At last night's wild meeting in Cooper Union's Great Hall, the Rent Guidelines Board decided to raise rent stabilized rents 4.5% for one-year leases and 8% for two-year leases. These are the biggest rent hikes in recent years: Last year, rents hikes were approved for 3% on 1-year leases and 5.75% on 2-year leases (in 2006, the hikes were 4.25% and 7.25%). The last time there were higher hikes was in 1989.

The meeting was filled with landlords and building owners fighting for higher increases, citing their higher expenses (especially in this oil crisis), and tenants who believe the working class are being pushed out of the already expensive city. The smart attendees were wearing earplugs--the noise was deafening and board members could not be heard over the high-pitched whistles and shouting (brief video above). The NY Times reports in spite of a ban on noisemakers, some tenants' groups "sneaked about 300 earplugs and 360 plastic whistles past the metal detectors at the Great Hall."

Landlords can also charge a rent increase of $45/month for one-year leases and $85/month for two-year leases for those who have occupied their apartment for six years or more. One woman told the Daily News, "I don't make enough money to pay the increase, and I haven't had a [pay] raise in five years." But a landlord explained to the Post, "It really does justice for small-property owners. With everything that goes up, these increases help absorb some of these costs."

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn admitted to the News that she lives in a rent-stabilized apartment, "I'll be fine, but my building has changed...We will lose the last homes of the middle class in our great city." And here was a typical exchange, as reported by the Sun: "'You guys are leeches,' a landlord shouted as he left the meeting, prompting a tenant to shout in response: 'No. You are.'"