Politicians' Stake In Ceiling on Rents
Pro-control Dems enjoy
good deals on own apartments

Daily News Albany Bureau

At least 12 Democratic lawmakers fighting to save state rent laws have a personal stake in the battle. They all live in rent-regulated apartments and three also own second or even third homes.

The lawmakers are part of a Democratic legislative bloc opposing state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno's threat to let rent protections for 2 million tenants expire on June 15.

A Daily News review of property records and financial disclosure statements shows that the 12 Assembly and Senate members from New York City are among those who could face large monthly hikes if the state scraps rent protections.

Sen. Franz Leichter pays $1,475 a month for a rent-stabilized apartment on Riverside Drive in his upper Manhattan district. He also owns a four-bedroom upstate home on 127 acres near Lake Champlain that is valued at more than $200,000.

Leichter's most recent financial disclosure filing shows he is also co-owner of an upper East Side co-op in a building where current asking prices for units range as high as $535,000.

Sen. Emanuel Gold lives in a rent-stabilized apartment in his Queens district. He and his landlord refused to disclose his monthly rent.

Gold and his wife have a home on Candlewood Lake in northern Connecticut that real estate brokers say is worth as much as $500,000. Gold also owns a two-story home in an Albany suburb that he uses when the state Legislature is in session. The home, which he sometimes rents to tenants, is worth more than $100,000, according to local assessors.

Assemblyman Herman (Denny) Farrell lives in a rent-stabilized apartment in his Harlem district. He would not discuss his rent.

Farrell co-owns a three-family house in Albany that's worth more than $116,000, according to that city's assessor. He uses one apartment there during legislative sessions and rents another to his campaign committee for $250 a month, aides said.

Assembly Democrats from the city who live in rent-regulated apartments include Roberto Ramirez of the Bronx and Manhattanites Keith Wright, Steven Sanders, Alexander Grannis, Nelson Antonio Denis, Adriano Espaillat and Edward Sullivan.

Democrats from the city's Senate delegation who live in rent-regulated units include David Paterson of Manhattan and Marty Markowitz of Brooklyn.

Most of the lawmakers refused to discuss their rent. Those who did said the cost ranged from the $626 Espaillat pays for a one-bedroom unit in upper Manhattan to the $875 Paterson pays for a two-bedroom in Harlem.

Opponents of the state rent laws argued the lifestyles of the 12 lawmakers who earn a minimum of $57,500 a year and often thousands of dollars more underscore inequities in the regulations.

"One of the reasons that we oppose rent regulation is because people who obviously don't need assistance benefit unfairly, but I don't criticize the legislators for taking the same benefits as any other undeserving person," said Dan Margulies, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, a landlord's group.

Joseph Strasburg of the Rent Stabilization Association, another large landlord group, questioned whether the lawmakers face a conflict of interest in their fight to renew rent protections.

"I'd like to think that they are true believers, but I wonder if they are not stronger advocates because they themselves . . . don't pay fair market [rent] on an apartment," Strasburg said.

"Is there a conflict of interest? Hell, no!" responded Wright, who said he pays $660 a month for the two-bedroom rent-stabilized apartment in Harlem where he grew up.

Firing at Bruno, who lives on a large estate, Wright added, "This is just a ploy to keep the pressure off of the issue, and that issue is about some 2 million people who are affected by a guy who lives on a plantation in Rensselaer County."

Sullivan argued there is no conflict, stressing that "we vote on taxes, we also pay taxes," like other New Yorkers.

The three lawmakers who own second or third homes also said their living arrangements have not influenced their stance on state rent laws.

"The issue is not whether or not Manny Gold needs stabilization and therefore the law is good or bad," said Gold. "The issue is the lack of housing for millions of people in the city of New York."

Leichter spokesman Jonathan Bowles said focus on the two other homes owned by the Manhattan Democrat is "a diversion."

Farrell spokeswoman Ilene Zucker said the Assembly Ways and Means Committee chairman bought a half-interest in his upstate home because "as a legislator, he has to have a place to stay in Albany."

Original Story Date: 042797
Original Story Section: City Central