By George Capsis
“I’m mad at you, George—you told Carol Yost that just because she was old she didn’t need to live in the Village anymore, that she should live in Florida to make room for young people. I’ve lived in the Village twenty years, George, and I am NOT going to Florida! I’m mad at you…”
And with that my neighbor of many years stalked off and will never speak to me again…
What I wrote, and yes, I had a moment of hesitation when I wrote it, was that laws of good intention caught in decades of mindless bureaucracy no longer address the ills they were made to correct but breed new injustices.
We have one million rent regulated apartments. If they were put on the market there would be a new leveling of “market rate” rents—sure rents would go up but not as much as they do now when a landlord buys out a rent regulated tenant.
But forget it—we have come too far—New York will have rent regulations until the Brooklyn Bridge turns to rust and we will continue to grind our teeth in vain when we hear somebody boast of his twenty five-year-old rent controlled rent.
We liberals and now us de Blasio “progressives” believe that nobody should be homeless. We believe that rent controlled or rent stabilized rents are an immutable page in the sacred text of social justice and should continue until the sunset of history and that we should build housing for those that are old or handicapped or mentally ill who will never be able to afford even the envelope into which to place a rent check.
Yes, this is what we liberals believe and even if we have some hesitation—it is the law, at least here in the most liberal city of the world—New York.
And yes, perhaps not Carol Yost, but someone like her paying $500 rent for a $3000 apartment would like to live in Florida or San Diego for the same $500 a month and then again perhaps not but I think she, and we, should have a choice—why not?
We should have not just New York City rent laws, but Federal ones so retiring New Yorkers may live near that sister in Florida or that daughter in San Diego.
Right now the young people from all over the world who, each spring, used to seed the Village anew with the searching tendrils of youth are renting further and further out into Brooklyn and are spending a good part of their youth commuting back to MOMA or the MET and the other cultural treasures that I enjoyed as a Manhattan kid for a nickel subway ride.
What I argued for is that we must plan for a growing New York City population who less and less will be able to afford market rate rents. This is not a just a city problem but a federal one—so just as we have federal nearly-free medical care for the elderly, let us have nationwide affordable rents for everybody from the middle class on down—Rentacare.
And as for Carol Yost who sent me an e-mail asking for help when her landlord’s lawyer had sent her an eviction notice—I called attorney Arthur Schwartz and she is still in her apartment and not in Florida.