RGB votes to freeze rents on one-year leases
by Holly Bieler
Jul 01, 2015 | 4885 views | 0 0 comments | 100 100 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The board charged with regulating rents for the city’s rent-stabilized apartments voted on Monday not to increase rents on one year-leases, a first in the board’s 46-year history.

“I am jubilated,” said Ditmas Park resident Thomas Williams after the decision. “This board came through and we got Christmas very early this year.”

Tenants and advocates, who have been calling for months for a rent rollback, nonetheless erupted into applause at the decision, even as some lamented the increase on two-year leases by 2 percent.

“I don’t feel like it was a victory for tenants,” said Ruth Riddick, who lives in a Flatbush rent-stabilized apartment. “Most people I know signed a two-year lease and what did we get? Nothing.”

However the majority of tenants lauded the decision, which will affect some 1.2 New Yorkers currently living in rent-regulated apartments. “Thank you Rachel!” people yelled from the seats of the Great Hall at Cooper Union as board chair Rachel D. Godsil read aloud the vote.

Godsil said the decision was based on data culled by the board that found operating costs for rent-stabilized buildings increased by just 0.5 percent this year. Data also showed rent-stabilized tenants were paying an average of 36.4 percent of their income on rent, higher than the 30 percent experts recommend.

This year’s freeze comes after the board enacted historically low increases last year, opting to raise rents on one-year leases by 1 percent and on two-year leases by just 2.75 percent.

Monday night’s was the first vote by a board entirely comprised of the current administration’s appointees. In a statement, Mayor Bill de Blasio applauded the board’s decision, calling it “the right call.”

The vote stood at 7-2, with the two dissenting votes cast by landlord representatives, J. Scott Walsh and Sara Williams Willard. A flustered Willard called the process “myopic” before voting, causing spontaneous cries of “Is that myopic?” as Godsil read aloud statistics.

The move comes after Albany dealt a blow to rent-stabilized tenants last week, when legislators and Governor Andrew Cuomo re-upped the law that regulates rent-stabilized apartments without adding tenant protections advocates had campaigned for.

“Cuomo betrayed us, the RGB can save us!” people yelled before the vote was read aloud.

On Monday night, Williams said, the board did just that.

“We didn’t know what to expect, especially with the governor letting us down,” he said. “But this year victory came to us. I’m not a drinker, but I’m having a drink tonight.”

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