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       4                        PUBLIC HEARING:



       8                             Town of Greenburgh Town Hall
                                     177 Hillside Avenue
       9                             Greenburgh, New York

      10                                      Date:  May 28, 2019
                                              Time:  10:00 a.m.

      12      PRESIDING:

      13         Senator Brian Kavanagh

      15      PRESENT:

      16         Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins

      17         Senator David Carlucci

      18         Senator Peter B. Harckham

      19         Senator Shelley B. Mayer

      20         Senator Zellnor Myrie







              SPEAKERS:                               PAGE  QUESTIONS
              Kenneth Finger                            11       17
       3      Member of the Westchester County
                Rent Guidelines Board, and
       4      Chief Counsel to the Building and
                Realty Institute, and,
       5      The Apartment Owners Advisory Council

       6      Jerry Houlihan                            11       17
       7      Apartment Owners Advisory Council

       8      Tina Jackson                              41       53
       9      Elizabeth McGriff                         41       53
      10      Gail Williams                             41       53
      11      Rochester Citywide Tenants Union

      12      Sojourner Salinas                         60       70
              Member Leader
      13      Zeltzyn Sanchez Gomez                     60       70
      14      Community Voices Heard,
                Westchester County Chapter
              RuthAnne Visnauskas                       80       87
      16      Commissioner
              NYS Homes and Community Renewal
              Ava Farkas                               111      121
      18      Executive Director
              Metropolitan Council on Housing
              Reverend Joya Colon-Berezin              111      121
      20      Minister of Christian Education
              Scarsdale Congressional Church
              Christopher Schweitzer                   127      142
      22      Supervising Attorney
              Legal Services of the Hudson Valley
      23        (Yonkers Office)

      24      Tamara Stewart                           127      142
              Tenant Representative
      25      Westchester Rent Guidelines Board


              SPEAKERS (Continued):                   PAGE  QUESTIONS
              Fidela Vasquez                           148      155
       3      Member
              Norberta Guerrero                        148      155
       4      Member
              Teodora Reyes                            148      155
       5      Member
              Make the Road New York
              Carol Danziger                           157      181
       7      Managing Member
              Arthur Court, LLC
              Silvio Solari                            157      181
       9      Former Landlord
              Westchester County
              Kenneth Nilsen                           157      181
      11      Owner
              Nilsen Management Co.
              Laura Case                               207      212
      13      Systems Advocate Westchester
              Disabled on the Move
              Patricia Weems                           213
      15      Community Engagement Committee
              Greenburgh Central School District
              Karen Heim                               213
      17      On behalf of Dennis Hanratty,
                Executive Director
      18      Mount Vernon United Tenants

      19      Lisa DeRosa                              226      245
              A Landlord
              Mike Nukho                               226      245
      21      A Landlord
              GEM Management Partners
              Gene DiResta                             226      245
      23      Member
              Building and Realty Institute




              SPEAKERS (Continued):                   PAGE  QUESTIONS
              Jason Schiciano                          226      245
       4      Co-President
              Levitt-Fuirst Insurance
              Alan Zarestky                            246      252
       6      President
              Et-Al Management
              Julie Weiner (ph.)                       254
       8      A Renter
              Personal Story

      10                           ---oOo---

















       1             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay, ladies and

       2      gentlemen, thank you for being here, and welcome to

       3      this hearing of the Senate Standing Committee on

       4      Housing, Construction, and Community Development.

       5             I'm Brian Kavanagh, Chair of the Committee.

       6             I am joined at the moment by

       7      Senators Harckham and Mayer, and, Senator Carlucci

       8      is also here and will be rejoining us in a moment.

       9             We have a very long witness list, and we also

      10      will have a number of senators joining us throughout

      11      the proceedings.

      12             It is a busy day, and there are several other

      13      hearings going on simultaneously.

      14             This is our fifth hearing on this topic,

      15      which is rent regulation and tenant protection.

      16             And, as many people know, the laws that

      17      currently protect -- that govern and regulate rent

      18      in New York City, and, in selected counties, in

      19      Nassau and Westchester and Rockland, expire on

      20      June 15th.

      21             And, in addition to considering ways we might

      22      strengthen those laws, we are also considering other

      23      ways we might protect tenants.

      24             We are joined, I note in the audience, by

      25      Representative -- Senator Tom Abinanti, whose


       1      district we sit in.

       2             Sorry, did I say -- did I call -- I think

       3      I demoted him to senator.

       4             That would be Assemblymember Tom Abinanti.

       5             And, also, Assemblymember Amy Paulin.

       6             And we do have a representative of Senate

       7      Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, in whose

       8      district we also sit, and she is expected to join us

       9      in person shortly.

      10             So, we're gonna -- actually, let me begin by

      11      just asking if -- any of my colleagues, if they have

      12      any opening comments or remarks before we begin with

      13      the (indiscernible) witness?

      14             SENATOR MAYER:  Well, thank you,

      15      Mr. Chairman.

      16             I want to thank you and our leader for making

      17      sure we had a hearing here in Westchester; the only

      18      one of the ETPA counties in which the hearings have

      19      taken place.

      20             And, certainly, something that -- for myself

      21      and Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who have

      22      27,000 rent-stabilized units in our district, is of

      23      extreme importance to us, and has been throughout

      24      our respective times in the Legislature.

      25             So I look forward to hearing from all who are


       1      stakeholders in this issue.

       2             I think some of -- some of our positions have

       3      been known by the bills that we've co-sponsored, but

       4      I look forward to hearing from all today, and having

       5      a productive conversation on behalf of this very

       6      important issue.

       7             This bill expires on June 15th, so it's

       8      absolutely imperative that we move forward and reach

       9      a resolution before that date.

      10             SENATOR HARCKHAM:  Thank you, Mr. Chair.

      11             Just, very briefly, I want to echo what

      12      Senator Mayer said.

      13             Thank you very much for hosting and holding

      14      this hearing in Westchester.

      15             It's extremely important, and as someone

      16      who's worked with a lot of these stakeholders for

      17      years, I really look forward to the testimony today.

      18             Thank you.

      19             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  And, Senator Carlucci.

      20             SENATOR MAYER:  Excuse me.

      21             Someone in the audience indicated they could

      22      not hear us well.

      23             So if there's a way you could turn up the

      24      volume, I'd appreciate it.

      25             Thank you.


       1             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Senator Carlucci.

       2             SENATOR CARLUCCI:  Well, yeah, I too want to

       3      thank everyone for participating today in this very

       4      important hearing.

       5             I want to thank you Senator Kavanagh, the

       6      Chair of the Housing Committee, for bringing the

       7      hearing here to Westchester County, to hear the

       8      concerns, particularly in the Hudson Valley.

       9             And look forward to working with my

      10      colleagues Senator Mayer and Senator Harckham, to

      11      make sure that we deliver a plan that works for all

      12      of our residents.

      13             So look forward to hearing the testimony

      14      today; thank you for being here.

      15             Thank you.

      16             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you.

      17             Okay, so without further ado, let's bring up

      18      our first witnesses.

      19             So we have Tina Jackson of the Rochester

      20      Citywide Tenants Union, and Elizabeth McGriff,

      21      also of Rochester Citywide Tenants Union, and

      22      Gail Williams as well from the Rochester Citywide

      23      Tenants Union.

      24             OFF-CAMERA SPEAKER:  (Inaudible.)

      25             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.  Should we skip to


       1      the next panel, perhaps?

       2             Okay.

       3             Is -- so are Sojourner Salinas and

       4      Zeltzyn Sanchez Gomez here?

       5             OFF-CAMERA SPEAKER:  (Indiscernible.)

       6             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  They're also

       7      (indiscernible).

       8             Okay.

       9             Let's see.

      10             Do we want --

      11             SENATOR MAYER:  Yeah, that's okay.

      12             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

      13             So why don't we -- is Kenneth Finger and

      14      Jerry Houlihan and Ted Sannella in the room?

      15             KENNETH FINGER:  I'm Kenneth Finger.

      16             I don't think Jerry's here.

      17             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Come on up.

      18             Okay, so just -- while they're getting

      19      settled, just ground rules.

      20             Yes, if you have written testimony, we will

      21      take that and distribute it, and include it as

      22      part -- yeah, if you could bring it up to the panel.

      23             JERRY HOULIHAN:  We only have one copy.

      24             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  That's fine.

      25             We will -- we will consider any written


       1      testimony part of the record today.

       2             Each witness -- we have a very long witness

       3      list, so we're going to have your, sort, main

       4      testimony, we're gonna have an 8-minute period.

       5             There is a clock that witnesses should be

       6      able to see.

       7             We will kind of signal you if you're getting

       8      to the end of that time.

       9             And then there will an additional period for

      10      questions from any senators that have questions.

      11      That will be about a 5-minute period for each

      12      senator, for each panel.

      13             And I do ask -- this is our fifth hearing.

      14             There are some very strong views on this

      15      topic.

      16             We do ask that people-- this is a public

      17      hearing.  We do ask that people refrain from

      18      reacting.

      19             If you hear something that you like, that's

      20      great.

      21             If you hear something that you don't like,

      22      you know, we're here to hear different views.

      23             But please do not applaud, you know, boo, any

      24      of that sort of thing, during the course of this

      25      hearing.


       1             We appreciate that.

       2             So -- and then, each witness, if you could

       3      begin by stating your name and any affiliations you

       4      want us to be aware of for the record, and then just

       5      begin your testimony.

       6             So, Mr. Finger.

       7             KENNETH FINGER:  Mr. Houlihan will go

       8      first, if that's okay.

       9             JERRY HOULIHAN:  Okay.  Good morning.

      10             I am Jerry Houlihan.  I'm a real estate

      11      broker, commercial real estate broker, commercial

      12      property manager, commercial mortgage broker, and,

      13      the seated chairman of the Apartment Owners Advisory

      14      Council of Westchester County for the past several

      15      years.

      16             I'm here to testify against any further

      17      tightening or restrictions of the ETP -- ETPA law in

      18      Westchester County.

      19             As you probably know, one of the components

      20      of the ETPA law is to allow the rent regulations to

      21      eventually dissolve, and naturally bring the rental

      22      market to a healthy free-market.

      23             These proposals brought forth by the Senate

      24      and the House is going against that component of the

      25      law.


       1             The programs that some of these

       2      representatives want to eliminate or minimize;

       3      namely, the MCIs, the IAIs, the vacancy bonus,

       4      et cetera, are the very programs that were put into

       5      place in the 1980s and the 1990s as a result of the

       6      poor housing policies in the 1970s.

       7             As some of you probably are old enough like

       8      me to remember the 1970s, when owners were walking

       9      away from their buildings 'cause they were burning,

      10      not only because of crime, but also because the

      11      expenses to run these apartment houses.

      12             These apartment houses, on average, were

      13      built in the late 1920s and 1930s, so they're

      14      approaching 100 years old.

      15             The expenses were too high, and a lot of

      16      them, because they couldn't make a profit and they

      17      were losing money, walked away from these buildings.

      18             Addressing affordability through the

      19      strengthening of these ETPA laws is going to produce

      20      the bad re -- a bad result for the tenants, and the

      21      economy as a whole.

      22             The programs, the MCIs and the IAIs,

      23      et cetera, have brought these buildings to the best

      24      shape they've ever been in.

      25             MCIs produce new windows; new building


       1      components, such as boilers, roofs, plumbing,

       2      electricity, et cetera.

       3             When an apartment vacates, individual

       4      apartment improvements allow the owners to go in and

       5      completely gut renovate an apartment.

       6             Removing these programs will do just the

       7      opposite.  It's not a way to address affordability.

       8             And, in doing so, you're going to put these

       9      apartment buildings that are nearly 100 years old

      10      into, possibly, bad condition again.

      11             And it's just, we believe, the wrong way to

      12      address affordability.

      13             Thank you.

      14             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you.

      15             KENNETH FINGER:  Thank you, Senator.

      16             Thank you very much for the opportunity to

      17      address you.

      18             My name is Kenneth Finger.  I'm a landlord

      19      member of the Westchester County Rent Guidelines

      20      Board for 19 years.

      21             I'm also the chief counsel to the Building

      22      and Realty Institute, and, the Apartment Owners

      23      Advisory Council.

      24             In addition, my law firm has a very active

      25      landlord-tenant practice, so we are more than


       1      familiar with the plight of the Westchester

       2      landlords.

       3             As Mr. Houlihan has pointed out, most of

       4      the regulated housing in Westchester is in excess of

       5      75, 80, and 100 years old.

       6             This is housing that is the only real

       7      affordable housing in Westchester.

       8             And, this is not New York City.

       9             There are about twenty-five to

      10      twenty-seven thousand ETPA units here, as

      11      distinguished from over a million in the city.

      12             I have enclosed, as part of my submission

      13      that you have before you, an executive summary of a

      14      rather lengthy analysis that was done in Cambridge,

      15      before -- when Cambridge went out of rent controls.

      16             The sky did not fall, and housing in

      17      Cambridge actually got better and more affordable

      18      and more available.

      19             The -- I've also -- I've enclosed for you, a

      20      copy of the ETPA Guidelines.

      21             And the last year was 2 and 3 percent, and

      22      that was reasonable, and that was actually supported

      23      by the tenants.

      24             I've also attached a copy of the figures

      25      given by DHCR, which show that the increases in


       1      Westchester have been under the CPI increases for

       2      this area.

       3             While we don't know what the 2020 census will

       4      show, the 2000 census showed that there were

       5      approximately 390,000 housing units in Westchester,

       6      of which 377,000 were occupied;

       7             In 2010, there were 415,000 units, of which

       8      390,000 were occupied;

       9             Or, a vacancy rate of Westchester, of

      10      6.1 percent.

      11             In Greenburgh, at that time of the census,

      12      the vacancy rate was 4.4 percent -- excuse me,

      13      4.4 percent; Mount Vernon, 9.4; New Rochelle, 5.5;

      14      Peekskill, 6.7; Rye, 7.3; White Plains, 6.0; and,

      15      Yonkers, 7.3.

      16             This is not New York City.

      17             This is Westchester County, where we don't

      18      have the kind of high rents that people are looking

      19      forward to seeing when they get vacancies.

      20             The rents here have pretty much hit a top,

      21      and the market is what it is.

      22             There are very few affordable housing units

      23      here of over $2700.

      24             And it doesn't pay any landlord to eliminate

      25      tenants or evict tenants just for getting an


       1      increase that they can't get.

       2             I'm also attaching a copy of the Rent

       3      Guideline Board increases for the last 18 years,

       4      which, if you look at, will show they've been very

       5      modest.

       6             Finally, the -- there are do-or-die issues

       7      that we believe must not be promulgated, to avoid a

       8      complete collapse of the affordable-housing market

       9      in Westchester.

      10             If you -- as Mr. Houlihan has said, we need

      11      these MCIs and the IAIs in order to keep housing

      12      not only affordable, but to keep it in the condition

      13      that we want our tenants to have.

      14             The areas that, in our judgment, will destroy

      15      the housing market in Westchester are:

      16             Reinstitution of ETPA to previously

      17      decontrolled apartments;

      18             Elimination or further restriction of

      19      reimbursement for MCIs or IAIs, which will lead to

      20      a deterioration of the regulated housing stock;

      21             Elimination of the ability of restoring

      22      preferential rents to legal regulated rents on

      23      vacancies, which would not hurt existing tenants;

      24             And the total elimination of the vacancy

      25      allowance, it is already limited.


       1             We think that, if you look at the housing

       2      market in Westchester, and the ability of landlords

       3      here to keep it in the condition we all want it to

       4      be at, affordable housing will remain.

       5             And we hope that there will be responsible

       6      rent reform, not destructive rent reform.

       7             Thank you very much.

       8             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you; thank you both

       9      for your testimony.

      10             KENNETH FINGER:  Okay.

      11             If there are any questions, we're here.

      12             If not, we'll rest on our statements.

      13             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  I think we'll have a few

      14      questions for you, and let me begin.

      15             Just, you both spoke about affordable

      16      housing.

      17             Do you believe it's a legitimate goal of

      18      state legislation to promote affordability in our

      19      communities?

      20             KENNETH FINGER:  Do we think it's a

      21      legitimate goal?  Obviously, yes.

      22             JERRY HOULIHAN:  Absolutely.

      23             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

      24             KENNETH FINGER:  And it's been in effect

      25      since 1943 with the Rent Control Law, since 1974


       1      with ETPA.

       2             And we're supportive of that.

       3             What we're not supportive of, is restricting

       4      the ability of a landlord to get income to maintain

       5      that housing.

       6             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  But do you think -- is

       7      there some tension between -- I mean, you've said a

       8      couple times, that certain reforms that are on the

       9      table would destroy the housing market --

      10             KENNETH FINGER:  That's right.

      11             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- which is, you know,

      12      quite a strong assertion.

      13             Just -- so let's just talk about IAIs for a

      14      moment.

      15             KENNETH FINGER:  Yes.

      16             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  (Indiscernible) the

      17      purpose of IAIs are to encourage landlords to invest

      18      in individual apartments, to improve the quality of

      19      those units when -- typically, when they're vacant.

      20      Right?

      21             KENNETH FINGER:  Yes.

      22             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

      23             And that the amount of the investing gets

      24      rolled into the rent for the next tenant, typically,

      25      at a rate of 140th of the total value of the


       1      investment, per month, is added to the rent each

       2      month, indefinitely.

       3             KENNETH FINGER:  That's correct.

       4             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  So, roughly speaking, if a

       5      landlord spends $40,000 on an apartment, the rent

       6      will go up $1,000 a month, indef -- the legal rent

       7      will go up $1,000 a month, indefinitely?

       8             KENNETH FINGER:  Yes, but the quirk on that,

       9      is that -- which you just added, is that the legal

      10      rent will go up.

      11             You could raise the legal rent up to any

      12      number, and possibly even get out of control.

      13             The Westchester County market does not

      14      support rents of 2700, 3,000, 3500, in 100-year-old

      15      buildings.

      16             And if you want to be able to maintain those

      17      apartments, and maintain them -- and these are very,

      18      frequently, apartments where tenants have been there

      19      for 20, 30, or 40 years.

      20             You have to renovate the apartment and bring

      21      it up to condition, so that a new family can move in

      22      and have the best possible housing.

      23             Once you eliminate that ability of doing

      24      that, you're eliminating the ability of a landlord

      25      to maintain and perfect the housing.


       1             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  And why is not -- why is

       2      it not sufficient to have -- you have a Rent

       3      Guidelines Board, you sit on that Rent Guidelines

       4      Board.

       5             Each year you assess the cost of maintaining

       6      housing in Westchester --

       7             KENNETH FINGER:  Yes.

       8             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- and then you set rents

       9      that you think -- rent increases that you think are

      10      reasonable to accommodate the need of landlords to

      11      invest in their buildings, to maintain their

      12      housing.

      13             Why is that system not sufficient?

      14             Why do we need these add-ons through IAIs or

      15      MCIs?

      16             KENNETH FINGER:  The system is not sufficient

      17      for a number of reasons.

      18             Number one:  If you look at the increases,

      19      and I've given you the figures over the period of

      20      years, it hasn't even kept up with the cost of

      21      living.

      22             The Rent Guidelines Board in Westchester

      23      is -- is -- I won't be critical of it because one of

      24      my members is sitting here, but it's been much more

      25      tenant-oriented over the years.


       1             And if you look at a comparison in the

       2      increases between Westchester and New York City,

       3      it's much less in Westchester over the years than it

       4      has been in New York City, not even enough to keep

       5      up with inflation.

       6             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Do you believe that, when

       7      the Rent Guidelines Board is making these decisions,

       8      they are factoring in the fact that there are other

       9      ways rents go up -- IAIs, vacancy bonuses, MCIs --

      10      when they're considering how much to raise the base

      11      rent?

      12             Are they aware that there are other ways that

      13      land -- other things that are being paid for in

      14      other ways besides that increase?

      15             KENNETH FINGER:  Yes, I think that's so.

      16             And I think they probably also consider that

      17      there was a 20 percent vacancy, or 18 percent

      18      vacancy, increase, that's available also.

      19             So, yes, that's a mitigating circumstance,

      20      which is exactly why you need the MCIs and the

      21      IAIs, because it is factored in by the guidelines

      22      board as one of the elements that enables a landlord

      23      to maintain his or her building.

      24             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay, but isn't it

      25      possible that you and your colleagues on the Rent


       1      Guidelines Board, if there were not routine

       2      increases in rent upon vacancy, based on vacancy

       3      bonus and other things, that this sort of necessary

       4      cost of maintaining buildings would be -- would be

       5      considered by the Rent Guidelines Board, and you

       6      wouldn't need these very generous add-ons?

       7             KENNETH FINGER:  I don't think the

       8      situation -- I've sat on that board for 19 years.

       9      I don't think that would ever happen.

      10             I think that the -- you need these increases

      11      to maintain your buildings, and to -- to keep

      12      them -- these are 100-year-old buildings, to keep

      13      them up to condition that people want to live in,

      14      and move into.

      15             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

      16             I think my time is just about up.

      17             I'll see if any other senators have

      18      questions?

      19             JERRY HOULIHAN:  Well, I just want to say,

      20      too, is that, you know, when an apartment has been

      21      in occupancy for a very long time, and the rent is,

      22      let's say, 600 or 700 dollars a month, and you go in

      23      and you spend thirty or forty thousand dollars to

      24      renovate it, you're bringing that market -- that

      25      apartment up to market.


       1             If you don't have these programs, you're not

       2      going to do that, and you're going have an old

       3      apartment.

       4             I mean, you got to have the incentive in

       5      there for a landlord to go in and gut it, and then

       6      bring the -- the rent up to market.

       7             I mean, the average cost in

       8      Westchester County to run an apartment is about

       9      eleven or twelve hundred dollars a month.

      10             So if somebody's paying six or

      11      seven hundred dollars a month, then, okay, if

      12      they're senior citizens and they have limited

      13      income, we understand that.  But you got to

      14      remember, we're losing six or -- five or six hundred

      15      dollars a month on keeping that apartment running.

      16             So when they vacate, you have to keep that

      17      program in place, so that you can improve the

      18      apartment, improve the living condition, and allow

      19      us to run a building without a loss.

      20             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  And, presumably, your --

      21      presumably, landlords in Westchester, as landlords

      22      in New York, mostly, have not been running for a

      23      loss -- at a loss over the long term in recent

      24      years.

      25             JERRY HOULIHAN:  Well, I don't --


       1             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Just from our -- just --

       2      I do want to yield my time to others on the panel.

       3             But just -- I mean, there's -- I think

       4      there's one -- it's one thing to say, you need to

       5      get the apartment to be in a -- maintain the

       6      apartment in a reasonable condition, and another to

       7      say that it's necessary that it be gutted and, you

       8      know, changed into an apartment that rents for a

       9      much higher rent.

      10             And I think, for some of us --

      11             JERRY HOULIHAN:  I said "market rent," not

      12      much higher rent.

      13             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- okay.

      14             Again, if you're gutting it -- if you're

      15      gutting -- how much does it cost to gut an --

      16      gut renovate an apartment?

      17             JERRY HOULIHAN:  Uhm, it -- the number you

      18      quoted was pretty accurate.

      19             KENNETH FINGER:  About thirty to

      20      forty thousand.

      21             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  So, again, just so we

      22      understand, you're asserting that, if we change or

      23      eliminate IAIs, we will, you know, in your words,

      24      destroy the rental market and, you know, prevent

      25      people from making a profit.


       1             It's just hard -- I think it's hard for some

       2      of us on the panel to understand why a legal -- you

       3      take your $700 apartment, why a -- while legally

       4      increasing that rent to 1700 is necessary in order

       5      to maintain decent quality, and maintain -- and

       6      maintain landlords as a business, where people can

       7      afford --

       8                (Indiscernible cross-talking)

       9             JERRY HOULIHAN:  Well, again, I mean, you

      10      have to put some flexibility in there.

      11             If we spend twenty thousand dollars, as

      12      opposed to forty, you know, then we're not raising

      13      it to seventeen hundred.  We're raising it to

      14      thirteen or fourteen hundred, which is, maybe,

      15      a hundred dollars over what it takes to run the

      16      apartment.

      17             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Right.

      18             Okay, so --

      19             KENNETH FINGER:  And you have the cost of the

      20      renovations, which is not factored into 140th, in

      21      terms of the interest cost, in terms of borrowing

      22      the money.

      23             You're up-fronting -- you're up-fronting the

      24      full dollar amount at the beginning.

      25             By some calculations, we believe that, if an


       1      IAIs is made, and the landlord recoups the full

       2      legal rent after that, that they -- the return on

       3      the sort of -- unleveraged return on that investment

       4      is 22 percent a year.

       5             So, I mean, again, some of us are skeptical

       6      that it's --

       7             JERRY HOULIHAN:  I'd like to see those

       8      numbers, Senator.

       9             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay, well, they come from

      10      various sources (indiscernible) industry.

      11             JERRY HOULIHAN:  Well, I'd like to see them.

      12             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  But, we appreciate the --

      13      again, because -- again, because you're getting 30

      14      percent of the amount of your investment back each

      15      year, indefinitely, if you're -- if you're able to

      16      charge the legal rent.

      17             JERRY HOULIHAN:  I don't believe those

      18      numbers, Senator.

      19             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay, again, it is a fact

      20      that --

      21             JERRY HOULIHAN:  I don't see it as a fact.

      22             I'd like to --

      23             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- let me -- I'll speak,

      24      and then you speak, if you would.

      25             It is a fact that the legal rent goes up at


       1      140th of the total value, which is, 12/40ths, is

       2      30 percent.

       3             So if you spend $40,000, as we've

       4      discussed --

       5             JERRY HOULIHAN:  Right.

       6             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- you get to a $1,000

       7      increase in the rent, which is $12,000 a year, which

       8      is, 12,000 is 30 percent of 40,000.

       9             So if you are able to recoup the full legal

      10      rent, the rent -- the cash flow from the apartment

      11      goes up 30 percent of the amount you spent on IAIs.

      12             That's just arithmetic.

      13             JERRY HOULIHAN:  Yeah, that is, and that's

      14      fine.  But the actual market rent may be less.

      15             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  That -- that's -- again --

      16             JERRY HOULIHAN:  And that's what we --

      17             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- what I -- what I --

      18      again, in your example -- I mean, again, if -- if

      19      landlords -- if land --

      20                (Indiscernible cross-talking)

      21             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- and I do want to end

      22      this, and a lot of my -- I'm sure my other

      23      colleagues will continue this dialogue.

      24             But, just, if -- if -- if you're not able to

      25      collect the legal rent, in some circumstances, it's


       1      hard for us to understand why you would insist the

       2      legal rent needs to go up to that.

       3             And if you can collect it, you know, it

       4      raises serious concerns for us about affordability.

       5             JERRY HOULIHAN:  Well, that's something to

       6      look at.

       7             KENNETH FINGER:  Well, because, at some

       8      point, the market may increase.

       9             So if the legal regulated rent does go up,

      10      and you have a 2008 situation where it was -- it

      11      tanked, maybe, by 2018, you then can get back up to

      12      where it should be.

      13             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  So if you are getting the

      14      legal rent, then you're getting this kind of return,

      15      and, you know, changing the apartment to an

      16      apartment that is fundamentally different from an

      17      affordability perspective.

      18             But, I will leave it at that, and see if my

      19      colleagues -- Senator Mayer?

      20             SENATOR MYRIE:  Yeah, I have several

      21      questions.

      22             So, you know, one of the challenges is that,

      23      through the vacancy allowance, so, the vacancy

      24      decontrol, approximately, 3,000 units of

      25      rent-stabilized housing have been lost in


       1      Westchester, according to HCR, between 2015 and

       2      2018.

       3             And I wondered, since you are calling for,

       4      basically, no changes in that provision, and yet you

       5      support the policy of rent stabilization as a way to

       6      preserve affordability, what is your response to

       7      this, units leaving the program in significant

       8      number, every year, as a result of this?

       9             KENNETH FINGER:  Well, I think the -- if you

      10      look at the number of units, I think I gave you one

      11      of my charts here, it is not (indiscernible) -- you

      12      had -- in 2017, you had 25,789 rent-stabilized

      13      units.  You had 875 that were vacant.

      14             That is not the kind of numbers that I think

      15      I just heard from you.

      16             On permanently exempt from a high-rent

      17      vacancy, where 146, that's 146 units, out of 25,789,

      18      due to high-rent vacancy.

      19             That is nowhere near the kind of numbers that

      20      you're proposing, Senator.

      21             SENATOR MAYER:  Well, I'm not proposing them.

      22             I'm saying --

      23             KENNETH FINGER:  I mean, that you cited.

      24             SENATOR MAYER:  -- I cited the HCR's Office

      25      of Rent Administration, by year, in 2015, 330 were


       1      permanently exempt.

       2             KENNETH FINGER:  Right.

       3             SENATOR MAYER:  That's how I got to my

       4      10,000.  I mentioned it was over four years.

       5             243 in 2016, 146 in 2017, and 187 in 2018,

       6      which is a collective total of about 3,000, which is

       7      about 10 percent of Westchester's rent-stabilized --

       8             KENNETH FINGER:  No, It's 1,000.

       9             JERRY HOULIHAN:  Yeah, that's 1,000.

      10             KENNETH FINGER:  It's a thousand -- I'm

      11      sorry, Judge -- Senator.

      12             It comes out to about 1,000.

      13             And if you go back to 2013 --

      14             SENATOR MAYER:  Well --

      15             (Indiscernible cross-talking.)

      16             SENATOR MAYER:  -- yeah, okay.

      17             KENNETH FINGER:  -- 2013 was 140, and 2014

      18      was 293.

      19             I have the same chart.

      20             You, fortunately, have a year more than I do.

      21             SENATOR MAYER:  Well, it's not the same.

      22             KENNETH FINGER:  I'm only on the board.

      23             SENATOR MAYER:  We have different numbers.

      24             The bottom line is, for those of us that

      25      represent these communities, like myself


       1      representing Yonkers particularly, the loss of

       2      affordable housing by these units be -- coming out

       3      of the system is a critical loss for our

       4      constituents who are looking for affordable housing.

       5             You are proposing no change in this program.

       6             And I'm asking you:  What is your answer,

       7      while you support rent stabilization as being a

       8      legitimate state policy, to the loss of these units?

       9             KENNETH FINGER:  Well, you're -- you're

      10      saying that there's a loss of the units in terms of

      11      affordability.

      12             I don't think that's necessarily so.

      13             There may be -- there may be loss from the

      14      ETPA, but there are very few units that you can rent

      15      in Westchester, in 100-year-old buildings, for $2800

      16      a year -- a month, which is what the number is of

      17      these days.

      18             So I think that the high-rent vacancy,

      19      although it may take it out of ETPA, doesn't take it

      20      out of affordability, because the market rents,

      21      generally --

      22             Again, I emphasize, this is not

      23      New York City.

      24             -- the market rents, generally, are less than

      25      the actual ETPA rents that are exempt due to high


       1      rent.

       2             And that's a 1,000 over a period over

       3      6 years -- 5 or 6 years.

       4             SENATOR MAYER:  Four years.

       5             KENNETH FINGER:  Well, all right --

       6             SENATOR MAYER:  In my -- in my --

       7             KENNETH FINGER:  -- four years.  Okay.

       8             1,000 over 4 years, of 25,000.

       9             And we submit that a large number of those

      10      are still being rented at affordable rents, because

      11      that's what the market is.

      12             SENATOR MAYER:  Okay, two points.

      13             My "3,000" number is the loss of

      14      rent-stabilized units totally, not just vacancy

      15      decontrol, over that period.

      16             And the second point is, the issues of rent

      17      stabilization deal not only with rent, but also the

      18      opportunity to renew your rent; the right to renew

      19      your lease.

      20             And while you may say the apartment may still

      21      be so-called "affordable," no -- the tenant has no

      22      right to renewal, which is an absolutely essential

      23      factor for our constituents.

      24             So, I would quarrel with your description.

      25             But let me just move on to another thing.


       1             On the MCIs, one factor you have not

       2      discussed, is the fact that the percentage increase

       3      applied in Westchester, of 15 percent, is certainly

       4      more than double the New York City percentage

       5      allowed of 6 percent.

