Marvin Markus looking at his naked self on the Indypendent

Marvin Markus looking at his naked self on the Indypendent

Stringer speaks to Markus

Stringer speaks to Markus

3 Year Lease/No Increase

3 Year Lease/No Increase

The Full RGB

The Full RGB

Speaker Addressing the RGB

Speaker Addressing the RGB

The Rent Guidelines Board meeting met today in the basement of The Great Hall at Cooper Union. Tenants gave emotional testimonies to a seemingly unmoved board. Only one of the board members is actually a renter herself, Adrienne Holder, a legal aid attorney who was the only RGB member present who was very vocal during the entirety of the meeting; especially in contrast to the other, disturbingly unengaged panel members.

Each testimony had 3 minutes to tell the board why they think that they should vote 0% increase this year. Only a few landlords came to speak for the rent increases, and their reasons were weak to say the least. After hearing one woman’s testimony about how dangerous her building had become, Tom Diana, a landlord who spoke, boldly stated that he should not be “held accountable for people getting drunk and beating each other up or getting pregnant.”

Marvin Markus, the chairman of the board (and the man on the cover of the new Indypendent) was un-shy about cutting people off and being outright rude even to fellow board member Adrienne Holder. One highlight of the meeting was when the Manhattan Borough President, Scott M. Stringer, called Markus on his inexcusable behavior, “Until tonight, I thought you really listened to people,” Stringer said to Markus, “your rude handling of this issue is unacceptable.” Stringer’s speech on the whole was inspiring and stirred hearty cheers from the crowd as he explained how discouragingly predictable these annual R.G.B. meetings have become; no matter how many testimonies are heard, the rents always increase and in doing so, these men and women are creating a borough for the extremely wealthy and pushing so many instrumental people out!

How will the policeman, firefighters, secretaries, librarians, street vendors, subway workers, people who run this city afford to live in it if the rents continue to increase as they do? “We are in the midst of a housing crisis!!” Stringer exclaimed, and if the RGB continues to close their eyes to it, the situation will only get worse.

Following Stringer’s speech were thunderous applause and more testimonies backing up the seriousness of this issue, this year there should be 0% increase, or hundreds, even thousands of people will end up on the streets. With the prices of gas, electric, medical bills, tenants cannot afford to live in this city that seems to be quickly closing its’ doors to all but the richest inhabitants.

It is hard to say whether the board took any of the testimonies asking for justice to heart. Until Tuesday when the final RGB meeting will take place, no one can really tell, we can only hope. As for the onlookers, it was hard not to get angry at the lack of response given by the RGB to some incredibly brave and heartfelt testimonies.

Photos By Jess Garman and Fred Askew