Friday, July 18, 2008


In case you missed it, yesterday's New York Times told us what happens to rent-stabilized residents of Harlem's Lenox Terrace who aren't named Charlie Rangel. Rangel does seem to be oblivious to the fact that his landlords are scum:

...One longtime tenant, Edward Torrence, began feeling pressure from the landlord several years ago when, at age 90, failing eyesight left him unable to write his monthly rent check, so his daughter began doing it for him, drawing on a joint account they shared.

In 2004, Lenox Terrace began refusing to accept the $371 monthly check for his one-bedroom apartment, according to company documents, because his daughter's name was on the check but not on the lease for the apartment. After several months, Lenox Terrace said it was going to evict Mr. Torrence for nonpayment, even though his daughter continued to send the rent.

Mr. Torrence died in January 2006 and his relatives moved his belongings out of the apartment and turned in the key when his lease expired that April.

So they were startled 15 months later, when they received a bill from a collection agency Olnick had hired, demanding more than $19,000. That money was in part to cover rent for the months when Lenox Terrace refused to accept the checks written by the daughter. But even more surprising, Lenox Terrace demanded the family pay the legal fees the development said it incurred while evicting Mr. Torrence in the spring and fall of 2006 -- after he had died.

"First they try to drive him out, when he's old and trying to live out his life with a little dignity, then they tried to evict a dead person," said his granddaughter, Robbin Moore....

There isn't a circle in hell low enough for these people.

Yes, I know that the solution a lot of people would recommend -- not only right-wingers and libertarians but also Atrios -- would be phasing out rent control and rent stabilization altogether. (Just build higher, Atrios would say, even though that's exactly what's going on in my once-semi-affordable neighborhood, and it's not helping.) And yes, I suppose that the massive wave of evictions would at least end the problem in a hurry, if only by driving a hell of a lot of people out of the city (or, in many cases, onto the streets). There just isn't any way to alleviate the scarcity of housing convenient to jobs in New York City, where the work is all clustered in a few spots on one narrow island and transportation is never truly efficient once you get far enough away from the office buildings. The supply of housing simply can't meet demand at a reasonable price when that supply is constricted by geography the way it is here. Overturning the rent laws would send much of the non-elite work force packing -- you know, the people who actually do the things the capitalist Lords of the Universe dream up. Maybe Atrios or John Stossel (my neighbor, apparently) can explain to me why that would be a good thing for the city.

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