Tenants furious over proposed gas surcharge

May 4, 2011 3:16:28 PM PDT
The annual battle over rent hikes for nearly a million New York City rent stabilized apartments is turning even uglier.

The Rent Guidelines Board has already given preliminary approval to an increase of between 3% and nearly 6% for a one year leases, and between 6.5% and 9% on two year leases.

For the first time, the board is considering approving an additional fuel surcharge.

As you can imagine, tenants can hardly control their anger.

"I think that's a huge problem," said one renter.

The proposed fuel surcharge is not going over well with some New Yorkers.

The people Eyewitness News spoke with Wednesday blasted the idea as another way tenants are being squeezed out of their homes.

"I think it's just another way to get rid of the middle class in New York City," said another resident.

The idea was voted on Tuesday night at the Rent Guidelines Board meeting.

It was another raucous affair that included arrests as the board announced rent hikes plus a fuel surcharge for buildings that are heated with oil, the price of which keeps on rising.

"I think that it's another example of the invisible hand in people's pockets," said Kenny Schaeffer.

Kenny Schaeffer is an attorney with the Legal Aid Society.

"The purpose of the Rent Guidelines Board is to protect tenants not to guarantee landlord wallets are stuffed," Schaeffer said.

The group that represents landlords and owners admits that the surcharge will help landlords.

They actually want the proposal broadened to include buildings heated through steam, electricity or natural gas, claiming those costs are rising too.

But, if the surcharge is finally approved, Joe Strasburg the president of the Rent Stabilization Association says it could lead to calculation errors.

"It could lead to confusion, not only to the owner but to the tenant. Now, you have to notify them that there is a dollar amount attached to your rent that is temporary," Strasburg said.

The fuel surcharge is only supposed to be temporary.

The Rent Guidelines Board will take a final vote on June 27th.