Gov Jockeys
For Control

Hits Dems in rent war

Daily News Albany Bureau

Gov. Pataki issued a veiled threat yesterday to let the state's rent protections expire in a move to get Assembly Democrats to agree on a new state budget.

"I hope it doesn't take something like the expiration of laws to force serious negotiations, but if it does, it does," Pataki warned.

The laws restricting rent hikes and evictions for about 2 million tenants in the city and surrounding suburbs will lapse June 15 unless Pataki and state lawmakers agree to renew them.

Pressed on the rent issue, the Republican governor insisted: "I don't think the rent-control laws should be allowed to expire. I would like to see us reach agreement."

State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer) has threatened to let the laws expire unless state leaders reach agreement to phase the them out over two years. If that happened, tenant protections would continue only for the elderly, poor and disabled.

Pataki has advocated a more gradual phaseout but has offered no specific plan. The governor also has said landlords should be able to charge free-market rates whenever a rent-controlled or stabilized apartment becomes vacant.

But renewal of rent protections is the priority of the Democratic-controlled Assembly. Pataki yesterday accused Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) of holding the state budget hostage in a bid to force an extension.

"If that's the way it has to be, that's okay with me, because I want to see both a sound budget and a reasonable rent-control law passed this year," Pataki said.

State leaders are set to blow the April 1 budget deadline for the 13th year in a row next week and have not agreed on how much money they have to spend, much less how to apportion it.

While denying that Silver was holding up a budget deal to have his way on rent regulations, spokeswoman Pat Lynch said "the reality of life in Albany" is that unrelated legislation gets "linked" to the budget. She called on Pataki to release his own rent plan, saying, "the people of the state have a right to see the governor's position."

Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, a landlords group, said Pataki seemed to suggest that Silver would bear the blame for any expiration of the rent laws as the result of linking the issue to the budget.

But Billy Easton, executive director of the New York State Tenants & Neighbors Coalition, said Pataki would be "the biggest political loser of all" because "he represents more rent-regulated tenants than anyone else in the state."

Original Story Date: 032697
Original Story Section: City Central