Government briefs

Bloomberg, Silver lay blame for WTC stalemate

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver singled out the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for dragging out the World Trade Center redevelopment talks with developer Larry Silverstein. “We are disappointed that we have yet to reach agreement to address the latest impasse at the World Trade Center site,” a joint release from Bloomberg and Silver said last month. According to the New York Daily News, sources said Bloomberg and Silver are pushing the Port Authority to guarantee more financing for Silverstein. The developer wants financing for two skyscrapers, but the Port Authority only wants to back one tower. Without an agreement, officials on both sides fear that Silverstein could delay integral components of the site, including the main access roadway and transportation hub.

Affordable home program moving slowly in the city

Housing advocates say that while the Obama administration’s mortgage modification program could help thousands of New Yorkers, it has been slow to get off the ground, and the majority of people who have applied for help have yet to hear whether they will receive it. The Center for New York City Neighborhoods, a public-private agency that connects homeowners with counselors approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has overseen 400 applications for the Making Home Affordable program, and as of last month, only about 100 of those mortgages had been modified, the New York Times reported.

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Senator’s switch may have killed tenant legislation

In the weeks before New York State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. abandoned the Democratic caucus and shifted power to the Republicans, Senate Democrats were poised to vote on expanding rent regulation and tenant rights, including legislation that would have abolished vacancy decontrol. Espada, chairman of the State Housing Committee, assured Democratic leaders he would take up the bill, but announced he opposed the legislation last month when he joined the Republicans. Tenant advocates say with Republican control of the Senate, the legislation won’t pass, and they believe there is little chance the bill will come up for vote next year.

Rent board approves increases

The Rent Guidelines Board approved increases for rent-stabilized units last month, authorizing an increase of 3 percent on one-year leases and 6 percent on two-year leases. According to the Times, after a motion for a rent freeze that was put forward by a tenant representative on the board was struck down, dozens of tenants walked out in protest. In the weeks leading up to the meeting, a number of elected officials joined the call for a rent freeze, including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Comptroller William Thompson. The board has never approved a rent freeze since it was established in 1969.

Mortgage programs prey on troubled homeowners

The economic crisis has spawned several companies that prey on homeowners who are having trouble paying their mortgages. The companies promise to save borrowers’ homes from foreclosure in exchange for an upfront fee, which is often thousands of dollars. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said he plans to sue one company, Uniondale-based Amerimod, and plans to investigate 14 other loan modification companies that his office received 50 complaints about, the Times reported. The Federal Trade Commission has brought about 11 cases against similar companies in the last year and sent warning letters to 71 more.