Posted by Mark Smith on May 15, 1999 at 10:56:43:
From the New York Daily News, Saturday, May 15th:
Path of Lease Resistance
Rent Czar's at Home With Heated Give-and-Take
By MICHAEL FINNEGAN
Daily News Staff Writer
Yearly 100 New Yorkers are booing and screaming at the people seated at the head table. Not unusual for a hearing on rent increases for 1 million city apartments.
But one woman's yelling finally pushes Chairman Edward Hochman over the edge.
"Officer!" he shouts to a cop at the back of the crowd of heckling tenants and landlords. "I can take most of this, but. . . . Could you, officer, do something? Arrest her?"
No way. So Hochman lets board member Vincent Castellano resume his argument: that some rich people pay low rent.
"You're blatantly lying!" the woman bellows.
"I would really like a billy club," mutters Castellano.
"We know you'd like a billy club," responds Hochman.
Welcome to Ed Hochman's life on the front lines of New York's tenant-landlord war. As chairman of the Rent Guidelines Board, he must take endless abuse from irate tenants and landlords. He has counted 17 death threats on his answering machine.
"I've come to expect it and let it roll off my back," he said. "What am I going to do, ask for police protection?"
Though unknown to most New Yorkers, Hochman is one of the most important figures in the lives of city tenants and has enormous influence on the fortunes of their landlords.
This week, he engineered a plan that would cap rent hikes on rent-stabilized apartments at 2% for one-year lease renewals, and 4% for two years. The plan is up for adoption by the nine-member board on June 24.
For a man who is supposed to calm passions, Hochman is known for surprisingly frequent outbursts.
Tenant advocate Bill Rowen of the Metropolitan Council on Housing recalled Hochman "tongue-lashing me and shaking his finger in my face" after Rowen shouted at a board meeting. "He went nuts," Rowen said.
And Hochman doesn't deny that he once told Ken Rosenfeld, then a fellow
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