By Ryan Hutchins 5:56 a.m. | Jun. 4, 2014
The line to get into the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Customs House stretched out the door for a good hundred feet one evening in early May. The tightly-controlled structure on the Bowling Green was not the best choice of location for a meeting that would turn out to be the most important in the 45-year history of the New York City Rent Guidelines Board, a panel that adjusts the leases of nearly a million New Yorkers living in stabilized housing. On the balmy spring evening, Homeland Security kept watch outside. Inside, a small crew of guards carefully searched each attendee, most of whom were tenants there to demand a rent freeze or, better yet, a rollback. Many clutched signs that said “0%.” It was a calm, long wait.
Down an elevator shaft and through the doors to a large lecture hall, things were not so peaceful. It was a raucous scene. Mets at Phillies. Jets versus the Eagles. Or, perhaps more accurately, Occupy Wall Street. “Roll, roll, roll back!” one older lady sang to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” It carried on a long while as the meeting was delayed, then delayed again, as people slowly filtered in. “No one should be paying any parasites to live on this planet!” one man hollered, apparently referring to landlords. “You can’t own the solar system. Nature produced this Earth. Why should we pay some parasites to live here? Tell me why?” On it went.