Archive for June, 2011

The Let Down on Rent
June 21st, 2011

Tenant advocates and Democratic legislators from the city were confused when the news first hit–the outline of how rent laws would be renewed and amended under the “big ugly” negotiated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, just didn’t make sense to them.

“If this deal is as it has been reported to us it is an unmitigated disaster,” said Tenants PAC treasurer Michael McKee. McKee said that he felt “sold out” by Cuomo and what tenants were getting for what Cuomo gave up to Republicans was pathetic. After reports of Cuomo’s tough talk last week they expected much more. So what does the deal do?

Landlords who claim to have made major improvements will have to have their work checked by the state housing department. The 421-a tax credit that gives developers a tax break for setting aside 20 percent of a building for affordable housing will continue for four years. Vacancy decontrol is not done away with but the guidelines for it have increased. Rent will go from 2,000 to 2,500 and maximum annual income will increase from $175,00 to $200,000. The rent laws will expire in 4 years and will be combined in a bill the a property tax cap that will expire in 5 years. Sound similar to what Fred Dicker of the New York Post reported yesterday? Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 21, 2011, 7:41 pm
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Rent Law Extender, Again *Update*
June 20th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, and Sheldon Silver walked out of a meeting earlier today and had no announcements on deals to move forward the important legislative issues of the day. Even before that announcement I was told by a number of sources to expect another rent law extender to be introduced by the governor’s office tonight. Senate Democrats aren’t exactly thrilled by the idea. ” A third extender? This is getting to be like the budget last year,” said Sen. Adriano Espaillat who voted against the first extender but voted for the one on Friday.

Leaders in the Senate Democratic conference are telling their conference that they should vote for the extender but it isn’t exactly clear if they are all on board yet.

* The extender passed and it will expire at Midnight on Wednesday. The Senate will return at 11 a.m. tomorrow.

Rent groups are pushing for Cuomo to declare and emergency and kick control of rent back to the New York City Council. We broke the news on Friday that Cuomo threatened landlords with that move last week. They say the governor is legally able to do that. Silver isn’t so sure.

There is a lot of talk about what could be in a possible long term rent extender. Capital Tonight reported that Cuomo’s office is floating a two-year extender, while sources have told me they expect a deal similar to the one floated by NY Post columnist Fred Dicker in his column today but with a few more concessions by landlords. The Cuomo administration has a habit of testing out policy in Dicker’s column.

Senators expect to be in session until midnight tonight and plan to be in town til Wednesday–no word on when a vote on same-sex marriage will take place–just not today.

By on June 20, 2011, 6:18 pm
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Gustavo Rivera on Rent Extender
June 17th, 2011

Sen. Gustavo Rivera’s singing may not have moved the rent control debate forward but he thinks his vote against the first extender, along with other Senate Dems, may have gotten negotiations into gear.

“I am glad that negotiations are moving forward so that we can come back to Albany on Monday and pass stronger rent laws. With the Governor’s support and the help of the Assembly, I believe we can get this done and vote for a bill that not only extends, but also strengthens tenant protections,” said Rivera.

Sen. Liz Krueger joked as she was leaving the chamber after the hastily reassembled session to pass the rent extender that she hoped not to have to vote on another extender on Monday. Who knows–this is Albany.

By on June 17, 2011, 6:59 pm
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Dean Skelos Psychs Everyone Out
June 17th, 2011

The Senate reconvened and passed a rent extender bill after Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos angrily brought an end to session before a vote could be taken. After a very quick vote Skelos who looked disheveled and bit defeated said, “sometimes life isn’t easy.” Sources say Cuomo threatened to force the Senate into immediate special session if Skelos did not reconvene and pass the extender. Session had to be started a new–the room stood for the pledge of allegiance, a moment of silence was held etc.. Democrats were clearly confused and insisted that they were ready to vote on and pass the extender before Skelos ended session the first time. A tweet quoting Kevin Parker apparently led Skelos to believe that Democrats would not vote for the deal and called the vote off even though Cuomo had threatened to hold legislators in special session until they passed an extender. To be fair, a number of Democrats were being coy and would not reveal to me before the vote whether they would vote for the extender despite the fact that assurances had apparently been made that Democrats would deliver the votes on the bill. Michael McKee of the Tenants PAC was certain before the vote that Democrats would deliver the needed votes.

