But one day, Contreras, an organizer with Woodside on the Move, said a tenant at Cosmopolitan Houses insisted that they must eliminate the program.
“We’re not going to reform something that doesn’t belong to us,” the tenant told Contreras.
Now, the MCI program may be on the chopping block. Last Wednesday, State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblyman Brian Barnwell, both of whom represent Woodside, introduced legislation that would get rid of the MCI program.
Instead, they would replace it with tax credits to incentivize landlords to make improvements to their buildings.
“Too many tenants are priced out of their homes because of MCIs, whose only improvement seems to be the landlord’s bottom line,” Gianaris said. “All New Yorkers deserve high quality, affordable homes, and our proposal brings us closer to that goal by ensuring repairs are made without burdening tenants with unreasonable costs.”
“It is unacceptable that we maintain a program pushing middle-to-low income New Yorkers out of their homes while allowing landlords to make monstrous profits,” Barnwell added.
MCI is a 1970s-era state program that allows landlords to tack on the costs of capital projects to rent-stabilized tenants’ permanent rent. The hike, which needs approval from the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), must be for a new installation, not to repair old equipment.
But tenants groups like Woodside on the Move have accused landlords of systematically abusing the program to jack up rents. Contreras said the end result is that longtime tenants are displaced because they can no longer afford to live in the building.
“This is not a Queens issue,” he said. “All tenants are having this problem.”
Contreras said the coalition of tenants is now examining the bill deeper. But he believes, if passed, it would be a major victory for tenants across the state.
“We believe that the bill is great,” he said. “It’s a historic bill that will eliminate one of the biggest loopholes in the law.”
To push the bill forward, Woodside on the Move is planning an “Abolish MCI” rally on Saturday, September 8 at Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights.
The purpose of the rally, Contreras said, is to not only make the legislation known, but to see which elected officials or political candidates support this measure.
With the state election approaching on September 13, Contreras acknowledged that they would need a Democratic majority in the State Senate to pass the bill. But for now, he’s still focused on empowering tenants.
The next step of his campaign to eliminate MCIs is forming an even larger coalition with tenants advocacy groups across the city.
“If we have thousands of people screaming about this issue, we’re sure no matter who has the power, they will have to pay attention to us,” Contreras said.