Tenant Activists Look For Hope in the Senate
January 27th, 2009
Allison Tupper gathered with 10 other concerned housing advocates in the lobby of Albany Sen. Neil Breslin’s large new fifth floor office. Tupper was unsure whether the upstate Democrat who is the head of the Insurance Committee would be responsive to her pro-tenant message. But she was hopeful.
Tupper and her companions who belong to groups such as the Tenants Public Action Committee, Tenants and Neighbors, and the West Side Neighborhood Alliance as well as various other organizations had attended a press conference earlier in the day with Assembly Majority Leader Sheldon Silver, where he announced “2009 is the year of the tenant.” Afterward they headed out to lobby the senators. A meeting with upstate Sen. Darrel Aubertine went well with the Senator expressing support.
Tupper said it is an “exciting time” thanks to the new Democratic majority in the Senate. With the Assembly moving forward quickly on a package of tenant friendly bills that would give New York City control over rent control and stop landlords from being able to take vacant high-rent apartments off of rent control roles it will soon be up to the Senate to pass these bills. These issues directly affect Tupper.
Tupper said she was nervous that the rent for her apartment would soon reach $2,000 and her landlord might be “tempted to get me out.” Tupper said she has seen landlords harass other tenants whose apartments reached $2,000 a month rent because, under state law, a vacant apartment that is rented for $2,000 a month can be taken off of rent control.
Thanks to a group of renegade Democrats, including new Senate Housing Chair Pedro Espada it is unclear if the Senate will act as quickly or as decisively as tenant advocates want. But Tupper and her group were pleasantly surprised with their meeting in Breslin’s office. They told their stories to Breslin’s chief of staff Maureen Cetrino. They spoke of a wholesale erosion in the availability of affordable apartments in New York City and discussed the abuse they said they have suffered at the hands of landlords.
They didn’t have to do much convincing. Cetrino assured the group, “I think you can definitely count on the senator’s support.” She added she expected that Breslin would, “sign on to the bill,” when it was introduced in the Senate. Tupper smiled and seemed relieved. Cetrino invited the group to send a representative to speak before the upstate caucus, a group of upstate senators who meet as a group. The group assured Centrino that they would take her up on the offer.By David King on January 27, 2009, 7:44 pm
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