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Assemblyman
Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
Assembly District 71
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Chair, Ways and Means Committee
…and this month in Albany
June 23, 2015

Assemblyman Farrell Reports to Community Board 12

Assembly Continuing to Fight for Stronger Rent Laws
Senate Offers Weak Housing Proposal That Could Help Bad Landlords

As you sit down to read this report, my colleagues in the Assembly Majority Conference and I remain in Albany fighting for the two million New Yorkers whose homes are part of the rent regulation system. The rent laws were allowed to temporarily expire because members of the Senate, who mostly come from Upstate and Long Island, refused to negotiate honestly and in good faith. When this report was written this afternoon (Tuesday, June 23) several options had been introduced but a final deal on renewing the rent laws had not been reached. You should know that leases are contracts that carry the full force of law and landlords cannot throw out your lease or raise your rent. Also, landlords must give notice before raising rents between leases.

Assembly, Senate Passed Five-Day Rent Law Extension; Full Renewal Sought

The Assembly, Senate and Governor Cuomo are continuing to negotiate in hopes of resolving the ongoing impasse with regard to the rent laws, an upstate property tax abatement program and other important issues that must be resolved before the Legislative Session may come to an end as it was scheduled to do on Wednesday, June 17. Our most recent actions were an agreement Thursday, June 18 between the Assembly and Senate to extend the rent laws until midnight tonight, Tuesday, June 23. Meanwhile, the Assembly on Friday, June 19 introduced new legislation to increase tenant protections and extend the strengthened rent laws for two years. The Assembly has not yet voted on the bill that was introduced Friday.

Senate Bill Would Weaken Rent Laws, Help Landlords

The Senate majority has introduced several rent law bills, and their leadership has bragged to the press that because their proposal would extend the rent laws for eight years it would somehow be the best option. This is false. Their proposals have a number of major problems. Most importantly, the Senate's proposals fail to end vacancy control, which is a primary reason that our City has and continues to bleed affordable housing at an alarming rate.

Their proposals also contain provisions that would make life harder for tenants, like forcing people who live in rent-regulated apartments to verify their income as if they are somehow "cheating" by living in an apartment that rents for less than the market rate. It almost sounds like they imagine that residents of Northern Manhattan, where most apartments are rent-regulated.

As Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez pointed out in his excellent column Wednesday, June 17, the Senate bill would force the already-overburdened housing agencies to verify the income of millions of New Yorkers who live in rent-regulated apartments. This plan is a poison pill.

Cuomo and Legislative Leaders Announce Framework of Deal on Rent, Tax Credits

Just before 2 p.m. today, June 23, Governor Cuomo, Speaker Carl E. Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan appeared jointly for a televised press conference to lay out what the Governor called the "framework" of a deal involving renewal of the rent laws and other major items of unfinished business. The Governor said that the Leaders agreed to take part in this event before discussing their agreement with their respective Conferences to accommodate a personal commitment the Governor had made, and the leaders agreed. As you read this, we may still be discussing details of this proposed deal, which we have not yet seen or voted upon.

Rent Laws Would Extend by Four Years, With More Protection for Tenants

According to the Governor, the agreement is robust and comprehensive, including education reform, tax reform and "unprecedented" support for tenants including the two million New Yorkers who live in the one million apartments that are part of the rent regulation system.

Under this arrangement, the Governor said, the rent laws would be extended for four years and, as was the case in 2011 when the rent laws were strengthened, would reverse a long trend toward weakening the rent laws. The Governor declined to explain details of the agreement, but said that while vacancy decontrol would not end completely as the Assembly Majority Conference and tenant advocates had wanted, the vacancy decontrol threshold would not only be raised but also indexed to the rising cost of living. This could mean that the loss of affordable housing, including the large number of rent-regulated apartments in Northern Manhattan, would slow.

Upstate Tax Reform Part of End-Of-Session Deal

The Leaders' agreement also includes $1.3 billion in property tax relief for homeowners Upstate, which was a top priority of the Senate's Majority Conference. Like the rent law extension, this program would be up for renewal in four years, but would not be the permanent upstate property tax cap that the Senate Majority wanted. The agreement, if this is accepted by the members, also includes a four-year extension of the 421-a tax relief program, which was established decades ago to encourage the construction of affordable housing in some parts of New York City but has been used more recently by developers to ease the burden of building less-than affordable housing in some areas. A major part of the 421-a discussion involved whether construction workers employed by these developers should be paid the prevailing wage for their trade.

