Courtesy of Gianaris' office.
Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblyman Brian Barnwell unveil new legislation that would protect tenants from major capital improvement projects.

New legislation introduced by two Queens elected officials on Friday aims to end the Major Capital Improvement (MCI) program, which allows landlords to pass the costs of questionable apartment repairs onto rent-regulated tenants across the city.

State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblyman Brian Barnwell announced this legislation during a press conference in Columbus Circle in Manhattan.

“Too many tenants are priced out of their homes because of MCIs whose only improvement seems to be the landlord’s bottom line,” Gianaris said. “All New Yorkers deserve high-quality, affordable homes and our proposal brings us closer to that goal by ensuring repairs are made without burdening tenants with unreasonable costs.”

The existing MCI program was enacted in the 1970s as a way to incentivize landlords to perform repairs on rent-regulated apartments. Since that time, abuse of the program is well-documented, including being featured in a lengthy New York Times exposé highlighting bad business practices of Donald Trump and his father, Fred, in their real estate business.

In some buildings, MCI increases are so high, they increase rent beyond the $2,700 threshold required to regulate an apartment.

“The Major Capital Improvement program is responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in rent increases on rent-regulated tenants,” Barnwell said. “It is unacceptable that we maintain a program pushing middle- to low-income New Yorkers out of their homes while allowing landlords to continue to make monstrous profits. Under our legislation, landlords will not be able to increase tenants’ rents due to repairs/improvements the landlord should already have made.”

Currently, MCIs must be submitted by landlords for approval by the New York State Department of Homes and Community Renewal. The agency’s standard practice is to approve requests with minimal oversight. Tenants are allowed to challenge increases, but have only 45 days following being given notice of increases to do so. The legislation would eliminate the MCI program and would repeal MCIs issued within the last seven years.

“These MCIs has been affecting the community heavily since 1969. Cosmopolitan tenants along with Woodside On The Move started to fight these ridiculous rent increases in 2017,” No More MCIs Coalition Tenant Leader Nilda Rivera said. “It’s time for the abolishing of the MCIs for all tenants and taking away the power from all greedy landlords.”

Several Queens organizations such as Woodside on the Move, the Catholic Migration Service and the Miktown Center are part of The No More MCIs Coalition, which works with tenant leaders and elected officials to emphasize the urgency to pass legislation that would prevent communities from displacement.

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