By Sarina Trangle
City Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn) wants to save rent-regulated housing one statistic at a time.
Reynoso, whose north Brooklyn district includes Ridgewood, introduced a bill requiring the city Department of Buildings to alert community boards and Council members within 10 days of receiving an application to alter or demolish rent-regulated homes in their districts.
He said the measure would allow leaders to attempt to prevent plans that jeopardize regulated apartments, but more realistically the notifications would help him and colleagues compile data on which neighborhoods’ housing stock is targeted and where rent-regulated homes are being lost.
“We’re seeing the displacement of tenants by landlords through neglect, harassment and disrepair,” Reynoso said, noting that sometimes expensive renovations are done as a way to drive up rent and eventually transition apartments into market-rate dwellings. “It’s more of a tracking system. It’s for us to communicate and possibly try to prevent it from happening.”
The city Rent Guidelines Board votes on increases to rents for homes that fall under rent-regulation programs, which were designed to protect tenants from sharp increases and guarantee them the right to renew leases.
But such units can be offered at market rate when they are vacated or when the rent has risen to $2,500 or more and the state approves such a move.
The legislation has eight co-sponsors, including city Public Advocate Letitia James and Council members Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) and Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills).
Raquel Namuche, part of the Ridgewood Tenants Union seeking to preserve affordable homes in the neighborhood, said the bill may help elected officials with oversight, such as confirming that repairs cost as much as landlords claim.
“It sounds like a great idea,” said Namuche, who lives in a rent-stabilized home and is pleased with her landlord. “Many tenants would benefit from this.”
But the Rent Stabilization Association of New York City, which represents landlords and management companies of regulated homes, was less enthusiastic about the bill.
Frank Ricci, director of government affairs for the RSA, said the organization worried new notification requirements could tie up DOB staff, who he said already struggle to handle applications in a timely fashion.
“This seems like asking the DOB to do the work the City Council person’s office or community board’s office should do,” Ricci said, saying the DOB currently notes when demolition and renovation applications are filed on its website. “They’re already very backlogged …. If this is going to take away from the manpower they’re already far behind on, I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.