Locals Join Albany Rent Law Protest

Albany Rent Law Rally 1Khristopher J. Brooks Protesters at the rally.

ALBANY — Hundreds of New York City residents, including 33 from the East Village, converged on the state Capitol Building Monday trying to urge state lawmakers to renew and tweak the laws that govern apartment rent prices.

Leaders of the Cooper Square Committee, Real Rent Reform and Good Old Lower East Side, organized the rally, which muscled its way into the building, past legislators, up steps and eventually to the office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Shouting “Fight! Fight! Fight! Housing is right!” the rally participants started on the fourth floor and then moved to whichever other corridor could accommodate them. They made noise, blew whistles, waved posters, banged on doors and clogged hallways.

“Right now, in Albany, our presence and our demands are being heard more than ever, more than I can ever remember,” said Wasim Lone, housing services director for Good Old Lower East Side.

At issue is how and at what rate landlords should be allowed to raise rent in future years. In its current form, the rent laws allow New York City landlords to dramatically increase the rent of a property immediately after a tenant has moved out. This practice, known as “vacancy decontrol” has resulted in roughly 300,000 empty rental units across New York City, said Marina Metalios, 48, a volunteer with Real Rent Reform.

Rally participants Monday said they do not want the law simply renewed as is. Instead, they want the vacancy decontrol destroyed. The State Assembly passed a bill in April that the group supports, but that bill has yet to pass the Senate.

“The law cannot be renewed as is because we will lose more units,” Mr. Lone said. “The Republicans are saying ‘OK, OK, we’ll just renew the law, but we’re saying ‘No, we want them strengthened.’”

During the rally on the fourth floor, State Senator Bill Perkins, a Democrat from Harlem, addressed the crowd, saying Senate Republicans are slowing the process of rent law reform.

After a speech from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, the crowd moved to the front of the governor’s office.

Albany Rent Law Rally 2Khristopher J. Brooks Demonstrators inside the Capitol.

Mr. Lone, 56, said the group rallied in front of Mr. Cuomo’s office because the governor has publicly supported tweaking rent laws in a way that benefits tenants. Rally participants hope their presence Monday will convince the governor to urge other legislators into renewing the laws with tenant-friendly amendments.

Vanessa Zannis was one of the participants. Ms. Zannis has been living in the East Village for 33 years, back when the rent for her apartment was $200 a month. Now that her rent is close to $800 a month, Ms. Zannis, 50, said she’s concerned with how much higher her landlord will be available to raise the price.

“I moved into that neighborhood when it was a slum, right after the recession of the 70’s,” said Ms. Zannis, a music teacher. “We built that neighborhood from scratch and now that everyone from around the world wants to live in the famous East Village, my landlord thinks he can jack up my rent.”

The laws that govern rent prices expire Wednesday. A straight renewal would mean the same rules that govern rent since 2003 will remain in place for an undetermined time.

State lawmakers have until midnight Wednesday to renew the law. If they do not come to an agreement, lawmakers can grant themselves a one-day extension to continue negotiations. However, the legislation session ends on Monday.