Tenants from across the downstate region rallied on May 2 outside the lower Manhattan office of State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
The theme of the rally was “Shelly, can we come live with you?” and rally participants — some of whom wore pajamas — brought suitcases, sleeping bags, duffel bags, pillows, teddy bears and toothbrushes.
Tenants called on Silver to re-open the issue of rent and eviction protection laws, and to play hardball with the Senate Republicans and the governor to win repeal of vacancy decontrol and other enhancements in tenant protections.
Last June, the state legislature and Governor Pataki renewed the state rent control and rent stabilization laws (and laws governing co-op and condo conversions) for eight years, until June 2011.
While the extender bill contained yet more pro-landlord amendments and a reduction in tenant protections, its worst feature was leaving intact vacancy decontrol provisions that have already resulted in the loss of about 200,000 rent-regulated apartments in New York City and suburban counties, and will cost us hundreds of thousands more in the next seven years.
Unless vacancy decontrol is repealed, no future mover or newcomer will be able to find an affordable apartment but will be forced to pay a market rent. With a static supply of housing and an increasing population, upward pressure on rents in the downstate region will be worse every year.
Rent regulated housing is the largest and most important supply of affordable rental housing in the state. The only way to preserve it is to repeal vacancy decontrol.
The New York City Labor Chorus performed at the rally.
A longer version of this article first appeared in the newspaper of Tenants and Neighbors. For more information, see www.TandN.org.