Silver Doesn't
See Lining

Fears for rent control

By MICHAEL FINNEGAN
Daily News Albany Bureau

The state Legislature's most powerful advocate for renewing the laws that limit rent hikes for 2 million tenants admitted yesterday that he may not be able to stop the laws from expiring June 15.

"I don't know if I'm going to be able to do it," conceded Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan).

Silver's admission came a day after tenants lost the first major battle in the rent war, when state Senate Republicans crushed a Democratic attempt to force a vote on renewing the tenant protections.

Despite two defections, State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer) held the Republican conference together on the showdown vote. The display of political power underscored Bruno's threat to let the laws expire in 10 weeks unless state leaders agree to a two-year phaseout.

Both sides hunkered down yesterday and plotted strategy for the continuing struggle.

Tenant groups have mounted door-to-door leafletting campaigns aimed against Republican senators with large numbers of rent-regulated units in their districts. Landlord groups are eying a TV and radio ad campaign to push for elimination of the protections.

The laws, which cover more than 1 million apartments in the city and some of its suburbs, restrict how much landlords may charge for lease renewals and for apartments that become vacant.

Gov. Pataki tried to remain above the fray yesterday, saying he wants to "bring together the various parties and achieve a consensus."

"I think it's very unfortunate that anyone has to be frightened because they don't have a clear view as to what's going to happen," Pataki said. "I don't want to see us wait until the last minute."

But Silver stepped up his effort to drag Pataki into the center of the explosive debate.

"When 2 million people think their future is at stake, someone not taking a position, who is in a position of leadership, is rather strange," Silver said.

Original Story Date: 040997
Original Story Section: City Central