Photo via nysenate.gov
State Senator Leroy Comrie

As part of a push to pass a package of laws that would protect tenants from rising rents, landlord harassment, and unjust evictions across the state, tenant advocates affiliated with Housing Justice for All stormed state Senator Leroy Comrie’s Albany office on Tuesday to demand that he agree to nine of the proposed bills.

In just under one month, the laws controlling New York’s rent-stabilized apartments will expire. On May 14, tenants’ rights advocacy groups from across the state gathered in Albany to pressure the holdouts from the Democratic-controlled Senate to enact the legislation before the expiration date.

The protesters targeted Comrie, along with several other senators, because he so far has only demonstrated support for two bills in the package. The two that Comrie has shown support for would prevent preferential rent hikes for tenants and the end vacancy bonus.

Comrie was out of the office when the activists showed up, but the Housing Justice for All posted video footage to Twitter of the protesters confronting Derrick Davis, Comrie’s chief of staff.

In the video, a protester identified as a former landlord talks the state’s policy of allowing landlords to justify rent hikes on rent controlled housing through major capital improvements (MCI), or apartment repairs and improvements. The law aims to eliminate the program, which it argues provides an easy loophole for landlords to exploit by inflating their renovation costs in order to boost the rent.

Comrie told QNS that he is actively deliberating and going to meetings to talk about seven of the rent control bills, including the MCI bill, in order to shape them in a way that he sees as fair. He shrugged off the protest, indicating that he was going to take his time to decide on the remaining laws.

“What happened today was theatrics. It was not substantive,” Comrie said. “I’ve met the Housing Coalition in two different meetings in my district. I promised them a follow-up meeting, which was supposed to take place at the end of the month.”

Comrie said that while he does think that the loss of rent-stabilized apartments is a problem in his district, he is also concerned for the welfare of landlords. Comrie intends to make sure that laws do not burden church developers, nonprofit developers and small and minority landlords.

“The landlord who is trying to hold on to the few buildings that they have needs to be given every opportunity to have their needs heard and vetted also,” Comrie said.

Though Comrie emphasized that he is committed to thoroughly assessing the laws before he makes up his mind, he also made clear that he wants these laws to be addressed before the end of the session.

“I enjoy any debate and strong conversation and I’ll be more than willing to meet with anybody that wants to rationally talked about these issues so we can get to a resolution,” Comrie said.

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