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May 22nd, 2008


by Joelle Panisch

On Tuesday, May 13th, two busloads of tenants’ rights activists made the long trek from New York City to Albany to support the repeal of vacancy decontrol. The group showed solid fortitude as they stood with Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Members to declare the passage of A. 7416 (Rosenthal, Silver), a bill designed to rescind vacancy decontrol.

Vacancy decontrol has been plaguing NYC tenants since it was first passed in 1971. It allows landlords to deregulate rent-controlled apartments once the tenants occupying them move out. New tenants are no longer ensured regulated rents nor a promise of rent renewal. In addition to making New York City unaffordable for the working class, these laws encourage eviction and tenant harassment.

Assembly Speaker Silver also supported a nine-bill package aimed at procuring tenants’ rights and affordable housing. If passed the bills would remove the high rent clause, which makes tenants no longer eligible for rent control once their rent rises to over $2,000. The package would also include laws increasing the penalties for tenant harassment.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Speaker Silver discussed the legislation. “Over the years, there have been compelling debates about rent regulation,” said the Speaker, “and the free market economy; but behind the “buzzwords” are real people – some of whom you see here today – who are facing the loss of cherished homes and communities where they have lived all of their lives.”

The tenants and activists who took the long bus ride also rallied for support for the passage of bill S. 5149-B, the Senate’s vacancy decontrol repeal bill. 25 senators signed a letter constructed by the group urging Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno to promise a vote in the Senate.

Activists who took the long journey included members of Make the Road NY, Centro Hispano Cuzcatlan, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, Tenants and Neighbors,Met Council, and the New York City AIDS Housing Network.

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