My Landlord Has Raised My Rent 18% In Two Years - Just Because He Can. Here's My Letter To Him.

I've been in a bit of a funk lately, not the least of which is due to this grotesque rapaciousness. Family ties and obligations are also bogging me down. My father has completely fallen victim to the predatory Fox News RW propaganda machine and my life is completely consumed by two scampering babies demanding attention in many different ways during the 60 hours a week I have them by myself.

The "news" continues to depress and confound, while I despair at the laughable things that people chose to consume themselves with, as the masses are distracted all day from the Big Truths lying dormant until they can creep back in during the quiet solitariness of night when even the smallest connection to the cosmos can make itself felt. Staying offline is refreshing sometimes. Besides the stacks of books I always have lying around the house I couldn't resist picking up at the local library the new Michael Pollan book about psychedelics, and bios of Howard Zinn and David Foster Wallace. That'll keep me busy and settled down away from my father's insane Tweets and the cheesy and demented media circus.

So I decided to lay it on the line to this guy. It's obviously edited to remove some of the more personal information. Emailed it over 24 hours ago, along with printed version sent through the mail. No answer yet. The new lease with the extravagant increase, of which we haven't signed, is due to start Feb 1st.

...We have two kids now. You might remember those days a couple of decades ago? It’s extremely tough going in the beginning (I keep hearing it gets better…). There’s not time for anything, other than the task right in front of you at that moment. So I haven’t had time to collect and compose my thoughts to you on this.

Daycare costs on the average in Astoria are around $1300 a month! Try to wrap your head around that. Even the price of just having the babies, with my partner’s really good healthcare plan, somehow managed to cost us several thousand of dollars out of pocket, both times (so much for insurance companies).

This area...has been devastated with mom and pop stores being blown out, in favor of corporate chains that can pay the exorbitant rent hikes, while so many storefronts still remain vacant. The turnover of new upscale restaurants can’t conceal any of this.

And it’s not only Astoria either. My main weekly performing gig on the Lower East Side ended a few months ago after 13.5 years. Why? Because businesses are being gouged by high rents. How many other venues couldn’t afford the rent and closed up shop (BB Kings, Roseland, CBGB’s, The Continental, etc)? Look up and down 5th Ave, or the Upper East Side, Midtown, etc. It’s vacancy after vacancy. Eventually everything in the world will be owned by a few banks and a handful of multinational corporate conglomerates.

When too many renters are now paying upwards of HALF of their income to landlords –it’s an f-ing crisis!

What do these rent hikes mean personally to people like myself in our everyday lives? It means forgoing medication and doctor’s visits, eating cheaper and worse food, going into more debt, not taking vacation, not visiting friends, worried about retirement, not going out for entertainment, etc.

This out-of-control situation is forcing tenants all over the city to have to seek extra roommates, while some friends I know have had to convert bedrooms into Air B&B hotel rooms – just to cover the exorbitant rent increases.

The increase you want to $2200 a month amounts to 50% of what our rent was when we moved in 15 years ago. That is a very big cumulative increase. I don’t know of anybody who has had their salaries increased by 50% in the last decade.

We like it here very much. Our children are very fond of the children of a young mother who lives a few doors down from us. She has practically the same 2 bedroom apartment. She’s paying a reasonable $1700 a month.

And now after all this time you want an arbitrary 18% increase over two years…18%!

How do I petition you without it sounding like I’m not just some disgruntled tenant, who in your eyes just doesn’t want to accept that the cost of living goes up, or understand the expenses involved with the building, etc. etc.?

For a very long time now most jobs have given only infuriating 2% raises, if that, for years now. Many workers haven’t gotten raises in years. The banks still pay a blood-boiling .5% interest on savings. At the same time they nickel and dime us for all kinds of fees. A corrupt corporate culture has cropped up around us of hidden fees and fine print, laws favoring (written by and for) the rich to further pillage a financially vulnerable population. Meanwhile, the cost of tolls, bridges, and the subway have risen to exorbitant rates, the former over 50%. Even the New York Jets can see which way the wind is blowing and have lowered their season ticket prices, a first.

