Housing advocates camp outside Cuomo’s Midtown East office, demand rent stability

Tenants hold a rally outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo's midtown office Wednesday June 14, 2017, urging him to do more for homeless and low-income households.
Tenants hold a rally outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s midtown office Wednesday June 14, 2017, urging him to do more for homeless and low-income households. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

As the state’s legislative session winds down, housing activists are taking their cause directly to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and camping outside his Manhattan office.

Those crashing outside Cuomo’s Midtown East space through Saturday said they are there to remind him not to overlook low-income and homeless New Yorkers, who they say need immediate protection.

“Cuomo is a dealmaker when he wants to get something done,” said Delsenia Glover, campaign manager for the Alliance for Tenant Power. “He has shown no willingness to get anything done for tenants in affordable housing, which is why we’ve lost so much in his tenure and why homelessness has gone up.”

Glover called on the governor to walk back a policy that allows landlords to increase rents by 20 percent whenever a rent-regulated apartment becomes vacant.

Additionally, she urged Cuomo to freeze so-called preferential rates — when a rate below what is permissible under rent regulations is charged — so that families in those units only see their rent increase by whatever increments the Rent Guidelines Board agrees upon each year.

Landlords of rent-regulated buildings, however, rely on raising rent 20 percent in vacant units to recoup the losses they have acquired by subsidizing other apartments for years without adequate rent increases, according to Frank Ricci, director of government affairs for the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents landlords of rent-regulated apartments.

“It’s really ridiculous the demand they’re making,” Ricci said. “What they don’t want to acknowledge is that one-third of the rent-stabilized stock is at preferential rate … which really means rent regulation is totally irrelevant.”

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi did not comment on the protesters’ legislative asks, but disputed their depiction of Cuomo’s tenure, saying the governor has put forth “an aggressive” $20 billion, five-year affordable housing plan, worked to enhance rent laws and created a Tenant Protection Unit.

“Silly theatrics aside, no governor in history has done more to protect and create more affordable housing than this one,” Azzopardi wrote in an email.

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