Why No Tenant Should Vote for Anthony Weiner

Why No Tenant Should Vote for Anthony Weiner

May 2013

Political junkies considered Rep. Anthony Weiner the front-runnser to replace Michael Bloomberg as New York City mayor this year—until June 2011, when he was forced to resign his seat.

The resignation came after Weiner admitted that he had used his Twitter account to send lewd photographs of himself in various states of undress and arousal to women he did not know. Since then, he has apparently patched up his relationship with his wife, moved from Forest Hills to a luxury apartment on Park Avenue South, and dropped out of public sight while raking in big bucks as a business consultant.

Weiner is currently trying to engineer a rehabilitation of his reputation, and is widely expected to make a late entrance into the mayoral race. In a recent poll he placed second to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, whose poll numbers have dropped recently, and ahead of the other Democratic candidates, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, 2009 nominee Bill Thompson, and Comptroller John Liu. (Democrats Sal Albanese and Erick Salgado were not included in this poll.) Plus Weiner is sitting on a $4.3 million campaign treasury amassed before he resigned from Congress, which would allow him to enter the contest at this late date without having to spend all his time fundraising.

Some political types believe that Weiner cannot overcome the sexting scandal, and that his relatively high poll numbers (15 percent to 28 percent for Quinn) are based on high name recognition. Others believe that he could win the Democratic primary on Sept. 10, a runoff two weeks later if no candidate gets 40 percent of the primary vote, and the general election in November.

Weiner’s reputation as a scrappy, brash liberal has attracted some tenants who are not excited by any of the other Democratic candidates. But Anthony Weiner has a deplorable anti-tenant record. No voter who rents should ever consider voting for him—for mayor or for any other office.


Vacancy Deregulation

People assume that the Republicans in the State Senate are responsible for the weakening of the state’s rent regulations. The most damaging change let landlords remove apartments from rent control or rent stabilization when they became vacant, if they could be rented for more than $2,000 (now $2,500). 

The Republicans are indeed guilty of destroying effective rent regulation—but it was the Democrats in the City Council who first enacted permanent vacancy deregulation 19 years ago. Anthony Weiner, then a Councilmember, voted for deregulation, after promising tenant advocates that he would vote no.

In 1993, the Senate Republicans forced through a limited form of vacancy deregulation as the political price for renewing the state’s rent laws. Apartments that had reached a legal rent of $2,000 per month by October 1, 1993, were subject to vacancy deregulation and high-income deregulation. This limited deregulation to only a few apartments.

When the New York City rent-control and rent-stabilization laws came up for renewal in early 1994, Council Speaker Peter Vallone was planning to run for mayor and was soliciting support from the real-estate industry. In late January 1994, tenants learned that Vallone had decided to push through amendments to the rent renewal bills to make these two forms of deregulation permanent, applicable to any apartment that reached a legal monthly rent of $2,000 on or after that April 1.

There was a good deal of opposition. Prodded by tenants, well more than a majority of Councilmembers pledged to vote against any form of decontrol. Anthony Weiner was one of those who promised to stand with tenants.

The renewal bills were expected to be brought out for a vote at the regular “stated” meeting on March 16, but Vallone lacked the 26 votes needed to pass his deregulation amendments. So no vote was taken.

The Speaker then called a highly unusual Council meeting for the following Monday, March 21. He spent the next few days twisting arms and buying support. Presto! When the Council convened for that meeting, Vallone had two more votes than he needed, and permanent vacancy deregulation passed by 28-18.

Anthony Weiner voted for the decontrol bill. He justified his vote on the grounds that it would be “good for tenants” because it would stop the real-estate attacks on rent regulation. What?

Later Weiner changed his story, claiming that he was proud to vote for the bill because “rich people do not belong in rent-regulated apartments.” Weiner is not stupid, and he was certainly aware of the hypocrisy of this statement, as vacancy deregulation has nothing to do with any tenant’s income, but only with the fact that the apartment turns over.


Gutting Code Enforcement

In 1996, Weiner introduced a bill drafted by real-estate lobbyists that would have gutted our already-weak code enforcement system.

The lobbyists claimed that there was a large backlog of code violations that owners had corrected that were still on the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s records, because the agency had not cleared them on a timely basis. Weiner introduced a bill that would wipe violations off the books if a landlord filed a certification with HPD that the violation had been corrected, and the agency did not send an inspector to disprove that in time. 

The bill was an invitation to widespread landlord fraud. There was no way that HPD, after suffering years of cuts to its code-enforcement program, could have inspected all those apartments in time to meet its ridiculously short deadline. Tenants raised such a ruckus that the bill never made it out of committee. 

In 1998, when Rep. Chuck Schumer gave up his House seat to run for the Senate against Republican Alfonse D’Amato, there was a four-way Democratic primary to replace him. Weiner, a Schumer protégé, was armed with a ton of landlord money, and won. As the Brooklyn-Queens district was heavily Democratic, he had an easy time holding the seat.

So, tenant voters, when you read the tabloids’ descriptions of Anthony Weiner as a liberal, remember his sellout to the real-estate industry.