Friday, May 2, 1997 Betsy Rips Pols On Rent Laws

By MICHAEL FINNEGAN Daily News Staff Writer

Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey Ross yesterday accused lawmakers battling to end state rent laws of acting to repay landlords for large campaign donations.

Joining the war over the threatened elimination of the laws, McCaughey Ross called for shifting authority over the laws from the state Legislature and letting New York City and suburban officials decide whether to continue the protections for 2 million tenants.

"Special interests have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence lawmakers to vote against rent protection," said McCaughey Ross. "State senators whose own districts are unaffected by rent regulation are being influenced to vote against it."

McCaughey Ross, a Manhattan Republican at war with party leaders, took a thinly disguised swipe at state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer) for pressing state lawmakers from New York City to oppose rent regulation.

"New York City lawmakers who know the most about rent regulation . . . are told to toe the party line rather than speaking out for the people who elected them," she said. "They are expected to put party loyalty ahead of loyalty to the people they represent. That's wrong."

Bruno oversaw collection of more than $200,000 from landlords, which was used in the campaign to keep the state Senate under GOP control last year. His spokesman, John McArdle called McCaughey Ross' charges "absurd" and accused her of "working with the Democrats."

McArdle also rejected McCaughey Ross' proposal to put rent laws under local control, an idea backed by City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, a Queens Democrat who may run for governor next year.

"She certainly has the right to her position," said McArdle. "Unfortunately, too many times she's wrong."

Bruno has threatened to let most state rent laws expire June 15 unless legislators agree to phase them out within four years. Shifting control of the laws to Mayor Giuliani and the City Council would, in effect, guarantee continuation of tenant protections.

Separately yesterday, state GOP Chairman William Powers asked more than 100 landlords at a Manhattan luncheon to keep contributing to the Republican Party.

Powers was the featured speaker at the fund-raising event for the Neighborhood Preservation Political Action Fund, a landlord group seeking to abolish state rent laws. He told the group that rent regulation was "plain wrong" and praised Bruno for trying to scrap the system, according to landlords who attended.

Original Story Date: 050297
Original Story Section: City Central