Assembly Passes Series of Tenants’ Rights for Out Of Control Rents in Brooklyn

Greenpoint Waterfront © Wikipedia

The rent is too damn high! We hear this phrase as a catch-all these days, ad nauseum, to describe New York City’s hostile housing situation. But cost of living in this city is no joke – the rent really is just too damn high for most of us. And there’s no end in sight, with rents averaging over $3,000 per month while the average income is dropping.

For some of us, it isn’t too damn high yet – the law caps the amount a landlord can increase a rent-regulated (not rent-controlled, which is completely different) apartment. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have landed some rent-stabilized digs, but you’re likely living in fear that some day soon all of it will come crashing down around you in a heap of rubble – literally – because your enterprising landlords have decided to take a wrecking ball to your building, forcing you out and enabling them to raise the rent on your place to some obscene market-level rate.

Of course, Greenpoint is no exception to any of this ludicrousness. Although rent here is not quite at Manhattan-rate levels and has not exploded with quite the ferocity as our neighbor Williamsburg, we’re feeling the squeeze – and we’re certainly not without our own share of shitty slumlord behavior. (As it stands, Greenpoint and Williamsburg basically have no regulations keeping rents from soaring at the whims of property owners looking to make huge profits – the housing situation is out of control, with the market at the wheel.)

Obviously a “sky’s-the-limit” philosophy on cost of rent is unacceptable. And certainly there should be something on the books holding landlords and property owners responsible for their reckless behavior, no?

Recognizing that the housing situation in New York City and in North Brooklyn in particular is dire, Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol (D-North Brooklyn) has just announced a series of bills that have just been passed by the Assembly, designed to enhance and protect tenants’ rights; specifically, addressing issues such as landlord abuses and protecting rent-stabilized units are key points.

© wnyc.org

One part of the package would change the law so that sabotaging a property would be considered a criminal act, and a landlord could be charged with a felony for trashing an apartment with the intention of forcing out rent-stabilized tenants (the state has recently stepped in and issued subpoenas for such incidents).

Another, a bill targeted directly at rent regulated protection itself, prevents a unit from becoming de-regulated once it passes the current $2,50o threshold – right now, an apartment that is rent-regulated can become de-regulated once its price increases to $2,500, thus giving a landlord complete freedom to raise that rent however much he or she chooses.

The package also includes a law that would limit a landlord’s ability to recover rent-regulated units for themselves. This law would state that only one unit can be used as the landlord or owner’s primary residence, curbing the practice of unethically occupying units for the sole purpose of, again, turning substantial profits.

Finally, a bill to reduce the amount that landlords can increase a rent-stabilized unit after a vacancy has also been passed – the current law allows a 20% increase, where a 7.5% is seen as a more fair and reasonable amount.

All this can be yours for eleventy-billion dollars a month

If you’re a New Yorker, there’s a good chance you’re paying through the nose for rent right now, watching half your paycheck get gobbled up once a month in order to keep a roof over your head. The crisis is particularly evident in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, where rents are skyrocketing at an astonishing rate, and beginning to rival Manhattan’s prices.

Sure, it’s the market, the market is in control, is what you bargain for when you live in New York so tough shit, blah blah blah. Yeah, well, unfair housing practices are unacceptable. Landlords bullying their tenants and ruining lives is unacceptable. We need some laws on our side. We need help.

Please leave your feedback in the comments.

*Correction: An earlier version of this piece stated that a law has been passed that would reduce potential increases on all units – this has been edited to state that the law would apply to rent-stabilized units only.

About Lilly F

I was born in Bay Ridge and grew up in Sheepshead Bay. After living on the West Coast for a few years, I returned to New York and have lived on "The Other Side of McGuinness" since 2010. In my spare time I ride bikes and photograph for my blog, Brooklyn Analog. I love the nature, the food, the people, the houses, the dogs, everything about Greenpoint. I can't imagine living in any other neighborhood in Brooklyn!

5 Comments

  1. Lauren says:

    I live in a de-stabilized building on Greenpoint Avenue and the landlords are on their way to kicking everyone out in order to renovate and jack the rent. Because the building is destabilized, they can already raise my rent as much as they want, but decided to put me on a month-to-month lease (with am 8% rent increase). What this means is that I don’t know how long I have in my home, which has become a source of a great deal of anxiety. I wonder if every day when I return home, there will be a letter slipped in my door with my 30-day notice.

    Luckily, there are resources here to help us, specifically The North Brooklyn Development Corporation (located on Huron Street). I met with an amazing representative there named Jack who explained to me my rights, the housing laws, and what I can do to stay or extend my stay in my apartment. Though I may not be able to stay in my apartment for as long as I want, there are ways for me to extend my lease (unfortunately, it may involve a court appearance).

    It’s really heartbreaking to see what is going on in the neighborhood. The rents are becoming prohibitive. All we want is a place to live – is that too much to ask?

    Reply
    • JC says:

      Lauren,

      Buildings cannot be de-stabilized; rent regulation pertains to each apartment. You should speak with your local elected officials’ offices and a tenant attorney. Court appearances are a hassle, but consider it a good deed, because unscrupulous landlords are empowered by tenants who don’t fight back.

      This article is great, but misses a critical point: The Assembly always passes tenant friendly bills. Tenants — including those who currently live in market-rate apartments — should help elect a Democratic majority the State Senate to finally expand rent regulation and other protections.

      Join the Real Rent Reform campaign here: http://www.realrentreform.org/

      And support NYS Senate Dems here:
      http://newyorksenatedems.com/

      Reply
  2. Greg says:

    In other words, more protections for people who already have tons of protection, and nothing for the rest of us.

    Reply
  3. Declan says:

    Hmm, Greg “Finally, a bill to address the overall increasingly unreasonable cost of living in New York City has also been introduced, which would reduce the amount that landlords can increase a unit after a vacancy – the current law allows a 20% increase, where a 7.5% is seen as a more fair and reasonable amount.” would seem to provide something for “the rest of us.”

    Thank you for this article.

    Reply
  4. Markus says:

    “We need some laws on our side.”

    This is a joke, right?

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *