U.S. Rep. and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-Sunnyside, Astoria, College Point, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Corona, Woodside, The Bronx) and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D-New York) held a a discussion in Woodside yesterday with tenants about their rights and efforts to stop predatory landlords.
Crowley, a Woodside native himself, explained the roundtable’s purpose was to understand local concerns about not just the cost of rent, but also questionable acts committed by landlords.
He elaborated that the Woodside he grew up in was known as a “bedroom community,” a title he wants to maintain. He advocated for a tax benefit for rentiers, like the current one given to homeowners, found in The Rent Relief Act introduced last year.
“We need to ensure the rents are stabilized and they are not increasing at a rate at which is not affordable for our constituents,” he said.
The discussion held next door attracted several residents who were given both advice in English and Spanish. Schneiderman said the issues from tenants such as rent tied to major capital improvements has been a major problem. Landlords can increase rent to cover changes in an apartment or in multiple units.
He explained that this crisis comes from two significant causes. First, a boom in the real estate market “unlike anything we’ve seen before.” The other was the federal government’s lack of assistance for residents.
“This is where Congressman Crowley has really been a leader in New York in calling this out and flagging this for us. It’s something we have to address,” said Schneiderman.
During a question-and-answer session, the Attorney General acknowledged there was an investigation in Jared Kushner’s real estate company over its false number of rent-stabilized apartments. Local lawmakers have accused the firm of driving tenants out because of this tactic.
“We’re meeting, I believe, after this with tenants relating to that particular set of buildings in that particular matter. This is something we’re aware of and inquiring into right now,” Schneiderman said.
Rep. Crowley added that he found the revelation surprising as two of the buildings investigated are in his district. The 14th Congressional District leader had not heard anything from residents. Therefore, he welcomed the investigation and suggested constituents reach out to officials with any concerns.
“We know this is a crisis and we know these practices are happening. But unless we’re notified about it, we can’t act to help them in that practice,” Crowley said.