       6             Would you -- in the modifications of the

       7      program, if we leave an MCI in there, and -- would

       8      you agree to lower your percentage to be consistent,

       9      statewide, with the New York City percentage of

      10      6 percent?

      11             KENNETH FINGER:  I don't think it's

      12      equivalent because, in New York City, you're

      13      starting off with a much higher base and a much

      14      higher rent.

      15             I think here we have older stock, smaller

      16      rents, and we need it to maintain the buildings, and

      17      to bring -- to do the capital improvements; the

      18      roofs, the windows, the pointing.

      19             Pointing an apartment house is hugely

      20      expensive.

      21             And those type of numbers, you to have the

      22      full increase for an MCI.

      23             SENATOR MAYER:  Well, with all due respect,

      24      that "6" and "15" did not come out of a policy

      25      discussion like you're suggesting.


       1             It came out of, basically, a mistake in

       2      legislation, where they put it in for New York City,

       3      and they left out.

       4             The cost of pointing an apartment I'm sure,

       5      in New York City, is equal, if not greater, to that

       6      in Westchester.

       7             So my question is:  Will you, representing

       8      the owners' community and the landlord community,

       9      agree to have a consistent number that is in sync

      10      with what New York City has?

      11             KENNETH FINGER:  Well, I would submit that

      12      the number that should be -- for one thing, I think

      13      you would do a great favor if you eliminated the

      14      Rent Guidelines Board.

      15             As far as I'm concerned, there are a lot of

      16      other things I think many of us would like to do

      17      with our evenings.

      18             But putting that one aside, rent control in

      19      New York City is done by HCR.  They submit a

      20      percentage increase each year, and that's what it

      21      is.

      22             You could easily do the same thing with the

      23      ETPA.

      24             SENATOR MAYER:  With all due respect,

      25      Mr. Finger, I'm asking you about the MCI rate


       1      increase.

       2             Would you accept 6 percent?

       3             KENNETH FINGER:  No.  I think, 6 percent, you

       4      couldn't do a building for 6 percent.

       5             SENATOR MAYER:  Okay.

       6             And, now, I also want to ask you about the

       7      permanence of the MCI, which is a great sore spot

       8      among tenants, as you know, and I know, and you've

       9      heard -- you and I have differed on this before.

      10             What is the policy argument for continuing

      11      the MCI to be permanent past the point of repayment,

      12      to explain to a tenant?

      13             Just, like, when they -- when they fix

      14      something, and they borrow the money, when they pay

      15      it off, they don't pay it anymore.

      16             So can you explain why a tenant would have to

      17      pay this MCI permanently?

      18             KENNETH FINGER:  Because, a number -- there

      19      are a couple of reasons.

      20             Number one:  A number of the things that you

      21      do have to be redone in a certain number of years,

      22      whether it's a refrigerator, or something of that

      23      nature.

      24             So if it goes on for 40 months, or 84 months,

      25      or 90 or 108 months, where some of the --


       1             Is it MCIs --

       2             JERRY HOULIHAN:  That's right, yep.

       3             KENNETH FINGER:  -- have to go on --

       4             Is it 90 -- for 108 months.

       5             It's not only 40.

       6             The 40 is only the IAIs.

       7             The MCIs, I believe, are 90 and 108.

       8             SENATOR MAYER:  Yeah.

       9             KENNETH FINGER:  But -- so you're talking,

      10      there, 9 or 10 years, and you have to do repairs,

      11      you have to do a lot of things, that you can't get

      12      MCIs for.

      13             And what the DHCR makes you do, is they make

      14      you do the 100 percent of everything.

      15             If you have to do a sidewalk, for example,

      16      and you only need half a sidewalk, you can't get an

      17      MCI for half a sidewalk.

      18             SENATOR MAYER:  But with respect to my

      19      question, to a tenant, who is paying permanently,

      20      and the amount is added on to their base rent when

      21      an MCI is granted, you -- I'm having trouble

      22      understanding what you believe is the real reason

      23      why it should be permanent.

      24             Yes, of course, there may be subsequent

      25      repairs, and that's why, so far, MCIs have been


       1      authorized.

       2             What is the reason while the repair, for

       3      which the landlord has paid, is not terminated once

       4      it is paid off?

       5             KENNETH FINGER:  Because they're getting the

       6      benefit of the repair as long as they live there.

       7             It's not a repair that ends, or the MCI

       8      doesn't end in the 8 years, or 10 years, that DHCR

       9      has allowed.

      10             It goes on, as does the value of the benefit

      11      to the tenant.

      12             SENATOR MAYER:  Well, they are getting

      13      housing.

      14             But I will -- I'll -- I'll yield my time to

      15      someone else, and may come back.

      16             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Senator Harckham.

      17             SENATOR HARCKHAM:  Thank you, Mr. Chair.

      18             Just following up on Senator Mayer's line of

      19      questioning, you had spoken in your testimony,

      20      Mr. Finger, about, let's find responsible -- let's

      21      do responsible rent reform.

      22             So what would a responsible middle ground be,

      23      to you?

      24             You know, assuming we have tenants' advocates

      25      saying one thing, and, obviously, your organization


       1      and others on the other side, what do you think is

       2      the responsible middle ground?

       3             KENNETH FINGER:  Well, one thing I think

       4      might be responsible middle ground is, for example,

       5      when we have preferential rents.

       6             I understand there is an effort to eliminate

       7      the ability to come back to legal regulated rents.

       8             I think that might be okay while the tenant

       9      still lives there.

      10             But then, when it becomes vacant, to give the

      11      landlord the opportunity to come back to a legal

      12      regulated rent at that point in time, that has taken

      13      many years to get up to.

      14             I think that would be one area.

      15             We can go on if you want.

      16             SENATOR HARCKHAM:  Yeah, please.

      17             KENNETH FINGER:  Other areas, I think there

      18      are areas where you might eliminate the Rents

      19      Guidelines Board, as I've suggested.

      20             I think that it's a statistical.

      21             We have surveys that HCR does, they send out,

      22      in February or March, and it's supposed to be

      23      computerized now.

      24             And they just sent out a notice last week,

      25      that they're not even going to -- they're giving


       1      people till May 31st.

       2             You know, you're wasting a huge amount of

       3      administrative funds and effort in regulating a

       4      system that doesn't need a guidelines board.  It

       5      just needs a statistical -- statistical methodology.

       6             So that would be -- those would be two ways

       7      where I think you could have responsible rent

       8      reform.

       9             SENATOR HARCKHAM:  All right, one other

      10      question.

      11             We were talking about losing

      12      1,000 private-sector apartments in

      13      Westchester County.

      14             During the federal housing settlement, we --

      15      when I was on the county board, and you remember

      16      those days, we made a full-court effort, and built

      17      800 units of affordable housing.

      18             And we've lost 1,000 in the private sector,

      19      so we weren't even keeping up.

      20             So how -- how -- how do we, in keeping with

      21      the private sector, which is certainly more

      22      cost-effective than spending the money we spent on

      23      those 800 units, if -- if -- if you are advocating

      24      the IAIs and the MCIs stay as is, and other

      25      increases out of ETPA, how does the private sector


       1      in Westchester help preserve affordable housing?

       2             KENNETH FINGER:  Because what you have to do

       3      is, incentivize people to invest in real estate.

       4             If you start eliminating every ability of a

       5      landlord to either make a profit, which is not a

       6      dirty word, and -- or to maintain and improve their

       7      buildings, that's how you will get more housing, by

       8      incentivizing it.

       9             That puts aside the issue of having

      10      government tax credits, and things of that nature,

      11      that would also incentivize landlords being able to

      12      (indiscernible) private landlords.

      13             So you don't have new apartments coming on --

      14      on board on 5,000-dollar-a-month rents.  You have

      15      them coming on board on 1100- and

      16      1500-dollar-a-month rents.

      17             So I would think, if you could incentivize

      18      landlords to invest in real estate, you would have

      19      much more private investment and much more

      20      affordable housing in the county.

      21             SENATOR HARCKHAM:  Thank you, Mr. Chair.

      22             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Other questions or

      23      comments for this panel?

      24             Okay.

      25             Thank you very much for your testimony.


       1             KENNETH FINGER:  Thank you very much.

       2             JERRY HOULIHAN:  Thank you.

       3             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Next up, do we now have

       4      Tina Jackson and Elizabeth McGriff and

       5      Gail Williams?

       6             You guys ready?

       7             Terrific.

       8             SENATOR MAYER:  (Inaudible) saw that

       9      Paul Feiner, the supervisor of Greenburgh, was --

      10      stuck his head in at the end.

      11             And I just want to thank Paul, and the

      12      Village of -- the Town of Greenburgh, for being such

      13      gracious hosts, as always; and, thank you.

      14             And Paul certainly may be back.

      15             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  And before we begin the

      16      next panel, I just want to acknowledge that we've

      17      been joined by Senator Zellnor Myrie of Brooklyn.

      18             Again, so if you -- if each of you could

      19      state your name and your affiliation, and then

      20      proceed.

      21             TINA JACKSON:  Hi.  My name is Tina Jackson.

      22             Good evening -- well, good morning, everyone.

      23             My name is Tina Jackson, and my statement

      24      is -- my name is Tina Jackson, and I'm a member of

      25      the Citywide Tenant Union of Rochester, and I've


       1      lived in Rochester for over 43 years.

       2             I'm here to speak about statewide tenant

       3      protection, and can increase the quality of our

       4      housing, reduce homelessness.

       5             We have a massive (indiscernible) crisis in

       6      Rochester, with over 8,600 evictions filed in

       7      Rochester City Court each year.

       8             I have personally been a victim of no-fault

       9      evictions on three separate occasions.

      10             I'm going to tell you about one of those

      11      horrible ordeals.

      12             When I was living on Garson Avenue in

      13      Rochester, with my son and my daughter, when I --

      14      when the landlord refused to make repairs.

      15             The knob came off the stove.  He wouldn't

      16      make repairs on them.

      17             The refrigerator stopped working and all my

      18      stuff spoiled.  He refused to repair it.

      19             My apartment was infested with roaches.

      20             The leaks started coming through the ceiling,

      21      and mold and mildew was growing in the kitchen and

      22      bathroom.

      23             Things got worse.

      24             There was no ventilation in the apartment.

      25             First the time -- first time in my life


       1      I started having breathing problems, and my son and

       2      I got sick.  Were diagnosed with asthma.

       3             After four months of the land -- after

       4      four months, the landlord refusing to make repairs,

       5      I began to call Rochester City Code Enforcement.

       6             The landlord stated I was going to be evicted

       7      if I continued to call and complain.

       8             But I had to call them in to enforce my legal

       9      rights.

      10             So that mean I didn't give up.

      11             After their (indiscernible) -- after their

      12      (indiscernible) -- after their (indiscernible) --

      13      they cited the landlord, and had to make repairs;

      14      however, despite being up on the rent, the landlord

      15      said he wouldn't renew my lease.

      16             Without giving a reason, known as a "no-fault

      17      eviction," I became -- I was evicted and became

      18      homeless, and had nowhere to go.  In a shelter with

      19      my son and daughter.

      20             It was an awful experience.

      21             This is why we need good-cause eviction

      22      protection and rent stabilization.

      23             No one should have to go through what I went

      24      through.

      25             I feel that no one should be homeless or in


       1      the street.

       2             Everyone should have a safe, quality place to

       3      go.

       4             No one should be sleeping under a bridge.

       5             No one should have to be without, no matter

       6      what their circumstance is.

       7             I believe housing is a human right for every

       8      woman, man, and child.

       9             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thanks.

      10             ELIZABETH McGRIFF:  Hi.  My name is

      11      Elizabeth McGriff, and I'm an organizer with the

      12      Citywide Tenants Union.

      13             And my job is, I go out to speak to tenants,

      14      and, you know, learn about their conditions, and

      15      what they're living in.  And we try to help them, to

      16      kind hear -- have -- have their voices heard.

      17             And the reason why I came into this work is

      18      because I went through foreclosure, and I went

      19      through the trauma of that, in dealing with, you

      20      know, where you're going to live, you know, where

      21      you're going to lay your head at night.

      22             And, to me, I've always lived in, you know, a

      23      very good conditions.

      24             I had parents that took -- that, you know,

      25      made sufficient funds.


       1             And so when that kind hit, it was a traumatic

       2      experience for me, because I had two young sons,

       3      that I had to find a place to live, and a place to

       4      lay their head at night.

       5             So when I think of "home," I think of the

       6      comfort of being at home.  I think of, you know,

       7      it's the safety, it's a safe place for me, where my

       8      kids can be themselves.

       9             And, so, when a person kind of goes through

      10      the traumatic experience of, they have an eviction,

      11      it's like:  Where do I go?

      12             What do I do next?

      13             You know, what happens to me?

      14             What's going to happen to my family?

      15             Is DSS going to be involved?

      16             Is -- you know, you go through all these

      17      traumatic things.

      18             And, with having supports in place, like,

      19      just-cause eviction and home stabilization, it gives

      20      people that opportunity, okay, I have an opportunity

      21      to figure out what's going to happen.

      22             So, going back to my situation:

      23             My home went through foreclosure.

      24             And so then I got involved as a tenant

      25      organizer.


       1             I lived in the community for many years, and

       2      I've seen the transition of people going from home

       3      ownership to becoming renters.

       4             One individual that I worked with, was

       5      helping to save his home, and he didn't know his

       6      home was sold to an investor.

       7             He didn't know.

       8             And he, you know, paid his mortgage, was

       9      free.  Got behind on the taxes.  And now he -- he

      10      was in a situation, now he's renting his home he's

      11      lived in for 30 years, paid off.

      12             So -- and the landlord wanted to evict him

      13      from his home, and it was very devastating for him,

      14      because he hadn't made plans to move anyplace else,

      15      he hadn't made plans to live anyplace else.

      16             This was his home, this was his -- his -- his

      17      investment in -- for his self.

      18             And I also met individuals on Monroe Avenue,

      19      who had -- who have lived there, you know, 15, 18,

      20      20 years in their apartments, and then they were

      21      given a 30-day notice.

      22             And the landlord put on his Facebook page,

      23      you know, he's going to cure -- remove the cancer

      24      from the area.

      25             That was his thought of what he was doing; he


       1      thought he was doing something good.

       2             But he was evicting people out of their homes

       3      for many years, and a lot of them were on

       4      disability, they didn't have any other income, and

       5      they had no place to go.  They're traumatized by

       6      this situation.

       7             We were able to help them, but, still, there

       8      was that trauma, that one person had anxiety.  So

       9      this was completely devastating to them.

      10             So our system is supposed to be set up with a

      11      system of checks and balances; a system that

      12      protects those who are vulnerable, and not people

      13      that are renters -- I mean, not people that are

      14      investors, that are just in it for a profit.

      15             The average investor in the city of

      16      Rochester, in the city they get 20 percent on their

      17      investment; a 20 percent return.

      18             But it's to move out, you know, a lot of the

      19      Black and Brown folks that have lived in that area

      20      for many years.

      21             So -- and just two weeks ago, at

      22      275 East Main Street in the city of Rochester, the

      23      tenants didn't do anything wrong.

      24             The land -- the investor came in, he said,

      25      I brought (sic) these buildings.  It was new -- a


       1      new investment for him.  Gave everybody a 30-day

       2      notice.

       3             You know, same situation, people have lived

       4      there for many years.

       5             Because he could get a 35 percent increase in

       6      rent, so he kicked everybody out.  And I think

       7      there's only four people that still remain in the

       8      building.

       9             But, we want families in our community to

      10      stay safe.

      11             We want a different alternative.

      12             We want people -- if it's possible for

      13      tenants to own their property when the landlord

      14      doesn't keep it up; for the tenants to gather a

      15      cooperative, and to purchase their building from the

      16      landlord, and to run it themselves, and have a

      17      community land trust.

      18             Which is, my home was part of becoming a home

      19      in the community land trust, which gives the

      20      community the opportunity to build on, the community

      21      to say -- have a say-so of who they want in their

      22      community, who they want to live in their community.

      23             And I just think that's one of the ways we

      24      can stop the bleeding that's happening to a lot of

      25      folks in our communities, to change the situation


       1      around.

       2             So, there has to be a stop for the investors.

       3             If there isn't, then people are in the

       4      streets.

       5             People die young in the streets, because they

       6      don't have the opportunity for housing, because they

       7      can no longer afford the place that they lived for

       8      20 years.  They can no longer afford, because

       9      investors want to make money.

      10             You know, that's the bottom line.

      11             And that's, pretty much.

      12             GAIL WILLIAMS:  Good morning to everyone.

      13             I'm Gail, and I represent the city -- I'm

      14      sorry.

      15             I'm Gail, and I represent the Citywide

      16      Tenants Union of Rochester, New York.

      17             I'm also here to represent the poor,

      18      disabled, disadvantaged, seniors, single parents,

      19      victim of domestic violence, the fatherless, the

      20      widows, the homeless displaced children and adults,

      21      as well as any other group who cannot advocate for

      22      themselves.

      23             I'm here to, hopefully, appear to the human

      24      side of all of you.

      25             My family consists of two people with


       1      disabilities.  We lived in Rochester, New York, for

       2      five years.  We lived in a multifamily unit that

       3      consisted of 400-plus residents.

       4             The building was infested with black mold,

       5      asbestos, poor air quality, and no ventilation.

       6             The building failed Section 8 inspection.

       7             The health department documented their

       8      findings.

       9             The owners refused to remediate the black

      10      mold, or, address any of the condition.

      11             They found a way to evict my family without

      12      just cause.

      13             As a result, we lost major opportunities, and

      14      endured financial hardship.

      15             I'm sure you may be asking yourself why you

      16      are here?

      17             My belief is that you have been chosen by the

      18      creator of the universe to be here.

      19             You are in the right place at the right time

      20      because the prayers of the many has created this day

      21      for positive results concerning the issues that are

      22      placed before you.

      23             You can go back to your other Assemblymembers

      24      or senators, and challenge them to make history by

      25      passing these two bills, which would benefit the


       1      people you are all here -- have been called to

       2      represent.

       3             Also, you will go down in history for

       4      changing the laws that are oppressing many, and, in

       5      the process, make it a strong statement, that

       6      housing is a necessity and a human right.

       7             Here's some stats in Rochester, New York:

       8             Rochester consists of 63 percent renters.

       9             Emergency shelters consist of 70 percent of

      10      people who have been evicted.

      11             In the courts, each year, as you have heard,

      12      there have been upwards of 8,600 eviction cases.

      13             20,000 or more people a year have been in

      14      court facing eviction, because landlords have been

      15      given power, by law, to victimize the poor.

      16             50,000 people have been compelled to move

      17      each year in Rochester.

      18             These numbers do not include the ones that

      19      never make it to court.

      20             This has resulted in increased homelessness,

      21      instability, mental-health issues, educational

      22      problems in the school system, and genocide.

      23             It is also largely been (indiscernible) --

      24      responsible, I'm sorry, for an increase in crime

      25      rate, dysfunctional families and community, which,


       1      in turn, places a strain on our economy.

       2             Most written laws have the rich in power in

       3      mind, and not people like us.

       4             Prayerfully, today is a new day.

       5             I'm here to represent a young lady who is

       6      59 as well.

       7             I'm the tenant president of my building.

       8             She couldn't be here.  She's, literally,

       9      became -- she, literally, became visually challenged

      10      within two years or so.

      11             She said:

      12             "I'm Bridget (ph.).  I'm visually-challenged,

      13      blind.

      14             "I have been given 30 days to move out.

      15             "Now that 30 days is 3 days from today.

      16             "I have no violation or missed rent payments.

      17             "I have nowhere to go, me and my daughter.

      18             "I was discriminated against, and my

      19      disability rights' special accommodation was

      20      violated.

      21             "I now live in a one-bedroom.

      22             "When I remind management for my need for a

      23      two-bedroom, I was told not to hold my breath, and

      24      that she just rented out the two-bedroom.

      25             "Then the manager looked me in my face and


       1      stated, that my lease would not be renewed, even

       2      after my doctor wrote this letter.

       3             "The doctor stated, from Rochester Regional

       4      Health:

       5             'Bridget Houston currently has uncontrolled

       6      Type 2 diabetes, with both eyes affected.

       7             'Please consider the patient for a

       8      two-bedroom, accommodated her disability needs for

       9      her and her caregiver.'"

      10             At this point, we're fighting for people like

      11      Bridget, to have an extension.

      12             When we pass these two bills, we are part of

      13      the nine-bill package to create, expand, universal

      14      rent control.

      15             We can get Bridget, and thousands more

      16      others, that are blind and disabled protection.

      17             So my question to you guys:

      18             What is good-cause eviction?

      19             What is rent stabilization?

      20             And how can everyone benefit?

      21             Please ask yourself, which side of history

      22      will I choose to be on?

      23             You choose.

      24             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you.

      25             I suggest, for context here, you know, we are


       1      here in Westchester, where the Emergency Tenant

       2      Protection Act permits localities to opt into the

       3      rent-regulation system.

       4             But, in Rochester, that's not the case.

       5             Only in the counties of Rockland and

       6      Westchester and Nassau and, of course, the city of

       7      New York, is that available.

       8             So just, can you give us a sense --

       9             Thank you; thank you for your testimony, and

      10      for all of your work in Rochester, and for making a

      11      very long trip to be with us today.

      12             -- can you just talk about, this phenomenon

      13      of landlords -- of investors purchasing buildings,

      14      and then seeking to push the people who live in

      15      those buildings out, in order to increase their

      16      profits, as you've described, is that a growing

      17      phenomenon in Rochester?

      18             Has something changed in recent years?

      19             ELIZABETH McGRIFF:  It has.  It's changed in

      20      the last couple of years.

      21             There is an apartment complex, the city has

      22      lost a number of its population.

      23             So, in order to increase it, they've opened

      24      themselves up to a lot of investors, and a lot of

      25      developers.  And it's kind of changed -- changed the


       1      face of the city.  A lot of Black folks are being

       2      forced out of the area that they have lived in there

       3      for many, many years.

       4             And it's causing -- it's causing a lot of

       5      homelessness.

       6             You can see, I -- Linda has mentioned, a lot

       7      of the homelessness in our communities have gone up,

       8      because people can't afford to live in these

       9      apartments anymore.

      10             Rent -- the particular one that I was talking

      11      about, the rent was five to six hundred dollars a

      12      month, it was affordable.  A lot of the recipients

      13      were on fixed income, DSS, SSD benefits, disability

      14      benefits.

      15             And so, now, the investors are coming in and

      16      they're saying, Well, we can get a higher price

      17      because this is an up and coming city.

      18             So they can get more money.

      19             So the whole complex, you know, 30-day

      20      notice, "get out."

      21             You know, and some have lived there for many,

      22      many years.  Paid their rent on time.  Didn't cause

      23      any problems.

      24             So it's definitely increasing in our

      25      community.


       1             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Do you want to answer?

       2             GAIL WILLIAMS:  I would just like to state

       3      that these buyouts are horrible.

       4             I'm not sure, technically, do Rochester,

       5      New York, or any taxpayer, have an idea what's going

       6      on.

       7             This particular building that, literally,

       8      caused me and my family to move out, just, had

       9      nothing there.

      10             No, anything.  You just have to go.

      11             These people received $1.3 million in tax

      12      breaks.

      13             I thought about that, because I'm only

      14      five years here in New York, and I was, like, well,

      15      then why do we have such high property taxes,

      16      because we're paying for this?

      17             We're paying for developers to come in, and

      18      it's a joke, because what they do, and what I really

      19      found out after going to the code inspectors, or

      20      office, or whatever, in my building, I had to go

      21      pull the code, because I couldn't believe that I'm

      22      here four, five years, and, surely, there's no

      23      ventilation; surely, the black mold is everywhere.

      24      People are really, literally, sick.

      25             I went there and I looked, and I was, like,


       1      nine -- within nine years, no code.  None.

       2             And then I looked and say, What is this game

       3      that the investors are playing?

       4             Playing, mainly, the corporate.

       5             I can't speak for those who are just really

       6      good landlords, so we're not talking about that.

       7             I watched that building go down and down and

       8      down, and the joke is, it's like a cycle.

       9             Let the building go down, because we can come

      10      to the mayor, the City, we can come to the senators,

      11      and say, Oh, Rochester is great.

      12             Rochester is great.

      13             But at the same time, these buyouts, they

      14      know they're going to get this money to so-called

      15      repair, and go, oh, yeah, by the way, we helping

      16      these poor people.

      17             But where you let the building go down for

      18      10 and 20 years, that's the game.

      19             It's a cycle in Rochester, New York.

      20             And my concern is, also, it's, like, how do

      21      we keep giving them a pass?

      22             How do even our senators, which we have

      23      spoken to over and over again, who have, not, not

      24      stood up for Rochester, New York.

      25             And it's my understanding, they're saying,


       1      oh, we're fine.

       2             How are you fine, when you have

       3      50,000 families a year being rotated and put on the

       4      street?

       5             And you know what?

       6             I kind of -- you know, at one point, I was,

       7      like, you know, this is just about Black people.

       8             When I look, it's all faces.

       9             You poor, you got to go, it's nothing

      10      personal.

      11             So when we talk about investment, I hope

      12      everybody in this room completely understand,

      13      there's nothing more devastating, to be somewhere

      14      22 years, 20 years, and 10 years, and pay taxes in

      15      this city, and work.

      16             We're not talking about someone that's on the

      17      street with a sign, saying, Okay, could you feed me?

      18             I think people have a misconception of what

      19      that's about.

      20             We're talking about college students, who

      21      possibly have to sleep on their mother's couch until

      22      they get a job.  Or we talking about, you know,

      23      people who, they retired, and the disability is low.

      24             So I'm stating here today, please, for all

      25      investors, please understand something:


       1             It's one thing to get an investment; it's

       2      another thing to kill people.

       3             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you.

       4             Any questions from the panel?

       5             Senator Harckham.

       6             SENATOR HARCKHAM:  Yeah, thank you.

       7             And thank the -- to the three of you for

       8      coming down from Rochester, and thank you for your

       9      testimony.

      10             You said that the people who purchased that

      11      building had 1.3 million in tax breaks.

      12             Were those state tax breaks, do you know, or

      13      were they local tax breaks?

      14             GAIL WILLIAMS:  State.

      15             SENATOR HARCKHAM:  Those were state tax

      16      breaks?

      17             GAIL WILLIAMS:  State tax breaks.

      18             SENATOR HARCKHAM:  All right.

      19             Thank you very much.

      20             GAIL WILLIAMS:  Okay.

      21             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Any other questions?

      22             Thank you very much again for your testimony.

      23             GAIL WILLIAMS:  Thank you.

      24             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Yes, I would like to just

      25      be -- first -- first of all, acknowledge that we


       1      have been joined by our Majority Leader,

       2      Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who -- in whose district we

       3      sit today.  And she will, perhaps, give some remarks

       4      as we go forth, but has suggested that I proceed by

       5      calling up the next panel of witnesses.

       6             So we're going to have -- we're going

       7      to have, next up, Sojourner Salinas and

       8      Zeltzyn Sanchez Gomez, both of Yonkers, of

       9      Community Voices Heard.

      10             And, great, whichever of you wants to go

      11      first, if you'd just state your name and your

      12      affiliation, and proceed.

      13             SOJOURNER SALINAS:  Good morning -- can you

      14      hear me clear?

      15             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Yes.

      16             SOJOURNER SALINAS:  Thank you.

      17             Good morning, Senators.

      18             My name is Sojourner Salinas.

      19             I'm a member leader from Community Voices

      20      Heard, and I represent Westchester County Chapter.

      21             Community Voices Heard is a member-led

      22      organization, multi-racial organization, principally

      23      comprised of women of color and of low-income

      24      families across New York State.

      25             We tackle tough issues, and we build power to


       1      secure racial and social and economic justice.

       2             Through grass organizing -- grassroots

       3      organizing, leadership development, and policy

       4      changes, and creating new models of direct

       5      democracy, Community Voices Heard is creating a

       6      truly equitable New York State.

       7             We have chapters in New York City,

       8      Westchester County, Orange County, Dutchess County,

       9      and Rockland Counties (sic).

      10             Together, with Housing Justice for All, we

      11      are fighting for universal rent control, and we ask

      12      you all to pass all nine bills.

      13             I now live in a stabilized apartment in

      14      New Rochelle for now, but I have personally faced

      15      horrific housing obstacles since 1992.

      16             If it were not for the grace of God, I would

      17      still be facing housing insecurities.

      18             I have dealt with NYCHA mold -- NYCHA's mold,

      19      unjust rent increases, lease-renewal issues,

      20      preferential rent and vacancy bonus, fraudulent

      21      schemes, and burglary.

      22             My income couldn't keep up with the unjust

      23      rent increases, and I was evicted, became homeless.

      24      I had to leave The Bronx where I was born and raised

      25      to live with the family in Mount Vernon.


       1             If they had not taken me in, I would have

       2      been subjected to going from shelter to shelter.

       3             I lived with them for two years, until they

       4      themselves were evicted, along with other families

       5      who lived in their home.

       6             It was 2010, and the owner of that home lost

       7      their home to predatory bank lending.

       8             I found myself homeless once again, until

       9      I was relocated again, to another city I knew

      10      nothing about, White Plains.

      11             While living in White Plains, I dealt with

      12      harassment and intimidation from my landlord.

      13             Moreover, she refused to provide me with a

      14      lease renewal.  And without any protection,

      15      I constantly feared where I would be -- when I would

      16      be evicted and become homeless once more.

      17             As someone on a fixed income, unjust rent

      18      increase might as well have been an eviction notice

      19      for me.

      20             For four years, between 2013 and 2017, the

      21      stability of my entire life was at the discretion of

      22      my landlord.  This constant stress took a massive

      23      toll on my health and my peace of mind.

      24             My story of housing insecurities is not

      25      unique.  Millions of people across New York State


       1      face similar obstacles.

       2             Throughout Westchester, cities, towns, and

       3      villages are being gentrified.

       4             Rent-law loopholes are being systemically

       5      exploited to drive up rents, leading to the

       6      displacement of families and communities.

       7             Landlords are discriminating against

       8      low-income tenants because of our source of income.

       9             We have a right to truly affordable housing.

      10             Across Westchester County, and the rest of

      11      the state, rents are skyrocketing, and the low-rent

      12      housing stock is diminishing, leaving tenants few

      13      choices if they are priced out of their current

      14      rent-regulated apartments.

      15             It's not okay that profit is being put before

      16      the people.

      17             As a member of the State Legislature, you are

      18      empowered to pass all nine rent-protection bills.

      19             This would be a step in the right direction

      20      towards easing the burden far too many New Yorkers

      21      face when grappling the housing crisis.

      22             We need you all to sign on to and pass

      23      universal rent control in the nine bills.

      24             Housing justice is racial and an economic

      25      justice.


       1             We need you to protect and preserve our

       2      communities.

       3             If New York State Senate does not pass all

       4      nine bills, and ensure universal rent control, then

       5      you will be allowing low-income tenants and families

       6      to face the same insecurities that I have, and other

       7      New York State tenants have as well.

       8             I urge you, and implore you, to be on the

       9      right side of history, and stand with over 5 million

      10      renters and tenants in seeking housing statewide.

      11             We have your back.

      12             Thank you very much, and may God bless you.

      13             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you.

      14             ZELTZYN SANCHEZ GOMEZ:  Good morning,

      15      everyone.

      16             My name is Zeltzyn Sanchez Gomez.

      17             I am a 20-year-old Port Chester resident, a

      18      youth coordinator with Westpac, and a board member

      19      of Sustainable Port Chester Alliance, and new CVH

      20      (Community Voices Heard) member.

      21             I am here today to testify that

      22      gentrification and displacement are not only

      23      happening in New York City, but also in

      24      Westchester County.

      25             Real estate firms are building and acquiring


       1      properties throughout the Hudson Valley and driving

       2      up rents.

       3             In Port Chester, Village government is

       4      planning a village-wide rezoning that will pave the

       5      way for major development downtown.

       6             Construction of new luxury apartment

       7      buildings made possible by this rezoning is likely

       8      to both directly displace residents and cause rents

       9      in the area to rise, leading to the indirect

      10      displacement of many more residents.

