Rent-Hike Pitch On Its Way to You

Daily News Albany Bureau, May 28, 1997
Coming soon to your TV and radio landlord ads touting the positive side of rent deregulation.

Set to start next week, the ads are part of a two-week media blitz leading up to the June 15 expiration of state laws that limit the size of rent hikes for more than 2 million tenants in the city and suburbs.

Funded by the Rent Stabilization Association, a group of 25,000 landlords, the ads are scheduled to run on cable television, radio stations and in several weekly community newspapers, particularly those outside Manhattan.

The ad campaign, expected to cost tens of thousands of dollars, will push Gov. Pataki's plan to eliminate state rent regulations as tenants move out of their apartments or die.

Stephen Mangione, a public relations consultant for the landlord group, said the ads are designed to educate tenants and correct misinformation about Pataki's plan.

"Unfortunately, the so-called tenant advocates have needlessly frightened people, and we feel there's a necessity to counter what they have done and put to rest some of the fears people may have," Mangione said. "We're going to carry the governor's message that 99% of all tenants who are in place will be protected."

But tenant advocates said the campaign for the first time publicly signaled a Pataki-landlord alliance.

"It will be eye-opening for the public to see that the landlords are actively promoting the governor's radical decontrol plan," said Billy Easton, of the New York State Tenants & Neighbors Coalition. "It says that when Pataki proposed vacancy decontrol, the landlords smelled money and got hungry."

The ads mark the latest salvo in a bitter war over the endangered state rent laws. State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer) has threatened to let the rules expire in less than three weeks unless state leaders agree to phase out the restrictions.

Pataki touted his plan as a moderate compromise to Bruno's demand for elimination of rent regulations. But Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) has vowed to block any vacancy-decontrol plan.

Under the governor's proposal, tenants who are not elderly or disabled and earn more than $175,000 would lose rent protections. But tenants argue that the vacancy-decontrol provision would eliminate laws apartment dwellers have relied on for nearly a half-century.

Mangione said the ads would get out the message "that tenants can no longer afford rent regulation."

The spots will feature real-life examples, without using names, showing the differences in monthly payments by a rent-regulated tenant and an unregulated tenant for the same-size apartment in the same building.

"The overall theme is going to be the inequity in subsidizing people who are rent-regulated," Mangione said.