Sarah Gonzalez, Reporter, WNYC/NJPR
Sarah Gonzalez is the northern New Jersey enterprise reporter for WNYC and NJPR.
Despite lobbying efforts by tenant advocates and Mayor Bill de Blasio, a proposed rent freeze on rent-regulated apartments failed Monday night. By a 5-4 vote, the Rent Guidelines Board approved a one percent rent increase on one-year leases and a 2.75 percent increase on two-year leases. Board member Steven Flax, a de Blasio appointee, said he had to vote his conscience. “I have to say this moment is a nightmare,” he said before apologizing for voting in favor of the rent increase. Flax said it's costly money to run a building and that landlords need help. Paula James, a tenant of a rent-stabilized apartment, was in tears. “We are feeling all the hardships," she said. "Not the landlords." Board members who supported a rent freeze said landlords have been allowed to raise rent more than they've needed to. Mayor de Blasio said a freeze would have rectified "the mistakes of the past." Marty Goodman, a retired transit worker on a fixed income, said the board missed an opportunity to make history with a first-ever rent freeze. “I'm in a rent-regulated apartment, but my rent is going up much more than my pension and social security is going up,” he said. This hike is lower than previous years. Last year the board approved a four-percent hike. And tenant Vivian Burns says residents are more motivated than ever now. “This is not yet the end of our fight.”