He’s Back, Too?

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This Tuesday, the Rent Guidelines Board will go into its first vote of the season minus one of its two tenant representatives, following the resignation of Giuliani appointee Jeffrey Coleman late last year. Landlords and tenant advocates alike expect the board will approve some kind of rent increase for rent-stabilized apartments. But a housing attorney who ruffled the feathers of Mayor Giuliani as a board member in the late 1990s may soon make a return appearance–and there’s a shot that by the time the board makes its final decision in June, he could tip the balance in favor of tenants.

On Tuesday afternoon, a few hours before the current eight board members take their preliminary vote on the guidelines–which determine how much a landlord can raise rent on stabilized apartments each year–the office of Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff is scheduled to interview Ken Rosenfeld, a housing attorney with the Northern Manhattan Improvement Association. For six years under mayors Dinkins and Giuliani, Rosenfeld served as a tenant rep on the board. In 1998, Rosenfeld and the other tenant representative, David Pagan, sued the city to force release of a study assessing the impact of changes to the state’s rent laws on what tenants pay for housing in New York City. He and Pagan won the case, but the following spring, Giuliani replaced Rosenfeld. Said Rosenfeld with bitter humor, “I had a perfectly appropriate experience for a tenant member.”

Now, with a new mayor in City Hall, and with the rent guidelines process well underway–the board held its first meeting in late March, has taken testimony from tenant and landlord advocates and statistical experts and is now negotiating internally–tenant advocates hope Rosenfeld will make a comeback.

“He could come on board and know what everybody’s talking about,” said Pagan, who proposed to Doctoroff’s office the idea of reinstating Rosenfeld.

Also reportedly under consideration for the gig is Brad Hoylman, an attorney for the New York City Partnership who ran unsuccessfully for the City Council seat in lower Manhattan last fall. Hoylman did not return calls by press time.

The board is comprised of two landlord reps, two tenant reps, and five public members–four Rudy holdovers plus a new chair.

Rosenfeld and Pagan, like the city’s tenant advocate groups, support a rent freeze or reduction, noting a rise in unemployment among tenants and a fall in operating costs for rent-stabilized apartments. According to a report released by guidelines board staff, those overall expenses fell by 1.6 percent last year.

The Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 property owners, has called for a 5 percent increase for one-year leases and a 9 percent increase for two-year leases, citing rising insurance and tax rates–16.5 and 6.6 percent respectively, according to that same report.