Why we need term limits...desperately (all emphasis mine):
While aggressive evictions are making rent-stabilized apartments increasingly scarce in New York, Representative Charles B. Rangel is enjoying four of them, including three adjacent apartments in a sprawling penthouse overlooking Upper Manhattan, courtesy of one of New York’s premier real estate developers.
Mr. Rangel, the powerful Democrat who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, uses his fourth apartment, six floors below, as a campaign office, despite state and city regulations that require rent-stabilized apartments to be used as a primary residence.
Mr. Rangel, who has a net worth of $566,000 to $1.2 million, according to Congressional disclosure records, paid a total rent of $3,894 monthly in 2007 for the four apartments at Lenox Terrace, a 1,700-unit, six-tower luxury development with doormen that is described in real estate publications as Harlem’s most prestigious address.
The current market-rate rent for similar apartments in the building would total $7,465 to $8,125 a month, according to the Web site of the owner, the Olnick Organization.
The Olnick Organization and other real estate firms have been accused of overzealous tactics as they move to evict tenants from their rent-stabilized apartments and convert them into market-rate housing.
I was never a big fan of term limits. I always figured we already had it only we called it "elections". When our representatives got out of line we could just boot them and still be able to keep the ones who were doing a good job for us. But it just doesn't seem to work that way. The voters in Charles Rangel's district just continue to vote for him in huge numbers:
Mr. Rangel, who was first elected to Congress in 1970 and is one of the city’s most recognizable elected officials, has written and spoken extensively about his devotion to his home in Harlem, but does not appear to have ever publicly acknowledged that he has been permitted to lease four rent-stabilized apartments there. According to a public records database and interviews with neighbors, he has lived in the building since the early 1970s, but it is not clear when he amassed the four units.
A sharp political tactician and a prodigious fund-raiser, Mr. Rangel is frequently re-elected with more than 80 percent of the vote...
Rangel is not alone in using his position to gain favor:
Mr. Rangel is not the only prominent resident with a rent-stabilized apartment at Lenox Terrace. Gov. David A. Paterson told The New York Sun in May that he pays $1,250 for a rent-stabilized two-bedroom apartment in the complex that rents for $2,600 or more at market rates. Basil A. Paterson, the governor’s father, pays $868 per month for his apartment there, in the same building as Mr. Rangel’s apartments, according to state records.
Percy E. Sutton, the former Manhattan borough president and a longtime ally and friend of Mr. Rangel’s, also lives at Lenox Terrace, though records about his rent were not available.
Under state and city rent regulations, tenants can continue renewing the lease in their rent-stabilized apartments for as long as they use it as a primary residence, and landlords can increase rent only by an annual percentage set by a city board.
The key here being "primary residence":
A spokesman for the governor said that Mr. Paterson, who owns a home in an Albany suburb and recently moved into the executive mansion, considered Lenox Terrace his primary residence. A secretary to the elder Mr. Paterson, who owns a home on Long Island, said he could not be immediately reached.
Must be nice to be so well-connected. Somehow I doubt Rangel and company will be giving up their taxpayer enabled gravy train any time soon. I also doubt he's in any danger of getting voted out of office. Wash, rinse, repeat.
No one has a problem with Rangel occupying one rent-controlled apartment, although one has to wonder why Rangel should have priority for affordable housing over others who really need it. The subsequent leases look a lot like gifts, and their value goes into the thousands every month, far exceeding the one-time $100 value limit for House members. Using one of the leases for a campaign office looks even more problematic. That can easily be seen as an in-kind campaign contribution by Olnick worth tens of thousands of dollars over the last few years.
The FEC should investigate this arrangement for Rangel, and so should the state and city of New York. The House Ethics Committee also has a responsibility here, but no one expects them to act. Nancy Pelosi only talked about ethics long enough to get a majority, and she’s certainly not going to allow another member of the Congressional Black Caucus to get investigated, not after they closed ranks so effectively around William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson.
I will be very surprised if anything comes of this, although it is a clear violation of state and city regulations, not to mention FEC rules. But hey, New York, keep voting for Rangel He is addicted to the perks and no way he would get such a sweet deal if he weren't a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Let's just call it Congressional Welfare.
Rangel responds. “The question of fairness is so subjective.” The bright spot is that Rangel was challenged by "angry" residents:
...At one point angry residents accosted the congressman, the dean of Harlem politics, in an unusual sidewalk confrontation, as Mr. Rangel faced questions from reporters.
Earlier, residents interviewed about Mr. Rangel’s living situation had expressed anger.
“I’m a registered nurse, I live in this community, I take care of this community, and I can’t get a deal like that,” said Evelyn Harvey, who mentioned that she once lived in a $700-a-month rent-stabilized apartment in Lenox Terrace but now lives in a $1,300-a-month market-rate unit in the same complex. “When you have money and you have status, the rules are different.”
Another Harlem resident, James Bryant, said: “If he had four, he has to let three go. Think about the homeless people who are out here. Other people need a place to live too.”
Rangel was asked whether the publicity would hurt his chances for reelection. He did not seem too concerned:
When a reporter asked Mr. Rangel whether he thought the publicity about his four rent-stabilized apartments would harm his chances for reelection or put any pressure on him to resign, he responded, his voice thick with sarcasm, “Yeah, I’ll have to give that some serious thought. Yes, I may give up the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee and give up the seat I’ve had for 38 years and say, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, how could this happen to me?’”
He added: “If anyone can show any remote possibility that this could be considered as a gift, I’ll quit tomorrow. If not, they should owe me an apology.”
Remote possibility? I do believe someone could show that. You know what they say...Ignorance of the law is no excuse:
...“I didn’t see anything unfair about it,” he said. “I didn’t even know it was a deal.”
(Yeah, right). Well now you know, Mr. Rangel. What are you going to do about it?