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Queens tenants angered at 4 percent rent hike

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Queens tenants advocates have reacted with characterizations of “outrage” and “farce” to the New York City Rent Guidelines Board’s decision to impose new rent increases higher than the board had previously approved.

The Rent Guidelines Board last week unexpectedly announced it would permit landlords to charge 4 percent increases for one year leases and 6 percent increases for two-year leases.

On May 9 the board had approved increases of 3 percent for one- year leases and 5 percent for two-year leases.

“It was an outrage,” said Ida Pollach of the Glen Oaks Tenants Association. “It seems as though it was all planned in advance. I feel the only reason they hold hearings is because the law requires them.”

She added, “I believe Gov. Pataki means to get rid of rent regulations in New York City. We must organize and demonstrate our opposition. Otherwise, I am afraid we may suffer the consequences."

Florence Fisher of the Queens League of United Tenants and the Queens Community Civic Corp. said the board should have granted no increase.

“It’s a farce,” Fisher said. “These landlords are making a killing. The rents are so high that there is no more affordable housing in this city. The Rent Guidelines Board must go.”

The Rent Guidelines Board announced its decision the night of June 20 in a tumultuous meeting at Cooper Union in Manhattan amid chants of “shame!” One protester was removed by police and members of the board several times briefly walked out of the meeting so noisy were protesters.

The board approved the increases by a 7-2 vote with the two dissenting votes coming from tenant representatives. The board turned down by 5-4 a $15 surcharge for rents under $500, a charge called the “poor tax” by tenant advocates.

“We must get out and demonstrate by the thousands,” Fisher said. “We must let our politicians know that we are not going to take any longer.”

She warned that “some people seem to think they would never abolish rent regulations, but look at Boston.”

Joseph Strasburg, a spokesman for the Rent Stabilization Association, representing the landlords, said the raises were inadequate to cover fuel costs and other expenses. The landlords had asked for increases of nine percent and 13 percent.

The increases take effect Oct. 1.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

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