Rent Board Hears From Tenants

IMG_0237Khristopher J. Brooks Adele Bender during today’s hearing.

Adele Bender is a quiet woman with short red hair who lives in a rent-stabilized apartment in Forest Hills, Queens.

The 80-year-old widow took an hour-long trip to the East Village this morning to tell the Rent Guidelines Board how she and her neighbors cannot afford to pay higher rent.

“I’m here for the concerns of senior citizens,” Ms. Bender said. “Social Security has not been increased, but rent has gone up. I have a friend, I can tell you right now, who gets $1,400 in Social Security a month and she has to pay for expensive drugs. Her pills are several hundred dollars. Look, I know we’re here talking about housing and not health, but most times they are connected.”

Ms. Bender and several other New York City residents have piled into Cooper Union’s Great Hall today hoping to convince board members not to increase rent prices this year.

More than 100 people from across the city have pre-registered to address board members and even more New Yorkers will arrive later today to speak to board members informally.

IMG_0169Khristopher J. Brooks Members of the board during the hearing.

This will be the last meeting that the board hosts before making a final decision on rent price increases this year. Board members took a preliminary vote last month to increase rent prices from 3 percent to 5.75 percent for tenants signing one-year apartment leases and from 6 percent to 9 percent for those signing a two-year lease.

Board member Adriene Holder said earlier this morning that public testimony directly affects how she votes for the increases.

“Some of the themes of their testimonies are similar every year, but some years the themes resonate more than others,” Ms. Holder said.

Ms. Holder said during previous testimonies she has heard residents say that their apartment building conditions are poor and unsanitary.

“So that says to me that with the increases the owners are given, they’re not investing back into their building,” Ms. Holder said.

Ms. Bender of Queens received applause from audience members after her testimony this morning. She said raising rent prices would force her and her neighbors to make tough budget decisions between rent, food and medicine.

“Senior citizens are a growing population here,” Ms. Bender said. “So I hope you will take my testimony seriously.”