13 arrested at affordable housing style=”col

By Amy Tennery | July 12, 2010 07:30PM

Advocates charge Senate Democrats with a disregard for tenants’ rights

State Senator Carl Kruger (top left), State Senator Pedro Espada (bottom left) and activists at the protest this afternoon

About a dozen activists were arrested outside government offices Downtown today, during a protest criticizing the Democratic-controlled State Senate for failing to vote on a 10-bill package of legislation that could potentially strengthen rent-stabilization practices in New York City.

The protest, which was led by umbrella activist group Real Rent Reform Campaign, included approximately 200 activists from various community groups, according to Mario Mazzoni, the lead organizer with tenants’ rights group Metropolitan Council on Housing, and one of the people arrested.

He was one of 13 people arrested around 1 p.m. and charged with disorderly conduct at 250 Broadway, where the State Senate and New York City Housing Authority have offices, according to a spokesperson for the New York Police Department.

The State Senate hasn’t yet voted against the legislation, which includes provisions to repeal vacancy decontrol, and Mazzoni said that its failure to vote at all shows a lack of concern for tenants’ rights.

“We’re demanding they pass the package of tenant [legislation] before they pass the budget,” Mazzoni said, noting his organization believes some Senate Democrats could be stalling on a vote on the legislation as a means to avoid voting on it at all. New York State Senate Majority Leader and chair of the housing committee, Pedro Espada and finance committee chair Carl Kruger “have absolutely been a problem,” Mazzoni said.

According to New York State government publication the Capitol, the two have been in cahoots to shuffle tenant-friendly housing legislation out of key votes.

Requests for comment from Espada and Kruger were not immediately returned.

Austin Shafran, a spokesperson for State Senate Democrats, said that his party has been meeting with both landlords and tenants groups to determine the best way to guide the legislation.

“We passed the HIV rent cap and other tenants’ rights legislation and we’re going to continue to work… extremely hard,” Shafran said of the Senate Democrats’ approach to the housing legislation agenda.

As for Real Rent Reforms’ demand that the housing vote come before the budget, Shafran said that was unlikely to occur.

“If you didn’t pass the budget, you wouldn’t have appropriation for anything,” Shafran said.