Phil: There is no way that this winter is *ever* going to end as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I don’t see any other way out. He’s got to be stopped. And I have to stop him.
Yesterday’s Part 6 of the Rent Stabilization epic brought us the vote, but not the full story of how it happened.
Sources for this post
The Indypendent (May 11, 2005; powder-blue font)
New York Post (June 24, 2009; brown font)
New York Times (June 24, 2010; violet font)
New York Times (June 27, 2011; yellow font)
The Real Deal (December, 2011; navy blue font)
New York Observer guest editorial (May 14, 2014; peach font)
New York Daily News (June 11, 2014; emerald font)
New York Daily News (June 17, 2014; olive font)
New York Daily News (June 23, 2014; black font)
New York Post (June 23, 2014; teal font)
New York Post (June 24, 2014; orange font)
Curbed New York (June 24, 2014; lavender font)
New York Post (June 25, 2014; gray font)
Crain’s New York (July 9, 2014; magenta font)
The event was indeed a circus:
The anger (perhaps some genuine hate) was palpable. In addition to chants of “What do we want? Rent freeze! When do we want it? Now!” there was “Make history” (which technically happened), “Tenants united will never be defeated,” and “Rollback” (rent adjustments of negative 6% and negative 4% respectively were in a proposal that was not voted on).
3D. A profile in courage
After all the hearings, all the chanting and shouting, all the intimidation and political position-taking, and with a board six of whose members were appointed by the mayor, it should have been a done deal. Courageously, it wasn’t:
In a surprising act of independence, the board voted 5-4 to raise rents on nearly 1 million rent-stabilized apartments by 1% for new one-year leases and 2.75 percent for two-year leases.
As Mr. Flax said in the hearing, just before his vote:
“This moment is a nightmare,” Mr. Flax said amid a cacophony of shouts from both tenant and landlord advocates in the audience.
“Unlike anyone else on this board, I’ve had intense, intense pressure from both the right and from the left. Some of it dirty, some of it principled.”
A man who faced even worse pressure, some of it dirty, some of it principled
Despite this pressure, similar to that faced by Reconstruction Kansas Senator Edmund G. Ross, Mr. Flax did the one thing that flabbergasted the audience:
In the end, he explained, “I have to vote my conscience.”
Mr. Flax, who understandably has categorically refused to be interviewed after the vote, is well qualified to look at things from the public perspective.
Mr. Flax left town immediately after the vote. In response to an email message seeking comment, he said, “I apologize but I am not making myself available to the press.”
Flax earned his vacation
Mr. Flax is thoroughly qualified for his role. He’s the downstate (i.e. metro NYC) regional Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) officer for M&T Bank, where he’s worked for 21 years, after graduating with a BA in Labor Studies (Penn State 1982) and an MS in City and Regional Planning (Pratt Institute). And he cares about New York City.
Mr. Flax being recognized by the St. Nick’s Alliance
“I have to say this moment is a nightmare,” he said before voting “yes” on the hikes. [Mr. Flax has a three-year term ending in December, 2016; I suspect it will now be eventful. – Ed.]
In a room full of people who just wanted an answer, Mr. Flax actually did his job:
“It costs money to run buildings and I do believe that my proposal is sincerely a historic change,” Flax said at a raucous meeting at Cooper Union in the East Village.
Furious tenants, witnessing an unprecedented freeze slipping away, began screaming that Flax was a “sellout.”
Isn’t it typical that when a person does something based on his conscience and not for self-interest, the only smear people can think of is that he’s a sellout?
It’s not clear what de Blasio will do with his own appointee, Steve Flax, who proved to be the swing vote in favor of the small increases.
Fredo, you’re nothing to me
“We will look at the future when the time comes in terms of the RGB,” de Blasio said at a press conference Tuesday.
The mayor described Flax as a “person of integrity,” but added, “I disagree with his vote.”
I doubt Mr. Flax will be invited to any more mayoral events
Can he sleep with the political fishes?
4. Those who forget the past
Phil: What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?
Ralph: That about sums it up for me.
4A. Who says there have been giveaways, anyway?
To hear the various advocates, the last few years have been the landlord’s pig fest:
Does this look like landlords have been gouging?
“The range being considered is the lowest in history, and that’s a reflection of the affordability crisis we are facing as a city,” City Hall spokesman Wiley Norvell said when asked whether de Blasio still supports a rent freeze. “Tenants are clearly struggling after so many years of significant rent increases.”
Either Mr. Norvell’s simply wrong or he has an unusual definition of ‘significant’.
If my boss says it’s significant, it’s significant, okay?
Only hours before the meeting, de Blasio told reporters at a Queens bill signing that his predecessor, Mike Bloomberg, had been too generous to landlords.
Not ‘for’ mayor, ‘is’ mayor … and there’s a big difference between the two
I went back through the newspaper accounts and this is what I’ve found for year on year CPI (I used May-to-May as approximating what the Board would have available) versus rent guidelines board annual increases:
“We need a course correction — a one-time action to clearly rectify the mistakes of the past,” de Blasio said, urging a freeze.
Make-up calls? What is this, middle-school soccer?
[Continued tomorrow in Part 8.]