Tuesday, July 08, 2008


UP FRONT News March 19, 2007
Published by Tom Weiss
Editorial Advisor: Willard Whittingham
“The paper that can’t be bought and can’t be sold.” http://www.tomsupfrontnews.blogspot.com/

It is axiomatic that in any kind of war, economic, political, or military, infiltration is a key part of any strategy. And, when it comes to infiltration in the real estate developer/landord vs. tenants wars, the landlords have for decades been well served by the duplicitous tenants rights “advocate” and “spokesperson” Mike McKee. McKee created the New York State Tenants & Neighbors Coalition years ago to split a NYC tenant movement led, at the time, by the New York Metropolitan Council on Housing. The central issue was, and remains, major: making rent increases contingent upon landlords’ “opening their books.”

Late in the last millennium, the New York State Legislature, with McKee’s help, repeat-
edly arranged for the death of the oft-introduced Flynn-Dearie Rent Protection Act. The bill would have, aside from other provisions, required any landlord of a residential multiple dwelling to prove the need for any rent increase by submitting his or her books for auditing by New York State. The landlord lobby, protecting a constituency in which books are regularly cooked in order to create the illusion of owner indigence, view such a law as Communism. And McKee supported them by promoting the landlord argument that auditing would be “too cumbersome.” Tell that to the IRS.

The Flynn Dearie Rent Protection Act was introduced repeatedly by State Senator John Flynn, (R-Yonkers) and Assemblyman John Dearie (D.-Bronx). The fact that it was sponsored by a veteran Republican meant that, unlike much other “progressive” legisla- tion, which dies in the Senate, Flynn-Dearie could have passed. Mike McKee made certain that Flynn-Dearie would die many legislative deaths. Tenants have therefore been left with a loophole-riddled “rent stabilization” system, which features the Rent Guidelines Board hearings circus at which the tenants correctly accuse the rent increase-demanding landlords of lying about their finances but unable to prove it. Rent-flation, gentrification, displacement and homelessness have been the inevitable results. Mike McKee is one of those most responsible for the displacement of residential loft tenants over the years that has paved the way for the tsunami of gentrification that has luxurized neighborhoods such as Soho, Noho, Tribeca, DUMBO, and Long Island City. Spouting militant anti-landlord rhetoric, while refusing to talk to Republicans, McKee and his pal Chuck Delaney, the dictatorial self-appointed leader of the loft tenants, managed to so delay and weaken a loft tenant protection bill that many lost their homes while rent gouging and “stabilization” in the lofts went hand in hand. Indeed, Delaney worked quite closely with the politically formidable Thomas Berger, the founder and president of the loftlord lobby known as the Association of Commercial Property Owners (ACPO), a buddy of Ed Koch, and my avaricious, crime-connected landlord at the time.

Reliable rumor has it that Mike McKee’s political associations include the right wing think tank known as the Manhattan Institute. On those occasions when I’ve raised the question with him he has looked way and responded with silence.

Mike McKee, who at the very least uses the divisive, autocratic, and sometimes cri-
minal tactics blended with populist rhetoric characteristic of Lyndon LaRouche activists,
is recurrently derided as “pushy”, "obnoxious”, etc. by other tenant activists. In fact, Mike McKee is more dangerous than that. He has sometimes been the fourth person present with the “three men in a room” (Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, and whomever happens to be governor) deciding legislation when others have been shut out. The fact that he has been warmly complimented by the developer-friendly and autocratic City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is in itself ominous.

McKee does not belong in any true tenants’ rights movement. He is better off at the Manhattan Institute.
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