Friday, April 24, 2009

Report on the NYS Assembly Hearing

What a turnout at the April 23rd NYS Assembly Hearing on Mitchell-Lama laws! This building did itself proud. We had Rosa & Paul Delgado, Flora Francis, Barbara Geller, Richard Jordan, Gregory Murray, Eve Posen, and possibly more (Denise Rivera was supposed to have come after Sue left at 3:15).

Mitchell-Lama tenants and co-op residents packed the NYS Assembly's Housing Committee hearing on Mitchell-Lamas.

Click here for some of the testimony given. The first set concern rentals; the last one is about co-ops.

Amy Chan of Tenants & Neighbors and the P.I.E. Coalition brought bright stickers for tenants to wear saying "S.3326" - the number of the Stewart-Cousins bill. (That's the bill that puts all buildings leaving Mitchell-Lama into rent stabilization without "unique or peculiar" increases, without regard to when they were built, and without regard to when they were or will be taken out of the program.)

More than 50 tenants - including seven from our building - came in support of the bill, including its Assembly companion bill, newly-introduced by Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal.

Chairman Vito Lopez seemed a bit nonplussed at the complete unity: all the tenants supported the same bill, as well as A.6706, the moratorium of all buy-outs (including co-op privatization) until 2011. In contrast to past hearings, he noted that contracts and arrangements of all sorts are routinely changed by the Legislature: that's what legislatures do. (Since that had been a basis for his earlier concerns about the Stewart-Cousins bill, that may be of some help to tenants now.)

The meeting was somewhat overwhelmed by roughly 15 residents of East Midtown Plaza Co-op who all spoke supporting privatization. (They were joined by two members of the Cadman Towers Co-op board) They described their "investment" in their Mitchell-Lama co-op apartments as equity, and noted the things they could do if their investments represented the current market value of the apartments. As pointed out by Assembly Member Michael Benjamin - and in the excellent testimony of Jeanne Poindexter, a resident of the same development who opposes privatization, Mitchell-Lamas were built to provide affordable housing, not to provide equity to private residents. In fact the "deal" - or the contract - stated that they could not sell their apartments for more than they paid for them. And as Bernie Cylich noted, the return on their "investment" was low-cost housing, including low maintenance costs made possible by tax abatements and low-interest mortgages over decades.

By about 3:15 PM, there were many tenants and a few cooperators left to testify, but attendance was dwindling.

Chairman Lopez kept repeating the need to listen to both sides of the story - but evidently there was no other side to support for S.3326.

Tenants have to keep up the pressure to make that bill a reality. Our building is part of the P.I.E. Campaign, so we're working hard on it. If you want to participate, contact Sue.

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