Let me put it this way: Have you raised the salaries of your employees 18% these past two years? I mean no disrespect, but not even the best workers are seeing these kind of raises.
How much are you already collecting from this building per month, about $13,000 or so? That’s close to 150k a year! Will $200 less a month really hurt you? $200 more a month will hurt me.

I understand that there are expenses in maintaining a rental property, of course. But these contingencies are baked into the rent.

Here’s the reality facing all renters today: Speculative landlords, flush with Wall St-heisted money, have moved in and predatorily raised rents - and now every previous landlord wants to get in on the gouging too. It’s circular disaster that creates the tinder for a citizenry on the brink – people are now just one more rent hike/salary decrease/medical emergency/work hours decreased away from revolting in the streets the way the Yellow Vests of France are right now for the past two months straight (I wouldn’t be surprised if you are unaware of it, because it’s been blacked out by American mainstream media). Occupy Wall St started right here in this city over eight years ago – for a reason. It was a response to the 2008 financial crash and the greed and power of the bankers over all of us. The protest movement engendered worldwide solidarity in recognition of the fact that the 99% globally have been getting screwed every which way by the Economic Terrorists of Wall St, who have taken their bailout money to bulk up their portfolios by fortifying their positions in the real estate market, which has had the hideous effect of overinflating rent prices all over the world. That antipathy hasn’t dissipated. In fact it just keeps building and building.

I can imagine the temptation to look around and hear about the prices other landlords are getting. Everyone wants to get rich – it’s the American Dream, isn’t it? It’s the ultimate fulfillment in life that we’ve been conditioned to believe since we were children. A success! Getting rich – by any means possible – is the greatest measure of what we consider success.

Again though, hardly anybody is making any more money since the Great Recession of 2008. Many in fact have taken pay cuts. In many painful ways the slog just grinds on and on and worse than ever. And at the same time employers have used it as an excuse to downgrade employee’s wages, hours and benefits, or take on more responsibilities with the same pay.

I don’t know how much longer we’re going to live in Astoria, or the city for that matter. The dog eat dog culture, in my opinion, is the lowest rung of human development and frankly, uncivilized. A cabal of a few greedy oligarchs have steamrolled us all. There’s no relief, it seems, if one’s primary goal in life isn’t to get rich.

But as a fellow native New Yorker it’s hard to get the place out of your blood, isn’t it? Blood is what binds us all. Without it there’s nothing else – no vacations, no depositing checks in bank accounts, no employees, no health insurance to pay, no children to admire, no more clouds or sunsets. You and I and everything else does not exist, if not for the sun that gives life and the blood that courses through our veins.

It’s not just us. So many people today are feeling under the gun, just to make the rent that just keeps increasing while the money just isn’t coming in. It can make many in the citizenry believe that they’re the only ones giving their sweat, blood and tears and that they’re up against the wall.

Something’s got to give.

My partner edited out some of the more contentious points I was compelled to make, and also because it had become, at an almost unruly 3000 words, on the verge of approaching a magazine essay instead, more about the times we live in seen through the eyes of one city-dwelling father than a pitch to a landlord not to raise the rent.

Here's what else I wrote and really wanted him to fucking hear:

What’s been happening is every property owner is looking around at the high prices being fetched at these new, high-rise luxury living buildings blanketing the city. Everyone’s salivating trying to emulate the big realty groups and their big rent prices. The very wealthy as usual have taken complete advantage of the people the screwed over with criminal scams such as credit default swaps and subprime mortgage.

It’s a complete and total scam. Banks are purposely paying no interest to account holders. This forces them to consider going into the stock market with their savings (they already have their 401k’s). Whereupon, because all regulation has been shredded that previously separated banks from being investment houses (Glass-Stegall Act), the banks win again with endless, unrestrained schemes of high-speed trading, insider trading and conspiring to manipulate interest rates (LIBOR scandal), etc.

The Economic Terrorists of Wall St held a proverbial gun to the head of the American taxpayer and hijacked billions from the federal government on the promise that they would restart the economy buy among other things giving loans to people. They did none of that. Instead they paid themselves ostentatious bonuses and created more elaborate schemes to plunder more money out of the uninitiated.

