By JANA SICILIANO
Let this column be a warning to our fictional TV "Friends" Rachel Green and Monica Geller — if the present city and state rent regulations are not renewed in March and June, respectively, the theme-diner waitress and entry-level fashion slave will be moved to a less interesting fantasy apartment, in, say, Idaho. What Nielsen family will stand for that?
On March 31, the New York City Council and Mayor Giuliani must vote to continue rent stabilization and rent control and, by June 15, Governor Pataki and the State Legislature must renew the exiting rent and co-op laws. The Governor stated on February 20 that "we have to continue to protect those who have depended on [this] system for over 50 years . . . and if we can do that while transitioning [sic] to a more market-oriented system . . . that would be the best solution." At this point, the Republicans are more closely allied with the landlords — State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno has called the probability of decontrol by 1998 a "no brainer."
When these laws came up for renewal four years ago, five amendments that weakened the previous legal standards were enacted. As this is a local election year, the Democratic mayoral candidates are seriously considering whatever alternatives they can to insure that that doesn't happen again. However, after Pataki's statement last Thursday, the Democrats agreed that they will have to accept some compromises in order to maintain some semblance of the laws now in effect.
The amendments being considered would directly affect the one million residents who live in the Big Apple and rent housing which is controlled by these regulations. The landlords are looking to decontrol households earning $75,000 a year or paying $1,000 or more in monthly rent, as well as have the right to Vacancy Decontrol, which would allow them to evict tenants easily for any number of reasons. Rent laws at present allow tenants to stay in homes as long as they wish, but that will no longer be an option. Also, market rents could run 50-300% more than regulated rents do now.
There are some possible compromises to these strictures. The New York State Tenants and Neighbors Coalition, the oldest statewide housing coalition, has proposed options which include subjecting rent-controlled apartments to the less stringent annual increases ordered by the Rent Guidelines Board. "Nobody knows what [else] the landlords are cooking up," says Michael McKee, an active member of the lobbying group, ". . . which is why we're organizing now." As early as May 22, 1996, the group demonstrated against the anti-rent regulation bill (A.8901) proposed by John Guerin (R-Ulster County) at the State Capitol, with more to come.
Whether you are a tenant or a landlord, this is the witching hour for speaking your peace on these issues. During an election season, political leaders and committee members are anxious to hear what you think and welcome your calls and letters. Perhaps Monica and Rachel would do well to put in a call to the Governor or risk losing that beautiful floor-to-ceiling window in the back of their apartment and that living room that is three times the size of most city apartments.
Where to Write:
Your District Officials
New York State Senate or New York State Assembly
Albany, New York 12247 or 12248
Leaders of the State Legislature:
Hon. Joseph L. Bruno
Senate Majority Leader
New York State Senate
New City, New York 12247
Hon. Sheldon Silver
Speaker of the Assembly
New York State Assembly
Albany, New York 12248
Hon. George E. Pataki
Albany, New York 12224
Original Story Date: 02/26/97
Original Story Section: At Home