Many Set to Quit City Over Rise

Daily News Staff Writers

From trendy Manhattan to the heart of Queens, anxious tenants gasped in shock at projections they'd have to shell out an average of $100 or more each month if state lawmakers scrap rent rules.

The loudest groans came from Manhattan's upper West Side, where a study by one of the city's largest landlord groups showed rents could soar a whopping 51% within a few years of any decision to end the rent protections.

"If my rent went up that much, it would destroy my lifestyle," said jazz pianist Joe Kerr, who pays $513 a month for a tiny studio apartment at Broadway and 85th St.

For Kerr, who earns about $24,000 a year teaching piano, home consists of one 14-by-18-foot room dominated by a baby grand. He's got a bathroom, but his kitchen consists of a hotplate.

What would he do if he had to pay $250 a month more to keep the apartment where he has lived for two years? "I can't imagine the rent going up like that," said Kerr.

Marsha Cohen, who has lived for two decades in a two-bedroom apartment in a W. 76th St. brownstone, said she would leave New York altogether if her $1,000-a-month rent jumped 50%.

"I wouldn't live in the boroughs," said Cohen, a full-time student and mother of an 8-year-old. "I need my apartment. I love my apartment. And having a reasonable rent makes it possible to live here comfortably."

A reasonable rent is what persuaded Lucy Ojeda, 40, to settle in Rego Park, Queens, when she moved up from Florida seven years ago. She, her husband, Jose, and their infant daughter, Elizabeth, share a small, two-bedroom apartment on 63d Drive, which costs $900 a month.

The public school teacher said the family's combined annual income of $60,000 after taxes allows them to live comfortably. But they'd have to pull up stakes if their rent rose 20%, as the landlord study projected for her neighborhood.

"They're going to price us out of this apartment," said Ojeda.

Awilda McCulloughsaid she has a hard enough time paying her $2,000 monthly rent now.

If the rent soared by 17%, the landlord group's estimate for her neighborhood, "there would be no way we could continue to live here," she said.

Original Story Date: 040497
Original Story Section: City Central