Those criminals took that extortion money and fortified their positions in the real estate market. The fucking gall of these sleazy bastards: after causing the Foreclosure Crisis they go and buy up those same stressed properties, while also throwing around their fake Monopoly money investing in high rise luxury spaces to launder back to their international banking criminal friends.

Which leads me back to the local landlord. Who sees all this and gets all big-eyed and thinks, “why can’t I get in on this?” Well, you can’t draw blood from a stone.

Do you have any idea how horrible the corporatization of our lives is? The “job market” is marred by an internship culture of getting young people to work for free with the promise of a future job, “contracting” or “consulting” work with no benefits, and stulfifingly boring and meaningless jobs…If your children are approaching working age, and especially if they went to college and have enormous student loan debt, they'll probably feel the pressure to get one these dead-end gigs. With fewer and fewer meaningful jobs it's a dystopia out of which will be difficult to break free. It won't be because they’re lazy; it'll be because capitalism crushed their spirit.

Remember that movie when we were growing up in the 70’s, called ‘The Omega Man,” with Charlton Heston as the last man on earth? He was living solitarily in a big city, which had been taken over by these zombie-like people. I often think that NYC is headed in a similar direction. In my dystopia there won’t be a lone Charlton Heston armed to the teeth.

Instead, the city will become the strict domain of wealthy landlords and oligarchs. But they’ll begin to wake up and gradually see that there’s no one left in their city because they can't afford the gouging, gratuitous rent hikes. There will be no one to clean the streets, deliver their purchases, make their meals, fetch their belongings on call; no valets, no messenger service, - nobody left to fix and furnish their palatial high-rise luxury apartments, because nobody can afford the city anymore.

Some years ago I walked into the one and only bookstore at the time in Astoria as they were selling all their books at clearance rates. It wasn't a great store but it was at least a bookstore. Which is still something in an age of which it seems all most people want to talk about is food and restaurants, and seem excited most about more stores to shop in whose inventory is mostly cheap, disposable goods made primarily by child slave labor in SE Asia.

I asked the owner why he was closing. He said simply, "I can't afford the rent increases." Then added, "I'm tired of paying for someone's vacation home in Greece." That's kind of how I feel at this moment - ready to walk.

Reddit thread on this finding: The majority of renters in 25 U.S. metropolitan areas experience some form of housing insecurity, finds a new study that measured four dimensions: overcrowding, unaffordability, poor physical conditions, and recent experience of eviction or a forced move.

The main thing that keeps us from revolting, in my opinion, is the insidious, deeply ingrained propaganda of the American Dream and American Exceptionalism. We're conditioned from an early age to believe, by virtue of our citizenship, that prosperity is always just around the corner. That if we just work hard enough, pull our bootstraps up, don't ruffle an feathers, yada, yada, yada. Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons.

As Vonnegut described the title,

A "wampeter" is an object around which the lives of many otherwise unrelated people may revolve. The Holy Grail would be a case in point. "Foma" are harmless untruths, intended to comfort simple souls. An example: "Prosperity is just around the corner." A "granfalloon" is a proud and meaningless association of human beings.

The non-stop onslaught of advertising, preying on the vulnerable that they're just a few more purchases away from happiness, and the power of focused propaganda in the mainstream media and social media that has accelerated and increased its potency to levels not before seen has completely addled the masses into becoming wild partisan zombies so easily manipulated with false fear.

What's giving me the most hope right now is the #YellowVest movement in France. Those people completely get it , and they're talking to one another in person. That kind of solidarity goes on and on - and can change the world. It's the complete opposite to the faux Resistance here. It's the most uplifted I've felt since Occupy.


(Art by Molly Crabapple, of Occupy Wall St)

40 users have voted.


Mark from Queens's picture

that of a powerlessness which breeds disgust and outrage for a system that increasingly encroaches on one's well being.

