Rent War Games

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Four hundred Brooklyn tenants kicked off a drive to save the state’s rent regulation laws
in mid-October, months before the landlord lobby begins its time-honored legislative
assault on the system that keeps rents affordable for a million New Yorkers.

Meeting in the auditorium of downtown Brooklyn’s YWCA – which was literally
packed to the rafters – a coalition of tenants organized by the Fifth Avenue Committee
and the Pratt Area Community Council began the drive to educate people about the huge
rent-law battle expected to rock Albany next May and June. During the upcoming
session, the state Senate, controlled by Republicans, is likely to push for the decontrol of
rent stabilized apartments as they become vacant.

“This is it, this is the biggest fight!” bellowed Sen. Marty Markowitz, a Brooklyn
Democrat. Markowitz and others called for massive demonstrations by tenants, letter
writing campaigns targeting city legislators who take campaign contributions from
landlords.

The rent control and rent stabilization laws were last extended in 1993 after a bitter
upstate-downstate partisan brawl. That year, in exchange for the rent laws’ extension, the
Democrat-controlled Assembly accepted decontrol of apartments exceeding
$2,000-a-month.

“We wanted to begin this as early as we can in the hopes that other groups will get
mobilized early,” says Brad Lander, executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee.
The organizers hope their movement will snowball.

Markowitz, fellow senator Velmanette Montgomery and assembly members Felix Ortiz
and Jim Brennan pledged to oppose decontrol, eliciting applause and “Right on’s” from
the crowd. State Assemblyman Roger Green was a no-show, prompting boos and
threatened election-day retaliation from tenants.