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Rewriting of Rent Regulations: NYTimes review of DHCR 5/25 meetings

Posted by Anna on May 28, 2000 at 10:41:55:

Village Voice article:

Get your copies of the new code proposals here:

1. from TenantNet 5/25:

2. DHCR PDF's missing from SamE's 5/25 C&P:

New York Times article today: note this URL works only on 5/28/00
On a later date, use the NYT search to find it.

Rewriting of Rent Regulations
Gives Tenants and Landlords a
New Battle Cry


here is a new battlefront between tenants and

It is 200 pages of dense legalese quietly created by
New York State officials to rewrite the rent regulations
that cover 2.4 million residents, most of them in New
York City, and that document has caused a furor.

The State Division of Housing and Community
Renewal says that it is simply updating the rules to
conform to laws, court decisions and regulatory
directives since the last codification, in 1987.

But tenant groups accuse the state of making changes
that favor landlords and undermine key protections for
renters; changes for which, they say, there is no
statutory authority. They say the changes will enable
owners to raise rents improperly and to evict tenants.

But the housing agency's general counsel, Marcia P.
Hirsch, denies those claims. The updating is required
by law, she said, and the proposal clarifies numerous
issues, including some that are being contested in

Although the state has not yet formally adopted the
revised regulations, tenant leaders say they are
preparing to challenge them in court. "There's no
question that we're going to be suing to stop this," said
Michael McKee, associate director of the New York
State Tenants and Neighbors Coalition, which
represents 17,000 individuals and 144 affiliated

Sharp debate characterized public hearings on the
issue Thursday in Manhattan, White Plains and
Manhasset. Most of the rent-regulated apartments are
in New York City, but about 70,000 are in Nassau,
Westchester and Rockland Counties.

Landlords gave qualified supported to the proposal, but
called for additional modifications.

"For both owners and tenants, this codification is an
extremely valuable and useful process" because it
consolidates all the rules in one place, said Joseph
Strasburg, president of the city's largest landlord group,
the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents
25,000 owners and managers. "The bottom line is that
there is nothing new here."

But Mr. Strasburg urged several changes, including
removing the time limit on when an owner can
challenge whether the tenant whose name appears on
a lease is really living in an apartment, and allowing
owners to charge more than one month's rent as a
security deposit.

Tenants' advocates adamantly opposed the changes in
the revision, and accused the state of pushing the
changes through without sufficient public review.

Mr. McKee linked the state agency's changes to an
effort three years ago by the State Senate majority
leader, Joseph L. Bruno, to eliminate rent stabilization.
Gov. George E. Pataki eventually forged a compromise
between Mr. Bruno and tenant groups that was
perceived as a defeat for Republicans. But Mr. McKee
called the latest move an attempt "to achieve
pro-landlord changes that George Elmer Pataki could
not win from the State Legislature in 1997."

The tenants' advocates said that the hearings were not
well publicized, that the proposal was not advertised
and that copies of the draft were not available at the

"How can I comment on your proposed code when I
don't have a copy?" asked Pat McGovern, a tenant
from Manhattan. "I asked for a copy at the desk, and
they said they would mail me one."

Despite the proposal's length, speakers were limited to
five minutes each and were barred from proposing
further changes, although that rule was ignored.

"This is a landlord's wish list," said David Robinson, a
lawyer for Legal Services for New York City, a
nonprofit advocacy group. "I looked through 125 pages
and found one page of protection for tenants."

City Councilman Stanley E. Michels, a Democrat from
Manhattan, said: "This is a travesty. You are trying to
destroy what's left of rent control and rent stabilization."

One surprise speaker at the Manhattan session was
the head of the union that represents the housing
agency's 475 employees in New York City, Ralph F.
Carbone, president of Local 1359 of District Council

Mr. Carbone said that he was impartial in disputes
between between landlords and tenants, but that he
felt compelled to speak.

"I found that the proposals were slanted significantly
toward owners," he said, "going beyond what I believe
the current state law and judicial precedents are."

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