A funny thing happened in Albany, New York the other day. The landlords of New York City had owned the state legislature for decades. Now… they’ve been evicted.
Well, not exactly evicted. Just had their paws declawed. The legislature took a look at the latest proposal from the various real estate associations. These included new ways to raise rents even in rent-controlled buildings. And new ways to build skyscrapers made of ticky-tacky and sell them for… well, much more than they’d be worth.
The legislature, now entirely in the hands of members of the Democratic Party, decided enough was enough and approved the new city housing bill and the landlords and their versions of the NRA were stunned. Not only did they fail to get everything they wanted, but they’d have to even put up with some “rollbacks,” as stealing union-won benefits have recently come to be called.
Train, bus, plane and helicopter loads of lobbyists and consultants and academics with landlord-endowed chairs at landlord-endowed “universities” flooded the state capital.
They appealed to the governor -- a Democrat -- to “reason with the Senate and Assembly that made changes that will mean a few million dollars in dollars that won’t be stuffed into used coffee cans and buried beneath private putting greens in Scarsdale and Kings Point or winter homes in Key Biscayne or Mar A Largo.
The governor shrugs. He tells the Gimme Chorus at his doorstep to take things up with the legislature and that he will sign the “best bill they can pass,” whatever it is.
The chorus disassembled and went back home without its claws. Members were heard to mutter things like “this is going to affect the lives of soooo many construction workers. Wow! Sticking up for the working class… the unionized working class at that.
Rent gouging and slumlording is as old as the founding of the city itself. And it’s not going to go away. But it’s not going to get worse, either. At least for now.
As the late Oscar Brand would sing
Pitty the downtrodden landlord,
And his back that’s all burdened and bent.
Respect his gray hairs.
Don’t ask for repairs.
And don’t be behind in the rent.
--We first met Brand in the late 1950s, while was living on W. 12th St. in Greenwich Village. He made fun of us “suburban kids.” When he died some years ago in his 90s, he was living on Baker Hill Road in Great Neck, around the corner and down the block where someone whose work you are now reading misspent part of his youth.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2019