Rudy Rents & Raves
Calls decontrol 'big mistake'

Daily News Albany Bureau, May 24, 1997

Mayor Giuliani yesterday stepped up his attack on Gov. Pataki's plan to wipe out state rent protections as tenants vacate their apartments, calling it a "very big mistake."

Speaking in his weekly radio broadcast, Giuliani called vacancy decontrol "a bad idea" that resulted in tenant harassment by landlords when the state tried it in the 1970s.

"This is in the words of Yogi Berra like deja vu all over again," Giuliani said. "There's no reason to make the same mistake twice."

Vacancy decontrol is the centerpiece of Pataki's proposal to overhaul the laws that limit rent hikes and evictions for more than 2 million tenants in the city and suburbs.

Pataki proposed the reform as a compromise after Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Rensselaer) threatened to let the laws expire on June 15 unless state officials agree to phase out the protections.

Giuliani, careful not to criticize Pataki, a fellow Republican, argued against vacancy decontrol as a compromise.

"If you made that kind of broad change, you would change the character of New York City," Giuliani said. "You would change the ability of New York City to be a city in which we can attract and keep people of all different levels of the economic spectrum."

Pataki called his plan "very fair and balanced."

"It protects virtually every tenant, 99% of the tenants," said the governor whose plan would eliminate rent protections for apartment dwellers whose annual household income tops $175,000.

Bruno, who also supports vacancy decontrol, lashed back at Giuliani, warning that state rent laws will expire on June 15 if lawmakers fighting to renew them reject vacancy decontrol.

"Well, how is total deregulation, overnight?" snapped Bruno when told about Giuliani's comments. "How does that fit? Is that a better idea than vacancy decontrol? Ask the mayor that."

Giuliani's criticism followed weeks of allegations by Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger, the Democratic mayoral front-runner, that he has not fought hard enough to save the rent laws.

The mayor said he plans to meet with state officials about rent regulations on Thursday, his second lobbying trip to Albany on the issue.

Tenant advocates welcomed Giuliani's comments, but said he should pressure Sen. Guy Velella (R-Bronx) and other GOP senators from the city to buck Bruno.

"The mayor can really up the ante here," said Scott Sommer, chairman of the Metropolitan Council on Housing.

Landlord advocate Dan Margulies, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, said Giuliani falsely accused landlords of harassing tenants out of their apartments during the 1970s. "The mayor's history is wrong," Margulies said.

With Douglas Feiden