Dozens of tenants and activists gathered blocks from the Tenement Museum on Thursday morning to protest what they claim are unsafe living conditions in two Lower East Side apartment buildings. A group of predominantly Chinese residents of 247 Broome Street and 135 Eldridge Street, many of whom live in rent-controlled units, complained of eviction threats, chronically ignored maintenance requests, shambolic common areas, and illegal construction in the buildings. The residents claim that R.A. Cohen & Associates, which manages both buildings, is deliberately mistreating low-income renters in an effort to push them out of their homes.
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.”
Karen Platt has been channeling her frustrations through the satisfying scrape of chalk across concrete. After years of living with dust, noise, and health hazards caused by construction, repeated and seemingly relentless service cut-offs, and what she says are intentional moves by her landlord to clear her (and other rent-regulated tenants like her) out of her longtime home at 522 East 5th Street in the East Village, Platt’s sidewalk messages reveal she has reached a breaking point: “Lack of services is harassment” and “Enough is Enough.”
As Platt explained to B+B, since Icon Realty Management bought her building, things took a turn for the miserable. “I’ve lived in New York my whole life and I’ve never, ever been treated like this,” she said.
The Rent Guidelines Board met last Thursday ahead of voting to determine the maximum allowable rent increase for rent regulated apartments throughout New York City. The same review happens annually, but this year there’s a special sense of urgency as rents continue to rise amidst falling incomes and a precipitous drop in rent regulated housing stock, which account for some 1 million homes in the city. Proponents of rent regulation agree that the system is badly in need of reform, but it remains to be seen what exactly that might look like when Albany revisits the rent regulation laws, which expire on June 15. Many affordable housing advocates are worried that powerful real estate interests might prevail. But for now, it’s up to the RGB to decide whether or not to continue on a course of raising rents for rent regulated tenants or take the advice of some lawmakers and freeze rents.