The Democrats had a chance of heart earlier in the day and decided to vote for the extender when they had assurances that Cuomo had threatened the real estate industry with declaring an emergency and putting rent laws back in the hands of the city council, who everyone assumes would be very pro tenant.

When Democrats voted down the rent extender earlier in the week they say it sent a message to Skelos and Cuomo that they needed to be part of the negotiations. I have been told by a number of sources that there has yet to be substantive negotiation on a bill to strengthen and renew the rent laws. A number of insiders expect that to only happen on Sunday night. However, Democrats are encouraged that Cuomo took forceful action to bring the real estate industry to the table and to consider concessions. Sen. Adriano Espaillat said he felt his initial no vote, “rattled some cages.”

Cuomo’s office has not returned call for comment.

By on June 17, 2011, 6:36 pm
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Session Adjourns With No Action on Rent
June 17th, 2011

As Democrats prepared to vote in favor of a temporary extension on rent regulation (see below), the Senate Republican leadership ended a session without taking a vote on the measure, Gotham Gazette’s David King reports.

Only minutes later they seem to have reversed course and headed back into session, likely under pressure from Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Earlier this week Republicans had favored the temporary extension on the grounds it could likely lead to a straightforward extension of existing laws, rather than the strengthening that tenant advocates are seeking. Now, though, the calculus has changed as Gov,. Andrew Cuomo apparently has entered the fray on the side of tougher laws.

By on June 17, 2011, 5:33 pm
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Cuomo Threatened Rent Emergency
June 17th, 2011

In an apparent effort to jumpstart negotiations on rent regulation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo reportedly threatened to essentially return the power to control rents to the New York City Council, David King reports from Albany.

Sources tell King that the decision by many Senate Democrats to vote against a temporary extension yesterday apparently spurred the governor to act. He responded by contacting the two key real estate industry groups — the Rent Stabilization Association and the Real Estate Board of New York — and threatened that, without an extension, he would declare an emergency that would put rent regulation into the hands of the pro rent control council.

That, sources say, would have paved the way for repeal of the Urstadt law, the 1971 measure that bars New York City from adopting its own, more stringent rent regulations. Tenant groups have long sought repeal of the law with no success.

The move has reportedly prompted the two powerful associations to realize they might have to make concessions. And pro-tenant Democrats, now seemingly confident substantive negations will actually take place, seem likely to support a temporary extension.

By on June 17, 2011, 5:22 pm
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Rent Negotiatons
June 17th, 2011

With state legislators eager to get home for the weekend and to break for the end of session on Monday or Tuesday, this afternoon has seen a flurry of activity around rent regulations, Gotham Gazette’s David King reports.

The Senate will likely consider a full extension of the rent laws early next week, with a vote on Monday or Tuesday, according to Sen. Kevin Parker. There is no indication whether any bill would strengthen the existing rules or keep them as is.

In the meantime, though, Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants a temporary extension, and has vowed to call legislators into special session tomorrow if they do not approve a one today. Just such a stopgap measure has gone to the Senate rules committee. Democrats, citing progress on the rent issue, seem likely to vote for the temporary bill — and enjoy their June Saturday somewhere other than in the Capitol.

For more on the rent negotiation, see Tenants on the Brink and follow DavidHowardKing on Twitter.

By on June 17, 2011, 4:52 pm
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Stalled
June 17th, 2011

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos told reporters today that he will not bring Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s same-sex marriage bill to a vote today. Republicans are pushing for more protections for religious institutions before they agree on anything. It is said that the Cuomo administration is open to negotiating.

Meanwhile, Cuomo wants both houses to pass an extender on rent laws before they leave town for the weekend. He has threatened to call a special session if they don’t but it is unclear whether an extender will actually pass in the Senate as Democrats say they will only vote for an extender if there are useful negotiations taking place on a bill to permanently strengthen and extend the rent laws. Senate Democrats are not part of those negotiations so they will have to take someone’s word for it. However, word currently is that negotiations over the rent laws are stalled.

