Monday, May 20, 2013

June 5th: Tenants host Bronx RGB hearing

Have you noticed anything different about this year’s RGB hearing schedule? Whereas for the past 8 years, the RGB has held two public hearings for tenants and landlords to testify, this year there is just one. Whereas for the past 8 years one of those hearings has been in the Bronx, Brooklyn or Queens, this year the only hearing is in Manhattan. And whereas in the past the hearings have been scheduled to go well into the evening, this year’s hearing will only accept registrants until 7 pm.

Why is this year different than all other years?

Tenants & Neighbors has been seeking an answer to that question, to no avail. When asked, the RGB chair responded that renting a space is expensive, and testimonies have dwindled at public hearings. We countered with the offer of a large space in the Bronx, available free of charge, and a mobilized base of tenants who are genuinely interested in testifying before the RGB. In a letter dated April 26th, Tenants & Neighbors and New Settlement Apartments’ Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA) invited the RGB to a public forum we are hosting on June 5th. The letter read as follows:

Dear Members of the New York City Rent Guidelines Board, 
We would like to invite you to an exciting public hearing to discuss issues in rent stabilized housing in the Bronx on Wednesday, June 5th, at 5PM.
As you know, it has been customary for the Rent Guidelines Board to hold one public hearing in Manhattan and one in an outer borough, in the evening. This year, however, there has been just one hearing scheduled for June 13th in Manhattan.  We are concerned that only holding a day-time hearing in Manhattan will make it impossible for tenants in the rest of the city to testify.  Many tenants cannot afford to take time off work to testify, since doing so for many New Yorkers means risking a day’s pay and even their jobs.  We therefore urge you not only to attend this evening hearing in the Bronx but to also make this hearing an official RGB Public Hearing. 
While we acknowledge that turnout at outer borough hearings has been waning in recent years and that the RGB’s budget is constrained, this year tenants have been reaching out to us and demanding another opportunity to be heard. Demand for this hearing has been most concentrated in the Bronx, where, as UNHP’s Gregory Lobo Jost discussed in his invited testimony, tenants are facing severe crises of affordability.
To meet this demand, New Settlement Apartments’ Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA) and Tenants & Neighbors invite you to participate in a forum on Wednesday, June 5th at New Settlement’s Community Campus, 1501 Jerome Avenue (at 172nd St) in the Bronx, starting at 5:00 pm. We expect a full house of tenants who would otherwise not be able to testify.
We strongly encourage the Board to attend this community-supported Public Hearing and to add it to the RGB’s calendar of official hearings. We know that you are all busy, but we believe it is incredibly important to provide this community with an opportunity to have its voices heard, and share crucial testimonies that may inform your deliberations. This year, tenants in the Bronx are coming together to speak out about the affordability of their homes. Will you be there to hear them?
Many thanks, 
Susanna Blankley
Director of Housing Organizing
CASA- New Settlement Apartments
Sam Stein
Rent Regulation Campaign Coordinator
Tenants & Neighbors

This letter was distributed to every member of the Rent Guidelines Board; to this day, we have received no response. We strongly encourage members of the Rent Guidelines Board to attend, and hear from a broader range of testifiers than those available to speak during the day in Manhattan. This will be an important event with a large showing. It is a gesture in good faith, and an opportunity for the Board to make itself available to people in one of the most densely rent stabilized districts in the city, as well as the tenants from all 5 boroughs who will convene there.

Whether or not the RGB holds an outer-borough hearing, the people will speak out. Will the Rent Guidelines Board be there to listen?

This community-sponsored RGB hearing will take place Wednesday, June 5th at New Settlement’s Community Campus, 1501 Jerome Avenue (at 172nd St, near the 4 or D train stops at 170th street) in the Bronx, starting at 5:00 pm. All are invited to attend, speak, and listen.

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