Updated 05/24/2011 11:18 PM
Protesters Erect Makeshift Tent City In Support Of Rent Laws
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Tenant advocates are filling a makeshift tent city in Downtown Brooklyn on Tuesday to demand that Albany lawmakers extend and expand the city's rent regulations, which expire in a few weeks.
Advocates who participated in protests across the city Tuesday claim that 2.5 million New Yorkers rely on these laws for fair rent, prevention of unlawful evictions and unfair rent increases.
In Downtown Brooklyn, the advocates created a tent city they named "Cuomoville," to emphasize Governor Andrew Cuomo's role in the current rent regulations battle, and to represent the increased homelessness they say will result from rent deregulation.
"A lot of people are going to end up sleeping in cardboard boxes. This is serious, this is not a joke," said a protester.
"There are many people that have lived here for years and work in Brooklyn. Many good people -- service people, laborers -- who won't be able to afford their apartments if these rental laws aren't passed by Cuomo," said volunteer Tammy Warren. "And these are the same working people that helped put him in office and put other officials in office, so I think that they deserve a chance to be able to live and work in New York."
Protesters said that 300,000 housing units have been lost through rest stabilization since 1994.
"The biggest loophole is this thing called 'vacancy destabilization' where, when an apartment is vacant, and a landlord can claim that the rent has been raised to $2,000, they can take it out of the rent regulation system. And through that system, that's how we lose the majority of units," said Elana Schneyer of the Pratt Area Community Council.
"I think that's the bare minimum what we want is the status quo. We want something that's going to be a little bit more affirmative in terms of preserving affordable housing across the board, going forward," said 57th Assembly District Leader Walter Mosley.
City Council members who were in Albany on Tuesday said they have allies in the state Legislature, who are committed to giving the rent laws more teeth.
"There were a few people saying that it's possible to strengthen it and we hope they are not just people saying what we want to hear," said Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams.
Organizers said they are planning more protests across the city in the next week.
Cuomo announced Tuesday that an agreement with legislative leaders on a property tax cap all but assures that rent regulations will also be extended.
However, State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said the property tax cap bill still needs work and objected to a provision linking the expiration date to rent controls.
While Albany lawmakers appear united on extending the rent regulations, they are still divided over whether to strengthen them.