By on June 17, 2011, 2:29 pm
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The Long, Dirty Debate
June 16th, 2011

So the Senate has been in session most of the day and are only standing at ease now so that the Democrats can conference–something fairly ugly took place in the chamber tonight. The debates have gone from sharp and enthusiastic to rambling and uncivil. Sure they are probably getting tuckered out with the late hours and all but don’t shed a tear quite yet.

A great deal of the legislation that has been debated in the Senate doesn’t have same-as bills in the Assembly–in other words nothing is going to come of it. And the Senate hasn’t really been up to much for most of the year. One legislator described the legislation passed most of the year as, “not life changing,” with a wry smile. Another described it as, “a waste of taxpayer money.”

If you are a glutton for punishment you can check out video of what they debated here. And if you are in the mood for some late-night debate you can watch it live here.

Legislators have been constantly reminded throughout debate today that they are on a tight schedule. Democrats seem to be asking questions to stall out the process which has driven some Republicans up the tree. Sen. Greg Ball interrupted Sen. Eric Adams to ask the status of the investigation into the Aqueduct Entertainment Group. Federal officials are supposed to be looking into the Aqueduct deal that caused quite a bit of scandal last year. Ball of course has endured a load of scandal of his own. In fact Senate Republicans used Balls’ alleged attack on his girlfriend as ammunition against him during a Republican primary last year. They really didn’t want him to win. But I digress.

Not to be a curmudgeon but the Republican Senate probably could have introduced a few of these bills earlier this year–rather than cramming everything into a week at the end of session. Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 16, 2011, 10:09 pm
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Bloomberg's Full Remarks on Same-Sex Marriage
June 16th, 2011

Here are Bloomberg’s full comments following his visit with the Senate Republican Majority:

If you remember, at our founding, African-Americans were held in bondage. Catholics in New York could not hold office. Those without property could not vote. Women could not vote or hold office. And homosexuality, in some places, was a crime punishable by death.

One by one, over many long years, the legal prohibitions to freedom and equality were overcome some on the battlefield, some at the State House, and some in the courthouse.

Throughout our history, each and every generation has expanded upon the freedoms won by their parents and grandparents. Each and every generation has removed some of the barriers to full participation in the American dream. And the next great barrier standing before our generation is the prohibition on marriage for same-sex couples. Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 16, 2011, 2:38 pm
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Cuomo Threatens Special Session
June 16th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not happy that there is no deal on renewing the rent laws and is making it clear that he will keep legislators in Albany until he gets one.

“Affordable housing is an all too scarce commodity, especially in New York City and the surrounding areas. Our states rent protection laws are essential and any long term expiration would create a crisis. Last night the State Senate both Democrats and Republicans failed to continue the laws beyond their expiration,” said Cuomo in a statement. We are making progress but the Senates failure to act last night was unacceptable and a betrayal of the one million tenants living in rent protected apartments. I will not allow the legislature to go out of session and go home until tenants are protected. I am prepared to call special session to keep the legislature in place until there are rent protection laws in place.

Cuomo’s anger about the Senate’s failure to pass a two day extension for rent laws differs from the press release he issued yesterday in which he said that the sky would not fall if an extension did not pass. Legislators and tenant advocates agreed that tenants would not be in jeopardy if their is a brief lapse.

Senate Democrats issued this statement: Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 16, 2011, 12:53 pm
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Bloomberg in Albany
June 16th, 2011

Mayor Michael Bloomberg paid a visit to Senate Republicans this morning as well as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. He was in town to discuss the same-sex marriage vote. Although Bloomberg clearly put pressure on Republicans to bring the bill to a vote Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos left the meeting with Bloomberg and told reporters that his conference needed to further discuss the issue.

Bloomberg described giving his counsel to legislators who are on the fence, he said he told them that he “I remember being in their shoes.”

If the bill does come to a vote he expects it to pass with more than just the bare minimum number of votes–saying it would pass “comfortably.” Bloomberg described marriage as, “a force of stability for families,” and said that same-sex marriage is consistent with conservative principles. Bloomberg said he thinks the public expects same-sex marriage to come to a vote.