And loads of questions: Why doesn't every city have some kind of rent control? Exactly who owns all of the major rental properties in the great metropolis's? How much more will it take for the masses in America to wake up to the fact that "the game's rigged, the table's tilted, but no one seems to care," as George Carlin put in his tour de force The American Dream? There's no justice to be had, only a two-tiered justice system in which financial and political elites and cops are immunized while the rest of us jostled or outright violated by a system of Little Frauds, as Matt Taibbi put it.

The whole "free market" concept that Libertarian assholes whine about to justify their selfishness is a complete and utter lie, spouted repeatedly by RW propagandists for decades and decades. There will never be free markets in Capitalism. Because invariably all the wealth (and therefore power) gets concentrated into the hands of a few. It couldn't be more obvious than looking around at the obscene monopolies that control our lives right now, from Amazon to Google to Facebook to the other multinational conglomerate mergers that control every sector of business and life on the planet. Which leads to these little two-bit landlords thinking they can be just like the big boy real estate speculators in every city (who just throw around their heisted monopoly money to fortify their positions in the market), who when charging exorbitant rents for their new "high-rise luxury living" buildings, give license to local landlords to follow suit with similar rapacity.

I've got to get the little ones up from their nap now. Hope to be around tonight though.

Something's got to give.

28 users have voted.

"If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:


- Kurt Vonnegut

@Mark from Queens Somethings gotta give
Or Somethings gonna break
All I do is give
And all you do is take
Somethings gotta change
But I know that it won't
No reason to stay
Is a good reason to go.
-Camila Cabela

6 users have voted.

@Mark from Queens the point of "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor" time, but nobody asked me.

3 users have voted.

Ya got to be a Spirit, cain't be no Ghost. . .

mimi's picture

and I get upset here in Germany, because the Germans don't understand what kind of misery so many folks in the US have to go through. And their ignorance make them cold and arrogant.

My son would have to pay 90 percent of his pay in HI, if he wouldn't share the rent with a room mate. I call all of it extreme abusive and exploitative legislation that doesn't give a damn how people make a living and survive. It's a shame. Your representatives have a duty to protect the people from being exploited. Makes me so mad.

Hang in there.

I don't believe that most Europeans understand living conditions of the lower middle class in the US. There is rent control in Germany, but it has been weakened the last two or three years. It used to be that the landlord can't raise the rent more than 15 percent every five years. I think now it's every three years. I have to look it up. And the landlord must stay with his rent within an average price range of comparable rent prices within the local regions. (Mietpreisspiegel)

Now I have to read your essay's details. Just needed to vent.

22 users have voted.
Mark from Queens's picture

in their 40's and 50's have to shack up with roommates, or as a good friend was just candidly admitting, "you meet a girl and the next thing you know you're moving in together because neither can afford their rent." He spent years in a railroad style apt in the East Village renting out the tiniest room (that literally could only fit a bed inside) through Air B&B so that he could afford to live in that part of town as his rent just kept skyrocketing. Which meant having to clean and outfit the room, launder the sheets, be on call to meet arriving guests and the obvious inherent risks of having new strangers in your home every few days. Not fun.

There's got to be a better way than this insane imbalance that heavily favors landlords over tenants, when the amount of people who rent far outweigh the ones who own. "Affordable Housing" may sound good in theory but it's all relative and doesn't seem to mitigate what is a serious problem.

Regards to you and your son.

13 users have voted.

"If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:


- Kurt Vonnegut

Anja Geitz's picture

as I watch the yellow vest movement wondering what your take on it was. Sounds like they really get it in the same way OWS protestors did.

So sorry to hear about your landlord's rent increase. Yeah, NYC housing costs. Yikes! What insanity. I mean someone's gotta know something's gotta give. When I lived in Chelsea, I had a rent stabilized apartment, but knew eventually I'd be priced out of that too.

Awesome letter. Hope you get an encouraging answer back. We've missed you.

18 users have voted.

If we surrendered to earth's intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Mark from Queens's picture

@Anja Geitz Your concern is comforting.

