With LES Gentrification at Critical Mass, the Time is Now to Pass Universal Rent Control [OP-ED]

Posted on: May 17th, 2019 at 5:05 am by

Bob Angles, a resident living in one of the affordable units of Essex Crossing, penned the following editorial.

Secondary displacement, better known as gentrification, has been creeping up and down our streets for the past decade. Yet, with the arrival of thousands of new, unregulated apartments between the Extell tower (i.e. One Manhattan Square) and Essex Crossing, our working-class community is bordering on extinction.

My wife was one of the initial tenants in the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, which meant we were lucky enough to move into one of the new affordable units at Essex Crossing. A handful of our neighbors have been able to secure stable housing in this new construction—but the bigger impact of what it means for our community cannot be overstated.

As property values rise, landlords are incentivized to jack up the rent on their unregulated units and harass regulated tenants out of the neighborhood. The hundreds of Croman tenants, the tenants of 85 Bowery, and hundreds of other neighbors can attest that a glass tower doesn’t need to be built next door in order for its impact to be felt. The socio-economic shift that these towers bring is already taking its toll.

But we have reason to hope. One of the surest ways to stop displacement is by passing a package of nine bills that will codify Universal Rent Control. Both regulated and unregulated apartments alike would gain historic protections from guaranteed lease renewal, to ending landlords’ use of necessary construction to hike rents.

These bills are up against a tight timeline—on June 15 the current rent laws expire. Historically, every time the rent laws are about to end, the real estate industry lobbies our legislators to create more loopholes that displace more tenants. But with the largest Democratic majority in the State Senate in over a century, we have an opportunity to rewrite the laws so that they help combat the pressures we’re facing from over-development and gentrification.

A coalition of tenants from across New York State have rallied together for the past two years to fight for Universal Rent Control. Each of the nine bills have a robust number of sponsors in the Assembly and the Senate, but we need to keep up pressure to make sure more back-door deals aren’t cut. From now until June 15, we need to be calling and emailing our State Assemblymembers and State Senators to let them know we want to end the displacement of our community, and pass all nine bills to enact Universal Rent Control.

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