Joseph Strasburg, Landlords’ Super in Albany

In the long run, just demographically, the state’s shifted Democrat.

I think the Republican Party, in my mind, needs to get rid of some of the social debates. … It shouldn’t be social fighting. It should be, ‘Where are your philosophies on taxes and spending?’

 

Going forward, if the Democrats in the long run control Albany, do landlords have political power beyond writing checks?

If they want to have a greater role in establishing policy on a statewide basis, they need to do more than write a check. … The reality is, you really need to fine-tune another party on those issues that matter, and if that’s the Independence line, or if that’s the creation of a taxpayer party, I think that’s the direction that they should consider. It’s not an easy thing to set up. It takes a while.

 

How much money would that cost?

Several million dollars, over a period of time. But to me, if you do a cost-benefit analysis, if you’re going to get whacked and whacked, then this industry especially—if a lot of legislation gets enacted, you’re going to have a direct impact on the city of New York. … [In response to unfavorable legislation], owners can’t put their buildings on their back and move out. That they can’t do. Any other business, you say, ‘I’m out of here.”

What do you think would happen if we got rid of all the rent-stabilization rules and everything went free market?

We’ve always advocated a slow turnover. Unlike others who say you’ve got to get rid of it overnight, the answer is, you cannot create that level of chaos in this city. You do it through a normal process of when someone dies or they leave. … There are those who believe you have the right to live anywhere you want. By that, I mean the best schools, the best restaurants, whatever. Well, that’s a wonderful concept, but you know what? In every city, there’s going to be the rich coast, the middle class, and there’s always going to be the poorer areas.

 

Wouldn’t it be dangerous for the city to have all the rich concentrated in the city center and then slowly spread out the poor far away?

First, there are not enough rich people in this world that can occupy every apartment in the city of New York. Number two, I do understand the argument made by others that we used to have neighborhoods; we used to have people who were able to live in Manhattan who drove a truck. … But there is a natural evolution of a neighborhood. Little Italy—how many Italians really live in Little Italy? They own the stores, they own the restaurants. Astoria—Greeks?

 

But those neighborhoods changed gradually. Do you think in peak times, when prices are soaring, do people have the right to a stable rent over time, or should they be subject to move every few years if they can’t afford rising rents?

If you were talking about four years ago, five years ago, and you asked me that question, I probably would have said to you, in all honesty, that as long as we’re in a capitalist society, you have a right to charge, and people have a right to say no or yes. Would that have an impact on certain communities? Yeah. Something that would have happened anyway would get accelerated. … But since the bubble burst, we’re going to find ourselves where things have gotten a lot calmer. 

ebrown@observer.com

Joseph Strasburg, Landlords’ Super in Albany