Lux Decontrol
Key to Deal?

Daily News Albany Bureau

Lowering the income limit on tenants in rent regulated apartments could be the key to a compromise that would stop the elimination of state laws limiting rent hikes, officials said yesterday.

Top lawmakers also are considering a move to protect landlords during rent strikes. The measure would force tenants to deposit rent in an escrow account while they protest conditions in slum buildings.

Landlords have been pushing for mandatory escrow accounts for years. But tenant groups have mounted fierce opposition, saying control of the rent money is crucial leverage in forcing negligent landlords to make repairs.

Legislative aides yesterday said both the crackdown and deposits have emerged as possible areas of compromise in the state's rent war.

But they warned a compromise was still far from certain.

The laws limiting rent hikes and evictions for more than 2 million tenants in New York City and suburbs will expire June 15 unless Gov. Pataki and the Legislature renew them.

Mayor Giuliani trekked to Albany on Monday to urge Pataki and legislative leaders to preserve tenant protections.

But Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer) stood fast by his demand for almost total decontrol of the rental market. And Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) did not budge from his demand for renewal of the current laws.

"There are still obviously huge gulfs between the Assembly and the Senate positions, but we can overcome that gap," Pataki said.

A source close to Bruno said he was "flexible" on his demand to phase out most rent controls within two years. Bruno is "certainly open to a longer period of time," the official said.

Bruno also is open to compromise on expanding the "luxury decontrol" law approved in 1993, the official said. The law takes away rent hike protections from households earning more than $250,000 a year and paying more than $2,000 in monthly rent. A compromise would lower the income and rent limits, officials said.

In the past, Bruno has suggested lowering the income limit to $100,000.

Silver spokeswoman Pat Lynch called on Bruno yesterday to put his proposal to a vote in the Senate so negotiators can work out a compromise. She would not discuss potential areas for compromise.

The Assembly has approved extension of rent laws, but the measure has no chance of winning Senate approval.

Original Story Date: 041697
Original Story Section: City Central