      11             I, and many of my peers across the county,

      12      fear soon there will be no place for us in

      13      Westchester.

      14             We are unable to afford the rent, much less

      15      become homeowners, in the towns and villages where

      16      we've grown up.

      17             My aunt and uncle have been living in

      18      Port Chester for over 20 years; this is their home.

      19             My aunt is a housekeeper, and my uncle, a new

      20      U.S. citizen, is in the process of joining a union.

      21             They have four kids together.

      22             The youngest one is graduating from

      23      Head-Start.

      24             And the oldest one is going to the middle

      25      school, which, in Port Chester, the middle school


       1      is, literally, falling apart, and it's

       2      super-overcrowded.

       3             My family and cousins were being kicked out

       4      of their home on Grace Church Street, unless they

       5      paid a $500 increase on top of their already high

       6      rent.

       7             They've been looking tirelessly for a place

       8      to live, and have yet to find anything close to

       9      affordable.

      10             The owner now plans to sell the home, and my

      11      aunt and uncle and cousins all have to move,

      12      regardless.

      13             All of the new housing in Port Chester is

      14      unreasonably expensive, and so-called "affordable

      15      housing" is not affordable.

      16             We need good-cause eviction so that tenants

      17      like my aunt and uncle don't face massive,

      18      unconscionable rent increases.

      19             My young cousins need you to step up and sign

      20      on so that they are not displaced out of their home.

      21             There are some who say the rent laws are just

      22      a New York City issue, but I assure you that we know

      23      better in Port Chester.

      24             We need these laws in place now, and will

      25      need them even more after the rezoning.


       1             Around 400 apartments in Port Chester are

       2      rent-stabilized through the Emergency Tenant

       3      Protection Act.

       4             This is not enough.

       5             Units are rapidly being destabilized, and

       6      400 more families are at risk of losing their

       7      housing.

       8             I have also personally experienced housing

       9      insecurity and complex living situations.

      10             Growing up, my mom, a single mother of two,

      11      would struggle to find clean and decent housing for

      12      the both of us.

      13             We would live in apartments with two of my

      14      aunts, their partners and babies at the time; three

      15      families all shoved into a two-bedroom, one-bathroom

      16      apartment.

      17             I lived in an attic room while I was in

      18      elementary school, with my brother and my mom.

      19             During middle school I lived in a basement on

      20      South Regent Street.

      21             Every few months someone would come to

      22      inspect the house, and the landlords would force us

      23      to leave the house while they covered up any sign of

      24      living.

      25             This meant that the kitchen and the bathroom


       1      were covered with giant pieces of wood so it would

       2      seem as if no one was really living there.

       3             Our belongings would be stacked up so it

       4      looked like the basement was being used for storage.

       5             Now I live with my mom, my brother, his

       6      girlfriend, and a two-week old baby.

       7             We have a decent space, but I worry about

       8      where I will go when I decide it's time for me to

       9      leave my mother's house.

      10             I can't afford a $3,000 luxury apartment, and

      11      buying a house is not an option for me.

      12             I should have the ability to stay and thrive

      13      in the community where I grew up in, and I want to

      14      continue to contribute to that community.

      15             In the fall of 2018, Community Voices Heard

      16      member leaders from across New York State gathered

      17      as a member congress and determined that, although

      18      wages have stagnated, rents continue to soar.

      19             Working-class families across New York are

      20      forced to pay more and more of our income towards

      21      rent and mortgages.

      22             Real estate developers prey on opportunities

      23      to increase land and housing prices, driving our

      24      displacement.

      25             Currently, 88,000 New Yorkers across the


       1      state are homeless.  Many of us who pay a mortgage

       2      or rent an apartment are just one paycheck away from

       3      joining their ranks.

       4             This contributes to an already pervasive

       5      attack on working families and the working poor in

       6      our neighborhoods, as well as toxic and unsafe

       7      living conditions in public and private housing.

       8             These conditions have resulted in making many

       9      of our families sick.

      10             Housing is cheaply made and codes are not

      11      enforced.

      12             On top of expensive rent and unhealthy

      13      conditions, tenants face various forms of

      14      harassment, neglect -- and neglect from landlords.

      15             For our members, it is clear that the market,

      16      where greedy landlords buy and sell homes for

      17      profit, has failed to meet the housing needs of our

      18      communities; therefore, we are committed to building

      19      power to improve the unacceptable conditions of

      20      housing and homelessness we face today.

      21             I am fighting for my community, my family,

      22      and myself.

      23             I urge to you sponsor and pass all nine bills

      24      in the Housing Justice For All platform.

      25             We need you to stand up and protect tenants.


       1             We need you all to defend and prove and

       2      expand rent regulations, and join us in fighting for

       3      truly affordable housing.

       4             We are looking to you all, as our leaders in

       5      Albany, to stand with tenants and pass all nine

       6      bills.

       7             Thank you.

       8                [Applause.]

       9             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you, both.

      10             Appreciate the (indiscernible).

      11             We're going to try to ask people to sort of

      12      refrain from reacting to testimony today, just so we

      13      can move through and get everybody up here.

      14             Just -- so, both of you are currently living

      15      in communities that have the Emergency Tenant

      16      Protection Act, and you have some rent regulation in

      17      communities.

      18             But it sounds from your testimony like you

      19      have a broader problem in your housing market, where

      20      evictions are still a big part of the difficulties

      21      that tenants experience.

      22             And, so, you're talking about -- you're

      23      talking the benefit of adding good-cause eviction,

      24      which is one of the bills that -- the nine bills

      25      that we're talking about today.


       1             Can you just talk about how, in your -- from

       2      your personal experience, or from your experience as

       3      organizers and -- and -- and -- and neighbors, how

       4      landlords use evictions to increase their profits,

       5      and how that affects -- how that affects people that

       6      live in your communities?

       7             SOJOURNER SALINAS:  Yeah, well -- well, I can

       8      say, I personally have been affected by a landlord,

       9      where, like I said, I was evicted -- I was evicted.

      10      And I couldn't keep up with -- my income couldn't

      11      keep up with the rent.

      12             And because -- like I -- I wasn't familiar

      13      with the jargon, like I know now --

      14             So, because I know now what the jargons are

      15      and what they mean.

      16             I had no clue what the landlord was doing,

      17      and why I couldn't keep up with the rent.

      18             -- and now I see why, because of these

      19      vacancy bonuses, and the preferential rate, and the

      20      major cap -- major capital improvement, that was

      21      happening to me is not fair when you in a low-income

      22      bracket.

      23             And when you're -- when the market rate is

      24      set at a certain rate, and you're low-income, that's

      25      what you're -- you're faced with.


       1             But when a landlord is already being given

       2      incentives -- receiving incentives to use this money

       3      to build -- to build on that, he's getting extra on

       4      top of that by using the vacancy bonus, the IAIs,

       5      and the MCIs.

       6             And then, not only that, when you need lease

       7      renewals, you sometimes are unprotected from that,

       8      because if you can't meet the rent, there's no way

       9      that you can even get good just cause because of

      10      your -- you can't keep up with it.

      11             So it's really -- it's really -- it puts a --

      12      you're in between a rock and a hard place.

      13             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  In your view, the

      14      rent-regulation laws are not doing their job of

      15      ensuring that apartments that are affordable now

      16      kind of remain affordable for the people that --

      17             SOJOURNER SALINAS:  They're not -- they're

      18      not affordable for any low-income New Yorker in

      19      New York State, nonetheless Westchester County,

      20      being one of the wealthiest states (sic), first, and

      21      then comes New York.

      22             You understand?

      23             So we are at disadvantage when it comes to

      24      New Yorkers.

      25             Like I heard the landlord say, we're -- wipe


       1      out, wipe out, RGB.

       2             You know, I know we're not in New York, but

       3      that's what we typify.  We usually base off

       4      everything from New York.

       5             So, how dare you say such a thing.

       6             You literally saying, wipe out the low-income

       7      bracket.

       8             That's -- that's an insult.

       9              I'm sitting right in the room, and you got

      10      millions of people who are faced with that -- with

      11      that notion.

      12             To say something like that is preposterous.

      13             It doesn't make sense.

      14             And for him to babble that on record, it's

      15      oblivious.

      16             But, anyway, you know, that's -- that's just

      17      what I believe should -- should take account,

      18      because this is not just me.  This is millions

      19      of people across New York State, and

      20      Westchester County.

      21             ZELTZYN SANCHEZ GOMEZ:  And also -- could

      22      you -- can I just talk?

      23             Also, in -- you know, Westchester County is

      24      one of the richest counties in all of

      25      New York State.  Right?


       1             And a lot of the housing that's being made is

       2      at Westchester County area median income; not

       3      Port Chester area median income, or New Rochelle

       4      area median income.

       5             Which means that, someone like

       6      Hillary Clinton could definitely buy an apartment at

       7      a Westchester area median income, but I won't be

       8      able to because I don't make as much money as

       9      Hillary Clinton.

      10             So that's an issue that we've kind of been

      11      dealing with.

      12             And, back to your question about the

      13      good-cause eviction (indiscernible), it gives

      14      tenants the right to renew their lease, depending on

      15      what the landlord has, and all of that.

      16             But, something that we've been seeing in

      17      Port Chester, is that a lot of business owners --

      18      Shelley Mayer just had a Latino business-owner

      19      roundtable.

      20             And what I heard from them was that, they've

      21      been having their businesses for many years.  And

      22      they have -- they want to improve, they want to

      23      expand, they want to renew.  And every time they go

      24      to the landlords, the landlords are, like, we don't

      25      want to renew with you, because we want to empty out


       1      the building and sell it out to a bigger developer

       2      that has money and that's going to do something with

       3      the building.

       4             So they're not renewing leases.

       5             And they should have the ability to renew

       6      since they've been here for so many years.

       7             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you.

       8             Are the questions or comments from the panel?

       9             Senator Mayer.

      10             SENATOR MAYER:  Well, I just want to thank

      11      you both for coming, and making the story personal,

      12      and explaining the differences in our communities.

      13             And as Zeltzyn explained about Port Chester,

      14      when you have a community that's really right in the

      15      middle of transition, with a lot of, yes, we have

      16      ETPA.

      17             But I guess I would ask you specifically, in

      18      your experience, in living in different rental

      19      housing, was -- did you live in any rent-stabilized

      20      housing during that time you described?

      21             ZELTZYN SANCHEZ GOMEZ:  No, because we were

      22      undocumented, so you're unable to apply because you

      23      don't have a Social Security number.

      24             So that's also another issue, of how

      25      undocumented people find housing is completely


       1      different.

       2             SENATOR MAYER:  Okay, that's a good addition

       3      to the conversation.

       4             Thank you.

       5             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Senator Harckham.

       6             SENATOR HARCKHAM:  Thank you, Mr. Chair.

       7             Just following up on this notion of tax

       8      breaks from last time, we see in New Rochelle and

       9      White Plains and Port Chester, and Peekskill, which

      10      I represent, IDAs, which give, essentially, public

      11      money, or borrowing at public rates, to developers,

      12      to develop, and, generally, they are exceedingly

      13      high-rate apartments.

      14             And you had mentioned that this puts pressure

      15      on the other apartments in the area, because those

      16      rents are so high.

      17             Could you talk about that a little more?

      18             SOJOURNER SALINAS:  Yeah.

      19             Uhm, as we see today, the rents are

      20      skyrocketing.  We see that everywhere.

      21             We see that, in every neighborhood, there's

      22      more gentrification, there's more luxury buildings

      23      being put up everywhere, in every city, every

      24      village.

      25             There's less in -- there are less buildings


       1      being developed that is -- actually strive for

       2      incomes that fit the bracket for the neighborhood.

       3             So in a community where you have, say, like,

       4      in Port Chester, in certain areas where there's

       5      other a Dominican or Hispanic neighborhood, where

       6      the income bracket at a certain level, they're going

       7      to put a luxury building in that area, where you

       8      know the community is not fit to meet that need.

       9             So they gonna build a luxury building in that

      10      area, as opposed to meeting the need of the

      11      community.

      12             Right?

      13             So instead of doing that, they rather -- they

      14      rather put a luxury building, why?  Because it's

      15      more profitable to put it there.

      16             So, now, then that pushes out the community,

      17      so now you have no more of a community.

      18             So that's why we're in fear -- where the

      19      people are in fear, because now the communities are

      20      being lost, you don't have a community anymore.

      21             Now you have all these luxury and corporate

      22      properties, where the rents for a studio is 3500,

      23      4600, and going up and up and up.

      24             And who can afford that in this time and age,

      25      when you have low-income individuals not even making


       1      $15 an hour, not even making $10 an hour.

       2             Home health aides, nurses, you got people

       3      working in delis; these are all low-income-bracket

       4      individuals, and these are the people that we're

       5      fighting for.

       6             I'm a low-income individual, you understand.

       7             People on fixed income, disabilities,

       8      veterans, you've got the senior citizens.

       9             So this is the problem.

      10             The developers that -- there's no problem

      11      with making a city thrive.  Okay?

      12             I was a part of the work -- the Westchester

      13      (indiscernible) Thriving Family in Westchester.

      14             We want to make Westchester thrive, but how

      15      can you make it thrive when you only building

      16      luxury?

      17             That's not diverse.

      18             You need to make a community diverse.

      19             ZELTZYN SANCHEZ GOMEZ:  So to also add on to

      20      that, I believe that the IDAs have not been really

      21      fulfilling what their mission is, which is to, you

      22      know, grow our economy, create jobs, create housing,

      23      for people.

      24             And they're not really fulfilling that,

      25      because they're just giving tax breaks to big


       1      developers to come.  And these are

       2      multi-billion-dollar developers that are coming in,

       3      that should be able to pay that money.

       4             And, you know, what Sustainable Port Chester

       5      Alliance has been doing in Port Chester, is

       6      advocating for community-benefit agreements to be

       7      implemented, and so that the IDA can come up and

       8      say, this is the community-benefit agreement that we

       9      have.

      10             And developers should come to the table and

      11      agree to come and build a certain percentage of

      12      affordable housing, a certain percentage of space

      13      that is used for community cultural, arts, programs,

      14      or anything like that.

      15             So, I believe that community-benefit

      16      agreements should be included in IDA discussions,

      17      and all of that, too.

      18             SENATOR HARCKHAM:  Thank you.

      19             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you.

      20             Any other comments or questions from the

      21      panel?

      22             Okay.

      23             Again, thank you very much for your

      24      testimony.

      25             SOJOURNER SALINAS:  Thank you.


       1             ZELTZYN SANCHEZ GOMEZ:  Thank you.

       2             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Next up we are going to

       3      have Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas of

       4      New York State Homes and Community Renewal.

       5             Very happy to have the Commissioner with us

       6      today.  And I think, perhaps, some of her staff may

       7      be joining.

       8             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  Good morning.

       9             I was going to read some testimony, and then

      10      I'm happy to take some questions?

      11             Great, thanks.

      12             Good morning, everyone -- or, good afternoon,

      13      I don't know what time it is.

      14             Senator Kavanagh and members of the

      15      Committee, I'm pleased to be here with you today on

      16      the last of five hearings that you and the Committee

      17      are holding on this topic.

      18             And I want to say I'm very grateful for your

      19      dedication and your interest in offering as many

      20      people as possible; tenants, advocates, building

      21      owners, all like, the opportunity to testify about

      22      this critical issue.

      23             It obviously sends a strong message that

      24      we're ready to work together to strengthen our rent

      25      laws, which are already among the strongest in the


       1      nation.

       2             In communities across the state, rental

       3      housing that is of good quality and affordable is in

       4      very short supply, and depending on the region, the

       5      factors that contribute to that shortage vary.

       6             That is the reason, in part, that we launched

       7      our $20 billion, 5-year, 100,000-unit housing plan.

       8             The plan is meant to spur the production of

       9      new affordable rental and home-ownership housing

      10      across the state, and to preserve the existing stock

      11      that has served the state for decades, but which is

      12      in -- oftentimes, in need of investment, upgrade,

      13      and repair.

      14             Our programs are tailored to serve renters

      15      and homeowners and municipalities, both large and

      16      small, rural and urban.

      17             They finance new construction as well as

      18      preservation.

      19             They serve families and seniors and veterans

      20      and those with special needs.  Sometimes they serve

      21      all of those populations in one building.

      22             And they cover manufactured-home parks, and

      23      municipalities that are struggling with zombie

      24      properties, and small towns that want to revitalize

      25      their downtowns.


       1             It's an ambitious and comprehensive plan, and

       2      as you can see from our reports to you each July, we

       3      are proud to be on target after two full years of

       4      production, deploying our resources in all corners

       5      of the state.

       6             We also know the production of affordable

       7      housing is not the only need or the only tool.

       8             We have consistently sought and fought for

       9      more, including funding for foreclosure counseling,

      10      the creation of land banks, and, passing

      11      source-of-income legislation with the Legislature

      12      this past March, a tool to allow those who are

      13      seeking housing to be protected from discrimination.

      14             And last, but not least, we are less than a

      15      month away from the expiration of the rent laws that

      16      govern New York City, Rockland, Nassau, and

      17      Westchester counties.

      18             I believe that, now, more than ever, we have

      19      a better than ever opportunity to pass strengthened

      20      rent laws that will ensure that tenants have the

      21      right and a fair chance to stay in their homes, and

      22      that the homes that they will rent are those that

      23      they desire and that they can afford.

      24             At HCR, we look forward to working with you

      25      to arrive at a set of comprehensive and workable


       1      reforms that will strengthen tenants' rights, and

       2      allow for continued existence of good quality,

       3      affordable housing across the state.

       4             As you've heard me say in the past,

       5      Governor Cuomo has spent his entire adult life

       6      fighting to increase access to affordable housing

       7      and homelessness, and protect New Yorkers' rights,

       8      including creation of the state's first

       9      tenant-protection unit.

      10             On rent regulation, he has raised the

      11      deregulation threshold twice, limited the frequency

      12      and extent of the vacancy bonus, and increased civil

      13      penalties for those who break or skirt the

      14      anti-harassment law.

      15             What is more, he spearheaded the creation of

      16      the tenant-protection unit which has reregulated

      17      over 75,000 units since its creation.

      18             Each time that the laws have come up for

      19      renewal under the Governor's leadership, they have

      20      been strengthened in favor of tenants, and 2019 will

      21      be no different.

      22             In New York City, which is where the majority

      23      of rent-registered apartments currently exist, there

      24      are 912,045 apartments registered as subject to rent

      25      stabilization at the end of 2016.


       1             These apartments house almost 2 1/2 million

       2      tenants.

       3             Who lives in these apartments?

       4             Rent-stabilized tenants are more likely to be

       5      female, Hispanic or Black, or foreign-born.

       6             More than 60 percent of households living in

       7      rent-stabilized units are low or moderate income.

       8             That translates to about 600,000 households

       9      in New York, and their median household income was

      10      about $44,560 in 2016.

      11             That's some $22,000 less than renters in

      12      private, non-regulated stock, and half the median

      13      income of homeowners.

      14             Why do we need this stock?

      15             Because rents continue to outpace incomes.

      16             According to the U.S. census data, since

      17      2007, the median rent in New York City, adjusted for

      18      inflation, has increased by 18 percent, while the

      19      median inflation-adjusted income for renter

      20      households has only increased by 6 percent, leaving

      21      many New Yorkers struggling to afford

      22      ever-increasing housing costs.

      23             While we have successfully advocated for

      24      legislation to protect tenants, it is clear that

      25      there is more work to do.


       1             We are fully committed to working with you

       2      and the tenant and landlord communities to

       3      strengthen protections to rent-burdened tenants,

       4      while also balancing needs in upstate communities

       5      and encouraging private investment in the housing

       6      stock.

       7             You've heard the Governor talk publicly about

       8      rent reform many times, and he consistently commits

       9      to eliminate vacancy decontrol, to limit rent

      10      creases -- limit rent increases for building and

      11      apartment improvements, to make the preferential

      12      rent operate as the legal rent for the life of the

      13      tenancy, and to ensure that landlords aren't

      14      rewarded financially for schemes to force tenants

      15      out.

      16             Taking these steps as part of the broader

      17      rent reform will stop the exit of units from this

      18      system; reduce the speed at which rent-regulated

      19      rents are rising; remove incentives that reward

      20      tenant turnover, that may result in harassment; and

      21      ensure that owners are still able to maintain the

      22      quality of their properties through investment.

      23             I've worked in this sector for a long time,

      24      and I've traveled a lot in this very diverse state.

      25             And no matter how many groundbreakings


       1      I attend, or ribbons I cut, or tenants that I meet,

       2      the shortage of quality, affordable rental housing

       3      persists everywhere.

       4             We know that the security and sense of

       5      belonging that a home provides is invaluable and

       6      irreplaceable.

       7             But for those who are rent-burdened on a

       8      limited income have fallen into homelessness, for

       9      whichever of the reasons that exist, whose

      10      neighborhoods have endured disinvestment or

      11      displacement, "home" takes on a very different

      12      meaning.

      13             Rather than convey a sense of stability, it

      14      becomes a source of stress, living in substantial

      15      conditions, skipping meals or medication in order to

      16      afford the rent, is no way to live, and yet we know

      17      that many do.

      18             It is these people, our fellow New Yorkers,

      19      for whom we seek to provide a stronger set of

      20      protections, and I believe that we can do this.

      21             We remain committed to serving the people of

      22      New York as we administer the state rent laws, and

      23      hope to continue the track record set by this

      24      administration to continue the fair expansion of

      25      rent regulations to protect tenants and keep homes


       1      affordable for New Yorkers.

       2             Thank you, and I'm happy to take questions.

       3             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you very much.

       4             And thank you for joining us today.

       5             Just to begin, you said that New York has the

       6      strongest -- some of the strongest rent laws and

       7      tenant-protection laws in the country.

       8             Do you -- is that -- do -- is that a

       9      statement about the laws generally throughout the

      10      state, or -- or do you think that's particular to

      11      the rent -- the sort of rent-stabilization system?

      12             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  I think we are --

      13      we benefit from having rent stabilization, which,

      14      obviously, not all states do.

      15             And I think we are now sort of on a precipice

      16      to make those even stronger than they've been in the

      17      past -- since their inception, perhaps.

      18             And I think other things, like source of

      19      income, which, granted, we're not first in nation on

      20      source of income, but adding to our sort of stable

      21      of laws, I think.

      22             And there are other conversations, I think,

      23      being had around manufactured-home parks, and sort

      24      of other places where there are needs.

      25             But I think that the consistency is that


       1      there's sort of a goal around making sure that, as

       2      New York, as the economy grows, that everyone has an

       3      opportunity to benefit of that, and part of that is

       4      making sure they have stable and affordable housing.

       5             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.  So just -- and

       6      focusing on the rent-stabilization system, you

       7      talked about how actual, you know,

       8      inflation-adjusted rents have gone up more rapidly

       9      than inflation-adjusted income, by a quite

      10      substantial margin.

      11             That's -- that -- that is true for the

      12      rent-regulated stock, as well as for the broader

      13      stock; right?

      14             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  I believe so, but

      15      my data on here is about the rent-regulated stock.

      16             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  It's the overall -- the

      17      overall.

      18             And in New York City, at least, roughly, half

      19      of the stock is rent-regulated?

      20             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  Yes, almost

      21      a million apartments.

      22             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Right.

      23             So -- and you mentioned a few areas where the

      24      Governor has come out, and I'm not going to ask you

      25      to, you know, get out ahead of the Governor here


       1      today.

       2             But, can you talk about -- you -- you --

       3      you -- you talked about removing the deregulation

       4      provisions, and setting the preferential rent for

       5      the duration of the tenancy, and you talked more

       6      vaguely about the restrict -- about limiting IAI and

       7      MCIs.

       8             Can you talk a little bit about why that --

       9      why the current law needs to be changed in such a

      10      way that it would be limited?

      11             Why -- why are -- why are the current

      12      restrictions on MCIs and IAIs not sufficient to

      13      achieve the goals of the rent-regulated system?

      14             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  Uh, yes, I'm

      15      happy to talk about that.

      16             We certainly believe that all the aspects of

      17      the law should be looked at sort of together, and

      18      comprehensively as a package, because there's a fair

      19      amount of interplay between the different parts.

      20             But I think what you have -- I have watched

      21      much of the testimony from your other hearings, and

      22      so you have sort of heard this consistently, and

      23      I certainly hear it when I meet with stakeholders,

      24      as I'm sure you do too, and constituents, that the

      25      MCIs and IAIs are causing a burden for many


       1      renters in New York City.

       2             And, so, I think you sort of have to take

       3      them separately.

       4             But I think, on IAIs, is you sort of are

       5      all -- are familiar, IAIs happen in two ways:

       6             They happen in place for tenants who -- who

       7      approve the actual IAI.  And it is not processed

       8      unless the tenant agrees to it.

       9             But then they also happen on turnover, and

      10      those are not regulated by HCR.  They are submitted

      11      by the landlord.  And unless it -- in the context of

      12      an overcharge, we don't review those.

      13             So I think that there is a strong feeling

      14      that IAIs are causing a lot of the units to come

      15      out of system, because they are, somewhat,

      16      unchecked.

      17             So I think you probably heard that a lot from

      18      people who have come and testified.

      19             So I think that's on the IAI side of that

      20      question.

      21             I think, for MCIs, the increases that many

      22      tenants are -- feel -- or, that they receive as a

      23      result of MCIs are too big for them to

      24      accommodate.

      25             And so I think there's sort of a discussion


       1      that everyone is having right now about, sort of,

       2      how to lessen the burden of MCIs on tenants.

       3             So I think that's the -- that's sort of the

       4      driver that you hear.

       5             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  And I think this hap -- we

       6      had the conversation with some landlords, landlord

       7      representatives, earlier.  I think it was before you

       8      arrived.

       9             But, on the IAIs, the current rate at which

      10      the dollars invested in an IAI are recouped is very

      11      rapid, even compared to MCI.

      12             So, 1/40th for buildings under 35 units, and

      13      1/60th for larger buildings; meaning, that in a

      14      smaller building, the landlord recoups the entire

      15      value of the invested, assuming they can collect the

      16      legal rent, in three and a third years.

      17             We've done some math, and estimate that to

      18      be, roughly, a 21 percent return on their

      19      investment, assuming -- again, assuming they can

      20      collect the full legal rent.

      21             Do -- beyond the fact -- and you discussed

      22      the very important question, of whether that could

      23      be properly regulated and overseen, and you're not

      24      currently really overseeing them, at least prior to

      25      the work being done.


       1             But is it -- does it -- does it appear to you

       2      that the incentives to do IAIs are too -- are more

       3      generous than are necessary to incentivize landlords

       4      to invest in their buildings?

       5             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  I think that

       6      there certainly is a lot of discussion about

       7      extending out the amortization period, which is

       8      the -- what you spoke about, the 1/40th, which seems

       9      like a good part of the discussion.

      10             As I said, they are -- we get about --

      11      I didn't say this, but we receive about 14,000

      12      IAIs in the system as registered each year, but

      13      only review them in the context of an overcharge for

      14      an incoming tenant.

      15             So I think, to the extent which -- that the

      16      structure of the IAI itself is lengthened, you might

      17      see less of them, but I don't think we know until we

      18      change the laws.

      19             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  And just going back to

      20      the -- and I'll make this my final question -- but

      21      going back to the question of the housing stock

      22      beyond the rent-regulated stock, and, of course,

      23      that includes units within the ETPA region, as well

      24      as around the rest of the state, you know, there are

      25      about -- I think about 6 million rental units in the


       1      state, a little over a million of them currently

       2      rent-regulated.

       3             Do we -- and you -- you were -- as you note,

       4      your agency does a lot of work to renovate, and to

       5      invest in new housing, and rehabilitation, all over

       6      the state, and perhaps a subject for another

       7      hearing, but, you know, there's certainly been a

       8      great deal of effort in that area.

       9             Do we have a crisis in lower-income

      10      neighborhoods, that is -- that extends to

      11      communities across the state, as we heard?

      12             Do you agree with that assessment?

      13             And -- and -- do we need additional

      14      protections beyond what the rent regulations offer?

      15             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  It's a very

      16      complex question, and I think probably the answer

      17      depends a little bit on where around the state you

      18      are, and what's sort of the -- the particulars of

      19      that neighborhood look like.

      20             I can certainly say that, certainly, there

      21      are many towns and cities upstate that have suffered

      22      from a down economy.  Right?

      23             There's many cities that were built for twice

      24      the number of people that live there.  So there's

      25      this sort of a fair amount of disinvestment that has


       1      happened over time.

       2             So, as you nicely say it, we have worked for

       3      the last two years, and will continue through the

       4      course of the housing plan, to make sure we are

       5      investing in communities around the state, to make

       6      sure that, as their economies grow, there is

       7      affordable housing, both new construction and

       8      preservation.

       9             I think, oftentimes, upstate people talk a

      10      lot, and what -- certainly what I hear from people,

      11      is that they talk more about quality.

      12             And so that there's sort of a real need to

      13      make sure there is investment into the housing

      14      stock, so that the, sort of, basic quality standards

      15      can be brought up to a level.

      16             It's not exactly an area that we sort of have

      17      governance over, but it is certainly something that

      18      I hear a lot as I travel around the state.

      19             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Is eviction itself -- a

      20      frequent eviction (indiscernible)?

      21             We have cities that -- where the stats

      22      suggest it's a very high rate of turnover, of

      23      involuntarily moving from one place to another.

      24             I mean, is that -- is that a -- obviously,

      25      that's an effect of people's incomes not keeping up


       1      with the rents, with at least the rents that

       2      landlords are desiring to charge them, and maybe

       3      effective landlords pushing people out for other

       4      reasons.

       5             Is that, in your view, a cause for concern,

       6      as well a cause of poverty, a cause of people having

       7      difficulty living the lives you were talking about

       8      that come from a stable home?

       9             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  We are very

      10      focused on ensuring that as many people can live

      11      stably and affordably in the state of New York with

      12      the tools that we have.

      13             And, certainly, I think everyone would agree

      14      that, whether it's getting evicted and moving

      15      multiple times, whether it's getting evicted and

      16      being in a homeless shelter, that's sort of cycling

      17      in and out of housing, moving children in and out of

      18      different school districts, you know, certainly, is

      19      not the type of housing that we want people to be

      20      able to have access to around the state.

      21             Right?

      22             We really want people to be able to live

      23      stably in addition to being able to live affordably.

      24             So that's very important to us.

      25             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  So I'm going to give


       1      someone else on the panel an opportunity to jump in.

       2             Questions for the Commissioner?

       3             SENATOR HARCKHAM:  Yeah, thank you.

       4             And good to see you again.

       5             Thank you.

       6             Earlier we had a discussion about the loss of

       7      ETPA apartments here in Westchester.

       8             During the period of the federal housing

       9      settlement, I was on the county board.

      10             We spent well in excess of $60 million to

      11      build 800 units.  There were millions of dollars of

      12      State money contributed as well.

      13             And at the same time, we lost 1,000 units of

      14      ETPA housing.

      15             So, we weren't even keeping pace.

      16             So what are we collectively, as government

      17      and as an economy and as a housing market, doing

      18      wrong, that we're spending tens of millions of

      19      dollars to subsidize affordable housing, and we're

      20      losing ground?

      21             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  I mean, I think

      22      that there's sort of two pieces to that.  Right?

      23             One is, from our perspective of our housing

      24      plan, we are working as best we can around the state

      25      to make sure that we are both building new housing


       1      and preserving existing housing through our

       2      financial tools.

       3             But the other part of that is, you know, as

       4      we are sort of here talking about today, is sort of

       5      strengthening the laws, to try and retain units in

       6      the stock, and so that they aren't exiting at a pace

       7      that is so fast, if that pace is, in fact, a result

       8      of, sort of, the system being too generous.

       9             So, we have to be vigilant, I think, on both

      10      of those sides.

      11             SENATOR HARCKHAM:  We -- we've heard some

      12      testimony about finding a responsible middle ground

      13      in this discussion, between the right to prevent

      14      tenants from evictions and from unaffordable

      15      increases that they have no say or control in,

      16      versus a landlord saying that they need to be able

      17      to reinvest in their buildings.

      18             To your mind, and to the administration's

      19      mind, what is that responsible middle ground?

