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Board Proposes Steep Hikes For Rent Stabilized Apartments

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The Rent Guidelines Board on Monday proposed a 5.5 percent increase on one-year leases and an 8.5 percent hike on two-year leases for New York City’s one million rent stabilized apartments.

The increases, if given final approval in another vote scheduled next month, would be the highest in 14 years.

In a raucous 90-minute meeting in Lower Manhattan, the board voted 6-3 in favor of the preliminary increases. No testimony was heard, but that didn’t keep those affected from shouting out their case, and at least one man in the audience had to be removed by police.

“I’m horrified about what they did,” said Manhattan resident Marina Metalios. “I’m horrified for me, my neighbors, my building my colleagues, my friends. It’s very bad news.”

Tenants complained that they couldn’t afford higher rents, while landlords called for double-digit increases, citing higher property taxes and fuel, sewer and insurance costs. Neither side was happy with the outcome.

“I think it’s a major defeat, which is going to result, sometime at the end of this year, in some small property owners losing their buildings,” said Joe Straberg of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents owners. “They’re not going to be able to pay their property taxes and fuel bills.”

“It’s going to cost people a lot of money,” said Brian Honan of the advocacy group Tenants and Neighbors. “These aren’t just numbers; this is real money.”

The board members, a majority of whom, for the first time, were appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, decided to share the burden.

“We are all hurting in New York City, but the one sector that seems to be making money is the real estate sector. Let’s get real,” said board member Adriene Holder, who drew applause from tenants but did not sway the other members.

“I guess I’m just na•ve,” said Brooklyn resident Diane Kline. “I had hopes for this board, because Mr. Bloomberg appointed five new members.”

The vote on rents comes on the heels of a transit fare hike, hikes to income and sales taxes by both the city and state and an increase to city water bills — all within a few days. The largest property tax hike in city history and higher state and city cigarette taxes are already in effect — and a taxi fare hike could be next.

“I don’t know how I’m going to pay,” said Queens resident Regina Shanley. “I’m on disability.”

“My insurance has doubled,” said Tom Diana, who owns a building in Brooklyn. ”I used to be able to get insurance, two years ago, for just under $$2,000; now it’s $$4,000. That’s not a percentage of my income, that’s real dollars. For a guy with a rent roll of only $$40,000 or $$50,000, that’s 5 percent or 6 percent just for his insurance.”

Tenants and landlords have one last chance to entreat the board, at a public hearing on June 17. The final vote is two days later, though historically the actual rent increase has varied little, if at all, from the preliminary vote.

“I think people are hurting, and I think it’s too high,” said City Council Speaker Gifford Miller. “We need to figure out a way to keep getting the message across that we have to find ways to get this cost down.”

The new rates will affect renewals on leases for rent stabilized apartments that expire on or after October 1, 2003. Leases that expire before then are subject to last year’s increases: 2 percent for one-year leases and 4 percent for two years.
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