Under the terms of the deal, 421-a would be extended for six months. During that time, the Governor said, representatives of labor and the real estate industry would discuss and draw up an agreement on the prevailing wage issue. If, at the end of six months, an agreement had been reached then 421-a would be extended for the full four years. But if no agreement was reached within six months, 421-a would expire, the Governor said.

Mayoral Control to be Extended by One Year

The Leaders' agreement also calls for a one-year extension of Mayoral control of New York City public schools, half of the extension the Assembly Majority Conference had fought for and far less than the seven-year extension given to former Mayor Bloomberg. Other education-related reforms are also included in the Leaders' agreement. The State's statutory cap on charter schools would be modified to allow 50 new charter schools Downstate and up to 130 more Upstate, the Governor said, and these schools would be administered either by the State University or the State Department of Education.

Executive Action Pending on 'Raise the Age'

Finally, Governor Cuomo announced that in lieu of Legislative action on a bill to forbid 16- and 17-year-old offenders from being sentenced to State prison, the Governor would take Executive action to place these people in other, more suitable facilities outside the State prison system.

Assembly Continuing to Fight to Protect Public School Funding

As you may know, members of the Assembly's Majority Conference have serious doubts about Governor Cuomo's plan to change the law to allow donors to private and parochial school to receive a State tax credit for their donations to non-public schools. This would have the effect of using your tax dollars to subsidize non-public schools, which our members take issue with.

Some say that the push away from public schools and toward charter and other non-public schools is being funded by big-money donors tied to Wall Street hedge fund concerns seeking to damage or destroy teachers' unions and public schools because there may be money to be made from putting students in charter schools.

This complex and difficult issue is tied in with another ongoing education problem still being worked on in Albany. There was a recent controversy, which was highlighted by a mailing sent to homes in some parts of the State including Northern Manhattan, about a bill that was meant to help teachers but could have had a negative effect on teachers in some school districts Upstate. One of those mailings claimed, through a misunderstanding, that I supported this harmful bill.

To make myself perfectly clear, I would never do anything that would hurt public schools, having spent my entire legislative career fighting for students and educational opportunity. No bill I have ever supported or sponsored would help billionaires.

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Assemblyman Farrell joined New York State United Teachers President Michael Mulgrew (left) and United Federation of Teachers Manhattan Borough Representative Dwayne Clark (right) during UFT's annual spring conference on May 30, 2015.

Please look to my Web site at assembly.state.ny.us for the latest on these and other important issues.


Yours truly,
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.



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…and this month in Albany
June 18, 2015

Assemblyman Farrell Reports to Community Board 9

Assembly Continuing to Fight for Stronger Rent Laws
Gov. Cuomo, AG Schneiderman Oppose Senate's Weak Housing Proposal
As you sit down to read this report, it is possible that my colleagues in the Assembly Majority Conference and I remain in Albany fighting for the 2 million New Yorkers whose homes are part of the rent regulation system which was allowed to expire because members of the Senate, who mostly come from Upstate and Long Island, refused to negotiate honestly and in good faith.

When this report was written at 3 p.m. on Thursday, June 18, several options had been introduced and a final deal on renewing the rent laws had not been reached. First, you should know that leases are contracts that carry the full force of law and landlords cannot throw out your lease or raise your rent. Second, landlords must give notice before raising rents between leases.

Wright Bill Would Extend Rent Law, Allow More Negotiation
On Tuesday morning, my colleague Assembly Member Keith Wright, who chairs our Housing Committee, introduced a bill that would extend the rent laws for eight months to. Speaker Heastie has said, and I agree, that our priority should and must be strengthening the rent laws to protect tenants be ending vacancy decontrol and other loopholes used by bad landlords to kick out tenants and charge higher rents for those apartments. Our goal of helping tenants is supported by Governor Cuomo and Attorney General Schneiderman.