      20             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  I think that much

      21      of the discussion that you have sort of heard from

      22      folks, and that is in the conversation already now,

      23      is sort of taking all of the tools that are in the

      24      existing law and reforming them all, or pulling them

      25      all back, to sort of de-escalate the loss of units.


       1             So I think that's sort of the primary focus

       2      of the strengthening of the laws.  And, obviously,

       3      we all hope that that will then, you know,

       4      reverberate, and that we'll see less units exiting,

       5      and rents staying down.

       6             SENATOR HARCKHAM:  Thank you, Mr. Chair.

       7             Thank you.

       8             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Leader Stewart-Cousins.

       9             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  Thank you so

      10      much.

      11             Thank you so much, Commissioner.

      12             Thank you for being here in my wonderful

      13      district.

      14             I know that Senator Kavanagh said that he

      15      didn't want to have you get in front of the

      16      Governor.

      17             I don't necessarily want you to do that, but,

      18      you know, people are talking about all nine

      19      components of a package that -- that, you know, many

      20      tenants feel will change their lives for the better.

      21             Is there any part of this package that you

      22      feel, you know, in terms of a statewide perspective,

      23      would be something, you know, must do, shouldn't do?

      24             Is there any piece of it that you feel is,

      25      say, unworkable?


       1             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  I mean, as

       2      I said, we are very --

       3             Thank you for the question.

       4             -- we're very supportive of a comprehensive

       5      look at sort of -- as it relates to sort of the rent

       6      loss, specifically, at looking at all those -- the

       7      various pieces.

       8             We talk about the main ones; vacancy

       9      decontrol, preferential rents.

      10             There are also a lot of other, sort of,

      11      smaller provisions that impact people.

      12             So I think, you know, we are -- there's much

      13      discussion going on about the entirety, sort of, of

      14      the rent laws.

      15             And so we are clearly very in support of

      16      significant and real change and reform across that.

      17             I think maybe the other two things you might

      18      alluding to, which are the big, sort of, discussion

      19      points --

      20             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  Right.

      21             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  -- are, expansion

      22      of the ETPA and --

      23             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  And "good cause."

      24             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  The good-cause

      25      eviction.


       1             So, I think that we have spent a lot of time

       2      thinking about those, and talking about those, and

       3      they are important, and they certainly support,

       4      notionally, of having stronger protection for

       5      tenants, and allowing people to rent stably -- to

       6      live stably in their communities that they call

       7      "home."

       8             I think for, good-cause eviction, I think

       9      that -- I think for both of them, that I would say

      10      that the communities upstate are diverse also, and

      11      they are different from New York City.

      12             And so I think, as we think about all those,

      13      we always want to make sure that there aren't any

      14      unintended consequences of a law, and also that the

      15      law is actually getting at the thing that we're

      16      trying to address.

      17             So, I think that we are, you know, in

      18      discussions with folks on those, and I think they

      19      are very important.  And we're trying to balance, to

      20      make sure that there's sort of the right medicine

      21      for the symptoms, so to speak, and that we're

      22      getting at, really, sort of the underlying,

      23      foundational issues, whether it be around eviction,

      24      or -- you know, or whatever the issue, that they

      25      address those.


       1             But, you know, we are sort of thick in the

       2      conversation, and happy to be there.

       3             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  Good.

       4             The other thing, and, again, this is just

       5      something that I put out there, and I'm hoping we

       6      could do, Mitchell-Lama were -- you know, we all

       7      know Mitchell-Lama, and there were state legislators

       8      back in the day.

       9             And I am wondering if there will be some

      10      point, I would certainly hope so, that we could

      11      again, as a state, advance a conversation that

      12      actually puts in place some mechanism, where

      13      there -- you know, there are opportunities for low-,

      14      poor, moderate-income people to have some kind

      15      sustained understanding that -- that -- that we are

      16      committed to housing everyone.

      17             And so I'm just putting that out there.

      18             I think that we're trying to play catch-up.

      19             We're trying to, you know, stop bad things.

      20             Obviously, all of us want to make sure that

      21      the investment in housing stock of all levels

      22      continue.

      23             But we do seem to be losing ground, in terms

      24      of creating, or, potentially creating, the

      25      opportunity to make sure that we are housing all of


       1      New York.

       2             So I'm hoping that we can work together to

       3      try and get to some -- some -- some modern-day

       4      Mitchell-Lama.

       5             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  Yeah, we would

       6      love that.

       7             We -- people are very affectionate about

       8      Mitchell-Lamas in a way that I think is wonderful as

       9      a housing stock.  People are very attached to it.

      10             And we have been working very hard to

      11      preserve every Mitchell-Lama that's in our

      12      portfolio, to make sure that it doesn't just serve

      13      the generations of the past, but that it also serves

      14      the generations of the future.

      15             And are happy to -- we have about

      16      8500 Mitchell-Lama apartments that we've been

      17      working our way through our pipeline, and we're just

      18      about done with that, sort of, older stock.

      19             I guess what I would say is, you know, we

      20      were so thrilled with the Legislature, to be able to

      21      get funding for our housing plan two years ago.

      22             And it takes 18 months, 2 years, to build a

      23      building.

      24             And so I think many people can sort of see

      25      the fruits on the new-construction side of a lot of


       1      those efforts.

       2             But it is certainly my -- fills in my hopes

       3      and dreams that, sort of, going forward, as those

       4      units continue --

       5             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  And I don't want

       6      it to be a Mitchell-Lama.

       7             I want it to be whatever the --

       8             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  Yes --

       9             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  -- current

      10      configuration --

      11             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  -- version of

      12      that is.

      13             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  -- yes, yes, of

      14      the Senate, the Assembly, and as well as the

      15      Governor, creating some sort of new program that

      16      meets the needs of today.

      17             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  Absolutely.

      18             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  Because, I'm

      19      sure, you know, when that was created all those many

      20      years ago, their housing situation was no more dire

      21      than ours are today.

      22             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  Agree, agree.

      23             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  Thank you.

      24             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  Thank you.

      25             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you.


       1             Senator Myrie.

       2             SENATOR MYRIE:  Thank you.

       3             Thank you, Commissioner, for your testimony.

       4             I just have a couple of questions, and one is

       5      more of a comment.

       6             We've heard a lot of testimony around MCIs

       7      and IAIs, and particularly from property owners

       8      that, as you know, there are a full range of

       9      proposals that range from, eliminating them in their

      10      entirety, to reforming them.

      11             We've heard that, touching them at all, would

      12      wreak havoc on the economics of investing and

      13      maintaining property.

      14             And I just -- I know that you have expressed

      15      that you and the administration are in support of

      16      some sort of reform here.

      17             And I just wanted to -- I'm wondering if you

      18      can just speak to whether or not reform of MCIs

      19      and IAIs will, in fact, lead to this cataclysmic

      20      disinvestment?

      21             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  Well, I can't see

      22      into the future, but I would say that, what I think

      23      is important, as it relates to MCIs, is that, you

      24      know, of the 40,000 buildings and the million

      25      apartments that are owned -- that are operated in


       1      New York City under the rent-stabilization system,

       2      they are operated by private landlords.

       3             And so I think what we want to make sure is

       4      that, landlords will still invest in boilers and

       5      roofs and, you know, the major capital elements,

       6      sort of, the buildings.

       7             I think that, you know, as the Governor has

       8      said, and I have echoed, I think we need to reform

       9      the existing system.

      10             But I think we do want to make sure that

      11      people invest in buildings because, when they don't,

      12      you know, obviously, that the tenants are the first

      13      people who bear the brunt of a boiler that goes out

      14      all the time.

      15             So I think it's important to us, to make sure

      16      that -- that those landlords are still allowed to

      17      make investments in their building, but I think we

      18      all agree that some of that -- that the system

      19      itself could be reformed.

      20             SENATOR MYRIE:  Okay.

      21             And my second question is related.

      22             Part of the impetus for us to reform these,

      23      or change them, has been the fraud and abuse that

      24      we've seen.

      25             Some of this has been made very public, and


       1      some of it is, I think, more everyday, and a lot of

       2      things that people don't see.

       3             And in these discussions, we have brought up

       4      the possibility of strengthening HCR's ability to

       5      root out this fraud and to root out this abuse.

       6             And I'm wondering if you could speak to

       7      whether or not you think you currently have the

       8      capacity to attack abuses?

       9             And if you do not, what we could do to help

      10      put HCR in the position to do so.

      11             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  I would say two

      12      things.

      13             The tenant-protection unit, which is a very

      14      mean, lean machine of staff, has brought back

      15      76,000 units into the system, units that should not

      16      have left the system; that they investigate and

      17      bring them back.

      18             So I think, in 2018 alone, we brought back

      19      about 11,000 units into the system.

      20             So I do think we have a very strong system

      21      for doing that.

      22             But I would -- I would also say that we were

      23      extremely thankful to get 95 new FTEs into ORA as

      24      of the budget last year.

      25             That is more new staff than we have had in


       1      ORA since the early 1990s.

       2             So, we were incredibly thankful to be able to

       3      get that.

       4             We will have, probably, half of those staff

       5      on-site and on-boarded probably within the next

       6      60 days.

       7             We are actively recruiting now, but you have

       8      to go, sort of, through the civil-service system.

       9             But our -- you know, it would be amazing for

      10      us to have over half of the 95 in place -- the

      11      budget was April, so, April, May -- so, three-ish

      12      months after the approval.  And we are working very

      13      hard to keep that pace going.

      14             And so I think that will go a long way to

      15      strengthening ORA's work, to actually be, not only

      16      sort of backup to some historic levels, but to

      17      really have an infusion of new staff into the --

      18      into the office will go great lengths.

      19             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Just one follow-up

      20      question.

      21             You -- so you've mentioned a couple of times

      22      that the tenant-protection unit, by its -- and

      23      that's a specialized unit that reviews, sort of,

      24      systemically reviews large -- typically, larger

      25      landlords for -- that appear to be misbehaving in


       1      some way, and kind of -- and tries to address the

       2      situation.

       3             And the result of that work is 94,000 units

       4      have been added back into the system that had been

       5      previously improperly deregulated.

       6             I mean, can we -- that's almost 10 percent of

       7      the system.

       8             I mean, can we -- would it be fair to

       9      conclude from that, that there are at least -- there

      10      are a substantial number of landlords, of a good

      11      scale, that, when given the opportunity to -- for

      12      lack of a better word, to cheat, to remove units

      13      from the system contrary to the rules, that will --

      14      we'll do that on a systemic basis?

      15             Isn't that an indicator that there's

      16      something really broken about the way landlords have

      17      approached this system to date?

      18             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  I think that --

      19      I'll say a couple of things.

      20             Just to correct the -- it's about 75 -- a

      21      little over 75,000 units, not 95,000 units, but,

      22      just to be on the record.

      23             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  My short-term memory must

      24      be --

      25             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  That's okay.


       1             I think that the -- obviously, that the

       2      tenant-protection unit does sort of an incredible

       3      amount of very, very important work in bringing

       4      those units back.

       5             It can often be units that -- and I -- sorry.

       6             And I guess I would address, I don't know the

       7      statistics, as to whether or not those are largely

       8      from larger landlords versus smaller landlords.

       9             But I guess what I would say is that, there

      10      are not enough -- there -- one could argue that,

      11      perhaps, there are not enough penalties in the

      12      system for not following the law, and that there

      13      need to be some less opportunities for that to

      14      happen.

      15             And I think those are probably two of the

      16      guiding principles people are looking at as we look

      17      at the rent laws together, is how to, sort of,

      18      reduce the number of opportunities for people to

      19      take advantage of the system.

      20             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  But a substantial

      21      willing -- putting aside whether it's larger

      22      landlords or smaller landlords, (indiscernible) it's

      23      a substantial willingness to -- to put it nicely,

      24      decline to comply with the law, unless there's

      25      somebody properly policing the system?


       1             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  Yes, so for

       2      someone who does not, you know, register their unit

       3      with us, there is not a penalty for not registering.

       4             So, you know, there are not enough, sort of,

       5      safeguards probably built in to make sure that

       6      people do follow the rules.

       7             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  And those -- and those

       8      penalties were -- there -- in a previous -- there

       9      were previously penalties in place, and those were

      10      repealed during the course of earlier renewal

      11      efforts to the law, as I understand, I mean, some

      12      years ago?

      13             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  I think it was --

      14      I think it's been quite some time --

      15             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  In the '90s --

      16             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  -- since there

      17      were --

      18             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- right.

      19             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  -- penalties in

      20      place for not following the law.

      21             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

      22             I have no further questions.

      23             Any other questions or comments?

      24             SENATOR HARCKHAM:  Just a quick follow-up.

      25             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Senator Harckham.


       1             SENATOR HARCKHAM:  Thank you, Mr. Chair.

       2             I'm -- getting back to the number of units

       3      that have been recovered into the system --

       4             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  Uh-huh?

       5             SENATOR HARCKHAM:  -- do you know how many of

       6      those were in Westchester?

       7             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  Of the 76,000,

       8      I don't.  But we could get back to you with that

       9      number.

      10             SENATOR HARCKHAM:  That would be great.

      11             Thank you.

      12             Thank you.

      13             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  You're welcome.

      14             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  If there is nothing

      15      further on the panel, thank you so much for joining

      16      us on the panel here in Greenburgh today.

      17             COMM. RUTHANNE VISNAUSKAS:  Thank you.

      18             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Next up we're going to

      19      have Ava Farkas, the executive director of Met

      20      Council on Housing, and, Reverend Joya Colon-Berezin

      21      of Scarsdale Congressional Church, if she's here.

      22             REV. JOYA COLON-BEREZIN:  She just stepped

      23      out.

      24             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Reverend, why don't you

      25      come up, and we'll see if somebody can find Ava.


       1             So if you're -- yeah, if you're prepared, why

       2      don't you go ahead, and we'll bring Ava Farkas up.

       3             Somebody -- I think some of my staff is

       4      looking for her now.

       5             REV. JOYA COLON-BEREZIN:  All right.

       6             Thank you.

       7             Good morning, Senator Kavanagh.

       8             And thank you to the members of the

       9      Committee.

      10             My name is Reverend Joya Colon-Berezin, and

      11      I'm a minister at the Scarsdale Congressional Church

      12      in Scarsdale, New York.

      13             I'm here today in support of universal rent

      14      control for all New Yorkers.

      15             I'm here today because my faith compels me to

      16      be here.  It calls me to stand with those who are

      17      the most vulnerable and have the least protections.

      18             I'm here today to fight for those whose backs

      19      are against the wall, whose voices have been

      20      silenced.

      21             And, this may actually be shocking to some,

      22      but one of these vulnerable populations today

      23      are the low- and middle-income tenants of

      24      Westchester County.

      25             I myself am a tenant.  I am a voter and a


       1      taxpayer.

       2             I moved to White Plains about two years ago

       3      and went through the process myself of looking for

       4      an affordable place to live.

       5             Between my spouse and I, between the two of

       6      us, we do have a high enough income, we have high

       7      enough credit, we have light enough skin, to be able

       8      to secure suitable housing; yet, I'm all too aware

       9      that many in this same immediate area have not been

      10      that fortunate, including a staff member of my

      11      congregation.

      12             In December of last year, one of our staff

      13      members was displaced from his rent-stabilized

      14      apartment in Yonkers due to a fire, no fault of his

      15      own.

      16             Nonetheless, he was placed by DSS (the

      17      department of social services) in a shelter for

      18      four months.

      19             During that time he received a loud and clear

      20      message that he could no longer afford to live in

      21      Westchester.

      22             He was able to pay as much as 1500 a month in

      23      rent.

      24             He searched for four months, and could not

      25      find a two-bedroom apartment that was suitable for


       1      himself and his disabled father.

       2             "Being priced out" is not a figure of speech.

       3      It is a growing and literal reality.

       4             And to respectfully disagree with a comment

       5      made earlier by a landlord advocate, indeed, the sky

       6      is falling for tenants in Westchester.

       7             After four months of searching, he was forced

       8      to take an apartment in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

       9             The worst part is that he was not alone.

      10             Many of the others that he met in the shelter

      11      system were in a very similar situation, and many

      12      are continuing to live in the shelter, unable to

      13      afford the rents here in Westchester.

      14             To you all, and our other representatives,

      15      now is the time to pass universal rent control for

      16      all New Yorkers.

      17             Now is the time to expand renters' rights and

      18      protect tenants.

      19             Now is the time to pass good-cause eviction

      20      legislation to bring renters' rights to all

      21      unregulated tenants, including those in smaller

      22      buildings, with six units and under, who have, as of

      23      yet, been not part of any kind of rent protections.

      24             This crisis is not some distant future

      25      reality; it's our present reality.


       1             We've waited too long.  These fights have

       2      been going on for decades.

       3             And it's now time for our elected officials

       4      to act boldly.

       5             And I will close with this:

       6             In 2006, I was living and working in New York

       7      City, and I came up to White Plains with a

       8      delegation of community organizers on Election Day

       9      to campaign for a promising, progressive candidate

      10      that was challenging the Republican incumbent.

      11             A group of us spent all day making sure that

      12      Andrea Stewart-Cousins would win this Senate seat,

      13      because we believed that, someday, she would be our

      14      voice, not only a voice here locally in this

      15      district, but a voice for the entire state; a voice

      16      for working families and the most vulnerable among

      17      us, to demand that all New Yorkers get to call this

      18      place "home."

      19             I pray that day has come.

      20             Thank you.

      21             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Ava.

      22             AVA FARKAS:  Good morning.

      23             My name is Ava Farkas, and I'm the executive

      24      director of the Met Council on Housing.

      25             We represent 900 dues-paying members


       1      throughout New York City, and we help 4,000 tenants

       2      a year through our telephone hotline and walk-in

       3      clinic.

       4             Our members are taxi drivers, school aides,

       5      social workers, and artists.  They are college

       6      students who are new to the city, and retirees who

       7      have lived there their whole life.

       8             They are all able to call New York City

       9      "home" because they live in a rent-stabilized or

      10      rent-controlled apartment.

      11             For the past 60 years, our members have

      12      fought to preserve, strengthen, and expand rent

      13      regulation as the best means to keep rents

      14      affordable and the private housing market in check.

      15             This fight is so important to our members,

      16      that they took time off work to travel to Albany

      17      two weeks ago to rally with 2,000 tenants statewide.

      18             And they have given their weekends to canvas

      19      in strategic districts, going door to door, to sign

      20      petitions and educate other tenants.

      21             I began at Met Council four years ago during

      22      the last rent-law renewal, and despite

      23      Governor Cuomo's public statements in favor of many

      24      of our reforms, in the end, he negotiated a deal

      25      that continued the status quo.


       1             So I totally disagree with the commissioner's

       2      characterization that the Governor has consistently

       3      passed the strongest and most pro-tenant

       4      legislation.

       5             Since that time, four years ago, dozens of

       6      New York City neighborhoods have been rezoned,

       7      including mine.

       8             Inwood and Washington Heights is a

       9      neighborhood that has the highest amount of

      10      rent-regulated apartments, and it's also the home of

      11      a vibrant working-class Dominican immigrant

      12      community.  It's one of the last affordable

      13      neighborhoods of city.

      14             Since the rezoning has passed, we already see

      15      corporate landlords, like Barberry Rose, buying up

      16      32 building portfolios, and systematically evicting

      17      tenants through non-primary-residence cases, and

      18      rehabbing buildings through individual apartment

      19      improvements and major capital improvements; all of

      20      this a part of the playbook to maximize profits by

      21      exploiting the loopholes in the rent laws.

      22             For my neighborhoods, strengthening rent

      23      regulation will be the only lifeline for the

      24      working-class community.

      25             Senators of the Housing Committee, in the


       1      next three weeks, you have the chance to make

       2      history by righting the wrongs of 22 years of bad

       3      neoliberal economic policy by passing the nine-bill

       4      platform we call "universal rent control."

       5             The dismantling of rent regulation, which

       6      began in the 1990s, has wreaked havoc on our cities

       7      and suburbs, and made our communities less secure

       8      and stable.

       9             Rents have risen, while wages have not.

      10             I want to highlight a number of the bills of

      11      the nine-point platform that we really need you to

      12      go to the mat for, because we're concerned that they

      13      will be heavy political lifts.

      14             The first, S2591, the bill sponsored by

      15      Senator Stewart-Cousins, will repeal vacancy

      16      decontrol and re-regulate deregulated apartments.

      17             While there appears to be consensus, even

      18      from the RSA, that this will pass, we are concerned

      19      about the re-regulation of the lost units.

      20             We want to stress that, for our members, this

      21      is a priority.

      22             Rent regulation is a complaint- and

      23      tenant-driven system.  It only works when tenants

      24      stand up for their rights, and they are more

      25      effective when they fight as a group.


       1             In many buildings where we organize, and in

       2      gentrifying communities across the city, we find

       3      that there is a group of regulated tenants and

       4      unregulated tenants.

       5             The power of collective action is weakened

       6      when there's a segment of tenants that have

       7      second-class rights, and everyone is harmed as a

       8      result.

       9             We've heard the argument made, Why do we need

      10      to protect tenants who can afford to pay $5,000

      11      rent?

      12             The real question is, Why do we need to

      13      protect landlords who are charging $5,000 rent?

      14             As we hear on our hotline every day, often,

      15      these deregulated units are being split by

      16      roommates, three to four students or young people.

      17      They can only afford such a high rent by splitting

      18      it multiple ways.

      19             Re-regulating lost units would be hugely

      20      transformative to New York City and the suburbs.

      21             We urge you to be uncompromising on this

      22      issue.

      23             A second bill I want to highlight is relief

      24      for rent-controlled tenants.

      25             A large percentage of our members are


       1      seniors, and many of them are rent-controlled.

       2             If they worked for the City, they have a

       3      pension that is higher than the SCRIE cut-off, but

       4      they are by no means well-off.

       5             Burdening them with a 7.5 percent increase is

       6      unconscionable, and means that, oftentimes, their

       7      rents are way higher than their rent-regulated

       8      neighbors.

       9             Bringing relief and fairness to

      10      40,000 households that are mainly seniors should

      11      be a no-brainer for the New York State Senate.

      12             In closing:

      13             I urge the New York State Senate to work

      14      directly with the Assembly to pass the nine-bill

      15      package as-is, and put the bills on Governor Cuomo's

      16      desk.

      17             Allowing Cuomo to be part of negotiations

      18      will be a big mistake and will result in a

      19      watered-down package.

      20             He was not a friend to tenants four years

      21      ago, and he is not a friend to us now.

      22             In November, tenants helped vote in a

      23      democratic State Senate.

      24             We are counting on you to vote with tenants

      25      on June 15th.


       1             Thank you both for your testimony.

       2             Reverend Colon, is it?

       3             REV. JOYA COLON-BEREZIN:  Sure.

       4             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  I wasn't sure how to --

       5      whether to use the --

       6             REV. JOYA COLON-BEREZIN:  Just call me Joya.

       7             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  I'll call you Joya.

       8             Reverend Joya.

       9             The -- can you just talk a little bit more

      10      about how -- so you -- you -- repre -- you come from

      11      a community that has rent regulation through ETPA.

      12      And, as you note, come from a part of our state that

      13      many people view as a wealthier part of the --

      14      wealthier part of the state.

      15             You know, to the extent that sometimes folks

      16      tell us that, you know, everything is fine in some

      17      communities.

      18             I think some of the communities in this area

      19      are often cited as -- as -- you know, not -- and

      20      I think even the testimony from one of our landlord

      21      representatives earlier, was to suggest this is

      22      not -- this is not New York City, so we don't need

      23      the kind of protections that we're here to talk

      24      about today.

      25             Can you just talk about, from your


       1      experience, how widespread is housing instability

       2      and security in -- in -- in the community -- in the

       3      communities that -- that -- that you come from?

       4             REV. JOYA COLON-BEREZIN:  So I serve a

       5      congregation that's in Scarsdale, New York, which is

       6      the Beverly Hills of the East Coast.  It's an

       7      incredibly affluent community.

       8             And most of my congregation are homeowners,

       9      and they are not affected by any of this, any of

      10      these legislative changes.

      11             That is not representative of

      12      Westchester County, where you have hundred -- like,

      13      tens of thousands of tenants that are deeply

      14      impacted by these kind of legislative protections.

      15             And, you know, I think that, as -- as -- as

      16      legislators, as elected officials, it's your job to

      17      look to those populations, that are the ones that

      18      need advocacy and the ones that need a voice.

      19             I worked for many years as a organizer in

      20      New York City, where most of the -- many -- many

      21      more people were impacted by these rent-regulation

      22      issues.

      23             And so that's why, if you had this hearing in

      24      New York City, there would be a lot more people,

      25      I think, filling these -- these seats.


       1             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Well, that's not

       2      hypothetical, because we did, in fact, have a

       3      hearing in Brooklyn, and it lasted for eight hours.

       4      And we had to be kind of kicked out of the building

       5      in order to get to us leave.

       6             But we did hear from a great many people

       7      there.

       8             REV. JOYA COLON-BEREZIN:  Yeah, so I think --

       9      I mean, I'm here speaking on the moral issues, and

      10      the moral issue is, that there is a definite right

      11      and wrong when it comes to tenant protections.

      12             And doing the right thing means protecting

      13      tenants.

      14             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  And I just want to

      15      observe, I really appreciate you bringing up the

      16      rent-control issue, which is a very important issue,

      17      because, numerically, not as -- you know, there are

      18      about 22,000 or so rent-controlled units, and about

      19      a million rent-stabilized units.

      20             But it is -- it is one -- it is an agenda

      21      item that we often don't -- haven't been, kind of,

      22      in the foreground during these hearings.  But it

      23      is -- it's important to remember that that is also

      24      something that we are looking into.

      25             So I think I'll end there.


       1             If my colleagues have questions or comments?

       2             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  Well, I just

       3      wanted to certainly say, thank you, for your efforts

       4      on my behalf back in the day, and thank you for

       5      representing my district now, because I have

       6      Scarsdale as well, I'm sure you know.

       7             And the one thing that I say, the reality is,

       8      that -- well, the district is gerrymandered, but,

       9      there is no place in my district that affordable

      10      housing is not an issue.

      11             And even in Scarsdale, where the homeowners'

      12      children can't necessarily live there, or, the

      13      seniors are trying to figure out, you know, once

      14      they become empty-nesters, where do they go?

      15             So the reality is, is that the

      16      affordable-housing issue is happening everywhere,

      17      it's just on different levels, obviously.  You know,

      18      it's not -- not the same intensity.

      19             But, I think about -- I think about

      20      everybody, and nobody, you know, wants to leave

      21      their -- their community.

      22             And so I just want to take the moment to

      23      thank you, and to tell you that I think your efforts

      24      were well-placed, obviously, because we are in a

      25      position of having, not only as the majority been


       1      able to do a lot of important things, we will

       2      continue to do a lot of important things, and give

       3      voice to those who count on government to do the

       4      right thing.

       5             So, thank you.

       6             REV. JOYA COLON-BEREZIN:  I guess

       7      (inaudible) --

       8             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  Go ahead.

       9             REV. JOYA COLON-BEREZIN:  -- I suppose my

      10      point was, that, you know, it's not -- it's not a

      11      false idea that Westchester -- that many affluent

      12      homeowners reside in Westchester.  That's a reality.

      13             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  No, that's real.

      14             REV. JOYA COLON-BEREZIN:  Yeah.

      15             And, yet --

      16             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  But I like to

      17      tell people that -- that, you know, everybody's --

      18      everybody's thinking about this.

      19             And so it's incumbent upon us to be clear

      20      that it's an issue --

      21             REV. JOYA COLON-BEREZIN:  Exactly.

      22             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  -- for everybody.

      23             REV. JOYA COLON-BEREZIN:  Even though that

      24      exists, people have a tendency to let that reality

      25      cloud many of the other realities that also exist


       1      here --

       2             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  Exactly.

       3             REV. JOYA COLON-BEREZIN:  -- which is that

       4      there are a lot of poor and low-income people that

       5      are being displaced.

       6             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  I know.

       7             REV. JOYA COLON-BEREZIN:  And so I thank you

       8      for being a voice for us.

       9             And we believed in you back then, and we

      10      still believe in you now.

      11             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  Well, thank you.

      12             REV. JOYA COLON-BEREZIN:  And we'll be

      13      praying for you.

      14             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  You I believe in

      15      you too.

      16             We -- we -- I think -- I think we are

      17      embarking on, you know, something.

      18             Like you said, this has been going for over

      19      two decades.

      20             And, you know, we're at this -- this moment,

      21      where we obviously understand that it is an

      22      important space for us to occupy, and we want to do

      23      it right.

      24             So, thank you.

      25             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you.


       1             REV. JOYA COLON-BEREZIN:  Thank you.

       2             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Next up, do we have

       3      Christopher Schweitzer here?

       4             And, also, Tamara Stewart, if she's here.

       5             Great.  Thank you.

       6             CHRISTOPHER SCHWEITZER:  Thank you.

       7             Good afternoon.

       8             My name is Christopher Schweitzer.  I'm a

       9      supervising attorney of housing in the Yonkers

      10      office of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley.

      11             I've spent the last several years

      12      representing tenants who cannot afford an attorney

      13      in landlord-tenant court, trying to prevent

      14      evictions.

      15             In response to the request of the

      16      Committee on Social Services, Legal Services submits

      17      the following information on how the proposed

      18      resolutions will affect Westchester residents facing

      19      eviction:

      20             Legal Services of the Hudson Valley has four

      21      offices in Westchester County.

      22             In these offices we have 19 attorneys who

      23      represent Westchester residents in housing court;

      24      11 who solely practice in housing, 11 who -- or,

      25      8 who serve special populations, including the


       1      elderly, veterans, and people with mental

       2      disabilities.

       3             These attorneys cover the city's five city

       4      courts and 37 town and village courts.

       5             Under current law, most tenants can be

       6      evicted even if they have done nothing wrong and are

       7      up to date with their rent, and most landlords can

       8      impose rent increases without limit.

       9             The proposed changes to the law would

      10      strengthen tenants' rights and help prevent these

      11      unnecessary evictions.

      12             Going to the specific proposals:

      13             S2892, prohibiting evictions without good

      14      cause, would prevent homelessness and improve

      15      stability.

      16             It's heartbreaking to have to tell a client

      17      they can be evicted for no reason.

      18             When an eviction can commence upon the

      19      expiration of a lease, or upon one month's notice

      20      when there is no lease, the best outcome you can

      21      get, even with an attorney representing you, is not

      22      very good.

      23             The best you can get is to ask for time.

      24             Because tenants can be evicted from most

      25      apartments in Westchester without cause, they're


       1      limited in their ability to assert their rights even

       2      while living in their apartments.

       3             We've observed tenants living in substandard

       4      housing because they have to move precipitously, and

       5      don't always have time to check and find out if an

       6      apartment is in good condition before they move in.

       7             Tenants being hampered in their ability to

       8      assert the right to a safe and habitable apartment

       9      because they fear being evicted for calling the

      10      building department or making other complaints, and

      11      the defense to retaliatory eviction is not very

      12      strong.

      13             Tenants with Section 8 vouchers standing to

      14      lose their vouchers because they have to find a new

      15      apartment on such short notice.

      16             And, tenants who cannot move and end up with

      17      eviction proceedings on their record, which causes

      18      prospective landlords to reject them because of

      19      these records for evictions that never should have

      20      happened to begin with.

      21             And evictions that can damage their credit

      22      report and cause other issues in their lives.

      23             Lastly, eviction-prevention agencies,

      24      designed to help pay arrears when tenants fall on

      25      hard times, generally look to see if a tenant has a


       1      lease before agreeing to pay rent arrears, to ensure

       2      that it saves the housing and isn't going to result

       3      in an eviction a month or two later.

       4             A lot of times this can result in an eviction

       5      or unpaid rent arrears, simply because they don't

       6      have a lease, and because the housing can't actually

       7      be saved, because there's no right to remain in the

       8      apartment.

       9             It's particularly important that good-cause

      10      eviction is passed in New York State, and that it

      11      excludes non-payment of rent as good cause for

      12      eviction when there's been an unconscionable rent

      13      increase, to prevent landlords from circumventing

      14      the law, by forcing tenants out by making apartments

      15      intentionally unaffordable.

