For Silver, Quick Shift On Rent Rule

Yields a bit on luxury tenants

Daily News Staff Writers, May 23, 1997

In a possible step toward a rent war compromise, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has offered in negotiations to lower the $250,000 annual income limit for tenants in regulated apartments.

Silver and his aides said they could agree to abolish rent protections for households earning "something like" $225,000 a year, said State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer).

Silver spokeswoman Pat Lynch confirmed Silver would accept changes in the laws that restrict rent hikes and evictions for more than 2 million tenants in New York City and the suburbs.

She said Silver would "be willing to tinker around the edges with luxury" protections. "We've always said that our goal is to protect the middle class," she said.

Current law abolishes protections for households earning more than $250,000 a year when their monthly rent is at least $2,000. Gov. Pataki has called for abolishing protections for households earning more than $175,000 a year.

Silver, a Manhattan Democrat who is fighting to save rent laws, also said he might accept Pataki's proposal to require tenants to deposit rent in escrow during disputes with landlords, Bruno said.

On Tuesday, Silver shouted "No compromise!" to thousands of tenants outside the state Capitol at a rally demanding rent law renewal.

Pataki reacted sharply to Silver's apparent move toward middle ground.

"It shows that what he was ranting two days ago was nonsense," the governor said. "As I recall, it was 'no compromise.' Two days later, apparently he is willing to."

Bruno has threatened to let the laws expire June 15 unless the Assembly agrees to phase out tenant protections.

Landlord advocate Dan Margulies, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, called Silver's move "laughable."

"We're talking about a very tiny percentage of people concentrated in Manhattan that have absolutely nothing to do with the broader housing problem," he said. "I don't consider this to have anything to do with serious negotiations."

Michael McKee of the New York State Tenants & Neighbors Coalition also criticized Silver. "We would certainly not be in favor of dropping the $250,000 to any amount, although obviously $225,000 would be less damaging than $175,000," he said.