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City of Albany’s “good cause” eviction measure is rejected as advocates look to legislature

Albany’s “good cause” eviction measure is rejected as advocates look to legislature. They held a virtual press conference Thursday.
Albany’s citywide “good cause” eviction measure is rejected as advocates look to legislature. They held a virtual press conference Thursday.

The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court has upheld the dismissal of the city of Albany's "good cause" eviction law.

Albany’s "good cause" eviction law was approved during the pandemic, a time of uncertainty for renters. Under the statute, each tenant in the city would be entitled to a renewal lease and protection against annual rent increases of more than 5%. On the grounds that it conflicted with existing state laws, Judge Christina Ryba overturned Albany's law in June 2022. The city appealed her ruling, and a mid-level court ruled to allow the law to remain in place during the appeals process. Now the court has ruled that only the state can pass "good cause."

Advocates called a virtual press conference Thursday.

"So really, what this ruling does is accentuates the urgency and need for the state to do their job," said Canyon Ryan, executive director of United Tenants of Albany.

Anna Leak rents an apartment in the city of Albany. She says tenants are frightened as they now face an uncertain future.

“This is very emotional for me as I speak for myself, and for the elderly tenants, and for the retired tenants that are living here, and what they are facing, a demand letter, they have to come up with a large amounts of money to move out," Leak said. "And they're unfortunately unable to. Because most building management places they want three times the rent, you have to pay for application fees. So unfortunately, they're stuck in this situation.”

It is not uncommon for Albany landlords to ask for a deposit plus the first month's rent in advance when renting to new tenants, who may also be subject to a credit check.

“We passed a bill that I truly feel was fair, that listened to many of the landlords' concerns, that heard many of the tenants concerns, and addressed them fairly," said 11th Ward Common Councilor Alfredo Balarin, who is also a landlord. "So today's ruling is very disappointing. It's disappointing, because I know how vulnerable now this leaves our neighbors."

Bleecker Terrace Tenants Association Secretary Laurie Buitrago is an Albany tenant at Capitol Crossings.

"We have 35 tenants currently that live at Capitol Crossings that have been there 20 plus years, myself included," said Buitrago. "And we are now being forced out of our homes based on these rent hikes. This is a form of gentrification. I have said this before, and I will say it again that I have never witnessed in my life, and we depended on this tenant protection. We depended on it so much that we put our faces on the forefront of it, only for the city to say it's not their problem. It is unfortunate, it is inconsiderate, and a lot of people are going to end up in shelter and homeless and this is going to cost the city that much more money.”

State Assembly Housing Chair Linda Rosenthal, a Democrat, represents New York City's Upper West Side and parts of Manhattan. She says her landlord tried to evict her two years ago. She took a poke at Governor Kathy Hochul’s housing initiative.

“We see the governor said we need 800,000 new units," said Rosenthal. "Well, you know, what, if you maintain people in current units, that's more effective than building, into the future. We have people now who need help. And that's why the legislature is going to help you. And we will push this through.”

Fellow New York City Democrat Brian Kavanagh is chair of the Senate Housing Committee.

"I am more committed than ever to making sure that we enact good cause protections throughout the state," said Kavanagh.

A spokesperson for Democratic Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan responded to a request for comment via email, saying: “We are very disappointed by the Appellate Division’s decision. We just received a copy of the decision and are reviewing our options.”

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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