Early July, 2O2O News & Update

Dear friends,

It’s been a while since you’ve heard from us as a result of this pandemic. We hope that this mailing finds you all in good health and surviving these trying times. While the office has not been officially open through the pandemic, it does not mean that we haven’t been busy, and that we haven’t been working on many important issues.

Westchester Rent Guidelines Board (WRGB) 

Despite being handicapped for this year’s process [we had one (1) tenant representative on the nine (9) member board as Jean Anderson had resigned earlier in the year and a replacement was not appointed in timel, the Westchester Rent Guidelines Board (WRGB) FROZE the rents for both one (1) and two (2) year renewal terms! These -0-% guidelines are for any lease renewals that come up between October 1,2020, and September 30,2021!  Landlords must offer you an ETPA Renewal Lease Form that lists both one (1) and two (2) year renewals at -0-% for both terms. Obviously everyone will take a two (2) year term unless you are planning to vacate after One (1) year.

The one (1) Tenant Representative remaining at the WRGB is Mt. Vernon’s own Tamara Stewart of the Plaza Buildings. As always, Tamara did an outstanding job convincing the Public Members of the plight of rent-regulated tenants and the more-than-comfortable profits that the landlords are making. Former WRGB tenant member, and now just plain Westchester tenant, Genevieve Roche, once again “crunched” the numbers in her inimitable fashion to refute landlord claims of hard times. Dennis and other MVUT members also provided compelling testimony on the tenants’ behalf.

This is a huge win for rent-stabilized tenants whose feases begin anywhere between 10/1/20 — 9/30/21.   lf you have any questions, please call the MVUT office. While landlords and their “hired guns” complain about how these guidelines are going to ruin them, the real result, along with the fabulous improvements in the state rent laws from 2019, is just to begin to “level the playing field” and limit the incredible imbalance that the landlords have always had. Congratulations to Tamara, Genevieve, the public members of the WRGB and to all Westchester rent-stabilized tenants!

Right to Counsel 

Speaking of the power imbalance that landlords have always wielded over tenants, one (1) of the clearest examples of that is local court proceedings, where virtually every landlord is represented by an attorney, while less than 5% of tenants have legal representation. while in criminal matters, every defendant is entitled to have an attorney, regardless of ability to pay, no such right extends to plaintiffs in civil matters, e.g. landlord/tenant proceedings. For the last few years there has been a growing movement throughout the country for a “Right to counsel” in landlord/tenant cases. A number of jurisdictions throughout the country, e.g. New York City, San Francisco, Newark, New Jersey, etc., have passed local “Right to Counsel” statutes, guaranteeing that tenants have legal representation in local landlord/tenant matters.

MVUT has been working with a number of different organizations (Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Hudson Valley Justice Center, The Bridge Fund, etc.) to have Westchester County adopt such a “Right to counsel” statute. We’ve been strategizing among ourselves, and have recently reached out to leaders of the Westchester Board of Legislators (w-BoL) to make an initial proposal re: the adoption of same.  Westchester Board of Legislators Member Damon Maher is taking the lead on this at this time, and we’ll be meeting with him the week of July 6.  We’re enclosing a two (2) sided sheet that has a list of the seventeen (17) county Legislators on the W-BoL with their contact information and what municipalities they represent, and on the reverse side there’s a Petition in support of Legislation for you and others in your building to sign.  Please try to get the Petition completely filled out and return it to the MVUT office.  Please call with any questions or ideas. This could be a HUGE win for tenants here in Mount Vernon and Westchester, as we continue the struggle to reverse the incredible power imbalance that exists between landlords and tenants!

Census 2020 

We’ve been informing all of our members and friends of the importance of EVERYONE’S filling out the 2020 census.  Mt. Vernon will lose huge amounts of federal dollars over the next ten (10)years if people do not fill out the Census Form.  YOU HAVE NOTHING TO BE AFRAID OF!  All information is confidential. Even if you, or someone you know is undocumented, it does not matter.  The information cannot be shared with other government agencies.   We need everyone counted to guarantee the federal dollars we are entitled to base upon our population (EVERYONE who is living here, whether overcrowded, undocumented, etc.) actually is received by Mt. Vernon.

Mt. Vernon lost tens of millions of dollars in federal funds in 2010 because of a low count. We cannot let that happen again! Make sure you respond to the Census and encourage everyone you know to do likewise!

MVUT witl be working with the County Executive’s Office on special Census Tablets. We currently have them and people can come to our office to complete the nine (9) brief questions and be COUNTED! Call the office for information, and/or to make an appointment. Let others know as well!

Hispanic Outreach 

While MVUT has always provided its services to all tenants in Westchester, the lack of a Spanish-speaking staff person has severely limited our ability to assist Spanish-speaking tenants who are a growing percentage of our population. A new grant from the city is going to permit us to hire a Spanish-speaking organizer/advocate who will assist us in finally being able to provide the full complement of our services to the Spanish-speaking tenants of Mount Vernon and Westchester. We’re very excited about this additional service capability and are looking to begin this during the summer months.  Stay tuned !

$$$ for MVUT

Just as we’ve not written to you in a while, we’ve likewise not asked you for money in a while. This pandemic has really hurt our fundraising efforts and put real strains on our limited budget. As you can see from the above, MVUT is still producing for all tenants. Just think of the savings if you’re a rent-stabilized tenant, and your lease expires between 10/1/2020 – 9/30/21 — two (2) full years with NO increase! Please fill out the attached and mail as large a donation as possible.  Thank you!!

Covid-19

Please be careful and stay safe 
Always wear a mask when you go out.
Honor Social distancing (6 feet)
Wash your hands regularly!

SUPPORT MVUT!!

Yes, I recognize the value of MVUT’s work.  Enclosed please find my contribution of

___$25   ___$50   ____$100  ____$250   ____Other Among

Name:
Address:
Telephone:
Email:

Sincerely,

Dennis Hanratty
Executive Director
Mt. Vernon United Tenants
(914) 699-1114

Early July 2020 News and Update

Petition for Right to Counsel, and Contact Info For Legislators

Leave a Reply