Tenants Fear End of Regs
Bruno vow spells
disaster, they say

By WENDELL JAMESON
Daily News Staff Writer

Tenants in rent-regulated apartments across the city reacted with fear and anger yesterday to a top state lawmaker's plan to "end rent regulation as we know it."

Some said state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno's vow to let state rent protections expire June 15 would mean punishing rents, and they blasted lawmakers for not understanding how tough it is to make ends meet in New York City.

Other tenants said they would be forced to move out of the city they love. And still others feared that skyrocketing rents would ruin the delicate racial balance of some of the city's most sought-after mixed neighborhoods.

"I would definitely have to move," said Marisa Martinez, who lives with a roommate in an $845-a-month one-bedroom in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

The 30-year-old receptionist said she spends half her monthly income on rent and can't afford to pay more. "I already can't go out and buy frivolous things," said Martinez.

Rachel Healy, 27, a Columbia University graduate student who lives in nearby Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, splitting a $650 monthly rent, predicted the well-integrated neighborhood could change.

"All the minorities would be pushed out," said Healy.

In all, more than 2 million city renters are covered by state rent-control and rent-stabilization laws. The statutes, enacted over the last half century, limit the increases landlords can charge for lease renewals.

Bruno, of upstate Rensselaer the Legislature's most powerful Republican vowed to let the laws expire next year. He called for a change to free-market rents by June 1999 for renters except low-income elderly or disabled tenants.

In the current market, Bruno said, many tenants pay artificially low rents, and many landlords struggle to cover costs. He said he proposed the deregulation on "philosophical" grounds.

"It is deregulation, period, and getting government out of businesses they don't belong in and getting government out of the overregulation of our lives," he said.

Bruno insisted tenants have nothing to fear from his proposal. The market law of supply and demand would stop landlords from socking tenants with sky-high rents, he said.

But that assurance did nothing to calm fears of anxious tenants. Some predicted that landlords would double or even triple rents if freed from state regulations.

"I think it's crazy, because the rent already is very expensive," said a woman named Vicki, who pays $850 a month for the W. 96th St., Manhattan, apartment she and her husband have shared for seven years. "I think I will have to move to the Bronx or Queens."

The mood was the same in the Bronx and Queens.

"It would be terrible," said Catherine Gibbs, a single mother with two kids who lives on Belmont Ave. in the Bronx.

Gibbs said state lawmakers don't understand the daily battles of "little people" who must scrimp and save to pay for their apartments. "I work. I study. I pay my own school. But I still need all the help I can get," she said.

Regis Goodwin, 39, a student at CUNY Law School, said he would have to move out of the $612-a-month studio in Flushing, Queens, he rents with student loans. "I'm on the brink right now. Where would I commute from Albany?" he asked.

Susan Rhodes, a law student who has lived in a $1,200-a-month rent-stabilized unit in Forest Hills, Queens, for three years, said her landlord could raise the rent to $1,500 without state restrictions.

"I'm already working a part-time job. I'd have to work two part-time jobs," she said.

Original Story Date: 12/07/96
Original Story Section: News Fix