At several community meetings, I stood up and spoke out against luxury towers that the city’s Economic Development Corporation pitched as part of Inwood’s rezoning. The buildings would loom large over the neighborhood and threaten rent-stabilized tenants next door, possibly pushing them out. Worse, too few units would be made affordable. The lack of affordable housing in the Inwood proposal, only 35%, is sadly not surprising in a city where market rate luxury units encroach on working-class communities. That’s why I cannot hold back my opposition to this ill-conceived plan that further endangers renters and the protections they deserve.
As a state Senator whose background is union organizing, I have always firmly supported tenants’ rights to protect the collective well-being of lower-income renters, many of whom are people of color. Without available units where renters are shielded from landlord abuses, the very fabric of our city would deteriorate.
I currently co-sponsor a package of three bills to strengthen tenants’ rights including the preservation of preferential rent on the renewal of a lease, taking away vacancy bonuses from unscrupulous landlords and ending vacancy decontrol to keep rent stabilized units available.
These bills have existed before I came to office and before the Independent Democratic Conference was born. To blame myself, or the IDC, is disingenuous and offensive to those of us who are bold enough to put our names to issues.
It should be clear to the Met Council, who singled me out, that even as a member of the IDC without the support of a majority of state Senators these bills will not pass. We must have 32 Senators for that to happen. None of the three bills are even close to that threshold. For example, the preferential rent bill has 15 co-sponsors.
It is counterproductive to attack supporters, like myself, who are in the struggle for tenants’ rights. The Met Council, and other groups, might find their time better spent convincing naysayers that tenants’ rights are important.
I already understand that, which is why I proudly attach my name to these bills, and why I stand up and speak out against projects in our community that will jeopardize affordability.
I look forward to preserving rent stabilized units in my district and beyond, and will always fight for tenants.
Marisol Alcántara is the Senator for the 31st District of the New York Senate