Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Our building & neighbor in West Side Spirit report

West Side Spirit

An Apartment as a Lifeline

By Megan Finnegan

Nery Cruz has lived in her apartment on 97th Street for 31 years, and she has never been more fearful for her future.

Cruz, 60, shares her two-bedroom apartment with her daughter, a teacher with an Ivy League education and a master’s degree who can’t find work. Cruz works full time as a social worker at a hospital. She just renewed her lease again, for $679 a month.

While the price might seem like a steal, it’s all that Cruz says she can afford, and she’s terrified of what will happen if rent-regulation laws aren’t renewed and strengthened this year.

“If the rent goes up, where are we going to live? We’re going to end up in shelters,” said Cruz. She said that rents on some neighbors’ apartments, after they have been vacated, have been jacked up to the $3000 range, forever pushing them out of rent regulation.

Cruz fears that her landlord wants her to leave in order do the same thing to her apartment.

Nery Cruz fears what will happen to poor people in the city if rent-control laws expire. Photo by Andrew Schwartz

“The superintendent told me last year, oh you know a lot of people are moving,” said Cruz. The landlord has offered current tenants $50,000 to vacate their apartments and give up their stabilized leases, but Cruz said she still couldn’t afford to leave her home of over three decades.

She said that she’s seen landlords in similar buildings in her neighborhood install cheap updates, like linoleum flooring, and then adjust the rent to over the $2,000 regulation threshold. Lately she’s had a hard time getting things fixed in her apartment, and she suspects that its all part of a tactic to get her to move out.

Cruz’s greatest concern is that her rent will suddenly skyrocket to five or six times what it is now, as she’s seen happen to apartments in her area brought to market rate.

“I cannot be paying rent, with the salary that I have, that is $3,800,” Cruz said. “There’s no place to live in New York because of the rent. The salaries, they don’t go up, they go down.”

West Side Spirit,

See also "Rents Through the Roof,"