How many landlords does it take to change a lightbulb? Metropolitan Council on Housing volunteer Mary Crosby posed the rhetorical question to members of the Rent Guidelines Board at last night’s public hearing at Cooper Union. “None, because everyone knows landlords don’t do repairs anymore,” she said. Here’s another one for you: how many owners does it take to change a lightbulb? You’ll never guess… it’s also “none,” she said, “because the owners have removed the light sockets during an eviction.”
Nearly two hours after the Rent Guidelines Board was scheduled to vote on whether more than 1.2 million New Yorkers would be required to pay more for their rent-regulated apartments, the board made a historical decision to freeze rent increases for one-year leases. Amidst intermittent boos and cheers, the board’s chair, Rachel Godsil, announced that for the first time ever one-year leases would see a zero percent increase in rent, while two-year leases would be subject to a 2 percent increase.
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“I’m a transplant, and I wonder if I’m part of the problem,” said a young Bushwick resident last night at The Base, the neighborhood’s new leftist community center. “Is there anything we can do? Become self-aware gentrifiers?”
The question came up at a meeting led by Frank Morales, called Fighting Displacement and Building Grassroots Power. Presenting his zine, “Strategy and Tactics of Neighborhood Self-Defense,” the housing activist described the earliest and most unpleasant stage of gentrification: landlords let buildings decay without maintenance and the city stops funding firefighters, hospitals, and the precinct, so that long-term residents leave the now unlivable area and landlords can fix up their buildings and raise the rent.
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