Mayor: “I don’t agree with a rent strike”

De Blasio says withholding payment would hurt landlords and tenants

New York /
Apr.April 17, 2020 05:10 PM
From left: tenant organizer Cea Weaver, Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Communities for Change's Jonathan Westin (Credit: de Blasio by Scott Heins/Getty Images; Media Sanctuary; New York Communities for Change)

From left: tenant organizer Cea Weaver, Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Communities for Change’s Jonathan Westin (Credit: de Blasio by Scott Heins/Getty Images; Media Sanctuary; New York Communities for Change)

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday sided with landlords against tenant advocates who are pushing for a massive rent strike next month.

“I agree with those saying the state needs to act. I don’t agree with a rent strike because there’s too many folks who are trying to keep their buildings going,” the mayor said on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show.

De Blasio continued, “There’s a lot of smaller landlords in particular who if they don’t have any income coming in, they’re not going to be able to keep their buildings going. And then you have a very bad situation for everyone.” The mayor is a landlord himself: He and his wife have several tenants between their two row houses in Park Slope.

Tenant organizer Cea Weaver, who is helping to round up strike participants, told The Real Deal this week that collective action by tenants would put pressure on Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has insisted tenants pay rent if they can. “We are trying to get the millions of people who are already not paying rent to do that together,” she said.

And Jonathan Westin, executive director of advocacy group New York Communities for Change, said, “We are forcing a confrontation. If millions do not pay their rent, the state will have to step in.”

But de Blasio would not sign on to that strategy. Instead, he reiterated his call for the state to extend its 90-day moratorium on evictions for 60 days beyond the coronavirus crisis and to allow renters to tap into their security deposits to cover rent.

He also repeated his advice to the city’s Rent Guidelines Board to freeze rents for rent-stabilized apartments. When asked if the state could do the same for non-regulated apartments, de Blasio said he was unsure if Albany has that authority.

De Blasio added that he has suggested measures would “achieve the same impact.”

“We’’ve been pushing the state to come up with a plan that if you’re unable to pay rent, you don’t have to until you have income back and then you pay on a payment plan to repay over time,” he said.

Landlord groups called the rent-strike effort “disgusting” and said it could damage tenants’ credit ratings and lead to a flood of eviction cases once the state’s moratorium is lifted.

Tenant advocates in Pennsylvania are also pushing for a rent strike May 1.

Write to Kathryn Brenzel at [email protected]


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