Gov. Andrew Cuomo in April warned of “mass mayhem” if New York City rent stabilization, rent control and other tenant protections were to expire.
And just today, Mayor Bill de Blasio, in an AARP-sponsored event trying to rally senior citizens, said: "The level of displacement would be like nothing we've ever seen before" if the protections expire.
"The beginning of the end of New York City as we know it."
Demonstrators picketed outside Cuomo’s Midtown office Thursday; seven were arrested.
“Gov. Cuomo, you can’t hide. We know you’re on the landlords’ side,” they chanted.
So why, nearly two months after Cuomo’s “mayhem” warning in June, are two million New Yorkers on edge about will happen come Monday?
Metro breaks it down for you.
WILL THE CURRENT PROTECTIONS REALLY GO AWAY?
Believe it or not, the laws that govern how much rent will increase in the city -- laws landlords despise -- are governed by Albany politicians. The law that sets up the city Rent Guidelines Board , which votes at the end of every June what one- and two-year rent hikes will be on new leases, is specific to NYC. Yet, legislators from Buffalo and Binghamton have a say. Nuts, right?
Cuomo has insisted he won’t let the current structure go away and that the protections will be extended. He just opposes any expansion.
“Without rent regulations and rent stabilization, you'll have chaos in the real estate market unlike anything you've ever seen,” he said at an Association for a Better New York (ABNY), where pols go to speak before the city’s movers and shakers. “Because if it lapses one day, you will see real estate entities and landlords start raising rents and evicting tenants. I mean it would be immediate mass mayhem."
He has vowed in an Op-Ed to call the Legislature back “every day if necessary until tenants are protected with new regulations.” Albany basically shuts down for the summer next Wednesday.
The bottom line: Never say never with these guys.
SO WHY ARE WE AT THIS POINT?
Mayor Bill de Blasio has a package of proposals to strengthen protections and fund more affordable housing that he and his Democratic allies in Albany are pushing:
- Eliminate vacancy decontrol. When an apartment unit hits $2,500 a month, it is off the rent stabilization books forever, and landlords can do what they want. De Blasio things this is ridiculous.
- Make amenity surcharges temporary. When you get a new fridge, or request a better air condition, or other service boost, landlords are allowed to boost your rent a certain amount to fund it. But even after you have more than paid for that upgrade, you KEEP paying under current law. This must end, the mayor says.
- Vacancy HIkes: If you move out, landlords can boost rent for the new tenant by a whopping 20%, accelerating the ever-shrinking affordable housing stock.
- The 421a Tax Break: De Blasio wants an overhaul of what is know as the 421a tax break -- or big bucks giveaway, as critics call it. The break gives incentives to build and has save city developers billions of dollars. That’s billions, with a B. At the very least, the mayor argues, 421a should be tied to requirements to build affordable housing.
SO CUOMO OPPOSES ALL THIS? WHY?
The answer will make your head spin. Get this: “Albany has a lot going on right now, let’s say.” That is what the governor has said.
It’s a reference to the federal corruption probe that continues to hang over the capital. So far this year, it has claimed the Democratic boss of the Assembly, former Speaker Sheldon Silver; and Dean Skelos, the GOP majority leader of the state Senate.
Skelos and Silver have been indicted for alleged corruption. There are even some reports that prosecutors may have Cuomo in the crosshairs.He is the last man standing of the so-called "three men in a room" who control Albany.
“Everyone who has been watching the situation here [in Albany knows] to have these finer negotiations on these delicate points is going to be problematic this year,” Cuomo has said.
He's unfortunately probably right about that.
WHAT IS THIS ABOUT A RIFT?
The two men have tried to dial back from reports that they pretty much dislike each other. Don’t believe a word. ABC7’s veteran reporter Diana Williams pretty much brought it all out into the open in a revealing “Up Close” interview with the mayor, who was pretty candid. De Blasio said he didn’t think Cuomo was a good partner.
"Look, we came up with a plan including the 421a reforms and the mansion tax that would create affordable housing for 160,000 New Yorkers over 10 years. Why wouldn't the governor say thank you?" de Blasio told Williams. "On this issue, I'm surprised he is not acting like a partner. I think the bottom line is he is putting out distractions when we need to get to the core issue."
The two, days later, tried to make all nice. But as we said, don’t believe it.
Cuomo, standing with cops and firefighters this past week, very publicly nixed a City Hall plan to reform pension costs in a money-saving move their unions oppose.
Now, there is talk that State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, a fellow Democrat, may challenge Andrew Cuomo, with the blessing of the mayor and his progressive backers with whom DiNapoli has aligned himself.
“The dislike of Cuomo has become so great among Democrats that some of the union-operative types are actually out shopping for a replacement, talking to DiNapoli,’’ a party activist told The Post’s Albany dean, Fred Dicker.
WHAT WILL THIS YEAR’S RENT HIKES BE?
If rent laws expire, pretty much whatever your landlord says. But let’s say, at the very least, everything stays the same. Here’s what you need to know.
For rent stabilized leases:
For a one-year lease, a range between 0% and 2%.
For a two-year lease, a range between 0.5% and 3.5.
The next hearings on this proposal and the final vote:
Monday, June 15th – Queens Public Hearing 5:00 p.m.
Queens Borough Hall
120-55 Queens Boulevard, Room 200
Thursday, June 18th – Brooklyn Public Hearing 5:00 p.m.
Brooklyn Borough Hall, Court Room
209 Joralemon Street
Wednesday, June 24th - Final Vote
The Great Hall at Cooper Union
7 East 7th Street (at the corner of Third Avenue)
New York, NY 10003
John A. Oswald is editor-at-large of Metro.US. Tweet him @nyc_oz.