little, if anything, to do
with the low vacancy rate. This city's population has declined
from a high of nearly eight million to a figure much closer to
seven. The vacancy rate in our rental market has much more to do
with the siphoning off of existing housing units. While some no
doubt have crumbled, more have fallen into the inept hands of the
Department of Housing Preservation and Development for nonpayment
of taxes. The "sweat equity" program that would have allowed
people of moderate means to buy these HPD apartments and do their
own renovation was starved of funds and people who try that on
their own are reviled and arrested as squatters. Meanwhile, HPD
can't even seem to funnel these potential riches into the hands
of politically connected slumlords, which is the least (and in
many cases, the most) one can expect of municipal government
these days.

Many other units have been turned into coops, or are being held
off the market in anticipation of coop conversion. Tucker doesn't
mention changes in the supply of owner-occupied housing (a common
omission in coverage of the rent-control wars), so it's
impossible to tell how many of these apartments are still housing
New Yorkers.

As for his figures on the median rents of various classes of
tenants, it's questionable that the median is a more useful
figure than the average, which show the incomes of rent-
stabilized tenants to be lower than those in uncontrolled
apartments. At any rate, those figures are skewed downward by the
fact that most slum apartments were decontrolled under the
Rockefeller vacancy decontrol laws because the poor tend to move
more often than the middle class. The "market rate" for such
apartments is set by the state, which determines the housing
allowances for welfare recipients. In the totally free market,
rents are insanely high.

It's interesting that Tucker gets his figures from landlords"
groups, (which, of course, are completely objective and
reliable), yet ignores other studies proffered by the same
organizations claiming that landlords in controlled apartments
need substantially higher rents to cover their costs. The repeal
of rent control would have no effect on those costs; in fact, if
they did bring about an increase in the housing stock, that in
turn would increase the demand for goods and services used by
landlords, which would drive those costs up further.

I write, by the way, as a decidedly nonwealthy, heavily indebted
copy editor who would be forced to leave the city if rent
controls were repealed, and there are many thousands more just
like me. Am I a worse citizen than the person who would rent my
current digs at twice what I'm paying? Or, to put it another way,
is a person's worth measured by income? To ask the question is to
insult and demean our common humanity. But that's what you
libertanans are all about.

-- Marc Desmond, Brooklyn