As for rent control renewal Bloomberg said he expects a bill to be passed by the end of session but that some may not be “ecstatic” about the bill.

Bloomberg also touched on the Anthony Weiner scandal saying that he thought Weiner needs to talk with his family and make a decision. But he also said the scandal has, “become a diversion away from all the important things this country has to deal with.” Weiner is expected to announce his resignation at 2 p.m. today.

By on June 16, 2011, 12:42 pm
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Rent Laws Not Extended
June 16th, 2011

The clock has just struck midnight and New York’s rent control laws have lapsed. The Senate voted down Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s extension of New York’s rent laws by a vote of 43-14. The Assembly passed the legislation yesterday evening. Cuomo, tenant advocates and legislators have all said that a lapse in the laws will not cause major disruptions and that no one should panic.

Sen. Adriano Espaillat Tweeted this message: “We weren’t sent here to pass temporary extensions & kick our problems down the road. Let’s do our jobs. Let’s pass #StrongerRentLaws tonight”

The Senate stands adjourned until 11 a.m. today. Expect another exciting if not eventful day tomorrow. There is a lot left for legislators to get done.

Make the Road New York Issued this statement yesterday evening: Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 16, 2011, 12:06 am
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Assembly Passes Same-Sex Marriage *Update*
June 15th, 2011

The New York State Assembly just passed a marriage equality bill by a vote of 80-63. The margin of victory is the lowest ever in the Assembly. Similar legislation has been approved by the Assembly four times now.

This is a matter of equity and justice, said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. New Yorkers should have the right to marry whom they choose. Partners unable to enter into a civil marriage, and their children, lack basic legal protections taken for granted by married couples.

Today, the Assembly has yet again put itself solidly on the side of justice and equality for all in New York State, said Assemblyman Daniel ODonnell. This is the fourth time that we in the Assembly have passed Marriage Equality under Speaker Silver’s unwavering support and leadership, and my courageous colleagues who have supported the bill since 2007 deserve immense praise and thanks. This action takes us one step closer to removing legalized discrimination from our law books and reclaiming New York’s position as a leader in equality for our nation.

The bill now goes to the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his conference are supposed to continue their debate over what to do about the bill tomorrow morning.

Here is Silver’s statement: Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 15, 2011, 9:20 pm
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Silver On Rent Extension *Update*
June 15th, 2011

As the Assembly finished up its vote on same-sex marriage legislation Speaker Sheldon Silver released a statement saying he the Assembly will pass an extension to New York’s rent laws. The same sex marriage looks to be close..but it seems that it will pass. Same-sex marriage passed by a margin of 80-63 and the Assembly approved the rent law extension by a vote of 90-42.

Here is Silver’s statement:

“The Governor has sent, and the Assembly has agreed to pass, a short-term emergency extension to New Yorks rent laws. This extension will expire at 3 p.m. on Friday. The Assembly Majority is committed to keeping housing affordable for more than two million New Yorkers and remains focused on expanding and strengthening these laws. Thats why the Assembly passed legislation more than a month ago to renew and expand rent laws. With the Governors leadership we hope to convince our colleagues in the State Senate to commit to strengthening these laws so that middle class New Yorkers are able to remain in their homes.”

By on June 15, 2011, 9:04 pm
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Rent Laws to Get an Extension
June 15th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has offered a bill that would extend rent laws until 3 p.m. on Friday. A message of necessity has been attached so both houses are expected to act on the bill tonight. If the legislature doesn’t vote the rent laws will expire at midnight. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Democratic legislators and tenant advocates all say that there won’t be any major catastrophe if the laws do expire. A temporary extension of the laws will be seen as a victory for Senate Republicans who want to see a straightforward extension of the laws rather than the strengthening that tenant advocates are pushing for.

However, Cuomo promised earlier today that he will keep legislators in Albany until they manage to pass a bill extending and strengthening the rent laws. Negotiations on the bill will come to a head just as the legislators try to wrap up all the major legislation they have put off until now–including same-sex marriage and a property tax cap.

