Rent Guidelines Board In Turmoil

With less than three months to go before the Rent Guidelines Board sets preliminary rent increases for the city’s million rent-stabilized apartments, the Giuliani Administration has already replaced one board member and will likely replace others with ones the Mayor finds more trustworthy. Jane Stanicki, probably the most pro-tenant of the five so-called “public members” on the nine-member board, has been replaced by Elissa Fitzig, a Smith-Barney investment banker and former member of the city water board. Rumor has it that the Mayor also wishes to remove landlord member Joseph Forstadt, who is the attorney for the Fulton Fish Market operators that Giuliani is battling over organized crime connections.

Of the board’s other seven members, the only one who can’t be replaced is decontrol advocate Paul Atanasio, who was appointed by Giuliani last year and hasn’t finished his term. The mayor has reportedly reappointed Agustin Rivera, another public member, who has been something of a swing vote between the four hardcore pro-landlord members and the rest of the board. A third public member, Barbara Gordon-Espejo — who sponsored the $20-a-month “poor tax” surcharge imposed on low-rent apartments last year — is no longer eligible to sit on the RGB because she has moved out of the city.

Tenant members Leslie Holmes and Ken Rosenfeld have both served beyond their terms and could be replaced. Neither knows what Giuliani intends to do. RGB counsel Mark Ahasic has also left and the board currently has not replaced him. The tentative schedule for the March, April, and May RGB meetings is as follows:

March 13 — 9 am to 12 noon
March 27 — 9 am to 12 noon
April 15 — 9 am to 5 pm
April 29 — 9 am to 5 pm
May 13 — 9 am to 5 pm
May 16 — 5 pm to 10 pm (Vote on preliminary guidelines)

All meetings will take place in Spector Hall, 22 Reade St., except for the May 16 preliminary guidelines meeting, which will be held at One Police Plaza. Tenants and tenant organizations should arrange their schedules to attend as many of these meetings as possible.