It's getting harder and harder to justify both living here in such circumstances and then having to hear the echoes of that adage that never bothered me before of "throwing your money away to rent." I was never much for that mindset; ownership always seemed a whole host of potential problems that as a not-handy-at-all guy I had no interest in subjecting myself to. But one has to wonder if it might be worth putting one's savings into something tangible rather than a bank where one gets an obscenely criminal .5% interest. Homes here in my part of Queens are out of the question though, around $1 million. It's completely bizarre.

Don't really know what's next, kind of at a crossroads now with gigs slowing down at the same time kids are getting closer to school age (which I have grave misgivings about also). That's also not to say I believe in that malarkey about kids being better served in suburban rather than urban schools. But it could be nice to have a place in which I could feel some grass underneath bare feet. Then again, as a native NYer (born here but raised on LI, then having lived most of my life in the city) it really is hard to get the energy and cultural diversity out of one's system.

The #GiletsJaunes movement has been thrilling and so inspiring. You remember how it felt down at OWS, that incredible sense of solidarity and dissent. What's going on there seems to me a much more active and dispersed dissent. It's coursing all over the country. Man, they're shutting down highways, occupying toll booths and allowing supporters to go free and have vandalized over 50% of the country's speeding cameras. That's some radical shit. I hope it doesn't let up; last week they had their highest numbers yet. The more repressive it gets the more people want to be out in the streets - great signs.

Thanks again.

15 users have voted.

"If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:


- Kurt Vonnegut

Anja Geitz's picture

@Mark from Queens

For a musician with familial ties to that city, I can definitely see how living there would be appealing for you. I grew up in Southern California so the decision to leave New York was a little easier. Even so, moving to the West Coast after living in Manhattan for 25 years was a HUGE change for me. Oh, how I long for the days of NYC public transportation and a good slice of pizza!

My first three months here I remember feeling like I was still "on vacation" because the weather was so ridiculously and consistently beautiful. Every. Single. Day. Throw in the songs of chirping birds breaking the stillness of a new morning and I felt like I had landed in paradise. I swapped a 5 floor walk up on 8th Avenue for a little cottage nestled among the verdant shades of greenery in a garden of fruit trees and flowers. I still miss a lot of things about New York City and I think I always will, but I also find the view from my front door of the undulating San Gabriel mountains pleasingly therapeutic for my soul.

I know it's a bit of a cliche to say that breaking out of what constrains you is where you were meant to go, but I do believe that. And can attest to it many times through out my life. Sometimes, I like to think of it as hacking through a dense untamed forest of vines with a large machete. You can't see what's in front of you except the vines but you have to keep moving forward because on the other side of that tangled jungle is an open valley for you and your family to grow.

#GiletsJaunes. Yeah, it must've been a real bitch for that Chinese tourist who couldn't load his shopping bags with more stuff. Jesus Christ, I'd be too embarrassed to be quoted in any news publication complaining about how inconvenienced I was during another countries economic hardships while I'm traipsing through it with my big fat wallet. Great essay on the movement though.

6 users have voted.

If we surrendered to earth's intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Kids are the biggest stressor in my book. And I don't know if it gets any better. Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems. So they say. Their lack of an off/on button is why I only had one.

No doubt NY is a high priced neighborhood. Cost of living is definitely a plus for Metro Detroit. The only cure for rents and landlords is home ownership. We were fortunate. Family loans early in our marriage when a 3 bedroom brick home cost a mere 21K got us off to a really good start. I can't imagine trying to make this leap in NY, with kids, and high rents to pay.

I wish I had a magic bullet to give you Mark. Empathy and commiseration just aren't not enough.

18 users have voted.

"Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

Raggedy Ann's picture

My friend who lived in Brooklyn had to move to Jersey City - she couldn't afford the rent hike either. I think that Amazon thing might be impacting you, too - since you're in Queens. You'd think, after living there 15 years, there would be discussion instead of edict. Well, I'm a dreamer, anyway.

Wish I could help...

Stay well, my friend. Pleasantry

16 users have voted.

Women are human beings, not prey.
(I forgot where I read it although it might have been in The Intercept)

ggersh's picture

the empire is pretty much done except for the
fireworks to come, how soon? probably sooner
than most expect.


