Charlie Rangel, head of the Ways and Means Committee and the most quotable man in Congress today, is perhaps in hot water, due to the four rent-controlled apartments he occupies in one building in Harlem. Now, this Shocking Report Of Excess is a bit nit-picky, as actually three of the apartments are one. Writes the Times, “the penthouse had been assembled by combining separate apartments.” Also, they are comparing what are presumably long-term rent-stabilized leases (he has lived in the building since the ’70s) with the building’s market rates—the cost of rent-stabilized apartments may, in vacancy (and even while occupied), be increased based on renovations and improvements. (Similarly for all apartments, in the case of building-wide improvements.) But these apartments are subject to relatively minor (though less minor, these days) increases with each lease renewal. This is why you see rent disparities (in a rent-controlled building) like this in New York; it’s less dramatic but still true in rent-stabilized buildings.
The funny thing about this Times story? Rangel’s parties are notorious. Every political journalist in the city has been in these apartments. And at the same time, every political journalist knows Rangel’s salary. So why now?