Senate Bill Would Weaken Rent Laws, Help Landlords
Earlier this week, the Senate majority introduced a rent law bill, and their leadership has bragged to the press that because their proposal would extend the rent laws for eight years it is somehow be the best option. This is false. Their bill has a number of major problems. Most importantly, it fails to end vacancy control, which is a primary reason that our City has and continues to bleed affordable housing at an alarming rate.

Their bill also contains provisions that would make life harder for tenants, like forcing people who live in rent-regulated apartments to verify their income as if they are somehow "cheating" by living in an apartment that rents for less than market rate. It almost sounds like they imagine that residents of Northern Manhattan, where most apartments are rent-regulated, live here during the week and spend their weekends in second homes in the Hamptons. This is absurd.

As Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez pointed out in his excellent column Wednesday, June 17, the Senate bill would force the already-overburdened housing agencies to verify the income of millions of New Yorkers who live in Rent-regulated apartments. This plan is a poison pill.

Assembly Continuing to Fight to Protect Public School Funding
As you may know, members of the Assembly's Majority Conference have serious doubts about Governor Cuomo's plan to change the law to allow donors to private and parochial school to receive a State tax credit for their donations to non-public schools. This would have the effect of using your tax dollars to subsidize non-public schools, which our members take issue with.

Some say that the push away from public schools and toward charter and other non-public schools is being funded by big-money donors tied to Wall Street hedge fund concerns seeking to damage or destroy teachers' unions and public schools because there may be money to be made from putting students in charter schools.

This complex and difficult issue is tied in with another ongoing education problem still being worked on in Albany. There was a recent controversy, which was highlighted by a mailing sent to homes in some parts of the State including Northern Manhattan, about a bill that was meant to help teachers but could have had a negative effect on teachers in some school districts Upstate. One of those mailings claimed, through a misunderstanding, that I supported this harmful bill.

To make myself perfectly clear, I would never do anything that would hurt public schools, having spent my entire legislative career fighting for students and educational opportunity.

photo
Assemblyman Farrell joined New York State United Teachers President Michael Mulgrew (left) and United Federation of Teachers Manhattan Borough Representative Dwayne Clark (right) during UFT's annual spring conference on May 30, 2015.

Please look to my Web site at assembly.state.ny.us for the latest on these and other important issues.

Yours truly,
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.



(Back to Top)
June 8, 2015
Assemblyman Farrell's Testimony to the Rent Guidelines Board
June 8, 2015

Hello. My name is Earnestine Bell-Temple. I am a District Leader in the 71st Assembly District, which includes Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood, and I am speaking before you today on behalf of Assemblyman Denny Farrell. He is required to be in Albany for the Legislative Session today, but has asked me to read the following on behalf of his constituents, who are urgently in need of the assistance and justice that you may provide.

Please allow me to say, clearly and immediately: no rent increase this year. As a matter of fact, you must reduce the rents. People are struggling and suffering. You can, and must, help them.

Costs go up. That is what they do. It is a part of life, and we all accept that. But, in some cases, costs go down. This is what has been happening in the recent past.

Years ago, the cost of doing business as a landlord rose steadily. The cost of heating and maintaining a building climbed steadily. But of late, these costs have gone down, sharply in some cases. Heating oil, for instance, costs far less today than it did just a few years ago.

And yet, the landlords cry out for your help. They complain that their costs are exceeded by the revenues they collect as rent. This position runs contrary to the evidence, and to common sense.

Think of the tenants. Last week (Friday, June 5), the federal government reported that wages have gone up…by an average of three-tenths of one percent. That is 0.003. A third of a penny for each dollar in earnings. And this increase is remarkable in its strength compared to the recent past.

Now, compare that to the growth in rents. The disconnect is shocking.

This is not justice.

As I have said to you in the past...

The landlords don't need your help to make more money.

Please, think of the tenants. People are suffering. You have it within your power to help them

Again, please lower the rents. Thank you.



