But even by these standards, Wednesday's meeting was a surreal scene. It was held virtually for the second year in a row, in which the two tenant representatives on the board of directors took part in a rally that was also attended by tenants and apartment groups. Immediately after the vote, chants at the rally drowned out the voice of David Reiss, the chairman of the board; then the representatives' microphones appeared to be muted.
A slim majority of New York City renters pay market-based rents, which remain among the highest in the United States, even after rents for these units fell to a 10-year low during the pandemic.
Esteban Giron, who lives in Crown Heights with his husband, said they used to pay about 30 percent of their monthly income for rent. Now it's closer to 75 percent after his husband lost his job during the pandemic.
"It's going to be a long climb for families like mine," Giron, a tenant attorney, said last week at a public hearing before members of the Rental Policy Committee. "The board should stop believing that this is in some way an even fight here."
The vote took place during a significant time for tenants not just in New York City but across the country. On Wednesday, the federal government signaled that it would extend the moratorium on evictions imposed during the pandemic, which should expire this month. They would now expire in July, while a moratorium imposed by New York State ends in August.
While most evictions are on hold, landlords can still file evictions in the New York Housing Court. Since the pandemic began, they have filed more than 57,000 cases, according to Princeton University's Eviction Lab. But these cases, which cannot continue until the moratorium is lifted, could take many months, if not years, to be heard by a judge.
This month, New York State also began accepting tenant applications for $ 2.7 billion in rental relief, largely funded by the federal government. Tenants can receive up to a year in overdue rent and a year in arrears. According to the state's Temporary and Disability Assistance Office overseeing the aid program, around 110,000 completed applications have been submitted from across the state to date.