      16             Landlords will often increase the rent, you

      17      know, two, three, four times, just to force tenants

      18      out and make sure that they can't afford it, or that

      19      their Section 8 voucher will no longer cover the

      20      rent, so that they have to move.

      21             And we need to close these loopholes.

      22             The next proposal, eliminating the 20 percent

      23      vacancy increase of the Emergency Tenant Protection

      24      Act, would remove a tremendous incentive for

      25      landlords to turn over apartments as quickly as


       1      possible.

       2             The ETPA, as you know, requires annual lease

       3      renewals with limited rent increases, absent good

       4      cause, which is a critical protection to prevent

       5      unnecessary evictions.

       6             When a vacancy increase happens, a landlord

       7      can increase the rent by 20 percent, and an

       8      additional increase if it's been more than

       9      eight years since the last vacancy increase.

      10             And each vacancy increase brings the

      11      apartment closer to deregulation.

      12             This provides landlords an incentive to turn

      13      over apartments as quickly as possible, to raise

      14      legally regulated rents until they reach decontrol

      15      levels and come out from under ETPA regulations.

      16             At Legal Services we have seen weak

      17      allegations of lease violations, just to get tenants

      18      out, specifically to get the vacancy allowance and

      19      get apartments closer and closer to decontrol

      20      levels.

      21             Currently in Westchester, 5 of 6 cities and

      22      16 towns and villages have adopted ETPA.

      23             As you know, it only applies to dwellings

      24      with six or more units and buildings that were built

      25      before 1974.


       1             But eliminating the vacancy increase would

       2      substantially protect these buildings from turnover.

       3             The next provision, creating permanency in

       4      preferential rents, can further prevent abuses from

       5      ETPA regulations.

       6             Currently, tenants are generally offered

       7      preferential rents to move into an apartment, and

       8      then the preferential rent is pulled a year or two

       9      years in to their tenancy, at which point the

      10      apartment becomes unaffordable, and they're forced

      11      move out, again, giving the landlord the vacancy

      12      amount so that they can get the apartment closer and

      13      closer to a decontrolled level.

      14             Lastly, we see that the preferential rent is

      15      used as a tool to hide overcharges.

      16             Tenants are given a preferential rent amount

      17      so that they don't go look at the rent-registration

      18      history, so that they don't find out that the

      19      landlord's been registering the apartment at a

      20      higher amount than is legally permissible, so that

      21      they can decontrol -- get the apartment decontrolled

      22      without anyone ever filing a complaint.

      23             As the commissioner of HCR stated, they go,

      24      essentially, on an honor system.

      25             Until someone files a complaint, everything


       1      filed by the landlord stands.

       2             So, if they can keep offering a preferential

       3      rent, and no one files the overcharge complaint,

       4      they're never going to check those records until

       5      after the apartment is decontrolled and it's too

       6      late.

       7             So it's incredibly damaging that apartments

       8      become decontrolled, simply because they offer

       9      preferential rents, just to purposely decontrol the

      10      apartments and prevent tenants from filing

      11      overcharge complaints.

      12             Lastly, removing individual apartment

      13      improvements is connected to the economic incentives

      14      for landlords to turn over ETPA apartments.

      15             IAIs require tenant sign-off, unless they

      16      are done while an apartment is vacant.

      17             Tenant complaints of the enforcement

      18      mechanism, with a four-year look-back period, but

      19      rent tenant burdens are incredibly frustrated with

      20      their ability to challenge IAIs that are

      21      instituted, drawing vacancy.

      22             They can't challenge them, as well, if

      23      they're imposed before the tenant moves in.

      24             Repealing this provision would likely reduce

      25      how quickly apartments are deregulated and prevent


       1      unjust rent increases.

       2             Eliminating the major capital improvements

       3      would remove another mechanism to increase ETPA

       4      rents, and have a similar effect for removing the

       5      IAIs.

       6             All of these things contribute to an

       7      apartment exceeding affordability, and exceeding

       8      what a Section 8 voucher can pay.

       9             Legals Services often sees apartments, even

      10      under ETPA restrictions, that is simply unaffordable

      11      for our clients.

      12             Removing and changing these laws would help

      13      improve the affordability of housing in Westchester.

      14             Thank you.

      15             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Great.  Thank you.

      16             TAMARA STEWART:  Good afternoon.

      17             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  Good afternoon.

      18             TAMARA STEWART:  My name is Tamara Stewart,

      19      and I'm a tenant representative on the Westchester

      20      Rent Guidelines Board, in addition to being a member

      21      of Mount Vernon United Tenants, as well as Community

      22      Voices Heard.

      23             I'm also a tenant representative of

      24      Westchester Plaza Tenants' Coalition in

      25      Mount Vernon.


       1             My testimony is going to be an actual

       2      follow-through on the testimony right before me.

       3             But before that, I'd like to thank Majority

       4      Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins; Housing Committee

       5      Chair, Brian Kavanagh; and the Senate Democratic

       6      Conference, for taking a leadership stance with

       7      regard to addressing New York State's housing crisis

       8      and the dire plight of millions of tenants in our

       9      wonderful state.

      10             Now, more than ever, tenants need relief from

      11      the current system in which owners have almost all

      12      of the power and tenants have almost none.

      13             We need you to expand tenant protections

      14      statewide, and close the worst loopholes in the

      15      rent-regulation laws which owners have been

      16      exploiting for decades.

      17             I urge to you pass all nine bills that have

      18      been proposed to provide relief to tenants.

      19             Westchester Plaza Tenants have firsthand

      20      experience with the debilitating effects of ETPA

      21      having been intentionally weakened since 1997.

      22             Westchester Plaza is comprised of almost

      23      700 apartments in 4 buildings.  It is the largest

      24      rental apartment complex in the city of

      25      Mount Vernon.


       1             While most of the apartments at Westchester

       2      Plaza are rent-stabilized, more and more units are

       3      losing that protection status every year, largely

       4      due to the owners taking advantage of the large

       5      loopholes in the current regulations.

       6             Four of the most egregious loopholes being

       7      employed to hike rent-stabilized rents are the

       8      20 percent vacancy bonus, individual apartment

       9      improvements, major capital improvements, and

      10      impermanent preferential rents.

      11             Here's just one example of how these

      12      loopholes are often employed in combination against

      13      tenants:

      14             Exhibit A, which is in the copies that you --

      15      I submitted at the desk, is a rent-stabilized lease

      16      offered to a new Westchester Plaza tenant in 2017

      17      for a two-bedroom apartment.

      18             According to this lease, the legal regulated

      19      rent for the prior tenant was $1,671.92 a month,

      20      which is on page 10.

      21             A statutory 20 percent vacancy increase of

      22      $334.38 was then added to the rent, followed by

      23      another $110.35 because the prior tenant had been in

      24      residence for more than eight years.

      25             Just these two basic additions brought the


       1      rent for this apartment up to $2,116.65 per month.

       2             However, management at Westchester Plaza

       3      habitually performs IAIs on vacant apartments,

       4      whether they're needed or not.

       5             In this case, the owner claims that it

       6      performed renovations to the kitchen, bathrooms,

       7      doors, windows, electrical work, sheetrock, floors,

       8      alarms, and air conditioners of this apartment,

       9      totaling $28,697.13.

      10             I find it hard to believe that renovations

      11      this extensive were performed without the need for

      12      any permits from the building department.

      13             There are none on file.

      14             Permits notwithstanding, 1/60th of the

      15      owner's claimed IAIs ratcheted up this apartment's

      16      rent by another $478.29, for a new legal rent of

      17      $2,594.94.

      18             By exploiting existing loopholes in ETPA, the

      19      owner was able to permanently raise the allowable

      20      rent on this apartment by almost $1,000 in a couple

      21      of months.

      22             Recognizing that $2600 a month for a

      23      two-bedroom apartment in Mount Vernon is high, the

      24      owner chose to offer the new tenant a discount, and

      25      only asked for $2,075 per month for the apartment,


       1      inserting a preferential rider into the lease.

       2             Many of my neighbors have preferential riders

       3      in their leases, and many of them are seeing their

       4      rents go up by $100 or more every time their lease

       5      renews, which is in Exhibit B.

       6             Please eliminate the 20 percent vacancy bonus

       7      and IAIs, and please make preferential rents

       8      permanent during each tenancy.

       9             With regard to MCIs, all four buildings in

      10      my complex are expecting to have to fight against a

      11      slew of MCIs.

      12             The building that I live in was the first

      13      recipient of MCI paperwork for the building's new

      14      roof.

      15             Westchester Plaza tenants have filed, and

      16      been granted, nine rent-reduction orders by DHCR in

      17      the past three years, following decades of neglect

      18      by the current and prior owners of the complex.

      19             We started filing building-wide

      20      rent-reduction applications after we couldn't get

      21      the owner to address outstanding maintenance issues

      22      related to required services.

      23             It was only after we filed papers with DHCR

      24      that the owner began to make the needed repairs.

      25             The owner has since filed numerous inaccurate


       1      replies, appeals, premature rent-restoration

       2      applications, and even a modification-of-services

       3      request two years after they removed our pool

       4      without prior permission.

       5             Tenants have had to hire an attorney, collect

       6      hundreds of signatures, file repeated complaints

       7      with the building department, gather documentary

       8      evidence, take pictures, secure affidavits, and pay

       9      tens of thousands of dollars to an attorney to

      10      secure our rent-reduction orders, and fight against

      11      our rents being restored prior to the restoration of

      12      all of our required services.

      13             If it's this hard to fight against

      14      unscrupulous owners when tenants have rights, I ache

      15      for my fellow tenants who are forced to deal with

      16      shameless landlords without the benefit of legal

      17      redress.

      18             Beyond closing the loopholes that I have

      19      discussed in detail, tenants implore you to pass the

      20      other proposed measures.

      21             We ask you to end vacancy decontrol.

      22             And, in fact, we need you to re-regulate

      23      decontrolled units to increase the rapidly dwindling

      24      number of rent-stabilized apartments that are

      25      available.


       1             Many rent-regulated apartments, like my

       2      previous example, are just one vacancy away from

       3      becoming decontrolled under the current rules.

       4             Tenants also need you to extend the look-back

       5      period to at least six years, because the system

       6      unfairly relies on us to enforce the law.

       7             We ask you to provide relief to your

       8      rent-controlled constituents because many of them

       9      are just as rent-burdened as their ETPA neighbors.

      10             And because it's not just downstate tenants

      11      who are experiencing housing emergencies, please

      12      remove the geographic restrictions in ETPA, to allow

      13      tenants throughout the state to fight for rent

      14      controls in their communities.

      15             Last, but certainly not least, please pass

      16      the good-cause eviction legislation to help protect

      17      all tenants from unfair landlord retaliation.

      18             All New York State renters deserve safe,

      19      decent, and affordable housing.

      20             Good-cause eviction legislation will provide

      21      a minimum protection to all tenants who seek to get

      22      repairs done, or want to fight being evicted, simply

      23      because an owner can get more rent out of another

      24      tenant.

      25             Tenants are asking you and your Assembly


       1      colleagues to pass all nine bills without

       2      negotiating with Governor Cuomo.

       3             His track record demonstrates that he would

       4      be prone to attempt to weaken the proposed

       5      legislation.

       6             You must not let that happen.

       7             And once again, thank you for convening these

       8      public hearings, and for taking the time to listen

       9      to my testimony.

      10             New York's worsening housing crisis is

      11      causing immeasurable pain, misery, and desperation.

      12             Many tenants like me are handing over every

      13      other paycheck to our landlords and we're not

      14      receiving all of the services that we're paying for.

      15             Many of our children can't concentrate in

      16      school because they don't know where they're going

      17      to sleep that night.

      18             Many of our seniors, like my mom, run out of

      19      food a week or more before the end of the month

      20      because the vast majority of their Social Security

      21      income goes to pay rent, with leaving little for

      22      other necessities.

      23             It's time to provide some balance in our

      24      rent-regulation system to stem the exploitation of

      25      tenants by owners.


       1             Please pass all nine of the proposed bills.

       2             Tenants are counting on you to do the right

       3      thing.

       4             Thank you.

       5             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you, Ms. Stewart.

       6             Thank you, both of you.

       7             So thank you both for some very important,

       8      and very focused and specific, testimony today.

       9             I'm gonna focus -- I want to focus my

      10      questions particularly on good-cause eviction,

      11      because you both mentioned it as an important

      12      priority, and because I think we've heard less of --

      13      less of that perspective here, and in some of our

      14      other hearings as well.

      15             So you both believe that good cause -- that

      16      the passing good-cause eviction is important here in

      17      Westchester, even though it's a county where you

      18      already have ETPA in many parts.

      19             Can you just talk a little bit more -- more

      20      about why that, in your view, is really critical?

      21             CHRISTOPHER SCHWEITZER:  Uhm, yes, there's --

      22      there is ETPA housing in Westchester, but it's

      23      simply not enough.

      24             I've worked in Yonkers and -- in our

      25      White Plains office, which covers many of the


       1      justice courts.  And outside of Yonkers, most of the

       2      housing is unprotected.

       3             Being able to end a tenancy on a 30-day

       4      notice or on the expiration of a lease causes great

       5      instability for families.  You know, having to

       6      uproot a family causes instability for children,

       7      causes disruptions at work, causes disruptions for

       8      medical care, it causes any number of disruptions in

       9      a family's life, and, allowing landlords to just

      10      continually turn over apartments without reason.

      11             You know, a lot of times the rent is paid up,

      12      they're good tenants.  They haven't really done

      13      anything wrong to violate a lease.

      14             They just simply want the tenant out of the

      15      apartment, without reason.

      16             It just -- it creates instability, and it

      17      gives all of the power, essentially, to the

      18      landlords, and none of the power to the tenants.

      19             So there's a large stock of housing in

      20      Westchester where there's really no protections.

      21             Even if you have a Section 8 voucher, they

      22      can terminate your lease on 30-days notice, and then

      23      your Section 8 voucher is at risk if you don't find

      24      another apartment and lease-up within the amount of

      25      time that HUD gives you to find a new apartment and


       1      lease-up.

       2             So I think good-cause eviction in Westchester

       3      would make a great deal of difference.

       4             There certainly is, as you said, there's ETPA

       5      housing, there is HUD housing, but there's a lot of

       6      unprotected housing.

       7             And good-cause eviction will make a great

       8      difference to those tenants.

       9             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  And you've been in court

      10      with, you know, the -- obviously, the tenant bar,

      11      but also with the landlord lawyers.

      12             What do you say to people who tell us that

      13      this will be -- this will make -- this pro -- the

      14      provision in this bill will make lives of landlords

      15      just extraordinary difficult; that they won't be

      16      able to, you know, manage their own housing

      17      effectively; they will never be able to get tenants

      18      out, even bad tenants?

      19             How -- how would this work, in practice?

      20             CHRISTOPHER SCHWEITZER:  I mean, good

      21      cause -- instituting good-cause eviction is designed

      22      to keep tenants, who are paying the rent and not

      23      violating the lease, in their housing.

      24             It is not designed to keep tenants who are

      25      violating the lease or are not paying the rent in


       1      their housing.

       2             So, in that respect, it doesn't really change

       3      things.

       4             You know, if you're paying the rent and

       5      you're not violating the lease, why does the

       6      landlord want you out to begin with?

       7             You know, so if -- if a tenant's violating

       8      the lease; if a tenant -- you know, if the lease

       9      says you can't have animals in the apartment, and

      10      you have a whole bunch of animals in the apartment,

      11      they're still going to be able to go to court and

      12      get you, likely, out of the apartment for that

      13      reason.

      14             You know, if they say, you can't do this, and

      15      you are doing this, it doesn't change that.

      16             You can still go to court and say that a

      17      tenant is doing this, and get a trial, and try to

      18      get a tenant out.

      19             It doesn't change that.

      20             All it does is add protections when you have

      21      paid the rent and you are not violating your lease.

      22             That's the point of good-cause.

      23             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  And are you familiar with

      24      the provisions in the bill regarding unconscionable

      25      rent increases?


       1             CHRISTOPHER SCHWEITZER:  Yes.

       2             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Can you talk just a

       3      little -- I mean, again, there's concern that this

       4      is just, you know, a back-door way of doing rent

       5      control, and it's going to be very problematic for

       6      the housing market as a whole.

       7             Can you just address that concern?

       8             CHRISTOPHER SCHWEITZER:  Yeah, I think the

       9      problem is -- from a tenant's perspective, the

      10      problem is, if a landlord wants someone out, they're

      11      just going to raise the rent, from $1,000, to

      12      $2,000, and say, I know you can't afford that, so

      13      you're gonna have to move anyway.

      14             But putting in a protection, that they can't

      15      raise the rent, I don't know what the percentage in

      16      the bill is off the top of my head, but putting in

      17      that percentage, I mean, why does the housing costs

      18      need to go up that much in one year anyway?

      19             What is the justification behind that for a

      20      landlord?

      21             It doesn't appear that housing costs, the

      22      landlord's cost of doing business, is going up that

      23      quickly.

      24             You know, incomes are not going up that

      25      quickly.


       1             So, the landlord, to me, it doesn't make

       2      sense that they can justify raising the rent more

       3      than the percentage in the bill, in one year.

       4             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  And the current bill has

       5      that percentage.  The standard is a rebuttable

       6      presumption.

       7             Can you -- as an attorney who's been in

       8      eviction cases, in a circumstance where a landlord

       9      has an opportunity to rebut a presumption, do you

      10      imagine that judges would unreasonably interpret

      11      that in favor of tenants?

      12             CHRISTOPHER SCHWEITZER:  Judges are,

      13      generally, not very tenant-friendly.

      14             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  So you think, if a

      15      landlord has -- if there's a standard in our bill

      16      that says, a rent above a certain -- a rent increase

      17      at a single year, above a certain amount, is

      18      considered uncon -- there's a rebuttable presumption

      19      that that's unconscionable, if landlords have some

      20      explanation of why they need to raise the rent

      21      larger, because of increased costs, or some other

      22      factors, do you think that it's unlikely to, sort

      23      of, fundamentally alter the outcome of cases like

      24      that?

      25             CHRISTOPHER SCHWEITZER:  Yeah, I don't think


       1      it would create any great hardship for a landlord to

       2      beat that rebuttal presumption.

       3             If they have a real good reason that the rent

       4      needs to go up, you know, larger than normal amount,

       5      I don't think that's going to create any great

       6      disadvantage for them in court.

       7             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.  I appreciate that.

       8             So my time is up.

       9             Do my colleagues have questions?

      10             Okay.

      11             And we very much appreciate both of your time

      12      and your testimony today.  And we will

      13      (indiscernible).

      14             TAMARA STEWART:  Thank you.

      15             CHRISTOPHER SCHWEITZER:  Thank you.

      16             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Next up we have,

      17      Norberta Guerrero (ph.) and Teodora Reyes and

      18      Fidela Vasquez, and I believe a translator as well.

      19             Okay, again, thank you -- and thank you for

      20      your patience.  I know you've been here for a while.

      21             But, if you could begin.

      22             FIDELA VASQUEZ:  Hello.

      23             Hello.  My name is Fidela Vasquez, and I'm

      24      the member of Make the Road New York.

      25             And I live in White Plains, and I am lucky


       1      that the owner of the place where I live is a good

       2      landlord, and I have no problems in the place where

       3      I live.

       4             But there are many of my acquaintances,

       5      including my daughter, who do not have this luck.

       6             That is why I'm here in support of the

       7      good-cause proposal.

       8             Today I'm here to share the story of my

       9      daughter in the situation she has endured, to not

      10      having protection as a renter where she lives.

      11             My daughter, like me, lives in White Plains,

      12      and has been living in her apartment for two years

      13      with her partner and her 10-months-old daughter.

      14             To move to this place, they asked for the

      15      amount of almost $5,000.

      16             Since then, every year they raised $100.

      17             The point has come that the cost of living

      18      there is very expensive, and they are looking for

      19      another place.  But, the prices are so high, that

      20      they do not know what they are going to do.

      21             If the good-cause proposal will be approved,

      22      they could plan for the increase which could be less

      23      and uniform.

      24             They could be more confident that, next year,

      25      they will have the opportunity to keep their


       1      apartment.

       2             Prices are currently so high, that is very

       3      difficult to find options to live.

       4             She has looked for apartments in the area,

       5      and not many do not accept her because they have a

       6      baby.

       7             She has not found anything less than $2,000.

       8             I worry that my daughter rent continues to

       9      rise unexpected increments, and she might become

      10      homeless.

      11             I know that my daughter is not the only one

      12      in this situation, and that there are thousands of

      13      people who are going through this same thing.

      14             Every day I hear stories from my neighbors

      15      and other community members about that drastic

      16      increases in rent and the inability to do anything

      17      about it.

      18             We need to protect our area renters instead

      19      of pushing us elsewhere.

      20             Please, support the good-cause proposal.

      21             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you.

      22             NORBERTA GUERRERO:  (Speaking Spanish.)

      23             (Translated to English by a translator.)

      24             Hello.  My name is Norberta.  I live at

      25      73 Hamilton in Yonkers with my four children who are


       1      13, 11, 9, and 7 years old.

       2             I am here in support of the good-cause

       3      proposal because, at this moment, the place where

       4      I live does not offer me protections as a renter,

       5      and this puts me in difficult and not ideal

       6      situations.

       7             (Speaking Spanish.)

       8             (Translated to English by a translator.)

       9             My apartment has a mold problem on one of the

      10      walls of my children's room, so I have to put up

      11      plastic to cover it.

      12             The water keeps coming in, and the smell and

      13      appearance is very annoying.

      14             This is obviously not healthy, especially

      15      with my children, because it can affect their

      16      health.

      17             I have asked the owner several times to fix

      18      this, and he says, yes, but does not come around.

      19             (Speaking Spanish.)

      20             (Translated to English by a translator.)

      21             In previous time, I've had to stop paying

      22      rent to get attention to my complaints, because, if

      23      I do not do this, nothing happens or gets fixed.

      24             When I have done this, it was been out

      25      desperation because I know that, without


       1      protections, and without having the right to a lease

       2      renewal, the owner can throw me out of the apartment

       3      due to these complaints and holding back rent.

       4             We live lease to lease, hoping that we do not

       5      get a huge raise that would basically be the same as

       6      an eviction.

       7             But there is no way to prepare or feel

       8      confident that we will be able to continue living in

       9      our home of eight years.

      10             (Speaking Spanish.)

      11             (Translated to English by a translator.)

      12             It is necessary that we all have protections,

      13      and feel the right and empowered to ask for repairs

      14      to our apartments when things are wrong.

      15             We all need a decent place to live, and that

      16      is why I ask you to support the proposal of

      17      good-cause, so that thousands of families like mine

      18      can feel security and have the right to a decent

      19      life.

      20             Thank you.

      21             TEODORA REYES:  (Speaking Spanish.)

      22             (Translated to English by a translator.)

      23             Hello.  My name, Teodora Rosas (ph.)(sic).

      24             I'm a single mother of three, who works

      25      various odd jobs in order to earn money and, at the


       1      same time, have time to take care of my three

       2      children.

       3             As you can imagine, this is hard work to

       4      balance, but I made time today to be here to support

       5      the good-cause proposal because it is very important

       6      to me and thousands of others.

       7             (Speaking Spanish.)

       8             (Translated to English by a translator.)

       9             I have lived in Westchester for over

      10      13 years, and live in a multiple-family house in

      11      White Plains, but do not have protections because

      12      this house does not fit the requirements for

      13      protections at the moment.

      14             However, if good-cause were to pass, I would

      15      finally have protections, and housing would be one

      16      less thing to worry about constantly.

      17             (Speaking Spanish.)

      18             (Translated to English by a translator.)

      19             I have been living with my three kids and

      20      brother in the same house for the last seven years,

      21      an attic that was repurposed as an apartment, as

      22      many places in the area.

      23             The owner gave me a lease when I first

      24      started, but has not given me a new one for over

      25      four years now.


       1             This makes it harder for me to prove where

       2      I live and to have paperwork for various procedures.

       3             (Speaking Spanish.)

       4             (Translated to English by a translator.)

       5             My rent has been increased twice already in

       6      the last three years, without previous notice, which

       7      has sent me into a frenzy each time it happens.

       8             Since the apartment is, technically, an

       9      attic, the insulation is improper.

      10             It is extremely hot in the summers and too

      11      cold in the winters.

      12             When I have brought this up to the landlord,

      13      he dismisses me and tells me that I can leave if

      14      I don't like it.

      15             More recently, my refrigerator broke down and

      16      was not working for about three months.

      17             When I complained, the owner told me I should

      18      buy a new one out of my own money, but, if I left,

      19      I could not take it with me.

      20             I finally found help with Make the Road

      21      New York, and they help me send a letter to the

      22      owner.

      23             He finally replaced the fridge, but raised my

      24      rent again this time for this.

      25             (Speaking Spanish.)


       1             (Translated to English by a translator.)

       2             I have tried to look for help, and called

       3      various offices around the county, but have been

       4      told that there is no regulation, and that the owner

       5      can kick people out whenever they want.

       6             It seems as the owners have rights when it

       7      comes to housing.

       8             As a tenant, what can I do?  I don't have any

       9      rights.

      10             It is too hard to find another place, and too

      11      expensive to move, so I just suck it up and stay

      12      there, but I'm constantly worried about when my next

      13      rent hike will be, with no protections.

      14             (Speaking Spanish.)

      15             (Translated to English by a translator.)

      16             We need to pass the good-cause bill.

      17             I and many single mothers will continue --

      18      or, I and many single mothers will continue to be

      19      taken advantage of if this does not happen, as a

      20      first step to more dignity in housing.

      21             Thank you.

      22             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you all for your

      23      testimony.

      24             I'm going to keep it short.

      25             I understand that at least one of you has to


       1      leave for child-care duty this afternoon, so we

       2      appreciate your spending so much time with us today,

       3      and your very important testimony today.

       4             But I'll refrain from asking questions.

       5             And does (inaudible)?

       6             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  (Indiscernible)

       7      also, gracias for your testimony.

       8             I wanted to make sure, though, Norberta, if

       9      you want to just see my assistant Sergio, and give

      10      me your information, so I can help to reach out to

      11      your -- if you want, to reach out to your building

      12      manager.

      13             Okay?

      14             NORBERTA GUERRERO:  Okay.  Thank you.

      15             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  Okay.

      16             Okay.  Gracias.

      17             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you all.

      18             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  Thank you.

      19             And I'm glad, by the way, thank you for

      20      actually saying you have a good landlord.

      21             I'm almost wanting for you to tell me the

      22      name of this person too, because, you know, we don't

      23      hear a lot of that.

      24             So, I'm sure the fact that there is somebody

      25      who you're happy with, that's probably somebody who,


       1      you know, should be acknowledged.

       2             What's your landlord's name?

       3             FIDELA VASQUEZ:  Just know the first name?

       4             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  Okay.

       5             FIDELA VASQUEZ:  His name is Antonio.

       6             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  Antonio.

       7             FIDELA VASQUEZ:  Yes.

       8             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  Okay.

       9             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you.

      10             Okay, next up we're going to have Evan Bell

      11      and Carol Danziger and Kenneth Nilsen and

      12      Silvio Solari (ph.).

      13             CAROL DANZINGER:  (Inaudible) public

      14      speaking.

      15             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  You signed up.

      16             CAROL DANZINGER:  I know, because needed to.

      17      I felt I really needed to.

      18             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  This is your

      19      moment.

      20             CAROL DANZINGER:  So, yes.

      21             Good afternoon.

      22             My name is Carol Danziger.

      23             For the past 29 years I've worked for a

      24      non-profit that is an advocate for affordable

      25      housing, so I understand the magnitude of this


       1      issue.

       2             I can attest that there is a clear lack of

       3      affordable housing options for lower-income and

       4      working-class families in our communities.

       5             However, ETPA, as it stands, is not the

       6      answer to this problem.

       7             It has been 45 years since the various

       8      municipalities adopted this outdated and,

       9      apparently, ineffective regulation.

      10             If ETPA was the answer, we would no longer

      11      have a housing issue.

      12             Despite this regulation, affordable housing

      13      is still a problem that must be resolved.

      14             This leads me to wonder, why, over the past

      15      45 years, has New York State failed to pass

      16      legislation to include the use of all rental

      17      housing, not just a handful of buildings in select

      18      communities built before 1974?

      19             If the housing issue is severe, why has

      20      New York State not created legislation that is

      21      statewide, benefiting all communities?

      22             This is a statewide issue, and we need

      23      everyone in all communities to help solve this

      24      problem.

      25             Before speaking more on why changes need to


       1      be made to New York State's approach to solving the

       2      affordable-housing issue, I want to share my own

       3      connection to ETPA.

       4             My three siblings and I inherited a building

       5      under ETPA when our father passed away in 2009.

       6             My father, who worked as a barber, purchased

       7      the 18-unit building in Mamaroneck in 1970 in hopes

       8      of providing a better life for his family.

       9             He con -- had he contemplated that same

      10      decision just five years later, after ETPA was

      11      adopted, he may have made a much different choice.

      12             Whereas most people would see the opportunity

      13      to own real estate as a financially beneficial one,

      14      most owners of ETPA buildings know the truth can be

      15      far from that.

      16             The reality of ETPA is that it is a narrow

      17      solution, placing the responsibility of providing

      18      affordable housing on a group, a small group, of

      19      business owners.

      20             The owners impacted by ETPA are asked to

      21      accept rents far below market rent.

      22             For example, my building in Mamaroneck is

      23      100 percent stabilized, and my 18 units are renting

      24      for far less than HUD fair-market rents for the

      25      village.


       1             The reason is due to ETPA.

       2             The building was built before 1970, and

       3      nothing more.

       4             I must stress that this burden is not one

       5      that is carried equally.

       6             Over the years I have seen many apartment

       7      buildings built in Mamaroneck; the Avalon, for

       8      example, and none are asked to carry the weight of

       9      this regulation as we are, and, most certainly,

      10      never to the extent we are.

      11             Those owners, also private individuals, are

      12      allowed to charge rents that the market will bear

      13      just like any other type of business.

      14             Some may have a handful of units that are

      15      more affordable, but it's a small fraction compared

      16      to ETPA owners.

      17             This influx of new construction does nothing

      18      to help alleviate the housing issue or share the

      19      responsibility.

      20             Affordable housing in New York State is

      21      difficult, no one denies that.

      22             There are a growing number of people seeking

      23      affordable housing.

      24             It grows increasingly difficult to understand

      25      how ETPA can be a viable option at this time.


       1             As a landlord, I have seen the shortcomings

       2      related to this regulation for both the owners and

       3      the tenants.

       4             First, the design of the regulation does not

       5      allow for the expansion of the program within the

       6      existing municipalities.  There will never be an

       7      increase of affordable units available supporting

       8      the growing population in need of them.

       9             Second, tenants live in ETPA units -- the

      10      tenants that live in these units may not even need

      11      affordable housing.

      12             Unlike housing subsidies, such as Section 8,

      13      New York State does not determine if the person who

      14      rents an ETPA unit actually needs, and would qualify

      15      for, affordable housing.

      16             Additionally, the small business is not

      17      compensated in any way for the use of his or her

      18      property.

      19             Finally, ETPA is helping to create a surplus

      20      of aging buildings that owners can no longer afford

      21      to repair.

      22             ETPA dictates what rents and increases an

      23      owner can charge, even when that amount is not

      24      sufficient to cover needed repairs and basic

      25      expenses.


       1             Hardest hit are smaller properties that

       2      cannot absorb the inadequacies in rents.  It becomes

       3      increasingly difficult to properly maintain the

       4      buildings, and remember, these buildings are at

       5      least 45 years old.

       6             The building my family owns is

       7      approaching 90.

       8             If this continues, you will be forcing our

       9      most vulnerable populations to live in sub-quality

      10      housing conditions.

      11             Our shared goal should be to find more

      12      comprehensive and evolving solutions to the

      13      affordable-housing issue.

      14             We do not need New York State to renew

      15      EPA (sic) as it stands, which is outdated and

      16      ineffective, and we urge you not to do that.

      17             It cannot add more affordable units in the

      18      communities where it exists, and it has not

      19      alleviated the affordable-housing issue in those

      20      communities.

