Tenant-Landlord Council Requests Change

Following a roundtable discussion in the beginning of March, the Village of New Paltz Tenant Landlord Relations Council (TLRC) officially sent a request to the mayor and Village Board of Trustees to allow participation on the council from non-village residents.

If the amendment were made, landlords or tenants living a maximum of 1.5 miles outside village boundaries could be approved as members of the TLRC, which Tenant Representative Ira Margolis said is currently three seats short of the seven it needs.

“The problem is, when we have a group like ours, we can’t function under staff,” Margolis said. “We can’t do things unless there’s a majority vote, and the way it stands right now, there are only four of us. Unless all four agree, discussions go nowhere.”

Established in 2006, Margolis said the TLRC seeks to foster and improve relationships between landlords and tenants by making recommendations to Village Board of Trustee members. But with one tenant seat and two landlord seats vacant, it has become increasingly difficult to operate.

Currently sitting on the council are tenants Margolis and Amanda Sisenstein, as well as landlord Adele Ruger and impartial chair Richard Kleiger. Besides being a village resident, Margolis said members must either be landlords or tenants and approved by trustee members.

Margolis said community members residing outside of the village have been rejected in the past and if something isn’t changed soon, the TLRC could no longer exist.

“It’s not like we’re a committee,” he said. “We’re a council, so we have a whole different set of operating instructions. If they don’t want us to function, they should just simply disband us.”

While TLRC members have said there aren’t enough landlords in the required vicinity available to join, Mayor Terry Dungan said he knows eight landlords right outside his own home in the village.

Dungan said he believes a major reason these landlords are being overlooked is because they are smallholders.

“They have a duplex or they’re renting out two bedrooms in their own house,” Dungan said. “The landlords who are pushing for an amendment to allow out-of-village residents are members of a group called the New Paltz Property Association. They don’t consider that you’re a landlord unless, like them, you own multiple properties in the village.”

According to Dungan, members of the TLRC have been trying for the last four years to fill empty seats. However, they aren’t the only group in the village suffering from a lack of participation. He said there have been vacancies in the Planning Board, the Zoning Board, as well as groups outside of government like the village’s softball and soccer leagues.

The cause of this lack in volunteerism, he said, could be attributed to the way housing is structured within the village.

“When your housing becomes largely or mostly non-owner occupied, it greatly diminishes citizen participation in government,” he said. “It also has a lot to do with the way the economy is. People have two or three jobs, and by the time they get home, they just want to spend some time with their families. In that sense, it’s a nationwide problem.”

Dungan said the proposal to allow non-village residents to participate within TLRC has been requested two previous times, both of which were denied by village board members.

Margolis said he hopes the proposal will be discussed again during the village board’s first meeting in April.