Rent Protections: What a Deal Means for New Yorkers – The New York Times

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CreditHans Pennink/Associated Press

Just days before rent laws and tenant protections were set to expire in New York State, lawmakers reached a deal to strengthen them.

The agreement, which would make the changes permanent, was a blow to the real estate industry and a victory for those concerned with rising housing costs in New York City.

[Read more about the landmark deal announced yesterday.]

Here’s what you need to know about the legislation, which is expected to pass the Assembly and the Senate this week, and be signed by Governor Cuomo:

What are the two biggest changes?

The first change is to deregulation; the second change is an expansion of the rules.

What’s deregulation?

A law allowed building owners, mostly in New York City, to take their apartments out of the rent regulatory system after certain financial thresholds were met. Under the new deal, lawmakers in Albany would abolish this rule to keep more apartments in the regulated market and to prevent rents from escalating as quickly.

Deregulation has been blamed by tenant groups for the loss of thousands of below-market-rate housing in the city.

What’s expansion?

Most of the state’s regulated apartments are in New York City; a few are in Westchester County and on Long Island. Under the deal, other cities and towns could create their own regulations.

How many people would the new rules affect?

In New York City, more than two million people live in nearly one million regulated apartments. If cities and towns statewide adopt rent regulations, millions more people could be affected.

Real estate trade groups, which criticized the plan, said small landlords could be put out of business if they were unable to increase rents to deal with escalating costs.

“This legislation will not create a single new affordable housing unit, improve the vacancy rate or improve enforcement against the few dishonest landlords who tend to dominate the headlines,” Taxpayers for an Affordable New York, a coalition of the real estate groups, said in a statement.

What else is set to change?

Preferential rents: These are rents below the legal maximum that a landlord can charge, which may sound like a good deal for tenants. But under the old rules, landlords could increase preferential rents when leases were renewed. Under the new rules, preferential rents will be guaranteed.

Capital improvements: Landlords were able to increase rents by as much as 6 percent to pay for major building improvements. Under the deal, they can only add up to 2 percent.

Why is this happening now?

New York’s rent laws are set to expire on Saturday.

On a broader scale, the changes were the latest fallout from Democrats taking control of the Legislature after the 2018 election. Republicans previously controlled the Senate and routinely blocked sweeping changes to rent laws.

And in this new Democratic era in Albany, the real estate industry’s political clout is being diminished.

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— Vivian Ewing

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CreditAnina Gerchick

The Times’s Vivian Ewing reports:

Swamp rose, dewberry, buttonbush. Sound familiar? Maybe not.

But to the artist Anina Gerchick, these plants are her medium. She used them and many other native-to-New York perennials to build Birdlink, a 12-foot-tall living sculpture that is a rest stop for migrating birds in Sara D. Roosevelt Park on the Lower East Side.

Birdlink is composed of rectangular wire blocks in which Ms. Gerchick installed about 2,000 plants, which she identified with signage. Each plant grows something that migrating birds need to refuel, like seeds, fruit or nuts.

The sculpture was finished on Saturday and will remain until Nov. 1.

While conceiving the structure, Ms. Gerchick said, she was inspired by the surrounding neighborhood. “The Lower East Side has a history of immigrants being squeezed into small spaces,” she said. “So, the densely packed nature of that neighborhood is in this piece. It’s like a tenement for birds.”

While Birdlink will provide shelter and food for avian travelers, she hoped it would also provide a lesson in biodiversity loss. Roosevelt Park, like many other city parks, is dotted with trees. But the species there, like the omnipresent London plane, don’t serve many birds besides pigeons, she said.

“Birds require middle- and lower-level growth,” Ms. Gerchick said. Park planners don’t often focus on that because it reduces visibility for people.

The sculpture is the second iteration of Birdlink; a version on Governors Island last year was moved to East River State Park in Williamsburg.

Ms. Gerchick said she received a lot of attention while installing Roosevelt Park’s Birdlink; passers-by approached and told her about the birds on their block.

“Birds are a great leveler,” she said. “Everyone can relate.”

She said she hoped that the sculpture would inspire more people to think about the species, birds and otherwise, that rely on a diverse ecosystem — even in a city.

It’s Wednesday — find your flock.

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Dear Diary:

My mother and I went to a party store on Eighth Street to choose some helium balloons for my son’s birthday party the following day.

“Sometimes I see Amy Sedaris when I’m walking around the Village,” I said to impress my mother. I had seen Amy Sedaris only twice, both times in line at a post office in the neighborhood.

Soon after that, my mother and I ran into a friend. Then we walked to a market on Sixth Avenue to get some food for the party, including several bunches of carrots that I planned to roast.

When we got to the register, we had so many groceries to carry that my mother started to rip the green tops off the carrots to save space in the bags.

“Can anyone use these carrot greens?” she asked into the din of those checking out around us.

“I can,” someone a few feet away said, “for my rabbit.”

It was Amy Sedaris.

— Lisa Brennan-Jobs

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