De Blasio Administration Appoints Five New Rent Guidelines Board Members

March 27, 2014

NEW YORK - Mayor de Blasio today announced five appointments to the Rent Guidelines Board. The Mayor appointed Sarah Williams Willard as an owners' representative, Cecilia Joza and Steven Flax as public members, and Sheila Garcia as a tenant representative. The Mayor also re-appointed current tenants' representative Harvey Epstein to the board. The Rent Guidelines Board determines annual rent adjustments for approximately one million apartments across the city subject to the Rent Stabilization Law.

The Mayor's first public member appointee, Cecilia M. Joza, is currently the housing counseling program director at Mutual Housing Association of New York, a not-for-profit housing organization that owns and manages over 1,200 affordable rental apartments in New York. In her role as the housing counseling program director, Joza facilitates and conducts home purchases for first-time homeowners, and offers foreclosure and predatory lending prevention counseling.

Steven Flax, the Mayor's second public member appointee, has spent decades involved in promoting community-based housing and development. Currently a vice president of community reinvestment at M&T Bank, Flax oversees New York City community development lending for the bank. Flax is also the chair of the Neighborhood Opportunities Fund, a collaborative of foundations and banks, which has invested over $25 million to enable non-profit community development corporations to lead the revitalization of distressed communities throughout New York City.

The Mayor's owners' representative appointee, Sarah Williams Willard, has spent over 15 years in real estate development and management. Willard spent her early years at Prudential Capital, CarrAmerica and Greenfield Partners, where she held several roles, including debt origination, development modeling and acquisitions. Willard also worked at the MacFarlane Group and at Blesso Properties, where she eventually became a real estate developer. Last September, Sarah joined Hudson Companies as a senior project manager, where she is responsible for managing the company's activities on Roosevelt Island.

The Mayor is re-appointing Harvey Epstein to the Rent Guidelines Board, where he has served as a tenants' representative since April 2013. Epstein is also the project director of the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center, which represents dozens of community-based organizations and assists their members in litigating employment, housing, health and consumer matters. Prior to working at UJC, Epstein was the associate director and managing attorney for Housing Conservation Coordinators, a community-based not-for-profit that works to preserve decent affordable housing. Epstein has also worked as a staff attorney at the Community Law Offices for The Legal Aid Society, and worked with numerous tenant associations in obtaining ownership of their buildings.

The Mayor's second tenant representative appointee, Sheila Garcia, is currently the community organizer at CASA New Settlement, a not-for-profit, mixed-income housing and community-service organization the Bronx. At CASA, Garcia works with community residents to improve living conditions and maintain affordable housing in the neighborhood. Garcia has a 23-year track record of active commitment in neighborhood revitalization, community building, and positive youth development.