A Bay Ridge town hall hosted by the Metropolitan Council on Housing Tuesday evening, Oct. 30, ended with a trio of local Democratic candidates pledging their support for tenants’ rights.
State Senate candidate Andrew Gounardes and Assembly candidates Adam Baumel and Mathylde Frontus all attended the public forum, held in the auditorium of P.S./I.S. 30, the Mary White Ovington School, where they eventually took to the podium and publicly signed a pledge in favor of universal rent control.
“This is significant,” tweeted local grassroots politico group Fight Back Bay Ridge in response to the showing of candidates. “The Democratic slate all pledged to protect tenants and work for reasonable rent but their big-developer-paid-for opponents . . . [refused].”
The opponents in question – incumbents state Sen. Marty Golden and Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, as well as Assembly candidate Steve Saperstein – “were invited but didn’t choose to attend,” according to the Council’s twitter.
It appears that congressional adversaries Max Rose (D) and incumbent Dan Donovan (R) also did not attend the forum, though it is unclear at this time whether or not they were invited, or have promised support for the pledge behind the scenes.
In Bay Ridge and across New York State, housing rights, the Met Council contended in the town hall’s invitation, “are under attack. The advisory went on to cite statistics claiming that, while almost 90,000 New Yorkers are homeless, landlords are making record profits.
According to MNS Real Estate’s September 2018 Brooklyn Market Report, from August to September of this year, the average rental price in Brooklyn increased by 0.77 percent to nearly $2,900. Meanwhile, in Bay Ridge, the price of a studio made the highest individual leap – nearly five percent – to $1,542 on average.
While Ridge rents remain on the lower end of the spectrum, amount-wise, the respective rise borough-wide, residents say, is cause enough for alarm.
“I have a feeling of dread when I think about the renewal of the lease. I can’t pay for a rent increase,” one Bay Ridge resident told the packed crowd Tuesday night. “This is not the way you want to spend your senior years.”
When asked why Malliotakis wasn’t in attendance, the incumbent’s Chief of Staff Sara Ballou cited short notice of the forum.
“The assemblywoman was given short notice about the forum and had already committed to other events,” she said. “As far as housing issues, her record stands for itself. She’s leading the fight against the skyrocketing property taxes that are increasing the cost of living for homeowners and renters, and last year unveiled a detailed proposal to address homelessness and supportive housing needs.”
When asked for further information on Malliotakis’ property tax bill, Ballou said that the assemblymember is still working on the legislation (which, she said, includes a three-pronged proposal that, for starters, bases assessments on market values, among other changes) and plans to introduce it in the coming legislative session.
Meanwhile, Saperstein told this paper that he, too, had a scheduling conflict.
“I was very appreciative to receive the invite from the forum organizers but I had a scheduling conflict and attended the Children’s Halloween Parade at MCU Park,” the candidate told this paper via email. “I strongly feel that affordability in our community is an important issue and one that I look forward to tackling as the next assemblyman. Unlike my opponent, who has seen $40,000 pour into her campaign coffers from [Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee] with the help of significant funding from the Real Estate Board, my commitment to affordability is genuine.”
Frontus shot down Saperstein’s claims, telling this paper via email that her campaign has never taken any money directly from the Real Estate Board or developers, while her opponent has.
“I’m struck that he is accusing me of doing something which he is actually doing. It’s shocking,” she told this paper. “I am the Democratic nominee for the 46th Assembly District and, as such, the Democratic Party has been spending money on my race. However, my opponent has taken money directly from real estate interests.
“When I talk to voters, they want to elect someone whose allegiance is to them and fighting for their rights,” she went on, “not someone beholden to the real estate lobby. I’ve been a community organizer for years and helped organize tenant associations in the past. I’ve actually fought for affordable housing over the years and will continue to do so in the state legislature.”
A quick glance at Saperstein’s campaign disclosure filings show at least one $2,000 donation from Sergey Rybak of Ryback Development. He also received a $4,400.00 contribution from the RSA (Rent Stabilization Association) in June.
Tuesday evening, Gounardes issued a statement on his opponent’s “no-show.”
“It’s offensive that Sen. Golden refused to face his constituents in a forum that was focused on housing issues in our district. This is particularly troubling given that this issue impact hundreds of thousands of residents in District 22 and that this forum immediately followed the Brooklyn Community Improvement Association (BCIA) debate, which he made time to attend,” said Gounardes. “Golden’s snub tonight fits with a pattern of avoiding meeting with people who disagree with him. The cornerstone of my engagement platform is my commitment to always be willing to meet with my constituents—whether they agree with me or not. There will always be a seat at my table for the hardworking people of District 22.”
By press time, reps for Golden, Rose and Donovan had not immediately responded to requests for comment or further info.
P.S./I.S. 30 is located at 7002 Fourth Avenue.