POLITICAL ARENA

Protesters target Klein

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About 30 protesters from a coalition of advocacy groups called the Alliance for Tenant Power descended on state Sen. Jeff Klein’s district office on May 29 to criticize his support of the 421-a plan and his stance on rent regulations as they come up for renewal this month.

Volunteers with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition and other groups attempted to deliver a letter to Mr. Klein’s staff, but security prevented them from gaining access to the senator’s office at the sprawling Hutchinson Metro Center complex in the East Bronx.

Joanna Paulino of the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board read out the letter in a Hutchinson Center lobby before the group went outside to chant. The letter said in part, “Your silence on the state of the rent laws, despite the urgency for increased housing protections in your district, is deeply troubling… Struggling tenants across the Bronx have been ignored for far too long as Albany has consistently sided with millionaire developers from Manhattan. It is time you sided with the people who elected you.”

The group was particularly critical of Mr. Klein’s support of the 421-a plan, which gives developers tax breaks in exchange for building affordable housing. Mr. Klein recently said he supports Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposals for changes to 421-a, such as requiring a larger number of affordable housing units to be built by developers who want to receive the tax breaks.

In an interview the same day as the protest, Mr. Klein, whose district includes Riverdale, said he supports many of the other things the advocates called for, like an end to deregulating apartments that become vacant. He blamed the protest on a personal vendetta from organizer Mike McKee.  Mr. McKee leads another tenant group, the Rent Reform Campaign, that often works with the Alliance for Tenant Power, but he was not at last week’s demonstration.

“I’ve been having meetings with my Assembly colleagues who have come to me for help and want me to try to figure out a way we can get something more for regulations,” Mr. Klein said, “so for them to do this is stupid.”

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