In a major victory for organized tenants, the New York City Council and Mayor Giuliani renewed the city’s rent control and rent stabilization laws until March 31, 2003, and they did so without in any way weakening the laws.
“The fact that tenants will still enjoy the protections of the rent laws has nothing to do with the good will of politicians like Giuliani or Peter Vallone, the Speaker of the City Council,” said Tom Waters, organizer for the New York State Tenants & Neighbors Coalition. Waters gave credit to “the thousands of tenants who took action by writing and calling council members and picketing Vallone. It was their efforts that broke the cycle of weakening amendments that have led to the decontrol of tens of thousands of apartments in recent years.” These tenants joined in the successful Rent 2000 Campaign coordinated by Tenants & Neighbors with the cooperation of dozens of unions, tenant associations and other organizations.
But Waters notes that this victory does not mean that tenants can rest easy. The New York State Legislature in Albany must renew the rent laws in 2003, or else they will expire – and the fight to make sure that the state renews them without another round of weakening amendments is expected to be the most difficult struggle tenants have faced in many years. That is why Tenants & Neighbors launched its Rent 2003 Campaign on March 28, the same day the Rent 2000 Campaign came to a successful conclusion as Mayor Giuliani signed the renewal bill.
“To win next time, the tenant movement must become stronger than it has even been before,” Waters notes. “Tenants must take the initiative and begin demanding improvements in the laws now. The issue must be framed as how to strengthen the laws – not simply whether to weaken them further.”
To that end, tenant organizations are planning a Tenant Lobby Day in Albany on May 23. It will focus on issues affecting all kinds of affordable housing, including Mitchell-Lama, federally subsidized and public housing, as well as rent-controlled and rent-stabilized housing.
For rent-regulated tenants in New York City, the most important issue is repeal of the state Urstadt Law, which gives ultimate control of the city’s rent laws to state legislators rather than the City Council. If Urstadt were repealed, tenants would be in a much better position to put an end to the vacancy decontrol system that is now putting rents in most of Manhattan and some parts of Brooklyn and Queens out of reach for working people.
Sponsors of the lobby day include Tenants & Neighbors, the Public Housing Residents Alliance, Metropolitan Council on Housing, the Citywide Tenants Coalition, and several other organizations from throughout New York State.
Buses will leave from Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and other locations at 7 a.m. and return at 7 p.m. The charge for a bus ride is $10. For more information, call Waters at Tenants & Neighbors, (212) 695-8922, ext. 302.