…and this month in Albany
May 21, 2015

Assemblyman Farrell Reports to Community Board 9

Wright and Farrell Fighting to Protect Affordable Housing
Assembly Passes Bill to Strengthen Rent Laws Which Protect 2.5 Million New Yorkers

On Tuesday, May 19 I voted with Assembly Housing Committee Chair Keith Wright and other members of the Majority Conference to pass a bill, A7526, which would continue and strengthen the Rent Laws which regulate over 1 million apartments in which 2.5 million hardworking New Yorkers live. Our bill, which was carried by Assembly Member Wright and sponsored by myself and many other members, seeks to expand tenant protections and close the loopholes that are exploited by bad landlords. Our new bill would renew the Rent Laws until June 15, 2019.

Assembly Bill Would Make Landlord Harassment a Crime

There are a number of important components to our bill. It would make tenant harassment by landlords a crime, which would be classified as a class A misdemeanor. This would apply to bad landlords who intentionally damage an apartment or building in order to clear tenants out and bring in new tenants from whom the landlord could collect higher rents. The State would have the ability to fine landlords who harass their tenants between $1,000 and $2,000 for a first offense and up to $4,000 for second offenses. Landlords who harass tenants to the point where the tenants move out could be subject to fines of up to $15,000 for repeat offenses.

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Assemblyman Farrell and Housing Committee Chair Keith Wright discuss the Rent Laws on the Assembly floor in the State Capitol in Albany.

New Protections for Rent Regulated Tenants

Bad landlords would also be prohibited from raising the preferential rent upon renewal of a lease; raise the threshold for rent stabilization from $2,500 per month to $3,500 and the tenants' maximum household income from $200,000 to $225,000; permit a landlord to take only one apartment in a building for their personal use or for a member of their immediate family to live in; to decrease the rent increase between tenants from 20 percent to 7.5 percent; plus more.

Assembly Legislation Would End Permanent Capital Improvement Surcharges

Under the law, landlords who make major improvements to their buildings are allowed to add a surcharge to the rent in order to recoup their investment in their building and the improvement they have made to their tenants' quality of life. That is fair. But bad landlords exploit this and collect the surcharge long after their investment has been recouped. Our bill would end this.

More Information for Tenants Moving in to a New Apartment

Our bill would also require that new tenants signing their first lease with a new landlord get four years' worth of rent records for that apartment, so tenants may know if the rent had jumped in the recent past, and to provide receipts to tenants who pay by means other than a personal check. There are more provisions, which you may read on the Housing page of my Web site.

Construction Contract for Pedestrian Footbridge Has Been Signed
Groundbreaking Ceremony Expected Soon

After many years of continuing work to bring a modern, safe and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant means of egress to Riverside Park at 151st Street, I am pleased to announce the City Department of Parks and Recreation and State Department of Transportation have signed a construction contract with the firm who will be building the bridge. I will also post this contract, which I first announced during your last meeting, on my Web site for you to read if you wish.

From what I am told, a groundbreaking event is in the process of being scheduled and will be announced soon. According to the contract, the job is to be completed no later than December 31, 2016. On Friday, May 15 I took part in a technical meeting with the Parks Department, DOT and the contractor to work out details of the project.

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Representatives of the Parts Department, Department of Transportation and contractor E.E. Cruz meet on Friday, May 15 2015 to discuss details of building the 151st Street pedestrian footbridge.

One of the details that we still have to work out is how to handle the traffic coming onto the West Side Highway during the later portions of the construction of the footbridge. At this time, the construction plan calls for the on- and off-ramps to the southbound lanes of the highway at West 158th Street to be temporarily closed, which could cause problems. The northbound ramps should not be affected. Discussions on how to avoid, or at least shorten, these ramp closings are underway. I will continue to update you as this important, exciting and long-awaited project continues to move forward.


Yours truly,
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.



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May 21, 2015
**Please click the above link to view the .pdf**


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…and this month in Albany
May 6, 2015

Assemblyman Farrell Reports to Community Board 10

Assembly Passes Bill to Raise the Minimum wage

Earlier this week, the Assembly passed a bill which I co-sponsored that would increase the statewide minimum wage to $10.50 per hour by December 2016 and to $12.60 per hour by Dec. 31, 2018. Because of the higher cost of living in the New York City metropolitan area, our legislation calls for a wage differential to account for this fact. Under our proposal, after December 31, 2016 the minimum wage would be $12.50 per hour and $15 per hour after December 2018.

