In a somewhat surprising turn of events, the amended "good cause" eviction law was defeated tonight. The vote was five to five, with one abstention, but a majority was needed for the law to pass, and there was none.
It will be remembered that the Council voted to enact the law in September. At that meeting, all but one of the aldermen present (Eileen Halloran and Jane Trombley were absent) and Council president Tom DePietro voted in favor of the legislation. Shershah Mizan abstained. The day before Mayor Kamal Johnson was to sign the legislation into law, Rebecca Wolff announced at a Legal Committee meeting that she wanted to amend the law to eliminate transfer of ownership as a "good cause" for evicting tenants. It was determined that the best way to amend the law was to have the mayor veto it and send it back to the Council. And that's what happened. The law was amended and once again placed on the aldermen's desks in November.
In the discussion that preceded the vote tonight, John Rosenthal, who supported the law in September, said he was troubled by the route the new version had taken. He noted that the City of Albany was being sued over its "good cause" eviction law and predicted that Hudson would be next. He went on to say, "This bill goes in the direction of defining all landlords as bad and all tenants as good." He called it a disincentive for improving buildings and concluded that the bill would work against the interests of tenants.
Ryan Wallace agreed with what Rosenthal said and added, "Removing transfer of ownership was a mistake."
Rebecca Wolff argued that the law did promote improvement of property because "that's a way a landlord can raise the rent." She defended the amendment she had insisted on, saying that its omission in Albany had been a concession to landlords and omitting it rendered the law meaningless in Hudson because transfer of ownership had been the cause of so many evictions here.
Tiffany Garriga declared, "Tenants are depending on us," and stated, "Landlords are upset because they won't have 100 percent control to raise rent for whatever reason."
In the end, Garriga, Dewan Sarowar, Malachi Walker, Wolff. and DePietro voted in support of the law; Halloran, Dominic Merante, Rosenthal, Trombley, and Wallace voted against it. Mizan again abstained. After the vote, Wallace suggested that the Council could revisit the legislation "once we see how Albany makes out with the lawsuit."
When the meeting was opened to public comment, Quintin Cross called it a "cowardly act" to vote on the law after the election. He accused Wallace of lacking integrity for being "worried about a lawsuit instead of people at the margins." Cross warned, "We will hold you accountable."
Rebecca Garrard, of Citizen Action, declared herself "deeply, deeply disappointed by people who had claimed to support [the legislation] but withdrew their support because of a lawsuit." She too called it a "cowardly act" and a "shameful, shameful night."
DePietro said he personally was disappointed in the vote but promised "to work to get something done in January." In January, three of the aldermen who voted nay will be off the Council, as will two of the aldermen who voted yea and the one who abstained.
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