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Vallone Pushes Decontrol; Follows Landlord Marching Orders

Posted by TenantNet on March 06, 1997 at 05:20:04:

In a political year where the hottest topic is
not which candidate is leading for Mayor, but
rather, will New York City residents have a
place to live next year, gears of debate are
shifting from the state legislature to New
York City Council where city residents are
coming to realize that Joe Bruno is not the
only bad guy in town.

In a meeting held Wednesday between tenant
leaders and New York City Council Speaker Peter
Vallone's senior aides, it was made clear that
Vallone would push for continued decontrol and
erosion of tenants' rights.

According to one tenant leader who attended the
meeting, Vallone's aides "had their marching
orders" and did not budge from the Speaker's
previously announced support of vacancy
decontrol. Vallone did not attend the meeting.

At issue is Vallone's reported refusal to allow
the introduction of a bill by City Council members
Stanley Michaels and Virginia Fields that would
extend the rent laws when they expire in the city
on March 30 and also do away with the so-called
"high rent" provisions of the current law which
are only supposed to decontrol units renting over
$2,000 on a vacancy.

But tenant leaders report tremendous abuse with these
provisions in that many landlords just claim to
have done improvements in order to increase the rent
over $2,000 and the units (in practice) automatically
become decontrolled. It is the policy of the NYS
Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) to
accept such landlord claims at face value and not
scrutinize whether or not these improvements were
ever made, if they were paid for or even if the
claimed improvements are allowable. DHCR simply
denies jurisdiction based on landlord statements.
TenantNet has seen, and other tenant leaders report
DHCR counselors routinely tell complaining tenants
if the owner says the rent is over $2,000, it's no
longer in [DHCR's] jurisdiction and there's nothing
DHCR can do." Moreover DHCR has exacerbated the
problem by "deeming" rents over $2,000 during a
prior vacancy before the rents ever actually
reach that mark.

It's difficult to estimate how many units have
been affected by this triple-whammy-collusion of
the Democratic leadership and landlords as DHCR
is not keeping any records. Tenants report
that many units are "just falling off DHCR
registration rolls in droves." Where High Rent
Decontrol is supposed to only affect units during
vacancies and only if the unit's rent had already
hit the $2,000 mark, TenantNet has seen cases
where landlords "decontrol" occupied units on
a variety of pretexts.

Upon this background Vallone's aides attempted to
place the burden on tenants to show the extent of the
problem, but Penny LaForest of Queens turned it
back around by asking what evidence did Vallone
and his landlord supporters have to justify the
permanent extension of the temporary decontrol
provisions in 1994. According to attendees of the
meeting, Vallone's aides had no answer to that and
abruptly ended the meeting.

In 1994 Speaker Vallone (D. Queens) of Astoria
pushed through a permanent extension of the
temporary decontrol provisions first introduced
by the state legislature in 1993. At the time,
Vallone's Chief of Staff Joseph Strasburg had
just taken over the landlord trade group Rent
Stabilization Association (RSA) that has lobbied
intensely for the complete end of all tenant
protections in New York. The RSA reportedly
has funneled $200,000 to Senate Republican
Majority Leader Joe Bruno and an estimated
additional $600,000 to other Republicans to
shut-down the rent regulatory system that
affects over two million residents of New York City.
It's widely believed that Strasburg used his
proximity to Vallone to lobby heavily for the
1994 vacancy decontrol provisions.

A week ago Vallone's district office was picketed
by his constituents and Vallone was reported to
have wondered what "all the nonsense is about."
At that time he would not meet with tenants,
but under increasing criticism for his stand
advancing continued decontrol, allowed his
aides to meet with tenants yesterday. Tenants
report there just might be enough votes in
the City Council to repeal vacancy decontrol if
the Michaels/Fields bill were allowed to be
introduced, and apparently that is why Vallone
and Strasburg are blocking a fair hearing.

Tenants who have called Vallone's office report
they are being told that the Speaker is supporting
tenant protections, but are apparently not being
told that Vallone continues to oppose the
Michaels/Fields bill, that he continues to block
its introduction and his bill allows for the
continuation of vacancy decontrol.

3/6/97 # # #

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