Tenant representatives on the city’s Rent Guidelines Board are renewing calls to suspend its proceedings this year.
Sheila Garcia, director of the Community Action for Safe Apartments, said she and the other RGB tenant representative, Leah Goodridge, have asked the board’s chair to halt the body’s meetings, the first of which is being held remotely Thursday.
Mayor Bill de Blasio previously called for a suspension of the board this year to freeze rents on stabilized apartments at their current rates. Under state law, de Blasio doesn’t have authority to cancel board meetings. The mayor announced last week that the meetings would instead be held remotely, citing “complex legal matters” and that the Cuomo administration “wasn’t sure” suspending the board was the right approach.
But Garcia said she and Goodridge are again calling on the mayor and governor to halt the board’s proceedings. She said it shouldn’t continue as if “it’s business as usual,” considering that New Yorkers are being hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We need to be bolder and more creative,” she said. “If not, we’re going to see our city decimated.”
She said making the meetings virtual takes away crucial interactions between tenants and board members.
A tenant advocacy group, the Rent Justice Coalition, is also calling for a rent freeze and pushing for a cancellation of the board’s hearings. In the event that they are held, the group plans to call for a 3 percent rollback in rents for one-year leases and a 2 percent decrease for two-year leases.
Last month, landlord groups had called on the city to postpone RGB’s meetings. Scott Walsh, a project directorr at Lendlease and one of two landlord representatives on the board, said he supported the plan to meet virtually.
He noted that the coronavirus pandemic will be on the board’s mind, but that the body’s mandate is narrow, so elected officials should address broader policy issues such as affordability and unemployment.
“The mayor has had a consistent drum beat of zero-percent increase,” Walsh said. “Regardless of what the data says.”
Write to Kathryn Brenzel at [email protected]