Volume 18 • Issue 13 | August 19 - 25, 2005

Council overrides mayor’s housing veto

The City Council on Wednesday easily overrode Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s veto of the Tenant Empowerment Act, introduced by Councilmember Alan Jay Gerson last year, which gives tenants the right of first refusal when landlords leave rent-subsidy programs and put their buildings up for sale.

The 44-3 vote on Aug. 17 was more than the two thirds of the 51-member Council needed to override a mayoral veto.

When Gerson first introduced the bill, he said it could protect Tribeca’s Independence Plaza North tenants if the federal enhanced voucher program were discontinued. The voucher program was introduced to I.P.N. last year as part of an agreement to preserve affordable housing there.

In a statement issued just prior to the veto, the city’s Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development released a statement on behalf of Bloomberg saying the bill was unlikely to withstand a court challenge. The administration also questioned whether tenants could raise market-rate financing within the 120 days provided by the act or that they would be able to keep rents affordable after purchasing a property at market rate.

At a rally of nearly 100 supporters on the steps of City Hall an hour before the override on Wednesday, Gerson said that passage of the bill would allow tenants to find financing from organizations like not-for-profit developers and labor unions. “We’ve even been told by people in the banking industry that banks are also likely to be interested,” Gerson said.

Supporters of the act said that it had been carefully revised to make sure that its provisions do not constitute an unconstitutional taking of private property.

Speaking in support of the bill at the Aug. 17 rally were Council Speaker Gifford Miller, Congressmember Nydia Velazquez, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, and Councilmembers Margarita Lopez, John Liu of Queens and Bill de Blasio of Brooklyn.

—Albert Amateau


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