Long Beach Tenants Foil Decontrol

In a portent of things to come in Albany 1997, the tenants of Long Beach in Nassau County two weeks ago were under the threat of losing their rent stabilization protections. The City Council had a bill before it that would have removed rent controls from vacant apartments.But on April 16, after hundreds of city tenants showed up at meetings to protest the measure, the council voted to table it — “for eternity,” City Manager Ed Eaton told the Long Beach Herald. The bill would have affected between 1,200 and 1,500 apartments in the city of 35,000 people.

In support of their decontrol attempt, Long Beach’s landlords claimed that the vacancy rate exceeded five percent and that fact justified the removal of units from regulation under the Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1974. Members of the newly formed Long Beach Tenants Coalition denied the landlords’ claim. According to Newsday (April 14), tenant leaders had sent out people to regulated buildings asking if any apartments were available for rent and had found almost all of them were fully rented.

The political impact of a loss for tenants before the Long Beach City Council would have been severe in Albany, where landlords have been lobbying for an end to all the state’s rent laws when they expire on June 15, 1997. Every landlord and anti-tenant legislator would have been encouraged had Long Beach voted against tenants for vacancy decontrol.

But tenants peppered the Council with letters, phone calls, and faxes arguing that decontrol would drive people out of the city and encourage landlords to harass them. “We’re here to represent the people,” said Councilmember Michael Zapson, a landlord who initially supported decontrol, but ended up making the motion to take it off the agenda.

Landlords may still sue the city to remove the regulations.