Thingish Things

New York’s Thinking Disease: Rentregulitis

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Mar• 23•11

Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers suffer from a mentally debilitating malady.  It is a disease that makes you think you don’t have it.  Hardly anyone talks about it anymore. It’s called rentregulitus and it turns otherwise rational people into blithering idiots for life.

There seems to be no defense against rentregulitus.  It is contracted through rent-controlled and rent-stabilized apartment leases.  Once you have one, you become subject to lifelong bouts of pretzel-twisting logic that hopelessly seeks to rationalize the artificial financial advantage you have been given over other New Yorkers.  There is no rational reason, of course, which must make this condition excruciatingly taxing on one’s mental faculties – like being locked in a room with a square peg and a round hole forever.

I have seem perfectly reasonable people beset by rentregulitus.  It’s brutal to watch.  The same thing happens every time. Stage One: They acknowledge they got lucky, like any normal person would.  Stage Two: They begin to complain about their landlord. Stage Three: They join their local tenant association.  Stage Four: They are packed onto buses to the state capital in the full throes of militant rentregulitus where they threaten legislators with political death if they don’t keep the fix alive.

It doesn’t matter their politics. I have been subjected to the shouts of ardent market-force advocates who explain with straight faces that “this is different.” A conservative Republican friend once feigned gayness in an attempt to keep a Fifth Avenue pad in which he was staying.  He went to court swearing to be the lover of the recently deceased tenant, his former business partner.

There is a tangential disease, too. It is called rentregulationconstituentitous.  The onset of that occurs when someone – Democratic or Republican — is elected to public office in a district with a large number of rent-regulated tenants.  The same symptoms apply: Utter irrationality within weeks.  Previously clear-thinking officials will throw all other principles under the bus to accommodate this beast.

I have worked for people suffering from rentregulationconstituentitous. It’s not pretty.  They are handed talking points by the leaders of groups called things like “People With Rentregulitus for More” and “Entitled Rentregulitus Tenants for Further  Entitelement.” Within a remarkable short period of time they not only digest these talking points, they begin to believe them so as not to feel like sell-outs. In short, they are robbed of their ideological souls.

I have observed two other things of note about rentregulitus over the years.  The whiter and richer you are, the deeper the case.  And sufferers are somehow rendered incapable of realizing that their otherwise rational neighbors – the ones without rent-stabilized apartments — not so secretly hate them.

Self-interest can be mentally ruinous.


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  1. Me says:

    Love it:-)

  2. Your Friend says:

    Very funny. I have to agree, it really doesn’t make any sense. Unless, of course, you think about the fact that if there wasn’t rent control the entire city would be populated by nothing but lawyers and bankers. It dawned on me recently that my third child would not be alive if I lived in the city. You have to meet Tyler some day, Bill. The world is a much better place because he’s in it.

  3. It’s a plan, Dwight. Minor League game?

  4. […] received the note below from Marcus Cederqvist in response to a recent post on rent regulations.  Marc is an old friend and the former Executive Director of the New York City Board of […]

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