Pataki Hits Back At Tenant Leaders

Daily News Albany Bureau, May 22, 1997
Gov. Pataki stood firm on his rent reform plan yesterday, accusing tenant leaders of misleading thousands of city apartment dwellers who staged a rally demanding renewal of endangered rent protections.

One day after thousands of anxious tenants besieged the Capitol, Pataki pressed his plan to end state limits on rent hikes as tenants move out of their apartments or die.

"You take a look at the tenants who were here . . . virtually every one of them would be protected under my plan," Pataki said. "It's just very unfortunate that people for their own political reasons go out of their way to frighten them by distorting the truth."

Tenant leaders fired back that Pataki's vacancy-decontrol plan would spur tenant harassment by landlords trying to empty apartments and hike rents to market rates.

Tenant groups vowed to double a phone bank operation urging voters in the city and suburbs to warn Pataki of retribution at the polls in 1998 if the state scraps rent protections.

"If George Pataki continues his drive to phase out the rent laws, tenants are going to be forced to phase out Gov. Pataki," said Martin Brennan of the New York State Tenants & Neighbors Coalition.

Both sides stuck to their positions as the threatened June 15 expiration of state rent laws loomed closer.

State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer) has said he'll let the laws expire if state leaders don't agree to phase out the protections.

But Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) has vowed to block the governor's vacancy-decontrol plan, despite charges by Pataki and Bruno that failure to negotiate will guarantee the end of rent protections.