12 users have voted.

trump amerika's last president

Caitlin Johnstone

Anyone who's sure they know what humanity is and where we're headed is suffering from a psilocybin deficiency.

mhagle's picture

I think $1200/month was the biggest payment we ever had for this place.

SadSadSad So sad for your situation. Good letter though and a chance for your landlord to change his mind.

12 users have voted.


"Make dirt, not war." eyo

smiley7's picture

the pressures of our 'dumbass, greedy,' at times, society bearing down when you've children to love and need your time.

"keep on trucking,"

8 users have voted.
gulfgal98's picture

I think that what is happening to you is a harbinger of what will be happening to a large part of the rest of us. We have become prisoners of the corporate oligarchs.

I only hope that your landlord will understand that by screwing you over, he eventually will be screwing over his future income when there are no tenants available to rent his places at those exorbitant rates.

In the meantime, I hope you will find some sort of relief from the predators.

11 users have voted.

"I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~Dr. Cornel West

"There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare." Sun Tzu

"Propaganda is one hell of a drug." Abby Martin

"Politicians are cowards." Mike Gravel

Bollox Ref's picture

And now he's studying Physics at university, with quantum mechanics coming up next semester.

Good luck.

3 users have voted.

from a reasonably stable genius.

divineorder's picture

4 users have voted.

A truth of the nuclear age/climate change: we can no longer have endless war and survive on this planet. Oh sh*t.

Have you got a bug out plan?

I have no faith in NYC landlords doing the right thing about anything.

6 users have voted.

Only $2200? That's a steal! Kidding of course. But it could be worse. In the bay area, our rent was over 3k/month (for a tree rat infested 1200sq ft home in San Jose). The last place we rented there was a 4 bedroom with small yard in a quiet neighborhood and it was 3900 (and was raised to 4100 before we moved). My husband and I were both making good money at the time, but we could afford little else with that kind of rent. Sigh. Needless to say, I have no desire to return to California (even though the weather is nice).

9 users have voted.

If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Real estate taxes go up when real estate values in the area go up. One year, after real estate values had increased sharply, my real estate taxes more than tripled--with no notice, other than my receipt of the first bill reflecting the increase. That wasn't 18% over two years; it was over 300% in one year. After I read the amount due for the quarter, you could have knocked me over with a feather.

Although the real estate has theoretically increased in value, this does not mean that the owner has any extra money to pay the higher taxes. So, if I had tenants and was not afraid that the place would go empty, I might have raised the rent, too. Not by over 300%, of course, but whatever I thought the place was worth on the open market. As they say in The Godfather, "It's not personal."

Now, I say that without knowing what carrying costs your landlord has or whether they have increased much recently.

Obviously, I feel awful this is happening to you as I consider you a board friend and don't know your landlord from Adam, whom I don't know at all. I hope with all my heart that you and the LL can reach something reasonable for you. If not, I'd consider Staten Island, Hoboken, Weehawken or Jersey City in a heartbeat. Yes, there's nothing like "the city" for those who love living there (as I once did when single, but with a room mate--Manhattan, mind you). It's incomparable. But the alternatives don't suck and the commute isn't bad.

When I first moved to the state where I now live, I ached and yearned for New York and for all the friends, relatives and social life I'd left behind. I was depressed for part of the first year and I believe it was because I was alone in a new place where I knew no one, a place I considered far, far inferior to NYC. But, time passed and I met neighbors and made new friends and the city in which I lived got hipper. Yadda yadda, given a choice now, I would not move back. So, miracles happen.

4 users have voted.
Mark from Queens's picture

I had hoped to be able to reply back to each of you but could only manage a couple of responses last night before I had to hit the sack.

Last night was one of those double whammies: insomnia that had me awake at 2:20AM and then reading for along while and barely dozing off, and then the little one was screaming at 5AM, from which time I was basically up for the day. Just had a nice stir fry and a Pilsner and I already need to call it night. I'm on fumes.

Good to see you all. Will try again tomorrow, hoping we get at least one really good winter storm here this weekend (I'm starting to feel cheated!).

4 users have voted.

"If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:


- Kurt Vonnegut