By on June 15, 2011, 8:26 pm
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Cuomo Says Don't Panic Over Rent Laws
June 15th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says tenants should not worry about a temporary expiration of the rent laws that could occur if the legislature does not reach a deal to renew the laws by midnight tonight.

“There would be no short-term emergency. Current rent laws could be continued by short-term extender legislation or even if the laws lapse for a short period of time, which they have in the past, there will not be a significant increase in rent levels or disruption in the availability of affordable housing,” said Cuomo in a statement.

Michael McKee, treasurer of Tenants PAC told the Gazette last week that a short term lapse in the laws would be no big deal.

“We have been here before; people forget that the laws expired in 1997. They lapsed for five days and the sky did not fall; they passed it retroactively,” said McKee.

But that does not mean Cuomo is OK with simply extending the existing law. “Make no mistake, to prevent a long term crisis, these laws must be renewed and strengthened. There is a full agenda for both the Assembly and Senate to accomplish and the legislative session will not end, either through regular or special session, until the peoples business is done.

So Cuomo, as was reported earlier today, is ready to keep legislators in town until a deal on rent control is reached. Legislators are itching to leave town on Friday and not return for some time…Cuomo may put a large cramp in their style.

Here is Cuomo’s full statement: Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 15, 2011, 5:56 pm
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Good News/Bad News For Same Sex Marriage
June 15th, 2011

The Assembly intends to vote on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s same-sex marriage program bill today. Cuomo provided the chamber with a message of necessity and the bill is expected to pass.

On the other hand, Senate Republicans met as a conference to discuss whether to bring the bill to a vote in their chamber and after four hours they emerged with no news. “We will continue to conference the issue tomorrow,” Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos told reporters. The Senate had been scheduled to begin session at 11 this morning.

By on June 15, 2011, 2:45 pm
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Smokers Park?
June 15th, 2011

Marissa Miller filed this post.

Smokers take note: The city’s ban on smoking in parks so far does not apply to Hudson River Park. It is not part of the city’s park system — it is state regulated – and therefore does not fall under its jurisdiction.

That could change, though. The park is in somewhat of a “gray” area and so, according to the parks department, its exemption from the ban is currently under review.

For now, Hudson River Park has refrained from installing the “no smoking” signs found in other city parks. However, some residents in the surrounding neighborhoods worry that it will turn into a smokers “paradise,” infested by smokers from all around the city.

In an e-mail statement, David Katz, vice president of marketing and events at Hudson River Park Trust, wrote, “The state’s Administrative Procedures Act requires us to provide a public review and comment period and a hearing prior to issuing or amending our park rules. We are not allowed to ban smoking until this process is completed. At our most recent board meeting, we were asked to commence this process. We expect to hold a public hearing this summer on a proposal to ban smoking in the park.”

So, New Yorkers will have to wait and see if this park will remain a smoker’s oasis for much longer.

It was reported elsewhere that Battery Park City would also participate in this exemption from the ban as it also falls under state jurisdiction. However, a spokesperson from the Battery Park City Authority confirmed, “Battery Park City will follow New York City Park rules and regulations” and thus abide by the smoking ban.

By on June 15, 2011, 9:14 am
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Tapping a Labor Fund
June 14th, 2011

Talks are continuing over whether the city labor unions would give the city money from a rainy day healthcare fund to go avert layoffs of 4,100 teachers and other city workers, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said today. Any money might also go to save some fire companies and seniors centers now slated to be shut.

At a press conference before todays scheduled council meeting, Quinn made it clear the idea of using money from the fund had come from the Municipal Labor Committee and its chairman, Harry Nespoli.

“I want to be vey clear how very grateful I am to Harry Nespoli and the Labor Council that they are even entertaining” helping the city government in this way, Quinn said.

She said the idea came up after “I said to Harry, ‘we need help,’… Harry said, “‘yes, let me see what we can do,’ and they got back to me.”

Currently, Quinn said, the labor group is considering what its specific proposal might be. Once they do, discussions can proceed from there, she said.

Nespoli and the committee are reportedly planning to discuss the idea tomorrow.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 14, 2011, 5:56 pm
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