Legislative Update

Volume XCIX, No. 9October, 1999


Most tenants in rent-regulated apartments are under the impression that they have nothing to worry about until 2003, when the rent laws come up for renewal in the State Legislature. But in fact both rent control and rent stabilization must be continued by the New York City Council before March 31, 2000, slightly more than six months from now.

The rent laws will almost certainly be renewed but there is a real danger that the Council will enact another round of decontrol amendments as the price for renewal, according to Michael McKee of the statewide Tenants & Neighbors Coalition. In 1994 the Council enacted “luxury decontrol,” decontrolling “high rent” apartments and “high income” households. The thresholds for decontrol are now $2,000 per month rent and $175,000 household income, and landlord sympathizers in the Council will try to lower them.

Tenants & Neighbors is waging the Rent 2000 Campaign with the goal of winning renewal of the rent laws without any weakening amendments. Through phone banking, door knocking and targeted mailings, they are reaching out to renters in 28 Council districts in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx where tenants lost the 1994 decontrol vote.

The centerpiece of the campaign is a phone bank, which runs weeknights from a location on West 42nd Street in Manhattan. Volunteers are phoning tenants in the targeted districts to inform them of the danger and enlist their help in pressuring targeted Council members. The phone bank is working well, but more volunteers are needed. While it takes a bit of nerve to call strangers and ask them to do something they normally wouldn’t do, McKee said, it’s a rewarding experience because it’s such a good way to reach and activate tenants, as well as fun.

In addition to the individual Council members, Rent 2000 is targeting City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, who strong-armed the 1994 decontrol amendment through the Council. Three months ago Vallone threatened and bribed Council members to win passage of a bill to protect bad landlords from liability when young children are poisoned by lead paint or lead dust in older apartment buildings. Vallone is running for mayor in 2001 with a ton of campaign contributions from real estate. On Wednesday, Oct. 13, from 12 noon until 1:30 p.m., Tenants & Neighbors will picket his campaign headquarters at 123 William Street (between Fulton and John streets) in lower Manhattan.

For more information or to volunteer, call Brian Honan at (212) 695-8922, ext. 304.


As this issue went to press, health care advocates were planning meetings and conferences designed to jump-start their campaigns on the state and national level:

  • Activists across New York State working to enact “Family Health Plus” (which would provide affordable insurance for low and moderate-income adult New Yorkers who don’t have or can’t afford private insurance) were preparing for a Sept. 15 strategic planning meeting in Albany aimed at building momentum for the proposal. A version has already been enacted in the Assembly, but the Senate has taken no action.
  • UHCAN – the Universal Health Care Action Network – will hold its national conference in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 23-24. The theme is “Universal Health Care: Priority 2000.” UHCAN believes the health care crisis will be one of two or three core issues for the 2000 political season, and the conference will devise strategies to put universal health care back on the national agenda.

Information about plans developed by both meetings will be available at Local 802. Call (212) 245-4802, ext. 179.