Gov Gets Rent Support

By KIMBERLY SCHAYE, JON R. SORENSEN and MICHAEL FINNEGAN
Daily News Staff Writers, May 14, 1997
Key Republican state senators from New York City and the suburbs yesterday appeared to line up behind Gov. Pataki's plan to wipe out rent protections as tenants vacate their apartments.

Despite warnings of political backlash from tenants, several GOP senators with thousands of rent-regulated apartments in their districts endorsed Pataki's call for vacancy decontrol.

They included Serphin Maltese of Queens, John Marchi of Staten Island, Dean Skelos and Michael Tully of Nassau County and Joseph Holland of Rockland County.

"When a tenant leaves, I think it should go to free-market," Tully said.

Even GOP State Sens. Guy Velella of the Bronx and Nicholas Spano of Yonkers who say they want the state rent laws renewed refused to rule out voting for vacancy decontrol.

"Whatever comes down the road, we'll have to take a look at and make a judgment at the time," Velella said.

Two GOP senators from the city flatly ruled out supporting Pataki's plan: Roy Goodman of Manhattan and Frank Padavan of Queens.

Backing from downstate Republicans makes it more likely the state Senate will approve vacancy decontrol before the rent laws expire June 15. The support appeared to assure state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer) of having the 31 votes needed to pass such a plan.

Bruno has threatened to let the laws die unless officials agree to phase them out over four years. But sources said he likely would accept vacancy decontrol as a compromise.

The solidifying GOP position stepped up pressure on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), who has rejected vacancy decontrol and demanded that rent protections be renewed.

Silver has argued that letting owners charge market rents as apartments become vacant would drive the middle class out of the city and encourage landlord harassment of tenants.

Bruno and Pataki, who risks losing tenant support for his expected 1998 reelection bid if the rent laws expire, attacked Silver yesterday for refusing to budge.

Bruno warned that if the June 15 deadline passes without agreement, tenants "can call the speaker and the Democrats who control the Assembly and ask them why they didn't vote for a reasonable alternative to protect them."

"He's got to come to the table, or this thing could go down the drain . . . which would be a catastrophe," said Goodman.

Silver spokeswoman Pat Lynch did not return repeated calls for comment.