Gov's Rent Plan Is Bopped by Betsy
She'll back tenants

Daily News Staff Writers
New York Daily News, May 20, 1997

On the eve of a huge tenant rally, Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey Ross yesterday attacked Gov. Pataki's plan to scrap state limits on rent hikes as tenants vacate their apartments.

McCaughey Ross, in her biggest break with Pataki since he dumped her from his 1998 reelection ticket, warned that vacancy decontrol could trigger "a mass exodus of the middle class" from the city.

"I don't want New York to be for the rich only," said McCaughey Ross, who lives with her millionaire husband on Manhattan's upper East Side.

McCaughey Ross said she plans to join a crowd of 7,000 tenants for today's rally outside the state Capitol to demand renewal of laws restricting rent hikes and evictions for more than 2 million tenants.

The laws are set to expire June 15 unless Pataki and state lawmakers agree to renew or reform them. The governor and legislative leaders are deadlocked on the issue, which has stalled all other state business including talks on the 49-days-overdue state budget.

In a further break with Pataki, McCaughey Ross said she will help staff a Manhattan phone bank where tenant groups urge voters to call the governor's office to demand renewal of the laws.

Billy Easton, executive director of the New York State Tenants & Neighbors Coalition, said phone bank volunteers ask New Yorkers "to tell George Pataki to bag vacancy decontrol, that we see through his tricks."

Pataki ducked a direct comment on McCaughey Ross with whom his office has clashed repeatedly. "There are people on all sides of the issue, but I think my position is one that is fair and balanced," said Pataki, adding that the plan would protect "99% of all tenants."

State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer), who has threatened to let the laws expire, said McCaughey Ross is wrong on vacancy decontrol.

"She's been wrong on a number of things, and that's why she finds herself at odds with most of the people within the hierarchy of the Republican Party," Bruno said.

Tenant groups yesterday were organizing a convoy of more than 175 buses to take renters to the Albany rally.

Police said they will restrict access to the Capitol building to control crowds.

Landlords dismissed the rally plans, saying the tenant protest would have no impact.

"I don't think a few hundred people shouting in the streets is going to change anybody's opinion up here in Albany," said Dan Margulies, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, a landlord group.