MIDTOWN — A failure to renew the city's rent regulations will mean an "end to New York City as we have known it," Mayor Bill de Blasio told senior citizens Friday during a telephone town hall with AARP.
The rent laws governing how much landlords can charge for 1 million regulated apartments will expire Monday if they are not renewed by lawmakers in Albany.
For months now, de Blasio has called not only for a renewal of the laws but a strengthening of them as well.
The mayor has proposed altering rules that allow landlords to include the cost of certain repairs and improvements in the rent in perpetuity and an end to vacancy decontrol, which removes an apartment from regulation once the rent surpasses $2,500.
The Democrat-led Assembly has passed legislation supporting many of de Blasio's proposals, which are also supported by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
But the Republican-led Senate has yet to take on rent laws. Cuomo has said he wants the laws strengthened but would accept a straight renewal to avoid the "mayhem" that would occur because of their expiration.
The governor has come under criticism by some affordable housing advocates for trying to link rent regulation renewal and a tax credit for private school.
Speaking to 14,000 seniors on the town hall call during which he took questions from the public, de Blasio said the expiration of rent laws Monday would create a "housing emergency" for 2 million New Yorkers.
"It would be the beginning of the end of New York City as we have known it as a place for everyone," the mayor said during the call.
If the laws expire, tenants would only be protected by rent regulation through the end of their lease. The apartments would then become market rate and the landlord could charge whatever someone was willing to pay.
"The level of displacement would be like nothing we've ever seen before. It would be devastating to working people in this city," said de Blasio who later added that people could end up in homeless shelters.
During the call-in segment, one senior from Manhattan said the mayor had tackled the issue too late in the legislative session, echoing a charge Cuomo made against de Blasio during a lobbying trip to Albany recently.
De Blasio said that it simply wasn't true and that he had presented his plan to strengthen rent regulations in February.
"This is a housing emergency and folks in Albany have time to act and they should not hide behind the smoke screen of the schedule," de Blasio said.
He also called on the governor to act more forcefully. De Blasio recalled how Cuomo's SAFE Act regulating guns was passed by the Senate two hours after the text of the law was made public in 2013.
Using legal maneuvers to waive the required waiting period, the Assembly passed the bill the next day when the governor also signed it into law.
"We need the governor to push the Senate hard," said de Blasio. "If ever there was an emergency it's the affordable housing emergency in New York City."