      21             I would argue that, proven solutions, like

      22      the housing subsidy, Section 8, should be expanded,

      23      considering the wait lists are years long.

      24             We need the programs that get the assistance

      25      to those that truly need it.


       1             Take the burden off this handful of small

       2      business owners who have a limited impact, and put

       3      it back with New York State where it belongs.

       4             Create legislation that shares the

       5      responsibility equally and equitably throughout our

       6      communities, and help those who really need it.

       7             I would want to say, just on a personal note,

       8      since a lot of people were talking personally about

       9      their experiences with ETPA, we, as owners of this

      10      18-unit building, and as I said, it's 100 percent

      11      stabilized, so we have no way to absorb the rents

      12      that are at $500 versus the rents that are closer to

      13      market rate that may be $1300 or $1400.

      14             We -- we feel are good landlords, I think.

      15      And that's proven by the fact that tenants really

      16      don't leave our building.

      17             We've had most of our current tenants for

      18      more than twelve -- more than ten years, and we've

      19      had two that have been there for more than fifty.

      20             We have a handful, probably three or four

      21      units, that have turned over in the last, you know,

      22      probably 10 or 15 years.  And the legal regulated

      23      rents on those units are much higher.  They're not

      24      quite near the deregulation rate, but they're

      25      higher.


       1             So, basically, that 20 percent that we get

       2      when the building turns over, we don't actually get,

       3      because nobody in our area is going to rent a unit

       4      in a building that's 80 years old for 2,000 or

       5      2500 dollars a month.

       6             So we offer the rents as preferential,

       7      because that's what the market allows.  We rent them

       8      for what people are willing to pay for them.

       9             Now, after that, we don't raise them more

      10      than what the Rent Guideline Board stipulates.

      11             I mean, I know we can, but we don't.

      12             I mean, far be it from us to think that we

      13      would rather have a good tenant, than a bad tenant

      14      that pays you $100 more.

      15             And, as far as the bad landlords, yeah, there

      16      are bad landlords out there.

      17             But, unfortunately, in order to try to

      18      alleviate what's happening with those bad landlords,

      19      you are taking down, completely, the good landlords

      20      that own smaller buildings like I do, because the

      21      income that comes in from this building can't even

      22      support a single-family household.

      23             Now, my husband and I, we both work

      24      full-time.  I also watch my granddaughter in

      25      afternoons and evenings so my daughter can work.


       1             I am a landlord that is actually a tenant in

       2      the building that they own.  I live there with the

       3      other families, the 17 other families, that are in

       4      the building.  I know them all personally, they all

       5      know me.

       6             You know, we try to keep the building upkeep

       7      as much as we can.

       8             But, without any relief of being able to, you

       9      know, build any equity, you know, we could be one

      10      big repair away from going under, you know.

      11             And I know you've talked about MCIs, and

      12      I almost don't even want to get started on that, but

      13      we -- you know, we had an MCI for a new boiler that

      14      was rejected by HCR.

      15             And I would be more than happy at another

      16      time to discuss that.

      17             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  I'm going ask you to wrap

      18      up your testimony --

      19             CAROL DANZINGER:  Yes.

      20             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- and then perhaps we'll

      21      have some questions, and you'll be able to continue.

      22             CAROL DANZINGER:  Absolutely.

      23             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  I think public

      24      speaking is not --

      25                (Indiscernible cross-talking.)


       1             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Yeah, you seem to be doing

       2      okay.

       3             CAROL DANZINGER:  I've just now breathed

       4      again.

       5             SILVIO SOLARI:  First, I would like to thank

       6      you for your attention, and listening to us, and

       7      showing your concern, and sitting here for

       8      four hours.

       9             I think you should be recognized, and you do

      10      this many days.

      11             I couldn't believe the calendar when I looked

      12      at it.

      13             My name is Silvio Solari, a former landlord

      14      in Westchester County.

      15             I will no longer own a rent-stabilized

      16      building ever again.

      17             For a small landlord of one or two buildings,

      18      the rent regulations are just far too difficult and

      19      cumbersome.

      20             In Westchester County, the rent guidelines

      21      are often unfair because the costs can be

      22      dramatically different among various municipalities.

      23             The big differences are property taxes.

      24             How can you have the same increase when, in

      25      one municipality you have a 2 percent increase in


       1      property tax, and another one you have a 6 percent

       2      increase in property tax?

       3             As you know, in Westchester, one of the

       4      biggest expenses a landlord faces are property

       5      taxes.

       6             That's something I think you should address

       7      and consider.

       8             And it hurts communities, like Mount Vernon,

       9      whose property taxes go up, sometimes, 10,

      10      15 percent in a year.  And landlords there are

      11      hurting.  And the tenants also suffer as a

      12      consequence.

      13             So I think that really needs to be looked at.

      14             My immigrant father told me a long time ago

      15      to buy property.  It's the only investment he knew.

      16             I found out since, there are better ways of

      17      investing.

      18             I am saddened that I had to sell because the

      19      meager increases didn't keep up with expenses.

      20             I believe that I was a good landlord.

      21             I followed my father's advice, I treated

      22      tenants as if they were my family.

      23             I planted flowers in the front, and

      24      vegetables in the small backyard, and we all shared.

      25             There were times some tenants fell behind in


       1      rent.  I worked with those tenants until they

       2      overcame temporary issues.

       3             Many times I was ill, and those same tenants

       4      helped out by shoveling the snow and doing other

       5      chores.

       6             However, I found better ways of making money.

       7             I was driven out by rent-stabilization

       8      regulations.

       9             There are many landlords who still hold on to

      10      their properties, and you may wonder, why?

      11             I know many of them.

      12             They hold on for a few reasons.

      13             Many of them are first- or second-generation

      14      immigrants who only understand and know real estate.

      15      They're not aware and fear other investments.

      16             You also have those landlords that I call

      17      "generation landlords."  They have inherited the

      18      properties from parents or grandparents, and they

      19      want to hold on to that legacy.  They just can't let

      20      go of a dream that their ancestors created.

      21             Then there are the vulture landlords, who

      22      grow in numbers as more regulations are imposed.

      23      They find ways of making money.

      24             By making it more difficult for the good

      25      landlord, you increase the number of vulture


       1      landlords.

       2             Please don't make it more difficult for

       3      landlords to make their fair return, or you may

       4      create a housing crisis.

       5             I think I need to look at the -- I think you

       6      need to look at the rent guidelines boards that have

       7      become political and expensive.

       8             Their rent guidelines are very often -- are

       9      unfair.

      10             I think it would be better to go to an

      11      automatic rent guidelines based on inflation, and a

      12      rent increase based upon the increase in property

      13      taxes in those municipalities whose increases are

      14      above the average for the county.

      15             Also, you must keep the MCI and vacancy

      16      allowance because, very often, this is the only way

      17      a landlord can maintain his buildings.

      18             A few comments about other statements that

      19      were made today.

      20             It seemed that many people came up here and

      21      stated that landlords can evict without cause.

      22             According to my attorney, he says, in

      23      practice, no judge will evict without a justifiable

      24      cause.

      25             The second thing is, as you make more


       1      regulations, you drive out the good landlords.  You

       2      don't drive out the bad landlords, they become

       3      bigger in number; they become more.  They own the

       4      buildings.

       5             Because now you can't -- you have to sell at

       6      a loss, or have you to sell at a lower price, and

       7      they come in and buy the buildings because they

       8      know, you know what?  The laws are not being

       9      enforced.

      10             The issue is, the current laws are not being

      11      enforced in housing.

      12             And that's what has to be addressed.

      13             If you make more regulations without

      14      enforcing the laws, you're going to have the same

      15      thing: pushing out the good landlords, and the

      16      vultures are going to be rushing in.

      17             All right.

      18             Thank you.

      19             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Mr. Nilsen.

      20             KENNETH NILSEN:  Okay.

      21             My name is Ken Nilsen.

      22             I'm a landlord in Yonkers, and I've been a

      23      landlord there for about 35 years.  And, we're a

      24      family business, and we're in the business of

      25      providing affordable housing.


       1             You know, we have a number of Section 8

       2      tenants.  We rent to other organizations, like

       3      Cluster, and some other organizations.

       4             And I want to talk about, one, the purpose of

       5      the rent laws --

       6             You all have a copy of my statement here.

       7             -- is to prevent rent gouging.

       8             It's in the language of the original law.

       9             But based on the DHCR data, the average rent

      10      of regulated buildings in Westchester is $1278,

      11      average rent.  And this includes deregulated units

      12      as well as regulated units.  This is the average

      13      rent.

      14             If you compare that to the HUD fair-market

      15      rents, it's substantially below the HUD fair-market

      16      rents.

      17             What that tells you is that -- is that the

      18      existing ETPA is keeping rents in regulated

      19      buildings affordable, in spite of what everybody is

      20      saying.

      21             This is data statistics based on actual

      22      numbers.

      23             So, I think you ought to consider that in --

      24      in -- when you're going to kind of make wholesale

      25      changes to the law that may be destructive in the


       1      long run.

       2             Some legislative proposals would discourage

       3      investments in building systems and individual

       4      apartments in the long run.  This will cause the

       5      housing stock to deteriorate.

       6             Look what happened to the New York City

       7      Housing Authority.

       8             There's been underinvestment in

       9      infrastructure.

      10             And infrastructure is just -- is not -- not

      11      very sexy, and it doesn't -- it doesn't get votes.

      12      But the fact is, it's critically important.

      13             I'm an engineer by training, and recognize

      14      what systems are needed to maintain the building.

      15             If you underinvest, eventually, it's going to

      16      get you.

      17             And it happened in New York City in the

      18      housing authority.

      19             It happened, like, about 20 or 30 years ago,

      20      when -- in the '70s, when there was wholesale

      21      abandonment of buildings, like in the South Bronx,

      22      and the Koch Administration had to invest public

      23      monies, $10 billion when $10 billion was real money,

      24      in improving private buildings that the laws allowed

      25      to -- allowed to deteriorate, because they were


       1      squeezing the landlords so much, they just walked

       2      away from them.  It didn't work anymore.

       3             You want to -- basically, the incentives the

       4      Legislature would want to do away with, such as

       5      MCIs, IAIs, vacancy allowances, low-rent minimums,

       6      et cetera, were put in place in the '80s and the

       7      '90s to correct the poor housing policies of the

       8      '70s.

       9             The ETPA housing stock is in better shape now

      10      than it was years ago, so don't gut a program that

      11      is working.

      12             So, be very careful, because you could do

      13      significant damage to the stock, and to tenants in

      14      the long run.

      15             The individual apartment -- one of the com --

      16      other comments is that -- is that this -- this --

      17      it's like a competition between tenants and

      18      landlords.

      19             We're really all in this together.  We're

      20      not -- basically, most of the people, you know,

      21      operating a rental business in affordable housing in

      22      Westchester are small family businesses.  Okay?

      23             We're not the large retes that are coming in

      24      and building these developments in Yonkers and in

      25      New Rochelle and in White Plains.  And I think you


       1      have to recognize that, that there's -- there's --

       2      there's a different dynamic here.

       3             Individual apartment improvements, that's

       4      what they call the "IAIs," in most cases, my

       5      experience is that it's catch-up.

       6             What happens is that, somebody's been in an

       7      apartment for a long time.  Because the Rent

       8      Guidelines Boards provides low increases over a

       9      period of time, they're way behind the market.

      10             In addition to that, they need a lot of work,

      11      and so you have to go in there and make significant

      12      improvements.  A lot of it has to do with, it's

      13      everything; from electrical, to avoid electrical

      14      fire; plumbing, sheetrocking.

      15             A lot of it, I've done a lot of work of

      16      lead-paint abatement, which is extremely expensive

      17      stuff, because you're sheetrocking the walls.  And

      18      you're -- in many cases, we're -- we're changing all

      19      of the moldings because that's usually where the

      20      lead paint is.  And it's extremely important to do

      21      it, and it's extremely costly.

      22             And that kind of thing, in your plans, to

      23      look at individual apartment improvements, is, don't

      24      gut that program because that's very important.

      25             In some cases, it's increased the rent to


       1      higher what the market was, so the legal regulated

       2      rent may go up higher.  But the actual preferential

       3      rent, what people are paying, may not -- you know,

       4      may not go up as much.

       5             And I've had that situation.

       6             But that's really -- sometimes it's done for

       7      people in place, but that's very rare.  It's really

       8      on vacancy.

       9             But, it's catch-up.

      10             And -- and -- and the fact is, it can't go up

      11      too high because people won't rent it, and then you

      12      end up with a vacant apartment.  You don't want to

      13      do that.

      14             But there has to be some kind of return on

      15      it.

      16             All the discussion I've heard here, about,

      17      you know, kind of giving back over a period of time

      18      is, if you make an investment, we're talking about

      19      twenty, thirty, forty thousand dollars to do some of

      20      these big improvements.  That's money that's

      21      invested.

      22             If you didn't want to put it in the thing,

      23      you'd put it in the stock market, or something like

      24      that, and make, you know, 5 or 8 percent, or

      25      something like that.


       1             You've got to continue -- you've got to

       2      consider that in the whole calculation.

       3             Many of the buildings that we have, I have at

       4      least two buildings that are over 100 years old, and

       5      some of them have 100-year-old bathrooms.

       6             There has to be a vehicle on vacancy, when --

       7      when there -- when you can, you know, gut a

       8      bathroom, put a whole new unit in, and bring it up.

       9             And we've done that in many cases, and the

      10      present law has allowed that to happen.

      11             And, please, don't gut that whole thing

      12      because it's not going to be good for the tenants.

      13             If they make -- if the regulations change to

      14      make these investments unattractive, landlords will

      15      just not make them and the quality of the units will

      16      fall.

      17             Water leaks and fires from all the electrical

      18      wiring will damage apartments, reduce the number of

      19      affordable apartments.

      20             Major capital improvements:

      21             The fact is, that a lot -- there's a lot

      22      of -- everybody talks about major capital

      23      improvements.

      24             In my experience, I've had some of these

      25      buildings for 20, 30 years, and I may have had, you


       1      know, like, three major capital improvements.

       2             I mean, it's not like that happens all the

       3      time.  It's not like, every year, somebody does

       4      major capital improvements.

       5             It's, like -- like, it's a small amount.

       6             I just did one in one building, that ended up

       7      changing the roof and the boilers.  It's a 40-unit

       8      building.  And the cost for an average apartment,

       9      the one-bedroom apartment, was like was $35.

      10             Nobody complained, because they saw what was

      11      happening, and it was, you know, something that

      12      needed to be done.

      13             If you don't have it, then somebody's going

      14      to say, the roof is leaking.  I'm gonna patch over

      15      here.  You spend a couple thousand, you know,

      16      patching that.  Wait a couple years, somebody is

      17      patching over there.

      18             It's -- it's like -- as an engineer, it's

      19      like the wrong way of doing it.

      20             But, if you change the law, then that's

      21      what's going to happen.

      22             I remember taking over a building where we

      23      had a lot of water leaks.  And we'd open up the wall

      24      and find out that, rather than changing the pipes,

      25      would have to be changed like every 60 years or so


       1      because they wear out, there were just clamps all

       2      over the place.  And it was a continuing problem

       3      because nobody had decided they needed to do the

       4      entire -- change all the pipes, because, eventually,

       5      it was all going to happen.

       6             And so if you take away the impetus to do

       7      that, it's going to be a problem, especially for --

       8      I can list the things:  Roofs, boilers,

       9      waterproofing, elevators, electrical systems, and

      10      the like.

      11             Otherwise, they're going to deteriorate.

      12             The existing formula for MCIs is already

      13      bad, it's already unattractive.

      14             It's -- it's for buildings over 35 units.

      15             You take the cost, you divided it by 108, and

      16      that's only the direct cost.

      17             Like, if you take a -- like, $100,000 to do

      18      something like a boiler, and you're going to apply

      19      this -- this -- this formula, you can get an

      20      increase of around $1,000, using round numbers.

      21             Well, if you take that 1,000 -- that $100,000

      22      and put it into, like, Con Ed stock, or something

      23      like that, you get a 5 percent return.

      24             Well, I mean -- or, you go out and borrow the

      25      money to do that.


       1             That's -- that's 5 percent, which is like

       2      5,000.

       3             So, on one hand, you're getting an increase

       4      of $1,000 a month/12,000 a year, but it's costing

       5      you 5,000.

       6             So the net is only $7,000.

       7             Well, to recover that $100,000 thing is going

       8      to take 15 years, and that's a pretty lousy

       9      investment if it takes that long to recover.

      10             So if you make that any worse, people are

      11      just not going -- landlords are just not going to

      12      make the improvements, period.  They're going to

      13      just be patching.

      14             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Kenneth, I'm going to ask

      15      you to wrap it up.  I think you will have questions,

      16      and be able to continue that way --

      17                (Indiscernible cross-talking.)

      18             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- (indiscernible)

      19      witnesses.

      20             KENNETH NILSEN:  Okay, great.

      21             Then -- okay, and I'll quickly go through:

      22             The vacancy adjustments, you can't turn it

      23      over very quickly.  The existing law has 5, 10, 15,

      24      and 20 percent, depending on 1, 2, 3, 4.

      25             So you can't just keep turning the thing over


       1      and bounce the rent by 20 percent.

       2             And last, but not least, is high-rent

       3      deregulation, is -- is -- the present laws grew out

       4      of the emergency after World War II.

       5             That emergency is over.

       6             Any attempt to regulate the housing market

       7      results in a misallocation of resources, such as,

       8      one or two people in large apartments, and I've got

       9      a number of those; huge families living in small

      10      apartments because the large apartments are not

      11      available; and fear of building new affordable

      12      housing because of the threat of regulation.

      13             Higher-income tenants living in

      14      rent-regulated apartments is a fact.

      15             I don't understand why the existing law

      16      protects people who are making $200,000 a year.

      17             It's written into the existing law.

      18             Why should that be the case?

      19             The justification for doing what you're doing

      20      is, this is for poor people.

      21             But the fact is, the law says, we're

      22      protecting people who earn $200,000 a year.

      23             How can you justify that?

      24             If you have any questions, I'll be happy to

      25      try to answer them.


       1             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  I think we will.

       2             I'm going to begin by -- Senator Myrie first.

       3             SENATOR MYRIE:  Thank you for your testimony

       4      today.

       5             You know, I welcome the conversation on

       6      enforcement.  I think that's very important.

       7             In fact, we had a hearing on enforcement last

       8      week in Newburgh.

       9             And, also, the conversation around taxes.

      10             You know, those disparities aren't just

      11      county to county.

      12             I see those disparities in my own district in

      13      Central Brooklyn, where there's certain

      14      neighborhoods that pay a disproportionately higher

      15      amount than other neighborhoods.

      16             So I think that is a conversation that we

      17      need to have, to address the totality of this

      18      crisis.

      19             But I wanted to focus on the last point you

      20      made, and I believe you made this as well, regarding

      21      protecting people that make a certain amount of

      22      money, and means testing as a way of deciding who

      23      gets rent regulation.

      24             And the conversation around means testing has

      25      always focused on the tenants.  And we should be


       1      looking at how much they make, and why are we

       2      protecting those folks.

       3             The Rent Guidelines Board just put out their

       4      annual report that said that 95 percent of people

       5      operating rent-stabilized buildings were operating

       6      at a profit.

       7             There are only 5 percent of those properties

       8      were distressed.

       9             And so when we talk about means testing, are

      10      you open to means-testing landlords as well?

      11             Right?

      12             If we are deciding who gets regulated based

      13      on how much they make, is it your position that we

      14      should do the same for property owners?

      15             KENNETH NILSEN:  Well, the fact is, we

      16      submit -- every year, we submit income and expense

      17      information to the DHCR as a requirement.

      18             Are you saying, on a comparable basis, we

      19      should have every tenant submit their income to make

      20      it equal?

      21             SENATOR MYRIE:  No, that's not what I'm

      22      saying.

      23             KENNETH NILSEN:  We're already --

      24                (Indiscernible cross-talking.)

      25             KENNETH NILSEN:  We're already -- we're


       1      already --

       2             SENATOR MYRIE:  What I'm saying is --

       3             KENNETH NILSEN:  -- we're already doing that.

       4             SENATOR MYRIE:  -- the conversation is, we

       5      should be doing our policy based on the means.

       6             That -- that that's -- that -- that's what

       7      you're saying.

       8             And what I'm saying in return, is that if we

       9      have the majority of the property owners, in fact,

      10      an overwhelming majority, who are making money, who

      11      are making a profit, right, the notion that we

      12      should be catering our entire policy to the

      13      5 percent of building owners that are distressed, to

      14      me, is at odds with this notion that we should be

      15      means-testing tenants.

      16             KENNETH NILSEN:  I don't understand what your

      17      question is.

      18             CAROL DANZINGER:  Yeah, I think I understand

      19      what you're saying.

      20             I think -- I think that I would ask, that if

      21      you're going to judge, or do a means test, to see if

      22      these buildings are making a profit, how would you

      23      judge what is an adequate profit?

      24             How do you tell a private business owner what

      25      should be adequate for them to make?


       1             I don't think anyone -- I don't think you

       2      would want someone telling you what you should be

       3      paid.

       4             SENATOR MYRIE:  Right, so that -- it

       5      becomes -- it becomes stickier.  Right?

       6             So then -- so --

       7             CAROL DANZINGER:  So --

       8             SENATOR MYRIE:  -- so then --

       9             CAROL DANZINGER:  -- yeah.

      10             SENATOR MYRIE:  -- so -- so -- so then who is

      11      to make the determination on how much a tenant

      12      should be making, and whether or not they should be

      13      able to rent that affordable apartment?

      14             CAROL DANZINGER:  Well, housing-subsidy

      15      programs already do that.

      16             I'm not saying create new ones.

      17             I'm saying, use your existing infrastructure

      18      to make sure that someone is not living in an

      19      affordable unit that doesn't need it, and,

      20      meanwhile, somebody is homeless because they need

      21      that unit.

      22             Do you see what I'm saying?

      23             I'm not -- I'm not saying we should tell

      24      people they can't live in these units.

      25             But I -- I'm wondering if you are enabling


       1      the people that need it the most, the people that we

       2      hear talking today that have been homeless, that

       3      could not find units, would they be able to find

       4      units if people that didn't need affordable housing

       5      were not in those units --

       6             SENATOR MYRIE:  Do you know what the

       7      median --

       8             CAROL DANZINGER:  -- is what I was asking?

       9             SENATOR MYRIE:  Do you know what the median

      10      income of a tenant that lives in a rent-stabilized

      11      unit is?

      12             CAROL DANZINGER:  In Westchester County?

      13             KENNETH NILSEN:  In Westchester County, or

      14      Manhattan south of 96 Street?

      15             SENATOR MYRIE:  Do you know what the median

      16      income for either of those are?

      17             KENNETH NILSEN:  No.

      18             ZELTZYN SANCHEZ GOMEZ:  I think they're,

      19      about, just a little bit below the average.  I think

      20      it's just -- I don't think it's way below the

      21      average, I don't think.  It's just a little bit

      22      below the average.

      23             SENATOR MYRIE:  The average, what?

      24             SILVIO SOLARI:  Average income of

      25      Westchester County, I'd say, is 70,000.  So maybe


       1      it's about --

       2             SENATOR MYRIE:  Okay.  So, statewide, the

       3      median income is somewhere around 45,000?

       4             CAROL DANZINGER:  Yeah, in Westchester it's

       5      108,000, I believe, is the median income.

       6             SENATOR MYRIE:  The median income for a

       7      rent-stabilized tenant in Westchester?

       8             CAROL DANZINGER:  Oh, no, no, for a

       9      rent-stabilized tenant, no.

      10             I'm talking the median income in general.

      11                (Indiscernible cross-talking.)

      12             SENATOR MYRIE:  Okay, that's -- that's the

      13      question I'm asking.

      14             So, in fact, HCR testified earlier today, and

      15      said that that median income is significantly below

      16      what the median income is for non-regulated tenants.

      17             And so this notion that rent regulation, at

      18      large, protects wealthy people, while preventing

      19      low-income to moderate people, taking advantage is

      20      just not in line with what the reality is.

      21             KENNETH NILSEN:  But's it's protecting some

      22      people making that kind of money.

      23             SILVIO SOLARI:  Yeah, I think a bigger

      24      problem than that is, where you have tenants in a

      25      three-bedroom apartment, there's only one person


       1      living there, because, originally, they had a

       2      family, and the wife passed away and the children

       3      moved.  And they have -- it's -- it's ludicrous to

       4      have that situation.

       5             So they could be placed, if, hopefully, you

       6      can think about that, whether you can have some sort

       7      of regulation, where that person be placed, and be

       8      told, he has to move to a one-bedroom apartment.

       9      This way, that three-bedroom could be available to a

      10      full family.

      11             I think that's fair.

      12             And we have a lot of apartments like that.

      13             SENATOR MYRIE:  Okay.  I --

      14             CAROL DANZINGER:  I don't believe in asking

      15      someone to leave where they're living.

      16             And I know that you said that there is,

      17      I guess, data that supports that people are living

      18      in these units all need affordable housing.

      19             I don't know if I completely agree with that.

      20             I think that there are a lot of people that

      21      do need it, that aren't getting it, and there's a

      22      reason they're not getting it.

      23             It's because it's not out there because

      24      someone else is using it.

      25             SENATOR MYRIE:  Okay.


       1             I will yield to my time to my colleagues.

       2             CAROL DANZINGER:  I don't know.

       3             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  I just think --

       4      you know, I think we're at this point here where

       5      everybody is coming and saying, you know, this is

       6      the case, but not always that.

       7             I think what we're trying to do is not spend

       8      a lot of time on extremes.

       9             I do believe that the problem is, that

      10      there's not enough affordable housing.

      11             I do not believe that, you know, if we took

      12      everybody who, quote/unquote, couldn't (sic) afford

      13      housing and took them out so there would be enough

      14      affordable housing, because I don't think that's the

      15      vast majority of the people.

      16             I think the vast majority of people living in

      17      affordable housing need affordable housing.

      18             And I think you can always talk about, oh,

      19      there's some millionaire living in some -- well --

      20      but we don't want to talk about that.

      21             And by the same token, I think what --

      22      what -- what Senator Myrie was responding to was

      23      this idea of the means testing, because most people,

      24      again, don't have that.

      25             And, you know, if I were to listen to the


       1      landlords, you know, most landlords are great, so --

       2      and nobody is gouging, and nobody's doing this or

       3      that.

       4             So, we're having these hearings because we

       5      know the range of the problems.  And we know that

       6      everyone would want us to legislate from this edge

       7      of the world or that edge of the world.

       8             And what we are trying to do is correct the

       9      issue that is -- is why we have rent laws to begin

      10      with, which is, there's just not enough affordable

      11      housing.

      12             So your testimony here is important for us as

      13      we deliberate, but I don't want anybody to really

      14      think that we think that everybody's in affordable

      15      housing who could actually afford market rate, or

      16      that every landlord is, necessarily, you know,

      17      raking in, you know, untold dollars without any

      18      regard to their tenants.

      19             But we're trying to get to that sweet spot

      20      that makes sense.

      21             CAROL DANZINGER:  Well, I think the sweet

      22      spot that makes sense would not restrict it to units

      23      that were built before 1974.

      24             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  I heard what you

      25      said, yeah.


       1             CAROL DANZINGER:  You have a really, really

       2      unbalanced system that puts the burden on particular

       3      owners.  And it's only 16 municipal -- of the

       4      municipalities, or 17, out of the 43 in

       5      Westchester County.

       6             I don't even know how that can be legal.  I'm

       7      sorry, I just -- I don't understand that.

       8             People are struggling; people are struggling

       9      on both sides.

      10             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  I appreciate

      11      that.

      12             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you,

      13      Leader Stewart-Cousins.

      14             And just -- actually, to briefly respond,

      15      I mean, the current system is such that the state

      16      law permits localities to opt in at their choice.

      17             So each of the localities that is part of

      18      this is part of it because the local governing body

      19      of that municipality has opted into the system,

      20      based on a formal determination that they have a

      21      tight housing market for the kind of housing that's

      22      regulated in that locality.

      23             CAROL DANZINGER:  And that they had a housing

      24      emergency.

      25             I guess the question I would also ask HCR,


       1      who's supposed to be, basically, impartial, and make

       2      sure that everybody involved is doing their due

       3      diligence:  Do they make sure, is there any

       4      provision after the fact, to make sure that a

       5      housing emergency still exists?

       6             I know that there were housing surveys done

       7      when these laws were adopted 45 years ago.

       8             Have they even bothered to ask the

       9      municipalities --

      10             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Again, this is -- this is

      11      very much --

      12             CAROL DANZINGER:  -- to do it again?

      13             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- this is very much a

      14      function of home rule.

      15             So you have -- you actually have an example

      16      of one municipality that opted into rent regulation

      17      recently, and then proceeded to opt out, based on,

      18      you know, a change in the political composition of

      19      the governing body of that --

      20             CAROL DANZINGER:  I mean, do we have the

      21      right to know if emergencies still exists --

      22             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  I think that, again

      23      each --

      24             CAROL DANZINGER:  -- considering --

      25             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- I don't want to --


       1             CAROL DANZINGER:  -- they're seizing our

       2      personal property?

       3             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- and I don't want to

       4      belabor this -- and -- and --

       5             CAROL DANZINGER:  You know, I mean --

       6             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Generally, we ask the

       7      questions.

       8             But --

       9             CAROL DANZINGER:  -- I think that's

      10      something -- I know.

      11             I think that's something --

      12             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- I appreciate the

      13      dialogue.

      14             CAROL DANZINGER:  -- that the State should --

      15             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  But just -- just to say,

      16      I think the current law is such that, this has been

      17      grant -- this is -- this is a function of home rule.

      18             And there are localities in the three

      19      counties where people can opt in, where the

      20      locally-elected governing body chooses to adopt this

      21      and chooses to continue it.

      22             They do have -- each locality has the option

      23      to -- to -- to change that decision if they choose

      24      to, and they don't need -- they don't need a formal

      25      determination that the circumstances have changed.


       1             They do have the opportunity.

       2             So this -- this -- these systems remain

       3      supported by their local governments, and that's --

       4      that's the legal basis on which they can continue to

       5      be in place.

       6             I do want to shift gears and just focus a

       7      little bit on your experiences with MCIs and

       8      IAIs, because you have that experience.

       9             First of all, I have to ask, on what basis

      10      was your MCI application rejected?

      11             GAIL WILLIAMS:  Well, we had an

      12      80-year-old -- I have to give you just a brief --

      13             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  That's fine.

      14             CAROL DANZINGER:  We had an 80-year-old

      15      boiler that cracked.

      16             We went to our oil company at the time, and

      17      they suggested a replacement, which we did.

      18             After the -- we did not immediately put in

      19      for an MCI.  And after the first season, it was not

      20      adequate.

      21             The tenants were complaining there was not

      22      enough heat.

      23             It just be couldn't handle.

      24             We have four stories for steam heat.

      25             So looking at that, and looking at the


       1      options, we decided to then, at that point, we were

       2      going to go with a gas alternative.

       3             We were going to go green, so we worked with

       4      Con Ed.  We put in gas-fired boilers.

       5             We had an 80-year-old manifold which they had

       6      us replace.

       7             When we submitted our application to HCR, we

       8      wanted to explain why we chose to convert to gas at

       9      that time to get the new boiler.

      10             And ultimately, in the end, after we waited

      11      nine months, they come back.  They give us a week to

      12      respond.

      13             Then they come back again after a month.

      14             And so this went on for probably more than a

      15      year.

      16             They basically determined that we could not

      17      prove that the boiler that replaced the broken one

      18      was insufficient; and, therefore, they would not

      19      allow us to charge for a newer one.

      20             Even though we had not charged an MCI for the

      21      boiler that did not serve its purpose, even though

      22      they had letters from tenants and such, they denied

      23      the entire application.

      24             SENATOR MAYER:  Can I (inaudible)?

      25             So they did not -- the first one you didn't


       1      apply for?

       2             CAROL DANZINGER:  We never submitted for the

       3      first one.

       4             SENATOR MAYER:  And the second one they

       5      denied when you applied for it?

       6             GAIL WILLIAMS:  When we supplied (sic) for

       7      what we currently have, and what is sufficient for

       8      our building, and what is now "green."

