Pataki's Cautious On Rent Control

By MICHAEL FINNEGAN
Daily News Albany Bureau

Gov. Pataki sounded a go-slow call yesterday on a proposal that would end rent protection for more than 2 million city renters, saying the state should not abruptly switch to a free-market system.

"I don't think in the long-term that rent control works," Pataki said. "But you can't simply decontrol a system that millions of people presently rely on."

The remarks contrasted sharply with the plan proposed by Pataki's top legislative ally, State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer).

Bruno called last week for phasing out all state rent regulations by mid-1999.

Bruno also said the GOP-controlled Senate would block renewal of laws restricting rent hikes when they expire next June.

Bruno's position is likely to trigger a major Albany battle because the Assembly's Democratic majority, largely consisting of New York City members, has promised to demand renewal of the laws.

The Republican governor, who faces reelection in 1998, carefully struck a moderate position as he discussed the politically explosive issue in an Associated Press interview.

"I want to have an intelligent, comprehensive approach to finding that common ground between the status quo and ending rent control precipitously," Pataki said. "We'll be working with the Assembly and the Senate and the city to broker that type of agreement."

Pataki called last year for letting landlords charge market rates when tenants vacate their apartments. But he refused to say yesterday whether he will push that plan again next year.

The governor said he will eventually propose his own rent law changes. Pataki said he wants the Assembly to submit its own proposal.

Bruno spokesman John McArdle welcomed Pataki's comments. "It sounds like he's supportive of what we're trying to achieve, but we'll wait to see his specific proposals," McArdle said.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), however, criticized Pataki.

"This is the governor preparing for reelection understanding there are apartments under regulation . . . and there are significant numbers of voters living in those apartments," Silver said.

"Perhaps he's heard an outcry over the Bruno proposal from areas he wasn't expecting to hear it," Silver added.

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