New York City consistently ranks among the country's most expensive cities, making it hard for working families and middle-income people to live here. Most city residents are renters, making them vulnerable to an unpredictable, out-of-control market. That's why I have been fighting since I was elected to strengthen current rent regulations and protect tenants' rights.
I was the sponsor on many of the bills that were passed in February 2009 as part of a Rent Regulation legislative package. One of those bills amends the Local Emergency Rent Control Act to give New York City the ability to extend protections to tenants that are not provided by the state. New York City has a unique situation when it comes to housing being subjected to pressures of overdevelopment and pricing tenants out of their homes and neighborhoods. New York City needs the authority to extend and strengthen rent controls.
Another bill in that legislative package repeals vacancy decontrol (A.2005), a policy which encourages landlords to push tenants out of their homes through harassment and then proceed to inflate the cost of renovating the apartment so that it reaches the $2,000 threshold, whereas the apartment's rent becomes de-regulated. Over 300,000 rent stabilized apartments have been removed from regulation requirements in New York City, making it harder for our firefighters, police officers, nurses and teachers, to live where they work. I am dedicated to reversing this trend and increasing the presence of hard-working, middle-class, public servants in our neighborhoods.
I have introduced bill (A.1260), which makes the lower re-determined rent retroactive to the date of the loss of income, allowing widowed, low income seniors to maintain their apartments. When a senior loses their spouse it is not only emotionally stressful it is also financially stressful. If the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) benefit is not re-determined in a timely manner, the widowed senior faces the reality of having to leave their home because they can no longer afford it. This will allow the widowed spouse to adjust their benefit to reflect the changes in their income and allow them to stay in their homes.
I have also introduced a bill (A.4256) which requires a landlord to hold a public forum with his tenants prior to applying for a building permit to place a wireless cell antenna on top of the building. The superfluous construction of cell antennas on buildings in New York City is becoming a concern to many in my community and in other neighborhoods across the city. My constituents fear that the presence of all these antennas, combined with the lack of regulation of their siting and unknown health effects from the microwaves they emit, could be causing harm to them and their families. There have been no comprehensive studies which can determine whether or not long-term exposure to cell antenna emissions can be harmful to the human anatomy. That is why I have introduced bill (A.4255) which would direct the Department of Health, in conjunction with the Department of Environmental Conservation to conduct a study on the effects of long-term exposure to microwave emissions from cell antennas. I have also joined Senator Klein in the introduction of the "wireless facilities siting act" (S.1896/A.5994), which expands on my legislation and would implement a thorough review process before cell antennas can be built.
I will continue to fight for tenants' rights and against abusive landlords. Without rent regulation, only the wealthy would be able to afford living in New York City. We need to keep New York City vibrant and diverse. I will work diligently to take the pressure off struggling families and keep more affordable housing within reach of our hardworking men and women.