       9             SENATOR MAYER:  Did you ever apply thereafter

      10      for this boiler issue?

      11             CAROL DANZINGER:  For another MCI?

      12             No, because, after a year and a half of that,

      13      I just did not have it in me to do it again.

      14             SENATOR MAYER:  I'm sorry to interrupt you.

      15             CAROL DANZINGER:  I just didn't.

      16             KENNETH NILSEN:  I have one experience with

      17      that, and that is, the MCI that I talked about in

      18      this one building, we put in a boiler and a roof.

      19      We also did substantial work, probably $100,000, on

      20      the parapets, repairing various parapets.

      21             But, and I knew this beforehand, unless you

      22      replace the whole thing, or you do the whole

      23      building, it's not going to qualify for an MCI.

      24             And -- but I felt it was the right thing to

      25      do before we put the new roof on, we had to fix so


       1      of the -- repair some of the parapets, and we did.

       2             And that's just part of the cost of

       3      operating.

       4             So we only got an MCI on the two things that

       5      qualified under the regulations, which are very

       6      stringent.

       7             So they -- the DHCR doesn't give away MCIs

       8      for nothing.  You know, they have their stringent

       9      regulations, you have to follow the rules, you have

      10      to provide, you know, a whole bunch of

      11      documentation, for them to approve it.

      12             And -- and some -- and many things are not

      13      approved.  Many big projects are not approved.

      14             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  I'm sure the commissioner,

      15      who was here earlier, would appreciate us hearing

      16      that testimony from you.

      17             Just -- on the -- on the -- on the -- I want

      18      to talking about the math of IAIs for a minute.

      19             So an IAI, as has been discussed, in a

      20      building with 35 units, or smaller, the amount of

      21      the IAI is recouped in 40 months.  And then, you

      22      know, that continue -- that cash flow continues

      23      indefinitely into the future.

      24             Here, you know, you've said that -- and

      25      that -- and that raises the legal rent, that amount,


       1      irrespective of whether it --

       2             KENNETH NILSEN:  Right.

       3             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- can actually be

       4      charged.

       5             Is -- you know, I'm hearing -- and -- and --

       6      and I carry -- I -- I carry, and have carried, a

       7      bill for a number of years, a bill that would repeal

       8      IAIs entirely.

       9             So, I don't want my questions to suggest sort

      10      of where I am on this issue.

      11             But dealing with your testimony as you've

      12      presented it, is a 1/40th return -- a 1/40th

      13      increase in the rent necessary to make the economics

      14      of IAIs work?

      15             CAROL DANZINGER:  In an 18-unit building,

      16      absolutely.

      17             In a fully, 100 percent subsidized, 18-unit

      18      building, yes.

      19             There was -- there is no way we could afford

      20      to make those repairs to the plumbing, to the

      21      kitchens, which need to be done when tenants are not

      22      there, because then, otherwise, what are they going

      23      to do?

      24             The older units, when people move out, it's,

      25      like, we need to make those repairs.


       1             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  I understand.

       2             I'm not -- I'm sorry.

       3             I'm not questioning the -- at this moment,

       4      I'm not questioning the need for the program at all

       5      per se, so much as the mathematics.

       6             Like, so if you spend $40,000 on a unit, you

       7      need $1,000-a-month increase on --

       8             CAROL DANZINGER:  If the unit was renting for

       9      $600, or $700, yes.

      10             I mean, I don't think it's going to rent for

      11      $1,700.

      12             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Well, that's -- I guess

      13      that's the question.

      14             CAROL DANZINGER:  But --

      15             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  I mean, we -- we --

      16             CAROL DANZINGER:  We need the option to have

      17      it rent for what the market then will bear.

      18             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- part of the chal --

      19      part of the challenge we have, is that we are trying

      20      to make rent regulations for millions of -- a

      21      million apartments, with thousands and thousands of

      22      landlords --

      23             CAROL DANZINGER:  Release the -- release the

      24      little guys.

      25             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- of all different


       1      scales.

       2             And I would note, that current laws have a

       3      lot of elements that we broadly consider loopholes,

       4      that the real estate industry, that people lobbying

       5      on behalf of the industry as a whole, have protected

       6      very aggressively.

       7             And the result of that is that we have many,

       8      many instances where landlords, sometimes purchasing

       9      a building out of the blue, as we've heard a little

      10      bit about today, and sometimes just, you know,

      11      deciding to cash in on the value of the real estate,

      12      have used every mechanism available to them for the

      13      purpose of pushing up rents.

      14             So we have a concern that, if you can put

      15      money into an apartment and get all of that money

      16      back in 3 1/3 years, and then continue to get that

      17      return indefinitely, that landlords have been using

      18      that.

      19             And we have -- you know, in addition to sort

      20      of fraudulent use of it, we've had legal use of it

      21      that seems, to us, to be intended to raise the rent

      22      rapidly, as opposed to making the basic -- you know,

      23      the basic improvements necessary to make the

      24      apartment properly habitable, make it -- make it a

      25      reasonable place to live.


       1             So we're just trying to understand, is there

       2      a -- to the extent that we were to consider

       3      reforming these, as the HCR commissioner suggested

       4      we might, is there any play on that math?

       5             I mean, like, do you -- you -- you're telling

       6      us that if -- if -- if the return were less than --

       7      you know, you're get 30 percent of the amount of the

       8      IAI investment each year, indefinitely.

       9             Is it really -- is -- is -- are you

      10      suggesting that you wouldn't do the improvement if

      11      you only got 20 percent a year?

      12             CAROL DANZINGER:  I -- I don't know.

      13             It depends how much the improvement costs,

      14      because, basically, the income that's generated by

      15      the building, without even taking anything from it,

      16      would not be enough to do major improvements to more

      17      than one apartment.  And that's without even taking

      18      anything out of it, you know.

      19             So, I mean -- yeah, I mean, it would have a

      20      direct effect on the small landlords.

      21             I can't speak for anyone else.  I can only

      22      speak for how it affects myself.

      23             And, honestly, I don't know how you stop the

      24      people that are using it the wrong way without

      25      completely annihilating the people that are using it


       1      the right way.

       2             I mean, quite frankly, in a perfect world,

       3      I would be happy not filling out the paperwork

       4      required by this regulation, you know, at a minimum,

       5      you know.

       6             So I don't know what to tell you about that.

       7             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  But you understand, in a

       8      world where landlords -- I mean, we had testimony

       9      before, that 75,000 units were found by HCR to be --

      10             CAROL DANZINGER:  In New York City.

      11             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- illegally deregulated.

      12             CAROL DANZINGER:  In New York City.

      13             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Not only in New York City,

      14      but we've had that phenomenon in -- I mean, there

      15      are many more units in New York City than there are

      16      in Westchester.  But we have had illegal

      17      deregulation across the entire region.

      18             So when -- you know, in a situation where

      19      landlords are just deciding, at some point, to cease

      20      to treat a unit as regulated at all, that we would

      21      have some concern about a system where there's no

      22      documentation at all.  And, landlord, like, an honor

      23      system around rent increases is challenging for us.

      24             Okay.  I guess that was a rhetorical point

      25      more than a question.


       1             I appreciate --

       2             CAROL DANZINGER:  I mean, yes, because I'm

       3      never going to reach a deregulated rent rate in my

       4      building because I'm not going to have the turnover.

       5                (Indiscernible cross-talking.)

       6             CAROL DANZINGER:  And, I mean, not having the

       7      turnover is not necessarily a bad thing.

       8             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Right.

       9             CAROL DANZINGER:  But when we do have it

      10      turned over, I need to bring those lower units that

      11      have been out of, you know, the system for me up to

      12      where it can help alleviate this -- this unbalance.

      13             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  But there may -- but even

      14      from -- just from your perspective as a small --

      15      I mean, we have landlords telling us, that we must

      16      be able to invest, at least, you know, if it's been

      17      occupied -- if it's been -- the last tenancy lasted

      18      10 years, we might have to invest $120,000 per

      19      apartment.

      20             And that's -- I mean, that translates into a

      21      $3,000-a-month rent increase.

      22             And they're telling us, if we tinker with

      23      that, it's just going to be too hard for people to

      24      function.

      25             And it sounds like that's not your


       1      experience.

       2             CAROL DANZINGER:  Mine have been averaging

       3      about twenty if it's a much older unit, because

       4      you're going to have to replace all the plumbing and

       5      the electrical.

       6             I mean, you need to take the opportunity to

       7      do it when you can do it --

       8             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.  That's --

       9             CAROL DANZINGER:  -- and hope you have the

      10      funds to do it at that time.

      11             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  That's very helpful.

      12             Mr. Nilsen, do you have a perspective on

      13      this?

      14             KENNETH NILSEN:  Yeah.

      15             The reality -- my reality, is that it's most

      16      effective when -- really, when -- when the rents

      17      are -- are substantially below market, essentially,

      18      to try to bring it up.

      19             And I don't know if you -- if you're going to

      20      look at that, if you look at a -- some kind of a

      21      bifurcated system, where there's one set of rules

      22      when it gets -- you know, when you're going up to

      23      market, and then another set of rules when you're

      24      going beyond that.

      25             If you're talking about $120,000, that's a


       1      pretty fancy apartment.

       2             You know, that's -- but -- but I know, if

       3      you're really gutting an apartment, and I've done

       4      that, you know, you're talking about, you know,

       5      $40,000 in addition to that, or $60,000.

       6             When they had to renovate those apartments

       7      in -- in like the South Bronx during the Koch

       8      Administration, it was averaging $60,000 an

       9      apartment to do that kind of work, and that was like

      10      20 years ago.

      11             So that -- you know, this stuff is real

      12      money.

      13             And that's what people forget, how much it

      14      costs to do this stuff.

      15             Like, you know, my guys, when they go to

      16      Home Depot, you can't get out of there without

      17      spending a thousand dollars for few pieces of

      18      lumber.  It's just incredible.

      19             But the reality is, is -- is -- especially

      20      for those rents where you're in catch-up mode.

      21             And -- and you can't raise it outrageously

      22      anyway because people won't rent it.

      23             And it -- it's -- it -- and it's not

      24      affecting, you know, people in place.

      25             Sometimes there's a -- you know, a stove, or


       1      a refrigerator, or that kind of stuff.  I mean,

       2      that's small stuff, that's not really the big deal.

       3             The big deal is the -- is the apartment

       4      renovations.

       5             And, you know, as I say, you know, when

       6      you're doing the whole ball of wax, it can be very

       7      expensive, but especially when you have the low

       8      rent.

       9             If you have somebody who's renting it for

      10      $700, and have lived there for 35 years, (1) you

      11      need to change, pretty much, everything, and -- and

      12      (2) they've had a low rent, just because the way the

      13      Rent Guidelines Board sets things.

      14             The existing system is so complicated that

      15      it's morphed the system.  So you don't -- you don't

      16      have a gradual increase.

      17             You have a few people who have a great deal,

      18      and then you have everybody else who's, basically,

      19      subsidizing them.

      20             And -- but, anyway, it's for those really low

      21      rents on vacancy that -- that it -- that's my

      22      experience, is that it's most important for.

      23             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

      24             KENNETH NILSEN:  And I'd hope you would keep

      25      that in whatever you -- you come up with for the


       1      rent regulations.

       2             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

       3             Again, my time is long up.

       4             Anybody else on the panel have any questions

       5      on comments?

       6             Okay.

       7             Then we appreciate all of your testimony very

       8      much --

       9                (Indiscernible cross-talking.)

      10             KENNETH NILSEN:  Thank you very much.

      11             Our only hope is that, you know, you do a

      12      balanced, you know, changes to the law, to allow us

      13      making improvements so you don't have deterioration.

      14             These, you know, apartments, some disaster

      15      happens, and then you have to replace it with a new

      16      building that costs, you know, four or five hundred

      17      thousand dollars a unit, and it can't be affordable

      18      unless it's subsidized.

      19             So, maintaining these buildings is -- is --

      20      is the most important thing to maintain affordable

      21      housing.

      22             Give us the ability to do that, please.

      23             Thank you.

      24             CAROL DANZINGER:  And please don't forget the

      25      small owner.


       1             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you very much.

       2             You have very eloquently represented the

       3      small owner today, so we appreciate that.

       4             Next up we have Laura Case of Westchester

       5      Disabled on the Move.

       6             LAURA CASE:  (Microphone off)  Thank you for

       7      holding this --

       8             Okay.  Thank you.

       9             (Microphone on.)  Thank you for holding this

      10      hearing.

      11             My name is Laura Case.

      12             I am here today as the systems advocate at

      13      Westchester Disabled on the Move.

      14             We area Westchester-based independent-living

      15      center that provides services and advocacy to people

      16      with disabilities.

      17             We proudly join the voices you have heard,

      18      urging you to pass all nine bills in the universal

      19      rent-control platform.

      20             We cannot let our rent regulation laws

      21      expire, and just renewing them as they are would not

      22      be enough to start addressing the housing crisis

      23      facing Westchester and the rest of New York State.

      24             The emergency is definitely not over.

      25             The price of housing far outweighs what


       1      people are able to pay, especially those working

       2      lower-wage jobs and those with fixed incomes.

       3             This year, the fair-market rent for a

       4      one-bedroom apartment in our county is $1,463.

       5             In the meantime, the maximum amount that a

       6      single independent person in New York State

       7      receiving SSI can receive is $858.

       8             A person working 40 hours a week at minimum

       9      wage earns about $1,900 before taxes.

      10             There is clearly a gap.

      11             People with disabilities are being hit

      12      especially hard by it.

      13             At Westchester Disabled on the Move, we

      14      provide assistance searching for housing to hundreds

      15      of people a year.

      16             We have to tell those seeing us for the first

      17      time not to come in with high expectations because

      18      accessible, affordable apartments in Westchester are

      19      becoming harder and harder to find.

      20             When members of our community can't find one

      21      of them, they wind up in places that are not good

      22      for their well-being.

      23             Westchester has one of the highest rates of

      24      homelessness in the state.  It's grown over

      25      37 percent since 2010.


       1             According to a national report called

       2      "Priced Out," 24 percent of those homeless

       3      nationwide in 2016 had a disability, and had either

       4      been homeless for over a year or had been homeless

       5      multiple times.

       6             I've also met homeless home health aides and

       7      a bus driver.

       8             In Westchester County, anyone can become

       9      homeless, and more and more people are rapidly

      10      becoming so.

      11             I myself am formerly homeless, and even while

      12      working now, I can only afford a room.

      13             Other people with disabilities wind up in

      14      nursing homes and group homes where they don't have

      15      the independence and privacy that many of us take

      16      for granted.

      17             Centers like ours are the product of the

      18      independent-living movement, which is a civil rights

      19      movement that has its origin in of the '60s and

      20      '70s, like many others.

      21             One of its main goals is to help people with

      22      disabilities in institutional settings move back

      23      into the community.

      24             This is something that state and federal

      25      governments are now legally obligated to do as well


       1      under a Supreme Court decision called "Olmsted."

       2             The "Priced Out" report goes on to share that

       3      one of the biggest barriers to doing this is the

       4      lack of affordable and accessible housing available

       5      in our country's cities and towns.

       6             Rent stabilization and rent control have

       7      allowed people to stay in their homes.

       8             In 2018, there were about

       9      25,000 rent-stabilized apartments in our county.

      10             Cities with rent stabilization can also pass

      11      SCRIE and DRIE, which allows seniors and people with

      12      disabilities in rent-stabilized units to have their

      13      rents frozen.

      14             It's a win-win, with landlords receiving tax

      15      credits to make up the cost, but as you heard today,

      16      there are serious flaws in the system.

      17             It doesn't make sense to get rid of rent

      18      stabilization; instead, we need to expand it and we

      19      need to strengthen it.

      20             It doesn't make sense that landlords of

      21      rent-stabilized apartments can hike rent by up to

      22      20 percent between tenants, and can further raise

      23      rents by making repairs.

      24             There might be a needed conversation about

      25      tax credits or subsidies to do some of those things,


       1      but the burden right now is on the tenants, and

       2      people are losing their housing because of it.

       3             When the rent gets high enough, it becomes

       4      unaffordable to many of the people who need

       5      affordability.

       6             When it gets higher still, the unit is

       7      deregulated.

       8             It's also arbitrary that tenants of

       9      rent-controlled apartments face increases much

      10      higher than those in rent-stabilized ones.

      11             It's, frankly, unjust that only New York City

      12      and municipalities in Westchester, Nassau, and

      13      Rockland can pass rent stabilization when we know

      14      that people are struggling throughout the state.

      15             It's pretty clear from the folks who

      16      testified from Rochester today that there is a

      17      crisis throughout the state, and the upstate

      18      counties need rent stabilization as much as the

      19      counties downstate.

      20             And, I actually do believe that it's not fair

      21      that tenants in buildings that were built after 1974

      22      can have their rent raised or be evicted without

      23      oversight or cause.

      24             But, again, the solution is not getting rid

      25      of the existing regulations.  The solution is to


       1      expand those regulations and to strengthen them.

       2             The nine bills in the platform are all

       3      crucial and must all be passed.

       4             I believe that the just-cause eviction bill

       5      and the statewide Tenant Protection Act may be the

       6      two most important bills in this package because

       7      they would extend protections to so many people who

       8      currently don't have them.

       9             This isn't the only thing we need to do to

      10      solve the housing crisis, but it's a step we can't

      11      solve it without.

      12             I heard people talking about adding Section 8

      13      vouchers, adding subsidies, and, we need to do those

      14      things.  But, it doesn't matter if we get those

      15      subsidies created if there aren't apartments that

      16      are in their price range.

      17             I know people who actually lost their

      18      Section 8 vouchers because they couldn't find an

      19      apartment that they could afford with it.

      20             We hear that landlords cannot afford these

      21      reforms, but I don't think our communities cannot

      22      afford to pass them.

      23             Thank you.

      24             Great.  Thank you.

      25             Questions?


       1             SENATOR MAYER:  Thank you, Laura.

       2             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Senator Mayer.

       3             SENATOR MAYER:  Thank you.

       4             When tenants come to Westchester Disabled on

       5      the Move, or folks that are at risk of eviction or

       6      need alternative housing, how do you identify the

       7      best possible place; in other words, how do you

       8      find, for example, a potential rent-stabilized

       9      apartment or subsidized apartment?

      10             LAURA CASE:  I think that that's a really

      11      good question.

      12             I think that it could be challenging, because

      13      I think that another issue is that, there's kind of

      14      a lack sometimes of centralized information about

      15      stabilized lower-income units.

      16             But I know that we use the County's

      17      Homeseeker site.  I know that we kind of use our

      18      connections in the agency community.

      19             But I think that the amount of information

      20      available about these units is another thing that

      21      really needs to be addressed and improved.

      22             SENATOR MAYER:  Thank you.

      23             LAURA CASE:  Thank you.

      24             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay, next up,

      25      Patricia Weems.


       1             And I think, on behalf of Dennis Hanratty,

       2      who we understand had some health issue today,

       3      Karen Heim is going to read testimony.  Is that

       4      correct?

       5             Okay.

       6             If you can come on up, I'd appreciate it.

       7             PATRICIA WEEMS:  Always on the move.

       8             Nice seeing you here.

       9             My representative is Andrea Stewart-Cousins,

      10      and I'm keeping her busy.

      11             Twice; right?

      12             I'm from the town of Greenburgh, and I've

      13      been on the Affordable Housing Committee for around

      14      five years, and I really could not do it any longer.

      15      It's heart-rendering, it really is.

      16             And I'm not going to -- I started last night,

      17      and at 2:30, I stopped.

      18             You all know all of the problems.

      19             I wonder if you realize that, maybe, on one

      20      half, there's an answer on this side, and then on

      21      the other side there's a half.

      22             Public housing in here, there is no such

      23      thing as affordable housing.  I'm serious, there

      24      really isn't.

      25             And when you have public housing, the problem


       1      is, no one can get out of it.

       2             What happens is, they move in, they pay their

       3      rent.  The first raise they get, (indicating) their

       4      rent goes up.

       5             If a child reaches 18, and starts working,

       6      the child has (hits microphone) (indiscernible).

       7             So what happens is, it's a catch-22; you

       8      cannot get out of it.

       9             Then I'm listening to the people who have

      10      homes, 18 units, 25 units, whatever.  And the people

      11      who are living in them have been there for

      12      generations, and they're only paying $700, $800,

      13      under $1,000, for a three-bedroom apartment.

      14             So why can't we just flip this some kind of

      15      way, give them additional money for those people.

      16             There's no place in Westchester that you

      17      should be able to live for $700 a month, that's the

      18      bottom line.

      19             So now how do we do that?

      20             What kind of laws can we pass that state, if

      21      you live in public housing, and we want you to live

      22      there until you -- when you're paying $2,800 a month

      23      in rent, in public housing, that's a mortgage.

      24             So why can't we just say, okay, the landlord

      25      or the tenant, or whoever it is, because a lot of


       1      these are privately owned, but they're getting money

       2      from our tax dollar, and what I want to see is, that

       3      the rent that they pay, basically, when they take an

       4      increase, a large percent of it has to go to an

       5      escrow account.  And in this escrow account, that

       6      person can keep the interest on it.  But after five

       7      to seven or ten years, whatever you allot, that cash

       8      comes back to that person, and they have to leave,

       9      and that's enough money for a down payment for a

      10      house.

      11             You're talking, like, $15,000, $20,000.

      12             I know we can come up with some innovative

      13      ideas.

      14             And then, that way, you get these people out

      15      of those houses, buying houses.  And if they don't

      16      buy a house, they cannot return to public housing.

      17             With $20,000, you've got something to start

      18      with.

      19             But they cannot save that money.  They get

      20      nothing in return for the extra -- the rent they're

      21      paying.  The rooms aren't larger.  They don't get

      22      air conditioning.  They don't have new

      23      refrigerators.

      24             Nothing.

      25             That's pure profit for the individual who's


       1      collecting the rent.

       2             So now how do we change that around, so that

       3      whoever owns that little 14, 18 units, and they're

       4      only getting $700, you see where I'm coming from?

       5             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  That's why we're

       6      (inaudible).

       7             PATRICIA WEEMS:  I know.

       8             So, now, I want to know, what is it that --

       9      what is it that we can do to see to it we can help

      10      you implement some of these plans?

      11             How can we --

      12             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  I'll tell you

      13      what you can do.

      14             By being here, giving us information that

      15      allows us to make the wise decisions.

      16             You're doing exactly what you should do.

      17             PATRICIA WEEMS:  Okay.

      18             So, you know, we have the ideas.

      19             And I'm president of the Civic Association

      20      here in Greenburgh.

      21             Mine is on Hillside Avenue, down to 119.

      22             And the person who was the president of the

      23      Fairground -- I'm Fairgrounds -- Fairview, that

      24      individual died.  So I figured I'd come and try to

      25      do something for Manhattan Avenue and Oak, and


       1      whatnot.

       2             I have on -- in my civic association, a

       3      seniors building next to the Theodore D. Young

       4      Community Center, and that's being changed.

       5             So -- but we need the housing because,

       6      50-by-100 lot here in Greenburgh, you're talking

       7      $300,000 just to buy the land.

       8             So what's affordable?

       9             How do you do?

      10             When we're losing all our younger kids.

      11             I try to lie and say I'm 29, but, you know,

      12      all my Brownies and my Girl Scouts, you know, where

      13      do they go to live?  You know, they're moving.

      14             And we're losing good resources, and it's not

      15      fair.

      16             You know, I don't want to live in an

      17      all-elderly community.

      18             I'm 29.

      19                [Laughter.]

      20             AVA FARKAS:  So, you know, what do we do to

      21      help to keep our younger generation viable in a

      22      community where they can't afford to live?

      23             There you go.

      24             Okay?

      25             And I'm going to leave -- oh, no, I'll wait,


       1      'cause I'll sit here had a little longer.

       2             KAREN HEIM:  Good afternoon, honorable

       3      members of the Westchester, New York State,

       4      Legislature.

       5             I'm here, I'm Karen Heim, on behalf of

       6      Dennis Hanratty.

       7             You probably know he had a little accident in

       8      the house, May 5th, and he's not as strong as he

       9      thinks he is.

      10             Okay.

      11             He is the executive director of Mount Vernon

      12      United Tenants.

      13             He's been in this position 36 years, and has

      14      been coming to Albany all of this time, lobbying for

      15      stronger state tenant-protection laws.

      16             He and the whole tenant movement are -- in

      17      New York State are very excited.

      18             This is really the first time, in at least

      19      his 36 years, that there's a great likelihood of

      20      significant, long overdue improvements to laws.

      21             We're counting on our legislators to do the

      22      right thing by tenants, and pass the nine -- all

      23      nine bills that we've been advocating for.

      24             He called me this morning and asked me to

      25      make the point, that this is a function of the


       1      legislative branch of government, not the executive.

       2             While MVUT engages in a whole variety of

       3      tenant services, the great majority of our work

       4      falls on its free programmatic categories.

       5             First is homelessness eviction -- I'm sorry,

       6      Homelessness Prevention Program (the HPP).

       7             We provide intensive case management for the

       8      tenants at risk of eviction through various legal

       9      and administrative interventions.

      10             We effectively prevent over 150 evictions

      11      annually.

      12             That's a conservative figure.

      13             This provides enormous fiscal relief for

      14      Westchester County taxpayers who are spared the huge

      15      costs of the emergency shelter system.

      16             The real beneficiaries are, of course, the

      17      families and individuals who are spared the horror

      18      and indigenities of becoming homeless.

      19             The second function is the TAP (the Tenant

      20      Action Project).

      21             MVUT organizes tenants within individual

      22      buildings, to better understand their rights and

      23      responsibilities, and to be better able to represent

      24      their own interests vis-a-vis their landlords,

      25      governmental agencies, and the courts.


       1             So many people have become homeless because

       2      they didn't know they didn't have to.

       3             They thought they had to get a lawyer.

       4             And if they can't afford their rent, how can

       5      they afford a lawyer.

       6             Public advocacy is the third.

       7             MVUT works on all levels of government;

       8      municipal, county, state, and federal, to push for

       9      policies that benefit tenants and other low-income

      10      residents.

      11             The New York State Tenant Protection laws

      12      enable us more effectively to engage in all of our

      13      program activities.

      14             Our Homelessness Prevention Program (HPP) is

      15      the activity we spend the greatest amount of our

      16      time and energy.

      17             Eviction prevention is very detail-oriented.

      18             It requires incredibly dedicated staff, for

      19      example, the initial intake, the collection of

      20      documents, the analysis of problems, the contact and

      21      acquiring the resources.

      22             I might add here, this is where I work,

      23      getting people who are embarrassed because of their

      24      situation, through no fault of their own, to divulge

      25      the problems that they have is part of the fight.


       1             They're shy, they don't want to come forward.

       2      And they have rights they don't know about.

       3             Preparing orders to show cause, follow-up

       4      services of papers, core preparations, et cetera.

       5      We go with them to the court.

       6             We're not lawyers.  We just go as moral

       7      support.

       8             Part of the analysis of problems is

       9      determining whether the tenant facing eviction is

      10      rent-regulated.

      11             If so, the tenant is in a far stronger

      12      position challenging his eviction.

      13             I very often feel inadequate when I receive

      14      calls or requests for assistance from unregulated

      15      tenants.

      16             By asking them where they live, what is the

      17      address, and my long-term history with MVUT,

      18      I know -- he knows exactly what building they're

      19      talking about, whether it's ETPA or not.

      20             Their rights are much likely to be upheld if

      21      they're in an ETPA building.

      22             People are -- all they do is buy time.

      23             They eventually end up out of their

      24      apartments if it's not ETPA, and, that, it's

      25      unsustainable.


       1             Where will the working people live?

       2             Presumably, you want working people in the

       3      county to do the work.

       4             Okay.  Likewise, for tenants in unregulated

       5      buildings, my message is much less optimistic.

       6             Extending the ETPA to smaller buildings.

       7             Three units to five units would be a big help

       8      in our efforts to fight evictions.

       9             The good-cause eviction legislation that

      10      we're supporting would do this, and perhaps more.

      11             Providing protection for the thousands and

      12      thousands of tenants who live in areas of the state

      13      not covered by the rent laws is key.

      14             It's tough to overstate the value of the rent

      15      laws as a tool in fighting evictions and keeping

      16      tenants in their permanent homes.

      17             I don't have to explain to anybody the effect

      18      on a child who doesn't know, when they come home

      19      from school:  Did we get the money, mom?  Like, you

      20      know, is this going to happen, is this the day?

      21             It's gut-wrenching.

      22             While MVUT does provide the majority of our

      23      services to Mount Vernon tenants, as the only funded

      24      and staffed tenant association in Westchester, we do

      25      great -- we do get requests to help from throughout


       1      the county.

       2             In fact, MVUT was responsible for

       3      Croton-on-Hudson and Rye adopting the ETPA in the

       4      last number of years.

       5             And we, likewise, played a major role in

       6      Ossining opting into the ETPA this past September,

       7      even though that was partially revoked and is

       8      currently subject to litigation.

       9             MVUT has always been a firm believer in

      10      coalition work.

      11             We have worked with the tenant movement in

      12      New York City and individual organizations, such as

      13      New York State Tenants and Neighbors, the

      14      Metropolitan Council on Housing, over the years.

      15             I've been a member -- and -- we -- and have

      16      been a member of the broader coalitions working in

      17      the renewal and strengthening of the state rent

      18      laws; for example, the Real Rent Reform (R3)

      19      Coalition, and the current Housing Justice for All

      20      (HJ4A).

      21             Many look at the state's rent laws as being

      22      solely a New York City problem.

      23             Actually, the numerous communities, and

      24      three suburban counties of Westchester, Rockland,

      25      Nassau, have adopted the Emergency Tenant Protection


       1      Act.

       2             The ETPA helps stabilize buildings and whole

       3      neighborhoods.

       4             This is especially important, as Westchester

       5      and Nassau are two of the last affordable

       6      metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) as listed by

       7      the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) in

       8      their "Out of Reach" report.

       9             Westchester is one of the least affordable

      10      MSAs in the country, requiring a housing wage of

      11      $32.44 to afford the fair-market rent.

      12             For a two-bedroom unit, Nassau's number --

      13      numbers are comparable.

      14             It is the eighth least-affordable MSA in the

      15      country, requiring a housing wage of $36.12.

      16             You begin to realize what we are up against.

      17             We're lobbying the State Legislature to

      18      support and press all nine of the bills that are

      19      listed on the attached HG4A flyer.

      20             Universal rent control for New York State,

      21      the R3 campaign, that have been pushing three

      22      separate pieces of legislation for years are (1) end

      23      vacancy decontrol, (2) close the preferential

      24      loophole, (3) eliminate the statutory 20 percent

      25      vacancy increase.


       1             Through the upstate/downstate effort, we

       2      added six legislative priorities, which will provide

       3      much-needed benefits to renters, and begin to level

       4      the playing field with the vastly more-resourced

       5      real estate industry.

       6             Please do so.

       7             Thank you.

       8             MAJ. LDR. STEWART-COUSINS:  Thank you.

       9             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you both.

      10             Great.

      11             Okay.  So we now have heard from everyone who

      12      had signed up in advance of this hearing.

      13             So we're going to -- now, we're going to go

      14      to people who have -- who arrived and signed up

      15      today.  We're going to try to accommodate everybody.

      16             So first I have -- there are five people who

      17      have signed up from the Building and Realty

      18      Institute.

      19             And I'm going to ask, basically, all five of

      20      you come up, and we'll hear your testimony as a

      21      group, as we have with other organizations, and

      22      then, you know, take any questions from the panel.

      23             So, Lisa DeRosa, Alana Chufatelli (ph.),

      24      Mike Nukho, Gene DiResta, and

      25      Jason Shian (ph.)(sic), I think, if I'm saying


       1      that properly.

       2             Yeah, we're gonna -- let's -- we're going to

       3      run the clock at 8 minutes.  But if you can

       4      summarize, you know, we do have to get out this

       5      building at some point.

       6             But, yeah, if you could -- we'll run the

       7      clock at 8 minutes for each of you.

       8             So I don't know -- so please just identify

       9      yourself individually, and any affiliation you'd

      10      like us for the record, and then proceed.

