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Pols call for affordable rents at Weprin town hall

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Newly appointed state Department of Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner Darryl Towns said he was working to keep apartment rents affordable during a town hall meeting Sunday organized by state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) at the Samuel Field Y in Little Neck.

“I came to the job with a street-level view of what affordable housing can be to the community,” said Towns, a former assemblyman from Brooklyn who noted that rent regulations expire June 15 unless the state Legislature decides to extend protections.

The Rent Stabilization Association, which represents more than 25,000 landlords in the city, has been fighting for decades in an effort to abolish the entire rent-control system. The trade group said Queens had 144,035 apartments under rent stabilization in 2010 and 5,500 under rent control.

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) said rent regulation is “probably the most important issue facing Albany today.”

Towns said part of his job entails “making communities neighborhoods once again.”

Weprin told the crowd about bills he is proposing in Albany, which includes an adoptee bill of rights.

The bill would allow adopted children to have the option of obtaining their original birth certificate when they reach 18 years old.

“There are medical reasons for that,” Weprin said. “There are genetic reasons for that.”

Weprin said he also took over sponsorship of a bill originally written by retired Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn that prohibits smoking in cars with children under 14 in the vehicle.

While Weprin said some may think the bill infringes on their rights, he said the legislation “falls into the category of protecting the public.”

Stavisky, the Senate sponsor of the bill, said the legislation passed the Assembly last year but did not make it to the floor of the Senate.

“Smoking is not a protective right. This is not a right that you’re entitled to have,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) also stopped by the town hall and said he was against President Barack Obama’s suggestion that Israel cede the territory it gained in 1967 as a starting point for peace negotiations with the Palestinians, although he said he believed Obama’s comments were just a way to nudge the Palestinians to the table.

“Anyone who’s visited Israel knows the ’67 borders don’t work because Israel can’t defend itself based on the ’67 borders,” Meeks said.

The congressman also called on Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to renounce Hamas, the militant group that governs the Gaza Strip.

“If Arab countries don’t believe Israel should exist, then there’s nothing to negotiate,” Meeks said. “We still have a lot of obstacles in the way” toward peace.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 10:52 am, October 12, 2011
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