Tipped-wage workers would also benefit from the Assembly's legislation. Under our bill, the state tipped wage would rise to $8.75 per hour statewide and $10.40 per hour in the New York metropolitan area on December 31, 2016. It would increase again to $10.50 per hour statewide and $12.50 per hour in New York City at the end of 2018.

As you may know, well over half of minimum wage workers in New York State are women, and many of these workers are using these wages to support or help to support their families. As a result, almost 40 percent of families who have a female head of household live in poverty. This must end. It is simply unfair that hardworking New Yorkers who are doing their best to get ahead remain in poverty while economic benefits go mostly to those who are already at the top. I was proud to cast my vote for this important bill alongside my colleagues in the Assembly Majority.

Assembly Majority Working to Strengthen the Rent Laws

As we have discussed previously in these reports, a top priority for the Assembly Majority Conference including myself is extending and strengthening the rent laws that regulate one million apartments in the City of New York and help keep housing affordable for the tenants.

The 2015 Legislative Session is scheduled to end on June 17, two days after the rent laws sunset (Albany slang for expire) on June 15. My colleagues and I have long fought to fix problems in the system including vacancy decontrol that has led to tens of thousands of formerly rent-regulated apartments being taken out of the system once the rent rises above $2,500 per month.

Some of our efforts over the years have been blocked by the Senate, whose present leadership tends to lean in favor of the landlords. It's not yet clear how the Senate leadership's ongoing troubles will affect the debate in Albany over this critical issue that, quite literally, affects the everyday lives of millions of hardworking New Yorkers.

Groundbreaking for 151st Street Pedestrian Bridge is Coming Soon

A groundbreaking ceremony for the pedestrian footbridge at 151st Street over the Henry Hudson Parkway and into Riverside Park is in the works and should be announced soon. As you know, I have worked on this project for many years, and have long spoken out about the need for greater accessibility to our public parks. In 1996, I unveiled a plan to build a $10 million pedestrian footbridge into the Park at 165th Street and Riverside Drive, over the train tracks. This plan met with resistance from Amtrak and the Arts Council, who stopped the project at that time.

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Access to The Park for Our Community

Thought I lost that round, I fought and was able to get other Park accessibility projects done so that our community can enjoy our magnificent public spaces. A 2007 project made Riverside Park accessible at 158th Street via a handicapped-accessible ramp that has been used by pedestrians, bicyclists, families with baby carriages and people of limited mobility. As part of that project, a set of stairs at the bottom of 158th Street under the West Side Highway leading to the Park below was rebuilt, and ramps were added to these stairs, removing a major barrier at this location for people who had previously found it very hard to safely get down to the river. But more access to the Park was needed as you go further south, at the area where I intend to build this bridge, where steep stairs are now the only way for pedestrians to get into the Park. This bridge would eliminate the use of the steps and provide a ramp and bridge into the Park.

$20 Million in State Funds for Footbridge

In late 2013 I was notified by Governor Cuomo's office that the new State transportation capital plan included $20 million for the construction of this long-awaited and much-needed bridge. During the years leading up to this announcement, I continued to work on the bridge project which included moving the site from 165th Street to the new site at 151st Street and Riverside Drive.

More Accessibility, Improved Safety

Those of you who have lived here for many years, as I have, may remember that decades ago there was a wooden bridge that led into the Park at 151st Street and Riverside Drive. This bridge later burned, and its' metal skeleton remained in place for some time. At that time, there was no Amtrak train service passing this point, but the railways eventually started using those tracks again when train service was brought in so that the Albany line could go to Penn Station rather than Grand Central.

Farrell, DOT, Parks to Discuss Footbridge Project Status

On Friday, May 15 I will sit down for a meeting with representatives of the Department of Transportation, the Parks Department and E.E. Cruz, the contractor selected for the job, for a technical meeting at which details of the project will be discussed. At the present time, DOT and the Parks Department are working to schedule the groundbreaking. According to DOT, they are ready to begin construction later this spring, and the contractor selected for the job has performed similar tasks for the State and does good work. As time goes on, I will keep you informed.




Video Clips:

March 12, 2015
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Farrell addresses questions relating to changes in the Gap Elimination in the Assembly Budget Proposal. E.203
 
 




Photo Slide Show:



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