Hundreds marched throughout downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn on Thursday to push Albany to preserve what's left of the city's affordable housing.
The Rally to Save NYC started at Foley Square where protesters, housing advocates and some elected officials expressed the need for the state Legislature to improve on the rent stabilization laws, which expire June 15. It's highly likely the laws will get a renewal, however, supporters say they need reworking to prevent the loss of the nearly one million rent stabilized units left in the city.
"My entire teacher's pension is my rent," said Regina Karp, 75, who's lived in her rent stabilized Upper West Side apartment for 46 years.
The crowds came with homemade signs in various languages, and shared their views on a stage at the plaza before marching throughout downtown Manhattan. They made their way to the Brooklyn Bridge and marched on the pedestrian path to Downtown Brooklyn.
"These are our homes and we have to stand together," said Public Advocate Letitia James, one of several city elected officials who spoke at the rally.
The rent stabilization laws, which were enacted in 1971, were last up for renewal four years ago. Most rent stabilized units are in non co-op or condo buildings built between 1947 and 1974 or in buildings where the owners received a tax credit for offering the lower rates.
Under the regulations, rents cannot exceed $2,500 a month and the tenant's gross income must not exceed $200,000. Rent hikes are determined by a yearly vote by the Rent Guidelines Board
"Without regulation the city is going to be a playground of the rich," said Merle McEldowney, 71 of the Upper West Side.
Between 2002 and 2011, New York lost 55,000 rent-stabilized units, according to the city.
Advocates want state legislators to fine tune the rent stablization law to prevent loopholes that allow landlords to put their apartments back at market rate. For example, a landlord could raise the rent if the unit is vacant, as was the case for several apartments in Carol Smith's Upper West Side building.
"I find it very upsetting, how much control real estate developers have in the city," the 74-year-old retiree said.
Landlords and some elected officials, however, contend there should be less regulation because property owners have to deal with high taxes and other costs. Protesters dismissed their opponents woes, contending that the city is running out of homes for the working class.
"The people of this city will stand for nothing less than the strongest possible rent laws," said state Assem. Brian Kavanagh said. "Our communities need to he affordable."