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NEW YORK CITY-A New York State Supreme Court judge has struck down Local Law 79, a bill that put building-ownership restrictions on the Mitchell Lama program in order to protect tenants, in a ruling signed April 11, but just made public. Former city council speaker Gifford Miller helped pass it into law in August 2005, which became effective that November. The bill was originally vetoed by the mayor, although his decision was ultimately overruled.

Local Law 79 allowed those who live in pre-1974 Mitchell Lama housing projects to either have right of first refusal to purchase the property or to maintain their units for six months or until the lease expires. The hope was to protect those tenants who could see a rise in rents should a low- or middle-income housing project leave the Mitchell Lama program and rents suddenly rise as a result.

The case was brought to court by the Real Estate Board of New York, which was backed by the mayor’s office. The city council has the option to appeal the vote but it is unclear at this point if it will do so. In the court’s ruling the judge says speaker Miller encouraged the law to be passed with the knowledge that he was soon running for mayor and such a decision could give him many needed votes.

The ruling states, “[It is] ordered that plaintiff’s [REBNY] motion for a permanent injunction is granted and defendants City Council of the City of New York, the City of New York and New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development are hereby enjoined from enforcing Local Law 79.”

This decision to block restrictions of the Mitchell Lama program came down at almost the exact date in which government officials began pushing for bill A795 to pass through the State Assembly quickly. Should the bill be approved it will put all of Starrett City‘s rent-stabilized units under the Mitchell Lama program effective immediately. Sen. Charles Schumer, New York Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Housing Committee chairman Vito Lopez are all pushing for the bill to be passed and hope it will stonewall Clipper Equity’s $1.3-billion purchase of the low- and middle-income housing project.

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