Vicki Been says good cause eviction measure shouldn’t just reflect “flavor of the day”

She also weighed in on land use issues and the Amazon headquarters tax breaks

Deputy Mayor Vicki Been (Credit: NYU and iStock)
Deputy Mayor Vicki Been (Credit: NYU and iStock)

Deputy Mayor Vicki Been on Tuesday reiterated concern that changes to the rent law might’ve gone too far, and expressed doubt about the necessity of passing a good cause eviction bill down the road.

Speaking at a Crain’s breakfast, Been said that while the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 helped “stem what were a lot of abuses” of the state’s rent regulation law, the city is watching to see if the consequences landlords are predicting will come to fruition. She stopped short, however, of explicitly agreeing that limiting Major Capital Improvements and Individual Apartment Improvements would lead to the “deterioration” of the city’s housing stock.

“We helped to right a pendulum that had gone too far in the wrong direction,” she said. “We will see as we move forward over, really, the next year, did we go too far, did the legislature go too far in clamping down on MCIs, IAIs? Is that dissuading investment? Does that mean that our apartments are not well maintained?”

“Knowing the way things work, I would assume we swung a little too far,” she said.

Her comments echoed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent remarks on the rent law, which was passed in June and dramatically changed how landlords can increase rents on their rent-stabilized apartments. He told Crain’s last week that the law likely came with a “variety of consequences,” and “if there’s any other effects, you know, expected or unexpected, we have to deal with them.”

Elected officials have already been forced to address the potential impact of the law. After news surfaced that Blackstone Group was planning to warehouse apartments and halt renovations, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development said it would conduct a review of whether the private equity giant’s actions violated its affordable housing agreement with the city. Blackstone subsequently said it would rent out all apartments.

Been also weighed in on the good cause eviction bill, which wasn’t passed this legislative session. The measure would’ve prevented landlords from evicting tenants without “good cause” — such as not paying rent — and would limit rent increases.

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“I’m not sure what the problem is that we’re actually trying to solve,” she said of the measure. “I want to be sure that the solution is a solution that fits the problem, and is not just a solution that we borrowed from another city or is a flavor of the day.”

During Tuesday’s event, Been also acknowledged that the city’s property tax system might not be overhauled during de Blasio’s administration. She said the “foundation can be laid,” but that it would likely be an issue that next mayoral contenders will need to grapple with. Last year, de Blasio launched an advisory commission to address tax reform. Though he pushed for a tax system overhaul during his 2013 campaign, the mayor has acknowledged that reform will likely take a few years and legislation on both the state and city level.

Been declined to state her opinion on the mayor’s recent effort to require all developers looking to construct hotels to obtain a special permit. She also wouldn’t broach the subject of timing — de Blasio asked City Planning to look into implementing the permitting system citywide after the Hotel Trades Council backed his presidential bid.

“I think the hurricane is likely to hit Alabama,” she said, referring to President Trump’s incorrect assertions that Hurricane Dorian would hit the state and indicating that she wouldn’t answer the question. She then said she didn’t want to get involved in “presidential issues” and said she was waiting to confer with “people smarter than me on that” before reaching a conclusion on whether the permits should be required.

The discussion also turned to ongoing land use battles in the city. She said the Uniform Land Use Review Process has become a “gauntlet” and that many people are frustrated with the process. Been said she didn’t support Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s opposition to rental towers planned at 247 Cherry Street, 260 South Street and 259 Clinton Street. A state Supreme Court judge in August ruled in favor of Brewer and community groups, who argued that the projects should go through ULURP before moving forward.

Been also noted that in the wake of Amazon ditching Long Island City, the city’s Economic Development Corporation is reviewing as-of-right tax incentives that the e-commerce giant stood to receive, including the Relocation and Employment Assistance Program. She said the city is also taking a look at the J-51 program.