      11             LISA DeROSA:  Hi.  My name is Lisa DeRosa.

      12             I'm a landlord.

      13             My father built these buildings that we

      14      currently manage.  It was his life dream to build an

      15      apartment house, and growing up he referred to them

      16      as "his children."

      17             So, technically, I'm here speaking about my

      18      siblings.

      19                [Laughter.]

      20             LISA DeROSA:  My name is on every building,

      21      and I take pride in them because they're my father's

      22      legacy.

      23             He's not with me anymore.

      24             We provide quality housing, and we make all

      25      repairs in our buildings in one to two business


       1      days.

       2             Our repairs are not Band-Aided, they're

       3      repaired properly.

       4             I have no violations on any of my properties,

       5      and I have not had any in over two decades.

       6             I also provide jobs.

       7             In addition to my building staff and office

       8      staff, I hire local contractors and use local

       9      suppliers.

      10             It doesn't make sense to turn over an

      11      apartment for the sake of turning it over.

      12      Financially, it doesn't make sense.

      13             In any business, the cost to get a new

      14      customer is 13 times more than it costs to keep your

      15      existing customers, and it is no different in real

      16      estate.

      17             If you take the cost of the improvements,

      18      plus the time that your apartment is vacant, it

      19      makes no financial sense to do that.

      20             If you have a good tenant who's paying rent

      21      and abiding by the laws, there's no reason to evict

      22      somebody.

      23             I cannot pay my bills, I cannot pay my staff,

      24      with empty apartments.

      25             There are some instances where you don't want


       1      to renew a tenant.

       2             I have had instances where I've had a drug

       3      dealer in the building.

       4             I have families in that building, I have

       5      families with young children.  I have single women

       6      in that building.

       7             I don't want a drug dealer and his clientele

       8      coming onto my property, and it was very difficult

       9      to evict him.

      10             I had to hire a private investigator.  There

      11      was no other way to do it.

      12             You have tenants that throw loud parties all

      13      night, who are a nuisance to the residents that do

      14      the right thing.

      15             And as a business owner, I need to protect my

      16      business and my clients, and, in some circumstances,

      17      you need to not renew a tenant.

      18             But other than that, it doesn't make sense to

      19      have -- to not renew someone to have a vacant

      20      apartment.

      21             I didn't do my homework this weekend, so I'm

      22      kind of speaking from the cuff.  I took the weekend

      23      off.

      24             What do you know, I might be done.

      25             As far as individual apartment improvements,


       1      my buildings were built in the '70s.

       2             Avocado and harvest-gold kitchens just don't

       3      work in today's market, and you need to get them

       4      updated.

       5             I spend money on my apartments.

       6             I don't think I've ever spent $20,000, but,

       7      I do need the ability to recoup my costs.

       8             And, I wanted to address something that

       9      Senator Harckham had said, and I'm sorry he's not

      10      here right now to hear it.

      11             But, when you talk about apartments going

      12      off -- becoming deregulated and going -- and not --

      13      and disappearing, they're still there, they're not

      14      going anywhere, and they're still being rented at

      15      prices conducive to an apartment built in the '70s,

      16      and, in White Plains.

      17             So because an apartment becomes deregulated,

      18      I can do anything you want to it, but I'll never get

      19      2,000, 3,000, 4,000 dollars for those apartments in

      20      White Plains.

      21             So, I think what needs to be made clear is

      22      that, they're still there, they're just not counted

      23      anymore.

      24             MIKE NUKHO:  Hello, everyone.

      25             My name is Michael Nukho.


       1             I am a landlord.

       2             I'm with GEM Management Partners.

       3             I'm also a real estate broker.

       4             I hold a "certified property manager"

       5      designation.

       6             And I just wanted to say that, about

       7      2 1/2 weeks ago, our company was honored by the

       8      Guidance Center as a preferred landlord servicing

       9      Westchester County, because we open our doors to

      10      subsidies, such as, like, Section 8, and agencies

      11      that have participants that are in need of quality

      12      and safe housing because they may suffer from some

      13      mental illness, or, things of that nature.

      14             So, we were very proud to be honored.

      15             But when I think about some of these proposed

      16      reforms, it's almost that we would have to hand back

      17      that honor because we would not be able to sustain

      18      that designation.

      19             These -- these -- these -- these laws that

      20      are out to roll back the ability to have landlords

      21      put money into a property affects these tenants.

      22             If I ask any one of you to go home, whether

      23      you live in an apartment, a condo, or a home, and

      24      voluntarily put money into that place to fix

      25      something, that may be a struggle for you because


       1      that place that you call "home" does not give you

       2      any money.

       3             So it's the same thing with an apartment

       4      building.

       5             If you take away the abilities to raise

       6      rents, to make it profitable, how can we voluntarily

       7      go into our pockets and just put money back into a

       8      building?

       9             So, there's a lot of things here that I hear.

      10             You know, I heard the unfortunate stories of

      11      some tenants being evicted, having poor housing

      12      conditions.

      13             You know, it's sad for me to hear that, but,

      14      for those landlords that do the right thing, you

      15      know, we're -- we're -- we're getting stripped away

      16      from that ability to continue to do it day in and

      17      day out.

      18             We need -- we need the ability to raise rents

      19      in order to put monies back into a building.

      20             It's just -- it's -- it's -- it's

      21      black-and-white math.

      22             If you have an apartment building that has

      23      several units, 10, 20, whatever the number may be,

      24      and you have sporadic vacancies that may open up,

      25      because, it could happen.


       1             And then you have, like the other woman

       2      mentioned, a cracked boiler that may happen out of

       3      nowhere, there's no -- there's no time clock,

       4      there's nothing that will -- that you will foresee,

       5      no crystal ball that will say, you're going to come

       6      to work today and then you have a boiler issue;

       7             Nevertheless, potential vacancies;

       8             Nevertheless some tenants complaining because

       9      you have a nuisance tenant that lives above you that

      10      happened to leave the water running, and walk away

      11      from it, and then, all of a sudden, you have a leak

      12      coming below.

      13             These are -- this is the nature our business.

      14      It's a constant, you know, go, go, go; there's

      15      always something going on.

      16             And I think that something that needs to be

      17      made clear, that I don't think anyone really

      18      realizes, is that I believe that a lot of people

      19      have this misconception, that if you have so many

      20      apartments, that everyone pays your rent.

      21             That does not happen.

      22             I am -- I could open my books at any given

      23      day, I have 25 to 30 percent of uncollected rents

      24      sitting out on the street, that will never be

      25      collected, never mind the legal fees that we have to


       1      engage to try and collect the rent.

       2             It's just -- that's just the nature of the

       3      business.

       4             So, it's very important that IAIs remain in

       5      effect.

       6             You know, we talked about apartments becoming

       7      vacant after so many years of being occupied.

       8             And, our business evolves.

       9             So, if you have an apartment that was 20-,

      10      30-years occupied, and then it becomes vacant,

      11      especially in buildings in New York which,

      12      predominantly, were built in the early 1900s, those

      13      electric wiring and panels, they're very old, very

      14      hazardous.

      15             Think of the effect that you place on the

      16      burden of landlords, that if you take away the

      17      ability to put money back in, good money back into a

      18      building, to fix it the right way, that they're

      19      going to take shortcuts because they don't have the

      20      money.

      21             So if they're going to take shortcuts and

      22      just do whatever is necessary just to kind of slide

      23      by, then, what happens when that family is -- is --

      24      is a result of a fire -- or, a victim?

      25             Another thing I want to mention is that,


       1      landlords do the right thing.

       2             We do things like surveillance cameras.

       3             If you go through -- to a neighborhood and

       4      you look around, and the buildings are predominantly

       5      kept up to par, you have secured entrance doors, you

       6      have intercom systems, you have properties that have

       7      a flavor of being maintained, surveillance cameras

       8      is a big advocate for it.

       9             I have many, many local police departments

      10      that come to our properties, with their own tablets,

      11      and they know how to access our buildings because we

      12      give them the smart codes to get in.  And they get

      13      in and they access our surveillance cameras, without

      14      even us asking, because we already have developed

      15      that relationship, and they're out there trying to

      16      fight crime.

      17             In Yonkers, some months ago, I don't know the

      18      victim's name, but, a poor man was walking across

      19      the street, got hit by a car, died.

      20             The person that did the hit-and-run was

      21      captured by surveillance cameras.

      22             That was from property owners.

      23             Now, the effect is incredibly hard.

      24             You know, we all know somebody, and if you

      25      don't know somebody directly, you may know somebody


       1      who does know someone, that works at a Home Depot, a

       2      mom-and-pop-shop hardware, that's a clerk for an

       3      electrician, a plumber, that's a stock boy,

       4      something to that effect.

       5             You take away IAIs, you take away the

       6      incentive for landlords to put money back into these

       7      properties to make them right for the people's safe

       8      and well-being.  And then the trickle-down effect is

       9      that there's going to be a loss of jobs.

      10             If landlords don't have the ability to put

      11      money back into their buildings, then those

      12      electricians and plumbers and the Home Depots of the

      13      world and the mom-and-pop shops, they're going to

      14      lose employees.

      15             It goes round and round.

      16             Taxes go up, water goes up; those bills have

      17      to be paid no matter what, whether you collect the

      18      rent or not.

      19             If you -- I like to look at -- I was trying

      20      to think about a way to kind of streamline the

      21      analogy.

      22             Imagine buying a car, but you can't buy a

      23      brand-new car.  You have to buy a used car.

      24             And you have to, you know, just like

      25      everybody else, you put a down payment and you


       1      finance that note.

       2             Same thing when you buy a building.

       3             Your buildings are used.  So you put a down

       4      payment, you finance it.

       5             So now have a mortgage on the building; you

       6      have to have a mortgage on a car.

       7             When your brakes go bad on your car, do you

       8      just let it go?

       9             When your tires go bad, do you just keep

      10      fixing it, and hope that you're going to sustain a

      11      bad rain or snow?

      12             The same thing goes true with a building.

      13             You have to do what you have to do, and you

      14      need the funds to be able to do it.

      15             So, I mean, I'm very familiar with the IAIs

      16      and, you know, the MCIs.

      17             And I think Ken hit it on the nose earlier.

      18      Ken Nilsen, he said that, not all of them are

      19      approved.

      20             And that's very, very accurate.

      21             And when they do happen, they happen

      22      sporadically.  It doesn't happen all the time.

      23             So, MCIs, for whatever it's worth, I don't

      24      believe in the calculation, I don't think it's

      25      sufficient enough.  But, it needs to stay.


       1             But the IAIs, that's important, because now

       2      you're going to tamper with the quality of your

       3      housing stock.

       4             And nobody ever spoke about succession rights

       5      here.

       6             I have properties that I have -- I have a

       7      classic tenant who pays me $505 a month, and he has

       8      a house in the Hamptons.  And -- he has a house in

       9      the Hamptons, and he pays $505 a month.

      10             Is that fair for those people that could use

      11      that apartment?

      12             I don't think so.

      13             I -- or -- or the folks that strategically

      14      play games with the rules.

      15             If you look at the ability to incur a unit

      16      through succession rights, you just have to set up

      17      residence for two consecutive years and be a

      18      bloodline relative.

      19             So, where I have a property that has

      20      56 units, and I have a three-bedroom, two-bathroom

      21      apartment, and the tenant pays me $305, and this is

      22      real, that family's bloodline could, presumably, go

      23      in there, set up residence, and -- and -- and -- and

      24      have a couple of the Con Ed bills placed in her name

      25      or his name, and set up residence, put it all on


       1      their driver's license, for two consecutive years,

       2      and they would inherit that three-bedroom, two-bath

       3      apartment.

       4             And that is -- when we talk about loopholes,

       5      that's a major loophole.

       6             And I don't think that anybody quantified how

       7      many of those rent-controlled apartments that are

       8      out there, that could presumably be handed down to a

       9      bloodline relative, that may not even need it.

      10             OFF-CAMERA SPEAKER:  (Inaudible.)

      11             GENE  DiRESTA:  Good afternoon, Senators,

      12      colleagues, and audience members.

      13             We're here to provide testimony, share our

      14      experiences related to the management of rental

      15      properties, and how the proposed changes to the ETPA

      16      law will affect both tenants and landlords.

      17             You've heard testimony that denigrates

      18      landlords by tenants, and, conversely, tenant

      19      problems experienced by landlords.

      20             OFF-CAMERA SPEAKER:  (Inaudible.)

      21             GENE  DiRESTA:  My name is Gene DiResta.

      22             An additional inference in every person is

      23      every person's desire to reduce their costs at the

      24      expense of the provider without regard to the

      25      financial needs of the provider.


       1             The need of low-income people must be

       2      addressed by society, and not by small landlords who

       3      are running a business and not a social service.

       4             It is my position that a viable strategy that

       5      accommodates both landlords and tenants is an

       6      analytic algorithmic approach to rent regulation.

       7             An algorithmic approach would consider

       8      current economic conditions of both tenants and

       9      landlords.

      10             Now, I've heard a rumor that an algorithmic

      11      strategy exists, and that it hasn't been used much.

      12             I have not located this algorithm in any

      13      published resource.

      14             Perhaps it needs to be upgraded, or, more

      15      likely, created, to make the rent guidelines more

      16      relevant and responsive.

      17             As an engineer-mathematician, I have

      18      developed a financial real estate mathematical model

      19      that has been useful in the management of my

      20      family's 22-family real estate investment.

      21             It allows me to decide on expenses,

      22      et cetera, needed to allow me earn the fair return

      23      on investment needed to continue our business and

      24      pass it on to my daughter.

      25             I would also like to point out that no


       1      published papers in any peer-reviewed journals by

       2      academic economists support the economic benefits to

       3      an entire community from rent guidelines.

       4             An algorithmic strategy would also eliminate

       5      the need for a rent guidelines board.

       6             Finally, I ask that our legislative

       7      representatives (indicating) incorporate new

       8      language, or mandate the use of algorithmic

       9      strategies, to determine fair rent guidelines rather

      10      than the current arbitrary process used to determine

      11      rent increases.

      12             Thank you.

      13             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Last up.

      14             JASON SCHICIANO:  Good afternoon, Senators.

      15             Thank you for your patience in hearing all of

      16      us out.

      17             My name is Jason Schiciano.

      18             I'm co-president of Levitt-Fuirst Insurance.

      19             We're an insurance broker located in

      20      Tarrytown, New York.

      21             We're also the insurance advisers to the

      22      Building and Realty Institute, and the Apartment

      23      Owners Advisory Council.

      24             I am also the insurance broker for several of

      25      the landlords in this room.


       1             So I think I have a somewhat unique

       2      perspective in terms of being a vendor to these

       3      landlords.

       4             My first comment relates to the testimony

       5      that you've heard regarding expenses that these

       6      landlords face relative to the recent DHCR-allowed

       7      rent increases.

       8             Last year when I testified at the

       9      rent-guidelines hearings, I mentioned that the

      10      previous five years, one-year allowable rent

      11      increase totaled, for the five years, 7.25 percent.

      12             That's right from the DHCR reports.

      13             And over the same period of time, the DHCR

      14      reports showed that the premium increases for

      15      insurance increased by 24 percent.

      16             Now, I'm not the only expense on the

      17      operating statement of a landlord, but I'm certainly

      18      selling insurance, one of the top three or five.

      19             So, that's an interesting disparity.

      20             There have been some comments today about

      21      wage stagnation as well.

      22             I would point out that, from 2016 to 2021,

      23      the minimum wage is going to increase by 50 percent.

      24             I employ 65 people in Tarrytown.  Many of

      25      them have wages that would be in the range of what a


       1      tenant in the apartments that we're discussing would

       2      typically earn.

       3             And I can tell you that, over the past five

       4      years, the same time period, those type of

       5      employees, critical to our operation, have earned

       6      wage increases, on average, of 20 percent.  And I'm

       7      a local Westchester business.

       8             Secondly, with respect to the correlation to

       9      collect adequate rents and IAIs and MCIs, relative

      10      to the ability to maintain a building or invest in

      11      necessary capital projects, I think it's pretty

      12      obvious that, with continued, or even more severe,

      13      rent-increase restrictions and elimination, or

      14      reduction in IAIs and MCIs, that there is going to

      15      be reduced maintenance, or, certainly, only

      16      maintenance of an emergency nature, and, certainly,

      17      fewer capital projects.

      18             Ken Rotner (ph.) spoke of the need for

      19      electrical upgrades to apartments, to buildings, and

      20      individual units when they're vacated, which is

      21      costly, as well as the need to, for instance, remove

      22      lead paint.

      23             I can give you a different perspective on

      24      that.

      25             Not only is that necessary for the building


       1      to continue to operate and function properly, and

       2      for the protection of the tenants, but, also, I can

       3      tell you that there is a bit of an insurance crisis

       4      in New York.

       5             In New York, it's the hardest state in the

       6      country to obtain affordable insurance.

       7             And, in New York, insurance on these

       8      apartment buildings costs far more than any other

       9      state in the United States of America.

      10             As a result of that, there are very few

      11      insurance companies that have any interest

      12      whatsoever, at any cost, or any premium, to insure

      13      apartment buildings.

      14             So my point is, the more that these apartment

      15      buildings defer maintenance or defer capital

      16      projects, the less attractive they will be from an

      17      underwriting perspective; the more non-renewals of

      18      insurance policies you'll see; and the result of

      19      that will be higher replacement insurance at less

      20      coverage.

      21             That's bad for landlords, and it's bad for

      22      tenants as well.

      23             Lastly, I'll mention that the -- the --

      24      there's definitely, within the last 12 months, an

      25      umbrella liability crisis for these landlords.


       1             Landlords have seen recently, or will be

       2      seeing shortly, that their umbrella liability

       3      insurance will cost them 30 to 70 percent more this

       4      year than last year.

       5             Why is that?

       6             Because two major insurance programs for

       7      umbrella liability have pulled out of the New York

       8      State marketplace.

       9             And, Senator Stewart-Cousins, I'm going to be

      10      meeting with you on Friday to discuss this.

      11             It's because of the scaffold law, which makes

      12      the insurance for the vendors that service these

      13      buildings extraordinarily high.

      14             The contractors pass that expense on to the

      15      landlords, and the landlords have to pay for it

      16      somehow.

      17             So, a number of different issues from an

      18      insurance perspective that maybe gives some light to

      19      why there needs to be some fair consideration with

      20      respect to the ability to obtain rent increases, in

      21      order to pay for various maintenance and capital

      22      projects, as well as the insurance.

      23             Thank you very much.

      24             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you.

      25             So I appreciate all of your testimony.


       1             Given the late hour, I'm going forgo the

       2      opportunity to ask questions.

       3             But anyone else on the panel?

       4             SENATOR MAYER:  I just have a brief question.

       5             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Senator Mayer.

       6             SENATOR MAYER:  Can each of you say how many

       7      units you can -- are under your management?

       8             LISA DeROSA:  400.

       9             SENATOR MAYER:  400.

      10             How many buildings?

      11             LISA DeROSA:  Three.

      12             SENATOR MAYER:  And your insurance?

      13             JASON SCHICIANO:  I mean, we insure

      14      thousands.

      15             SENATOR MAYER:  I know, yes.

      16             GENE  DiRESTA:  22.

      17             SENATOR MAYER:  22 in one building?

      18             GENE  DiRESTA:  Yes, ma'am.

      19             SENATOR MAYER:  And you at GEM?

      20             MIKE NUKHO:  Yes.

      21             Approximately 500 over 22 buildings.

      22             SENATOR MAYER:  Okay.  Thank you.

      23             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you very much.

      24             Next up were going to have Alan Zaretsky, who

      25      I understand has been waiting very patiently for


       1      some time.

       2             ALAN ZARETSKY:  Good afternoon.

       3             My name is Alan Zaretsky.

       4             Before I read my prepared statement, one of

       5      the benefits of being towards the end is to listen

       6      to everybody say what's going on and hear all the

       7      different viewpoints.

       8             I don't envy your, hopefully, solomonesque

       9      task before you.

      10             I only hope that you don't throw out the baby

      11      with the bathwater when you do make a decision on

      12      this.

      13             Good day, and thank you for the opportunity

      14      to speak today.

      15             I have operated and rehabbed hundreds of

      16      units, both in New York City and Westchester, over

      17      the years.

      18             I've seen the benefits of capital

      19      improvements enhance buildings, neighborhoods, and

      20      the quality of life for those families living in

      21      these properties.

      22             It is important for all to remember that we

      23      are all in this together and should not be at odds

      24      with each other.

      25             Landlords and tenants both have a vested


       1      interest in maintaining and upgrading housing.

       2             The tenants that reside in rental properties

       3      are entitled to safe and secure living conditions,

       4      and landlords are entitled to a reasonable return on

       5      their investments.

       6             This can only be accomplished through

       7      cooperation and respect, not only for each other's

       8      rights, but the properties themselves.

       9             Mechanical devices have an expected lifespan.

      10             When maintained properly, that lifespan can

      11      be extended.

      12             When neglected or abused, that lifespan can

      13      be severely shortened.

      14             Accordingly, the need to replace or upgrade

      15      services within a building or individual apartments

      16      requires both landlord's and tenants' attention and

      17      care.

      18             It is not equitable, nor economically

      19      feasible, for landlords alone to bear the cost to

      20      replace items such as stoves, refrigerators,

      21      et cetera, every few years due to misuse or neglect.

      22             These types of items are primarily within the

      23      control of the individuals living in the apartments.

      24             It is the landlord's responsibility to ensure

      25      that they're in working order, and the tenant's


       1      responsibility to use them properly in a clean

       2      environment.

       3             Likewise, building systems also have a

       4      lifespan.

       5             If maintained properly, they can last well

       6      beyond their expected viable usage, but, ultimately,

       7      they will be need to be replaced.

       8             The current method of allowing landlords to

       9      upgrade both individual aspects of apartments and

      10      buildings-wide systems works.

      11             The landlords have to expend large sums of

      12      funds, which expense is then shared by the

      13      recipients of those services over an extended period

      14      of time.

      15             During that time, the landlords' costs

      16      continue to go up as taxes, electricity, heating,

      17      maintenance, insurance, and other costs only

      18      increase.

      19             Many changes to the law, although

      20      well-intended, often have resulted in unanticipated

      21      consequences which have dramatically affected the

      22      cost of maintaining rental housing.

      23             Following the New York City law,

      24      Westchester County has eliminated the use of

      25      lower-costing Number 6 oil, and Number 4 oil to


       1      follow in 2020.

       2             This has resulted in the necessary move to

       3      higher-priced Number 2 oil, or converting to gas

       4      which is extremely difficult and an expensive

       5      procedure.

       6             This has resulted in increases in heating

       7      costs, as well as capital outlays, to convert the

       8      equipment to accommodate this change in heat-source

       9      usage.

      10             Of course, we are all aware of Con Ed's

      11      recent moratorium on gas conversions, which only add

      12      to the cost of Number 2 oil, and further inhibited

      13      the well-intentioned ban on 4 and 6 oil sources, as

      14      gas is not an option currently, despite the upcoming

      15      2020 ban on Number 4 oil.

      16             My point, in short, is not to be shortsighted

      17      in eliminating the capital-improvement aspects of

      18      the current rent law.

      19             This will only exacerbate the decline of

      20      properties, and cause more harm to the residents

      21      living in these properties, than the short-term

      22      goals of a select few.

      23             Cooperation is a key in moving forward in

      24      these difficult times.

      25             We are all in this together whether we like


       1      it or not.

       2             Now, off my prepared statement, I rehabbed

       3      for the City of New York, under their

       4      vacant-building program, over 1,000 units in the

       5      South Bronx.

       6             It worked.

       7             The City gave low-interest rates, which made

       8      it viable.

       9             The people that worked on at least my

      10      projects were people from the communities.  And

      11      I would say 40 percent of them moved into these

      12      buildings that rehabbed, maintaining that

      13      neighborhood as to what it was.

      14             And while it was a small section that we were

      15      on, on Sheridan and Sherman Avenue in The Bronx

      16      there, we worked somewhat of an oasis when we were

      17      done.

      18             People knew who would come to our

      19      neighborhoods to make trouble.

      20             The people that lived there helped enforce

      21      that.

      22             And so the -- the capital improvements,

      23      whether it be individual apartments or the full

      24      building-wide, are a necessary expense that has to

      25      be done.


       1             And there's no way that many of these smaller

       2      landlords can afford this, unless it's allowed to be

       3      shared.  Not fully put on the burden of one side or

       4      the other, but shared by all parties involved.

       5             Thank you very much, and I trust in your good

       6      judgment.

       7             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you, appreciate it.

       8             Questions?

       9             SENATOR MAYER:  Thank you.

      10             I just want to say, thank you for the tone of

      11      your comments, which are constructive, in the sense

      12      that we do have a challenge before us how to do

      13      this.

      14             And, how many employees -- do you have a

      15      company?

      16             ALAN ZARETSKY:  I have several companies,

      17      yes.

      18             SENATOR MAYER:  Oh, okay.

      19             How many employees do you have, all together?

      20             ALAN ZARETSKY:  I probably employ over

      21      85 people, between building superintendents,

      22      maintenance people, and my office staff.

      23             SENATOR MAYER:  But on the repair side that

      24      you talked about in your testimony?

      25             ALAN ZARETSKY:  On the repair side I have


       1      15 people working for me.

       2             SENATOR MAYER:  Okay.  And is that primarily

       3      in The Bronx now, or Westchester --

       4             ALAN ZARETSKY:  Right now it's all in

       5      Westchester.

       6             SENATOR MAYER:  -- okay.

       7             Thank you.

       8             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you.

       9             ALAN ZARETSKY:  Thank you very kindly.

      10             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  And our last panel, I'm

      11      going to call up the last two.

      12             And if you are here, and you are expecting to

      13      testify, and you haven't been called, this would be

      14      a good time to speak up.

      15             But, the last two folks on my list

      16      are Edwin Martinez, and I think it's -- it's

      17      handwritten, but I think it's Maria Kwan.

      18             JULIE WEINER (ph.):  I thought I signed up.

      19      Julie Weiner (ph.).

      20             SENATOR MAYER:  Julie Weiner.

      21             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay, I do not have you on

      22      the list.  But, why don't we -- we'll have you come

      23      up last after that.

      24             So are -- are -- Edwin Martinez, these are

      25      folks from Immigration Defense Group.


       1             SENATOR MAYER:  No, they did not want to

       2      testify.

       3             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

       4             Then, Ms. Weiner, you are up.

       5             JULIE WEINER (ph.):  Okay.  Thank you.

       6             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you.

       7             JULIE WEINER (ph.):  Hi.  Good -- good to

       8      meet --

       9             OFF-CAMERA SPEAKER:  (Inaudible.)

      10             JULIE WEINER (ph.):  What?

      11             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Yeah, you don't need to --

      12             JULIE WEINER (ph.):  Oh, I don't need to --

      13             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- put it closer enough.

      14             JULIE WEINER (ph.):  Okay.

      15             I'm Julie Weiner.

      16             I live at 1 Shonnard Terrace, Apartment 3-D.

      17             And I -- when I moved in in 1986, I moved

      18      into a rent-stabilized building.

      19             I don't believe I still live in a

      20      rent-stabilized building.  Apparently, I'm one,

      21      or -- I'm one, or perhaps one of two, remaining

      22      rent-stabilized tenants.

      23             In the time I've been there, obviously, there

      24      have -- there's been a series of landlords.

      25             I -- really, I'm here today out of a sense of


       1      obligation to myself, because I want to protect rent

       2      stabilization.

       3             I wasn't able to attend the lobbying day of

       4      the tenant organizations because I was in Albany

       5      lobbying on election integrity.

       6             So, my living in a rent-stabilized building

       7      has enabled me over the years, as a single woman,

       8      working as a mental-health counselor, whose

       9      per-session salary/per-session income has not gone

      10      up.

      11             There isn't a single insurance company who

      12      has increased by income, per session, in the

      13      25 years that I've been working in this field.

      14             So having a rent-stabilized -- having my

      15      rent-stabilized, and not moving, despite, sometimes,

      16      not well-maintained building, has enabled me to --

      17      has enabled me to make the contributions that I've

      18      made over the years, both as a counselor and in the

      19      community.

      20             I've done volunteer work at the

      21      Sharing Community, among other places, where I've

      22      seen -- I've seen the dire effects of homelessness.

      23             I think we're -- I think we're kind of in the

      24      position of the frogs in the water that's slowly

      25      boiling, where we don't see -- that anybody could


       1      ask, could even ask, whether there's a homelessness

       2      crisis is -- is shocking to me.

       3             But I guess we've just gotten used to seeing

       4      people with no resources wandering the streets.

       5             It didn't used to be that way.

       6             The -- the emergency that led to the -- the

       7      laws that exist now were in a situation where you --

       8      it would have been shocking in those years to see

       9      people wandering the streets, homeless.

      10             They just wanted to prevent it.

      11             Anyway, I don't want to take your time long.

      12             I just wanted to say, I think that the

      13      prob -- from what I've been hearing, we're dealing

      14      with a problem, that many people have invested in

      15      housing.

      16             It is an extreme -- as you pointed out, it's

      17      an extremely reliable investment if 95 percent of

      18      landlords are making a profit.

      19             I don't think there's anything else you can

      20      do with your savings that's a more reliable

      21      investment.

      22             So -- and I don't think that there's a law

      23      that says you have to make a profit on your

      24      investments.

      25             On the other hand -- and we are subsidizing


       1      landlords in a lot of ways, with Section 8, where

       2      we've actually subsidized the rent increases by

       3      subsidizing the market rents.

       4             So I want to make a little bit of a radical

       5      suggestion.

       6             We've had -- I've -- there's been a huge

       7      turnover of landlords in my building, not just

       8      tenants, because property, real property, was a

       9      speculative investment.

      10             So they invested, expecting to flip it, and

      11      they did, over and over, until the market peaked.

      12             And I have the sense, from the way expenses

      13      aren't being taken care of, that probably the

      14      current landlord paid too much, I don't know.

      15             But, I want to suggest a radical solution to

      16      the problem of market housing.  It's not a new one.

      17             Mayor Fiorello La Guardia invested New York

      18      City funds in public housing.  First houses still

      19      exist in New York.

      20             There is other funding of -- there's other --

      21      there are -- there's other housing in New York that

      22      has been, while it houses a lot of people, less

      23      successful, in terms of the amenities -- of how nice

      24      it is a place to live.

      25             But I would suggest, maybe you can't do it


       1      this term, but I think the State of New York ought

       2      to be investing in housing.

       3             We can't keep -- we can't -- with -- with

       4      housing as a speculative investment, there really

       5      isn't another way but competing with the landlords

       6      to set up housing that -- to set up housing for

       7      people who can't afford it, because working people's

       8      incomes do not go up at the rate of return that

       9      investors expect.

      10             You know, the miracle of compound interest

      11      doesn't work in terms of how much working people are

      12      earning.

      13             We just -- there's a limit to what we can

      14      keep giving, until we just are exploited to the --

      15      beyond the point where people can survive.

      16             So that's my long-term solution.

      17             Meanwhile, I thank you for your -- thank you

      18      for your -- thank you for your support for

      19      sustaining -- for sustaining rent --

      20      rent-stabilization and rent-control laws, as I hope

      21      you'll be doing, and modifying them so that they can

      22      have long-term viability.

      23             Thanks.

      24             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  And thank you for your

      25      testimony.


       1             Any questions from the panel?  Comments?

       2             Okay.

       3             We appreciate your patience and your

       4      testimony today.

       5             JULIE WEINER (ph.):  Well, I appreciate yours

       6      (inaudible).

       7             I was not prepared.

       8             I just wanted you to know, here I am.

       9             There's nobody left around me who's a

      10      rent-stabilized tenant.

      11             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  We're very much glad that

      12      you joined us.

      13             So that concludes this hearing.

      14             Thank you all for -- everyone who testified,

      15      and the senators who joined us today.

      16             And we will continue this conversation as we

      17      move toward the deadline for the laws to be renewed

      18      on June 15th.

      19             Thank you.

      20                (Whereupon, the public hearing held before

      21        the New York State Senate Standing Committee on

      22        Housing, Construction, and Community Development

      23        concluded, and adjourned.)

      24                           ---oOo---